So I’ve made it to Manaus in Brazil where I’m waiting around until the next boat to Belem which is on Wednesday. I might go to a jungle lodge for an overnight stay depending on cost.
As it turns out I did have a cabin on the boat from Iquitos.
Despite the warnings from the local guys who ran the hostel that I didn’t pay anywhere near enough for a cabin but that I’d been ripped off for a hammock spot I ended up in a cabin.
I’m still not sure how I managed that one. The cabin itself was small with a double bunk running lengthwise and a door flush against the bunk and the wall of the cabin. I got caught in the narrow doorway because I hadn’t done up the straps to my pack.
I was expecting the trip to take three days, I guess technically it does however it was shorter than I thought. I boarded the boat about 1700 hours and we departed about 1930 hours. The whole of the next day was on the boat then we got into Santa Rosa about 0900 hours the next day. So more like a day and a bit spread over three days on the boat.
There isn’t much to recommend about Santa Rosa other than to get all that official ‘stuff’ out of the way there is not point in staying there. The boat just pulls up to what looks like a bare patch of dirt jutting out from the bank. Then the small river boats converge.
Thankfully the locals know that those of us who have a backpack generally have to find immigration and get our passports stamped so they herded us all into the same boat and off we went. For the short boat ride. We left our main packs in the small boat and walked single file along the wooden planks towards the bank. Following the direction of the local guy we went in and managed to get stamped out of Peru and back to our boat.
The he took us to the other bank of the river with the towns of Tabatinga / Leticia. Tabatinga being on the Brazilian side of the boarder and Leticia being on the Colombian side. Most of us piled out of the boat at the pier on the Tabitinga and paid the guy the S5 that we’d negotiated for the boat trip. All up I guess that little expedition took about 20 minutes.
Wanting to get the formalities out of the way first up three of us trudged off to find the Police station to get our passports stamped into Brazil. It took a bit of walking and asking directions but we finally got there.
It’s actually the Brazilian Federal Police that check your paperwork is in order and stamp your passports they were quite friendly, at least with me switching to English and we chatted a bit while they finished the formalities.
Next up we headed to the port to ask about boats for the next leg to Manaus but were told that the next boat wasn’t until the following week. With a slight ‘your kidding me’ moment we trudged off to find some accommodation. It was starting to heat up since the sun was out with little cloud cover when I found somewhere to stay.
Now personally I do not think there is much to recommend Tabatinga. I spent the night there then headed over to Leticia in Colombia, it’s about 5 minutes by a mototaxi since the towns have merged seemingly into one these days. If your stuck in town waiting for a boat I’d recommend Leticia over Tabatinga since there are better hotels, hostels and places to eat than in Tabatinga itself. So of course I moved camp to Leticia.
Now when I asked about the boats to Manaus I kept getting different information which made it somewhat frustrating. In the end the travel desk at the hotel I was at made some calls and I ended up booked on a boat to Manaus on the Tuesday which was good since originally I was told the first boat out was on the Thursday.
If your in the area and wanting to book the trip yourself I’m afraid I can not help much, it’s going to take someone who speaks more Spanish and Portuguese than I do to sort out what goes where and when.
The formalities to get on the boat were a little more involved than on the Peru side. Since they ran the drug dog around all the bags first then systematically went searched every bag by hand and did frisk searches of everyone getting on the boat. As you can imagine that took a fair bit of time.
The cabin was a lot more expensive for this leg however the cabin turned out to be way more comfortable as well. I had it too myself and there was meant to be air-conditioning however mine was broken. Still shortly after we departed they brought me a fan which I liked better than the aircon anyway.
The upper deck of the boat was much better since it was mainly like a rec area with a canteen tables and chairs etc so somewhere to be other than your cabin or hammock.
Daily life on this boat was much nicer revolving around river watching, food, reading and chatting with assorted other people traveling down the river from locals to travellers.
On the last day just before arrival into Manaus we passed the ‘meeting of the waters’ where the two rivers meet. The muddy, cafe latte looking waters of the Amazon meet with the cafe nego (black coffee) looking waters of the Rio Negro. It’s kind of cool to see.
We were a little late, it is still South America after all, still we made it into Manaus about 1600 hours on the fourth day and there were more of us (us being backpackers) than the last boat I was on and we kind of ended up clumping together some how and wandering off to find a hostel.
Most of us all ended up at the same hostel, Hostel Manaus, although spread over different rooms. Manaus is much bigger than I expected but like Leticia and Iquitos it seems things revolve around jungle tours and the Amazon River.
I also managed to find one shower here at the hostel that has hot water, I hate cold showers which seem to be the preference up here so finally got to was my hair. It’s the small things that get exciting after awhile!
I arranged my next ticket through the hostel and somehow it ended up being R$100 less than the price I was given at the ticket office at the port. The boat leaves for Belem on Wednesday so I’m thinking of spending a night in one of the Jungle Lodges just for something different.