On January 10th we crossed the sand bar separating the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon River. During this time the ship slowed down, and since the water was only a depth of 26 feet, the captain needed to raise the ship’s stabilizers. We thought the ship might rock and roll some, but we didn’t feel a thing. The color of the water changed from the deep ocean blue to a light green color and then muddy water. The Amazon River travels over 4,000 miles across South America into the Atlantic Ocean. It is the second longest river in the world, with only the Nile being longer. The water discharged by the Amazon is greater than the world’s next seven biggest rivers combined.
Around 5:00 A.M. on the morning of January 11th we crossed the equator. At 6:00 A.M. we arrived at Macapa, Brazil. This was not a port of call for us but a service call with the Brazilian authorities who boarded the ship. This was all handled by the captain and ship’s officers. We slept right through it. The Brazilian authorities did a health review, mainly of the galley, and a Brazilian pilot came onboard to help the captain maneuver down the river safely. There are some places where the river becomes narrow and shallow and great care needs to be taken. A rotation of various Brazilian pilots will remain onboard for the next eight days while we are on the Amazon River.
By 10:30 A.M. we were once again on our way. The previous night all the passengers received a written message to conserve water during these eight days so the ship would not need to take on additional water. This was for our own health and safety. We were also warned not to drink any water or have drinks with ice while in various ports in Brazil. There were also warnings about not eating certain fruit, vegetables and other food off the ship. They even mentioned not eating pudding. We were told to keep our balcony drapes closed at night to keep mosquitoes and moths away. And it goes without saying to not leave your balcony doors open! We have been warned, the bugs on the Amazon are BIG! We have not noticed any mosquitoes so far. But plenty of large beetles on the upper decks at night and the largest moths I have ever seen. They are particularly bad around bright lights so they are dimming the outside lights for the next several days. We were also told there are many beautiful wood souvenirs that can be bought in Brazil. However, when people come back on board with these purchases, they will be taken by security and put in cold storage for 48 to 72 hours to get rid of any bugs in the wood. This is to protect the passengers as well as the ship. I think we will stick to our usual refrigerator magnets.
In the evening the ship had a party on the pool deck with a performance by Brazilian singers and dancers. It was festive and loud.
On Friday, January 12th we reached the port of Alter do Chao, Brazil. Fortunately it was a cloudy day which somewhat helped keep down the temperatures. Due to the shallowness of the water, the ship had to dock further offshore. It was a 30 minute ride on the tender boat to shore. Fortunately the river water was calm.
Alter do Chao is known as the Brazilian Caribbean and is known for one of the most beautiful freshwater beaches in the world.
In the early 20th century it was one of the transportation routes of latex extracted from rubber trees. By 1950 the extraction of latex declined in this area. Today the area focuses on tourism.
After getting off the tender boat we had to walk on platform boards across some water to a sandy beach. We then trudged through sand to a well worn bridge that took us to the road leading to town. It was about a half mile walk to the town plaza with a church, a couple small markets and some open air vendors.
The beautiful, yet simple Catholic church was built between 1876 and 1896.
Across the water is beautiful Ilha do Amor, or Love Island, accessible by rowboat or wading across depending on the season of the year and water levels.
The Amazon river dolphin (Inia geoffrensis) is also known as the pink river dolphin, boto, or bufeo. It is the largest freshwater dolphin in the world, with the ability to grow up to nine feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds. They are born gray and turn pinker as they age, as their skin becomes more translucent and allows blood to show through.
After about 90 minutes of walking around we were sweltering from the heat and humidity. While waiting for the next tender boat, Holland America crew provided a tent with chairs, cold water and cold washcloths. Much appreciated.
We were more than happy to get back to our cool cabin on the ship.
Next up: the tiny, remote village of Boca da Valeria, Brazil