One of the few things we planned to do as we travel through South America was take the 4 day, 1713km boat trip along the Amazon from Manaus to Bemen. We’d heard about party boats where everyone danced all the way to Belem but when it came to booking the boat the only one available was the ‘5 star’ Amazon Star. I’m not sure where the 5 star rating came from as it seemed a pretty basic boat to me.
Having heard about the state of boats toilets after a few days (we weren’t disappointed) we got to the boat a few hours early to pitch our hammocks away from the toilets and with plenty of swinging space around. As time went on and more people arrived , hooking up hammocks closer and closer some people electing for the double layers, we soon realised it was going to be a cozy next few days. In typical Brazilian fashion we set off 7 hours later than planned.
For the unpracticed, sleeping in a hammock isn’t an easy task, in order to not loose feeling in your legs you have to lie diagonally, trying to remain horizontal, any shift in the night means a good 15 minutes of readjusting to get comfortable again. Now combine this with the rocking motion of the boat you’ve got swaying hammocks bumping into each other all night resulting in a pretty bad nights sleep.
Food is included in the trip and breakfast is announced by a bell, everyone then queues up for their chance to get a cup of coffee, a bread roll and the choice of a banana, piece of pineapple or melon. Don’t make the mistake of trying to get more than one, the dinner ladies were fearsome. After we’d finished our breakfast we realised it was 6am, its an early start on the Amazon Star! Going back to hammock for some more sleep we where woken by a queue forming again for lunch, which was at 11am and consisted of rice, meat and beans. It wasn’t too bad but after 3 meals of it your stomach may start to protest. Through out the day more people had arrived and the hammock deck was getting pretty crowded.
On the third day we docked at Santarem where people got off and a lot more on. The hammocks where 4 levels now and really was quite amazing how everyone fitted in. Time was killed by reading in the hammocks and watching the scenery and local riverside houses on the upper deck. Towards the end of the day lots of children paddled canoes out to the boat and people through them biscuits and fruit. Some of kids managed to board the boat, selling heart of palm in jars, we bought some, tasted a bit like cabbage.
The Amazon River boat is certainly an experience, I had envisioned something slightly more romantic but I wouldn’t change it. Its one of those experiences you look back on with fond memories, but during it you question what the hell am i doing?