Since the latest road (Trans Amazonia) built by last military regime who didn’t realcare what would be the environmental effect, is impossible to use for almost ¾ of the year, the only connection of between Amazon state, Randonia, Acre and neighbor countries is the navigable Madeira River. I book my ticket in advance but there is nothing like advance down here, I showed up to the boat office to be told ‘don’t worry the boat isn’t leaving today may be tomorrow but if you want to sleep in you’re welcome ‘ . During this waiting time the boat is loaded with all sort of fresh fruits, beans and empty crates of beer. Some of the fruits are natural growing in the jungle so they have to travel by mad road to reach the port.
I board banana boat at 12hrs and according to the ticket it was due to leave 13hrs but the engine was turned on at 19hrs, good thing there is no one was stressing about time. I took a tour around the wooden boat; the bottom deck it is biggest one with four divisions, first contain engine and the rest full of fruits and beans. The second deck is toilets, small kitchen, captain cabin and big empty space where the passages have to hang their hammock which is simply your seat and your bed. The top deck it has small cabin for bar and hug space to hang out.
Cargo is about 75% of the boat’s load. In the ticket they said they your fair it include breakfast, lunch and dinner, for me that was big joke. In the first evening there were small portion of noodle soup, which was served without any announcement and it was for brief moment, I thought it wasn’t mean to be for all. I was hungry, I wish to light my stove and cook instead I had a beer and sleep. Next morning the breakfast wasn’t any where a relive, it was a small cup of sweet coffee and 3 pieces of salt crackers. For the hungry cyclist this is more than a joke, I decide to light my stove and made my daily morning starter oats meal. This wasn’t ease as the boat is full of curious kids running around, want to touch and test everything.
Lunch come by surprise; rice, beans, spaghetti and beef which wasn’t good stood or something like that. The portion is also small, thanks for the guys who had pit to poor cyclist they asked chief to add a bit more for me so I end up having two plates. Dinner was same meal with chicken sauce.
The boat is full of all sorts of noise and smell. Children crying and screaming, dunkers shouting, guys playing guitar, thanks to Chinese several people have their own outlet small speakers in their hammock while the bar blaring loud music at least 15hrs a day. Though all these swallowed by the roar of the boat engine.
The most interesting part of Banana boat is the sailing, the scenery is fantastic. The river is immense and now in the rain season it said to be higher. The yellowish wide and relatively flat river curve it way through the dense jungle. Here and there are same river communities of one to 3 floating houses most are over flooded now. The most wonderful thing is how this pure green jungle stretch out just as fare as you can see, everything seem to be so perfect and total untouched, for duration of the trip I never get tired of lying back and watch it with main question ‘how long will this leave before our ignorance and greed destroy it?’ The most breathtaking moment of this river sailing is sun set and sun rise, look at this colorful sky reflecting the water in the wide but getting narrow as it goes far, it real calming and leave you relaxed. We had two night of clear sky; the milk way is so visible, Venus is in the horizon in the moon less night it looks like small moon. I was luck to see Scorpion and Libra constellation by necked eyes. There are several tributes which may confuse as Main River so the captains require certain amount of experience.
Most of the passengers are resident of Porto Velho/Manaus there were few hippies/gypsy from Uruguay and Colombia, they set up their shop of artisans in the boat. It seems like the boat ownership it sort of family and they are all here. There were bunch of people who seemed to be drunk or sort of high all the time, also there are ladies roaming around they actual come to ask me how my saddle feels like, I had to pretend I don’t real understand what they said so they had to try it themselves. Sex tourism is quite high in Brazil. In the last evening the space seem to be too small, guys almost break into fighting for the complain of loud music while the engine it was more loud.
At 6am the morning of Saturday the boat slowly start to approach Manaus city, the sky scrapers rising in the forest. The port is more organized but not out of pick pocket as one of the passage end up losing his wallet with 500 Reals. In the arrive there are bunch of small motor boat coming to the boat with guys shouting asking for the passages going to the next destination. From here I’m taking another boat to Tibatinga in the boarder of Peru and Colombia.