AMAZON BOAT TRIP - APRIL 24 – MAY 4, 2019
Wednesday, 24 Apr 2019
Hello everyone. This is Steve Franklin from Journey Christian Church in Midlothian, Virginia. I’m the “official” journal writer for the April / May trip! For this trip, we have people from 4 different states (Indiana, Ohio, Virginia, & Wisconsin) and 5-6 different churches, all coming together to provide basic medical and dental care and be “Jesus with skin on…” to the people in the Amazon River region!
Those of us traveling in for this trip (Merle Franks stayed over from the last trip…) met for the first time at the Miami Airport last night. It was great to associate names & faces! After the 5+ hour flight from Miami, we arrived in Manaus just after midnight. We quickly cleared Passport Control and Customs, and were met by Earl & Merle in the airport. We loaded all the luggage on the bus, and then drove about 20 minutes to the boat. The crew helped us get all the luggage down to the boat and to our cabins. We ate a late dinner about 1:30 AM, then settled in for some much needed sleep! The boat left as soon as we were all onboard and settled, so a few of us stayed up to watch the boat go under big bridge on the Rio Negro. It was a beautiful sight at 2:30 in the morning…!
We started this morning with a great breakfast, and then all went downstairs to sort the medical supplies and other items that everyone brought for the boat. We then gathered on the upper deck for a geography lesson from Earl on Brazil, the Amazon River Basin, and the State of Amazonas where we are serving for the next 10 days. Finally, we discussed the different roles that need to be done for the medical & dental clinic to operate effectively. Everyone seemed to pick a role for which they are well equipped!
Our afternoon started with another delicious meal (no one will ever go hungry on this boat…!), followed by some much-needed downtime. Our next major task was to sort, count, and bag adult & children’s vitamins into 60 per bag, and Tylenol & Ibuprofen into 50 pills per bag. We probably divided between 7-10,000 vitamins, and almost that many pain relievers; we will probably hand out ALL of these bags during this trip!
We arrived in Sao Sebastião about 4:20 this afternoon! While here, we dropped off a coop with about 50 laying hens for delivery to the CBM “Chicken Palace” – a large coop being built on the grounds at the greenhouse! This will help create a better source of eggs for both the boat and the greenhouse community. After taking care of some other local business, we left around 6:15 headed downriver toward our first village stop tomorrow morning. We ate another delicious meal for dinner around 8 PM. The boat passed by the town of Urucara, and then tied up for the night in a small cove just off the main channel of the Amazon. We all eventually headed for bed to be ready and rested for our first full ministry day tomorrow!
Thursday, 25 April 2019
The interesting thing about the Amazon River area in which we are working is that we sit about 1.5 degrees below the equator. Thus, the sun pretty much rises and sets at the same time…. every day…. all year! So for us “Northerners” who are on Daylight Saving Time and used to the sun currently going down at 8:30 PM, sunset at 5:45 yesterday evening was a bit early…!
Today, we were up early - breakfast call sounded at 6:45! After breakfast, the boat got underway again for the 2+ hour ride down to our first village. While enroute, the team gathered on the top deck for Portuguese language lessons so we would know basic phrases to help the people who came to the boat today. Language lessons also included learning some basic songs for the church service tonight. Merle Franks then gave us some things to consider during his devotion. Finally, we went through our various medical clinic roles one more time to make sure we were all somewhat comfortable with our jobs!
We arrived at San Pedro right about 10 AM. 3-4 long blasts on the boat’s horn let the people know we had arrived, and a bunch of kids ran down toward the water waiving to the boat. It took us about 30 minutes to get set up, and then the people started coming to see the doctor, get glasses, get a massage for a sore back or neck, or see the dentist. We had a slow but steady flow in the morning, but everyone who came got seen.
