This section of Brazil covers what we visited after we left Ouro Preto. From the gorgeous mining town of Ouro Preto, we drove towards the state of Bahia for beach week, visiting the beach towns of Itaúnas, Caravelas, Trancoso, Porto Seguro and Itacaré. Here we spent time relaxing on beaches, visiting the Abrolhos Marine National Park for a day among sea turtles and masked boobies, celebrating two birthdays (Amanda and Danny), getting wet and wild at a water park, and taking a final dip in the Atlantic ocean before heading inland. After beach week, we made our way towards the city of Salvador, famous for its Afro-Brazilian culture. The lovely cobblestone district of Pelourinho was our home for 4 nights and we fell madly in love with this city. Beautiful street art hidden in between colonial Portuguese architecture, with music in the streets until the wee hours of the morning. From Salvador, we drove further inland towards Lençois, an old diamond mining town near Chapada Diamantina National Park. We spent one day exploring the highlights of the national park, to include panoramic views on top of Paí Inácio Hill, Mucugezinho River, Poço do Diabo (Devil’s Well), Gruta da Fumaça (Cave of Smoke), and Pratinha Grotto. After departing Lençois, we had a long push towards Belem, the gateway to Brazil’s lower Amazon region. Belem is home to the Mercado Ver-o-peso (Ver-o-peso Market), which is reputedly Latin America’s largest outdoor market. We spent hours here soaking up the sights and sounds of the fruit/vegetable and fish market. Definitely a spectacle not to be missed! From Belem, we hopped on a 24 hour ferry to Macapá, the only Brazilian city to straddle the equator. Why Macapá? Because we were headed into The Guianas and Macapá links Brazil to French Guiana. A total of 3 weeks was spent in The Guianas and we exited Guyana at the border town of Lethem to catch a bus to Boa Vista and onward to Manaus. Manaus was an unexpected highlight, as we had a chance to play with pink river dolphins here, which was definitely an unforgettable experience! Our last push out of Brazil was hopping on a week long ferry linking Manaus to Tabatinga along the mighty Amazon River (Rio Solimões). One week aboard the O Rei Davi ferry either in a hammock or a coveted private cabin. We opted to upgrade for the private cabin to spend our nights, but our days were spent chilling in our comfortable hammocks strung up on the top deck. One week to disconnect with no emails, texts or calls – the perfect way to refresh and recharge. After arriving in Tabatinga, we crossed the border into Colombia which is our penultimate country on this epic 7 month journey. Fingers crossed the coronavirus doesn’t wreck havoc to our final weeks of this tour as so far we’ve managed to stay in a bubble of security here in South America.
08 Jan – Ouro Preto – Viana
Despite our windows being open all night, it was a hot and sweaty sleep. Becky awoke to find Jeremy’s face a few inches away shoving a pile of laundry at her while asking if everything was there and accounted for. What a way to start the day! After breakfast, we walked down to the town square where Spongebob and Will were waiting for us. Will has been feeling off for a few days and he was hoping not to have any bathroom emergencies today. We loaded on the truck and prepared for a long drive day. Everyone was choosing the best seats and we watched as Debbie and Keith were the last to load up. Lisa commented out loud what the rest of us had already been saying privately amongst ourselves that Keith spends a lot of time shielding Debbie away from the rest of us. Parading her around in front of the group but blocking anyone from getting to know her. He put her on his own cook group and made it clear he would be upgrading their accommodation at every opportunity. He even sets their tent up far away from the rest of us and is acting like this is a holiday for the two of them and we are just the transportation. It is all a bit bizarre and Lisa said it is like he is showing off his doll but not letting anyone get more than a superficial look at her. As promised, it was a long and hot drive day. We helped cook group prepare salad for lunch and after 45 minutes in the sun, we were both sweating profusely from the heat and humidity. Totally gross! The highlight this afternoon was a stop to get ice-cream. Will drove 420 km today, quite a feat considering he did not feel well. We pulled into a campsite, Cachoeira do Aloisio, around 5 and the owner excitedly greeted Danny, remembering him from previous trips. After setting up our tent, we jumped into the natural pool to cool down. Becky chatted with Leo in Spanish while cook group prepared bangers and mash which ended up being super tasty. The family gave us a bucket of mangoes that were a treat for dessert.
09 Jan – Viana –Itaúnas
Up at 6 to take down the tent before it got too hot. Then we wet our hair in the outdoor shower to cool down before breakfast of granola and yogurt. Jeremy is having a meltdown because all the cook groups are doing granola/yogurt/fruit. Becky wants her cook group to buy that for breakfast in a few days to see him completely flip out. On the road 15 minutes early because it is already hot and humid by 7:15. We drove and drove and drove but poor Will could only crawl along at 10 km an hour because of road congestion and construction. Alli finally won a game of Monopoly and had a big celebration in the back. At 1100, we finally reached a mall where the next 2 cook groups had to go shopping. Becky did truck guard with Allison and Futoshi stayed on to eat lunch. Not sure why he refused to do truck guard but Cat came back to relieve us so we could grab lunch and Futoshi ran off the truck to avoid pulling guard duty with her so we had to wait for someone else to show up since 2 people are supposed to be on guard duty. Brad was the next person to show up at noon which gave Allison and Becky 30 minutes to grab lunch. Allison ordered a meal from McDonald’s and wanted to sit and enjoy her meal so the two of them were late returning to the truck. Thankfully no one complained about them being 15 minutes late because feisty Allison would have said something about it. 2 more hours of driving until we reached the beach at Itaunas. Our campsite was Anave Pousada E Camping and there was a shady garden near the mangrove to set up tents. Plus power points so we were all set. We joined a group to walk down to the beach through the mangrove and up a sand dune. The water looked a bit rough and there were riptide warnings so Becky steered clear but Danny, Leo and Robby took a dip in what they later described as warm bath water. We drank beers on the beach until sunset. Keith actually tried to be sociable at the beach, leaving Debbie to talk to Allison, the one person who couldn’t spill the beans about him. He made it a point to tell us that Lisa had cornered Debbie to tell her that there are 2 Keiths, to which Debbie replied “I know, and I love both of them”. Robby had to leave early for cook group duty. Gary, Rob and Robby made fajitas for dinner tonight which was a treat. Afterwards, we went out to the main square to check out the live music and pumping scene (according to Jeremy). Such a let down, it might have been kicking at 7 but by 9:30, things were winding down. While everyone else sat at the only bar with music, we opted out and went back to the campsite.
10 Jan – Itaúnas
Today is the start of beach week! A whole week of relaxing with nothing to do. Robby got up for cook group and made eggs to order for everyone. After that, we made a beeline for the beach, wanting to squeeze in a few hours before the sun got too strong. The sea felt warm, too warm to feel refreshing. We were a bit paranoid about leaving anything of value on the beach so we took turns getting into the water. By noon, we were getting pink and called it quits. Walking back across the sand dunes was harder than we anticipated because the sand was burning our skin, especially as it made contact with our toes as we ran down the dunes as fast as we could. We have never felt sand so hot before! Everyone else was headed towards the beach and they tried to convince us to turn around. We suspect there will be a bunch of red lobsters tonight. Back at the campsite, we made ramen noodles for lunch and had an afternoon siesta in our tent. Good thing we got a shady spot! Cook group (Jeremy, Alli and Leo) made black bean burgers which were good for a vegetarian meal. Izzy and Becky figured out that at the last campsite, their sleeping mats suffered tiny punctures as they both deflated during the night. Izzy set about patching her mat while Becky procrastinated and figured she could fix it at the next camp site. Robby played chess with Will and then we used the splitter that Debbie brought us from the States to watch TV on our tablet. Happy times.
11 Jan – Itaúnas – Caravelas
Bacon, eggs and guacamole for breakfast…what a treat! We were on the road by 8 headed to our next beach town, Caravelas. Even though it was only 170 km away, Danny told us to expect a 4 hour drive day. Sure enough, just before noon we pulled up into our hostel for the next 2 nights, Pousada Encanto Abrolhos. Our rooms weren’t quite ready yet so we jumped on the WiFi to see what was going on in the world (Iran admitted to shooting down the aircraft that resulted in over 160 people killed due to a case of mistaken identity). Alli and Bert told us our room was ready and we got settled into room 1. It was a tight fit with 3 single beds and 1 bunk bed but bonus was none of us had to climb to the top bunk. Plus there was AC. Good times. We decided to check out the town of Caravelas and first stop was the town’s biggest supermarket. Limited selection here but we did buy some cold fizzy drinks before walking to the historical center. Murals of humpback whales attested to the town being the jump off point to the Abrolhos marine national park. Too bad it wasn’t whale watching season because we read that loads of whales could be spotted here for 4 months of the year. The town felt sleepy and quiet and the sun beating down on us was way too hot so we decided to head back to the hostel. On our way back, we ran into half the group eating lunch at a pizzeria. They quickly warned us the food was horrible and we laughed when they said the hamburgers were only 5 Reals. What could you expect for $1 burgers? Back at the hostel, we found out there is no kitchen to speak of so we decided to use the sun to heat the water for our instant noodles. Worked like a charm! Then a siesta until 5 when we took a dip in the pool. The instant noodles weren’t enough to fill us so it was an early dinner in town at a restaurant recommended by Danny, Restaurante Caravelle. Alli and Bert were eating early too so we had a nice conversation over drinks until our food arrived. By then, the rest of the group showed up and we were glad we decided to eat early because the restaurant struggled to meet the needs of a large group. We were back in bed watching TV and they still didn’t get their food for another 2 hours. Apparently Allison started losing her shit with the insanely slow service…glad we avoided it all. We were all in bed before 10:30 since it was an early morning start for us tomorrow.
