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| Cunard Queen Victoria 2017 World Cruise
Sectors from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand
It is 405.5 nautical miles from Manaus to Santarem, and departure from Manaus at 0700 meant that the Queen Victoria was berthed at Santarem at 0800 the following morning, helped by the flow of the river to augment our speed. Unfortunately the time in Santarem is different to Manaus and clocks went forward by one hour overnight. The Indian settlement here dates back to 1542. The city of Santarem was founded by Portuguese colonists in 1661. Santarém is an important regional market center. The regional economy is based on agriculture, cattle and mining. The city has seen many 'cycles' of economic development, including rubber extraction, coffee production, and gold mining. Most recently there has been a huge growth in the area of soybean plantations. Santarém is a popular destination for cruise ships on the Amazon, which berth regularly in the City Docks. Santarem is a convenient ferry port between Manaus and the state capital Belém, located downriver at the mouth of the Amazon on the Atlantic Ocean. Ferry boats travel regularly between these, the three largest cities in the region, and most accommodation is in "hammock class". According to the 2012 census, Santarém had a population of 299,419 people.
Having previously had an excellent tour in Manaus to visit their rivers there was a possibility that the river cruise in Santarem would be a disappointment. The two trips were different and both enjoyable. Early in the morning the local riverboats brought their landing stage alongside the Queen Victoria and loaded tours directly from the ship so there was no need to walk to the port. Our 0830 tour eventually departed at 0915. The boats were small and seating was temporary plastic garden chairs. Santarém is bordered by the Amazon and the Tapajós rivers. Both run along many kilometers in the front of the city, side by side, without mixing. This contrasts with Manaus where the Rio Negro borders the town, and joins the Amazon several miles downstream. The Amazon's milky colored water carries sediment from the Andes in the East, while the Tapajós's water is somewhat warmer and has a deep-blue tone. As in Manaus, this phenomenon is called "The meeting of the waters". Soon there was a procession of these boats towards the line of blue and brown water, where small local boats were also fishing. There was a sighting of a dolphin but again no chance of a photo.
The journey continued along the Rio Tapajos, which was narrow at places and it was only possible for riverboats to pass with care. Along the river the guides pointed out two sloths which were well hidden in the trees. The single great white egret, in contrast, never moved from its tree post in the centre of the river. There must be different types of white egret because those in Manaus had yellow legs whereas these were black. A group of parrots sang happily, and large birds of prey soured overhead. There were cows, goats and horses in the small farms.
The cruise ended at Lake Maica where the boats turned. There remained plenty of time to tie up the boat to the bank and use hand lines for fishing, baited using raw steak. We were lucky and the group caught 3 piranha fish. The largest was caught by the captain. Piranha fish, preserved and mounted, are for sale in all the souvenir shops but the Queen Victoria does not allow them on board because they are treated as a biohazard. There are many different types of fish in the Amazon, and the scales of the Pirarucu fish can be used as emery board for filing nails. Fortunately our cheese from Manaus, which we discovered is buffalo cheese, is not a hazard. The return route went closer to the town and the sandy beaches.
The main places to visit in town are the Museum, the Fisherman's Square, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Our Lady of Conception and the Market. The building which now houses the Santarem Museum was built in 1868 and has been the courthouse, prison and city hall. These were all clearly visible from the river and are along the riverside walk which starts close to the port. Normally it would be an easy distance to walk but the conditions in the afternoon were too difficult. Many people paid $10 for a taxi because of the heat and humidity. As we arrived back at the port there were two large ferries departing, one to Belem and the other to Manaus which gave us a detailed view of 'hammock class'. The port area has no cruise ship facilities, just a small craft market, but the typical local souvenirs are prohibited onto the Queen Victoria and into New Zealand.
In the other direction there are splendid sandy beaches, the most well known being Alter do Chao . There are also beaches on the Ilha de Marajo, between Macapa and Belem, which is the world's largest river island of over 18,000 sq miles. This island is also famous for having the largest and finest buffaloes and we wondered if our cheese had been made there.
The next part will continue with Rio de Janeiro, Brazil