Roles: Kim (from Virginia) welcomed everyone onto the boat. Bonnie & Betty (from Indiana) made sure everyone got weighed & measured and had their blood pressure checked. Michele (from Indiana) is our doctor and was ably assisted by Earl as the primary translator. Steve (from Virginia) fitted folks for reading glasses and gave back & neck massages as needed. Lori and Joanne (from Indiana) passed out some basic medicines and controlled the flow to the pharmacy. Merle (from Wisconsin) assisted Michelle, our Brazilian dentist, in the dental room. Kathleen (from Indiana) assisted Ruth Anne in the pharmacy. Kelsey (from Indiana) played with the children up in the village. Chris (from Virginia) gave haircuts near the registration table up in the village. Finally, Judy & Karen (from Ohio) made balloon characters for the kids – those were a big hit!
We ate lunch around 12:30 and then got a chance to rest. The people started coming back on board around 2:30, and we had a steady flow until around 5:30. The final dental patients took a little longer – Michelle & Merle finished with their last patients around 6:15. At 6 PM, everyone who was available went up to the church for a service with the villagers. The village mayor and the church manager greeted us and thanked us profusely on behalf of the village; they said we are some of the only people who ever come to help them. We had a chance to greet them in the name of Jesus, sing a couple of songs for them, then tell the story of David and Goliath with a village boy acting as David and three team members being the Israelite Army and Goliath…..and we know how that story ended! Judy made an amazing mask of Goliath, and his sword, from balloons – you got to check out the pictures!
We got back to the boat just before 7 and had another delicious dinner. After that, a few folks relaxed on the upper deck and chatted about the day; we all eventually made our way to our rooms to get cleaned up from the day and get some sleep to be ready for tomorrow. All in all – a great day!!
Friday, 26 April 2019
This morning, we woke up to clouds and overcast conditions and the threat of rain. We ate breakfast at 7 AM, and then went upstairs about 7:45 for more language lessons and devotions. These are interesting lessons because while we are learning Portuguese, the crew members & staff are learning English. Devotions are the same way. Today, Daniel gave the devotion in Portuguese while Earl translated to English, and then Kathleen gave her devotion in English while Earl translated to Portuguese. It’s a great learning experience for those of us who speak each language!
As we finished devotions, the threat of rain turned into real rain…I mean REAL rain. The crew untied us from the shore and we left San Pedro in a heavy rain storm – we could see the waves of rain blowing across the lake! However, in true Amazon region fashion, we arrived at Santo Antonio 15 minutes later…to NO rain! As they say here, if you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes and it will change…!
We tied up to the shore, and then looked UP the hill to where the village was located - it was about 50 steps to get to the top of the hill! The rain had passed thru and the hill was wet & muddy, but one of the village leaders invited us up to his home for breakfast, so of course we went! We enjoyed very sweet coffee, some manioc cakes, some bread with cheese & vegetables inside, and another type of rolled cake with some of the same fillings. It was different, but very good, and the villagers were very welcoming. After staying up there for a short time, we all came back down to the boat and got to work in the clinic!
Clinic-wise, it was pretty much the same as yesterday – dental procedures, medical examinations, handing out pills & medication, fitting primarily older patients with reading glasses, and giving haircuts on shore by the boat. Personally (from Steve), it is pure joy to work with someone to get just the right power on the reading glasses and watch the person’s eyes light up as they read something very clearly! Most of what we fit is in the 1.00 to 2.50 range, but we have some patients come in who need stronger magnification. So…future trips could really use boxes of 3.00, 3.50, and 4.00 reading glasses – we have very few of those this time.
We broke for lunch at 12:30 then took some downtime to get some rest until 2:30. We reopened the clinic at 2:30 and saw our last medical patient around 5 PM. Because it gets dark so early here and the hill is so steep, we decided to do our story time around 5:15 so that we would not have to try to come back down the steep hill in the dark. Michelle & Merle still had several dental patients waiting, so the rest of us climbed the hill to help with the story.
Tonight’s story was about Jonah, and how it is not smart to run the other way when God tells us to do something for him. Judy & Karen outdid themselves with balloon props – a boat, Jonah, numerous sea creatures (held by the village children), and…of course…a whale….a BIG whale! Judy told the story while Earl translated, and everyone watched as Jonah disobeyed God, went the other way in a boat, got thrown into the ocean, swallowed by the whale…and then spit back out of the whale three days later….complete with silly string to simulate the whale spitting Jonah back on the shore! As you can imagine, everyone loved it….and learned about the importance of obeying God!
