Amazing Amazon – Diary Days 15-16 Back on the River

Today is actually Day 25 of our Amazon adventure. We’ve been out of contact for 10 days with no wifi or signal so no email, never mind any opportunities for blogging but I’ve kept my diary and now have a chance to catch up so I’m adding photos and will post these over next few days. Here goes. Back to Manaus, ten days ago…..

Day 15 Leaving Manaus.
We were up late last night, whilst the children slept, to organise our packing really well for the next leg of our Amazon journey. After being on the Amazon Star we knew that a week in a tiny cabin with all our stuff is quite a logistical challenge! We decide to fill my big rucksack with all the stuff we can live without on the journey so it can be kept unopened under the bunk beds! All our warm stuff, flippers, goggles, several months supply of various drugs (legal and medicinal I hasten to add!), 5 pairs of trainers and a pair of hiking boots!

In the morning the two of us get up early, finish off, have a quiet breakfast then I leave to go downtown with the Pousada owner Mauro who is kindly taking me on a bank and post office mission.

I misplaced two bank cards a couple of weeks into our trip. Our careful secreting of valuables backfired and after much searching through our bags, I had to cancel them and my bank agreed to send my new debit card to Manaus where we knew we’d be in three weeks time…

Too late, I had an email from the lady we’d rented a beach house from saying my cards had been found by the cleaner in a strange place! Doh!!

Today I’m out of luck. The card has not arrived – I’ll have to try again at another of our future destinations. So we headed to the Post Office to send a parcel and some postcards and the supermarket to buy some provisions for our trip.

It’s a Carrefour, French owned like the Hypermarket in Calais, there’s a ‘fast’ queue for people with a basket (and 20 items max) but it moves soooo slowly and it seems the norm for people to cut in the queue when they feel it!!

I receive a text from Martin saying he and the kids have arrived at the docks and boarded the Voyager IV – where am I? – all well with them but I should hurry as the boat may be departing at 11:30, or 12:00 it’s not clear. It’s currently 10:48!

Mauro makes a quick call to check about the boat and is told 12:30 so we take a chance, sit out the queue then rush through the streets down to the docks. Arriving on foot with no ticket is tricky. Thank Goodness Mauro is with me and can help bribe our way onto the docks and along to the boat.

I made it!! For a moment, I’d had vision of having to take a speed boat along the Amazon to catch up with my family and having to perform a daredevil leap from the boat to the ship!!

The hammocks are up and our stuff is on the cabin. The hammock area seems slightly quieter, but is not air con and open at the sides. The cabin is about the same as before – tiny but secure and just about functional, but without a fridge and with rat poison pellets on the floor under the bed that fills me with joy about the trip!!!

My clever shopping for loo roll was in vain, they’ve given us a pack of rolls on the boat but the kids are thrilled to see some packs of biscuits, crisps and chocolate to see us through the journey The little trail of ants near the door makes me nervous about having food in the cabin. Hey ho! We will have to eat each pack in a single sitting and be careful with crumbs!

Eventually the boat leaves dock about 15:15 – typical!! We head downstream for 10 minutes (Manaus is actually on the Rio Negro, the Black River) then turn and head across the ‘meeting of the waters’ from black to brown and turn upstream on the Amazon again!

1120km as the crow flies to Tabatinga, seven days and nights ahead of us feels quite far and we’re a bit disappointed that there are no showers on deck for cooling off whilst enjoying the view!

Martin spends the afternoon reading and snoozing in a hammock. Once banished from gymnastics on the hammocks, the children are hot and bored and start to bicker so I seize the chance to start home school in the cabin and together we design a rewards system and then everyone starts their first English lesson!

Cooped up in a small cabin it’s not exactly an ideal classroom but we can manage! We begin with Lara’s phonics, practicing the first 5 sounds which we’ve already looked at. We make some pictures and them and stick them on the wall to help us learn them in the coming week!

Ben and Zoe get a grammar workbook and their handwriting books and we do some work on spelling days of the week and months of the year. It’s a start! Miss Studious Zoe wants to continue and goes onto the next exercise. Ben is trying hard with his writing – we have a deal with his teacher back home that when she sees what we send back, if it’s good enough she’ll send him his ‘pen license’!

It’s suppertime. Food is included in the ticket price on this boat, we wonder what it can be like! We file into the ‘refectory’ and eat watery but surprisingly tasty soup with pasta and meat in it. Lara is so hungry that even she eats it!!

After supper, we have some chocolate and the kids settle with Martin who starts reading to them ‘Don’t run whatever you do’ an
autobiography of an African safari guide and then everyone gets an exceptionally early night.

Lara and I head to the hammocks and she’s asleep in an instant. But I’m hot and fed up with lights being on and noisy TVs showing a football match at either end of the deck and feeling too close the the guy in the next hammock who’s hairy knee is almost in my face. But after some tactical repositioning, I’m much better and finally doze off!

Day 16
Another day on the river. Very hot! Me and the kids spend quite a lot of time in the cabin – everyone is willing to do some world school!

We start with setting some spellings for the week and practice them a little then
through the day Zoe and I begin a world map, Ben and I talk about Brazil’s history, noticing annoyingly that the two Lonely Planet guide books we have are out by 40,000 years in terms of how long indigenous people’s or ‘Indios’ have been in Brazil. One says there’s evidence they’ve been here for 50,000 years the other says they arrived from Siberia 8000 -12000 years ago crossing by land where the Bering Straits now divide Russia and Alaska, travelling and settling further and further south through the millenia, finally arriving in Brazil! Will need to do some checking online when we have an Internet connection!!

[Note – I found this facinating. Wikipedia
(http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indigenous_peoples_in_Brazil#section_1) shows the most common theory to be that of migration for Siberia towards the end of the last ice age 10,000 years ago but recent finds shows some remains much older and showing closer links to Aboriginal populations than Asian. Hmm, there’s great potential to think about this as we travel round the world and plan to be in Australia and Siberia but I’ll have to work at making it interesting and relevant to the children!]

I begin to read The Butterfly Lion to the children too, by Michael Morpurgo, which everyone enjoys and Zoe continues her map work whilst Ben and Dad do some knots and Lara does a little writing with me. Later, Zoe does some knot practice too and thinks its great fun to tie Daddy’s legs together!

In the evening, Martin and Ben play cards with the other travellers we’ve met and the girls and I play Rummicub, though it’s a bit much for Lara!

Ben and I sleep in the hammocks tonight – its cooler and I get a good nights sleep and feel quite chuffed that we have really made a start with world school!

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