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Manaus to Belem – cruising the Amazon River

Manaus to Belem – cruising the Amazon River

Welcome to the heart of the Amazon, Manaus! The largest city in northern Brazil with around 1.85 million people.  It was hard work getting here on a motorcycle, I can tell ya!  So we plan to take a break for a couple days.

The largest reason Manaus is here is due to the all important rubber industry.

A view of days gone by and wealth that used to be prominent in this remote part of the world.  I expected the Amazonian city to be quite rough, hot and humid.. not stylish and wealthy!

I like this bit of write up from Wikipedia below:

Manaus was at the center of the Amazon region‘s rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was “one of the gaudiest cities of the world One historian has written, “No extravagance, however absurd, deterred” the rubber barons. “If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.” The decadence extended to a grand opera house, vast domes and gilded balconies, and marble, glass, and crystal, from around Europe. The opera house cost ten million (public-funded) dollars, but its foolhardiness was demonstrated by the death by yellow fever of half the members of one visiting opera troupe.

When the seeds of the rubber tree were smuggled out of the Amazon region, Brazil lost its monopoly on the product and Manaus fell into poverty. The rubber boom had brought electricity to the city before it arrived in many European cities, but the end of the rubber boom made the generators too expensive to run, and the city lost artificial lighting for years.”

We took a couple days off in Manaus to allow James ankle to heal, to drink as much water as possible and fill up on Pizza and beer.. as well as the best Vegetarian restaurant we’ve found to date.  Life is good again.  I even got my tank bag zipper replaced!  That thing has been broken since Bolivia!

I loved finding this guy.  With the stereotypical hat, slow turning ceiling fan, a low raspy voice, gold chains and long fingernails, he did a great job on my Touratech bag.

Our next plan is to go shopping for a boat.  We can continue riding a ridiculously difficult roads through the Amazon, or we can get on a boat to takes us the length of it.  This appealed to us both.  For me, it has been a dream to experience the famous Amazon River.

This wall marker at the port shows the water levels each year… and check out the level for 2012!!  (top right corner). Hard to tell by my photo, but that put the water level over the walkway and into the shops.

We found a boat quite quickly, bargained a super good price with the captain, and we left the very next day.

When we show up to the dock.. these guys in blue shirts come and and took my bike out of my hands to load it.  They are going so fast, I’m like.. wait! Wait!!

Don’t you dare drop that bike in the river Buster Brown.. I’m feeling very out of control.

They did load our bikes quickly and without flaw.  And then came up to me and asked for $300 USD..!!!! I actually laughed, they can’t be serious. “Si, $150 per bike Senora.”  Ain’t gonna happen.  If you wanted hundreds of dollars to load our bikes you should have made the deal BEFORE you took them out of our hands.  We thought these men were the crew for the boat. Since there is no loading ramp, I assumed they were just doing their job. As they followed us around the boat demanding money, I continued to argue.  I finally gave them $20 to shut them up.  No, Senora!  “Okay… $200.”  “I’m not paying it, take your 20 or leave it!” They finally gave up and walked away, thank goodness.  I hate that.

And the boat quickly departs Manaus.

The journey will be four days long, so we made friends with our fellow passengers.  I found this young guy snooping around the bikes.  And when I talked to him, I found out he is married.  He looks like he’s 10!  He’s actually a whopping 17 years old, however, he’s already celebrated his 2 year wedding anniversary.  “So how old is your wife?”  She is 15, and they have a 1 1/2 year old son.  Wow…

Life on the Amazon River is fascinating to watch.

You can get to where you need to go, AND do your laundry at the same time. I wish I could do that sometimes.. 😉

We make several stops to small river towns along the way.  The passengers change, the crew load and unload deliveries.. this is the super highway for goods!

I prefer to stick around while they work the loads.. just to be sure a little KTM doesn’t get mistakenly unloaded!

I have always said since I stepped foot in Brazil, that the people are strikingly beautiful. Case and point. I’m so disappointed this photo came out a little blurry, because Lord…… have…… MERCY!!

Unfortunately this guy didn’t get loaded on to our boat! ;-((

The way to travel on the Amazon is in your hammock! However, we chose one of only 4 cabins with bunk beds.  Bring-your-own hammock travel is super cheap as you can imagine, but it was more important for us to be able to lock up our cameras and computers.  It’s quite common for thieves to take your things while passing a hammock just as they are about to get off the boat.

The Amazon is super hot.. and we do tend to get a bit bored.. So we found a bit of relief at the next stop.

Beer!!  And lots of it!  Kevin would have been proud…! (We’re not totally sure where the Swiss backpacker got her modeling skills.. but otherwise we had a fairly successful break from the boat!) And I found I speak Portuguese much better when on beer 😉

The boat carries on…

We stopped into another town and I couldn’t help but to be mezmerized by that super size cloud.

Of which it did bucket down some serious rain once we reached it by boat..

The photo with the church is sunrise.. however, the sunsets are very nice on the Amazon too!

On board, I spent most of my time with this kid, Rudi.  He always always had a smile and would hang out with me so often.  I’m not sure why really, curious about the crazy lady who speaks English?


His mother had 2 smaller children, and Rudi was always yelled at from far away to take care of them.. but when he had time to come back, he would talk to me in Portuguese. Sometimes I understood a bit, sometimes I didn’t.  But it didn’t matter to him, he would just smile. I’ve never seen such a content (tranquila) happy kid, even amongst his chores with the younger ones. He showed me a great trick for eating the Castanhas (Brazil nuts). We would put one under the leg of a chair and sat on the chair to crack the shell.. the fresh castanhas are the best!  Such a cool kid.

It’s been a long 4 day journey.  We arrived our destination on the east coast of Brazil, the city of Belem, during the night.  They threw up a couple of planks of wood to have us and the two remaining trucks manage to unload ourselves in the dark.  I couldn’t believe it was possible and I didn’t want to take a chance with my bike dropping into the drink.  But we did it.. as usual, it’s all part of the adventure.  They needed us to do it right then, right there, because in an hour, the water level will be too low from the ocean tide.

Once the sun came up, we packed up the bikes to start our journey south.  Bom dia!!

Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-)


  • February 23, 2013

    Awesome post Sherri Jo! Can’t wait to do the amazon trip ourselves. Glad you didn’t pay the big money to have the bikes loaded. As always keep it on two wheels.


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