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July 1, 2003
The festival ended and the real challenge began - getting out of Parantins while ten thousand other people tried to do the same. Without roads or planes (all flights well booked), riverboats remained as the only transport option. The boats crammed the docks, an armada of belching engines, peeling paint, and sweating hulls - at least one hundred triple decker monstrosities formed the bulk of a ragtag fleet along with smaller wooden heaps and dugout canoes that swarmed around bigger boats like Amazon dragonflies. We picked out our boat among the crowd because it was the first one that we saw heading our way: downstream (most boats were returning upstream to Manaus, the nearest major town). Like fans rushing to beat the parking lot carnage after a stadium event, our boat left at 4 AM, immediately after the night's festivities ended. Revelers walked from the festival to the boat, strung up their hammocks, and collapsed as the boat pulled away.
Hammock etiquette: one rule - so long as you're not completely in someone else's lap, you can string your hammock as closely as possible to another person
Ten hours after leaving Parantins, we drifted into another Amazonian town called Santarem. We'll have to catch another boat to continue downstream, unfortunately, the next one out of town leaves in two days. Until then we can sleep in our hammocks on our old boat for free. Like many towns along the Amazon, Santarem owes the reason for its existence to the rule: wherever a tributary flows into the Amazon, a town seems to spring up at the confluence of the two waters. Santarem is a bigger town than Parantins - it has a nice waterfront walk lined by a covered market of bananas, brazil nuts, peppers, mangoes, soybeans, and fish.