12 Jan – Caravelas – Ilhas de Abrolhos Marine Park
Up at 5:20 to get ready for a full day at sea. Good thing Alli and Bert were also going so we didn’t have to scramble in the dark. We met up with everyone else and walked just over a kilometer to Abrolhos Embarcacoes where we had to sign a sheet and walk down to the boat. The dive boat already had people on board claiming their seats and helping themselves to breakfast so we followed suit. The main goal today was to keep out of the sun as we knew how strong it would be after 8 hours on deck so we fought for a seat on the main level under some shade. Thankfully the staff sought out a Brazilian girl, Bruna, who lived in the US to help translate for us. We were so grateful that a fellow passenger was willing to clue us in what was going on. She explained that we had a 4 hour (70 km) journey to the Abrolhos islands where we would be able to walk on one of the islands and snorkel at two spots. The time passed quickly and we were at Abrolhos Islands by 10 am. Turtles surrounded our boat and we learned that this area is a turtle nesting area and they are quite used to humans, not viewing us as a threat. We wanted to snorkel with them but first a short boat ride to Ilha Redonda, the only island that tourists are able to explore. Our new Brazilian friend joined our group as translator and we got to see boobies up close. Just as in the Galapagos, the birds had no fear of us. Then it was snorkel time. We eagerly hopped in and went in search of turtles. Luckily, there were quite a few sightings and one that just wanted to feed on the sandy bottom, so we were able to take video of it without scaring it away. Then a huge barracuda showed up and we got to swim with it for a while. When we returned to the boat, it followed us, almost like we were playing a game of tag. All too soon, we had to get back on the boat as we relocated to another of the Abrolhos islands. There, the beginner SCUBA divers each had a 30 minute introductory dive while the rest of us snorkeled. The park is the largest coral formation in the South Atlantic but most of it has been bleached. There were some fish but overall it was disappointing compared to coral in the Pacific. The coolest fish we swam with was a cowfish with double unicorn horns. Completely unafraid of us and it let us both get close to video it munching on coral. While we were busy chasing fish, everyone else was busy eating lunch so we swam back to get some grub too. We shouldn’t have worried about enough food because the chef had prepared loads of chicken pasta and salad, enough for everyone to have thirds. At 2:30, once the last SCUBA diver had completed their dive, we set back toward Caravelas. Along the way, the captain stopped so we could see a playful manta ray at the surface of the water. The ride back was pleasant and Becky sat in front with Allison chatting away. Back at the dock, we took a photo with Bruna and thanked her for helping us out today. She works for the Boston Aquarium leading whale watching tours and we will look her up when we return to Massachusetts in the summer. Back at the hostel, we took a shower and washed our laundry before having beer and Dr. Lemon for dinner. Tomorrow night we are bush camping so a late departure in the morning.
13 Jan – Caravelas – Barra de Caravelas beach bushcamp
The AC was kicking this morning and our room was freezing. Bliss! We regretted leaving the room for breakfast immediately as it was already hot by 7 am. After breakfast, Becky had to do cook group shopping and got cook group money from Danny (250 Reals for dinner and breakfast). She joined Amanda and Cat on a trip to the supermarket. The plan was to make spaghetti carbonara but when they arrived to the supermarket, they discovered that the fridge housing the cheese and cream had a mechanical issue and the staff was in the middle of transferring everything to another fridge. The cheese felt warm to the touch so rather than risk it, they decided to buy packets of 4 Cheese sauce instead…no risk of food poisoning. Shopping was done by 10 so we had an hour to shower, pack and enjoy the AC before we finally had to get on the truck. Our drive day was short, a 20 minute (9 km) ride to the nearby beach where we were told to set up our tents later in the afternoon. Becky borrowed Allison’s needle and the truck’s sewing kit to fix her ripped shorts and trousers. Everyone else was lounging around drinking beer and eating fast food from the beach shack, Cabana do Hulk. Izzy came by to warn everyone of the kids that were casing us out as a target. They were eyeballing our phones and wallets and she wanted us to be aware. Bert saw them take too much interest in his wallet so he retreated to Spongebob to offload extra cash. We have all been letting our guard down and are easy targets for professional pickpockets, oops, kids. Becky scored a hammock and spent the afternoon reading and napping. For lunch, we got a platter of chicken, beef and fries…much tastier than anything we ate in Caravelas town. Jungle Speed and Monopoly emerged and we played some games before another siesta on the hammock. The boys decided on a tug of war contest with Will winning by cheating, followed by him and Robby hugging it out. The locals started an exercise program and Jeremy joined in towards the end of it. Quite a few people were feeling quite happy after hours of drinking so we decided to start cooking at 6, with our 5 cheese carbonara and salad ready at 7:10. Only 1 hour and 10 minutes from start to finish. Clean up was easy and we were done by 8:30. Jeremy hid in our tent and poor Robby got scared shitless much to Jeremy’s delight. He is such a cheeky boy! It was nice to sleep to the sound of waves but the breeze died down so it felt a bit hot and uncomfortable. Oh, poor Will may have been a casualty of the boys with sticky fingers…his phone and wallet are missing despite an extensive search for them!
14 Jan – Barra de Caravelas beach bushcamp – Trancoso
Sunrise was just after 5 am so Becky got up way before the alarm went off for cook group duties. She cut up fruit for a fruit salad (and found out Leo is severely allergic to pineapple so thank goodness they didn’t buy any). Breakfast was a huge variety this morning – grape, lime, peach and apple juice, boiled eggs, tomato/cucumber/carrot salad, and melon, kiwi, apple, papaya and mango fruit salad. Alli found Will’s lost phone and wallet in the wheel well this morning which made Will really happy. His whole mood changed because he had been depressed at the thought of losing his phone yet again. By 8 we were on the road and our first stop was a gas station to fill up on gas and water. At 1, we finally reached Camping Mandacaru in Trancoso. The campsite looked brand new with pristine toilets and showers, a laundry section and there was strong WiFi to boot. We hit the streets for a late lunch and stumbled upon the town square with street food options and cute cafes. We ate at The Coffee Bar with smoothie and toastie options. Then a stroll to the end of the quad (Praca Sao Joao) that had a nice viewpoint over the beach. We hiked down the trail to the beach for a few hours of beach time before heading back to the campsite for a shower and drinks. Dinner was street food, with most of us trying tapioca recheada, a tapioca pancake with all the fixings. For 20 Reals each, they were super tasty. We ate at Tapioca de Sandra which was quite popular. Then a wander around the park at night followed by movie night at the campsite. Will and Robby fell asleep but Amanda, Lisa, Rob and Becky managed to stay awake until midnight watching The Dawn Wall.
15 Jan – Trancoso
What a crazy wild day! Happy birthday Amanda. Danny made poached eggs with a hollandaise sauce and avocado for breakfast…a one man cook group. Good thing we ate hearty this morning because we wouldn’t have another meal until late tonight. Danny had requested that we split up buying different items for today’s party and we volunteered for the juice and sodas. Thank goodness others helped us carry stuff to the beach because 14 liters of beverages is quite heavy when you have to walk 30 minutes to the beach! We also went shopping for sarongs for Will and Danny, plus one for each of us. Around 11:30, we finally made our way down to the beach where Danny had set up a gazebo, complete with birthday balloons and decorations. The shady spots were all taken so Robby tied our sarongs to the gazebo and the strong wind blew them horizontally so voila, we had shade. First task was making some esky punch, a combination of ice, rum, vodka, drink mix, juice and soda. It was refreshingly delicious for the first batch, OK for the second batch, and lethal for the last batch. Amanda showed up and we sang her happy birthday while making sure her birthday present, a mug, was constantly kept full. No wonder she was one of the first casualties of the day, followed quickly by Robby and Allison. At least when they puked, it was easy to cover up with sand and the ocean took care of the clean up. Everyone started off happy, and then various arguments and fights broke out. Lisa and Rob got into a fight, followed by Alli and Will getting into a furious argument about the wildfires in Australia and Bert came down on team Alli so now two people are super pissed with Will. Drunk Robby got buried in the sand and Danny took off on a horseback ride. Amanda said she normally spends her birthday at home with her mom, so this was the best, most fun birthday ever. Too bad she never recovered in time for her birthday cake, which went uneaten. Robby did sober up eventually after napping half of the day away. At one point, Jeremy forced Robby to sit on a rented plastic beach chair with him and the two of them thought it would be a great idea to pull Becky on top. Predictably, the chair smashed to smithereens and Danny came running over to tell us that we owed 70 Reals to buy a new one. Allison broke 2 other chairs and refused to pay, so Danny managed to keep the peace by offering up the gazebo and 70 Reals that Jeremy paid to call it even. Considering the gazebo cost 150 Reals in Rio, the chair owner made out on the better end of the deal. By 6 pm, the bar we were at was shutting down so we were kicked out. Robby carried Amanda and Danny led the way on a new route back to town. Leo carried the esky full of remnant punch and Becky carried the birthday cake and spare Styrofoam esky. Danny, Amanda and Robby disappeared behind us at some point so Leo and Becky waited and walked back to discover the rest of the group decided to hitchhike up the hill, leaving them to fend for themselves with the heaviest items. A steep climb up a hill with ropes ensued and they thought if they lost their balance, they’d tumble down and break some bones for sure. Eventually they arrived back up by the quad, where the white church is. So they still had another 20 minute walk back to the campsite. No wonder Leo was mad that the others hitched a ride without offering to take the stuff we were carrying! Back at the campsite, Leo gave Danny a piece of his mind resulting in those two arguing. We took Leo out for street food to diffuse the situation and Jeremy and Cat joined us. We ate the number 7 from Sandra’s tapioca shack (cheese, sun dried beef, arugula, tomatoes and a secret sauce). Insanely delicious but pricey at 20 Reals a pop. While walking back to the campsite, we ran into Bert, Lisa and Rob and Lisa begged us to take a very drunk Bert back to the campsite. Apparently, Alli had run away from Bert at some point, leaving him bewildered and confused. Poor Bert was trying to light a cigarette even though he had quit for almost 2 weeks already because he was so stressed out. We calmed him down and made sure he remained a nonsmoker all the way back to the campsite where he went to bed. We finally got a shower to rinse off all the sand and were in bed by 11. Jeremy terrorized us by shaking our tent repeatedly until Robby did a satisfactory wolf howl and thus our crazy day ended. Becky sent over 50 photos of how our day progressed so Amanda will be able to remember her birthday!
16 Jan – Trancoso
Finally, a relaxing morning where we had nothing to do and nowhere to be. Happy birthday Will! We gave him a birthday present of a sarong and a box of chocolates from Bariloche. Danny made blueberry pancakes for breakfast and Becky bought a bikini bottom and bug repellent before we made our way to the beach. Jeremy joined us and we filled an esky with ice for gin tonics on the beach. Danny, Amanda and Leo were at the Fly Club for beach lounges but we opted for laying on our own towels instead. By 2, Jeremy decided to head back for some food and we hung out longer since neither one of us was eager to rush back to the campsite. Even though street food beckoned for dinner tonight, we were craving spaghetti bolognese so we hit a supermarket on the way back from the beach. Total cost for dinner was 18 Reals, a bargain. Poor Jeremy is having phone problems…his iPhone is on the fritz and a factory reset isn’t helping. We used the WiFi tonight to get caught up on some admin work. Tomorrow we are headed to Porto Seguro where we will celebrate Danny’s birthday.
