September 2002 - big trip - diary - brasil - september 2002


Loading the ferry

Start with tea...

...then food

Wednesday 25 - Friday 27 September

The ferry is a big steel pontoon which has a tug boat tied to the back. Its packed tight with lorrys and trailers leaving a space right at the front for the landy. There was about five feet of space available to walk behind the car before falling off the edge of the ferry. The lorry drivers told us that the occasional bloke stumbles over the edge in the night and gets mashed up in the propellor, not to mention the odd lorry which falls off when things get a bit rough. There was a couple of hours delay in setting off as we were waiting for a trailer to arrive but time passed quickly as the others started making Caiparinhas, and even cooking their own food from little stoves they had in the side of their trucks. We ate in the ships galley, chicken and rice which was to be the staple for the whole journey, exciting stuff.

Making Caiparinha...

...and drinking vast amounts...

...has its consequences!

We finally set off around 7pm and would not arrive in Belem for another 36 hours. We all sat at the front of the ferry downing bottles of cachaça and got very drunk. One of the drivers was a bit worse for wear and decided to collapse beside the landy and vomit all over himself. Not being the slimmest of chaps, it was decided to leave him there to sleep it off with the security of having his wrist tied to the deck so he wouldn't fall in.

The river got very rough in the night and the ferry was banging about a fair bit, this, coupled with the drinks meant T had a sleepless night bouncing about in the roof tent, the ladder a couple of inches from the edge. B was in his hammock inside the back of one of the lorrys which was a much more comfortable option.

Morning after!

Canoes tie on... hitch a ride

Plenty of wicked dorises...

...and future wicked ones...

...but they all leave

The morning started early and we found that there were new people on the ferry, locals who were hitching a lift and sometimes selling things including jars of white asparagus for $0.25. To get a lift they would paddle their dugout canoe into the middle of the river and move close when the ferry passed, jumping onto the side with a rope and quickly tying on. This was done dexterously by little kids and wicked dorises too who would appear on the boat and get very friendly with the crew...obviously driving a ferry through the Amazon has its advantages!

The journey to Belem involves taking the inland route around the island of Marajo which is the size of Switzerland, sometimes the river is miles wide, other times its only a hundred metres or so. The wide stretches are more like a sea, choppy waves making the ferry crash up and down. The final night was very rough, too much to sleep in the roof tent so it was hammocks all round. Belem arrived at 7am and as we untied the ropes securing the landy we noticed one had frayed leaving only a couple of strands left, lucky we had used a tree strop and shackles too!

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