Tag Archives: amazon

Letter From The Amazon: Parintins and the Boi-Bumba Festival

Letter From The Amazon: Parintins and the Boi-Bumba Festival

We arrived at Parintins on Wednesday 23rd January. Parintins is situated on the southern bank of the Amazon River in the largest river archipelago of the mid-Amazon, on the boundary of the states of Amazona and Para. It is a small town dating back almost 200 years, with a rich Indian heritage.

Between November to January the town becomes an island (Tupinambarana) due to the low water level. There are no roads to Parintins – you either need to sail there or fly! In fact the principle types of transportation are donkeys, carts and motor-cyles.

There are few notable sights, but there are several local markets including a floating market along the waterfront. The town’s main income is derived from cattle farming and the export of wood and minerals, but it’s main claim to fame is the tourism pilgrimage each June to the Boi-Bumba festival. We were privileged to have had a special performance to coincide with the visit of our ship. Arguably the highlight of our tour so far!

The Boi-Bumba Festival

Parintins is not a common tourist destination, except at the end of June for the famous annual folklore festival. The town divides into two competing teams: Caprichoso – blue, and Garantido – red, and wearing spectacular costumes the populace re-enacys the story of Bumbodromo – of Pai Francisco and his wife who steal the prize bull from the landowner they work for, and kill it.

When the landowner realises this he threatens to kill them unless they manage to resurrect his bull by midnight. The couple employ the talents of a shaman, a priest and an African pai santo who manage to resuscitate the animal, thus saving Pai Francisco.

This is the setting in fact for an official competition between the bois-bumbas. The performance usually lasts around six hours (we were limited to a one hour segment), and each team is judged by a panel of judges for the elaborateness and expressiveness of its dance, its costumes and body painting, and its music and supporters. The Bumbodromo Stadium is the location for the main festival in June, which lasts for three days. The stadium has a capacity for 35,000 spectators. Around the town, shop and house facades are painted red or blue, according to the owner’s preference for each of the bulls/taems. Even Coca-Cola signs can be seen painted in blue!

We enjoyed a liberal and free supply of the local rum and sugar-caine drink (I think I may have had a few too many) during the performance, but I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves!

Our next stop is Alto do Chao, a rustic beach community, on Thursday 24th January.



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Manaus – heart of the Amazon

We arrived at Manaus on Monday 21st January. Manaus is the capital of the state of Amazonas. It is situated at the confluence of the Negro and Solimões rivers. It is the most populous city of Amazonas,and is a popular ecotourist destination. Manaus belongs to mesoregion Center Amazonense and microregion Manaus. It is located in northern Brazil, 1,203 miles from the federal capital, Brasília and almost 1000 miles from the Atlantic.

The city was founded in 1669 as the Fort of São José do Rio Negro. It was elevated to a town in 1832 with the name of “Manaus”, which means “mother of the gods” in tribute to the indigenous nation of Manaós, and legally transformed into a city on October 24 of 1848 with the name of Cidade da Barra do Rio Negro, Portuguese for “The City of the Margins of Black River”. Only on September 4 of 1856 did it revert to its current name.

The population in 2012 was 1.85 million people; it is the most populous city in North Region and seventh most populous city of Brazil. Manaus alone represents 10.89% of the population of the whole of Northern Brazil and 49.9% of the population of the Amazon.

Manaus was at the centre of the Amazon region’s rubber boom during the late 19th century. For a time, it was “one of the gaudiest cities of the world”One historian has written, “No extravagance, however absurd, deterred” the rubber barons. “If one rubber baron bought a vast yacht, another would install a tame lion in his villa, and a third would water his horse on champagne.”
The city’s most famous monument is the opulent, world-renowned Opera House (Teatro Amazonas). It is a focal point of the city and is built entirely of bricks, tiles and materials brought piece by piece from Europe. The construction started in 1881 and took 15 years to build at a cost of $10 million. Behind the neoclassical facade, the interior columns and bannisters are of English cast iron, the stage curtains were painted in France, where the chandeliers and mirrors also came from; the marble originates from Italy and the porecain from Venice. Paintings include works from Capranesi and De Angelis. The green, yellow, red and blue doem is made up of tiles imported from Alsace, France. The driveway was paved with rubber to prevent the sounds of carriage wheels spoiling performances. Caruso sang here and Anna Pavlova danced.

Visitors can have a guided tour of the Opera House for 10 Real per person, which I thought was very good value.

Overlooking the docks is the old Customs House, prefabricated in Liverpool and shipped here over a century ago. The tower once acted as a lighthouse guiding vessels in at night.

This was one of the few ports where we were docked overnight, which enabled many of the crew to sample the nightlife (there were quite a few pasty-looking faces and red eyes the following day!). We were on an organised tour “Discover the Amazon” on our second day. This included a boat ride to the ‘Meeting of the Waters”, where the black waters of the Negro River meet the brown waters of the Solimoes River, flowing side by side without mixing for about 6 miles. This natural phenomenon is caused by the confluence of the Negro River’s dark water and the Solimões River’s muddy brown water that come together to form the Amazonas River. The waters don’t mix because of the great difference between the water temperatures and current speeds.

Our tour also took in an exploration of some of the small tributaries and lakes, and a visit to the Terra Nova Caboclo’s Village, where we were able to see examples of floating houses, giant water lilies and a wide variety of indigenous birds. This is where I also spotted not one but two of the rare black cayman, the largest of the species, which can grow to over 3 metres.

The Opera House


Manaus Waterfront


Meeting of the Waters


Black Cayman


Floating Houses, Terra Nova Caboclo’s Village


Next ports of call – Parintins and the Boi Bumba carnival. A real taste of what Brazilians do best – dressing up in exotic costumes, dancing and having fun!

Boca da Valeria

From Evernote:

Boca da Valeria

The tiny village of Boca da Valeria sits at the confluence of the Rio da Valeria and the Amazon. This remote and primitive Indian village of 75 inhabitants is surrounded by the great rain forest of the Amazon, and is typical of the thousands of isolated communities within the Amazon basin. It is a startling contrast to life in Brazil’s modern Amazon cities of Santarem, Belem and Manaus. The primitive Caboclo (descendents of Portuguese settlers who intermarried with the local Indians) village, which consists of just a few wooden houses has no tourist infrastructure, and the inhabitants of the small settlement live by hunting and fishing 

Boca means “mouth of” and is the entrance of the Valeria River into the mighty Amazon, located on the south bank of a 400ft-high hill overlooking the Amazon river. A distinct line in the waters is visible as the two rivers run alongside each other for several miles before they finally blend together. The settlement itself is located midway between the towns of Parintins and Santarem.


There are no roads, nor motor vehicles; a simple dirt footpath leads through the village, crossed by other paths which lead into the rain forest. The villagers’ homes are made of wood, with openings for windows and a door, and have no panes of glass. The houses are supported on long stilts, which protect them from the varying levels of the river (the flooded area can spread out to up to 200km from the riverbanks). When the river is high during the rainy season of December to May, the trees are covered to waste-height by the water. In the dry season they plant manioc and vegetables on small pieces of land where their livestock roam. The rest of the year their livestock are kept on their balconies. The focal point of the community is the simple school, the single church, and the village ‘bar’.


So that’s some background to the place we visited on Monday January 21st. The real experience was somewhat controversial. Yes, it was a poor and simple community, and for the first time we could get a better understanding of how these communities live, cut off as they are from what we westerners might call “civilisation”. But, it was clear to see that tourism has affected the community. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? I can see that tourist dollars will help in some ways, and no doubt this is how they came to have their own electricity generator, providing power to all of the homes in this small community, and some modern facilities such as TV’s and fridges, the latter being particularly useful in temperatures that rarely fall below 30C at any time of the year. But commercialism was apparent everywhere. Every photo had a cost, and though we had given pencils, notepads and other goods to the school, it was raw cash that most of the people wanted. Maybe this isn’t so bad where they have taken the trouble to put on their native dress for the benefit of us tourists, or where they were selling locally made handicrafts, but it was clear that many of the “pets” – sloths, lizards, Toucans, parrots etc, that the children had were there because they generated business, and not because they had real affection for them. The ‘pets’ were in fact commodities to be exploited. This, more than anything else, was a stark example of how tourism can take away the innocence of remote communities.


As you will see from my photos, I am guilty in propagating this problem, having given a small cash token for the pictures of the animals. I did wonder afterwards whether I had contributed to the problem of children capturing what could be rare species of wildlife for the benefit of the next group of tourists, and if so, I’m not feeling too good about it. I can only hope that by writing about it here, other travellers may at least be made aware of this issue. I’m left pondering whether, taking all things into account, tourism provides a net benefit for these remote communities, or whether it inevitably leads to some form of exploitation. I’d be interested in any views from fellow travellers.


Traditionally dressed girl holding Sloth


Me with traditionally dressed local girl.



A local pin-up?



Lynda with local girl and Sloth. Lynda is on the left 🙂



Lynda with local warier in full tribal dress.









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Santarem – a real taste of the Amazon

From Evernote:

Santarem – a real taste of the Amazon

We arrived at Santarém at 7.30am on Saturday 19th January. Even at this early hour the temperature was edging 30C, and projected to rise to 36C later in the day. It was also very humid.


Santarém lies midway between Belem and Manaus in the state of Pará in Brazil. It was founded as a Jesuit mission in 1661. The blue-green water of the Rio Tapajós joins the muddy brown Amazon River here and the two waters flow side by side without merging due to the rivers’ different speeds, temperatures and densities.  The meeting of the rivers is a popular location for tourism.


In the 1920’s, during the rubber boom, Henry Ford spent $80million to establish an enormous rubber plantation foe the production of tyres to supply the American automobile industry.  The first men and equipment arrived in 1928, marking the beginning of a large project called “Ford Industrial Company of Brazil”. Two cities, Fordlandia and Belterra were created in the middle of the jungle and more than 3 million rubber trees were planted. The project ended in disaster when many of the workers died from malaria and yellow fever. Insects destroyed the plantations and the project was ultimately abandoned when Ford realised that there were too many obstacles to overcome. The rusted remains of trucks and electricity generators and abandoned American-style bungalows are still visible 40 miles outside the city.


Santarém is now an important trading centre for the region and is the third largest city on the Amazon after Manaus and Belem. It exports wood, minerals and is the world’s largest soya export port.


We were supposed to be alongside the quay when we first arrived, but found that another ship – the Qust for Adventure  – had “queue jumped” our birth, which meant we had to disembark by tenders – a process that took the best part of 2 hours. We didn’t go on any of the official tours here, but spent our time walking the 1.5 miles along the busy waterfront to the city centre. This provided lots of photo opportunities to photo the wide variety of exotic birds we saw along the way, and presented an interesting diversion to the floating market, where we found the fish landed that morning, including the Pirannah, pictured below. I thought I’d also include a few photos of the insects that have taken up residence on the ship, including one moth that was the size of a human hand, drawn by the lights on our superstructure.


Next stop, the remote village of Boca da Valeria, a small Indian community where we should have a chance to meet the locals, visit their homes and see the wide variety of pets they keep, including sloths, monkeys, lizards etc.


Moth – around 5 inches wingspan.



Moth – around 7 inches wingspan


Santarem waterfront – note the exotic bird in the foreground.






Another exotic bird (variety to be determined).


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Creating a travel guide from Wikipedia

A much-overlooked but useful feature of Wikipedia is the “Create A BooK” tool. This enables you to source useful reference information from Wikipedia’s pages into your own personalised book, that you can either download for a free as a PDF or in open document format.

Alternativley for a small charge, you can have it professionally typeset and bound. Why would you want to do this you may ask? Well, for me it was the desire to have my own personalised reference guide for the places I am visiting on my trip (cruise) to the Amazon and West Indies.

For my guide I’ve sourced information about the places I’m visiting, the indigenous peoples, the animals and wildlife, the climate, the languages and much more. All neatly indexed and collated with photos, text and hyperlinks. If travel is not your thing, you could maybe create a book about your favourite music, composer or a specific professional interest. If you’d like to give it a go, read on. 

How to Create A Book Using Wikipedia

(Adapted from an original article in MakeUseof)

Search, browse and navigate to the Wikipedia article of your choice. On the left hand side, near the bottom is the create a book menu. It includes two items – Add wiki page and Books help.

Start adding the pages to your book by clicking the Add wiki page link on the relevant Wikipedia pages you want to include. The number of pages in the book gets automatically updated in the menu on the left. Two additional menu items ““ Show book (with a page counter) and Clear book appear in the menu.

You can also add an entire category within which the relevant page falls with just a single click. You can find the category hierarchy at the end of the article page.

Add The Title Of Your Book


With all pages added, click the Show book button to review your book. Here it is possible to add a book title (and a subtitle) and change the ordering of the wiki pages of the book through drag and drop. Unwanted pages can be dumped by a simple click of the “dustbin” icon. New chapters can be included using the Create chapter link.

Many advanced functions like adding a particular revision or saving a book and improving the layout can be achieved through a combination of advanced functions. The Help page details those steps.

