Fast boat experience in Amazonas … [Brazil]

This blog relates my experiences when I took the “Fast Boat” from Manaus to Tefe, in the Amazonas state of Brazil. Amazon is such a might river, I even saw huge ships use it!

In my entire trip, there was a “weak spot” or a “risky point”. That was: I did not have an advance Speed Boat booking to Tefe from Manaus (520 Kilometers!). The main reason was the logistics. Since boat ticket booking is not an organized sector, it is easy to get duped if you try online and also, online agents overcharge a lot. The best is to book a few days in advance, in person. But my jam-packed 5-Country Itinerary did not allow that luxury. My flight to Manaus landed at 01:20 and I needed to catch the 06:00 Speed Boat (“Cidade de Manaquiri”) off-the-cuff. What if the Boat was full or even worse, overfull? What happens to my Tefe Hotel booking? What if I do not get into this boat and even worse, am unable to book for tomorrow (Monday) because Sunday is a holiday here? What if I am late for my date with Mamiraua Tribe? Will I get a decent hotel room for tonight in Manaus if I do not make it into this boat?

When I located the boat (04:10) , there were 2 guys already waiting to get in. Like me, they did not have advance booking. (Actually, I mistook them for some influential Boat Dudes and even asked if I could buy a ticket from them 🙂. They turned out to be fellow-vagabonds). The Speed Boat is not very large. People started coming in. The staff of the boat told me the boat was full!!! A Good Samaritan who knew a little English helped me negotiate with the Boat Staff. My plight and the “Innocent George caught in the Amazon Jungles” demeanor seemed to have major impact. Several locals made a case for me to boat staff. The staff said that they will consider if there are No-Shows. Since they asked me to wait at the ticket counter, which was smack in the middle of the Boat/Ferry Terminal, I was on public display, as the “Rare non-Amazonian/Brazilian Specimen”. I kept up a pleasant smiling face (As much as my face can be “pleasant”) and at the same time a forlorn look. Passengers started coming in droves. Each time a new set of passengers came in and they marked off names in the “list” with that yellow marker, my hopes for a ticket to Tefe diminished. By 05:30 almost all passengers had arrived. Yet, there was a trickle coming in. By 05:55, there were still 5-6 people who did not show up. The main Boat guy, who handled the ticketing gave me a thumbs-up 🙂 I was in! Yay! At exactly 06:00, the boat gave 3 loud horns/hoots (Which whole of Brazil must have heard), packed in the few “last-minuter vagabonds” like me and took off in a hurry. The speed of the boat, considering it is not the latest technology and it carries a lot of passengers (100 or so) and their myriad heavy bags, the speed was amazing. My seat was right in the back. Though they adjusted a proper seat for me, I said I liked the seat at the back. Mainly 2 reasons: (1) Mobility: To stretch my legs and take occasional photos (Else I will be disturbing others with my constant movements) (2) Back support: The rear seat had the perfect incline and back-support for me. (3) Immense leg-space.

Whenever I saw the earlier-mentioned Good Samaritan, I smiled and thanked him (Thumbs Up!). A very helpful and good-natured guy. If only all the remote tourist spots had such people …

Breakfast (BF) service was at 06:45. Ham/Cheese sandwich, Coffee (Albeit with Sugar, which I normally do not have) and a piece of cake. The staff served the BF at our seats.

Boat had 1 Captain and 2 Asst. Captains, 4 Cabin Stewards and 1 Food Manager Lady. There were 2 restrooms (Decently clean and well-maintained), ACs, Flat-Panel TVs showing Brazilian fare and occasional Hollywood movies (In Portuguese), Round-the-Clock Hot Chocolate and Coffee (With generous dose of Sugar 🙂 Coffee with Sugar is better than no Coffee at all) …

A Dentist, working in Tefe, who was a fellow-vagabond, sat next to me. He proudly showed me pictures of his Family and his Clinic. Without understanding pretty much what each other was saying, we managed to share a Beer (He bought 🙂).

A boat of 100+ people where me and 2 US ladies are the only non-Locals! Yay … Love it 🙂

0745: Everyone (except staff) is taking a nap. Only I am moving around like a caged Tiger. Took many photos, of whatever I found interesting.

“Coming out of the comfort zone”
1. A country (Brazil) new to me …
2. A language (Portuguese) I know squat about …
3. A town (Manaus) I am visiting for the 1st time …4. An airport (MAO, Eduardo Gomez Airport) I had pretty much all to myself … @02:00.
5. Non-official taxi … Did not see any official taxis around …
6. Heavy Backpack, Heavy Souvenir Suitcase and DSLR Kit. Even if I wanted to run, it would take some running …
7. At the Manaus Port at 03:45AM … Just me, shady dudes and stray dogs … Very aggressive stray dogs. At one point, 5-6 of them surrounded me.
8. All alone!!! No one else to lean on. No one else to pick up the slack for me.
Most might call it “Crazy”. I call it “Living” … 🙂
 Me and the World! For me, it is a powerful drug, albeit a healthy one.

