Sunday, January 30, 2011
Manaus and securing a barge down the Amazon.
After arriving in Manaus we had one contact for a barge company that does business on the river, Chibatao Navegacao, no address. But first, Tom saw a propane gas truck and ever on the lookout for propane, he went to chat with the driver. Let me tell you, Portuguese is nothing like Spanish and we are having trouble understanding and being understood. After much pantomiming, the driver inspects our connection valve. He can’t fill us but we can do it at the main plant. He draws us a map and we decide to take care of the propane first. We were going to fill up in Fortaleza but we are down to between a quarter and half a tank, so this will take the pressure off. With the help of the map, the plant proved easy to find and yes, they could fill us. We find that most of the people are really eager to help us out and are in awe of our journey. They also gave us directions to the barge company which was not too far from them. We parked at the dock and went into the office. Unfortunately their policy must have changed in the last couple of years as they will only take vehicles with one person. After some discussion they provided the name of another company, Linave and a truck driver who was present offered to show us where it was. We followed him for miles, through town, through a shanty town, past companies and factories and into the countryside. It was getting dark and I was getting nervous. “Where is this place?” I ask Tom. I can tell he is also perturbed. Eventually we pull into a guarded gate and follow our truck driver down more winding roads, past shipping containers and into another yard, also securely guarded. We all park and he and Tom go over to a guard. Unfortunately the office is closed but this is the place. As it is late, dark and we don’t know where we are exactly, we spend the night at the shipping yard, knowing at least that it is secure. Tuesday morning, Tom goes to the office. Yes, they can take us, tonight at midnight but the fare is 1,916 Rs (about $1,150.00) and they only take reais and cash. We have about 1200 Rs on us so head back to town to find a bank; we need to pay before 3pm. In addition I want to see the Teatro Amazonas Opera house built during the rubber boom of the late 1800’s, when for a brief time Manaus was the richest city in the world. I was not disappointed. The Teatro is magnificent, with Italian marble, iron pillars and its beautiful mosaic dome. 2pm and we are back at the shipping yard. Tom pays for our trip and we are told to be ready at midnight. The barge will sail at 4am. We are so excited and spend the evening walking Winston and watching the city lights of Manaus as we wait for our barge.