Saturday, September 20, 2008

Karen in Porto Velho, Rondonia, and not sure where to go next!


At 7:30 a.m. this morning, Rotem Hershkovich of Eilat, Israel, knocked on my door at Yara Hotel.

The night before, I had asked Rotem to wake me up for breakfast downstairs. I wanted to enjoy a final conversation with him in English over the buffet breakfast that is part of the price of our room. He and I had met in the lobby of our hotel Friday evening. He was ecstatic to find someone who could speak English after traveling solo with no one to talk to from Bolivia to Brazil.

Over a breakfast of pizza, white rolls, cheese, cold cuts, watermelon, papaya and vanilla cake, we discussed the details of his upcoming three-day boat trip from Porto Velho on River Madeira to Manaus, the Brazilian city of two million people that is the gateway to the Amazon.

All of yesterday, Friday, I had seriously considered joining him on this boat adventure. I decided not to for a variety of reasons:

1. Sleeping arrangements - I am not sure I could get a wink of sleep in a hammock (never tried). But with 18 people all swinging next to each other on the sweltering boat deck, it did not appeal to me for three nights.

2. No stops for three days - The boat is quite small, the passengers numerous and with 3 days on board thought I might get stir crazy.

3. Scenery. Researched accounts of this trip online and most said scenery was only so-so. I did read a few accounts of drama on the boat, but all pertained to robberies.

These workers have a hard, sweaty job loading the boat by walking up and down this steep hill.
I chose not to take the three-night boat ride from Porto Velho to Manaus because I did not think I could sleep in a hammock. This picture is at half-capacity of the passengers.


So I stay put in Porto Velho and am trying to figure out my next move!

I walked many blocks, dripping sweat in this tropical heat, to talk to a travel agent at VIP Tours in Porto Velho. After an hour together, I decided to buy a fairly expensive airline ticket to Manaus - which has an international airport to get me to Lima, Peru. (Porto Velho does not connect directly to Lima).

This very nice travel agent helped me figure out all travel details mostly thru pantomime, using the calendar and written words since she spoke no English or Spanish and I no Portuguese.

THEN MY ONE AND ONLY CREDIT CARD was denied!
For reasons I am still not sure of. But good news: I found an ATM here that will give me dinero.

It was quite irritating but I decided to take it as a sign that I am not done yet in Porto Velho!

It's 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon and I am going to walk down to the docks where I met Geraldo yesterday. He sells boat tickets, speaks some English and has kindly befriended me. He introduced me to his sister, Gloria, who speaks some English and is a Catholic missionary and teacher here in Porto Velho.

See what happens... NEXT UP ON MY TRAVEL BLOG: went out to dinner last night with literature professor of University of Rondonia to taste traditional Amazonian food. Met him thru a friend of a friend on the internet.