The Boarding area … Well before the boarding actually starts 🙂

The staff, in uniforms, helping passengers board. Since I did not have a ticket, yet, I stood around and watched.

The busy staff … Your luggage gets tags, like in flights.

The Boat ticket …

Breakfast … Cheese/Ham Sandwich and Coffee (With excess Sugar 🙂

The main seating area … I sat in the very back, out of choice. Liked the legroom and company there.

My Saviour …. The guy who finally let me into the boat, leaving for his home. This is 30min after leaving Manaus.

An interesting way of washing a cloth … 🙂

The local guy who talked a lot to me (Not a word I understood 🙂
). After all that discussion (!), he gave me a big handshake.

Lady/Cook cleaning and cutting the Chicken (Lunch, I correctly assumed) … She was fast. All the waste went where? Amazon, of course! 🙂
 Food for Pirhanas??? Or the Alligators/Crocodiles. I wish she had cleaned out the Chicken skin more. I hate Chicken skin. She worked pretty fast. In a way it is good that the food is cooked fresh … She was working non-stop. Cooking, Cleaning, Cooking again … In a loop. For 100 people! Breakfast, Snack, Lunch, Snack, Dinner Etc. Though I get down at Tefe, the boat continues to Tabitanga … She will be exhausted by the time the boat reaches the final destination.

View from my vantage point … Right in the rear.

They showed movies, Hollywood Movies, round the clock … “Pacific Rim” going on.

The Cook cutting Pineapples … For dessert.

Best way to spend time during a long boat journey? Sleep 🙂

Lunch … 11:30: Lunch! Rice + Beans + Chorizo-Piece + Noodles (They call it Spaghettti) + Chicken/Gravy + Salad + Pineapple. They also served Coke/Fanta. Once the lunch was done, utensils and trays went into bin (To be cleaned up later, i guess) and food waste and paper waste went into … you guessed it! Amazon. Please note that I am on Rio Solimoes (from Peru side. There is also Rio Negro, both of which combine (at Manaus) to form the mighty Amazon that ultimately flows into the Atlantic. I was worried about where he will throw the plastic cups they had used for Coke/Fanta. I was glad to note that he threw them into a separate recycle bin 🙂
 I had read in Blogs that Amazon is filthy. At least I did not see piles of floating plastic garbage, yet. Fun-Fact about Brazil: Brazil shares land border with all South American countries, except Ecuador and Chile.

Staff handing out Lunch plates …

Not my cup of tea … Fanta!

The Dentist. He was a jolly fellow. Kept on encouraging me to take pictures of pretty much everyone in the boat! Therefore, I got the photos of a lot of strangers 🙂
 We met a local MMA Champion and his Manager. The Manager showed us pictures and videos of the guy fighting and also of him wearing his belt.

Staff cleaning the plates … Organic waste into Amazon 🙂
 Non-biodegradable stuff into recycle bins.

Since the journey was upstream, the boat hugged the coast most of the time, to avoid the strong currents in the middle.

The pantry … One can buy Snacks, Beer Etc. for a nominal charge.

“Touchings” … With Beer 🙂

The freezer … We were all hanging out near it. Why? Beer!!!

The Dentist is not the best in cleaning up after himself. Look where he left his 4 (!) beer cans … Inside, I wanted to break his damn teeth ….In that case, good that he is a Dentist 😉

Hangout area … Rear deck.

Since the journey was upstream, the boat hugged the coast most of the time, to avoid the strong currents in the middle.

It is right after the rainy season and one can see why …

Villages on the way … It is amazing to see people live a normal life in the Rain-forests.

Erosion is a problem for rivers as well. Note that no other river discharges more water than the Amazon.

Coari town … Next stop? Tefe.

There were many floating establishments in Coari …

What does a lot of Beer do to a person? Dentist is down and out 🙂

Dinner … Beef!

19:30: Engine breakdown!!! Guys try to repair. 28 miles from Tefe. In 1.25hr they got the engine whipped up into some kind of shape and we started again. I must say the 2-3 guys really rolled up their sleeves on that one ….




One thought on “Fast boat experience in Amazonas … [Brazil]

  1. Pingback: Fast boat experience in Amazonas … [Brazil] — One Step At A Time … (George Attokaran’s Blog) | msamba

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