Tabatinga to Sao Paulo de Olivencia 6 days

Back on the river. Lots of Storm Dodging

Day 1 rowed. Slept in the boat, not so comfy.
Day 2 wake up to rain. Sitting in the boat Man comes to speak to us, he overlooks us from the bank. We don´t speak Portuguese. Nina nods and then descends a plastic over her face to shield from the rain. Conversation ends.

Take shelter in fisherman shelter leaf roof on beach just tall enough to stand in. Make coffee with alchol stove and wait for rain. clears up. That evening dock on a beach. I tie the boat badly, a storm is coming towards us slowly very dark, the wind whips up the sand, then the boat comes loose and I run after it in a panic, limbs flapping everywhere. Then we try to tie up a tarp secure to protect from storm but hard to put sticks firmly in the sand then I try and put up the tent but it is too windy and it seems the storm is already on us and OK were just going to wrap ourselves in plastic, last resort, but the storm skirts around us. Storms move around strangely in the sky.

Day 3

put roof back on (blown off by wind)

turn the corner then an island ends and we are right in the middle at a point where the river is massive there are masses of dolphins sometimes right under the boat, we row out of there as fast as we can which is not very fast. Storm is in the sky we pull over to the side. There are shoals of fishies jumping out of the water they do this because they are joyful. We debate how to put the net in and we havent even put it all the way when we raise it up and there are billions of fish trapped in it, a whole shoal of palomitas and some fat succulent yellow stripped fish and sardines. Then fishy rehabilitation, throwing back the smallest ones. We are very absored in fishy rehabilitation then look down at our arms and they are bloodsmeared from sandfly bites, we leave just as it gets unbearable. But we got the fish and the sandflies got us so I guess that’s fairness and the universe in balance and all that. Row over to the other side to the beach and it takes several attempts to get the canoe right up to the sand prodding in the water with the ore to test if the water’s too shallow and the boat will get stuck. Decide just to sleep with mosquito net and a plastic by us to wrap ourselves in case of a storm. Peru style shelter. Grill the fish, got 4 fat succulent yellow striped fish and palomitas are also yum which we eat with rice and beans and farignina. Very high powered torches scanning the beach makes us nervous, didn’t have those in Peru.

Day 4

Storm coming and we dart into fallen trees and take off the roof and wrap it over our heads. We put the basin out to collect rainwater and make coffee while waiting. cloudy day. Get to a beach which has water pools. A fisherman has half made his roof, has put the sticks up, so we string the tarp over and sleep under. There are billions of mosquitos and sandflies. We don´t eat dinner because we don´t make it before mosquito time (dusk) and had to hide in mosquito net.

Day 5

Just as many mosquitos as in the evening, make oatmeal and eat fish. feel sick today, think its from all the sandfly bites. Stop early stop at a beach that up the bank has little path into the jungle and a nice forest camp spot. I put up tent Nina puts up hammock. Put the fishing net, cook food, check net, got a pirahna and palomita, roast them with the coals. I am very very hot it is very humid there is a storm nearby, now I truely know the meaning of hot and bothered. I march out onto the beach illuminated by lighning and step over fissures in the land down to the river to dump water on my head. Can´t get cool. But once I´m in the tent I´m okay.

Day 6-7-8 Sao Paulo de Olivencia 

Arrive at Sao Paulo early afternoon.

ask people if there is a hotel raft but there isn’t, people at first raft say we can sleep in the roomful of motors, but they aren´t so friendly so we push off from there and row really hard so we don´t get sucked under a stationary giant boat, then, passing another raft they wave us over and we dock there and they bring us chicken and one of the guys speaks Spanish. Here we sleep in the room with the motors but it´s more spacious than the other.

Spend three nights at Sao Paulo. First night we put net out along the raft but the current sucks it underneath and I pull it up to arrange and there is a massive black armour fish caught! But since our net only has three inch holes only the tip of its fin was caught and it fell away as we were trying to haul it up. That night raft lurches crazily and I dream that the raft has come detached and is floating down the river.

The raft is a fish buying and storage business (with big ice boxes) and motor storage, boat storage, etc. Children at the raft fishing all day. Don´t seem to go to school. But caught 6 or 7 big ass zebra stripped fish that day.

the fish the kids caught at Sao Paulo de Olivencia.

the fish the kids caught off the raft at Sao Paulo de Olivencia. (not our photo though)

There´s a boat opposite. It was attached to a huge metal platform, they´d just delived asphalt to Sao Paulo. The crew of that boat frequently invited us to eat with them, then we´d pull a parked canoe across the water until it touched the platform opposite and use it as a walkway.

The final night we drink and eat (peixe asado) and meet a Peruvian guy who tells us his stories. He was a stowaway for 8 days in a cargo boat to the US. He didn’t eat that whole time. When he arrived he wandered around like a lost dog (his words) for a week, then tried selling newspapers. But they were onto him and deported him immediately. He thinks they were watching him as he got off the boat.

He also told us a couple of decades back, in his youth, he had paddled the Amazon to traffic cocaine. People helped him along the way, hauling him with their motors, but they didn´t know what he was carrying. It was offputting to hear that people smuggled drugs paddling a wood boat like ours, since we would scoff when people had told us we´d be shot because they´d think we were carrying coke (to steal the drugs or something) (if we were smuggling cocaine we´d travel with a motor!). But back then he probably fitted in better paddling since motors weren´t so widespread.

Also guy on the raft who is quiet and subdued and seems stoned all the time tells us he used to traffic drugs but then went to prison and ‘sufri mucho, agora nao quero mais’ and that´s all he tells us and ever says to us except for asking us for a lighter 100000 times and when we try to avoid he sends the child to ask us.

We are a little nervous in Brasil. In Tabatinga and even in Puerto Narino many people had told us not to go because in Brasil many people die on the river. Drug wars. or random violence. or something, we never figured it out precisely. We hadn´t seen a single police boat on the river, it´s a huge lawless watery wilderness, the only laws are life and death


Posted on October 13, 2014, in Preparation. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Drink plenty of pure water. Practice good hygiene. Keep a big stick at hand and fight like your life depends on it…

  2. hm…yeah, the lovely Solimões.

    It’s not all like that, you know. Once you turn off the highway, no one bothers you. Mostly no one, at least

  3. In Brazil, I mean. It’s not all like that in Brazil

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