MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2007. BELEM, BRAZIL. I caught a one hour flight to Belem from Sao Luis mid-day today. (Jeff has remained behind in Sao Luis with a Brazilian friend and will catch up with me). The one-way fare on GOL Airlines was R$118 ($56), which isn't much more than the 12-hour bus ride for about R$100. Given the long distances and competitive pricing of Brazilian airlines, it makes sense to consider flying when travelling within Brazil. At the moment, GOL Airlines doesn't permit you to purchase your ticket online without a Brazilian Visa card or American Express. I simply made a reservation over the phone and paid cash at the airport just before my flight. I'll be here in Belem for a couple of days to explore the city and make arrangements for boat transportation up the Amazon river to Santarem.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 21, 2007. BELEM, BRAZIL. Jeff has rejoined me here in Belem. After wandering down to the docks yesterday and inspecting the boats that ply up the Amazon river, we have decided to forgo the boat trip and fly to Manaus tomorrow (bypassing Santarem). The price for flying is actually cheaper than a cabin on a boat--Flying Gol Airlines from Belem-Manaus is R$200 versus a boat from Belem-Santarem in a cabin for R$250. Besides the price, another consideration was the condition of the boats--They were very old and dirty looking. It did not look like it would be a comfortable ride for The Champagne Backpacker.
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Belem is built along a tributary from the Amazon river. It's about 120 kilometers west of the Atlantic Ocean. Belem's glory days were back in the 1800s when it grew wealthy from the production and sale of rubber ('Rubber barons'?). Today it is the gateway to the Amazon and a major port for shipment of mostly timber.