We all went back to the boat just before dark; Michelle & Merle finished their last dental patient just as we returned. After dinner, the crew untied the boat from the shore and we moved the boat about 15 minutes away to the town on the lake, Mocambo (pronounced “Moo-com-boo”), where we spent the night!
Saturday, 27 April 2019
We awoke to another overcast day and light rain during breakfast and devotions. Everyone seems to have easily settled into the normal daily routine. A treat during devotions today was the guitar playing and singing of two young guys from Pastor Daniel’s church here in Mocambo. The younger of the two (only 8 years old…) has an amazing voice. It was great to have them with us and help us during our singing and devotion time!
After devotions, we untied from Mocambo and moved about 15 minutes up the lake to the village of São Tome’ (Saint Thomas). This is larger than the last two villages at which we worked, so Earl told us we will be here overnight to take care of all who need the medical care. The medical team sees some really interesting stuff, some of which we cannot handle so we have to refer them to a clinic or hospital for some treatments. That said, most of the ailments are common things we would treat ourselves with over-the-counter medicines in the states, but those are things to which most of the people in this region do not have ready access. All of them are very appreciative for the medical and dental exams, treatments, teeth fillings, tooth restorations & extractions, medications, glasses, haircuts, and even the massages (i.e., backrubs) that they are able to get on the boat.
Clinic today was pretty much the same as yesterday; however, one man sticks in my mind… I don’t remember his name, but he seemed to be having a problem with his left arm. After he sat down in the medical exam room, I could literally see his left arm hanging from just below his shoulder. He explained that he was in an accident when he was 16 years old and lost about three inches of his upper arm bone. He still has his shoulder and all of his arm’s muscle & tissue – just no bone connecting his lower arm to his upper arm stub. However, he had a great attitude and perspective – he had learned to cope with his situation and went on with life. Something relatively easily fixed in the US has life-long impacts down here….
Clinic in the morning; lunch at 12:15; rest until 2:30; clinic until about 5:30 PM. Dinner was early tonight so that we could have a worship service up in the village at 7. We all went up there, and then the people came into the church from the village. We probably had over 100 people tonight; it was great to recognize many of them from seeing them on the boat earlier today! Earl led the service and mixed the message with great humor. The praise choruses we sang were those I remember from my much younger days, but they still have great meaning and resonate well with the Brazilian people! Everyone sang and clapped with great gusto! Judy and Karen shared a story with all of the children about how God has made each one of them special, and she used balloon animals to show all of the special animals God made before He made people! I’m amazed daily by the special talent God has given these two ladies!!
We closed in prayer and made our way back down to the boat, tired and ready to rest after a very gratifying day!
Sunday, April 28, 2019
We awoke again to overcast skies and light rain; the light rain soon became a medium to heavy rain! Like always though, we waited about 20-30 minutes, and the rain was gone! Another delicious breakfast followed by devotions, and then a special treat. The people of São Tome’ made breakfast for us as well! So, after devotions, we walked up the hill to the community center to be greeted by many of the villagers and a long table filled with food! The people sang a song warmly welcoming us to their village and thanking us for all we had done for them. All of the food was (I think…) locally sourced, so for those of you who are into such things, this was truly a “farm to table” breakfast! Any of you ever had coffee with tapioca in it? Definitely different…but pretty interesting…and tasty…and crunchy…! Some sweet bread, some regular bread, multiple kinds of fruit, flat bread into which we could roll up some of the fruit…lots of different things. All delicious, and a great experience to share with the crew and the townspeople in this setting!
After breakfast, we went back to the boat where we opened the clinic for those who could not be seen yesterday. We cared for another 30-40 medical and 20+ dental patients this morning. We ate lunch as the last dental patients were finishing treatment, and then went into our “traditional” post-lunch rest period. We are all having fun finding out about each other, our families, and the different mission experiences we’ve had over the years!