Download Or Order A Printed Copy

Voila! You have just “written” your first book with the help of Wikipedia. Now, the finished book can be downloaded in PDF or OpenDocument format or ordered as a bound book. To download in the format of your choice, select the format from the dropdown and click theDownload button. To order the book as a bound book, click the Order book from PediaPressbutton.

Wikipedia’s built-in rendering engine assembles the pages, grabs the images and parses them before they are passed on to the user in the final downloadable format. In its final format my 469 wikipedia pages transformed into a 95MB file downloaded as a 275 page PDF book. The end result was good, with neat alignments of photos and text.

If you take the PediaPress option as I have done, you’ll pay for typesetting, layout and binding. Cost will depend on whether you want colour (I did) or black and white, and if you want a hard or paperback cover.  I was pleased with the end result (see photo) and will be using this as my everyday companion during this holiday.


The Amazon, West Indies and the Azores

This is the first in a series of posts I hope to publish (Internet access permitting) about my forthcoming adventure to the Amazon, West Indies and the Azores. Though I travelled fairly extensively during my time in the Royal Navy (more years ago than I care to remember), and since then during my tenure at Reuters – (I left in 1999 after 17 very happy years) – I have never been to many of the places on this cruise itinery. I might add I’m not too familiar with cruise ships or cruising holidays, but anticipating a bit more space and better cabin service than what I experienced on one of Her Majesty’s anti-submarine frigates!  

I will be using this blog to keep a personal record of this once-in-a-lifetime (?) trip, and to maybe share part of the experience with family and friends. I’m hoping to keep the blog posts synchronised as far as possible with the places and events experienced.

A brief outline of the trip:
The great adventure starts on 3rd January, at Tilbury, where Lynda – my wife – and I will be embarking the Marco Polo for the start of our 43-day cruise.

Our first stop will be Amsterdam, before sailing to Lisbon and then Funchal on the beautiful island of Madeira – at least it looks beautiful, but somewhere else that I’ve never visited.

We then head for Mindelo in the remote Cape Verde Islands, and then onto Brazil, stopping at Santarem, gateway to the Amazon River. We call at the Indian community of Boca da Valeria before reaching Manaus, where we hope to see the “Meeting of the Waters”, the confluence between the Rio Negro, a river with dark (almost black coloured) water, and the sandy-coloured Amazon River.

After that we visit Parintins and hope top see the “Boi-Bumba” Festival Show, and a brief stay at the little fishing village of Alter do Chao. We continue to Almeirum and Santana for Mecapa on the Amazon Delta for the return to the Atlantic.

We then head for the West Indies, stopping at Iles du Salut, the forma penal settlement better know as “Devil’s Island“, made famous by the film Papillon, and continue to St George’s, Granada. Then to St Vincent in the Grenadines and St Lucia. After that it’s Barbados and then homeward bound, with calls at Horta and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, finally returning to Tilbury and then home. 

The full itinerary as follows and the Google “route map” is shown at the bottom of this blog post.

03/01/2013 Tilbury, UK
04/01/2013 Amsterdam, Netherlands
08/01/2013 Lisbon, Portugal
10/01/2013 Funchal, Madeira, Portugal
18/01/2013 Fazendinha, Amapa, Brazil
19/01/2013 Santaram, Para, Brazil
20/01/2013 Boca da Valeria, Amazon, Brazil
21/01/2013 Manaus, Amazon, Brazil
23/01/2013 Parintins, Amazon, Brazil
24/01/2013 Alto do Chao, Para, Brazil
25/01/2013 Almeirim, Para, Brazil
26/01/2013 Santana, Amapa, Brazil
28/01/2013 Iles du Salut, French Guiana
30/01/2013 St Georges, Granada, West Indies
31/01/2013 Kingstown, St Vincent, West Indies
01/02/2013 Castries, St Lucia, West Indies
02/02/2013 Bridgetown, Barbados, West Indies
08/02/2013 Horta, Faial Island, Azores
09/02/2013 Ponta Delgada, San Miguel Island, Azores
14/02/2013 Tilbury


[googlemaps https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?msa=0&msid=214657730848300286084.0004d1d7c427a2dcf2088&hl=en&ie=UTF8&t=v&ll=24.460986,-28.424824&spn=55.826427,66.652823&output=embed&w=425&h=350]


Amazon Android App Store Revealed

Amazon’s Android App Store, which was announced back in September, will be an alternative to Google’s own App Store, and is reported to be curated more like Apple’s App Store: Amazon will select what goes in, rather than Google’s “anything goes” policy. Also unlike Apple, Google allows multiple app stores on its Android operating system.