We arrived safe in sound to Alter do Chao after our hellish trip down the Amazon. Alter do Chao is a one hour bus ride from where the boat stops, at Santarem. Alter do Chao is known as being the `Caribbean of the Amazon`. We weren`t sure how Caribbean like it would actually be, but anywhere would be great after the boat ride. We found a place to stay and walked around the town and it was great. It was very small with dirt streets, and was very laid back and quiet. The beach was beautiful. It was a large arrowhead of sand pointing out from an island that could be swum to or pay someone to take you over in a canoe. The sand was nicer than a lot of ocean beaches we had seen. Anyways, we got settled down, had a swim and relaxed.
The next day we went to a local tour agency to see about taking a trek into the jungle. They had trips to see native villages and they had rubber tree works. You could see giant trees and see animals. Unfortunately, the prices were ridiculous. We were used to paying about $50 per day for tours, but here it was 3 times as much. We decided that it was too much money for trips we could do in other countries much more cheaply. We then asked about buying tickets for the rest of the trip down the Amazon. We decided this time to take a camarote which is a private cabin. It was more expensive than paying for hammock space, but definitely worth it. The only thing was that the next boat didn`t leave for five days. In the end, we decided there were worse places to spend five days and we would enjoy our time in the Caribbean of the Amazon.
We spent the next days swimming, walking around the town, watching sunsets. It was very relaxing. We went into Santarem to see what it had to offer, which wasn`t much for tourists. On our second last day there, we decided we had to do one small trip. We had heard that you could rent a boat that would take us out to some interesting areas. It was still a bit pricey, but we decided to do it. I can`t remember what all we were promised to see, but all it was was a stop at a point where we could see birds, mostly vultures. Then we went to another beach where we could swim, though it wasn`t as nice as the one at Alter do Chao. There was a restaurant there with very high prices, but there were no other options. We had fish, which was delicious however. All in all, it was a nice trip, but not worth the price. We were starting to wonder if all of Brazil was like this.
The next day we took the bus back to Santarem and got onto our boat for the trip to Belem, on the Atlantic. This trip was to take 2.5 days. We weren`t sure what to expect with our camarote, but it turned out to be fine. The cabin was quite small, but had comfortable bunk beds and piped in air conditioning. Luxurious compared to the hammock decks. We even had our own bathroom shared with the other camarote people. It felt a bit high and mighty, but there was no way we were going by hammocks again. At the rear of our deck they had some chairs we could relax in, and a small convenience stand to buy drinks and snacks. The only problem was that from 6am til midnight, they played music videos pounding out of giant speakers. Even this we could live with, if the music was interesting and varied. However, the lady in charge clearly enjoyed a certain type of music called forro. She played these discs over and over again at ear piecing volumes. I`m not even sure how to describe the music. The videos were always from giant stadium shows with huge numbers of back up dancers. The music got old almost immediately, though no one else seemed to mind. At least we could hide in our cabin.
We spent the days reading, watching the water and other boats. The days revolve around the meal times really. Breakfast arrived extremely early, from about 5am til 6:30. It was free, including a bun and a coffee. Luckily, this boat wasn`t as crowded as the other one, so mealtimes weren`t quite as frantic. The other boat reminded me of what prison must be like. Lunch and supper were enormous amounts of rice, beef, potatoes and vegetables. As we got closer to Belem, we started entering more narrow channels between giant islands. We saw more people living along the shoreline. Sometimes people would row their canoes out towards our boat. I`m not sure if they wanted to throw them food, or were just bored and happy to see other people. The smaller boys would row dangerously close to the boat to catch our wake. Once, I swear one canoe went nearly under the boat. I just saw three boys and their upturned canoe behind us. Don`t worry, they were fine, laughing in fact. Finally, on our last morning, we saw Belem appear and were on the other side of South America. What a relief. We packed up our stuff, leaving behind our Trinidadian friend`s crusty hammock and said goodbye to the mighty Amazon.