(Fri 19th Oct) After breakfast on Fri we spent the morning looking around Ver-o-Peso market for hammocks. (Our bed for the next three nights!) We actually managed to do a bit of bartering and i think we got the hammocks for quite a good price?! Afterwards we went to the supermarket to get some supplies for the boat.
We checked out of the hostel after lunch and headed down to the dock that Neil and i had been to the day before. We saw the guy who had tried to sell us the tickets the previous day and when he saw us he just threw his hands up and gave us a very disapproving look! We stood at the back of the long queue of people hoping that we were in the right place. After a few minutes a guy came across and asked to see our tickets. He said something we didn´t really understand but we guessed that we weren´t in the right place. When he pulled out a map we realised that we weren´t even at the right port! He took us over to a little ticket booth and asked us to hand our tickets over to the lady which we did. The guy then walked away without saying anything and so we just stood there and waited to get our tickets back. After a few minutes i went up to the window to see our tickets sat on the side and the lady sat sewing! She looked up at me and so i pointed to our tickets to which she responded with a mouth full of portugese and continued her nitting! We stood and waited for a while wondering what the hell was going on when a lady came over and asked in English if we needed any help. We told her that we didn´t know why our tickets were being held back and so she asked the lady in the booth to explain what was going on. She translated to us that the tickets had to be changed by an official and that they were waiting for this person to arrive. We thanked her and carried on waiting but unfortunately she had to leave to catch a boat. Things became really frustrating when the lady from the booth locked up and left the building, leaving out tickets inside. We waited and waited and asked a few people what was going on but they just said ´she´s coming, she´s coming!`. After about 30 minutes i was tempted to just put my hand through the little gap in the window and grab our tickets, when eventually she came back with another woman. They both entered the booth and the original woman ripped us some new tickets out of a book (which she had already written!) and handed them to us. We were left wondering why on earth she needed to other woman there! But we had our tickets back at last! We walked out of the terminal and a guy jumped at the chance to take us to the other ferry port in his minibus which we accepted as time was running short.
The drive to the other ferry port was quite a way. When we got there we drove into a very dodgy looking yard and he told us to jump out. There were people everywhere and lots of cargo being loaded onto the bottom deck of a boat via a wooden plank. There was also a wooden plank from the jetty to the middle deck of the ferry for the passengers. It was very thin and not so easy to balance with a backpack on either! There was no ´gate´, we had to pass our bags over the railing and then climb. The boat was already packed with hammocks (or so we thought!) and a girl signalled for us to wait for her. She put our hammocks up for us in what felt liked a very cramped space.
After we were settled and had been on the boat for a little while, a girl came round handing out foil dishes of food. Great we thought-dinner time! (All meals are included in the ticket price). The people around us didn´t seem to be taking the food which was questionable but we ate it anyway! It wasn´t until later when a girl came and asked us for R$15 that we realised the first nights meal wasn´t included! I thought this was quite sly but a good trick to play on the unsuspecting tourists! The remainder of the sfternoon was spent snacking and drinking on the upper deck. The boat was due to leave port at 6pm, however it didn´t leave until 8pm. People kept piling on with their hammocks and it got so full, people had to strat hanging their hammocks above others and doing gymnastics to get into them! Poor Neil ahs people wedged either side of him and above him, he also has the boats joker right beside him who is reall loud and arogant! Sarah and i have been quite lucky as there is no one above us. I slept quite well until about 12 when we were woken by yet more people putting hammocks up although i have no idea where they came from!
The breakfast bell went at 7am on Saturday morning but we were disappointed with the sweet bread roll and sickeningly sweet coffee we were given! The reast of the morning was spent reading, talking to the little portugese girl we has befriended in the hammock next to us and watching the river go by! When the lunch bell went we were unsure of what was happening as there were only two small benches on either side of the boat. We tried to form a queue to wait for the people who were already eating to finish but this didn´t really work as people just pushed in to sit down. One lady behind me started hitting my arm and shouting portugese at me. Of course i didn´t understand what she was saying to me but i got the idea that she wasn´t very happy. I looked at her blankly so she barged past me and stood behind someone who was sat eating. How rude i thought to have someone standing behind you while you are trying to eat, looking over your shoulder waiting for you to hurry up and finish! Eventually we got sat down, dinner was rice, beans and noodles. Great!
There are loads of little wooden shacks along the river, occasionally people, normally children would come out to the boat in their little canoes. Sometimes the poor kids din´t have any clothes on and they´d wait to see if anyone would throw them anything. I didn´t see many people from our boat throwing things though. At one point a few kids in a canoe latched themselves onto the back of the boat and got pulled along for a few miles, i think they just wanted a free ride but one canoe that latched on had two guys selling prawns. When we stopped at a port, loads of kids would get on. Some would try and sell you things where as others would just come and ask you for money. We had to stay really close to our bags as there were kids all over diving underneath the hammocks. I thinks sometimes the kids stayed on the boat for a little too long as the boat would pull away and they´d have to jump off and swim back!
The boat ride was fairly monotonous, there wasn´t really that much to see other than river and rainforest and the ocasional visitor in a canoe. There wasn´t much to do on the boat other than read, sleep, eat and drink. Sleeping in a hammock is generally quite comfortable but not in these conditions where people grab your hammock while your fast asleep, or just push you out of the way in order to reach theirs. General hygiene was appauling. The kitchen was right beside the toilets, and the bench where they served breakfast was used to steady people as they came out of the toilet and lost there balance on the swaying boat. (The sinks were not near the toilet either!). The toilets would only lock from the outside, this wasn´t ideal when you went to flush the toilet and everything would go upwards instead of downwards, leaving you banging on the door like an idiot for someone to let you out before the toilet water reached the top of the bowl! I can only say that our boat ride down the Amazon to Santarem was definately an experience!
Early on Monday morning (22nd Oct) we arrived in Santarem. Nothing much was open other than a supermarket so we bought some food and ate breakfast on a bench while we pondered on what to do next.