During the planning stages of my sister’s month long stay, we discussed possible Brasilian excursions, finally opting for
the most intimidating option. To ensure complete hypochondriasis, I prolonged my yellow fever vaccination until the week we left…
only making it active half-way through our trip. Brilliant. Here we are on the first leg of our midnight flight to Manaus (aka the Amazon).
After finally arriving in Santarém at 7:00 am, we shuffled over to the bus stop and were quickly offered a ride by these two guys.
In our sleep-deprived state, we concluded that they looked like great huggers and hopped in. The boys dropped us
at a corner in town and we quickly caught a local bus (R$2.30) to our final destination.
Most communities in the Amazon revolve around the vast network of waterways.
Traveling by boat is the most affordable method, and many livelihoods are sustained by the rivers here.
Alter do Chão is a small beach town located on the Tapajós River (a large tributary of the Amazon). Between July and January
the water levels recede and white sand beaches, such as the Praia do Amor, appear a stone’s throw from shore. Primarily a weekend jaunt for
Brasilians in neighboring communities, it has retained much of its charm and does not fully cater to tourists (ie. no ATMs).
The heart of Alter do Chão lies in its praça. The local church, restaurants, and free wireless provided by the government
can all be found here. Each night we observed various activities and festivals like this Capoeira School practicing in the square.
Capoeira is a Brasilian martial art that includes both music and dance. Rooted in African culture, it originated by blending traditions
during the slave trade 500 years ago. Lacking a method to defend themselves, this practice disguised strength and agility training as dance,
giving the slaves hope for survival. The motions are complex, quick, and fascinating to watch in action.
Festival do Boto Cor-de-Rosa (Pink River Dolphin Festival): A huge spectacle with choreographed traditional and
popular dances, theatrical presentations, and allegories presented with extravagant costumes.
Both a wonderful cultural experience and an opportunity to sample regional street foods.
Our last night in town, the community gathered after Sunday night mass to watch a humorous
depiction of local traditions put on by the children in town.
During the day we shelled out R$5 per hour and kayaked around Ilha do Amor (Island of Love).
The island was still partially flooded, making it possible to stroll through the ankle-deep waters.
Also creating slightly awkward photographs.
After reading about about numerous stingray mishaps in this area, we happily stuck to paddling.
When we did walk in shallow water, we spent the majority of our time kicking sand to shoo them away.
A quick paddle-through for popsicles near Lago Verde.
Enjoying the resplendent sunset from the dock near our lovely Pousada do Tapajós.
And then this happened…classic case of wrong place, wrong time.
The bridge spontaneously buckled and I was lucky to survive.
That was a complete fabrication. We might have seven different versions of this photograph.
Although Lisa would never spend twelve minutes of her life to feign a bridge collapse in front of a
large crowd of people, she knew it would take little convincing for me to do so. SO worth it.
Alter do Chão is a remarkable destination for reasons other than its laid back beach town ways…
its proximity to Floresta Nacional do Tapajós for Amazon excursions paired with community-based tourism
ranks it as a new favorite travel destination. During our stay we ventured into the rainforest… more on that to come!