August 12 - 16, 2005
Well, imagine our surprise and a bit of outrage when at 10pm, we found out that the barges were full and we were not to be included! The language barrier did rear its ugly head and made it difficult for us to understand what was going on. This and the fact that this group of workers didn't feel that it was necessary to try to help us understand. Apparently the people who had completed our paperwork had failed to put us on the list of vehicles that would be loaded tonight, so we had to set up camp in the noisy and dusty parking lot at the port and wait until tomorrow when we would try again to get on a barge to Belem.
The company that runs the barges, Chibatao - Navegacao E Comercio Ltda, has a monopoly on the barge traffic on this part of the Amazon River. FYI, for other travelers who may wish to ship this way, their email address is email@example.com, be sure to write in Portuguese. They also ship up river as well.
The next three and a half days we spent going downriver at a speed of about 11 mph. We read, ate, did some laundry and mostly just laid in our hammocks watching the world go by. Although meals were actually provided to us and the other seven trucker drivers who were our companions, we chose to cook our own food in addition to the standard meal of rice, beans, noodles, and meat that was served. This also gave us something else to do to pass the time. The truck drivers have their own culture and they spend long periods of time traveling the highways, and river barges. The truckers were very friendly and always tried to include us in things happening on the barge. They even had their trucks set up with "chuck-wagon" type kitchen boxes where they could flip down the door to have a cook top complete with propane stove. They were very self sufficient.
Occasionally, we would watch as small dugout canoes paddled into the middle of the river to meet us and the occupant would throw out a line to the crew to be pulled up behind us. We were amazed that the river dwellers would risk coming alongside a moving ship, but we found that this was the way that commerce was conducted on the river. The dugouts were filled with an amazing variety of foodstuffs. There was fish, shrimp, juices, fruits, furniture and things we couldn't identify. Sometime things were traded and other times money was paid for the goods. We joined in and bought a big bag of dried shrimp that we peeled and ate for dinner!
Being mostly parked for the last 8 days and with only partly sunny days, we have put a strain on our electrical system. We have had to resort to starting the motor on the Fuso to charge the batteries in the living quarters. Even so, our fridge has shut down a couple of times when the voltage dropped too low. Lucky for us that we have the ability to charge the batteries when the truck runs so we haven't worried about losing any of our food.