Tag Archives: Santarem

Santarem and leaving the Amazon

IMG_36039 February

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



IMG_3601 (2)

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 rid

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.


Catfish catch

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.


Pyranah fish

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”.


Dilapidated vessel


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.

10 February


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”?

11 February


Belem, Brazil

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.



IMG_35758 February

After the last two days in Manaus, we are now in Parintins – the home of the Boi Bumba festival, the 2nd largest festival in Brazil and held annually in June. Two teams, red and blue, fight it out in song dance, parades and costumes to recreate a tribal myth about a bull, two lovers and the bull’s tongue. Only one tour here, to a special showing of a carnival extract and we are not going – by choice.

Having experienced a few carnivals in our time (Jersey Battle of Flowers, New Orleans Parades, Douglas Carnival to name but three) we opted to do our own thing.


M V Braemar at Parantins

This is a tender “port” and the MV Braemar (Fred Olsen lines) is there as well although leaving at lunchtime.

By co-incidence, my friend, Donald was on the MV Braemar until a few days ago around the Caribbean but sadly he had not ventured up the Amazon.

We get our tender boat tickets, being told that it was a 20 minute wait.

One hour later we board the tender after establishing that one tender overheated and broke down. The river current is fierce and against us as we fight our way across to the dockside in an almighty rain storm, having to clamber over a local wooden boat to reach the dockside on arrival.


Parantins port

We do manage to get sight of a few pink dolphins as we walk up to the cruise terminal and out onto a street that has about 8 or so stalls selling souvenirs – at least we do now have a souvenir, a small mask which will hopefully get put up on the wall quicker than some of the other souvenirs we have bought recently!


Parantins church

A walk up to the church and then back past the blue team’s museum and back to the area to get on the tender.

Lots of people waiting and both tenders remain at the boat in the middle of the river for about 45 minutes whilst we stand around in the heat, although we were lucky to get a bit of shade after a while.

Another tender has a problem, vegetation has attached itself to the propellor and we learn later took over an hour to get back to the ship, circling it for some time.


Local ferry about to help a “transfer” hand

Meanwhile, passengers for the Braemar were being tendered back from their viewing of the Boi Bumba by some big local ships which were due to assist us later in the afternoon but were delayed as the Braemar overstayed it’s stop!

The captain is delaying departure tonight as last night, with so much current and our requirement for a fast run, the vibration was so bad, the passengers in the Oriental Restaurant ( those on sittings ) were badly affected with things moving on tables – poor things!

Tonight’s entertainment is the new (he joined in Barbados) South African musical director, Dane Noble-Rosema who is obviously standing in for someone who didn’t turn up.

A very accomplished young piano player who, amongst other things, played some compositions of his own including a couple of interpretations of Norway and one of the Cascade mountains in NE USA.

We must be going home, clocks go forward an hour tonight, we are heading downstream towards our last pot of call on the Amazon, Santarem.



On our way to Brazil

IMG_32832 February

We have left the Caribbean Sea and are now off down the Atlantic following the South American coast towards the mouth (or should I say mouths as there are several) of the Amazon.

Today is a sea day and the port talk is on our last Brazilian call, Santarem which itself is some 300 miles from the mouth of the Amazon. This is followed by a talk on Police sketching by Melissa Little which was interesting and tonight’s entertainment was by Julie Scott with her Cilla Black tribute and Ben Makisi, the New Zealand tenor we have seen before – same routine but still good.

Weather not brilliant and we are battling a Force 6 or Force 7 all day so lots of people in their rooms being unwell.

(Spoke to a couple today who were supposed to join the cruise at Port Everglades on our first day but of course we had to divert to Port Canaveral.

They had no communication from P &O about the change, they had to find a hotel room for the night and when they finally got on board, the ship had no record of their booking and their pre chosen cabin was not available.)

3 February

Another sea day and a port talk on St Vincent (Cape Verde Islands), another talk on Police sketching by Melissa Little as we head, still in rough seas towards the Amazon. Cloudy today so no sunbathing which is obviously to the anger of many! Start our Malaria tablets, one a day for some time.

We manage to miss the start of the film tonight as the service in the restaurant was somewhat slow so we only have entertainment from Colin (Fingers) Henry; exactly the same routine as before, same old jokes. Missable, although John would disagree.

IMG_32714 February

Now we are in the Amazon and the brown water of silt with some vegetation slowly meandering down the river. Our last port talk today, on Tenerife, we must be nearing the return journey.

We pass the city that straddles the Equator, Macapa and stop an hour later at lunchtime for port duties, border controls and refuelling. Sal gets bitten out on deck, normally it is me who gets the bites!

Continuing on our way some 4 hours later, we pass close to land and have slowed to 6 knots as we pass over some shallow water, 2 meters deep.


Customs duties and pilot boarding

Now most of the outdoor doors are shut as we try to keep the insects out.

There are several thousand different species of insects in the Amazon as well as the Caimans, the Pyrannahs and many other species of wildlife all ready to take a chunk out of human flesh given the chance.

Sal, John & Deirdre opt for the crew talent show and 4 Tunes whilst I go to see the film, “Get Back” based on the Liverpool music scene.

It is amazing that so many good musicians, not just the Beatles, have come from Liverpool although I am sure Manx people would object to the phrase near the beginning that Manx people were all miserable. I just get to see the end of the talent show and the crew’s rendition of “If I were not upon the sea” – always a good song.

5 February

A sort of sea day as we cruise up the Amazon towards Manaus.

Morning still reveals a brown river but now with some distant low lying hills behind the initial banks still covered with trees and vegetation.

Lots of logs float by all day with the occasional patch of vegetation but very little rubbish, a complete contrast to our experience on the Mekong river in late 2012.


Trade up the Amazon

We pass a few settlements and towns which the captain points out to us and lots of little boats and ferries fully laden with people, and some with vehicles and oil tankers being moved to another location by the river.

A few large container ships pass us going out to sea.

By now it is getting extremely humid and walking outside is becoming uncomfortable although some burnt souls are still brave enough to bare skin to the burning sun.


Cruising up the Amazon

With a river comes insects and this is no exception with moths and butterflies of various sizes settling on outside decks and a few venturing inside, probably not surviving for too long in the cool of the air conditioning.

Spend morning in Crow’s nest watching the river go by and opt, instead of dressing up in dinner jackets (why would you in the middle of the Amazon) have a more basic meal in the Conservatory, surprisingly crowded.

Evening entertainment by Ben Makisi and although we have seen him before, his second concert was a must.

Tomorrow we are in Manaus, 1000 miles up the Amazon – Wow.