We left Manaus, the furthest point in our journey, after 19 days of travel. It didn't seem like the half way stage and indeed it wasn't. We still had another 23 days to go and 10 more ports of call starting with a half day visit to Parintins, home of the annual Bois Bumbas carnival, after Rio's, the biggest in Brazil. There was a special show laid on for our boat and they fly the performers in from Rio. A spectacular show but not really our cup of tea so we decided to save ourselves £100 and not book tickets. Instead we wandered the town which has little going for it or so it seemed to me. OK but no real reason to visit other than for the carnival. We wandered the streets aimlessly before I left Claire in a bar with a fellow shipmate and I went off on my own. Strange how sometimes the least expected places offer some good opportunities. They might be common species in Brazil but to me they were mostly photo firsts !
Southern House Wren
Orange Fronted Yellow-Finch
Smooth Billed Ani
Green Rumped Parrotlet
Common Ground Dove
and better views of Yellow Headed Vultures than previously seen too.
I felt I'd had a reasonable day , particularly as I spent the last couple of hours with Claire and a gang of fellow passengers at the bar I had left her in !
Half a day over and onwards we sailed . There was however a problem, two in fact. Due to tidal and hence docking problems the next port of call was to be reduced to half a day...that was annoying as it was possibly one of the best potential birding spots we would visit.... secondly, an out break of Norovirus had been declared and this was to effect us for the next 20 days. The boat it seems had had several outbreaks in recent voyages. The very young and very old are more at risk of serious problems as a result, we had none of the former on board but a ship load of the latter !
Norovirus usually causes sickness and diarrhoea and it's contagious , spread by touch or eating contaminated food. It can be avoided by good hygiene practice which is sadly lacking in a large number of people. The ship immediately took action to try and prevent the outbreak spreading. Those who were affected were forbidden leaving their cabins for 4 days, their partners, suffering or otherwise, condemned to stay with them. Deep cleaning of the whole boat began, the self service restaurant shut as was the gym, table tennis room,library, and card room. The bars, theatre and shop all stayed open. Cynics suggested that that's where they made money. To me none of it mattered, I had no interest in the areas that were shut as I spent my time wildlife watching outside. The outbreak put huge pressure on the majority of the ship's crew as they set about far more tasks than they usually had to perform, washing down walls, mirrors and especially hand rails. Antiseptic hand wash was placed in extra spots but I was amazed to see people ignore it... I didn't and neither Claire or myself or any of my birding friends suffered as we were diligent in our hygiene practices.
The good news was that as there was now a huge queue for the main restaurant we didn't bother with lunch or afternoon tea saving the temptation of consuming extra calories.
Anyway, next morning we arrived at Alter do Chao ready for the next stop. This is where I had cancelled my nature walk and so glad I had. As the time had been reduced to half a day, both the afternoon trips and the morning ones would all set off together. A nature walk for a couple of hundred folk... mm ! (I later found out not a single bird was seen by anyone !)
Sadly, today was not the best of weather, a fine drizzle for the first few hours but having landed by tender on a lovely sandy beach I set off to see what I could find.
and Pale Breasted Thrush all gave best yet photo opportunities.
A beach stop for a beer ( is this becoming a habit ?)
and once again we were on our way, this time for our final stop at Santana, near the river mouth.
It's an industrial port and not on the tourist trail, so I guess they don't get many cruise ships docking here!
But it was handy for nearby Macapa which does have a few attractions. We had signed up for a 4 hour tour which took in a fort,a souvenir shop and a living museum. £100 for the two of us, we bumped in to friends who had hired a taxi between 4 people to cover the same trip for £30.
They had also done our "Big Amazon Adventure" for less money than we had paid by hiring a private speed boat to get over to the final destination way before the ship load that we were thus avoiding a tediously boring talk and having the water ways to themselves. They had even stopped to try a bit of fishing. As far as cruise tours are concerned you live and learn !
I guess some folk are nervous about traveling alone and organising trips on the spur of the moment. Macapa seemed very pleasant and safe but the local constabulary were out in force to protect us just in case there might be some pre World Cup bad publicity.
Or maybe they were there to protect the lovely lady, regional Samba dancing champion, form the aged ships passengers !
Best bird seen on the trip ?
No, that would be my beautiful wife of course ! One of the big attractions of Macapa is that it sits on the Equator, one of only four cities in the world.
Here you can sit with a foot in each hemisphere !
The line of the Equator neatly demonstrated by a special monument.
The ship wasn't due to sail until midday the following day so it seas a morning with nothing much to do, however, I went out early and was rewarded with a few bird shots on the dock including this Guira Cuckoo.
and more Orange Fronted Yellow Finch
As we sailed out that afternoon we passed the Equator Monument and, behind it Macapa football ground where they toss a coin not for ends but which hemisphere to start in.
I reflected on our Amazon journey, it had in many ways been a disappointment but my vision had been unrealistic. I had imagined that at some stage we would have ventured up a quiet tributary in a small boat, then we might have seen some more wildlife. However, what we had witnessed is the mightiest river on the planet. We had seen the way of life on the river, the industrial ports, the farmland that has replaced the rainforest, the ships navigating to bring commerce to the region.
It had been quite an epic voyage and one I'm glad to have made.
Next stop was somewhere special... I hoped ! We also hoped we might see more avian activity off the coast of South America as we headed for the Caribbean.