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June 22, 2003

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From Brazil's border with Colombia at a town called Tabatinga, we set off last night in a public ferryboat down the Amazon. Immigration officials did not check our passports until the middle of the night, when they boarded the boat at a checkpoint many kilometers downstream. No one cared about the late hour since blaring music kept everyone awake. Brazilians play their music at two settings - ear drum splitting and off. The top of our boat is a dance floor for samba swinging locals. Everyone smiles. We relax in our cabin, amazed at its high level of comfort - double bed, air conditioning, wooden panel walls, private bathroom, shower, and satellite TV. So much for our thoughts of "roughing it" down the Amazon like intrepid explorers.
Brazil ferryboats are fancier than the Peruvian ones. The boats offer hearty meals and decent cabins - $225 for two people, fullboard, for a three day journey from the Brazilian border downstream to Manaus. Better yet, if you're willing to sleep in a hammock on deck, the price drops by half.
If you're not dancing on this boat you must be watching Brazilian football (soccer). Unfortunately, the hometeam lost. For the first time in its history, the Brazilian National Team did not advance past the first round in an international tournament. Most Brazilians shrugged it off - back to samba...