As we were resting, the crew cast off from São Tome’ and we traveled 15-20 minutes back to the town of Mocambo where we tied up a couple nights ago. As we were moving the boat, a pretty intense rain storm hit so we battened down the hatches, rolled down the top deck side covers, and waited for the rain to end…which it did in about 20 minutes. To allow things to dry out a little bit, we held off on starting afternoon clinic until 3:30 PM.
When we opened the doors, the people were waiting up on the hill. They quickly got registered with Rose’, and then started flowing down to the boat. A great development today is that our dental hygienist, Diandra, was able to join us, so she is now handling all of the cleanings and child tooth extractions while Michelle & Merle take care of adult extractions, fillings, and tooth restorations. Kelsey changed roles – she is now helping Diandra with the dental cleanings and pediatric extractions. In total, we saw probably 50 people in clinic this afternoon for both dental and medical checks, and Chris gave 11 haircuts. Judy and Karen made a of balloon creatures for the story of Creation during the church service tonight!!
After dinner, we walked up the hill to a building in the village where Daniel will soon be leading the church services. This building is approximately 25’ wide by 35’ long…and we packed 150 people inside…no fans…no breeze…but lots of great spirit! We learned that this was actually a meeting of 3 cell groups in this town and they all came together to meet with us. It was awesome!! Judy shared the story of Creation using all of the team holding the various balloon creatures AND Adam & Eve! After the service ended, just about every child received a balloon creature of some sort! Very meaningful tonight was taking communion with the believers from the village. I was somewhat surprised when it didn’t seem like many people were taking communion, but we then learned that new believers in Brazil don’t take communion until after they’ve been baptized, and the folks in this village don’t get baptized until they’ve completed a couple of discipleship classes. Because of the huge spiritism influence in this region, Earl and Daniel want to make sure people know to what they are committing their lives! Culturally, it is not an easy decision to become a Christian here… We walked back to the boat and everyone settled down for the night after a long but rewarding day!
Monday, 29 April 2019
Morning #6 on the CBM Amazonas! Another delicious breakfast, and another great time of devotions and praise! Devotions this morning were from Kelsey (Indiana) and Sonderley (Captain of the boat)! It is always amazing to see how God ties together devotions from two people who did not collaborate and who give their devotions in different languages. Many thanks to Earl for translating in both directions…!
After devotions, Earl explained in more detail the Central Brazil Mission philosophy for growing a ministry by making disciples – “Make Disciples; Make Better Disciples, Make More Disciples.” Basically, it is going into a new location, finding a man of influence with a heart open to God, help that man accept Jesus as Savior, and then disciple him. As he is discipled, he helps bring his own family to Christ, and he looks for other men in the community with hearts open to God, and brings them to Jesus. They then bring their families to Jesus, find other men with hearts open to Jesus….and the cycle continues. It may seem slow, but it’s very effective, particularly in this region. If the father accepts Christ, there’s a 90% probability the family will follow in his steps. Using this method, Daniel has grown the ministry in Mocambo from himself and his family to three cell groups and over 150 people in just two years. THAT is amazing!
We also learned about marriage here in the Amazonas region. Many couples have been together for many years and have multiple children; however, many are not married. The most common reason? They can’t afford the state marriage license! They live together, have children, are committed to each other, but aren’t legally married in the government eyes due to the inability to pay for the marriage license…
We saw some of the fruit of Daniel’s work this morning after devotions. The crew moved the boat to the other side of the river where the water was shallower. There, Daniel and Steve baptized Adjilson (one of Daniel’s disciples) and four students / young adults who have accepted Christ and completed their Christian education classes. What a privilege to witness and be part of celebrating this direct “fruit” of God’s effort through Daniel!
After the baptisms, we returned to the other side of the river, tied up where we were before, and opened the doors for clinic. There were a bunch of people waiting…..but we got them all into the clinics and taken care of before closing down for lunch around 12:30. After 5 days of clinic in 4 villages, we have: treated 536 medical patients; treated 160 dental patients and performed 271 dental procedures; fitted 96 pairs of reading glasses (in most cases, the only glassed these people will ever get…); and, given 68 haircuts and 8 massages. And we still have one more village to go!
