Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Travel logistics: Tabatinga-Manaus

From the triple border to Belem, travel along the Amazon River is a well-beaten trail. 

Boats leave Tabatinga (the Brazilian town on the triple border) for Manaus on Wednesday and Saturday at noon.

If you are just passing through from Peru to Brazil, then you do not need to get your passport stamped in Colombia. If you are going to spend more than a day in Colombia, you need to get your passport stamped at the immigrations office at the Leticia airport. It is not far from downtown (a kilometer or 2) and can be reached by foot.

You need to get your entry stamp into Brazil before getting on the boat. You get this stamp at the Federal Police station in Tabatinga, which is about a 20 minute walk from the border on the main road. 

It is not necessary to buy your boat ticket ahead of time. You can pick it up when boarding the ship. They tried to charge us R$170. but we were told that it should only cost R$150, which is what we told the woman collecting money. She accepted R$150 without any complaints.

If the boat leaves at noon, it is important to arrive early to secure a good hammock location. We got there around 9:00 a.m., which was perfect. We took a boat from Leticia to Tabatinga, which dropped us at our ship. 

We waited in line with the other passengers and underwent an intense police narcotics inspection before boarding. They were really worried about our machetes. Like a good costeño, I reassured them  that they are simply knives, and that there was nothing to worry about.

Our original plan was to get on the ship early to secure good hammock spots so that one of us could then go to the market to buy fruits as the other one watched our belongings. This plan failed when the federal police wouldn´t let me off the boat. They said that we had already checked in and couldn´t go through the whole process again.

Luckily, there was a guy selling oranges at the next town downriver to provide us with some nutrients for the three-day ride. 
Benjamin Constant, the first town downriver from Tabatinga and hometown of the miracle orange salesman
The Brazil boats are really nice compared to the ones in Peru.

  • There is unlimited drinking water. 
  • People were frequently cleaning the boats
  • The boats were larger, so there was more space
  • They have a nice cafe and dance bar

Life on the boat was really tranquilo. Every few hours we would pull into a different port to load some cargo and passengers before continuing downriver.

The first night they served bread and meat soup, so we talked to the kitchen staff about being able to use the kitchen to cook lentils and rice. After much apprehensiveness, they were willing to let us cook. Luckily, every other meal had enough of a vegetarian option that we didn´t need to cook our own food again. 

The cafeteria
Breakfast was rolls and coffee, err, sugar with some coffee in it. Lunch and dinner had rice and noodles. If you were among the first people in line, you could be one of the few passengers to enjoy a salad during lunch. Twice they had fish for dinner, which gave us a source of protein.

For vegetables, we went to the cafe and asked for some ketchup packets. After we asked for this a few times, they were onto our tricks and stopped doling them out.

If you didn´t feel that the food in the cafeteria was enough, then you could go to the cafe and order a sandwich.

The journey to Manaus was four days and three nights. We pulled into Manaus mid-morning on the fourth day and spent the better part of the morning marveling at how a metropolis arose in the middle of the jungle. 

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