After getting off my last boat in the Amazon River and walking out of the city of Manaus in hopes of finding a lorry going to Porto Velho, the next biggest city nearby (with “nearby” I mean 888 km away), I crossed the Amazon River by a ferry and started hitchhiking. The sky was slowly darkening, and rain clouds were approaching too. Not finding anything, already after the dark I asked the local police forces if I could crash down next to the police office where a small roof would protect me from the elements. A heavy rainstorm had started, so sleeping in a tent was out of the question. The Polícia Rodoviária Federal (The Federal Road Police) said no (quite kindly, actually, on the basis that they didn’t have the jurisdiction to allow me that), but the Polícia Civil was more welcoming. They gave me a lift to the waiting room at the ferry port and talked to the security guard there, and with that it was settled. I was spending a night at the ferry port.
And I was ill. Walking in the sun during the hottest period of the day had left me fatigued and unwell. I must have gotten a heatstroke, I reckoned. The security guard had some ibuprofens to give me, but they didn’t help much. The feeling didn’t stop the next day either when I continued waiting for any lorries in front of the two police stations (they were conveniently located on the main road next to each other).
The hours passed, but still nothing. A kindly-looking man offered me water if I went with him. Since my gut feeling told me not to worry, I agreed. And sure enough, it turned out that the man was a pastor who took me to his church, still on the main road, gave me a cup of coffee, some water, a sandwich, a cake and later even a full meal. He was curious about the political system in Latvia and how the European Union works, wanted to talk about the immigration problems and wars. He introduced me to his family as well. And allowed me to stay inside the church where it was cooler and observe the oncoming traffic through a window opening to the main road.
But still there was no traffic. I could have tried to get a ride from a car or a pickup, but I knew the lorries would take me further. And then the pastor advised me to go back to “Porto da Ceasa” on the other side of the river (Actually two rivers – Rio Negro and Rio Amazonas) and ask there because most lorries board a ferry going directly to Porto Velho. And that’s how I returned to Manaus.
At “Porto da Ceasa” in Manaus, the lorries boarding the ferry to Porto Velho have a separate parking lot, so I went to the security guards there and asked if they knew any lorry going to where I wanted to get. One had just left that day, they said. The next day was a National Holiday, so the ferry was not leaving then. I had to come back in two days time if I wanted to find something. And so, still wanting to travel by lorries, not cars or pickups (a habit acquired in Peru), I went to look for a place to sleep. And I found it at a small pousada – a shared house with separate rooms for rent and a common kitchen. The unconditional trust and good heartedness that Lia, the owner of the pousada, showed me, a foreign traveller she had never met before, still astonishes me and will do so for ever. She gave me the keys to one of the empty rooms and told me that the following day she was going away and would be back only late in the evening. I offered to tell her my passport number, you know, for security purposes and for the peace of her mind should she feel uneasy about a stranger staying at her house, but she said there was no need for that. She could see that I was an honest person.
I could not imagine such a thing happen anywhere outside Brazil. Say, in Peru.
That night it rained again. And I was glad once more for having a roof over my head. But I don’t remember much of the next day. I was still ill. I again took several ibuprofens, but they didn’t make me feel better. I went to eat at the port, but the meal that otherwise would have seemed heavenly and delicious (especially, if one sustains himself on a diet of biscuits), now almost caused me to throw up, and I couldn’t finish it. I spent the rest of the day just lying on the floor in my room and drinking water.
The following morning I still wasn’t well, but I wished to continue my trip nonetheless. The time was moving on fast (it was the 3rd of November), and I wanted to get to my Brazilian Latvians in Nova Odessa before the 14th of November when there was a very special event there that I wanted to attend. But I was still 3700 km away. I packed all my stuff and waited for Lia outside the main house to hand her the keys. But when she showed up, something unexpected happened. Lia offered me to stay. She could show me her property just outside the city where she was hoping to establish a permaculture farm with facilities for activities for the elderly and the children; I could teach her something more about the computer use, and I could explore more of Manaus. And, since all that sounded tempting – and I was still ill – I said yes.
I could no longer go back to the room I had stayed in, for it was soon to be occupied by a paying resident. But Lia found a floor space in the common kitchen that was fairly seldom used. My sleeping place was separated from the main area by a fence (the place had been planned for baking pizzas and ended up detached, so that the other residents wouldn’t steal the ingredients) and had a different entrance with a lockable door. I was more than pleased. And so, this is what I did for the next eight days in Manaus:
• Spent two days resting and fighting the illness.
• Bought a flight ticket from Manaus to Campinas (the closest airport to Nova Odessa) for the 12th of November.
• Helped Lia learn more about the use of Paint, Facebook, Skype and Movie Maker.
• Went to watch the new Bond movie “Spectre” with the audio in Portuguese.
• Finished writing some unfinished blog posts.
• Visited Lia’s property and went for a walk in the jungle.
• Got to know the city centre a little and was shocked that the supermarkets were already prepared for Christmas.
Before leaving, I also sorted out my belongings. Some of the items were too old/unnecessary/cumbersome to take back to Europe/wouldn’t fit in my luggage, so I decided to leave them with Lia to be taken to her smallholding and used by anyone working/helping there. These items were: the sleeping mat, the mosquito net, my alpaca wool blanket from Bolivia, a plastic food container, a raincoat, a pair of trousers, a T-shirt and a compression sack.
During my trip, several times I have been asked if I wanted to stay somewhere for longer. And that was the case this time too. For Lia, seeing how positive I was about her plan to establish a place for activities for the elderly and the children at her property, including having an organic vegetable plot and using natural building techniques for constructing the necessary facilities, offered me to stay with her to help her. Once again, I had to decline. But I did introduce her to Workaway volunteering program, and I hope that in the future, if all is well, she will receive a great number of volunteers.
On the way to the airport I passed the Arena da Amazonia, the only football stadium in the Brazilian Amazon tha housed the 2014 FIFA World Cup. After the event, however, it didn’t get as much usage as desired, causing some serious dissatisfaction in a number of local residents who deemed the pricy construction ($270 m) unnecessary.
And then I boarded the plane to Campinas. And with that my travelling days were (are) almost over. Now, at the time of this post being uploaded, I am still in the State of São Paulo, spending my time with new and old friends. My hitchhiking days already ended the very same moment I arrived in Yurimaguas, Peru, although I didn’t know it back then. A total summary of everything – as well as a few last posts – will follow soon.