Brazil travel blog by Mark Berman -
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My 2nd time in the Amazon started in the city of Santarem, it took me 24hrs to get here from northern Colombia with 2 flights down
to Leticia, a motorbike taxi across the border to Tabatinga - Brazil for a flight to Manaus, then a long wait at the airport until the
flight to Santarem. Santarem is very much in the heart of the Amazon and sits about halfway between Manaus to the west and Belem near
the east coast. My first time in the Amazon 4yrs earlier was spent in Manaus and on the river west of Manaus, this time after seeing
around Santarem I planned to head east! From Santarem airport I got a ride into town with a father and son at a price cheaper than a
The River is Where the Action Is
All the action and activity in this town is based along the river, ferry after ferry after ferry with people everywhere on and
around them. People loading and unloading carts of produce and products of all kinds. Across the road from the river are many warehouses
with products stacked up to the roofs, Santarem is a very busy place! Along the footpath above the docked boats are various monuments
including: outside the marina a gold bust of Francisco Manoel Barroso da Silva (1804-1882) who was commander of the Brazilian fleet in
the Paraguayan War. The others are of animals, a dolphin, fish and turtle. The fish market is interesting, I was there before 9am and
there was a ton of fish, some strange looking ones too.
Buy a Ferry Ticket to Belem at the Port
Next I wanted to find out about a ferry to Belem
which leave from the main port (Porto
do Santarem) which is about 1km walk from the fish market, it took me 20mins. You can take a ride on the back of a motorbike to get there
which is what I did on the way back. I bought a ticket from one of the offices at the port for a ferry to Belem
leaving a couple of days
later. It cost 130 Reals (about $40USD) and the trip I was told would take about 48hrs (it actually took 43hrs).
The Historical Area
From here on a motorbike
taxi I headed to the center of Santarem's historic area - the blue church and spent the whole of the rest of the day exploring the city.
The cathedral was built in 1761 and is probably the main sight to see. There is not that much to see in Santarem as far as historic buildings
go, you have to walk a lot around the city to find them, they are not all together. Beside the church is a history and art museum (Museu de
Historia e Arte Sacra). Very nearby is the Solar dos Brancos, an historical building with a tiled facade. At the eastern end of the footpath along the riverside are restaurants and a few
other historical buildings that are currently being restored (near plaza Praca Barao) which includes the Centro Cultural Joao Fona building
built between 1853 and 1867. Nearby is the fishermens plaza Praca do Pescador with its gold statue. A block from here is the theatre Teatro
Municipal Victoria and from there I could see another church in the far distance which turned out to be Paroquia Sao Raimundo Nonato. In front
of the church is a small plaza called Praca do Centenario which has a pond of small turtles, a cannon and a few monuments. This plaza is only
one street up from the waterfront and very close to the Tapajos Ferry Terminal from where locals travel to the other communities near Santarem
- Alenquer, Monte Alegre
, Juruit etc. I walked to the end of the wharf to photograph a white stork and enjoyed the views from there for a
while before I went hunting for more sights. Another church - Igreja Batista, the college - Colegio Santa Clara, old wooden houses, another
plaza - Praca Tiradentes and the central shopping area - Belo Centro Tapajos (2006).
Buy Your Hammock
Down in the area
in front of the cathedral are many stalls selling hammocks, this is where I bought mine for the ferry to Belem. It was quite cheap at around
40 Reals ($13USD), there is honestly about 1000 to choose from!
In the Evenings
In the evening along the waterfront you can buy food
like BBQ meat on a stick or visit a boat restaurant like I did called Restaurante da Dona Graca, she makes a great cheap meal!
How to Get to Alter do Chao
I took a local bus 1hr to Alter do Chao - a nice beach, island and small town, to spend a few hours. It is actually a destination, you could
spend a few days enjoying the beautiful surroundings here and there are hostels and other accommodation available too. Being late March the
Island of Love (Ilha do Amor) was somewhat submerged, the best months to come are between August and December. Lago Verde, the huge lagoon
can be explored by canoe or with a tour to see various birds and animals. I walked along to the beach area where chairs and tables sit slightly
in the water, you can have a cold drink and relax, swim, eat, it's really quite nice just to do that! The town is quite small and has many indigenous
art stores, some restaurants, a church, plaza and bus terminal. Alter do Chao is definitely the place to visit if you are in Santarem for a few days!
East by Ferry on the Amazon
The next day I made my way to the ferry for the trip east along the river to Belem