Friday, April 23, 2010

Amazon Star Sails to Manaus

The ``Amazon Star``. She had a capacity for 700 passengers, however I think that only about 400-500 people we on board when we sailed. Despite the number of passengers the boat felt deserted most of the time as the locals mostly hung out in their hammocks all day below deck out of the sun.
1400km from Belem, the Port of Manaus. The infastructure here in this city of 2 million people was literally sailed up river by boats beginning in the 18th century during the rubber boom. Manaus is in the middle of the Amazonas with only river transport as a means of supples.

Below deck locals escape the burning sun and wait out the 6 day & 6 night sail from Belem to Manaus. I opted for a shared cabin so as to ensure security for my motorcycle gear. I`m sure that everything would have been fine but for 75 extra dollars it was merely peace of mind.

A Sailing deck hand aboard the Amazon Star who over looked loading and off loading of goods at various ports along the way up river. Several stops along the river were made and I always took the opportunity to buy whatever the local people were selling for food and snacks. 50% of the time the food was tasty, the other 50% portion I gave away to someone local on deck who seemed happy to accept the half eaten portion which I simply could not stomach.

I was suprized that children who looked no more than 5 years of age were allowed to paddle out to the Amazon Star, then toss a grapple on deck in order to board. The kids would then climb aboard the boat which was sailing up river at 8 knots per hour which seemed totally risky and scarey as their boats were literally waterskiing along side the massive ship. They would then walk around deck asking for money or other hand outs; sometimes they had merchandise to sell. Eventually when they were done the little kids were several Km up river and had to paddle home. In Canada, I remember my next door neighbor not being allowed past the big stone in our cul-de-sac at the age of 10. Here kids at the age of 5 were working for their family and contributing their part.
I Rode the motorcycle down to the port at 10 am as directed and passed through security which seemed really strict and really disorganized all at the same time. Initally I wasn`t allowed to pass security at all. Then I was directed to show my boarding pass and then forwarded on to a bunch of men standing on a corner across from the security fence protecting the port entrance. I showed 5 different people my boarding pass and then just waited in silence for about 5 minutes while the guys chatted about something. I then realised that these guys weren`t even paying attention to me anymore so I started the bike up and roade back to the security fence and guard at the port entrance. I really don`t know what went down or why I had to go over to those guys but now for some unknown reason I was allowed to pass security with no problem and no security search. (All other locals had to pass a metal detector and have their baggage searched).
The men on the Amazon Star laid out a plank for me to ride across bridging the gap between the dock and the boat. It was pretty easy despite what I read from other people`s accounts stating that loading was difficult.
I was showed to my room on board and handed a key. The next mission I was about to embark on was to gather up some snacks, water, and cash. I had read that the boat was a miserable trip and that additional snacks, water, etc was essential to confort. I apparently seem to be a ``hard ass individual``as the added junk food that I brought for snacks was unwarrented, and I found the food on board to be delicious & nutricious. The boat ride was advertized as a ``no luxury cruise`` boat, however, I enjoyed every minute of the sail. I constantly made laps around the upper deck taking in the sights along the river, while at the same time chatting to the locals and improving my portugese.
I was lucky to meet a couple of english speaking people onboard from all over the world. There were two girls from England (Charlie & Lindsay) one dude from the U.S (Clint) A woman from Austrailia (Ingrid) and another dude that shared several travelling stories from around the world from Belgium (Nico). It was nice to paly some cards and share and hear other peoples travel stories while passing the day away in my mother tongue.
After 6 days the boat arrived in Manaus. I was partially happy and partially sad that the sail was over and that I`d be leaving my new friends behind for the solitude of the bike and the road. Maybe someday I will see them again in another land.

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