At noon we had arrived at our next stop on the Amazon, Alter do Chao. The captain had again warned people that this tender pier was even worse than the one at Macapa. He had just received a picture that morning and it wasn’t looking good, as he put it. We were soon to learn why. It seems the river had risen so much (which it does this time of year) that the usual pier was not available and the second choice was in a spot that was too shallow for the tenders. By one o’clock all those who had been circling the tender boarding area of the ship were disappointed to learn that we would not beable to put into shore there.
The excursion team needed to make some quick changes and confer with the local tour company and of course the captain needed to confirm a space in Santarem at the pier there where we had planned to be that evening. All things in place, we were told that we would head for Santarem which was two hours by ship (30 minutes by road it turns out) and the tours could be taken from there. Many took advantage of the option to cancel since it would make it quite late for the return to the ship.
Bob and I were dressed and ready to travel by the time we reached the pier at Santarem. The stores would be open as it was Saturday but not guaranteed to be open Sunday. I still needed some hair color and was beginning to really look my age. We grabbed one of the first shuttle buses into the city. It wasn’t air conditioned but it was still a pleasant five minute ride to town and beat walking in the sun.
The shuttle bus deposited us at a little park. As we looked around to get our bearings, we saw across the road a nice boardwalk area where some locals were fishing in the river. It turned out this was not the Amazon actually but the Tapajos River. Santarem is at the junction of the two and you can see the delineation between the two quite well. The Amazon is muddy and turbulent so it remains a brown color while the Tapajos is calmer and a bluer color. As the two blend, there are often spots of muddy brown water trapped by the bluer water making it look like sand bars.
As we crossed the park and headed to the street where the shops were, we noticed lots of people taking pictures near a huge sculptured parrot. When we rounded the parrot we discovered it was a phone booth! Wonder what was the more unusual attraction, the parrot or the fact that it was a phone booth?
Not far down the street we found a pharmacy. We’ve learned that it’s usually the place in foreign countries where you find everything but pharmaceuticals. You usually have to find a chemist for that. We entered and were greeted by a lovely young lady who asked us something in Portuguese—probably “Can I help you.”
I tugged at my hair and said, “Color?”
She responded, “Shampoo?”
I shook my head and said, “Black, brown, blonde,” thinking maybe one of those words would hit home. No such luck. She made a motion as though spraying her hair. I shook my head again and tried, “L’oreal? Clairol?”
Her face was a blank but I heard Bob call my name and point to a whole section full of all sorts of hair coloring including some brands I recognized. But they were all labeled in Portuguese! About that time another clerk joined us who knew some English and helped me make the purchase at the cash register. Meanwhile Bob was giving the other clerk some English lessons and she in turn was giving him lessons in Portuguese. I got him out of there before either one of them taught the other something they shouldn’t say.
We walked on down to a pedestrian area and marveled at the number and size of stores for the town that as only about 300,000. Apparently they must do a lot of business with people who travel to them from outlying areas. Santarem is the biggest city on the Amazon once past Macapa. There were lots of fabric shops that would put ours back home to shame with the number of fabric bolts they had.
The street went on further than we cared to walk. We were getting very warm and it was very humid even though we were walking in the shade as much as possible. A very nice souvenir shop was located across from the park and was recommended by someone who had been there before so we stopped in there and Bob bought himself a stuffed piranha just in case he didn’t catch any on our planned fishing trip.
There was still some time left before we really needed to return and we stopped at the corner bar and restaurant for a couple of cool beverages and a chance to use free internet to Facetime back home.
When we returned to the ship, we noticed two large hoses running across the pier and into the ship. Our water supply was being replenished. A shower was sounding really good!