17 Jan – Trancoso – Puerto Seguro
A short drive day today, only 80 km to Porto Seguro. But first breakfast which was granola with coconut flakes and yogurt or toasty sandwiches. Yum! Will had to deal with the aftermath of Alli’s email to the head office yesterday…he was on the phone explaining the situation and later made a comment that it was the worst birthday ever. Poor guy! Spongebob had to get jumped because of a dead battery so new truck rule which will now be enforced is no charging anything while we are parked up. Alli and Bert were no shows for departure but maybe they will catch up to us in the next town? By 10, we were in Porto Seguro and we were given over an hour to explore the old historical town. Loads of colorful buildings, tasty street food and tons of cheap souvenirs here. We tried a fried shrimp Acarajé (deep fried beans stuffed with shrimp, okra, tomato salsa and random spices). Jeremy found a hammock seller and 5 of us bought hammocks for the upcoming ferry rides (70 Reals each). Back on Spongebob for a short ride to the new section of town for cook group shopping where we got meat and cheese for lunch, followed by a McDonald’s milk shake (made with ice-cream). Back on Spongebob and Keith and Deb decided to upgrade to a hotel in town so Spongebob feels empty. We pulled into our campsite for the next 2 nights, Hotel Mundai Praia Camping where we set up our tents in the camping area. After getting beer, wine and lunch, it was pool time. We started in the shady area of the adult pool but kids kept crowding us out so we shifted to a different section of the pool and the kids kept following us. Eventually, we jumped into the kiddie pool and took over the entire space with zero kids…solution! In the afternoon we walked the beach and then made a reservation for Danny’s birthday dinner tomorrow night. Cook group (Izzy, Futoshi and Allison) made sausages and salad for dinner and we hit the sack afterwards.
18 Jan – Puerto Seguro
Happy 33rd birthday Danny! Today was a fun day at the water park, Arraial D’Ajuda Eco Parque. Danny requested mangoes for breakfast, so cook group accommodated with mangoes and grapes served with granola and yogurt. We gave Danny his birthday present of a sarong and chocolate. Cat was feeling sick today so she didn’t want to go to the water park and Brad, Izzy, and Gary also decided to skip out. So there were 8 of us (Amanda, Lisa, Rob, Allison, Jeremy, Leo, & us) plus Danny headed to celebrate his birthday. To get there, we had to take a bus, ferry and minivan. Thankfully it was fairly easy because Danny knew exactly where to go and what it should cost. At the park, we paid 120 Reals each for a full day including all activities. We grabbed a table to offload our bags and hit the water slides. Allison had never been to a water park before and she was thrown into the deep end. For a 60 something year old, she is one brave woman! Jeremy, Allison and the two of us had a blast on all the rides, and spent the first 2 hours running around like crazy kids. While everyone else wanted a lunch and beer siesta, we waited to do the zip-line which took forever to get a harness. The zip-line was fun but Robby could have done without! Lunch was next and we got a tasty chicken and bacon sandwich served with fries and juice. We mixed our maracuya vodka with the mango juice for a tasty cocktail and gave shots of vodka to Alli, Jeremy and Danny. Oh yes, Alli and Bert showed up! They both looked well rested and happy, so it looked like a few days off the truck did them some good. Then it was time for our favorite slides again before the park closed at 5. The yellow tube slide, followed by the 4 in a raft slide, then the lazy river tube ride, and lastly the wave pool. The highlight was unexpectedly the 4 in a raft. Because we are all heavy gringos, the raft slides higher and faster than a raft full of Brazilians. We maneuvered so high on the slide that it felt like our raft could tip over. Plus combined with Robby screaming loudly the entire way down (to freak out everyone waiting in line), we had a giggle fest the entire ride down. So much fun! The lazy river was also a blast, although not so lazy because Danny, Jeremy and Robby were trying to slam our floating tubes together and push us down the river like an obstacle course, with random strangers being the obstacles! Colliding with unsuspecting people just relaxing in the river was hysterical to our increasingly drunk group and we terrorized everyone, young, old, fat and skinny…no one was off limits. At 5, we were like petulant children not wanting to leave but being forced to. We grabbed a bus to the ferry and walked onto the car ferry without paying, so everyone got a free ride back to Porto Seguro. Then Danny introduced us to the street bars, which were serving up tasty smoothies mixed with vodka or cachaça. Free samples of maracuya and strawberry fruit mixed with condensed milk got us hooked, and the vodka was mixed so smooth that it tasted like we were having adult smoothies. After 2 of them, we were all feeling happy and were ready for dinner at Restaurant Cadillac (free caipirinhas). We shared a bacon pizza and Danny, Leo, Amanda and Bert shared a 4 person meat platter. We collectively paid for Danny and Leo’s meal and drinks but when the final bill came, we were short. Bert, Alli, Lisa and Rob had already left so we had to reconcile the shortchanges between Amanda, Jeremy and us. For group dinners, someone always gets screwed and that is our least favorite aspect of them. Danny wanted just one more drink so we bought beers from a convenience store and sat on the street drinking. When he called an Uber at 10 pm, Becky didn’t hesitate and jumped into it with Leo and Allison, leaving Robby to fend for himself. Becky later explained she desperately wanted to get out of her wet bikini and take a shower so there was no waiting around to be nice. Poor Robby, Amanda and Jeremy. Their Uber canceled on them so they decided to walk and catch a taxi. They ended up getting back to the campsite an hour after everyone else and paid more than double for the taxi. By midnight, we were in bed.
19 Jan – Puerto Seguro – Itacaré
It rained hard all night long and our clothes on the laundry line were soaked wet. No one was keen on breaking down the tent in the rain but it wasn’t too bad. By 7:30 departure time, everyone was on Spongebob. We drove towards Itacare, stopping for cook group shopping at lunch time so everyone else could buy lunch. Slim pickings at the supermarket but we got yogurt and a box of grapes which were tasty. Another couple of hours of driving before the beach came into view. Itacare is our last of the beach towns until we reach Cartagena, Colombia! Our campsite was the lovely Camping Rai Luc and Will had a hell of a time maneuvering there on a tiny road during late Sunday afternoon, peak rush hour for Brazil! We set up our tent in a wonderful spot overlooking the beach and quickly ran to the beach to enjoy a few hours of sun and sea. Cook group (Keith, Debbie and Danny) made chicken caesar salad for dinner which was surprisingly quite good! WiFi here was decent so we stayed up researching future trips. Huge downpour of rain so we had to sleep with the rain fly down all night. Hearing the waves crash all night long was peaceful and soothing.
20 Jan – Itacaré – Salvador
The final push to Salvador! We got up early to enjoy sunrise from our tent and by 6 am, it was already warm out. We were the first ones to have breakfast and made pack lunch since we were going to be on the ferry to Salvador by lunch time. On the road by 7:30 and thankfully Will had a much easier time driving out of town on a Monday morning. Becky had a mini meltdown because all the windows hogs reserved their seats since last night and she is tired of always sitting with no breeze. Thankfully Rob witnessed my temper tantrum because he and Lisa gave up the rear seat for us. Even though we were sitting on the sunny side, at least we had air flow! We reached the Bom Despacho terminal at 1:30 p.m. and because of our gringo status, were allowed to jump the queue. Too bad we still had to wait a few more hours until the ferry actually arrived. Just before 4 pm, we were finally on our way! Salvador beckoned in the distance, and we were all anxious to catch the free caipirinha cocktails on offer at Hostel Galeria 13 from 5:15 to 6:15 pm daily. We were met by Paul at the parking garage and escorted to our rooms. We were so happy to have upgraded in Salvador, our room (maputo) was on the top floor of the main building and it was lovely, with a double bed, and spare bunk bed, plus a hammock to boot. AC, fan and a private bathroom…yay! Those who didn’t upgrade were put up in the “dog house” in a 10 bed dorm. We were quite happy to have a bit of privacy since we were in Salvador for 4 nights. Happy hour was indeed happy and we were able to load up on 3.5 caipirinhas in 40 minutes. Then up to the room for a quick shower before dinner at Zulu Bar, also co-owned by Paul (a fascinating British guy who was born in South Africa and has lived in Madagascar and Mozambique, and has settled here in Brazil for the past few decades). Our dinner was shrimp moqueca, a meal that was touted as a “must have” meal in Salvador. Moqueca was even tastier than promised, prepared with shrimp, peppers, tomato, coriander, pepper, palm oil and coconut milk. It is stewed slowly in an earthenware dish and is one of the top culinary delights of Salvador de Bahia. One taste and our taste buds were thrilled! The best meal in Brazil, hands down. Then it was time to party. We went to Praca Quincas Berro D’ agua, where a “Cortejo Afro” music act was performing. Tickets were 60 Reals each and we danced over an hour to an ensemble that was preparing for carnival. The music was good but repetitive, and some of the outfits were strange. By 11 pm, we were ready to call it a night.
21 Jan – Salvador
Breakfast at 8 am was impressive. Hostel Galleria 13 put on a massive spread: 4 different types of juice, papaya and watermelon, tea and coffee, bread rolls with cheese and ham, two different cakes, eggs to order and sausages (hot dogs). We ate in the “shag room” (Jeremy had spotted a lounge area that he dubbed the group sex room) along with Jeremy, Amanda, Will and Cat. The staff was bewildered…they couldn’t figure out why we wanted to eat indoors versus outdoors with fresh air, not realizing we were just sitting around gossiping and catching up on the latest news. Nevertheless, A+ for service here…they adjusted quickly and brought our food indoors and even carried in chairs and tables to accommodate us! After breakfast, we pinned highlights of Salvador on our phones and set out for a do it yourself walking tour. Highlights were the Sao Francisco church, followed by the Terreiro de Jesus (a square flanked by handsome churches). Then onward to Rio Branco Palace, and an ATM to withdraw money for the rest of our time in Brazil. Next stop was a Havaianas store where Robby scored flip flops for 20 Reals each…bargain! We then paid 5 Reals to enter the Cathedral Basilica of Salvador which was excellent and well worth the money. Then back to the room to cool down a bit from the heat and sun. At 5:15, we had free drinks at the happy hour and we only had time for 2 drinks each before rushing off to mass at 6 pm at the Church our Lady of Rosario dos Pretos (the slave church). The mass ceremony, held once a week, had been sold to us as a confluence of Afro Brazilian dance, song, and religion. It was interesting, but we felt an hour here was way too much. Afterwards, we wandered the streets in search of dinner and after linking up with the majority of the group, we ended up back at Zulu Bar where we ordered the 2 person meat platter. Tons of food and of course we didn’t finish it. In bed by 10 pm when we tried to do a hangouts chat with the folks but the internet was way too bad so we chalked it up to a lost cause. Salvador is addictive and we are loving this city!
