March 4, 2014
Early yesterday evening we crossed the equator and early this morning we crossed the bar and are in the Atlantic, the Amazon behind us. We can do our laundry, get clean towels and take long showers again. Because of silt the ship cannot take in water for its desalinization plant when on the river so our water use is curtailed. I really enjoyed my long shower. The brochure said yesterday was “scenic cruising on the Amazon.” Almost all of the websites reviewing cruises say “don’t expect much, the river is so wide you don’t see anything.” Those writers don’t know what to look for. Along the banks small settlements have grown based on a government plan to resettle urban people on small farmsteads. You can see some cattle grazing along the shore, or some wading water buffalo. These small holders do some cutting of the rainforest but are not the biggest problem, the corporate farms are. Along some stretches of the river bank we see power poles so some of these settlements are on the grid. Many more are not.
There’s all sorts of river traffic. Seagoing bulk carriers take soybeans downriver from the Cargill terminal in Santarem; these are not the Cargill grain barges you see on the Mississippi. But there are several push boats with barges full of containers off loaded in Santarem or Manaus heading for smaller settlements. They look like traffic on the Danube except they are much wider. Fuel barges look just like the ones we have in Southeast Alaska, and there are a lot of canoes along the river. Local river passenger boats usually have two decks and few chairs. The upper deck is mostly covered, fitted with hooks and passengers find a place to hook their hammock for sleeping and relaxing. The lower deck is for eating. Blue tarps are draped along the sides of the boat to be dropped during the sudden and often spectacular thunderstorms that roll up and down the river mid-afternoon.
And there is the sky. Cruising up the river sunsets are dead ahead and sunrises dead astern. There’s the massing of clouds before the afternoon storm and at times we have evening light shows, sometimes just heat lightning and sometimes accompanied by cooling rain.
Our final sunset on the river was strange. Little patches of color spectrum, mini-rainbows appeared in the clouds and the sun reflected off the wake of the ship, hitting the high points in a line all the way to the bank.