Santarém to Belém by cargo boat

2022-06-09 @Travel

I’ve now traversed the entire planned Amazon river route by cargo boat, five segments in total: personal milestone I’ve too long postponed, thus highly pleased. For the record, see the write-ups for the four previous segments spread throughout Peru, Colombia and Brazil:

As far as Santarém to Belém, both at different ends in the state of Pará, I here detail my voyage:

A bit more vague on the boat situation this time around, I was communicated two weekly departures: Mondays and Fridays. I took the Friday boat departing at 11AM at Santarém’s Porto DER.

The Monday boat I was told on one occasion as departing at some point from 10AM-noon, on another at 18:00. Cannot confirm either. This boat I’m nearly positive is run by a different operator.

As far as the Friday journey, the procedure is hardly any different from the last segment. I showed up at Porto DER around 9AM (having arrived on an hour-long bus from Alter do Chão) and purchased the boat ticket from one of the affiliated vendors operating on the street for R230. Purchased at the terminal kiosk, you’d pay an extra R10. In addition, you must cough up the R5-8 ‘port entry’ fee. No way around this.

The journey duration? One day and roughly 19 hours. (Arrived Sunday early morning.)

That’s about it. From there I headed to the boat. The boat experience, however, I felt the least comfortable as of yet in Brazil:

As with the previous segment, the meals are not included in the purchase, but the boat restaurant, in contrast, charges notably more for all three meals served. If on a budget, it thus makes sense to purchase provisions/meals from the vendors across the various stops.

More gravely, however, was the spaciousness situation. It was a smaller boat of three levels total: a cargo level, a passenger level, and the upper restaurant level. That is, only one level accommodated all the passengers, in contrast to two to three on all the previous boats. And the level was packed with hammocks to the rim. Overloaded. Congested.

These hammocks were arranged shoulder-to-shoulder, limb-to-limb, criss-cross, superimposing, diagonal, at varying elevation. I hung mine within the ‘inner’ compound, and often, especially at night, had to nearly crawl underneath the bodies along the outer-perimeter for access. The space to circumnavigate was hardly to be found.

The setup thus was not to be enjoyed without a sense of humour. Yet somehow I managed to sleep and even advance through Ulysses a good deal of pages.

As always, every boat seems to prevail in some aspect, however slim. This one featured the best combination of hammock-mounting hooks and quality pullups bars. In addition, the bathroom/shower factor I found most convenient as of yet. At one time I entered the men’s bathroom to discover a barber cutting hair, along with a decent wait line. Slightly unusual.

How did I pass the time? Reading and writing at the restaurant upper deck (despite the festive music). Pondering existence. And sometimes lounging on the floor engaged in discourse with a couple of artisans assembling beaded bracelets. The more I go about my nomadic ways, the more natural I feel there and thus on the floor.

At less than 48 hours, nothing terribly intractable about the trip.

Questions, comments? Connect.