I’d decided that a wonderful way to see some more of the Amazon and to get to Colombia would be to take the river boat.
It’s a long journey, and you arrive in Tabatinga which is the border town where you can cross to Leticia in Colombia.
There are two options: the fast boat or the slow boat. The slow boat is cheaper and would take about six days. The fast boat would take 1,5 days. On the slow boat you sleep in a hammock tied to the deck. On the fast boat you have a seat. The decision should have been obvious. But I thought the slow boat sounded fun and Nonato at Amazon Backpackers assured me that they’d buy my ticket and put my hammock up in a good spot early in the morning. It all sounded so easy…
On the morning of my boat I met Nonato who then drove me to the Port and dumped me off with the ticket sellers who would put me on the boat. Off went the ticket seller to buy my hammock. Why wasn’t it on the boat?! By this point Nonato had of course scurried away to never be seen again. Finally one woman decided she’d put me on the boat, and of course when we got on it was completely full of early birds who’d hung their hammocks with very little space for mine. She didn’t even have any rope to hang it with so had to cut a piece of somebody else’s. She finally found a gap, hung it and left me to it. I sat in my hammock and tried to imagine life for a week on the river.
I checked my emails to see the price and days of the other boat. I checked to see the change fee for my flight already booked for next week – $25 – I gathered my belongings, ditched the hammock and ran off the boat as fast as my backpack could take me. Best quick decision ever. I went back to the ticket sellers and informed them I would not be travelling on their awful boat and they gave me my money back and showed me where to buy the fast boat tickets.
I didn’t think the fast boat would leaving for another three days, but the ticket lady asked if I’d like to go tomorrow – even better. I went back to my hostel for another night and lay in my bed on my laptop feeling wonderful to be in a bed with WiFi, and got to spend some more time in Manaus, which I thought was actually quite a beautiful little town.
An early start on Sunday morning for the 36 hour boat to Tabatinga. This is the boat I didn’t take.
Ours was a tiny little thing with freezing cold air conditioning. I was assured there would be food included like on a plane but I couldn’t work out how and was a little worried how my packet of biscuits would see me through, until I went to the toilet and found the tiny cupboard (kitchen) up the back where the two women were working hard to prepare lunch.
It was indeed a fast boat, we stopped quite a few times in tiny villages but never for more than a few minutes where they threw people and their strange luggage off, and got a few new ones on.
The next day at around 4pm we arrived into Tabatinga where I took a taxi with a lady from South Africa who’d spotted me looking like an English speaker, as we so happened to be staying at the same place, just across the border in Leticia.
Getting in the pool at Leticia’s Guest House was one of the nicest moments ever, after walking around the town in a humid 30C. The only way out of Leticia is by plane so the next day I went to the tiniest airport to catch the plane to the Caribbean and Cartagena…