Guest Mary O’Donnell was on board Maasdam and sent in this great Cruise Diary from her voyage. Stay tuned for more posts from Mary!
Day 20 or so – 2/27/13 – Parintins & Alter do Chao
I believe Holland America saved the best for last! Two delightful, small cities, with clean, well kept little homes, streets and sidewalks without potholes, and friendly, happy, people.
Our favorite has to be the little resort town of Alter do Chao, less than 2,000 population about 20 miles west of Santarem on the clear and clean Rio Tapajos River. The sandbar in front of the town is actually an island covered with palm trees and beautiful white sand beaches. If you care to visit, the best time to do so is August thru March. Later the island is mostly under water. From here we took a bus to Santarem (Pop about 200,000), to visit the public market. It is a cross between the Seattle Public Market and Charley’s Produce. The fish market had a huge variety of just caught fish, very reasonably priced. The rest of the market was also fascinating with exotic fruits, nuts, and lots of herbal remedies.
On our return trip to Alter do Chao, we stopped at family manioc flour “factory”. Here we were shown how the Manioc (cassava or yucca) root is processed to yield gluten free flour, which is a staple in tropical diets. The root is peeled and grated, then pressed to extract the juice. The resulting mash is roasted for 3 hours, resulting in edible nutty tasting tapioca. The juice also must be boiled before using in drinks.
In every port along the Amazon River, we observed a lifestyle quite different than ours. ven in the big cities, homes are often on stilts, with no glass in the windows, little landscaping, and poorly maintained streets and sidewalks. At first glance it appears that poverty is widespread. Although, it seemed that no one was in a hurry, there seemed to be very few, if any, what we would call “street people”.
One of our guides explained that even though people had few of our material treasures, they really were not wanting. One would have to be very lazy to have a hunger problem. Fruit trees grow wild, the river is filled with fish, and there is little need for clothing. If you do not have a job, you can always go to the docks, or public market and offer to carry some boxes, or organize a display in exchange for bread, fruit or fish.
It is hot and humid, by our standards, but there seems to be plenty of breezes, which make life in the shade quite pleasant day and night without heat or a/c. The trees supply easy to work with building materials.
We saw very few bugs, or mosquitoes, but the natives seem to have natural remedies for ordinary health problems. They are a very religious people. The churches are filled with beautiful artwork, but can you imagine kneeling very long in these pews?