The trip on the vessel San Marino II went by almost too fast, our little group of gringos, made up of the two argentine couples, the serious bikers from mytickettoride.com, a mochilera from São Paulo, Lucas the exchange student from Austria, and the two of us which make up one whole Italian, half a Polish and half a British became rather recognized on board. Most passengers assumed we were some travelling circus as we practiced some acroyoga in the evenings on the rooftop and all acted as if we had been friends for a lifetime.
After three spectacular sunsets, we arrive in Santarem in the middle of the night, in the early morning we the San Marino II with its unforgettable folks. Across the road from the secondary harbour we catch a local bus to Alter do Chão. Compulsory destination for all backpackers who chose their route based on other traveller’s stories and
recommendations, Alter is considered O Caribe do Amazonas and A praia mais linda do Brasil. Although the latter may be an overstatement, it is pasted all around the beaches to remind people to respect the natural environment. We learn that the beach on Love Island (which is in fact a peninsula) is not at its best this time of year since the wrongly-called tide has just started going down. During the 6 months of dry season, the beach almost reaches the town, leaving just a small stream for the flow of the river Tapajos.
Following thorough investigation, Lucas and I decide that the most convenient accommodation would be the redario (hammock camping) Jamming. Here, my frustration for not being able to visit Venezuela -due to safety reasons, is compensated by the crowd of crazy Venezuelan jugglers streaming in and out of the Rastafari-inspired space. I feel like a little bit of Venezuela has come to me. Carmencita, just arrived from Caracas to rejoin her son and enjoy the company of her grandchild, brings sad news from her land. She is surprised to find a Venezuelan community in the town where her son had been living as the only Venezuelan for the past decade. These lovely folks invite us on their boat for our first visit to a islita do Amor to watch the sun set. We are swam away by windy and rough waters to the east and the calm shores west of the slim sand bank.
We return to the fake island, this time at dawn, swimming across for a hike up the hill. I feel like in a stranded team on a desert island- I learned from the classic adventure books of my childhood that the first thing to do as castaways is to hike the tallest peak to appreciate the size of your new land. Lucas and I even climb up both edges of the large metal cross to fully grasp the stunning view of rivers and forests stretching out into all the horizons. We munch on some tomatoes that I had grabbed in the darkness of the kitchen assuming they were Jambo, a local fruit which I decided has a perfect mix flavour between rose, honey and strawberry.
We only stayed in Alter a few days. I didn’t visit Macaco Island and its alternative community since I knew that it would trap me and I would want stay there for ages. Instead, Jan and I paid a visit to Caminho das Pedras, a peaceful and harmonious camping and Eco project that runs on volunteers, famous for its hawayaska work. We took a tour and learned about the preparation process of the medicine, then got into a yellow canoe to explore the Enchanted Forest. Still underwater for a few weeks, the infinite shades of green spread out in the jungle leaving only a small corridor four our canoe to slip by. We stopped to play on a manmade swing, parking the canoe on a wooden plank by a table that I thought could be the place for the perfect massage.
I was enjoying the delicious silence, breathing in the pure air and contemplating the sounds of the trees, imagining fairies and elves inhabiting the magical hollow trunks; when Jan decided to finally start practicing Portuguese. Inspired by the
Venezuelan funny accent and the road signs he had been reading, he started an endless chant of the few words he thought he could remember which lasts until today. “Pousada calabresa acebolada… Que linda Pachita… estia fechado…” he came to drive me almost nuts until I realized that I can just laugh at him- leaving him satisfied with his exercises, he eventually stops to sleep and dream of onion sausage.