We are today at Santarem, still 500 miles up the Amazon, where American Confederates fleeing the American Civil War originally settled. Even today, O’Malley and Higgins are common surnames.
A river tour is booked for the afternoon so we have the morning to ourselves as John & Deirdre go on a jungle walk this morning. Thought a walk into town would be good but looking at where we are docked, the distance to town is more like 2 miles rather than the 1 advertised so decide to watch the world go by in the Crow’s nest.
The berth today is in the commercial dock with a Soya conveyer belt in front of us with it’s attendant containers at moor out in the river. We have been told taxis would be limited where we dock – in fact there are several we find out later!
For our tour we exit the ship on the river side onto a pontoon and then onto our river boat like the small ferries that we have seen in the last two ports of call.
Fishermen at work
Only about 20 or so of us and we are lucky enough to get a front seat as we headed off into the River Tapajos leaving behind the town and we pass more houses on stilts and a number of fishermen.
Up market house on stilts
Our tour guide
We slow down whilst a pod of pink Dolphins attack some fish, some of whom were seen jumping to avoid them.
Our guide is a 50 something teacher and his command of English is again very good, he was also from the tribes and came to town to improve himself.
He is proud of his teaching achievements, employing two of his former female pupils as guides on other ships.
Birds hitching a ride
Sandbanks passed with logs floating downstream giving rides to many birds and more meeting of the waters passed, we head off down another river, noted for pyranah and catfish as well as bird life.
Before that we are told that three divers many years ago went down at the waters meet to see what the effect of the two waters were at a lower point never to be seen again. No one has ever dived there again!
Slowly down the river, we stop at the Bankside to spot birds, iguanas, plant life and fish.
One family have a prized possession of a recently caught catfish, an ugly looking fish which is brought on board for us to get up close and personal with.
An adjacent boat on the same tour also stops for viewing.
Catfish on board
We then pull up on to the bank and are invited to take a fishing line with some meat on the end in the hope we might catch some fish whilst our guide tells us more about the area around us.
Pyranah fishing in the rain
This is just on cue for the heavens to open and I like a few others get absolutely soaked.
One lady manages to get a piranha and I get a tug and loose my bait but only two other members of the crew manage to catch a pyranah.
Drying out quickly, we set off on our return by some cattle, we are told these are Indian small cattle, as bigger cattle would get bogged down in the wetlands due to their heavy hooves and weight.
Hawks, Vultures and Egrets are spotted high up in the trees and we also manage to spot a Sloth slowly clambering down a tree, very well camouflaged, a bit like how a Koala camouflages itself.
Back to the ship closer into town rather than via the sandbanks we went past earlier, the water becoming choppy as the winds pick up ahead of a rain shower but allowing us some close up views of some fishermen, a dilapidated boat and some youngsters enjoying the “beach”.
We land on the quay, our only patch of Santarem land we tread on, and with a short walk to the ship, we manage to get inside just before the rains came.
Entertainment tonight is an International duo of pianists, one French (Matthieu Esnult) and one English (Ben Socrates) who play some pieces for four hands – difficult – and a male singer, Gerard Bentall, who sung some “new” songs including Bui Doi which does make a change from the old standards we have heard many singers perform on this cruise – a refreshing change.
Saying good bye to the Pilot
Cruising back down the Amazon, we discharge our pilots at Macapa which is the city on the Equator and we cross over to the Northern Hemisphere just before more rain arrives to spoil it for those cruisers who are only here for the sun, and there are a fair number of those.
The talk this morning is on facts about the Amazon delta given by from Bernard Purrier which not only covered wildlife but some interesting facts.
- The Amazon, 45m years ago, flowed into the Pacific, then the Andes were formed and the flow reversed.
- It produces 52,000,000 gallons of fresh water into the Atlantic every second
- It accounts for 20% of the wold’s fresh water
- The amount of water that goes into the Atlantic in a year would supply New York City with drinking water for 12 years.
- It can be up to 50 miles wide and as little as 1 mile wide, depending on seasons
- Water levels are up 20% this year and locals fear a flood which is why some farmers are moving their cattle to higher ground.
- 100 miles out to sea, river (fresh) water is still evident from the Amazon
- Pink Dolphins are called Boto and live only in fresh water.
Although we have crossed the Equator, we baulked at watching Neptune’s ceremony in humid but overcast conditions which we understand turned to very heavy rain, instead preferring to join a packed cinema to watch “Girl on a Train” which after about 90 minutes of the 112 made no sense but which in the last 20 or so minutes did manage to make up for the previous minutes.
Certainly the worst day weather wise we have had so far on the cruise.
The entertainer tonight, Jamie Michael Stewart has a strong voice and a lot of experience but there was something about him that didn’t quite gell. It didn’t help that he was supposed to show some slides but the technical team failed miserably to provide them.
Question is: who sung the song “Love grows where my Rosemary goes”?
Last night, we went out to sea and back in to another part of the Amazon Delta for refuelling – the Para River. Presumably we couldn’t go direct to the refuelling point through the shallows of the Amazon delta?
Surely we have gone south of the Equator again? A bit rough out to sea, Force 6, but of course calmer in the river.
We are moored in the middle of the river outside the city of Belem and tied up to a floating fuel barge taking on, what the captain describes as “tonnes of fuel”.
We drop anchor at about midday and leave just after 8:15pm having experienced, sun, cloud, rain and wind during our stay although for the 2nd time, the build a boat competition suffered rain at 2pm.
Build a boat competition
There is no ability to leave the ship and the washing machines in launderettes are now turned off to conserve water.
Another talk today by Bernard Purrier, on Macapa and the surrounding area.
Evening entertainment by a female comedienne and magician, Mandy Muden, not the most entertaining but not bad, and a Spanish flautist, Andrea Amat with her captivating story and performance playing a few other flute type instruments. Certainly she is one of the highlights of the entertainment on this cruise.
We are now late so are having to chase across the Atlantic to our next port of call on the Cape Verde Islands on 15 February.