We left the incredible place of Alter, caught a lucky ride with a boring and stressed lady just before the bus would pass by and make us spend the money we had left. Back in Santarem, at it’s proper harbour this time, we negotiated for the Amazon Star to take us to Manaus for 210R each. Then, I went on a crazy midday mission to the city market to find fruits and vegetables. The Amazon Star amazingly departed on time as I crashed into my hammock out of energy for the rest of the day. As most boats sailing these waters, the ground floor is for the transport of goods, typically onions, tomatoes, lemons and electronics. Above the engines there’s a restricted-access kitchen; but just by its entrance two gas cookers disguised by a cardboard box were available for those who wish to cook instead of paying the 15 R for meals sold in the canteen.
Unlike on San Marino II, which benefited of a tremendous natural order in the hammock-hanging business making it possible to duck under in a hammock-tunnel all the way across; here the redes where even hanging in the corridors, forcing you to bump into people trying to rest as you passed in shame. My faithful travel companions, Lia and Newton came to announce their presence. I was hardly surprised to see them since our trip had been so intertwined! The couple of days’ travel until Manaus went by in a flash, thanks to the good company of river dolphins, the friendly staff and hippies we spent the evenings with practicing acro-yoga and cooking my sweated groceries.
The view of the forest got increasingly wilder and more like a jungle towards Manaus, large splendid trees with mysterious fruits and red sand banks decorating the changing landscape in infinite combinations of demonstration of divine. In typical Italian style, Jan and I would be always the last ones to go to sleep to watch the stars, the boat would go quiet straight after sunset for the children to start yelling again before dawn. We were also the last ones to leave the boat once we reached our destination, due to the disappearance (most likely burglary) of my wallet. For once, I had kept my valuables with me at all times, threatened by the large amount of strangers concentrated in the small boat; but lost sight of the small wallet since I first lied in my hammock, and I never saw it again.
So since Jan had already spent all his money on street food and Godknowswhat, we found ourselves penniless in the massive stinky city. It is indeed in these situation that the Universe offers its resources. I received a whatsapp message from Bruna, friend of a man I had massaged on the beach in Alter, sending me the contact of Klary, a friendly guy who enjoys hosting travellers. Klaryson’s house was a real blessing; we tasted amazing tacacá, visited the theatre and a hipster fair, but soon grew tired of the hot, polluted air.
Leaving most of our belongings in Klary’s hub, I played the flute on a couple of buses to get us on the BR147- the highway that would be taking me into Venezuela if the situation there were safer. A very cool truck driver picked us up and took us to Presidente Figueredo with a stop for a night dip in a natural pool. We camped in the Parque Municipal of Urubi, the only place where it is unofficially allowed to sleep freely. Jan insisted on us crossing the turbulent waters to sleep on the other shore- and we did so, falling asleep under massive reflectors glaring from the beach opposite us.
We woke up- although Jan claimed to have hardly slept due to the forest sounds- in the middle of the morning in the unique setting of the rapids falling into a massive pool of icy, red water. After a potatobread-based breakfast, we hiked up river in search of another waterfall. Under the instructions of Mestre Gato, who seemed to have been our guardian angel during our stay in his town, we jumped over the wire that divided the park with the rudely private land of Cachoeira da Onça. After some getting lost around the bushes, spider web traps and refreshing swims we found the most delicious waterfall falling in the stream. She massaged my back, invigorated my legs, pressured my belly, isolated me from the rest of the world… until we decided it was time for lunch. We used the tidy fire space to make some instant polenta, just as tourists started arriving to take selfies and shout unnecessarily loudly under the water jets.
In the drowsiness of the late afternoon, a man with a dog showed up to ask us to pay the entry fee. I proceeded in making a speech explaining our situation, appealing to God’s love and reminding him of our insignificant size in face of the greatness of the Universe, surprising even myself. Seven months in Brazil seemed to have taught me the way to deal with grumpy and frustrated men with stupid jobs. At the end, he conceded a smile and allowed us to stay until the next day- although I hadn’t even mentioned that we intended on spending the night.
Jan collapsed immediately after dinner, I kept the fire going to make some tea (black tea, finally- imported into Klary’s home directly from England!) and used its the dim light to read, but the damp wood burned pathetically. In the middle of the night I woke up to see the white sand shining under the full moon in stripes created by the tree’s shades and Jan smoking a joint in bliss.
Even though we were very tempted to stay in the beautiful place all day, the next morning we took a last energizing intense shower and set out the official way from the site. We walked a couple of miles along the BR147 into the centre of Presidente to recycle some vegetables. Mission accomplished, with 3 bags full of bananas and another with peppers and onions, a long march under the afternoon sun started, up the hill. Mestre Gato came to our rescue, driving us the last part to the entrance of Parque Municipal las Orquideas, the only other waterfall site with no entrance fees.
We spent two nights by the shores of a stream in the shade of the forest, eating bananas, swearing at the dampness that made cooking on the fire a tremendous chore, bitching at each-other out of boredom, conspiring against the fruit flies that we probably called upon; but staying fresh, isolated and in nature.