Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Amazon Riverboat Journey

For many travelers, the journey itself constitute as much of the trip experience as the destination. Sometimes more. Especially for long term budget backpacking trips, often than not, the time spent on the road is quite substantial. Of course, it need not be on the "road" per se. It could be on water/air etc. And arguably one of my most memorable travel experience would be the riverboat journey on the Amazon.

There are actually quite a number of options for a journey on the Amazon river. The most common ones are from Iquitos in Peru to Leticia in Colombia, Leticia to Manaus in Brazil, and even continuing within Brazil from Manaus to Belem. You have the options of slow boats and fast boats, and of course whether to go upstream or downstream. The journey from west to east is downstream, so its faster. I took the the boat from Leticia to Manaus, a 4D3N journey.

Leticia itself is quite interesting as a tri-border town. Tabatinga is the Brazilian town next to it, and is separated just by a street! Santa Rosa, a Peruvian island, is just a 5-minute boat ride away. There is a Brazilian consulate in Leticia, which processed my Brazil visa application in a day. Boat tickets are bought on the day itself, on the port in Tabatinga.

There are a very limited number of cabins on the riverboat, but the "magic" of the experience is doing it the local way. Which entails buying/getting a hammock in Leticia/Tabatinga, and getting comfortable with/in it. Yes, the 3 nights spent onboard the boat would be on your hammock, but still, that knowledge did little to prepare myself for the culture shock that follows. I guess it was the chaotic unexpected-ness of the whole situation that caught me.

Nevertheless, after things settle down, I find myself able to just relax and appreciate the journey. You need not confine yourself to your hammock, and there is a small cafeteria bar on the top deck (although also filled with hammocks). I find myself spending most of the time enjoying the views and the breeze at the two sides of the boat. After all, I was cruising down the Amazon river, and like the Trans-Siberian rail, was one of those dream journeys I had dreamed of, coming true.

For those of you who have slept in temple grounds, stayed in jungle huts, bunked in 30-bed dorms, or camped in desert dunes, try hammocking along the Amazon river! I'll bet it'll be one of your most memorable travel experience too!

Start of trip - the "less crowded" moment....

Introduction to Amazon fruits 101

Hammocks "night scene"

Enjoying the views/ride

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