Sunday, 8 August 2010

On Sandy Beaches with Pink Dolphins.

It was two days in the boat and three or four stop-overs to load and unload hundreds upon hundreds of heavy sacks of nuts and cases of fruits, sweaty travellers with half their livelihoods and liters of tears from their loved ones left behind, until we reached the next large port. Santarém is the smallest of the three trading forts on the Brazilian Amazon and right where Rio Tapajós joins the big muddy snake.

The city somehow manages a delicately low profile, with a colourful and bustling riverfront, beautiful and unassuming wooden houses, endless hammock spreads, car-washers on the spot, moto-taxis, fishing lines and old battered riverboats. And of course the famous pink dolphins with their bumpy noses not far off-shore, fresh water lakes and mysterious farming huts on muddy banks. At the same time it's loud and raunchy after sunset and the heat keeps up in more than one ways.

Tapajós itself is awesome with its turquoise waters and fine sandy beaches, at least during the dry season. And this being the dry season I had a little taste of them. Alter do Chão is the obvious superstar, a sandy stripe of a few meters wide and several more long, like a Lilliputian lost continent in the middle of a bright blue bay. Yet it's full of fun and huts and chairs in the water during the weekends when everybody seems to descend there. On a weekday the spotlights are off and it joins Maracanã and the other jewels in their graceful anonymity.