The Amazon trip, day 2: Lunch for breakfast, cheating foreigners and pink dolphines

I’m woken up by a man’s voice coming out of the loudspeakers, saying something I don’t understand in Portuguese. I figure it’s the announcement I missed yesterday, this time for breakfast. It’s 5.30am on my phone, which still shows Colombian time.

Together with some people from our gringocorner we walk downstairs to the dining room. We get ham and cheese sandwiches, sandwiches with scrambled eggs, something that looks and tastes as good as milk rice, but isn’t milk rice and watermelon. We sit together with the Canadian couple from Yukon. They tell us about their life in the north of Canada; they too live in a remote place, like most people here on the Amazon. The guy is certified to marry people, so their cabins often get rented out for weddings. “But I’m also a coroner,” the Canadian says. “I can marry people and pronounce them dead as well.” Well, that’s a combination!

The Colombian girl complains how sweet the coffee is, and the girl from New Zealand comments on the colour. “Everything on this boat is exactly the same colour – this coffee, the water running from the taps and showers.. It’s just like the river.” After that I can’t help but thinking of brown pools of water in the shower whenever I look down at my cup of coffee with milk.

Coffee with milk brown Amazon.

I brush my teeth carefully, with my own clean drinking water in a cup, rinsing my toothbrush with it too. I don’t get a drop of the Amazon in my mouth. What I do get though are long stares of locals brushing their teeth next to me with tap water. They’re used to the Amazon, I guess.

After breakfast we go up to the deck again. The sun and the heat from yesterday are long gone; it’s not cold but it isn’t warm either and it’s still raining a bit. The sky is not blue anymore, it’s a mixture of grey and brown and it almost matches the colour of the coffee I had for breakfast.

The top deck of the boat on a gloomy afternoon.
Amaturá is one of the small villages along the Amazon river.
A crowd of people lined up to get on the boat.

The boat stops in a place called Amaturá. The village looks big for Amazonian standards: I can see a church, a lot of houses, and at the docks there is something that could be a shop or a bar. We unload some cargo, we get some too. A huge crowd of people lines up to get on board. The Colombian girl and I look at each other, both thinking the same: where will they all go? It seems that the boat was more or less full yesterday already when we left Tabatinga. Ok, to be fair – we cheated a bit. In our little quadrant we hung our hammocks on every second hook only, so that we always had one space between the hammocks free. We still felt we were quite close to each other, so if people hang their beds on the empty hooks, we will be like sardines!

Half an hour later, we are like sardines. Two guys join us in our quadrant and instead of four we are six now. Impossible to lay in our hammocks without touching each other with our sholders. We put some hammocks higher and others lower and that makes it a bit better. I’m lucky enough to be at the end of the line, so from one side I have a little corridor of free space instead of another hammock.

Lunch on the boat is early – at 10.30. I’m wondering if this is the normal Brazilian lunch time or just how the river sailors do it. My grandma would probably love it, she always wanted to have lunch as early as noon and for my brother and me that was often both breakfast and lunch at the same time.

The food here is served in the dining room for people who don’t have their own plates and in the first floor for the ones who do. We do, so we avoid a long queue. It’s chicken, rice, beans and spagetti, we serve ourselves from enourmeous pots and eat on our laps, in our hammocks. I remember someone told me the food on the boat is good – they were right. Or I’m just really hungry.

A rainy afternoon on the Amazon.

After lunch I want to take the obligatory afternoon nap, but almost the whole gringocorner is lined up at the windows, staring out. I join them and what we see is a group of four or five dolphines jumping out of the river. Yes, dolphines! I read about the pink dolphines living in the Amazon, but these are not it, they’re regular dolphines. The pink ones entered the Amazon from the Pacific Ocean around 15 million years ago or from the Atlantic maybe 5 million years ago. They have brains 40% than humans and their neck bone is not fused with their spine, so they can move their head a lot, which helps them while hunting for fish in the rainforest. They are seen as a good omen in the Amazon. Just as we are talking about how cool it would be to see a pink one, it appears – jumping up in a high arch, before diving back into the brown water. Crazy isn’t nearly enough to describe it, we are left speechless.

For dinner we have leftovers from lunch – rice and chicken is something I will definitely overeat while traveling in Latin America. Then I collect all my bravery and have the fastest shower ever. Mid way I realise I’m clenching my teeth together to protect from the brown water while washing my hair. I’m still not a fan of the Amazon.

The gloomy rain forest weather makes everyone lay down early. I hope for another night of good sleep like the previous.

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    carmelinee Written by:

    A journalist turned media analyst turned storyteller. Already had a near death experience white-water rafting the source of the Nile, came three meters close to a green mamba and peed in front of a boat of thirty strangers in the middle of a rain forest. Stay tuned for new stories from my trip in Latin America!