After lunch, the crew repositioned the boat around to the main part of Mocambo. Almost all of us took the opportunity to walk around the town a little bit, find the internet café, connect to Wi-Fi, and download emails from home and/or work and send some responses! Not having connectivity has actually been pretty nice the last 5 days….but it’s always good to reconnect the family back home!
We will stay tied up here tonight and enjoy a little down time after 6 very busy days. We will need to make more bags of adult vitamins and over the counter pain meds (Tylenol & Ibuprofen) as we have given out all we had already prepared. We will probably do that after dinner.
Tomorrow morning, we will go to the last village for a medical stop, and then on to spend the night in São Sebastão! We expect to be working at the greenhouse all day on Wednesday…. but this is the Amazon, so that may change!!
Tuesday, 30 April 2019
Morning #7 – last morning on the lake just off the Amazon before we start heading back upriver! During the night or early morning, two local ferry boats tied up on either side of us. One – the “Cuidado de Mocambo” – looks like it regularly makes trips from Mocambo to Parantins and back (about 4-5 hours each way) and Mocambo to Manaus and back (probably 24-30 hours up and 20 hours back). The other boat was a little bit smaller and slightly more “rustic”. In both cases, passengers board the boats with whatever they are taking to their destination, and then promptly hang their hammock on one of the two main decks. Their hammock serves as their seat for the trip, and their bed if the trip is overnight. These boats are the primary transportation means for products moving to and from this area, and pretty much anything smaller than a car that can be loaded aboard is carried – bags of produce, bicycles, motorcycles, etc… This is life along the Amazon!
After breakfast, we said goodbye to Mocambo and the villages along the lake that we had visited. Captain Sonderley and the crew threaded the boat back through the narrow channels thru which we came last Thursday, including one “hairpin” curve around a large bush with beautiful yellow flowers where the boat basically turned 180 degrees to stay in the channel, and we were back in the main Amazon River in about 45 minutes.
We turned west and headed back upriver toward São Sebastião. Along the way, we passed what I call an Amazon “truck train”. We’ve all probably seen a railroad train in the US moving down the track with many flatbeds carrying tractor trailer trailers. Imagine a tugboat pushing two barges upriver, and each barge carrying 40 trailers for a total of 80 trailers. Pretty interesting to see – we passed along the right side since we can move faster. A similar but equally interesting sight from my last trip was an Amazon cattle “truck”. Again, you’ve probably seen a livestock truck moving down the interstate; imagine a basically flatbed boat with livestock pens carrying several hundred cattle… Yep, quite a sight!
We arrived in the small village of Remanso (pronounced “Ray-mon-soo) around 10:15. The channel is too shallow to get the boat through to the main village area, so we tied up on a point of land in a cove on the north side of the river where many people were already waiting. They had come over from the village by small boat because they knew this is where we would be – word travels fast!! The team quickly set up the registration table on shore, and Rose’ started getting patients ready to be seen. We opened the doors, and the people started coming in!
We saw patients until just after noon, and then took a quick break for lunch. After lunch, we started seeing patients again around 1:15. We finished right around 3:30, and then started closing down the clinic spaces. The crew untied us from the shore, and we started heading upriver toward São Sebastião. Remanso was our last village for medical ministry, so here are the final numbers for people we served: treated 633 medical patients and 191 dental patients; performed 330 dental procedures; fitted 100 sets of reading glasses; gave 73 haircuts; and, gave 9 lower & upper back massages. An amazing amount of people that God allowed us to serve!
It was a beautiful afternoon & evening to cruise up the Amazon! Many of us took some great sunset pictures from the top deck; the rain cooperated by staying away so we had a nice breeze blowing across the boat! Along the way, we also had “pods” of cell phone coverage, so many folks were able to contact the folks back home and check in! We had dinner about 6:30 PM, and then an impromptu birthday celebration for Judson (one of the crew) when the crew came in for dinner! The kitchen ladies made a HUGE cake with delicious chocolate icing, so no one went without cake!
We passed the town of Urucará around 7:45 and continued upriver. It gets dark here so early…and so completely (no streetlights along the Amazon…!) that Urucará appeared as a bunch of sparkling lights along a very black shoreline. It was really neat to see the city from the river! About an hour later, we arrived in São Sebastião. The crew pulled us right up to the seawall and we tied off to some of the rail posts along the wall. A very nice and uneventful ride and it was great to settle in for some rest after a busy day!
