Perched in the São Paulo airport, in between Belém and Houston, thence to Boston, my 14-month sabbatical is coming to what seems an all-to-soon close. But it has been an awesome year, capped by a really excellent two-and-a-half weeks working with Rogério Silva, mostly in the rainforest at Caxiuanã. But Belém deserves mention, too. A sprawling, filthy, and yet exuberant city of more than 2 million people perched near the mouth of the Amazon River, it has a waterfront with pedestrian esplanades, museums and forts, working docks, and an iron market with all sorts of delicacies from the Amazon basin. And at least one superb restaurant. In this post, I share four of my most notable memories of Belém: a cool breeze, the flanelas, the iron market/waterfront, and a dinner out.
My riverine interlude between Leticia and Belém has been punctuated by a stopover in Manaus, a bustling industrial and most unlikely city of more than 2 million people located at the junction of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimões. Following the 4-day, 3-night boat trip from Tabatinga described in the first part of this travel-blog, I arrived at Manaus late Saturday. A long walk up the floating ramp brought me in sight of the famous plaque of river heights, a wonderful example of “physical” data visualization (for more, check out this web-site: http://dataphys.org/list/ which I recently discovered thanks to my friend and colleague David Buckley Borden).
As I well knew, 2015 was one of the highest levels on record, surpassed only by 2012 and just barely by 2009. The four years 2012-2015 were in the top 10 since records began more than a century ago, whereas 2016 was in the lower-middle of the pack. A great classroom exercise would be to digitize and plot these data relative to other indicators of climatic change.
I had hoped that I’d spend a couple of nights in Manaus and then catch a boat on Monday further downriver to Belém. I learned Sunday morning, though, that direct boats to Belém leave only Wednesdays and Saturdays. So rather than take a boat Monday to Santarem and then chill there for another boat onward to Belém, I opted to book the Wednesday boat and spend a couple of extra days exploring Manaus.