5 days / 5 nights could be the title for a glorious party week, I guess, but in this case that's what it takes to go from Manaus to Belém by boat down the Amazonas river - sleeping in a hammock. When I first heard about the possibility of doing that, I had this idyllic image in mind: a small wooden boat, a handful of people, I don't know, bbq on the boat, chilling in your hammock and enjoying the scenery of the rainforest passing by some meters away the shore of the river. Well, it rather looks like this:
So as we assumed some 300 people on two decks. Together with a guy from Canada and one from Sweden we were not first to go aboard so it was a bit of challenge to find a good free spot. But then again regardless when you actually might have hung up your hammock, you anyways could be ending up with another hammock hanging above or below you - bunk hammocks so to say. And ours was by far not the only boat taking that journey:
Travelling like that is the cheapest way to go from A to B on the Amazonas river and quite a lot of people make use of that.
The bathrooms and facilities are quite basic and well, often frankly also quite disgusting. But this toilet with a view is at least creative! ;-)
Maybe I have to add that for the bathrooms it's always a combination of a toilet in a shower and a small sink squeezed into a room of 2 m2. As it would take a second boat to carry water for the bathrooms for 300 people, they use the water of the river. Which genuinelly is an efficient idea, but it isn't exactly completely clear water and with the boat hanging a bit to wrong side for the drains you at the end of the day end up with quite a bit of suspicously looking brownish ankle deep water in these rooms.
Three meals per day were available (basically consisting of some sort of meat, beans (we're in Brazil, so what else ;-) ) and the at least up North in Brazil classic combination of rice and spaghetti, which I still can not get my head around why you would want to have both. With slight variations this was it for 5 days. Needless to say, possible stops along the way were always used to get some supplies or grab a quick meal on land. ;-)
Okay I think up to here all this sounds maybe a bit too much on the complaining side. Therefore, to give the right impression here; I actually knew upfront that it's gonna be basic and not exactly a luxury ride and I was eager to do it. What I found the interesting was the idea to spend 5 days on a boat with - as it is the cheapest means of travel - something like 90 % locals and an overlookable group of tourists. As I don't speak any useful degree (well, close to zero in fact) of Portuguese real conversations only took place with other travellers and with all the locals it was smiling and pointing at things and again smiling. Okay, I'm exaggerating here of course! There were also a lot of thumbs up included! ;-)
With so much time on your hands and so little of room to move around on that boat, there are not too many possibilities to kill some time: chatting with people, reading, listening to music, sleeping and yes, you've guessed correctly getting wasted! And as boozing of course is a leisure activity all over the world, this brings together locals and travellers. Still nobody will quite understand the other (if that wasn't the case before at least), but at least you share a laugh.
So all in all I find such a boat trip is a bit of a social experience to challenge yourself and maybe not the right thing for everybody. My Swedish buddy, that I mentioned earlier, was almost going crazy on that boat and ran off it, as soon as he could in the end!
I can only recommend it although I might not necessarily do consequative trips like that for up to two weeks as some of the travellers did.
And maybe as this was also a new experience to me, I have to mention that sleeping in a hammock is a real option if you are not able to catch a bed. In fact I slept in hammocks quite a lot as long as I still was in Brazil.
Classic combo on the first day directly bought at the harbour - at the point we didn't know that it's gonna be the same for every day of the trip. If we would have, I think we would have gone for something else! ;-D
Up to now I'm still impressed how patient the kids were on this boat. Playing with each other, running around on the boat, drawing, maybe doing the hair of the girl travellers or the other way around and trying to talk to us and possibly wondering how these pale looking folks do not understanding a bit of Portuguese (well, again at least in my case!). ;-)
Sorry for the long post, here's picture of a sunset on the Amazonas river and some impressions: