About 8am we pull up at Sao Jose port – loads of kids run down to the boat and get on to buy ice creams, some men come on and have a beer. Boats pull up on the other side and fill up with provisions. Martin and Zoe go off to explore the village.
It’s a cool day – maybe only 27 or 28 degrees centigrade – at 9.30 I’m still wearing my fleece! It’s a lovely feeling to be a little bit cooler!
Ben goes off with Dad next, finds a shop and comes back with a big box of chocolates which are really scrummy!! We lie and play in the hammocks, read, watch people struggling up and down the steep riverbank with boxes and sacks and feel warmer as the temperature rises!
I go for a wander with Zoe and being out in the sun feels at least 10 degrees warmer, then we hear there’s a pink dolphin, sadly dead, which was caught up in a fishman’s net so we go to look at the beautiful creature. I’d hoped to see live ones this close up instead!
For three hours, goods are carried from our cargo boat up the banks to the town. It’s surprising that the bottom cargo deck still looks so full! We get on the river again about 11am, shortly before lunch – Roast beef! With spaghetti and rice!
Lara is so independent she has gone to lunch on her own and got others to help her cut her meat! When I go in she shouts ‘Mum!’ from the head of the table and gives me the thumbs up!
She’s having a ball with two little friends, one with whom she’s swapped flip flops! They’re running around all day giggling and shrieking and having the occasional dramatic falling out when the other two leave her out.
There’s a lovely welcome breeze and I read on a bench by the hammocks and try to see if I can spot some living dolphins!
Two hours and only 16km upstream we dock again at Tonantins, a rather more smart looking riverbank town with posher looking houses!!
Some more passengers disembark, others move their hammocks around to get more space and we’re all more spread out – its positively salubrious!!!
Suddenly, Ben and I realise we’re pulling away from the dock! OMG! Martin is at the top of the hill, trying to catch the mobile signal and download/send some emails. He’s well out of earshot and sat contentedly on a wall, oblivious!
”Ben! Run and tell the captain your Dad’s still up there” I shout!
”But Mum, how do I say it?!?!”
” just point and wave your arms around and say ‘Mi papa’ and point up there! Hurry!!”
Then we notice an old lady smiling at us and she shakes her head and wags her finger and realise it means ”don’t worry, we’re not actually leaving!” and on closer inspection, we see that our boat is just pulling out to let another boat leave! Phew! Now Martin is strolling down the hill relaxed as ever, and appears on the dockside sipping a fresh coconut! We try to tease him and indicate he needs to swim, but he’s having none of it and the panic is over!!!
At one stage we ‘lose’ Lara and as panic starts to rise again we find she’s playing with her friend in Captain’s quarters – her friend lives on the boat and her parents and little dog live permanently on the boat. Their quarters are quite big and salubrious and even have a tread machine and exercise bike inside! I’m tempted to try and work out how to ask if they might let me go for a run tomorrow!!!
Sitting up on top deck as the sun starts to set we spot quite a few pink dolphins and Martin even manages to catch one on camera. So nice to see them alive!!
We missed the chance to do a trip at Manaus where you go swim with the dolphins but it was expensive and we didn’t really have the time. Hopefully we’ll be able to further along the journey where it’s also supposed to be possible again.
We’re at Tonatins over 6 hours when we finally set off again just after sunset and get some welcome breeze! Now we know why it takes 7 days to reach Tabatinga!
Whilst there, the Voyager lll docks beside us … It’s headed downstream back from Tabatinga. It’s cargo deck is empty, now full of hammocks. It’s the one in the Voyager fleet with a Bradesco bank on board.
In the evening, I sit on the top deck with the kids and read some more to them, then the girls dance to the music playing in the bar! By the time I turn in just before 10pm with Zoe crashed out in the hammock next to me, we have only travelled 35km since 8am this morning and I see we’re arriving at Santo Antonio do Ica, yet another port on our route and presumably we’ll be here most if not all night – I hope the unloading isn’t too noisy and no new arrivals try to pitch their hammocks above or in between us!!
The blue plastic sheets are down when I’m woken by the 6am bell and we’re docked at Amatura, well just a big unloading pontoon, no sign of town but my South America map app shows Amatura is set just back from the river on a small tributary hidden behind the trees.
Some time in the night I’d woken up cold, tucked Zoe into her sleep sheet and me, and actually had a good night’s sleep. The days are blending together and without my diary I would have no idea how many days we’ve been on the boat. That’s the 5th night, there’s two days and one more night til we get to Tabatinga then we plan to stay on the boat one more night as it apparently pulls a few meters downriver and over the border to Leticia in Columbia where we’ll stay before going on into Peru on a fastboat to Iquitos.
I wonder if these timings will work out and whether it will still make sense to stay the extra night on the boat, or whether we’ll be desparate to disembark? what will others do? what time we’ll actually arrive in Tabatinga? whether we can stand to sleep another night on board when it’s a 10 minutes stroll from Tabatinga over to Leticia by road (i think)? We’ll see!
The bread rolls are finished and there’s just slightly stale cheese biscuits and margarine. I try to imagine its eggs benedict, but it’s too big a stretch of the imagination! But the hot sweet coffee tastes great!!
We leave the kids asleep and at 7 we’re back on the river and motoring again! Still just over 200km as the crow flies to our destination!
We spend the morning with a pleasant breeze, everyone does a little school work, Ben does maths with Dad, Zoe works on her maps and Lara and I wander around the boat finding numbers and do some number writing!
At 13.15 it’s got pretty hot as we pull up to the floating dock of Sau Paulo de Olivenca, a small place but with apparently quite a lot to unload! They pile sacks and boxes high in the docks. It must be quite a hub for the area.
Ben and Zoe feel poorly with slightly upset stomachs and I feel a bit grotty too so we spend much of the afternoon in the cabin, close to the loo!
Snuggled up on the bottom bunk, not all that comfortable, we start another Michael Morpurgo book (The Amazing Story of Adolphus Tips) and by bedtime we’re half way through it!
Martin sleeps in the hammocks tonight and after she’s fallen asleep on the top bunk, I carry Lara out to join him!
When I check on everyone around 3.15am, I find we are only just leaving Sao Paulo de Olivenca, we’ve been here 14 hours! And to think Zoe and I panicked about 8 hours ago when we took a short walk over the planks and up the muddy banks and Martin waved us back
jesticulating that we were about to leave!
Zoe wakes and I show her where we are on the map, it looks close now, just a couple of big meanders along the river to Tabatinga, it would take about an hour on a good straight road but it’ll probably take us half a day and longer if we have more stops en route!