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The epic boat journey - Manuas to Tabatinga

BRAZIL | Tuesday, 7 August 2012 | Views [2501] | Comments [3]



I have been struggling to think of a way to describe this boat journey. It's 7 days on a tiny vessel with about 100 other people, all sleeping in a very close proximity to your hammock. All your stuff is laid out on the floor and you basically have no privacy... At times you feel as if you were in a refugee camp (at least that's what I would imagine it be like) with a slightly better food options and of course you are not actually running away from anything...

From talking to my boat companions (Ariel and Melanie) I gathered that I was actually really lucky and got to travel on a luxury boat. It is true: it was clean, brand new, and the food was good.

We did not, however, luck out on the fact that it was an Evangelist boat which meant that all alcohol was forbidden... This may seem like only a slight nuisance but trust me with 7 days in a hammock with literally nothing to do, the lack of beer does become a bit of a problem...

There is no denying that it is a beautiful journey. The boat goes really close to the shore so you get to pass time watching nature from the hammock. It also gives you the idea of just how vast the Amazon is.

I cannot overstate how lucky I was to be travelling with Melanie and Ariel. Having people with you not only helps with taking care of your stuff, its also a crucial entertainment.

And so for the first 3 days the boat did not stop at any ports and we adjusted to the daily routine of watching the sun rise, grabbing some breakfast, a bit of reading, napping, conversing, playing with kids, drawing, listening to music, having lunch, again reading, conversing, watching nature, having dinner, watching the sun set, plotting where can we get some beer, looking out for caymans, chatting, watching the stars (really beautiful in the complete darkness of the Amazon), trying to get to sleep...

On the fourth day at 9am the luck stoke and we stopped at a first port for 20minutes which meant Ariel madly rushing to the shore to get some beer and cachaca... He did manage and so we proceeded to hide at an upper deck to enjoy our illegal, delicious, ice cold beer...It tasted pretty awesome!!!

So that night apart from the regular activities of the day and after stopping at another port and managing to smuggle some more beer on board we had a little party...

During the following days we were stopping pretty much every day which gave us a chance to stretch our legs and buy refreshments on shore... One night we stopped at this really pretty town which happened to have a fiesta. For me it was still kind of strange to see that there is actually quite a lot of people living in the Amazon. I somehow imagined before that it was just nature and indigenous tribes..

Finally, after 7 days, on a Friday morning we arrived at Tabatinga and said goodbye to our boat neighbours. It really did feel like during this time we became a little family, with everyone taking care of each other and lovely kitchen girls making sure that I always got a bit of veggie food.

Tabatinga is a pretty awful place. Perfect example of a border town. Luckily we all decided to stay on the other side of the border in Leticia which although not exactly pretty is much more attractive than her Brazilian sister.

And so for me it was a straight dash to the Policia Federal to get my exit stamp on already overstayed visa. I kind of thought it was going to be a formality, will need to apologise for being a silly tourist, pay the fine and will get my stamp. Of course I underestimated the Brazilian bureaucracy. After questioning (I had to repeat my story 5 times), which actually did make me wonder what do they do with people who don't speak Portuguese, I was left on a bench for 30 minutes whilst my fine was being processed. After that the police officer invited me to the prison part of the building...Needless to say he totally freaked me out and I was finally realising that overstaying your visa may not have been such a great idea... I was taken to see another official and made to tell my story again. And then, all of a sudden, they decided that processing the fine will be too long so they will just give me my exit stamp with no further penalties... I guess the whole experience was meant to be a lesson...

After that, with a sigh of relief we crossed over to Leticia, Colombia.

I always find it incredible that within just a few kilometres you are able to find yourself in a totally different culture as Leticia is unmistakably Colombian.

And so we all settled into our hostels and ventured out to town.

The first order of business was getting a beer. The wonderful thing about Colombia is that the beer is real here, it has actual taste unlike the Brazilian version. The second in line was fish dinner and I would recommend eating fish to anyone visiting Leticia. It is amazing, incredibly cheap and available absolutely everywhere.

With my flight to Bogota scheduled for next day, it was my last night with Melanie and Ariel and so we hit the town for some good bye beers.

And then in the morning it was time to get deeper into Colombia...

Tags: amazon, boat, leticia, manaus, on the road, tabatinga



Love the beer theme! Sounds great Kamila - fantastic to see the fun continues! (and the beer!) xx

  Zoe Marriage Aug 16, 2012 6:40 PM


Found this text as my son is on a similar boat and we haven't heard from him in 5 days. I guess there is not much of a cell phone network in the Amazon. Thanks for this colorful description.

  sophie Nov 7, 2014 8:56 AM


Hey man was just reading your experience. I'm planning a trip to the Amazon this summer and would Deff want some more advice. I'm looking to take 5 day boat thru the amazon and have no idea were to start. I don't mind the uncomfort as I'm used to doing survival journeys. I'm looking for something were we could stop explor and continue ever so often. Any advice??

  Albert tawil Feb 26, 2015 6:28 AM

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