Belém (Portuguese for Bethlehem) is a city on the banks of the Amazon estuary, in the northern part of Brazil. It is the capital of the state of Pará. It is the entrance gate to the Amazon with a busy port, airport. Belém lies about 60 miles upriver from the Atlantic Ocean. The river is the Pará, part of the greater Amazon River system, separated from the larger part of the Amazon delta by Ilha de Marajó (Marajo Island).
Founded in 1616 by the Portuguese, Belém was the first European colony on the Amazon but did not become part of Brazil until 1775. Its metropolitan area has approximately 2.09 million inhabitants. It is also known as Metropolis of the Brazilian Amazon region or Cidade das Mangueiras (city of mango trees) due to the number of those trees found in the city. The newer part of the city has modern buildings and skyscrapers.
We arrived in Belem around daybreak this morning. We had been informed earlier that we would be dropping anchor in Icoaraci, a small town about 22 miles from Belem. It appears that the local government would not allow us to dock at Belem. More than likely it was some fees (bribes) which the locals wanted to extort which prevented the docking. Apparently this is not uncommon in this part of the world. Holland America Line did contract two local riverboat ferries to tender us today. Their capacity is about 200 persons. This made the tender process proceed faster. After actually using the tender though, I think I know the real reason HAL contracted with the locals instead of running their own tenders as they usually do. When we reached the pier in Icoaraci, we were competing with about a half-dozen other boats for pier space which is very limited. There is no “reservation system”, it is strictly first come first serve and first that can squeeze in, cut-off, block or otherwise manipulate your way to the pier. I believe you would have to be a local to negotiate this competitive type of system without causing a major incident. HAL also provided bus suttle service to the downtown Hilton in Belem for those who chose to go. Since we didn’t have a schedule tour, we took the shuttle to town. It was a 45 minutes ride. Once we reached town, although the area was a well developed and apparently safe area, we chose to do limited site seeing and soon caught another shuttle back to the ship. Belem is just a huge city, like so many others.
Someone asked about the heavy rains in Brazil and how close we were to them. Well, we have been in rain almost every day. As you can see from my photographs, there is hardly ever a clear sky. But, we have not been in any extremely heavy rain. Most of what we have experienced has been scattered heavy showers which do not last more than a few minutes at a time. We will be in Rio in about a week. That is the area which has received the most news due to the mudslides and deaths in the area. We are hoping for better weather by the time we reach Rio. We will have another day at sea tomorrow and a Formal Dinner night. We will then be in Forteleza on Monday where several of us have tours scheduled.
Below are a few photos from this morning. By the way, we are currently operating two hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. Hope you enjoy.
Our Local River Boat Ferry
If you can’t get the ship to the service station, bring the service station to the ship!
Belem Skyline from about 10 miles away across the bay
No Matter Where You Are, There Are Cell phones!
The Fish Market
Family On Their Way to Town
Normal Mode of Transportation
Lots of Color!