August 14, 2016
The arrival to Santarem is planned for 12:30, we will therefore be allowed to sleep on board.
At 7am we hit the street, our new “family” (Alexandra, Thomas, Ed and Tania) in tow. It’s just like traveling with our children since their ages go from 25 to 38. Breakfast on a corner cafe of rolls with melted cheese and sweet coffee.
The 33 km to Alter do Chão seem a lot longer since the road puts Montreal to shame with its potholes, but no orange cones in sight, now or ever.
This is where we’ve decided to take a few days of farniente, not that we were terribly busy on the boats, but they nevertheless tend to wear you out . So much so that I seem to be napping all the time and I’m anything but a napper. Is it the Amazon, the heat, the malaria pills, sheer laziness? Maybe all of the above.
Alter do Chão claims to be the Jamaïca and Saint-Tropez of Brazil, the most beautiful beach in Brazil minus the ocean.
Our hotel is on its own private beach on the Río Tapajos and quite charming except for being isolated from the main beach of Ilha do Amor (Island of Love) by a 35-minute walk. Nothing! If it wasn’t for the unbearable heat during the day. It seems hugely impractical and taxis are not easy to catch. They must be hiding somewhere since there is practically no traffic, except for rowboats crossing to the island.
It is actually everything it claims to be: a white sand Caribbean beach with clear turquoise waters and thickets of seaside and coconut trees. You can also seek refuge under one of the many palapas where they served grilled fish and various local specialties whose name elude us. Our feet in water, we had a huge and delicious grilled fish (surubim) and then swam in the shallow soft waters, warm as your bathtub,worrying only slightly about flesh-eating piranhas, manta rays and teeny-tiny little parasites (candiru) that will climb up your urinary system and raise havoc until you get yourself to the hospital. Which means: don’t pee in the water! I’m told the little creepy-crawlies prefer men, so I’m not taking any chance, but I think it’s just another Amazonian legend…
The “kids” were planning a 2-hour trek up the one little hillock of the region and I followed. Y. declined.
It was a bit of a steep climb for my flip-flops but worth the effort. The panorama truly gave you the bird’s eye view of the Amazon as one dreams it: water and trees all the way to the horizon on 350°.
As we emerged in the sunlight, millions of gnats stampeded into our noses and mouths or came drowning themselves in the mixture of sweat, mosquito repellent and sun-block on my arms and legs. The latter didn’t prevent me from getting sunburnt.
We came down just in time to catch a motorboat to a quasi-deserted beach to watch the sunset as we lay immersed in warm water.
Guess who took that picture? Not me…
On the edge of the plaza, there is a man with a cart making caipirinhas: lemon, tangerine, pineapple, ginger, passion fruit and a green herb that makes your tongue numb. He speaks some French and his stand doesn’t look that clean. Everybody in our little “family” gets greatly enthusiastic and don’t seem to care when he fishes ice chips from a dubious looking container. I taste mine that has a strange but not unexpected flavor of stale ice. I decline, expecting to become the head nurse within a few hours. But, so far, we are all still alive with no apparent evil side effects.
Next stop? Macapa. When? Don’t know…