Tomorrow….we work in the greenhouse and the chicken palace!
Wednesday, 1 May 2019
Breakfast call sounded about 06:45, and we all exited our cabins to very gray skies and a pretty sustained rainfall. After breakfast, we made our way up to the top deck for singing and devotions. We had another great time of praising and worshipping God! After we finished, and since it was still raining, we went around the circle and had each team member and crew member tell a little bit about themselves! It was fun to learn who is married and for how long, how many kids & grandkids & (in some cases…) great grandkids everyone has, and what they do!
The rain is continuing but seems to be weakening, so we decided to hold off going to work in the greenhouse and chicken palace until after lunch. This will prevent us getting soaked walking to the greenhouse and thereby make everyone a little less susceptible to the colds that seem to be making the rounds.
Sure enough, the sun came out around 11:30! We ate lunch and then had a chance to purchase some hand-made craft items, made by ladies in one of the villages we visited, and brought to the boat for our consideration. It is great to be able to buy some of these items because it helps the ladies who make them care for their families!
We headed to the greenhouse around 1:30. We were told it was about a mile walk; it may actually be closer to two…! Regardless, we all eventually got there; some “smarter” folks rode in a small pickup – just wasn’t big enough for everyone! On arrival, the new folks realized this was Santana’s home and a home for visiting missionaries. Santana runs the compound that includes the Chicken Palace, the greenhouse, the Mission Training Center, and a full-size soccer field…plus probably a couple of other things! Earl let us look inside the mission house, and Santana graciously allowed us to tour her home as well. Both are very nice – really cool to see a full-size jaguar hide on the wall in Santana’s living room! Earl then took us on a quick tour of the compound…then we got to work! Some folks were sifting dirt to make potting soil for planting greenhouse seedlings. A second group was filling the small plastic cups we use on the boat with the potting soil and then planting seedlings. The third group helped a couple of the greenhouse workers hoe / break up three rows of soil and then spread compost on them to get them ready for the next item to be planted. It was really neat to see the operation and to grasp the potential of what can happen with this facility!
We finished our various tasks, took a break from the heat with some sweet rolls and ice cream, and then had a chance to look at some home-made jewelry that Santana makes. Most of us walked away with a couple of purchases here as well…! We all then headed back to the boat; a few of us walked a more circuitous route to go see the Christian Church that has been operating here for more than 15 years! We got back to the boat and had a little bit of time to cool down and clean up from a hot afternoon…then it was time for supper! Supper tonight included some very excellent French Fries…a real treat!
After supper, we just relaxed on the upper deck, watched the town come alive after a day off of work (it’s Labor Day everywhere but in the US…!), and then eventually turned in after a great day!
Thursday, 2 May 2019
We awoke to more overcast skies and a light rain. After breakfast, Earl gave us a good bit of the history on how he and Ruth Anne first came to Brazil in 1969, how the mission work progressed for them over the years, and how they were led to start the Central Brazil Mission work bringing Jesus and medical care to villages in the Central Amazon region. It was fascinating, and a true testimony of following God while also being deliberate about setting goals and taking concrete actions to achieve them. As Earl said, “wherever Jesus goes, everything gets better!”
If you are not aware, this is the “50/60 Summer” for the Haubners. This year, Earl and Ruth Anne celebrate 50 years of missions ministry in Brazil; more importantly, the celebrate 60 years of marriage!! Congratulations to both of them for attaining both of these significant milestones.
Earl took care of some paperwork ashore at the courthouse, and Michelle took care of some medical matters for 2-3 families from the São Sebastião Christian Church. The crew untied from the dock, and we started the trip back to Manaus at 11:05 this morning!
The water is still high, so we’re going back the way we came – this will save almost two hours of travel time over having to take the alternate route used when the water is low. Life and travel in this region really does revolve around the river! We will make 1 or 2 quick stops along the way, and we expect to arrive at the “Encounter of the Waters” (where the Rio Amazon and the Rio Negro meet outside Manaus) sometime between 6 & 7 AM tomorrow. The rest of the day is just getting things ready to pack tomorrow, kicking back for the ride, and watching the river and other boats go by!
