Day – somewhere around 20!!
The day started as usual for our last stop in the Amazon. I was out on deck at six thirty. Unfortunately, there was no sun. It had rained heavily but was now merely cloudy and humid. These are the best couple of hours of the day. There is usually a pleasant breeze and a temperature in the early twenties. Delightful.
Liz walked her usual ten laps of the deck. While I searched and managed to find a few large moths, though the number of insects has decreased. It is strange to hear the chirping of the crickets who have secreted themselves away in crevices all over the ship. I fear their demise is imminent. I’m sure the crew douse everything in pesticide. They all die remarkably quickly.
Icoraraci slid into view.
We had breakfast and were off the boat heading for shore on another tender. I’m forgetting what gangplanks are.
The first thing we encountered was a muddy beach strewn with litter and debris, an open sewer emptying on to it (from which rats emerged) and a mass of vultures, with the odd white egret, picking over the detritus.
We were greeted by a band and dancers. There were armed guards all around. A strange mixture.
We walked through the town, past the market stalls and off to find a local bus to Bellem.
There was a strong armed-police presence throughout the town (probably because we were in port) with some police guys carrying machine guns and the biggest rifle I’ve ever seen. It looked like they were preparing for an invasion or a civil war.
We eventually found a bus, boarded it, paid our 80p fare for the fifteen-mile trip and proceeded to go through every small village and deprived area of Bellem. It all looked incredibly poverty-stricken, graffiti covered decaying buildings with piles of litter and rubbish all over the place.
Arriving in Bellem (a shortened version of Bethlehem – with very little in common) we alighted in the centre, at the market on the seafront, walked through the large extensive outdoor market which was not at all touristy. At the end of the open market was a big building with hundreds of vultures circling above. We went in. It was the fish market.
Not surprisingly in the heat, inside, it stank of fish. Stall after stall of fish with merchants gutting or filleting, the guts and heads being swept up and deposited outside the door where the vultures and large egrets eagerly waited. They were so keen on a meal that people just walked all around them and they did not move.
Liz was still feeling queasy so I do not think the sight and smell was doing her stomach any good. After a quick look around we headed off up the road. The quay looked much the same as the beach – full of rubbish, vultures and egrets with an array of brightly painted boats which had seen far better days. Around it there were the decaying colonial buildings, all adorned with bright tiles and colourful paint, now dilapidated. One could picture it in its heyday. It would have looked splendid. Now it was a derelict version of grandeur.
Around the corner we passed another row of rundown colonial buildings and up to a delightful square with a beautiful church. It seems that churches are the only things that they maintain around here. We went and had a look at the old fort with its cannons and headed off for a drink in the air-conditioned hotel.
I thought this photo summed it up – a bishop presiding over poverty and decay.
I managed to get this photo of a man with graffiti.
After a brief look in the church we caught a taxi to take us right across the city to the old botanical gardens on the outskirts. It was magical – as if they had cordoned off a section of rainforest – like what had probably been here before the city was built. The trees and animals, the cicadas – magic. We saw a sloth, a macaw, monkeys, agoutis and heard a lot more – we’d finished our water and there was nowhere to get a drink!
After hours in the humidity and heat we needed fluids and decided to head back to the boat. On the way out I found a sloth up a tree.
Then this troupe of monkeys.
An agouti getting in on the act.
I dragged myself away from photographing the amazing troupe of monkeys who were performing for us and we set about trying to find a bus back. We eventually found an express bus and were amazed to find that old codgers like us went free!
Hanging on to the handholds as we raced along the freeway was a different experience to that of the local bus. Eventually we secured a seat and then arrived at the terminus at Icoaraci.
There was some debate as to how far the seafront was. The map we had was unclear. We decided to walk, bought some Pepsi and a bite to eat from a local shop (perhaps foolishly). Then we stopped at a ceramics workshop and fell in love with these fabulous psychedelic pottery pigs. There were large ones about two-foot-long and small ones. So, we spent the last of our Brazilian money and bought them – one of each.
The big one was very heavy.
We headed off to where we thought the port might be but had underestimated the size of this town and were soon lost. We stopped to ask. We’d spent all our Brazilian money. We did not know where we were. This kind lady, with hardly any English, explained that the seafront was a long way away (we later found out about two kilometres). She shook her head and suggested we’d never be able to walk it in time to get the boat, carrying our heavy pigs. So, she summoned up help. Two guys appeared on huge motorbikes. We clambered on, me gripping the heavy pig under one arm and holding on to the guy in front with the other, no crash helmets, riding through the busy streets, in and out of the traffic. The two kilometres seemed a long way! They deposited us at the seafront and charged us a dollar (negotiated by a bunch of incredibly friendly students with excellent English)! What a great rescue for a dollar!
Our first time on motorbikes for forty years! (for the benefit of our kids – do as we say not as we do!)
Pretty exhausted, heat ridden and parched, we checked out the stall with local crafts, walked past the beach – now with some other interesting looking birds and rats coming out the open sewer, and were back on the boat.
The man on board made me unpack my pig to ensure it wasn’t cocaine, illegal booze, or alive, and we went for a much-needed cup of tea.
We’d been on boats, walked, bussed, taxied and motor-biked around on our last day in Brazil. Quite a day.
It wasn’t quite over. Either the street food or a careless hand to mouth was going to come to haunt me. In the night I felt a gurgle in the gut. Every hour I found myself needing to go to the loo.
Thank heavens for immodium. My turn to be poorly. The next day, with a temperature, I stayed in bed. No food for me! On a positive note I did get to skip compulsory lifeboat drill!