If you had to identify two essential elements of Brazilian life, you'd say: 1. Carnaval; and, 2. The Beach. Two things that most people don't associate with the Amazon.
Well, we had an amazing Carnaval in Parintins yesterday, so appropriately enough, today in Alter do Chao, we had the beach – a gorgeous stretch of white sand lapped by crystalline waters. Looking at it, you could easily think that you were in the Caribbean.
Alter do Chao is a tiny place of about 2,000 people, and even though Sunday is its busiest day (when day-trippers from nearby Santarem descend on the town), there was a very quiet, laid-back feel to the town. We wandered along its sleepy waterfront and made our way to its iconic beach – the Ilha do Amor, the Island of Love – a sandbar of soft, snow-like sand in the river that makes up one of the most sumptuous beaches you can imagine, enclosing a shallow lagoon of greeny water.
When in Alter, you do as the locals do and wade across to the island, then station yourself on a table on the waters' edge under the shade of an umbrella, chug down some beers and go for a swim – it's an utterly idyllic location. We did all of this (apart from the beer side of it as it was 11am), including going for a refreshing dip in the Amazon.
OK – if you were being picky, I wasn't actually swimming in the Amazon, I was swimming in the Rio Tapajos, one of its tributaries that meets the Amazon about 25 miles downriver. At the very least, the waters I was in were destined to become Amazonian waters in about 24 hours time.
So, this was a totally relaxing last stop in the Amazon. We've loved all our Amazonian ports – each of them showed us something different about life on this huge river. People sometimes expect to see more nature and untouched rainforest on a trip down the Amazon, but for me, it's the human dimension to the river that's perhaps the most interesting aspect of an Amazon Cruise.
We now have 3 days at sea (actually, a day and a half of it is still "at river") before we get to Barbados, and we then fly to London for Christmas back home. Our next assignment is on the Silver Whisper for another World Cruise starting in San Francisco on January 6th.
See you then, and have a wonderful Christmas!