22 Jan – Salvador
Slept in until 8 am because Robby had put blackout curtains on our window and it was a gloomy, rainy day today. We found out that Allison had been mugged at 7:30 just a few hundred meters from the hostel in the main square…she lost her phone (1000 Pounds, latest iPhone) but thankfully was able to hold on to her purse, passport, and 500 Pounds worth of Reals. She fought back against her 2 attackers, biting down hard on the main guy even though she was getting punched and dragged in the process. Salvador has been so amazing thus far but here was a reality check to remind us that we are all vulnerable targets here. After breakfast, we decided to hit the streets and do some sightseeing despite the inclement weather. First stop was the slave church, Igreja Nossa Senhora Rosario dos Pretos. This section of the old town, Pelourinho, was very picturesque with cobblestone streets and pastel colored houses. Michael Jackson filmed his video, “They don’t care about us” in this area, so it was pretty cool to see it first hand. We walked down past the church and up the hill to the other side of Salvador, aiming for the Fort da Capoeira (Forte de Santo Antonio Alem do Carmo) which was a 17th century fort used as a prison. It was free to enter but not really worth the walk. Rain poured down on our way back, so we had to retreat under awnings to stay dry. We were mesmerized by Salvador’s most famous artist, Carlos Kahan, as his street art was strewn around the city. Such a talented artist and we happened upon his studio where private one on one painting lessons are offered. Too bad the studio was closed because we were interested in buying one of his pieces. Later on we priced a small one at over $200 so we probably can’t afford any of his work since he has gotten too famous! Back in the old city, we visited a free museum at Solar Ferrao. There was an impressive African mask and statue section donated by a private collector from Italy. The carved ivory tusks were amazing, and we loved the intricate detail of the stuff on display here. Rain kept pouring down but we were still keen on taking the elevator Lacerda down to the lower city so we could visit the Modelo market. A ride down the elevator cost 15 Reals cents, or about 4 cents, so super cheap. The market was full of bargains and shoppers with everyone trying to score a deal. We left with a dress and a painting. The painting will look great in Cuenca and only set us back $40…very talented artist and well worth the money. It was 2 pm by the time we decided to head back up the elevator into town for lunch. Izzy and Brad had recommended lunch at a cheap pay per kilo eatery and we were happy to see that they were there when we arrived at 2:30 so we joined them for lunch. Delicious and cheap, with our meals and drinks setting us back $10. Then it was time to do our Suriname tourist cards with Danny at the Zulu Bar. Thankfully it didn’t take too long so we had an hour to kill before 5:15 pm happy hour at the hostel. It was fun drinking free drinks with the group and we all egged Futoshi on to drink more. Yesterday he had 5 and was stumbling about and today he drank 4 in 30 minutes…beast mode! We stayed late chatting to Jeremy and Rebecca before heading back to our room to relax. Street music blared until midnight but we were in bed long before it was quiet…ear plugs were necessary tonight!
23 Jan – Salvador
A lazy relaxing morning! We slept in until 8 and had breakie at 9. Then back up to the room to do some work online while everyone else did a walking tour of the city (it sucked..the guide was from Peru and he spoke softly so everyone bailed midway through the tour except for Amanda who got shamed into paying a “mandatory” tip while the guide told her off for everyone sneaking off). We decided to book a tiger shark/great hammerhead shark tour with Jim Abernethy in the Bahamas for Feb next year. Keith put Danny on blast on the group chat telling him “he fucked up his visa” for Suriname yesterday which we thought was really inappropriate. First of all, it isn’t Danny’s job to do a visa application for anyone, and second, Keith showed up to the visa application drunk yesterday so what did he expect? Everyone else took care of their own individual applications like responsible adults except one person, hmmm. He needs to grow up! By 2 pm, we were hungry for lunch so a repeat to the kilo restaurant where we had another tasty lunch. Afterwards, we walked over to an art gallery where we found several pieces by Carlos Kahan that we wanted to buy. Our budget quickly went out the window and we found ourselves drawn to the friendly owner of the gallery. Several hours later, we were the proud owners of 2 pieces of artwork that will look fabulous in our Cuenca apartment. Happy hour was an hour later and we got to hear about the rest of the group’s cooking class (how to make moqueca). 7 of them plus 3 staff crammed into the hot kitchen for cooking lessons – no thanks! But their meals came out tasty and everyone seemed happier with cooking lessons than the walking tour! We went to the Bale Folclorico de Bahia at 7:30 pm for an 8 pm showing and were some of the last to show up! The show was quite good although it started off a bit slow for an acrobatic, folkloric troupe. The second half of the performance, especially the capoeira, was excellent! It was pouring down with rain by the time the show ended so we didn’t linger and went straight back to the hostel. Going to be sad to leave Salvador tomorrow morning!
24 Jan – Salvador – Lençóis
Drive day today! We were up for an early breakfast that the hostel put together especially for Oasis and were on the road by 7:30. Will made good time and we covered a lot of ground before our lunch/cook group shopping stop in Itaberaba. Robby had to shop so Becky grabbed lunch for us (rotisserie chicken which we split with Will). Then another 2 more hours of driving until we reached Lençois, our home for 3 nights. Our campsite was Pousada e Camping Lumiar, and we set up close to power. Cook group (Bert, Brad and Lisa) started cooking dinner at 4 pm which is really crazy. We are all about tasty and filling meals but no one is expecting a gourmet meal on an overland expedition! Cook group efforts are getting way out of hand because a vocal minority (Jeremy) keeps complaining about the lack of effort that cook groups put into the meals. He is not going to like our next meal because we are all about cooking as simple and filling a meal as possible! We walked around quaint Lençois for an hour before dinner admiring the colorful buildings here. Dinner of meatballs served with potatoes and vegetables along with a tomato sauce was yummy…we ate seconds and maybe thirds. After dinner, Ricardo, a local guide, came over to explain what options we had for visiting the Chapada Diamantina national park tomorrow. Apparently, this is Brazil’s best national park and considered a highlight of the country, even though no one outside of Brazil has heard of it. We signed up for the full day “best of” tour for 200 Reals and packed a day bag for tomorrow. It started raining again at night. Hopefully the weather improves tomorrow.
25 Jan – Lençóis
What a great day! For breakfast, cook group made shredded potato pancakes topped with a fried egg and avocado. We had to pack our own lunch for today’s excursion and cook group had prepared a fruit salad and a tasty pasta dish topped with cheese. All we had to do was dish it up, wrap it in saran wrap, and we were all set. Since we packed our bags last night, we were ready to go by 8 am. Our Diamantina Trip guide (Romailson), driver and van showed up shortly afterwards and everyone except Futoshi, Bert, Alli, Rob and Lisa went on the full day trip to the national park. Our first stop was to the Mucugezinho River and Poço do Diabo (devil’s well). The river was red due to the high concentration of iron and it felt weird to swim in the reddish pool. Quite a surreal experience! Next stop was Morro do Pai Inácio, a rugged peak offering amazing views over the national park. We took a lot of photos here and loved the panoramic vista. From here, we had a long drive towards our third stop of the day, Casa de Farinha. It was our lunch stop and we ordered drinks while Jeremy and Keith got the lunch buffet. Home cooked meals and good value here. Just a short drive away, we visited the Gruta da Fumaça. What an impressive cave! We had zero expectations and this cave blew them away. We saw formations we’ve never seen in any other caves, and we were allowed to take photos with flash! Everyone came out of the cave stunned and awed. A local family was selling small nuts that looked like peanuts but tasted like coconut. We bought a bag and they were super addictive! Really amazing flavor. The last stop of the day was the blue colored Pratinha River, Pratinha Grotto and Blue Grotto. What lovely colors of turquoise and aquamarine! We snorkeled here and after an hour, had to get out of the water as it was a bit too chilly. Half the group decided to drink while we checked out the Blue Grotto. It would have been more impressive in the sun but was worth a quick stop nevertheless. On our way back, we spotted 3 marmosets which hopped around above us to our delight. It took an hour to drive back to town and we stopped at a nearby hostel to pay for the excursion (200 Reals each). Robby went to do cook group while Becky unpacked everything and took a shower. There was no hot water in the women’s shower so she hopped into the men’s and had a nice shower. Dinner of fried rice was tasty and we were all ready to hit the sack afterwards. It had been a long, good day.
26 Jan – Lençóis
Overall, a pretty relaxed day. It rained hard all night long and Becky’s air mattress finally succumbed to its puncture and became flat as a pancake last night. Robby had to get up to prepare breakfast for 8 am. After breakfast, we decided to join Danny, Amanda, Gary, Jeremy, Rebeca, Ali and Bert to the nearby waterfall, Ribeirao do Meio. It was a 3 km/1 hour walk to get there and the highlight was buying a passion fruit iced lolly. Due to last night’s heavy rain, the river was raging and the natural rock slide was off limits. 3 lifeguards stood guard to prevent anyone from getting swept away by the treacherous river, forbidding anyone from getting too close to the edge. We took photos and left back for town, leaving Danny, Amanda and Gary to enjoy a cheese picnic. Back in town, we found a local restaurant (Cozinha do Ricao) serving good food for cheap in the town square. Lunch was steak, fries, salad, rice and beans for the bargain price of 60 Reals for 2 including drinks. Alli, Bert and Allison joined us and told us the latest Keith drama. Apparently, he got super drunk last night and woke up drunk. His visa to Suriname is still not sorted so he started hurling abusive language to Danny (even though its his personal responsibility to get a visa) and then had a row with Izzy and Brad because they hung their towels on the truck to dry because its been raining cats and dogs lately. Plus he started getting rude with Allison when she tried to help him. Allison was shocked witnessing his transformation, because he has been on his best behavior since the newbies joined in Rio and this was the first time the old Keith emerged. So she started texting Debbie to let her know she needs to get Keith under control and describing blow by blow what was happening in real time, all while sitting right next to Keith on the truck. At one stage, Keith got suspicious and asked her who she was texting and Allison told him she wasn’t texting. We wonder how this will all play out! More drama to come on the reality show called “Spongebob’s Adventurers”. We are both going to stay out of it since it doesn’t concern us but boy are we enjoying our front row seats! Back at camp, Becky borrowed Jeremy’s scissors and Izzy’s comb and had Will cut off an inch of hair growth. Her hair has been growing super fast and it is already too hot and uncomfortable to wear down. He did a good job trimming it even though he’s only had Youtube training, ha ha. The rest of the afternoon was spent on the WiFi while a bunch of folks hit town for drinks to celebrate Australia Day. Danny and Leo bought a bunch of meat for a BBQ feast to celebrate Australia Day which was served at 7:30. We managed to squeeze in an episode of Yellowstone before calling it a day.