We did pass a couple of ocean-going freighter ships….once again reminding us of just how big the Amazon really is! I’m not sure there is any other place in the world where ocean-going freighters can travel 1,000 miles inland from the mouth of a river…!
Friday, 3 May 2019
Our last day in Brazil…sigh…
Quite a few of us were up before 6 AM so that we could see the Encounter of the Waters. It was overcast this morning, so that made getting good pictures fairly difficult; however, we could clearly see where the Rio Negro flows into the Rio Amazon. In most situations in nature, black consumes just about every other color…but not here. The flow of the Amazon is so great that, although the Rio Negro is a significant river by itself (probably on the order of the Ohio River…or larger), the black color of the Rio Negro is completely gone within 5-10 miles downstream. It was very cool to see this!
Shortly after passing the Encounter of the Waters, Earl announced breakfast…our last one on the boat for this trip! As always, it was delicious. After breakfast, we gathered on the first deck for our trip into Manaus. Just getting off the “pier” was on obstacle course. Tied up right next to us was a passenger ship headed downriver to Parantins and beyond. There must have been 200 or more hammocks hung on the two main decks – really gave a clear picture of how people travel up and down this river on longer trips. People were coming and going bringing all manner of cargo onto the ship. On the front of the boat were vehicles, boats, building supplies, and other items too large to fit in the cargo hold. These ships truly are the combination passenger & freight transportation throughout the Amazon.
Still not off the pier, we walked past probably 20 small boats tied up next to the wall, all with fresh fish laid out in the boat waiting to be sold. Sellers were haggling with buyers over prices and quantities – with so many sellers, I wondered how much of the fish never got sold – and this goes on every day! Off the pier, across the street, and into the Manaus Fish Market! Wow. We walked up and down 5 rows of vendors selling fish to individuals looking for today’s lunch or dinner or restaurants looking for tonight’s menu feature. Small fish up to big fillets off of very large fish – if you wanted it, you could probably find it!
Next to the fish market was the meat market, but we didn’t walk down those rows. Moving toward the other end of the huge building, we transitioned into the vegetable market where again you can probably find anything you want. We stopped in a couple of stalls to buy some specialty items (example…fish scales (that women use to file their fingernails) and fish tongues (that women use to sand the bottom of their feet) and we saw the stall where the crew gets most of the produce we eat onboard. From there, we went to a fruit market (tons of watermelons….think about it – they have a 12 month growing season down here…), but nothing really unusual.
After that, back to the main street and on to the main souvenir market. Over the years, Earl has developed a good relationship with a booth owner who has much of what tourists like us are looking for, and just about everyone walked away with something for the folks back home! From the souvenir market, it was on to the hammock (called “hedgies” down here) where we saw some really nice hammocks. Again, most people found either a hammock or hammock chair to take home! Last stop this morning was the store for machetes or Brazilian flags! Once we finished here, we headed back to the boat for lunch!
After lunch, many folks ventured back out for one more stop – the soccer jersey store! Others stayed on board to start packing and just get some rest after today’s early start. When everyone was back on board, we untied from downtown Manaus and headed up the Rio Negro, under the big bridge, and tied up at the seawall by the Tropical Hotel – one of the big hotels along this very nice area near the airport. For me, it’s fascinating to see just how much the water level has changed since I was here last October. In October, the boat was tied up probably 75 yards from the wall and about 40 feet lower. Now, we are tied up right to the wall and only have 5 steps to get to the top. Amazing how much this river changes over 6 months!
Well, that will about do it for this journal! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it! We have about 6 & ½ hours until we leave for the airport, so some of us may explore the Tropical hotel (I’m told we can swim in their pool…!), some are going to the zoo, and the guys are going to Bob’s Shake Shop to get a milk shake! After dinner, the bus arrives at 9:30, and we head for the airport! It’s been a fantastic trip, but it will be wonderful to get home!
As they say here in Brazil, Tchao!!