Yesterday we spent the day in Santorem, Brazil… a city of somewhere between 1.5 and 2.5 million (I’ve heard differing estimates) on the banks of the Amazon river. I went out with a group of out 25 onto a smaller boat where we travelled out into the river and up a smaller inlet of the river (much narrower than the river itself). We briefly glimpsed the 2 fresh water dolphin species: grey and pink plus tons of birds: kingfishers, turkey vultures, egrets, herons, terns and a ton more.
Life along the river ranged everywhere from full-out city living in Santorem to tiny fishing shacks built up on stilts to, hopefully, withstand the rainy season which is just beginning now. There are a lot of islands in the river and, apparently, cattle and horses are dropped off on the islands to graze during the dry part of the year but are then picked up and brought back over to the mainland before the islands become completely submerged during the wet time of year.
Our tour guide yesterday, Anna, was extraordinary… briefly, she is a young woman (30ish?) originally from East Germany who is living in a small village outside of Santorem. She has a little house she built (no walls), has no electricity, grows a lot of her own food, drinks the water from a nearby creek, has a composting toilet and a solar panel and is trying to live as close to fully independently from the grid as she can. She told me that she lived in “paradise”. I love just knowing that there are people in the world who are dropping out and creating their own simple, happy life in this way.
I enjoyed our relatively slow-paced excursion yesterday and took lots of photos (well, I took about 140 but when I downloaded Lois’ pics from the same trip – but a different boat – she had close to 800!)
We departed Santorem at about 5 yesterday afternoon and will arrive in Manaus at about noon today. Traveling on the muddy Amazon is much smoother than in the open ocean and we can see the shoreline from the ship most of the time… sometimes far, far, in the distance and other times pretty close up. Lots of little villages and boats pass us all the time and if we are close enough there is a lot of waving.
Lots of bugs of all sorts have found their way to the ship and we see them on the decks and windows. Some of them are remarkable colors and textures… some look vaguely familiar (like grasshoppers and crickets) but many are quite exotic-looking and intriguing. Lois has tons of photos of them that I will try to share with you a little further down the road.
Well, Happy New Year, everyone! We will be docking in Manaus in a couple of hours and will be there for about a day and a half… After Manaus we start back and, although I am not quite as homesick as I was for the first few days I have to admit I am looking forward to getting home!