I wasn’t actually going to come here to Belém. The original idea was to get a bus to Santarém then a boat to Manaus but having discovered the cost of a bus to Santarém (R$300!!) I changed my mind and headed here. R$300. Bitch please, I can get all the way to Manaus for half that on a boat from Belém. So it was, like, 8:30 on Sunday morning when I found myself wandering the deserted streets of Belém looking as lost as ever, trying to find a hotel which apparently didn’t exist. Fuck. As I’ve said before, if you look lost enough eventually someone will rob you or help you and help this time came in the form of a fat man who, from what I gathered over the following days, doesn’t seem to move from his chair off that corner. Ever. He called me over and said, “Hotel?” I nodded. He pointed me in the direction of three, recommending Hotel Fortaleza because mucho gringo stay there. He even got a small child on a bicycle to lead the way.
Hotel Fortaleza is run by the fierce Gilda who has a penchant for chain smoking and wielding machetes at Argentinians. She speaks English as well as Portuguese, Spanish, French, Italian and little bits of various other languages and I thought she was fabulous. The Argentinians who were staying there, Eduard and Wally, were slightly worried, bless ’em, they had the misfortune of showing up just after Argentina won their match against Mexico. Brazil played the next day and I kept an eye on the machete every time Chile got near the goal. The hotel is also home to two parrots which are cute until the sun rises because once they’re awake everyone’s awake. Polly want to be a parrot sandwich?
So. Belém. I wanted to rock up, buy a boat ticket to Santarém for the following day, check out some of the stuff to see here (of which there is a surprising amount and some of it’s actually quite cool) then fuck off.
There were no boats leaving on the Monday, I had to wait until Tuesday but at least I haggled him down to R$100 from R$160 which I was well proud of. My first haggle ever and all I had to do was look disgusted at the cost and know the Portuguese word for “hundred.” I await my medal.
Ok, so time killing methods include Museu Emilio Goeldi which is pretty much just a small zoo but I like to learn things and zoos are a good way to do this on account of the handy information boards. They were in English an’ all. Bonus. They have heaps of cool stuff including a jaguar which was sleeping on its back with its legs in the air, occasionally rolling over and back again and wiping its face with its paw. Awww. You big tough jungle cat, you. And they have birds and these huge lily pads with, like, claws coming off them that look like they’d eat your face if you got too close.
On Mondays all the cool tourist stuff is closed so I decided to give my poor, chaffed inner thighs a rest from the walking. Aside from watching the Brazil vs Chile match in the hotel with a room full of passionate Brazilians (one of who insisted on letting off fireworks off the balcony into the narrow streets every time Brazil scored and I’m glad they didn’t score more because my poor heart couldn’t take it) I did sweet fuck all. Nada. Nothing. I was bored out of my tiny mind. Oh, and Hotel Fortaleza charge you R$5 less a night if you hang your hammock instead of sleeping in a bed so I hung my new hammock for the first time, got in it and promptly rolled out the other side. Smooth.
We need to talk about this heat though. I’ve lived in the Tropics before whilst I was in Australia but let’s face it, that ain’t this close to the Equator. This is a very different experience. You think Darwin is hot? Darwin doesn’t know the meaning of the word hot. If the Amazon and Darwin had a fight using only Hot as a weapon, the Amazon would whip Darwin’s arse and force it to renounce its status as Really Fucking Hot. That’s how hot it is here.
The first thing to go was the hair. My hair hadn’t been this long since, well, forever and I wasn’t used to the extra insulation on my head as it was. I hacked the back and sides off which were the bits that were doing my nut in but I didn’t know what to do about the top. So I left it. I now resemble something that wouldn’t look out of place during the 80’s New Romantic era. All I need now is an abundance of lace to make up my cuffs, some Human League on vinyl and eye make up that needs to be applied with a trowel and the look is complete.
The next thing to go is the blood. Forcibly. Fucking mosquitoes! I hate them so much, I’ve been vaccinated against yellow fever but there’s nothing you can do against dengue or malaria. I’m meant to start taking Doxycycline now an all which is an anti-biotic to help prevent malaria but it makes you extra sensitive to UV rays which means you really have to keep on top of your sun screen and given the fact I only recently managed to toast myself I’m not overly sure I’m up to the task of Looking After Myself Properly. I shall be needing DEET and lots of it. I don’t want that Family Safe crap you get in supermarkets, I want the extra strength stuff, the ShitTonne% DEET stuff. I want the one that strips concrete and melts children and I want it on an intravenous drip. Well, I’m entering the Malaria Area my darlings. If you don’t hear from me for a while it’s because I’ve been exsanguinated.
Belém, Pará, Brazil
Stayed at: Hotel Fortaleza