Santarém is a city in the state of Pará in Brazil. The Tapajós joins the Amazon River there, and it is a popular location for tourism. It was once home to the Tapajós Indians, a tribe of Native Americans after which the river was named, and the leaders of a large, agricultural chiefdom that flourished before the arrival of Europeans. Santarém is also the name of the original city in Portugal, that gave the name Santarém to this Brazilian city. The city is the home to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Santarém.
Santarém is an important regional market center in Lower Amazonia located midway between the larger cities of Belém and Manaus. The economy is based on agriculture, cattle and mining. The city has seen many ‘cycles’ of development dominated by one or a few economic activities, including (in the last century) rubber tapping, coffee production and gold mining. Most recently, there has been a huge growth in the area of soy plantations.
Many ‘Mocorongos’ seek to create a new Brazilian state by dividing the enormous state of Pará into western and eastern regions. The new state (the western part) would be called Tapajós, with Santarém serving as the capital.
Santarém is bordered by the Amazon and the Tapajós rivers. Both run along many kilometers in the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. The Amazon’s milky colored water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós’s water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. This phenomenon is called “The meeting of the waters” by the locals.
The meeting of the waters as seen from the observation deck of the Prinsendam.
We slept in this morning. I didn’t get up until 7:30, I believe this is the longest night’s sleep I have had since the cruise began. I turned the lights out a 12:45 so I got over 7 hours of sleep! Maybe I will be able to stay awake today during any lectures we might haveJ. The scenery along the Amazon is beautiful; it is amazing how much variation you see in such a short period of time. About an hour ago we passed an area with high cliffs on the port side (our side) of the ship. Kay was fascinated with the geological striations shown in the rocks. It appears some of her museum work has rubbed off on her…
We elected to just have coffee and a sweet roll early and plan go for a full breakfast around 10:30. Our hiking trip in the Tapajos National Forrest is scheduled for 12:30 so we plan to skip lunch and look forward to a splendid meal in the Pinnacle restaurant this evening.
As we entered the Amazon we were asked to conserve water as much as possible. While on the Amazon, it will not be possible for the ship to produce fresh water onboard due to the poor quality of the river water and the sediment that clogs up the evaporators. The ship will only be able to load limited quantities of fresh water from ashore. The main laundry will operate at minimum capacity and we are asked to recycle bath towels whenever possible and conserve water by not letting taps and showers run excessively when not in use. This isn’t really a hardship; just another part of the “adventure” of traveling is places a little more remote. We trust that none of our fellow passengers will go lacking in the hygiene areaJ.
A few photos taken from the ship and the pier. The Prinsendam is behind the local transportation in the above photo. This is the primary means of transportation, even for long trips. Our guide said airfare to Belem from Santarem is about $400 each way. The cost by boat is only $100. We saw families loading what looked like their entire house furnishings onto these boats. Some trips may last for days or even over a week.
Many of the crew members also enjoy taking photos. On every shore excursion we have been on, some crew members have been along. It appears that many of our ports are so infrequently visited that even the crew gets excited about the stop.
Our trip today to the Tapajos National Forrest was very enjoyable. We left the ship on time for our excursion. We were able to dock today and did not have t use tenders. That is always good news. Just outside the port were a variety of various venders selling everything from hand crafted items to t-shirts. I saw some wood carvings I want to look at closer when we return from our trip.
The buses for the 45 minute ride are not air-conditioned, but the guides are much more professional than the ones we had in Macapa yesterday. They spoke good English and were very organized.
After we arrived in near the entrance to the National Forrest, we visited a local family near the entrance. Here we were provided with the hospitality of using their restroom facilities since there are none located in the rainforest. The ladies were invited to use the home facilities and the men were asked to do as the jungle men do, use the outside woods.
The home was very basic, but well maintained and spotless! Our host was most kind even though she did not speak a word of English. We were also offered the opportunity to taste some local fruit grown on their property. One was called the sour-sap fruit, and I don’t a have any idea what the name of the other fruit was, but they were both very tasty.
Many unusual and interesting things were seen in the rainforest. For Kay and I this is the third rainforest we have had the privilege of hiking in. We have hiked in the forests of Costa Rica and Queensland Australia. Although each has its own special characteristics, they are more similar than different.
A few things seen are in the photos which follow.
This is a plant where a red dye is obtained which he referred to as paprika. Not the spicy type we use in food, but a type they use for the color. The natives use the dye for ritual face painting as well as other things.
This is a particular type of coconut palm which protects its fruit by having these sharp spines all along the tree trunk. The Indians have used these spines both to make combs and to make sharp blow darts to hunt small animals.
This is a rubber tree which has been tapped many times for its latex.
This is the root of a tree the guide called the milk-of-magnesia tree. The sap is used to treat stomach problems and does look like MOM. The guide said it tasted like MOM as well. I did not sample any…. He said the red color was caused by an excess of iron in the nutrients.
Above is a morphs butterfly. Kay was excited to have the opportunity to see this species in the wild. It is one of the butterflies they talk about in the Tellus Museum where she works part-time. Unfortunately we were not able to get a photograph with its wings open to see the beautiful blue color of the wing tops.
Oh, I almost forgot to update you about our meal in the Pinnacle restaurant tonight. Since we were late returning to the ship from our excursions, we had reservations for 7PM. We finished our dinner over 2 hours later at 9:15 PM and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were pampered with 4 waiters plus a wine steward. The food was fantastic. I had what was probably the best rib-eye I have ever eaten. The soup I chose was spicy chicken coconut, a Thai dish since the head chef is Thailand. It was incredible! After dinner the chef came to the table to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.
Tonight we finally get to turn the clock BACK one hour. Unfortunately this will only last for four days and then it gets moved up again. The time changes are hard to adjust to. Tomorrow we will be tendering to Boca da Valeria, a very small fishing village on the Amazon. There is truly no infrastructure here. It is basically an opportunity to see a true Indian village along the Amazon. Holland America has been making this stop a few times a year for the past several years and the locals have come to look forward to the stop. Several villages travel to Boca da Valeria to greet the ship people. It has become customary for the passengers to carry small gifts for the children. Primarily school supplies such as pencils, crayons, and paper are given. These items are in great demand and the village very much appreciates them. Kay and I, purchased a gross of pencils which we plan to distribute tomorrow. Hopefully I will be able to post some more photos. BUT, I am going to have to shorten these posts, I am spending more time than I expected doing this, and I don’t know if anyone is interested in reading so much! Please let me know if these are too long. Thanks