Riding down from Venezuela I was torn about how I wanted to continue after Boa Vista. The route along the coast seemed like the most interesting, but the thought of riding straight down to Manaus and then taking a barge down The Amazon to Belém on the coast was almost irresistible- something out of a fantasy that I couldn’t help but try to reach for and grasp so as to make it real…
Happily, luckily, and thankfully I took the coastal route, for beyond just how fun it was, it was interesting and constantly challenging. Once on the boat, crossing The Amazon was all of that… for about an hour or two. After that, with a few short exceptions, it was a bore. I was amazed at how quickly the dense jungle, tiny riverside settlements, and passing river traffic simply became yet another long stretch of road that simply had to be endured.
But, before all that happened, before the fascination became tedium, The River was truly a wonderland.
Leaving the dock and land based roads behind, the river comes into its own. It doesn’t just connect people or allow the movement of goods- it is the center of life for everything along it. It is Main Street, High Street, and Market Street. It is the school bus route, funeral route, and truck route. It is the news stand, office water cooler, and town crier.
From boats loading their cargo of açaí fruit onto the passing ferries…
…To the little boats moving news and goods among the villages.
From the towns and industrial centers…
…To the small homesteads.
And, finally, unto death.
The river is there for all of it, though, for the most part, it is left to it’s own endless paths through the jungle.
Paths, that at the turn of an old wooden wheel, lead you around a corner and straight into Belém.