Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Belem--Gateway to the Amazon

I arrived in a rainstorm about 5 PM just as darkness was falling. I jumped on the local bus headed downtown which ended giving me a roundabout tour of down town before dropping me off just two blocks from the Amazonia Hostel. It was located in the pleasant Nazare neighborhood in a beautiful old building with very high ornate ceilings and beautiful wood floors. It is the green building.

I ended up staying here two nights and even though I paid for a 6 men's dorm, I was the only one in this room. the four other guys were in the other room. There were no boats heading to Manaus on Monday so I had the hostel staff book me for the Tuesday departure on the Navio Nelio Carrea in Camarote 3. Although the LP says that the "real" way to travel on these boats is to buy a hammock and string it up on the deck along with the many other travelers. I tried a hammock at the last hostel, and it was only comfortable for a short time. My cabin will have anywhere from two to four bunks, A/C, and a shoilet--combination shower and toilet room. I am hoping it is not on the top deck for that is where they play the constant loud music. If so, I have my earplugs.

I toured the city a bit by heading down to the tree lined plaza, Praca de Republica, and then down to the waterfront area.

The waterfront was very interesting with two very different sections: the upscale Estacao da Doces and the gritty and crowded Mercado Vero-o-Peso.
The Estacao had upscale restaurants, the actual Amazon brand brewery, theaters, craft and art shops, and museum about the port of Belem. Outside are some decorative yellow cranes that recall the break bulk method of shipping.

 then headed down to the Mercado where the sights, sounds, and smells assaulted the senses. there was lots of merchandise, seafood, fruits and vegetables---many were unrecognizable. as well as that there was a concentrated area with lots of food stalls. I had a chicken plat of the day which consisted of two plates, one with a chicken thigh and drumstick--cooked dry--and carrot and potato salad with mayonnaise, and the other plate was loaded with spaghetti, rice and beans. The condiments included this gritty yellow stuff I think was coarsely ground corn and the other was cassava meal. Along with a large beer, it cost me 6 BR plus I had a great view of the market and the ferry boats coming and going.

Food Court

Grains and beans

Fruits and Vegetables

magic elixirs

Mercado do Ferro

the afternoon rains began, so I returned to the hostel. I met a couple from the UK, James and Rebecca, who had just arrived after a 30 hour plus bus ride just to learn that they would have to backtrack to Rio by bus rather than press on to Columbia because the cost of the air tickets had increased significantly since they last checked.

another traveler from Holland had an even worse experience when she got here from arriving in Rio. It turned out the ATM machine she used at the Rio airport had a gizmo in it that cloned her ATM card. She learned of it when she checked her accout and saw that someone had withdrawn $500 Euros from her account. The bank cancelled her card and she is now working with the Dutch Consulate on getting funds from her bank transferred to the Dutch government which she can draw on for the rest of her trip.

I am now heading to the Ride up the Amazon--no Internet or phone service for five days.

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