The Riverboat Rondonia finally departed Belem February 11 at 9:00 P.M. and we arrived in Manaus last night at midnight. Hot, humid, the occasional rain with slightly less than 500 passengers all crowded on the Rondonia. At least 400 sleeping on the semi open decks in hammocks, shoulder to shoulder. Hot, humid and somewhat boring, but I did not hear one complaint nor one cross word spoken the entire voyage. Of course, I don´t understand five words of Portuguese, but I still was surprised at the graciousness of the passengers, all looking out for each other.
Six days and six nights, traveling at 10 to twelve knots per hour up the Amazon some 1400 KMs. Passing many riverboats, literally hundreds of small canoes or Amazon boats and the occasional ocean going vessel. Manaus is a major seaport despite being over 1500 KMs from the Atlantic.
The shoreline was not what I expected. Many small farms and several nice herds of cattle, horses and sheep broke up the tropical forest. Houses on stilts, without glass windows, but all housing families, provided the occasional change of scenery from the tropical forest.
The boat, to my surprise, stopped some ten times to load and unload cargo and to take on passengers. Watching the men unload the heavy cargo by hand was our entertainment. That and the constant loud Brazilean music that blasted day and night from speakers placed throughout the boat.
The towns on the Amazon are surprisingly large, considering there are no roads connecting them. Only the Amazon. It is amazing to watch the natives ply the waters of the Amazon in their small boats. Fast and so graceful. Often small children, some as young as four or five, all making their way up or down the river.
Food was served right on time each day. Breakfast at 6:00 A.M., lunch at 11:00 A.M. and dinner at 5:00 P.M. Rice, noodles, beans and chicken or beef for lunch and dinner. Cafe and bread for breakfast! Not gourmet meals but nutritious.
Hot, humid and very noisy for the full six days and nights. I was one of very few in a cabin, but I still could not sleep because of the noise.
Luis Paulo Augusto, a member fo the Brazilean Navy, became my friend during this voyage. He was the only passenger who spoke English. A most remarkable man, Luis had self taught himself to speak English, studying from books and watching English language television shows. Luis was 43 years of age and had been in the Navy 25 years. A man of African descent, he has a wife and daughter who are joining him at his duty station some 1000 KMs further up the river. I would have been miserable without Luis´ company..
Arriving in Manaus last night late, I suddenly heard someone calling my name. Ramayana Menezes, a friend of Alex Reis de Menezes had come to the port to meet me. I had decided to spend the night on the Rondonia, so Ramayana agreed to return back this morning to help me get the Goose off the boat and to find a hotel here in Manaus..
This morning Ramayana and Lucioo Ferreira, also a friend of Alex, were both there to help me find lodging in Manaus. Tonight they have invited me to meet with several of their friends for dinner and refreshments. They all are members of Brazil Riders, the same motocycle club as is Alex. Motorcycle clubs continents apart, taking care of fellow motorcycle riders! All with a common interest!
I had planned to depart Wednesday morning for Boa Vista and ultimately Venezuela but my new friends have urged me ot stay here in Manaus for a few days. Tonight I will decide, but I am anxous to get across the border before everything shuts down for Carnival.
Éager to get to Venezuela so I can make plans for my return to Texas. Remember, I still have to cross the Darien Gap and I am hoping I can fly my bike directly from Caracas to Panama City. I really do not know how to determine that except ot go directly to the Caracas International Airport and visit with cargo carriers and shipping brokers.
Tomorrow I will explore Manaus. I particularly want to see the Teatro Amazonas, the beautiful theater built during the rubber boom days when Manaus was known as the "Paris of the Tropics".