Saturday, March 22, 2008

Admiring the distance

I am in Belem now, up in the northern Brazil, at the mouth of the Amazon. 50 hours in the bus turned into more than 60 as a small riot, including a bonfire of tires and road blocks, interupted the journey. As the sun set and the drizzling rain started, a tired looking Policia Militar-officer, toting a H&K, managed to send the people back home.

I was warned against such a long ride, again and again, but I enjoyed the trip. It's much better than flying, as long as the bus is okay and you're not competing against time, that is. You'll get much better idea of the distances in this vast country. There's nothing you can really do in the bus - just enjoy some good music, read a little and watch as the incredible nature of Brazil rolls past the window. Occasionally something goes wrong, so you'll wait an hour or so at the gas station as the bus gets fixed. Sit back, have a beer and practice your portuguese - there's always someone in the bus who really wants to know what on earth the gringo is doing up here.

Belem. The metropolis of Amazônas, they call it. Towering highrises, crumbling colonial buildings reminding of the days of the rubber boom, bustling markets, huge old cranes creaking at the harbour, all the smells of the ageless river and dead fishes, screaming of vultures hunting for leftovers, fruits in a thousand colours and forms. Wide smiles, though few teeth, and both thumbs up. Tudo bem? Tudo bem.

Water, water, everywhere. Pouring tropical rain turns the streets into little rivers, every day. An umbrella is the local accessory number one: both guarda-chuva and guarda-sol, protection against the rain and the merciless sun. It's said that the weather gives the rhythm to the local life: Let's meet after the rain.

And the rainforest, everywhere. While out there the Amazon is destroyed at an alarming speed, the life still tries to fight back, creeping into every little space available. From my window I can see a concrete wall of a skyscraper, and there, in the middle of the wall, in the height of 20 meters, grows a tree. The little puddles of water in the shower, never quite drying in this humidity, are bustling with insects and worms within minutes. Disgusted, at first I tried to stomp them to death: what a waste of time, what an insanity. Life is everywhere here, in a thousand shapes and sizes. Live and let live.

Now I am waiting for a river boat up to Manaus and from there I aim to continue to Colombia. My computer I left in Rio, so no music or pictures here for a month or so. But I have time to read now, so I'll try to post an occasional book review. I have a lot of interesting reading to make my backpack more challenging to haul around.

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