Last Thursday morning at the airport, I snapped the first picture, feeling somewhat ragged, after traveling for 12 hours to Santarem . This is a middle sized town of about 300,000, where Amizade provides volunteers and funds to local service programs. When I arrived, a group from Wake Forest University (North Carolina) were hard at work, plastering and laying a foundation for a community, supplementary school facility. Later in the week, I will share photos of the project and explain in more detail.
In the meantime, it is my goal to describe the area through as series of photos over the next several days.To begin with, the blue river behind me is not the Amazon, but the Tapajos River (tapa joes) which flows from the South for 1800kms to Santarem where it flows into Amazon. Here at the mouth, I am told, it is 22kms wide or about 13.5 miles Here it meets the 4000 mile long Amazon, which is heavy chocolate-brown in color. The two rivers don't mix easily. They actually run parallel to each other for several miles before the Amazon engulfs the "little" Tapajos. Depending on the season and rainfall amount, the edge of the Amazon approaches town and recedes with its annual 25 feet rise and fall throughout the year. I have pictures which show the edge of the swift main channel from a distance, but before landing, I saw the mighty behemouth which may be on average only 3.5 miles wide in the ship channel, but when one includes huge side channels and islands and then smaller channels, the size becomes really staggering. I am told that even here, almost 500 miles from the mouth, the river is often over 20 miles wide.
The second photo shows a number of river boats. There are few passable roads in the area and none that cross the Tapajos River here and, of course, bridge the Amazon. Therefore many people use river boats to come to town. In the background there is the loading facility of Cargill International, which produces soyabeans and then ships them to Europe.
The third photo is of an old blue church which stands in front of the traditional market place. It is the Nossa Senhora da Conceicao Cathedral, but it was locked so I couldn't get inside and I don't know when it was built.
I intend to show you tomorrow some of the interior streets of Santarem, those that don't make the normal travel guides. I'm sure you understand why.