When I was in Venezuela I thought that instead of going back to Colombia and following all the other Gringos up into Central America, maybe I should keep going east. It seemed more interesting cos no backpackers go that way. I then did some research into the three Guianas (Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana) but they don't do themselves any tourism favours. First, they are all a massive pain the arse to get to and second, they are really expensive. But the more I looked into them the more intrigued I became and the more I wanted to go.
One of the easiest--and I use the term loosely--ways of getting there from Venezuela is to go to Manaus and then take a boat to Belem and/ or another boat to Macapa and then road transport to French Guiana. However, spending >5 days on boring boats, sleeping in a hammock surrounded by about 200 Brazilians also sleeping in hammocks did not appeal to me AT ALL. Boats plus hammocks are right up there with camping and overnight buses in terms of things I hate sleeping in/on.
This is a standard boat between Manaus and Belem. Hammocks bascially go where you can find a space. It's first in best dressed.
Whatever. I've coped this long not knowing.
Thankfully I met an Aussie guy who told me that Suriname Airways flies from Belem to Cayenne in French Guiana several times a week now. Flying from Manaus to Belem to Cayenne sounded like a much better way to make the Guianas happen, even though it would blow my budget completely. But sometimes you need to suck it up and take the financial hit to avoid the trauma of being trapped on a crappy boat!
I think these vultures scared me more than people did!
Although you can hear the traffic so maybe it's not quite the same.
And this blue macaw (I think) is beautiful.
Too bad they live in cages though.
Lots of turtles!
There are also monkeys and some other birds commonly found in the Amazon. I don't know if these animals were rescued and can't be released or just captured and put in cages since everything is in Portuguese. I hope it's the former but suspect it's the latter.
Not far from the hostel is this church with a park that attracts hundreds of small green parrots every evening. I read they start coming in a 5pm to roost, but clearly they are on South American time cos I went at five they didn’t actually get there until six. Then they flew into two big mango trees to apparently chat about their days with their friends. They had a lot to say cos they were very noisy!
The sounds are quite amazing since there are so many of them. (Semi) interesting fact: they mate for life. Seems unnecessary.
While I was enjoying the musical performance this woman arrived. I'm not sure if she forgot she had rollers in her hair or she just didn't care.
This is the church. It was built during the rubber boom. I have to say it’s pretty nice especially on the inside. However, a service was going on when I wandered in, so I didn’t take any photos.
The internet says the bus takes four hours. The guy at the bus station said it takes three. The internet was right, although if it didn’t stop every five minutes then it probably would only take three. I also think there should a rule that if you live within 5km of the bus station, then you should have to go to the bus station. Stopping 200m up the road after spending 15 minutes in a bus station is bullshit.
Pretty much everyone has a satellite tv dish with a coke bottle stuck on it. I'm intrigued how that improves reception.
There are also people selling prawns out the front of their houses all the way along but they are not kept on ice. I don't understand how is possible to eat them (not that I would. Gross.) and not get sick? I'm guessing the literal meaning of Aussie expression "off like a bucket of prawns in the sun" does not translate into Portuguese?
Un-iced prawns in the left container.
Back to Algodoal, the ferry is a quite far from the Maruda bus terminal so you basically need a taxi unless you speak Portuguese and can work how to get there and how long the walk would take. Even then, I wouldn't risk missing the boat cos Maruda didn't look that interesting.
Before I got out of the cab a crazy man started talking to me through the window. Then I bought a juice and he wanted me to sit down with him. I don't even bother with Spanish at times like this. In English, I’m like “No I'm not sitting with you and I don’t speak Portuguese so you’re wasting your time mate”. This time it worked and he left me alone. Sometimes speaking English backfires and they get even more excited, especially if they know a few words.
Near the ferry, I saw a fruit and veg stand and wandered over to it to buy some veggies for dinner tomorrow night (since nothing is open on a Sunday) and emergency food for the island. Pineapples are so good in South America, I can’t stop eating them. I bought one here and ate the whole thing in two sittings later that day. It was so much acid on my tongue it swelled up massively and bled. But it was totally worth it.
I felt sorry for the horses though so I walked. Plus I didn't have a reservation so I needed to find something. This pousada was the first one I got to and it has a pool. They said it was R$50 ($25) for an ensuite room with fan. That is only $1 more than the rip-off hostel in Belem. Sold!
Five minutes later I was in the pool. Why didn’t I just go to the beach? Cos I hate going to the beach in the middle of the day. It’s too hot, the sand’s too hot and there’s no shade anywhere so you just get really burnt regardless of how much sunblock you put on. Beaches are for mornings and afternoons. The pool had some shade, which I liked.
When I got out I had a good go at eating that pineapple from earlier. Then I had a siesta, which lasted about four hours. I didn’t realise how tired I was! Although I’m not surprised, since I had very little sleep in Belem because the hostel's air conditioning was far too cold at night for a flimsy sheet, and because of Brazilian women.
Ok it's rant time.
End of rant.
Since I had food with me I just ate that for dinner. I was hungry at around 6pm but none of the restaurants seemed to be open so I couldn't buy anything. I’m guessing 6pm is way too early for Brazilians to eat since they like to party hard all night. Being the only non-Brazilian on the island I went to bed early and had the best night’s sleep I’d had in ages. I was not freezing from ridiculous air conditioning, there was no noise (except the fan), and people weren’t constantly turning the lights on and off. As an added bonus, nothing was biting me. I am sick of being food for mozzies/ midges/ sand flies/ fleas/ any other blood sucking creatures (not vampires) over here. For the first time in ages, I went bite free. It was bliss.
The next morning I got up at 6.15am and decided to walk to Princess Beach, voted one of the most beautiful beaches in the world a few years ago. At this time of the day, dogs rule the town.
This can’t be good.
And this just looks uncomfortable.
You need to pay a guy to row you across a river/ swamp bit is cos you can’t get across otherwise. It costs R$1 so it’s fine. Although if you walk closer to the beach itself, you can walk across if the tide is out. Or you can swim across like this dog.
Then you walk around the corner, and voila, Princess Beach. I was expecting to be blown away by its beauty. However, they have built bars and restaurants all up the beach. I think it’s now one of the world's most beautiful beaches ruined by people.
Then I walked around the point to the next beach. I’m guessing this is what Princess Beach used to look like before the island got electricity (which was not that long ago I believe) and development took over.
Speaking of fish, I don’t know why there are loads of dead ones along the beach.
By the time I got back, it was starting to get really hot. So after breakfast I went straight into the pool to prove that parents are liars when they say “you can’t go swimming after eating or you’ll drown”. I am pleased to announce that I survived! Plus this pool had the strongest jets I’ve ever encountered. I think I gave myself a free neck, shoulder and back massage for about an hour. It was awesome.
Sadly at around midday it was time to leave and head back to Belem. It took five hours to get back due to political demonstrations on the outskirts of Belem and some flash flooding that screwed up traffic massively. Glad I bought my return ticket yesterday. That's a long time to stand.
I was sitting next to some woman who had a kid on her lap the whole way. At one point, he leaned over me threw rubbish out the bus window. Despite all the rubbish everywhere in South America, it still shocks me when I when I see people littering without giving it a second thought.
Anyway, that was my time in Brazil. Despite coming back primarily as a stepping stone to get to the Guianas, it was nice exploring the Amazon region. I'm also especially glad I found out about, and visited Algodoal. That island was SO relaxing.
Next stop: French Guiana. Oh la la!