27 Jan – Lençóis – Dianapolish bush camp
Drive day today. Jeremy decided to strap his and Rebeca’s bag to their chairs so no one would move it and steal their seats. Danny made breakfast of fruit, scrambled eggs, and toast. There was a jar of peanut butter that got us all excited until we discovered it was already empty. Robby snagged the beach today which was perfect since it was a cool morning. We covered 700 km today and stopped for cook group shopping in Ibotirama. We stayed on the truck for lunch since Danny had offered up yesterday’s BBQ chicken as leftovers. Delicious and better than what the supermarket had to offer with a limited selection (no cheese, few fruits and vegetables). Then we drove some more. Becky was sitting near the power so she spent the afternoon having a TV marathon, finishing up Designated Survivor, Shameless and Blue Bloods. At 6, we pulled into our bush campsite for the night and Danny had us help cook group get set up first before we set up our tents. We chose to be right on the river, which was fast flowing so thankfully no bugs here. Cook group whipped up dinner in an hour, chicken served with garlic pasta. Simple but tasty and more importantly, fast. Lisa told us about her adventures in Alaska so another destination to add to our bucket list. Amazingly, Futoshi refused seconds at dinner. Day number 133 and we have broken him down…we were shocked when he shook his head no to more food, resulting in Jeremy throwing the leftovers away. After dinner, we retreated to our tent to finish season 1 of Yellowstone. Good thing we had our rain tarp on because it started raining in the middle of the night.
28 Jan – Dianapolish bush camp – Taquaruçu
It was raining hard at 5:30 am when cook group had to get up and didn’t ease up by the time we had to get up at 6. So we packed up and ran to the truck trying our best to keep everything dry. Breakfast was fruit salad plus Jason’s peaches (yay, only took us 1 month to eat them!). Robby invented the crawl under the rain cover and unhook the tent from the frame while keeping dry. Fold the tent up before finally crawling back out to remove the rain cover. That way everything was kept dry until the last minute when it was frantically rolled and put away. Danny liked this method so much he replicated it with several other tents. Keith was the last to wake up and Danny, Amanda, Lisa and Gary helped tear down his tent while Becky did a time lapse. Then we drove, crossing our fingers that Spongebob wouldn’t get stuck in the mud. Lucky for us, we were on tarmac 5 minutes later and on our way towards Taquarussu do Porto. But first a stop just south of Palmas to go shopping. The supermarket was well stocked with a great selection of produce, meat, cheese and snacks. We opted for Doritos and guacamole for lunch, topped off with grapes for dessert. Afterwards, we drove to Cachoeira da Roncadeira, a waterfall that cost 15 Reals to visit. It was pretty impressive and we swam towards it for a water massage. On the hike back to Spongebob, a bunch of Capuchin monkeys were eating palm nuts in the trees above. We stayed at an Airbnb tonight but had to wait for the rooms to be ready. So we hung out by the pool, washed laundry, and packed for Belem. Tonight, everyone that did the moqueca cooking class (Danny, Izzy, Rebeca, Amanda, Lisa & Jeremy) prepared dinner for the rest of us. It was a delicious meal of fish, chicken and vegetable moqueca. After dinner, we started watching Mind Hunter. Lucky us, we got a triple room all to ourselves.
29 Jan – Taquaruçu – Carolina
Today was a long drive day on Spongebob. Jeremy, Alli and Leo made the best breakfast ever…omelettes with all the fixings topped with Parmesan cheese and bacon. Definitely the best overland breakfast we’ve ever eaten on 3 different overland trips. At 9, we left the Airbnb and went shopping at a supermarket for cook group and for everyone to pick up their own lunch. Too bad we didn’t go back to yesterday’s supermarket because that one was excellent. Instead, we had to run around to different supermarkets looking for everything we needed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. By 10 am, we were on our way and Will drove 500 km today. Danny had cracked the shits with everyone claiming seats with their bags so he rearranged them and we managed to get a window seat…yay! At 6, Will pulled off the road to find a bush camp. Our biggest concern was getting bogged down in the mud and after Will did a reconnaissance, he decided to err on the side of caution and turned around. We kept driving until 7:45 pm, with Spongebob having to take a 80 km detour in the opposite direction of where we wanted to travel because there was a campsite (Refugio do Raiz) that we were aiming for. The path to the campsite was sandy and it was pitch black outside, and tons of low hanging tree branches…poor Will was having a hell of a time. Of course we got stuck. So all hands on deck as the sand mats came out and we tried to dig ourselves out. By 9, we finally reached the campsite (wrong turn where we got bogged down). Dinner was ready just after 10. Amanda, Cat and Becky made spaghetti bolognese for dinner which was spicy because Danny accidentally put too much chili flakes in. A cold water shower and we were in bed before midnight.
30 Jan – Carolina – Nagibão
Up at 5:45 to prepare breakfast with Amanda and Cat. The granola actually tasted healthy and almost everyone liked it, plus we had 4 different types of juice, yogurt and milk. At 7:30 we tried to leave but Spongebob immediately got stuck in the soft sand. After sand matting, Will gunned it in reverse and smashed into a tree by the water tank. Danny asked if it would be OK to chop the tree down which we really didn’t want to do because it was a beautiful one that provided coverage for the tank. And the boys started chopping…it was a hard wood and took 20 sweaty minutes to murder. Then Will wanted to chop another one down by a guesthouse and that was when the caretaker refused his request. So instead we dug, relocated a massive pile of sand, and sand matted and 90 minutes after getting bogged down, we were on tarmac again. By 9:15 am, Robby and Jeremy cracked open the first beer of the day to celebrate our freedom and set a new truck record in the process. Will wanted to make up for lost time since we still had to cover the ground we backtracked on yesterday. His morale was low and he was barely eating from getting stressed out by last night and this morning. At 1, we stopped for cook group lunch. We served up guacamole, leftover spaghetti, tuna and corn pasta, and juice plus yogurt. Tons of food and we were happy to be done with cook group for a while. By 5, we pulled over to this massive truck stop at a gas station in Nagibão. In the span of 30 minutes, the weather changed from hot and sunny to dark and overcast. The complex had bathrooms complete with showers and free WiFi…not bad for a “bush camp”! We took showers and a torrential downpour started so we were forced to sit in the restaurant area drinking alcohol until the rain died down. Izzy, Futoshi and Allison made vegetarian curry for dinner and we were in our tent shortly afterwards. Everyone had to pack a day bag for 4 days without Spongebob since he will be on a ferry from Belem to Macapá tomorrow afternoon. Can’t wait for 3 nights in Belem…these long drive days have taken their toll.
31 Jan – Nagibão – Belém
One of the best night’s sleep because it was cool all night long with the rain. On my way to the bathroom (a 5 minute trek through the massive parking lot), we noticed a man sleeping on the ground beside his truck. It was a bizarre sight and we were worried someone would run over him. Bert and Alli were walking by in the opposite direction and they commented about him as well. Later on as we departed, we noticed an ambulance and Izzy said she thought the guy was dead. A shocking thought to imagine that sometime between last night and this morning, a man died within a few hundred meters of us! Cook group made oatmeal for breakfast and we were ready to get to Belem by 7:30. The drive was smooth and we reached the city by 1. Will had to catch a ferry with Spongebob so it was a quick drop off. We ended up in a 10 bed dorm with Bert, Alli, Cat, Gary and Futoshi. We later realized if we had been selfish and grabbed a bottom bunk like everyone else did, Futoshi would have stayed in the other room with Brad, Izzy, Rebeca, Jeremy and Allison. Sucks that being nice meant having to suffer with Fucktoshi’s snoring! Oh well, at least we have ear plugs! We wanted to get a load of laundry done so we asked at reception for a recommendation and they suggested a place nearby. Too bad the surly employees of the laundrette didn’t want any business! They first tried to extort us on the price (20 articles of clothing for 70 Reals or $16USD)…what a rip off. We refused but Cat and Gary were still keen. Then the lady wrinkled up her nose as she dumped their clothes out and counted them and she refused to have them ready in a day, stating she needed 3 days to wash a load. Needless to say, we all huffed out and back to the hostel. Since laundry was a bust, we decided to get burgers at Porpino Burger at Boulevard Shopping mall. Cat, Gary, Bert and Alli joined us and we enjoyed burgers and happy hour beer which went down a treat. The mall was massive with excellent AC so we killed some time window shopping and got a McDonald’s dessert for the walk back home. Back at the hostel, we decided to be sneaky and use the hostel’s washing machine to do a load of our laundry along with Bert and Alli. Too bad the washing machine was having issues (we manually had to change the settings from water fill up to agitate and then final spin)…it only took us 2 hours to figure out the machine wouldn’t rotate from one setting to another by itself but we did end up with clean smelling, well agitated clothing! With a fan and AC on full blast, all our stuff was strewn across the room and dried quickly. A couple of people went out drinking with Danny but we decided to take it easy after beers at the burger place. The hostel, Grand Hostel Belem, only had cold water showers but that felt refreshing given the relentless heat and humidity here.
01 Feb – Belém
Up way too early at 6:30 so we could leave for the famous fish market at 7 am with Cat, Gary, and Bert. Belem supposedly has South America’s biggest market, and we were told early morning was the best time to witness it. So we trudged along towards the waterfront and were surprised to see the vendors still setting up their stalls. The fruit and veg market was still sleepy too but the fish market was in full swing as promised. Massive fresh water (Amazon river) fish were on display, many of them huge catfish. In addition to a dozen different types of fish, shrimp were also on display. Danny told us we could buy and cook up some super fresh and tasty seafood here for cheap, but we’d rather let a restaurant do the work! After the fish market, we found the meat market which surprisingly clean and hygienic. The cuts of meat looked excellent and all of us commented that the lack of flies were particularly amazing. Not sure why this region of Brazil is so different from other sections we have been to but both the fish and meat looked very appealing. By this time, the fruit and veg market was lively and bustling, and we grabbed fresh fruit juices for cheap. We still had 45 minutes to catch the free hostel breakfast so we walked back and stuffed ourselves on toasted ham and cheese rolls (toasty machine), fruit, cake, juice and hot chocolate. Quite a nice spread the Grand Belem Hostel put on! After breakfast, we joined Cat and Gary for a visit to the Belem Theater (theatro da paz), a gorgeous neoclassical building erected during the rubber boom in 1874. It only cost 6 Reals for a tour and we thought this majestic old building has been preserved quite well. Too bad there were no performances running, because all the tickets are free! By 11 am, we were done with our Belem sightseeing and ready for a break. So a bit of WiFi action was needed to buy tickets from Quito to Cuenca, Quito to Atlanta and Atlanta to Boston. By 2, we were ready for lunch, so a repeat visit to the nearby mall for a burger at Porpino’s was a plan both of us liked. The blue cheese burgers were a bit on the raw side but still tasty and we did a bit of shopping afterwards. Becky got 3 different dresses for Luke’s beach wedding and is all set. It started pouring down with rain on the walk back to the hostel and that kept us in the room for the rest of the day. Jeremy tried to convince us to head out for just one beer, but we weren’t keen. Robby figured out how to turn on the AC early so we enjoyed a freezing cold room for the rest of the night.
