Penguin Island, Antarctica 2008

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

MONDAY, MARCH 14 - Santarem. The Amazon, Brazil

Our stop today and our last stop in the Amazon is Santarem (Santa Rim). We sailed by here on March 10 on our way to Alter do Chau. The town of 300,000 sits at the confluence of the Tapajos and Amazon rivers. As previously mentioned, this is one of the places where there is a "Meeting of the Waters" as described in detail earlier. We have a "Highlights of the City" tour and it meets at 8AM. Once again there are delays getting off caused by the port rules; evidently they can only load one bus or boat at a time! But, we are finally on our way about 8:20AM. The bus for the morning is the worst of the trip. It is open air and we rattle and bang through town on the poorly maintained streets. Our first stop is several miles outside of town where we stop to see the harvesting of latex from rubber trees as well as the processing of manioc from tree to edible flour.

Our guide, Paulo, seems quite knowledgeable as we walk through the trees. He describes many things of interest including the habits of termites! We are given a demonstration of how the rubber trees are scored with a special knife in a chevron pattern so the raw latex drips into collection pans.
We also watched the man eave the palm fronds into mat used in their homes.
Several teenage boys demonstrate the preparation and processing of the manioc roots from tuber to flour and we are told how the milk from the flour is processed into tapioca pearls.
Dick tastes the finished flour. It is crunchy, not unlike Grape Nuts cereal but finer. It has a pleasant, nutty taste. Here in the Amazon, it is eaten with everything and is a staple of the local diet.

We are also shown how Brazil Nuts are collected. Since the trees are as much as 200 feet tall, the nuts cannot be harvested but only collected once they fall from the trees. They come down inside a hard shell or hull, like a small coconut, and one should never stand under a Brazil Nut tree when it is dropping its nuts as you can be killed or severely injured by the falling shells. They are quite heavy!  Each shell or hull hold from eight to twenty nuts and we are offered $1,000US if anyone can put the 18 nuts from the sample back into their shell. We are assured that only nature can figure out the appropriate complex matrix of nuts that will fit!
There is a table with all the fruits and vegetables that are grown by the locals and we are given a chance to taste what we want.
Actually, the tour could have stopped here and all would have been fine. It is now after 10AM and it is getting hot. But, we go to the local church with an interesting street market in front (people are shopping for hammocks that athey use to sleep in on the river boats and their homes)
a museum which was the old government house and now a hietory museum,
a pier out into the river to see "The Meeting of the Waters". here we took the time to check out a couple of shops near by instead.
Finally we head back through town and to the pier.
There is one more market set up just outside the secure pier where the river boats are leaving from/
We walk over to take a final look at Brazilian handicrafts. Carolyn picks up some small gift items and we take numerous photos of the passengers, their hammocks
and the loading
of three river boats getting ready to head up or down river on multi-day trips. We have seen these boats and their hammocks before but this time we get a close look. We also see how they jam everything from trucks, to bananas to sacks of onions into these little workhorses of the river.
We sail promptly at 1PM.We soon pass trough the "Meeting of the Waters" for the last time and are in the muddy water of the Amazon River again.
It will take us over 24 hours to get all the way down the river and out into the blue waters of the Atlantic again. The afternoon passes quietly with Carolyn alternately napping and picture taking
on the balcony and in the bed. There are some fabulous cloud displays
as we sail down river. Dick goes to trivia and has good and bad results: Bad - Team lost by one point; Good - His team beat their nemesis opponent team by one point.

Dinner is in the Compass Rose for the first time in five nights and we enjoy our meal. Adnan, our waiter from Croatia, comments on our recent absence and we enjoy a visit with him between courses.

We will not forget this wonderful and interesting river and the peole who call it "HOME"!

No comments:

Post a Comment