Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Amazon 2009: Day Nine (Tuesday, January 13)

Today’s video was produced by the team Dar Um Jeito.

Today was technically a day off, but we still bounced out early to get started on our day of exploration on our way to a local beach called Alter do Chão. We walked out of our gate at 7:40 just as we planned and arrived at the docks of the Port of Santarém exactly as the clock struck 8. It might be the first time we’ve managed to make it to an appointment as scheduled in this whole trip. Maybe we can make a habit of it.

As it turned out, the place that we arrived was not where our captain was, but we managed to call him and have him bring the boat to us rather than us hiking over to where he was. Our captain, Rionaldo, owns a triple decker boat similar to the ones that SMC groups have chartered on previous trips upriver. This boat, the Marco André, has a nice kitchen area and a spacious split level deck that left plenty of room for people to be in the sun or the shade, whichever they preferred.

Some people napped and some people talked, but all of us were awed by the magnificence of the entire river basin. We were mostly on the Tapajós River today, which splits from the Amazon right by Santarém. The size and scale of the river cannot be described. We said over and over again that this thing around us just could NOT be a river, as it is too vast. All along the shore were lovely villages and small beaches, along with long stretches of undeveloped land.

We stopped at one abandoned beach that had apparently been a gathering place some years gone by. Now it has a few standing refreshment huts, but with no refreshments or customers inside. Its sand is soft and white, and it would feel great on your feet if it didn’t get so hot that it almost burns. Thus, we ran from shady spot to shady spot to cross a low hill and get to a lagoon on the other side.
We all hopped right into the water to cool off, then walked down the shore to a long sandbar that arcs far out into the shallows of the river. The tranquility of the moment ended only because we decided to move on up the river to the beach where we really meant to spend our time today.

Our chosen beach for the day was the well-known (but not crowded) Alter do Chão. It is a wonderful river beach with a cute little town nearby. There are food huts and cabana boys and umbrellas to be rented, but it is not posh in any way. In fact, we ordered our lunch of fish and chicken and waited over two hours before it arrived. Once we had eaten it, though, we had no complaints, because it was fabulous. We tasted other beach snacks, including pachoca, which consists of ground/powderized roasted peanuts and a little bit of sugar. It looks like a bag of sand on the tray but it tastes fabulous.

After lunch, a few of us went into town to walk around, while others rested on the beach. One other group took advantage of the totally-out-of-regional-character “banana boat” ride. It is really designed for children and is pulled behind a speedboat until it dumps off its 6-8 occupants. Our group took several spins on the thing and decided it was pretty fun even if it wasn’t very Amazonian.

We gathered back at the boat at 4:00 so that we could make it back to Santarém by sunset. We wanted to spend sunset at the “meeting of the waters,” where the Amazon and Tapajós run side by side in different colors. We were interested to see that phenomenon, but even more we were hoping to see some of the most unusual occupants of that particular part of the river basin: the pink dolphins.

As we understand, river dolphins sometimes turn pink depending on their diets and other factors. There are quite a few pink dolphins that are seen regularly in the area, so we will continue to seek them every time we enter the water. Unfortunately, we missed the sunset and therefore the dolphins. We still stopped at the meeting of the waters and jumped into two rivers simultaneously. Wouldn’t you?


Today’s Rider of the Purple Bike was Cassidy Gunter, in honor of her “why not?” attitude, especially when we are working with the kids. She demonstrated this spirit in a very clear way when she agreed to be buried in the sand a couple of days ago. Though others joined her eventually, she was the first to volunteer. As usual, she was the trendsetter. Today’s Purpleness was largely symbolic, as we didn’t ride our bikes today at all. She still feels honored, we hope.

This is where the Amazon River and the Tapajos River meet, but their waters do not mix. We jumped off our boat in the exact spot where we were in both rivers at the same time!

This is the food that we had for lunch at the beach! It was delicious!

: This is the Brazilian flag waving on the back of the boat!

The scenery on the boat was truly breath taking as you can see.

At the beach we decided to try this banana boat ride. It was SOooo fun!

The welcome home view of the city from our boat.

Our very own Tara was the star sailing beauty of the day.

Marcia took a moment to sit in the water and contemplate her surroundings, or maybe she was just using the facilities.

Our lunch had obviously been visiting the dentist frequently.

Dentist or not, the fish’s teeth were no match for us.

Tara taught some of the girls yoga on the back deck.

The first beach we visited. (Siblings Joey and Marie having alone time.)

We spent the day on the boat "Marco Andre".

Since the boat ride was a few hours long, we played games to pass the time. 

At the end of the day we jumped off the boat into the Amazon river. 


Anonymous said...

What a free feeling that must have been jumping off of the boat into the river! Love the videos, pictures and updates. Whose teeth were in that fish? What the heck was that? Looked hilarious! You all are in our thoughts and in our prayers. Lots of Love, The Cacciatores

jillagunter said...

Go cassie! Buried alive by native children. great headline kiddo. You earned " keeper of the purple bike" for the day. The boat ride looked fun, cracked up at the bathroom incident. love you smc braveheart. mom

Anonymous said...

Katie! It looks like you are having a fabulous experience - I can't wait for you to see your pink dolphins! We all miss you, and can't wait to hear your stories first-hand :-)

Anonymous said...

ju! it's moof! have fun

Anonymous said...

Hey Marie and Joey! Hope you and the others are doing well today. We have loved reading your blog and seeing your photos and videos. What an experience you are having......drink it up! Love the teeth in the fish! We got a good laugh from that. We are all doing fine. I am back to work, taking care of another elderly women...... this one is a cute little Italian woman! We talk about food all day :-) Right up my alley. We miss you both and can't wait to chat with you when you return. We are keeping you in our prayers. Have a blast on the rest of your trip. Love you Mucho! Aunt Theresa, Uncle Pat, and Rob.