02 Feb – Belém
Slept in until 8:30 am. Our neighbors had left their light on until 3 am and since we shared a common window, our room was lit until 3 am. Very annoying! So we turned on our lights as we left for breakfast in the hopes that they would find it equally as annoying. After breakfast, we joined Danny, Leo, Rebeca, Keith, Cat and Gary to the Basilica of Belem and the Emilio Goeldi Museum (botanical garden and zoo). We opted to walk there while Rebeca, Keith, Danny and Leo took an Uber. The Basilica was having a service so we didn’t take photos inside but it was nice to look at from the outside. The botanical garden and zoo was only 3 Reals each, and a nice way to spend a few hours. We felt really bad for the birds and monkeys in cages, specifically the spider monkeys. One of the spider monkeys made direct eye contact with us, and gave us its most pitiful, sad face as if asking what it had done to deserve being locked up in a cage. We honestly felt so bad because we know those monkeys are quite intelligent and the size of the cage is way too small. After a few hours here, we all had lunch at the nearby McDonald’s – burgers, fries and milkshakes for all! Back at the hostel, we relaxed for a few hours until 5:30 when we joined Cat and Gary for an afternoon at the food court and movie theater (to watch 1917). Our food, ordered from an “express” grill (Sal e Brasa) restaurant, took over 30 minutes to prepare and we missed all the previews. At least we were on time for the movie, which was a WWI film. Very good and we jumped in our seats during some scenes. Heavy rain pummeled the roof of the mall, and we could hear it inside the theater. Afterwards, Robby had to buy some replacement sunglasses and we all walked back together. Futoshi was already in bed by 9:45 pm and none of us were very considerate since both mornings, he has woken us up with the rustle of plastic bags. Payback is a bitch! We plastic bagged the hell out of it just because. By 10:30, he had fallen back to sleep and started to snore, so Gary and Cat asked each other if they had their ear plugs in yet and he must have heard them because he shifted his body and stopped snoring! Not looking forward to our 24 hour ferry tomorrow because it will be hot and humid! Becky nominated Danny and Izzy to be the bulldogs and escort our “senior” (age 60+) passengers onto the ferry (the helpers will carry our hammocks on board and carve out deck space for us to sling our hammocks…a very important mission and we think Izzy is the best person for the job!). We will be in French Guiana in a few days and we are not excited about using the Euro again since prices will be quite high!
03 Feb – Belém – Breves (on ferry)
Breakfast was from 7 to 9 this morning so we ate earlier than normal and finished packing our stuff for the ferry ride today. Becky had to fill up our water bottles using the filter in the kitchen which took forever. At 10 am, all of us loaded onto a bus for the short ride to the Hidroviario Rebelo Neto terminal where we queued for 90 minutes to be allowed to enter the waiting area with our bags. The ferry was supposed to depart at noon but no ferry was in sight for hours. Just hundreds of anxious travelers waiting patiently for a ferry to show up. Danny, Izzy, Allison and Gary were in the same holding pen as the rest of us but in theory they will board ahead of us with all the hammocks and carve out our space. Hopefully all the latecomers will squeeze in elsewhere because we will have to get territorial to keep our space and prevent random strangers from encroaching. At 12:50 p.m., the crowd started getting restless and we hopped into a line to board the ferry. The VIPs loaded first, and we were right behind them. Gary, Izzy, Danny and Allison had done a fine job stringing up our hammocks in the AC second deck. It was crowded but way more comfortable than we had thought it would be. The colorful hammocks were quite a sight! We started drinking vodka and juice pretty early on and by 3 pm Becky was feeling tipsy. While everyone else went to the top deck to play cards, Becky read a bit of Jack Reacher, napped and watched TV. Robby apparently stayed on the top deck having a one man party with our absolute vodka from duty free, and he came down at 5:30 completely drunk and silly, trying to hop into a hammock with Allison and berating her when she made up an excuse why he couldn’t. Becky forced him to eat dinner when the dining room opened (15 Reals per person, bargain). We watched Curb Your Enthusiasm and Bert walked by with microwave popcorn from the shack upstairs which caused a row because we both wanted some too but neither one of us was willing to go get it. Boo!
04 Feb – Breves (on ferry) – Macapá
Sleeping in a hammock is not as comfortable as it sounds! We were crowded like sardines and for some unknown reason, the AC was turned off in the middle of the night, so we woke up sweltering. An announcement for breakfast at 6 am made Becky fall asleep until Jeremy came up with his phone and started playing “Me so horny” in her ear at 7 am. She wanted to strangle him! But then she fell back asleep until 8:30 when she decided it was time to get up and stretch her achy muscles. Breakfast was only served from 6 to 7 am so she had missed it but wasn’t that upset. We were making good time to Macapa and were projected to arrive just after 1 pm. Becky nearly finished her Jack Reacher book before we arrived. A solitary Australian traveler, Rob, was making his way to all the countries of the world by hitch hiking (slow, cheap travel) and he was so budget he didn’t even have a hammock and slept on the floor! Danny offered to give him a ride from the port into Macapa town (about 25 km away) and Becky chatted with him for a while…fascinating guy with lots of entertaining stories. He is now in his 50s and his mom has given up hope of him ever settling down and having kids. At the port, Will and Steve (Oasis driver who will drive us in Suriname because Will was unable to get a visa) met us, and we loaded onto a very clean Spongebob. Our hotel in Macapa, Mara Hotel, was right next to the fort, the only thing worthwhile to see in this sleepy town. Today was Macapa day, and the locals were out dancing to music in and around the market area. We managed to get a triple room to ourselves when Keith was given the choice of bunking with us or Brad and Izzy and he chose them, much to our relief! Our tolerance of him is at an all time low and we are sure he is picking up on our vibes. We went out right away, checking out the nearby fort (free) and getting a late lunch/early dinner at Subway (Italian BMT). Then back to the room for a hot water shower and a comfortable sleep with AC. So happy to have a proper bed after our 24 hour ordeal. Boy we are not looking forward to the 1 week ferry…fingers crossed we can get a room upgrade on the ferry!
05 Feb – Macapá – Vila Velha bush camp
A great night’s sleep and we didn’t want to get up at 6 when the alarm sounded. Since breakfast wasn’t until 6:30, we had time to pack and load up Spongebob before getting a ham and cheese toasty, fruit and cake. Will met us in the elevator to say goodbye…he was not continuing on with us to French Guiana and Suriname because of not being able to get a visa but we’d see him again in Guyana. Becky hopped on the beach in the morning and had a nice nap until our first stop. Steve has been a driver for Oasis for years and his experience showed, although he did stall Spongebob a couple of times. Lunch at 1 p.m. was a welcome stop because there had been zero gas stations along the way for snacks and bathroom breaks, only one bush wee. We had sandwiches with ham, cheese, lettuce, tomato and peppers. Then back on Spongebob for a few more hours. Steve started looking for a bush camp at 5:30 pm and we found a suitable spot an hour later. Jeremy shamed Becky into digging her Secret Santa present out of the locker so we could check it out for the first time. A speaker shaped like Epcot Center with multi colored lights…very cool, especially when Lisa got her rubik cube speaker out and we had a rainbow colored party. Cook group (Rebeca, Danny and Keith) made chili con carne which was delicious and we ran up for seconds. Steve was sleeping on Spongebob so Danny asked everyone to get whatever they needed so we wouldn’t disturb his sleep. We watched Yellowstone and The Good Doctor before falling asleep at 10:30. Can’t believe tomorrow we finally say goodbye to Brazil for a while and enter Europe! French Guiana here we come.
06 Feb – Vila Velha bush camp – Cayenne (French Guiana)
It was dark when the alarm sounded at 5:35 am. A light rain at 3 am but it had stopped a few minutes later. Rebeca was feeling sick this morning so Danny was frying eggs for breakfast while Keith put together pasta for lunch. Several people were feeling off this morning (Robby, Lisa, Rob, Bert) and we suspected it was the dinner from the ferry that was the culprit as Jeremy and Becky had felt off yesterday morning. We left at 6:50, ten minutes ahead of schedule and Spongebob labored on the muddy road. At one point we thought we’d get stuck but Steve managed to drive through the sticky red mud section without getting bogged down. The first 30 km was on the dirt road and it was slow going. We only covered 10 km the first hour, and our speed improved marginally after that. When we finally hit tarmac just before 10, we finally picked up speed as we drove to the border crossing at Oiapoque. Getting stamped out of Brazil was a breeze.
06 – 28 Feb: in The Guianas
28 Feb – Lethem – Boa Vista, Brazil
The bus drove us a short distance to the border control where we got stamped out of Guyana. Then another drive across a bridge (where we emerged and were now on the right side of the road) where we entered back to Brazil. Getting stamped in was easy as Danny was able to consolidate our passports and handle it himself without us having to show up. From here, we were supposed to wait for a bus to Boa Vista, but Danny convinced the driver to take us to the main bus terminal for an extra 3000 Guyanese Dollars. Our bus wasn’t until 4 pm but the 2 pm bus was still there and Danny managed to finagle us a ride on the earlier bus! Yay, at least we were soon on an AC bus for the relatively quick ride (124 km) to Boa Vista. Once we arrived there, a long wait at the Boa Vista bus terminal ensued. We consolidated our luggage together and sat around at various tables in the restaurant area. Most of the group ended up playing Yaniv, an Israeli card game. At 7:30 pm, we were finally able to board the 8 pm bus from Boa Vista to Manaus. It was scheduled to take up to 12 hours but would hopefully be faster since we were on the night bus. We got great seats at the rear of the bus, so we were able to recline our chairs fully without annoying anyone behind us. The only problem was the water station was next to us, so a steady steam of passengers would swing on by to get water throughout the entire trip. There was a USB charging station in each armrest, reclining seats, free WiFi and candy served at the beginning of the trip. It was a super smooth ride and we slept most of it.
29 Feb – Boa Vista – Manaus
The bus ride was so smooth and quick that before we knew it, we had reached Manaus. It was 6 am so we made excellent time! After retrieving our luggage, Danny put us 3 to a taxi and sent us to the Hostel Manaus on Lauro Cavalcante. The hostel has a really cool decor, with wooden planks painted with Amazon animal scenes. It felt like being in the jungle and had a really cool vibe. The hostel itself is housed in an old building with high ceilings and fabulous woodwork. We were all in dorms here, 6 to a room. We ended up with Futoshi, Allison, and Keith, while Amanda, Cat, Brad, Izzy, Lisa and Rob ended up sharing a room together. Breakfast was ready so we enjoyed ham and cheese toasties and then took a cold shower. The hostel felt a bit stifling warm since there were no fans and the AC doesn’t get turned on until 5 pm. At 8:45 am, we joined Danny and the others for a walk to the Amazon Theater, an opera house built over 120 years ago and considered one of the most beautiful in the world. We were all keen on watching Aladdin, and Danny was hoping we’d be able to get free tickets since the group last year got lucky. We struck out and had to buy tickets, which were priced at 40 or 60 Reals each. Lisa and Rob were keen on sharing a box together so we joined them in a 4-person booth at 60 Reals each. After that, we did a quick walking tour of Manaus with Allison. Our first top was the Palace of Justice. Today it is a cultural center and we were given a free tour of this handsome historical building. Next up was the Adolpho Lisboa Market, a municipal market with fresh meat, fish, traditional medicines and souvenirs on offer in an attractive building located right next to the Rio Negro. We stopped for a quick drink here and ended up buying a pretty unique Brazilian souvenir (a face mask made of pirarucu fish scales). From the market, we made our way to the last stop of the day, the Rio Negro Palace, the former residence of the governor. It was built by a German “rubber baron” in 1903 and was also free to visit. By this point, it was well past lunchtime so we decided to eat at the Peruvian restaurant that Danny had recommended (Restaurante do Peruano). To our surprise, a few members of our group were already there finishing up their meal. They all agreed the food here was worth a visit so we happily plopped ourselves down and ordered lomo saltado and fried fish. Robby and Allison shared a beer and we waited patiently for our food to arrive. It was just as delicious as promised, and cheap too at only 25 Reals per dish. We’ll definitely eat here again tomorrow! After lunch, we had a brief siesta before taking our second shower of the day. It is super hot and humid in Manaus. An afternoon rainstorm cooled things off slightly and at 5 pm sharp, a hostel employee turned on the AC for us. Allison made us gin tonics for a pre-theater cocktail and we met up with everyone else at the theater at 7:30 pm. The performance was OK – a bit amateurish but the locals seemed to love it, especially since half the audience seemed to be the friends and family of the performers! Apparently, tickets are free to Brazilians, which makes it easy for them to attend the theater. We were in bed by 10 pm and ready for a decent night’s sleep. Earplugs will be a must, since we are in a room with 3 snorers!
01 Mar – Manaus
Despite the AC being set to 25 degrees Celsius, the temperature was comfortable and we slept fine. Today was a low key day. After breakfast, the majority of the group (Allison, Danny, Leo, Amanda, Cat, Lisa, Rob and Keith) departed on the one day tour. We took advantage of the room being empty since Futoshi was in and out all day long. The hostel must have forgotten to shut off our AC at 9 am because we had a cool room the entire day…lucky for us! Both of us managed to get a lot accomplished today (admin stuff) and by 2 pm, we were hungry for lunch. The Peruvian restaurant was closed on Sunday (boo!) so we wandered around Manaus looking for a restaurant that was open. The only one we could find was next to the Opera House, a place called Tambaqui de Banda that had poor reviews on Maps.me. But beggars can’t be choosers so we ordered a late meal there and sure enough, it was just “meh”. Considering we were both starving, the food was probably horrible. Back in the room, we had quiet time until the gang returned from their adventure. Everyone was on cloud 9 – saying it was an incredible tour full of laughs and fun memories. The photos shared on WhatsApp looked great and we got excited for what is in store for us tomorrow. For dinner, we drank our leftover gin tonics and vodka cranberry. Our liquid dinner went down easy and we were well relaxed for a fun filled day tomorrow. Allison is leaving tomorrow so we chatted with her for a few hours and laughed about her time with us thus far. Needless to say, she will be a happy camper once she returns to Ireland as some portions of this trip have been difficult for her.
02 Mar – Manaus
Today was probably the best day of the trip so far! So much fun. All due to Amazon Eco Adventures…those guys rock! Especially our awesome guide Marcos. We loved him! But first, let’s backtrack. We got up and had breakfast before finalizing what we were bringing with us today. The day started off ominously with torrential rain and puddles in the hallways. We had to say goodbye to Allison because she was flying back to Ireland today. Becky was the happy recipient of toilet paper, shampoo, body wash and 2 apples. At a quarter to 8, we got a WhatsApp message from Amazon Eco Adventures letting us know that a representative was in the hotel lobby and the van was on its way. We soon found out that we plus Brad and Izzy would be joining a French group of 5 and a German couple to make a total of 11 of us. Thankfully everyone had agreed to let Brad come along because the maximum number of participants is supposed to be 10. We drove about 20 minutes out of Manaus towards a marina. There we were met by our guide Marcos who is a local guy who lives in one of the Amazon villages. He has to commute 50 km every day to get to work and he still has a smile on his face! All of us climbed into the boat and rode an “elevator ramp” as it descended to the water. Very cool! Our first stop was the pink dolphins. This was what immediately set Amazon Eco Adventures apart from everyone else. They zoom off to be the first ones to the dolphins so that their customers can get in first while everyone else has to wait around. We liked that right away. The dolphin experience was even better than we imagined it would be. There were up to 4 dolphins fighting for food and they would just nudge us out of the way, sometimes a bit aggressively! The dolphin feeder suggested that we take photos in our respective groups, which was a nice touch. We didn’t really want to have random strangers in our photos! After the dolphins, we made our way to a local village to watch an indigenous tribe perform dances and music. We found out that this tribe moved here 15 years ago from over 1000 KM upstream. The ladies are still topless, although they did have long hair and necklaces to preserve a sense of modesty. The music was actually pretty good but the experience did feel exploitative. There were plenty of photo opportunities though and it was a nice addition to the tour. There were a total of 4 dances. For the last dance, spectators were urged to dance with the tribe and everyone was selected except for Becky! Her ego was slightly damaged due to the village visit. Back on the Rio Negro (which indeed does look like a black river), Marcos explained that it is 100 meters deep in some places and up to 15 km wide. The PH balance here is 3.5 so there is not much wildlife that can thrive here with only 600 types of fish proliferating. That is in comparison to the Amazon river which has over 2000 types of different fish! We spotted grey dolphins and learned there are 2 types of dolphins that reside here. We zipped into the Igarape Tape River and noticed trees growing in river! What a bizarre sight. On our way to lunch, we refueled at a floating gas station. Then a full on lunch buffet with a variety of local fish (fried, stewed, baked) plus loads more options. Hate to admit it but we loved the onion rings which had a nice crispy satisfying crunch. After lunch, we walked on the boardwalk to view the tallest tree in the amazon, a sumaumeira (also known as a kapok tree). There were squirrel monkeys in the trees along the boardwalk that were super cute to photograph. Then we walked over to the lily pads which had a tiger heron and a smaller heron hunting for fish, along with an eel that had leaped into the lily pad and was desperately trying to find its way back to the safety of water. Next up was cruising along the tiny channels of the river to spot wildlife. This was where Marcos excelled and earned his tip. He spotted a total of 4 sloths in trees and used a laser pointer to show us where they were. The eagle eyes on that man! We also saw an anaconda and a 5th sloth that were unfortunately captives of two men trying to exploit them for money. The sloth was kept in a plastic bag and we all recoiled in horror when we realized that the guy wanted us to pay for photo with it. Poor sloth belongs in a tree as does the anaconda! Marcos also spotted 3 iguanas in the trees. Next up was a floating village that had 4 churches – religion has definitely made an impact here. Then we went fishing for pirarucu (a species of arapaima that is native to the Amazon River). These behemoth fish can grow up to 3 meters and 220 KG! There scales are like body armor and we were going to use fish to fish them. Marcos showed us the proper technique to avoid crushing our fingers and then we had a go, starting with the smaller pirarucus and them graduating to the big daddy pirarucus. So much fun and it felt like they were trying to pull us in instead of the other way round! Our last stop was the “Meeting of the Waters” – the point where the Rio Negro meets the Rio Solimões. These two rivers are different colors and they don’t mix for several miles and flow side by side. We touched the water with our hands and could feel a distinct temperature shift from the Rio Negro (warmer, slower) and the Rio Solimões (cooler, faster and denser). It had been a fabulous day and we weren’t done yet. First we had a quick refuel stop (this is how we are able to be the first boat to the dolphins because the refueling operation happens the night before the next trip!). Then we went to the marker showing us how high the Rio Negro is each year…there are some pretty wild fluctuations. 2012 was a banner year with crazy high water levels. From here, we zoomed back to the boat elevator where we took a selfie with Marcos and our boat driver, tipped them, and paid for the tour to the owner of the company who was standing by. We told him his tours were the best and that Marcos was excellent. Then we drove back to the hostel where we dropped off our stuff and headed back out to find an ATM and a supermarket. Izzy and Brad were heading out too so we tagged along. The ATM was right where it was supposed to be but the supermarket moved! We were hoping for a Carrefour but it must have moved or closed down so we settled for a smaller supermarket instead. All we needed were a few snacks to get us by on the upcoming ferry ride. Back at the hostel, Keith was already passed out with the light out and we didn’t have the heart to wake him up so we fumbled in the dark until we found our head torches. Tomorrow we will be leaving for the ferry at 9 am so we should be able to have a slight sleep in.
