After a long flight, and a 21 hour stop in Lisbon, we arrived in Belém, Brazil on the 1st of November around midnight. We were supposed to arrive about 2 hours earlier, but we were delayed by 45 minutes. Then, as a nice surprise, TAP also decided to have us stop in Sal, Cape Verde, as the plane was apparently too heavy and we needed to refuel there. I’d take that over not making it to our destination any day of course, but it was a bit annoying.
Acclimatising to the Amazon
Considering Belém is just under the equator, and after having been to Brazil a couple of times before of course (Brazil is a great country to have family), we knew it was going to be hot and humid. Leaving the plane after we arrived was like walking in to a wall of wet warmth. Like it has been so many times.
However, as we arrived at night, the temperature had already dropped considerably, so we only really found out about the heat the next morning. And it was hot. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place that was this humid. The temperature was going to be about 34 Celcius, but because of the humidity we could easily add 3 extra degrees to that. Thankfully this was the only day like that so far, but I’m sure we’ll have more of them.
An unexpected breakfast
Considering the circumstances and us still being tired from the flight, we decided to take it easy. First order of the day was breakfast, we had been looking forward to a nice cold bowl of açaí. So off to the market we went. Mercado Ver-o-Peso is the famous market of Belém where you can buy anything from fresh fish, fruits, nuts and other local products. This is also the place where they bring in the just harvested açaí, so we had no doubt we’d be having breakfast in no time.
But, ya know, it’s Brazil, things just don’t always go to plan. Turns out, açaí is eaten very differently in Belém. And, probably in the whole Amazon. The açaí here is not sweet, and it’s eaten with fried fish. Quite a shocker for people that were looking for the smoothie bowl type, hahaha.
So yeah, what do you do, other than simply try the local version, right? For me without the fish, but it was an experience nonetheless. Açaí without sugar is… well, let’s just say that it’s definitely not the same.
Preparing for the river boat
After this unexpected breakfast we walked around the market for a bit, before heading towards the docks. Information about the boats was hard to come by when we were planning the first part of our trip. Our only option was to pop by and figure out how and what.
In typical Brazil fashion, a man approached us as we walked in to the ferry terminal, and naturally he was precisely the guy we needed. Initially, based on the information we could find online, we wanted to take the boat that left on Saturday morning. As it turns out, there is also a boat on Friday, which leaves in the evening and would arrive in Santarém on Monday morning, fitting our needs much better.
The sights of Belém, Brazil
After a night of semi-good sleep (SO humid), we were getting ready to leave for breakfast on the other side of town, when the heavens opened up. Like, one second there was nothing, then there were liters of water pounding on the roof. We had just ordered an uber, and we were hungry, so we didn’t have much of a choice: we were going to have to run through it, and we were going to get wet.
Luckily, like most tropical showers, it stopped after about an hour or so, meaning our day of sightseeing wasn’t completely going to waste! First stop: the ‘Mangal das Garças’ gardens, which translates to ‘Mangrove of Herons’. It’s right next to the river, so a big part of the area is an actual mangrove. And yes, you can also find herons there (what’s in a name…).
Afterwards we walked in the direction of the old city center, where we would visit a few small museums and the old fortress of the city. Coincidentally, it was heritage week in Belém, so all of the museums were free to visit! And a big plus: they all had airconditioning. So we alternated going to museums and being outside for a while before we went back to our hostel.
And then the next part of our Amazonian adventure begins…