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 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.
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"!