Boarding a Boat in Belém

Belém promises to be the city of mangoes, but instead of being welcomed by their  sweet smell, the stench of urine was our introduction to the industrial city of Belem. Furthermore, Belém is among the wettest cities in the world, which means that it rains a lot, which means it is hard to take photos, which means this blog is free of images. We do not have that much to say about this large city at the mouth of the Amazon River. For us, it served mainly as starting point of our great boat adventure over the whole Brazilian length of the Amazon River.

After dropping our stuff hastily off at Manga Hostel near the bus terminal, the first thing we did was to gather information on the boat schedule. We found out that boats leave on either Wednesday (the next day) or Saturday. We opted for the former, since Belém did not seem as that much fun anyway and we were extremely eager to get started on our boat journey. This would gave us a mere 24 hours to prepare for the 6-day boat to Manaus, the largest city in the Amazon located halfway between Belém and the Brazilian-Colombian border).

Our first priorities were of course, acquiring the hammocks which we will be resting on for two weeks. Cabins, air conditioned or not, on the Amazon boats are priced above our budget, so we traveled as the locals would do and swing in a hammock all night long. That seemed like much more fun anyway. Mercado Ver-o-Peso and the streets surrounding it are a prime place to haggle for a cheap hammock. After an hour or so we were the proud owners of two woven king-size hammocks (if you are going to be in it for the better share of 2 weeks, you might as well get a comfortable one), two hammock-shaped mosquito nets, and ropes. As a result of Laurent’s expert bargaining skills, this cost us R$130 in total. There are cheaper hammocks and much more expensive ones, but this felt like the right balance between price and quality.

A last meal on solid grounds

The second step was to buy enough provisions for the 6-day boat tour. Even though we were told food would be sold onboard, we did want some of our own snacks just in case. We had read on a blog that someone had gotten food poisoning on the boat, and Emily wanted a backup plan. Soon, we had filled a large shopping bag with cookies, crackers, instant noodles, and 15L of water.

The third, and arguably most important step, was getting the actual tickets. On the day we would leave at 6pm, we woke up early to meet a ticket vendor we had met the day before. Laurent went to meet the ticket vendor at the main Terminal Hidroviário to buy our tickets. We never figured out the economics behind buying boat tickets in Brazil, but it somehow works. If you ask the official ticket booths in the Terminal Hidroviári, they will quote you a price R$370 for  a hammock spot and a lot more for a cabin. We checked out another nearby English-speaking tourist agency in the city centre, and they quoted us the same price. However, if you negotiate only a little bit with ticket vendors that walk around and inside of the Terminal Hidroviário, you can buy a ticket for only R$200 for exactly the same boat. Well, this works for us. You can recognize these ticket vendors by the green polo’s and name tags they are wearing. We mostly communaited over Whatsapp with our guy, since this enabled us to use the power of Google Translate.

Our boat tickets

Straight after Laurent got the tickets we went to the pier to secure a good place for our hammocks. More on the actual trip, here and here.