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.
Me and the World! For me, it is a powerful drug, albeit a healthy one.
). After all that discussion (!), he gave me a big handshake.
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.
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.
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.
Non-biodegradable stuff into recycle bins.