05.12.2012 - 08.12.2012 33 °C
Neighbouring Leticia is the town of Tabatinga in Brazil where all river boats leave from. After jumping on board to buy our tickets, it was nice to see that the boat was new and slightly more impressive than we had expected! After purchasing our hammocks, ropes, containers for meal times, drinking water and sacks for our belongings, we were ready for the 4 day 3 night ride down the mighty Amazon river to Manaus.
On the morning of the boat ride we piled all our things into a tiny tuktuk and visited immigration in Brazil and got stamped in. After a thorough search of all our bags and a pat down we were free to board, and managed to score a nice spot (not too close to the toilets!) with a group of other travellers on the second level, avoiding the engine noise of the bottom level and the scorching heat of the top level!
We quickly strung up our hammocks to avoid losing our spot to one of the other 400 hammock bearing people on board. Over the next 4 days we had plenty of time to relax, read, play cards enjoy the red sunsets and rest up in our comfy hammocks. Mealtime involved heading into the cafeteria to load up on rice, noodles and meat, and as we had containers it was easy to take our meals out onto the deck and eat in the breeze. The showers, toilets and sinks run off riverwater, which got somewhat muddier when the boat was running in shallow water! The breeze made it easy to sleep, and the hammocks were surprisingly comfortable, a lot better than some of the hostel beds we’ve been faced with over the last few months. We even managed to spot some of the pink Amazon dolphins.
We were both amazed by the vastness of the river which encompasses 20% of the Earth's fresh water, we knew it was big, but it was just so wide and continued at this width for the entire 4 days. We only travelled down 1,100km of it´s massive 6,400km length and in the wet season, it can reach widths of 48km!
As there were local Brazilians bunked in around us, we managed to practice some Portuguese, which is similar to Spanish, but with completely different pronunciation. There were people constantly getting on and off the boat at the stops along the way, and we kept a close eye on our luggage as it's well known for things to go missing on these boats. We even had to stop people from stringing their hammocks up above our heads on one stop in the middle of the night!
On day 4 we were itching to get back on land and finally saw the city of Manaus looming on the banks of the river. To reach Manaus we crossed `Meeting of Waters` where the Rio Negro, a river with dark (almost black coloured) water, and the sandy-coloured Amazon River meet and run side by side without mixing for 6 km!
Tips for fellow river boaters: We recommend doing the ride down stream, from Leticia/Tabatinga (Colombia/Brazil border) to Manaus (Brazil) as it only takes 4 days on the boat as opposed to around 6 days up stream in the other direction. Boat schedules can vary, for the latest info contact a hostel in the town you’re planning on leaving from. Go for hammocks as opposed to private cabins, apart from being a lot cheaper the breeze was cool at night, and the cabins can get hot as they don’t always have working air con/ventilation, and it`s a lot easier to meet people. Our boat company Oliveira was great, our boat was new and kept clean throughout the trip. Take some of your own food and snacks on board, especially fruit and veg. And as we mentioned, it's handy to have a container for your food, so you can eat outside but not essential. When you buy your tickets you should get a chance to check out the boat and ask any questions you have.