Sunday, December 21, 2008

Brazil boat ride from Porto Velho to Manaus: Rotem from Israel reports on his 4-day adventure

The boat is docked in Porto Velho, the capital of Rondonia in western Brazil.

It's no cruise ship. There is one shower, no buffet meals, and one television onboard.

On October 16, 2008, Rotem of Eliat, Israel, answered my email asking for details about traveling three days and nights in a boat from Porto Velho, the capital of the state of Rondonia in western Brazil, to Manaus, the city that is one of the gateways to the Amazon.

I met Rotem in a hotel in Porto Velho one afternoon. We were happy to speak English to one another and discuss our travels before we went our separate ways after just one day. I nearly went on this same boat as Rotem because I was also headed to Manaus. After I visited the boat, I decided not to go: three nights in the hammock on the crowded deck was not what I wanted! But I was eager to hear all about his trip on the Madeira River.

The Madeira River is a major waterway in South America, approximately 3380 km ( 2100 miles) long. It is the Amazon's largest and most important tributary and spans about a quarter of the Brazilian Amazon.

Here is Rotem's story. I just got his permission to share this on my blog. I added my own photos.

Rotem came well-prepared for his travels, even carrying a tea kettle!

After you left the boat, I put all of my things next to my hammock hoping for good, feeling that everything is going to be all right. (We had been warned about robbery on the boat).

They finished loading the boat only around 13:00. Then we left, escorted by a few river dolphins.

Around 17:00(!) they served dinner - plain rice, plain pasta and some meat in sauce.
After a while, they turned on the t.v. which is a bit funny - a boat like this with satellite dish, that they turn all the time by pulling a string attached to a bicycle which is attached to the dish...

Workers load fruit and other goods onto the boat in the Porto Velho port.

When the sun set, I went for a walk on the boat to find a good place to watch. It was one of the most special and amazing sunsets I have ever seen! For more then an hour, the sky was full of colors and clouds - amazing!

In the middle of the first night, we had a stop and many more people got on, so as crowded as it was, it became more crowded. The good thing is that everyone was so nice and smiling all the time, so it was fine after all.

In the middle of that night, we had a little storm. Very quickly everything got wet - thank God my bag wasn't on the floor. In the morning, another two hours of rain and that's it.

Around 06:00, they put some coffee and biscuits out for breakfast.
After breakfast, a local girl started talking to me. When she understood that I don't speak Portuguese, she started teaching me with the help on a dictionary she had. So here I am starting to learn Portuguese.

Around 11:00(!) they served lunch, exactly what we had for dinner the day before. In general, the food was the same, all the time. The local people say that it was not so good food, but I found it was fine.

After the Portuguese lesson, I was invited to join a "domino" game (that's what they do here in Brazil all the time). After losing over and over again, I won one time!

In the middle of that night, we had a short stop again for people to go and come, not anything special.

After waking up that morning, I had some more Portuguese lessons and I helped them in their English. Actually, that is what I did the whole day: learning Portuguese, helping in English and having a walk on the boat from time to time to let my brain take a bit of rest. In the evening, a bit of "domino" games.

During the third night, there was a big lightning storm - for two hours, the sky just didn't stop. It was amazing!!! It was night, but the sky was white for two hours.

Here are the sleeping quarters! Passengers bring their own hammocks.

The last morning, I did everything to be ready for Manaus around noon. Around noon, I discovered that we will get to Manaus much later than I thought. After noon, I discovered that we will get there only in the middle of the night and everybody can stay and sleep on the boat: they just saved me one night in a hotel!

We got to Manaus at night - it is a huge place with a huge port. Everybody stayed until the morning and then left. I tried to ask where can I find a boat to Santa Reim, but didn't understand the captain's answer. All I understood was that they will take me with the small boat to the boat I needed.

Half an hour later, I was on the boat to Santa Reim. That is the end of my Porto Velho to Manaus trip.

Rotem set up his hammock and set sail for four days, learning Portuguese, playing dominoes and appreciating the beauty of the river.

NOTES from Rotem's Trip: Some interesting things:

1. The weather here changes from full sun to full rain so fast. I have never seen
such a dramatic change of weather in 10 minutes and then back again after an hour.

2. Another special thing is the color the water. When we got close to Manaus, the water became black! You can look at the brown river that we had all the way, and in a certain point you start see the water getting almost black. because of the climate difference, the brown and the black water don't mix! So you see for a long ways this two-colored water floating next to each other! I find it very hard to describe, especially in English.

3. The the view was a bit monotonous (the same) but I enjoyed it very much. All the time, the river is around you, it is very green on the river banks, and different greens all the time. I even saw a buffalo for the first time after many years.

All and all, I enjoyed it very much. It was very interesting and very special.
I started the trip with knowing only the Portuguese word "obrigado" (thank you) and finished with a lot of new words that I wrote down in my little book.

I hope you enjoyed my story!