The next day, the boat kept sailing between Tabatinga and Manaus.
Food in these boats is basic but acceptable. They serve the Brazilian staples: rice, beans, farofa (manioc flour), salad and some meat. Guidebook warnings about food exhaustion, almost certain diarrhoea, and so on, were exaggerated, as usual. The first boat I took had all meals included, whereas in the next two it was charged separately. Buying from hackers who jumped in the boat as soon as it arrived to a port was just slightly cheaper.
In the very long queue to have lunch, I had an odd encounter.
There was a woman with her little girl just behind me. I had already noticed this family the first day, they had an unmistakable look: women and girls wore a long veil, and the man very long hair and beard; all of them were quite short and with a weather-beaten face. I was curious about why they had such a weird look, and if it was for religious reasons. I knew they couldn’t be Muslims. I later took a photo of mother and daughter going to the toilet.
Without being aware of my nationality, the woman started talking to me in Spanish (which almost nobody onboard could speak). I then learnt they were Peruvians. I asked her if it was common in her town to wear a veil. She answered: “If women don’t wear a veil, God doesn’t listen to them. The Bible states that” (and she mentioned some quote from the Old Testament). She explained to me that they are members of the “Israeli” religion. I asked her if they are Jews like those of Israel (obviously not, just to prompt her to explain further). «NO!! THEY HAVE DENIED OUR LORD!!!» As she talked more about her religion, she sounded more confident, raising her voice ever more, it was clear that this was her favourite subject. It seems that her “Lord”, Jehovah of the Armies, had seen that Israelis don’t listen and had preferred to become incarnate in Peru instead. This man, according to the woman, ascended to heaven and brought back the 10 commandments. Those were the same of Moses, but unlike Moses, to whom the 10 commandments descended from heaven, Jehovah of the Armies ascended to pick them up.
However surreal this was, the most striking point the woman made wasn’t about religion but about hair. “The Incas had log hair, and that’s why they were strong”. I was about to laugh, but I asked her: Like Samson? “Yeah, sure, of course, I see you also know about this. That’s why everybody’s weak nowadays, because they cut their hair. We are not at the image of God”. We then got into the dinning hall, but I didn’t sit alongside the woman, I thought the conversation had been surreal enough.
That night, the landscape was just amazing. The Amazon River was getting bigger and bigger, ever more majestic.
The next two trips were less of a novelty. The boats were full but not as overcrowded as the first one. There were no Haitians, only locals and, in the last one, a few Europeans. Instead of the excitement of emigrating to a new country and a new life, for these locals it was just another trip within their region. Nevertheless, there was plenty of opportunity to meet people and gaze at amazing landscapes.
To conclude, I recommend everyone who travels to the Amazonia to take at least one of these trips. It’s a unique experience, you get the chance to see all the course of the river and interact easily with people who stay away from the tourist circuit. And, of course, this is the cheapest way to move around the region.