Monday, January 11, 2016

Day Three: Pivoting to Our Amazon Home

Friday, January 8, 2016

We can’t explain why we were up until 2:00am before another huge travel day.  But based on the amount of laughter that was rocking the halls of the hostel, whatever we were doing was lots of fun.  The fact that we had to get up at 7:30 and carry all of our stuff over and over again throughout the day did not convince us to get ourselves to go to sleep.  As in most utopian communities, we just didn’t want to miss anything. 

And morning came early for sure, but we just hopped right up and did what we needed to do.  Our vans were late but we didn’t mind, as we were very quick at making our large load of bags do what they needed to do.  When we got to the waterfront, there was the usual chaos finding our boat in the long line of vessels preparing to embark in all directions throughout the Amazon basin. 

We sought the community boat of Anã, which makes round trips from the community to Santarém on Fridays and Sundays.  Because the water level is very low, all boats are now far from the closest road and across much broader sandy beaches than usual.  Though we made a conscious effort to reduce our overall load this year, we still had very heavy bags to lug across a busy road (but fortunately, at a stoplight), down a concrete staircase, across a sandy beach, over a wet plank bridge, across another sandy beach and through thigh-deep water to get them up a ramp and into the hold of the boat.  We were champs. 

We organized three “bucket brigades,” where we line up spaced across an area and pass the bags from person to person without putting them down.  We used one line to get the bags across the road, another to get them down the stairs and to the plank bridge and another to get them across the last beach.  From there we just carried them straight onto the boat.  Unlike last year, there was plenty of room for our bags and for us, so we got up in the boat and just got as comfortable as we could. 

It took us awhile to notice that we had missed our scheduled departure time and we were actually a bit startled when the boat finally started running and made its way out into the river.  We hadn’t made any real progress when a loud squeal started to sound; most of our mechanically-minded folks recognized it as a belt problem.  We learned from the locals that the boat had a fancy new motor and they were quite surprised when it wasn’t operating smoothly. 

After much discussion in Portuguese, another boat showed up to tow ours back to shore.  A third boat then came and picked us up.  The crew moved most of our bags from the lower hold of our boat to the lower hold of the new boat.  We just crossed over into the new boat by jumping both rails and got comfortable again. 

All of this non-moving time on the boat gave us a chance to connect to the locals, including a couple of adorable young boys who wanted to talk to us, play with us, get their pictures taken by us, take pictures of us, and generally form a lovely little friendship.  They particularly loved Matt, who tended to have one or the other of them hanging off his arms at any given time. 

We eventually began the four hour boat ride to Anã and most of us either journaled, talked to other passengers or slept.  Though we easily could have been frustrated and complaining, we instead focused on our primary DIRT imperative: Pivot!  Honestly, we didn’t have to focus on anything, as we just happily carried on and rolled with the changes, never missing a beat.  It just seems that all of us are “those kind of people.”  Lucky us. 

As we approached the beach of Anã, boats started paddling our way and the returners from last year were calling out names and shouting greetings into nearly every craft.  Kids and adults were waving madly and our rusty Portuguese skills started to improve really quickly. 

We did one more series of bucket lines to get our bags to their final destination: our round hammock hut (called an oca).  Just beyond it is our bathhouse, with four fine showers and four toilet stalls, and just beyond that is the kitchen/dining area that we call the pousada.  All are painted in lovely pastels, courtesy of last year’s DIRT team.  All of last year’s group will be glad to know that the colors have held up extremely well, including the Strawberry Shortcake Hammock Hut. 

We took quite awhile to get organized in the hammock hut and then gathered for dinner to meet our new hosts.  The vets from last year knew almost everyone here and the newcomers had heard most of the names before.  We all introduced ourselves to them and a couple of us (Julia and Cole) gave brief speeches of appreciation that touched the hearts of our friends in Anã.  We are off to a lovely start.

We stayed up too late again, but it’s hard to go to bed when you are surrounded by rain forest and a million Amazon stars.  We did great in the hut for the night and even fell back asleep when the monkey noises began just after sunrise. 

Saturday will bring a tour of the community and an overview of our projects.  We can’t wait. 

Lugging the luggage to the community boat.
Evinaldo enjoying a meal of chicken wings and rice while we wait for our boat to be towed after the motor failed.
Joelho taught himself how to use our camera and took this self portrait.
Diamile playing peek-a-boo with Matt. 
Mother and her child on the boat.

Anã #NoFilter

Unloading our lounge at Anã

Tonico holding the boat steady to help unload luggage

Stayed up late having a blast, forcing us to try to sleep at any opportunity.

Matt using the visual dictionaries made by the DIRTies to build a relationship with Joelho, an eight year old boy from Anã. 

Suze playing tic-tac-toe on the boat with Joelho, anxiously waiting for our arrival in Anã.

Evinaldo playing in the hammocks, occasionally giving us a cheeky smile, making our day brighter.

Foa Sta. Maria comes to the rescue after the motor of our first boat blows out. Pivot, but super excited to get to Anã. 

Killing time on the boat ride
Departing Santarém on the boat


  1. Day 3: Wow! What a journey to Ana. The boat motor failed along the way, waited for another boat. Looking at the bright side, you interacted with the other riders, caught up with your journals and sleep. Arrived safely. Alls good in the end.

  2. Glad to hear that the color held up on the oca!! And it's nice to see Ze's house up. Hope everyone in Ana is doing well. I cannot wait to hear and see more from your trip! Awesome photo of Tonico by the way! I'm sure he's busy busy busy with the new fish food factory. Suze, Carlos, Jenny and Stephan, make sure to bring home a win this year! :) -Mack