03 Mar – Manaus – Manacapuru (ferry)
We were the only 2 people in the room at 7 am. As we made our way to breakfast, we discovered that Keith was outside on the common area couch, drunk as usual. Futoshi said he got up at midnight to drink after going to bed early at 7 pm. He is beyond ridiculous and we are getting tired of his antics. After breakfast, we packed for the ferry because Danny had told us all to be ready to go at 9 am. Keith had his usual glazed look in his eyes and kept staring off into the distance. His bags weren’t packed and he made no effort to get ready. Sure enough, Danny came to the rescue. He got Keith off the couch and into the room to pack his stuff. In the lobby, everyone waited for Keith to show up before walking as a group to the ferry. Amanda called an Uber for 10 Reals and we decided to join her, splitting the fare. Danny had a heavy shopping bag so we carried it for him since he was busy babysitting Keith. At the harbor, the group showed up shortly after we got there. We passed ticket control and were led to our ferry, the “O Rei Davi”. Keith lost both flip flops as he stumbled up the ramp to the ferry while all of us (Oasis and the locals), looked on in disgust. Two local guys had to help him with his flip flops because he kept tripping over them and he finally took them off and went barefoot. Danny was shown to the rooms and we got room 1. First problem was the key didn’t work so we grabbed one of the staff to assist. She was furious because the key was for room 2 and we were trying it in the wrong door. Eventually she managed to get the key unstuck and we got into room 2 which was shocking. Tiny and cramped with barely any room to maneuver so we quickly nicknamed it the dungeon. As we asked everyone else what their rooms were like, we quickly found out that we got the shit room. Everyone else had a comfortable cabin that was much bigger. One person might feel comfortable in our tiny room so Becky went to ask Keith which room he got and if he’d be willing to switch. Definitely a long shot but we thought it was worth trying. He was still drunk and of course had scored a double sized cabin. As Becky tried to ask him if he would be willing to consider taking the smaller room, he immediately said “it’s been fucking nice knowing you” before slamming the door shut. That was the last straw with us as we have always been civil to him and this is how he acts in return. Whenever he sobers up, Robby will have a conversation with him with Danny present to let him know his behavior will no longer be tolerated and to never talk to us again. We want nothing to do with him in the future and hope he decides to leave the truck early. Danny suggested that we take the baggage room over which we had mistakenly thought was reserved for Danny and Leo. Solution! So we quickly shuttled bags from room 10 down to the dungeon room and took over room 10. Now we just need to see what time someone comes around to turn on the AC! In the interim, we slung our hammocks up on the top deck along with Cat, Amanda, Danny and Leo. As we were leaving Manaus, we got to the meeting of the waters and were able to view the 2 rivers from a higher vantage point than yesterday. It was quite cool seeing the two rivers flowing side by side refusing to mix for several kilometers. When they finally did, it was like pouring milk into coffee with cool looking patterns. The afternoon was spent playing yaniv which is a fun card game. Everyone took afternoon naps in the hammocks and relaxed until the dinner bell rang at 5 pm. We forgot to bring our ferry issued cups with us so no drinks but the food consisted of spaghetti bolognese minus the tomato sauce and beans and rice which tasted OK. Fingers crossed we don’t get the shits from eating this food as visions of what happened on the last ferry we took came to mind. Eventually, we went to our cabin and realized that the AC didn’t work because we didn’t have a remote control. Amanda and Cat had the same model AC unit so we tried their remote control but no luck. So Danny got the staff to investigate and they eventually determined that there was nothing they could do. We briefly considered taking the dungeon room instead if it had AC but the staff member couldn’t get that one working either. So 2 out of 5 rooms have no AC and we were stuck with both of them! What bad luck. Finally, one of the female staff members showed us a workaround – we had to rip the panel off the AC unit and depress a tiny button dangerously close to all the internal wiring. Viola! The dungeon AC finally turned on but there was no way to adjust the temperature without its remote control. Armed with that knowledge, we went back up to room 10 and found a similar button on the AC unit under the panel. The unit came to life and started blowing cold air but was stuck on 25 degrees. With no remote control, we were unable to change the temperature setting but at least we finally had something we could live with. After dark, we started noticing mosquitoes so we retreated to the room and took refreshing cold water showers. We managed to watch one episode of Chernobyl and The Good Doctor before falling asleep. Power fluctuations all night meant our AC unit kept switching off, so each time, Robby had to get up and find the tiny button to turn it back on. Very annoying but better than the alternative of no AC!
04 Mar – Manacapuru – Coari (ferry)
The breakfast bell at 6 am brought everyone up for their slumber. We weren’t sure how breakfast would be so we got up to check it out – yucca, bread roll, unknown sausage (hot dog) mix, and a sweet cornmeal square. The hot milk ran out early so there was only coffee to drink. Probably not worth getting up early for! One of the staff had a tiny puppy that everyone joked would get eaten by an anaconda. She was super cute and loved following her mom around the ferry. The most recent UFC fight was airing on TV…not sure how we are getting signal in the middle of the Amazon River but no one is missing live streaming events. At lunch, we saw Cat bring her own plastic bowl and decided to copy her. It meant we could get in without waiting on the queue for a seat at the table since we were doing takeaway. Our bowls were the ones that came with ramen noodles so we weren’t sure we could squeeze enough food in them but we had more than enough beans and rice, pasta and huge slabs of fried fish (which tasted an awful lot like chicken). After lunch, we joined Rob, Lisa, Danny, Leo and Amanda in a game of cards. Danny won just after it started raining and the staff pulled the plastic sides down which limited air flow. Good time for a siesta in our room. We woke up just before the early dinner bell which rang fifteen minutes early at 4:45 pm. Our takeaway meal consisted of beans and rice, pasta and chicken. We definitely won’t go hungry on this boat although sometimes it does lack flavor. After dinner, a chain hammock swing session ensued much to the annoyance of our neighbors! The staff had either caught or bought a bucket of sucker fish which they grilled on the back of our deck. The locals went nuts on this delicacy, slurping and sucking the bones clean! None of us partook in the feast…we were still too full from dinner and the sucker fish didn’t look too appetizing! We both relaxed in our hammocks watching entertainment on our phones. Robby was keen on BBC’s Seven Worlds, One Planet while Becky watched Midway. Excellent movie about the battle of Midway which Hollywood brought to life. The AC only cut off a handful of times throughout the night, a vast improvement from last night.
05 Mar – Coari – Mari Mari (ferry)
We skipped breakfast this morning and opted to make our own instead. Ramen noodles accompanied by hot chocolate…not bad! Everyone was still passed out in their hammocks so we stayed in the room enjoying the AC. Lunch at 11 am woke everyone up and for this meal, we ate in the dining room which meant no dish washing duties for us afterwards. The food here is a bit repetitive…rice and beans, spaghetti noodles and plain chicken. After lunch, we joined everyone in the hammock area as we watched the world go by. It got hot and the wind died down when everyone wanted to play cards so Becky opted out and went to the cabin instead. Our AC has been working great during the day and makes a huge difference when it is hot and humid outside. Well worth $18 a day! Robby discovered the snack shop sells microwave popcorn so we split a bag before dinner. Good thing we did have an afternoon snack because dinner consisted of liver – not our favorite! Sunset this afternoon was gorgeous and everyone was out along the side of the ferry taking photos. Ferry life is pretty simple and repetitive without outside distractions and we can’t believe we are halfway through the Amazon River journey already.
06 Mar – Mari Mari – Jutai (ferry)
We actually got to sleep in today! Our AC stayed on throughout the night and it felt cool and comfortable in the room. At 8:30 am, we emerged to an overcast and cloudy day…huge contrast to the heat and sun yesterday. Breakfast was a repeat of yesterday – ramen noodles and hot chocolate. At 9, we pulled into the hamlet of Remanso where some passengers disembarked and others loaded on. Danny said that last year, the ferry had docked right in town and he had been able to run off for some shopping. This year, we were a few kilometers away from town and no one wanted to risk a quick shopping run because the ferry would wait for no one. Lunch at 11 was the same as always except instead of chicken or fish, we had beef. At 11:30, we finished loading passengers and supplies and continued cruising down the Amazon. After lunch we read, watched TV with microwave popcorn, and played Uno. Dinner was fish from the Amazon River along with the usual (spaghetti pasta and rice and beans). Card games were played after dinner. At 9, the ferry stopped at the town of Jutai for a lengthy stop. Cargo and crew offloaded and we spotted Danny and Futoshi making a mad dash into town. They needn’t have hurried because we didn’t start cruising again until midnight. Hopefully we make up for these lengthy stops during the night because we lost about 5 hours of cruising today.
07 Mar – Jutai – Amatura (ferry)
When the breakfast bell rang at 6:30 am, Robby got up to check it out. Scrambled eggs, oatmeal and brownies were on the menu, how bizarre! Since both of us were already awake, we finished the last two episodes of Chernobyl. At 10 am, we finally emerged from our room to hear that two people tried to shag in our hammock last night and Danny had to stop them! The crazy things that happen while we are in our cabin, ha ha. Lunch was 30 minutes early and was spaghetti with meat sauce minus the sauce! Keith emerged from his cabin for the first time to have lunch and we could barely stand to look at him…he just fills us both with disgust. After lunch, a bit of hammock time and cards. A staff member offered to clean our cabin for the first time so we hid our alcohol and gave her our key. Apparently last night, she was really strict inspecting everyone’s bags while searching for alcohol. She had even removed bottle caps to smell for alcohol and had confiscated several bottles that passengers tried to smuggle on. Dinner was also early…we contemplated having ramen noodles instead but the chicken was actually quite good so we ate in the dining room. Becky had befriended the deaf boy and finally got a photo with him. She gave him our “black power” cookies (Oreo rip offs) which he was happy about. At 6 pm, we stopped in Santo Antonio do Ica and Cat, Amanda, Danny, Leo and the British couple ran off in search of a bar. We found one at the top of the hill and had ice cold beer before rushing back onto the ferry, making it with 5 minutes to spare. Back on the ferry, we discovered that both decks had an influx of passengers and we were now crowded on both sides by other hammocks! At least we have our own room to escape in. By 8, we were in our cabin to watch TV and get away from our hammock neighbors. It was noisy outside…doubtful anyone gets a decent night’s sleep out on deck.
08 Mar – Amatura – Belem do Solimoes (ferry)
We had to wear earplugs to sleep during the night because it was loud out. Neither one of us was willing to get up for breakfast so we had our usual ramen noodles and hot chocolate at 8:30 instead. The upper deck had been transformed into a makeshift refugee camp overnight. Bags had been shoved under our hammocks and two extra hammocks had shoved their way in between the two of us! Talk about being packed like sardines. So we made a command decision to stay indoors most of the day. It was way too hot and crowded on the upper deck and our room had AC…easy decision. We watched Mindhunter and The Good Doctor, only breaking for lunch at 11 am. The line to eat was ridiculously long so we grabbed our own bowls to do takeaway. There were two stops today (Sao Paulo de Olivenca & Santa Rita do Weil), with the first one taking about 2 hours and the second one taking over 4 hours so we only covered 60 km during the day! With 180 km to go, we still have a lot of ground to cover and we were supposed to arrive tomorrow morning. That doesn’t look promising unless the captain can pick up speed and get us on our way. Dinner was delayed by an hour and when the bell finally rang at 6, Becky decided to get an x burger from the snack shop instead. Shredded chicken pasta for dinner for the handful of people who were still eating ferry food was OK but we are definitely ready for a change of diet. The deck was too crowded to relax in our hammocks so we retreated to the room. Robby took Danny with him as a witness when he confronted Keith and told him to keep his distance from us and that it would be in his best interest to leave the trip early. Keith tried a half-hearted apology but too little too late. He has burned his bridges with us and we want nothing more to do with him. By 9:30 pm, we were cruising along and making decent time with only 150 km to go. Still no idea what time we will arrive but it should be tomorrow morning.
09 Mar – Belem do Solimoes (ferry) – Tabatinga
Great time was made during the night and we were in Tabatinga by 7 am. Time to pack our bags and offload. Danny got taxis for us (3 to a taxi so we shared with Amanda) and we had a short enjoyable ride to the Hipilandia hostel in Leticia. Our taxi driver spoke both Spanish and Portuguese and we could finally understand what was being said to us for the first time in months! Of course our rooms weren’t ready yet so we stored our bags in the luggage area and joined Danny on the 3 km walk to the Brazilian border control at the Policia Federal Immigration building in Tabatinga. Even though it was only 9 am, we were sweaty and stinky by the time we got to the building. Getting stamped out of Brazil was easy.