But first we have to get to Belem. The boat is the most logical option. We buy a hammock and go looking for a ticket. We don´t want to buy from the men selling on the street, as we are afraid to get a false one. We go directly to the boat before departure and are a little shocked by what we find: the deck is full of hammocks. Logical, but they are just hanging everywhere, and with that I mean three layers hanging next to each other AND on top of each other. Never seen such a crowded place.
After a lot of doubt (and the captain lowering the price), we decide to embark on this adventure and put up our hammocks and just hope nobody will steal our luggage under it. To get in it, I wake my neighbour, for others to get into theirs, they have to crawl under mine. Except for the sleeping comfort, it turns out not to be so bad, just long. It doesn´t smell and the food is OK. Soon we find the other tourists and the ten of us (Belgians, Argentineans, Sao Paolo, Dave) form a little group that sits on the top deck and drink alcohol (of course not us), chat and dance and even get off the boat to go for a swim on the lovely riverbeach of Santarem.
We also have the opportunity here to meet some Brazilians.
Portuguese is all is spoken here. Written it has a lot of similarities to Spanish, but spoken it is very different. We do our best to speak a little, but if they don´t understand you once, they decide they can´t understand you at all, instead of trying. So far we get by for directions and food and have little conversations on the boat with girls who do have the patience. A lot of young women are already married. One of the girls, Adriana dances every night happily with us, interested in the European boys, but she can´t hide the sad look in her eyes. At 22 she has been divorced for two years and is now taking care of her three children.
There are many beautiful children on the boat. Brazil prides itself with being a nation where all races mix, and in fact you do see black guys with green eyes or fair coloured haired girls with thick curls. But if it is so mixed well, it still makes you wonder how come the elite is all white and the poorest all are black...
The kids are often staring at me. Even though I don´t feel I stand out, I apparently do with my white skin and blue eyes. I do not mind at all, I love kids and enjoy playing with them. Kids are treated with a lot of care and affection here. The girls are little princess and the boys mini-machos, who already master sexy dance moves.
All that is ever danced here is Reggae and Forro (and its variations). I try to learn it, but it doesn´t thrill me. Luckily there is a Colombian guy as well and we danced salsa on the deck, which is great! Yes, I got ´jinga´ which is ´muito legal´!
In Belem we do not get our well deserved rest, see my remark about noise and heat earlier on. We do not feel well at all, as we have pretty bad diarrhea. We however keep on going, do not like Belem that much and take a night bus to Sao Luis. To our surprise the old, colonial part of town is lovely and we think we have found a quiet hotel in the non-traffic zone. Wrong. At night it suddenly comes alive and it sounds like we have several bands performing simultaneously in our room. We do stay three days, ´cause with every visit to the bathroom we feel weaker and weaker. Medications do not seem to do much, but we keep our senses and drink loads. As soon as we feel better we leave for Barreirinhas, where again it is noisy. We visit the dunes nearby. It is a huge sandy area, which makes you feel as if you are in the desert and watch the sunset.