April 6, 2014 – Alter do Chao, Brazil
Today we are at Alter do Chao which is a city of about 1,000. It is located on a bay in the Tapajos River. 2 hills overlook the city with one being in the shape of a church altar which gives the city its name. A sandbar directly in front of the town forms a white-sand island known as Ilha do Amor (Island of Love). We never saw it because it is under water from the floods of the rainy season. The island is best seen when the water is low usually from June to December. In the dry season, you can access it by wading or by canoe. The water is so pristine here that the village has earned the moniker of “The Caribbean of the Amazon”. The city is a weekend destination for citizens of the nearby city of Santarem. Almost every license plate we saw was from Santarem which is only about 20 miles away.
Alter do Cho stands at the entrance to a huge lagoon, Lago Verde. This side of the Amazon has an abundant display/offers of local finds such as hand-woven souvenirs, basketry, jewelry, leather goods, beadwork, masks and wood carving. Some stores also sell preserved replicas of exotic fishes – e.g. piranhas. There was a wonderful jewelry store with some wonderful earrings, but fortunately for me it was closed.
The river here is the Rio Tapajos which is a tributary of the Amazon and stretches over 1,200 miles. It forms the eastern border of the Amazonia National Park. Its upper reaches are the dividing line between the state of Para and the state of Amazonia. The river is home to more than 300 species of fish many of which have only been discovered in recent years. By some estimates, hundreds more undiscovered species are likely swimming in the river’s waters.
The water is still rising here so that some of the waterfront streets are under water. Elly, Patsy and I went wading in the river. As far as we are concerned we waded in the Amazon even though it was only a tributary.
It was incredibly hot although the high was only 89. However, one place we saw said that the humidity was 101%! From here it will only get hotter. We were all soaked through with sweat and were very glad to get back to the ship and into air conditioning. Showers were definitely required before we went to dinner!