15 February 2009

In Country: Swaying with Strangers

You have probably heard of swinging with strangers, but our most recent experience takes that term to a new level. What, you might ask, is swaying with strangers? Basically it entails stringing up a hammock in the belly of a boat while floating down the mighty Amazonas River. The hammocks are strung quite close together and create a lovely mosaic pattern of colors and shapes. And, if you are really lucky, you might enjoy having a complete stranger kick you in the head free of charge. Tudo bem.

And so, swaying with strangers is what David, Hope, Fernando and I did on Thursday afternoon. We purchased three hammocks from the street market in Santarem before catching a medium sized boat headed east down the river. For about 6 hours we swayed in our hammocks as the boat sailed past isolated fishing villages and low lying riverine terrain before arriving at our destination, Monte Alegre (population 30,000).

This small city on the north bank of the Amazonas River sits adjacent to a geologic anomaly in the Lower Amazon basin. While most of the region is flat and rests at sea level, the area of Monte Alegre is relatively mountainous. Indeed, monte in Portuguese, Spanish and Italian refers to the word mountain and thus suggests the modest elevation gain of up to 350 meters around Serra Itauaiuri, its highest mountain.

It's probably also worth noting that the word alegre typically means happy. So after swaying with strangers we safely reached happy mountain.

No comments: