Manaus, Bogotà (Colombia) and Villa de Leyva.

Hola amigos! I am in Colombia now, in Villa de Leyva, a small town that seems to have stopped in the past. But before I tell you of Manaus and Bogotà, where I landed.
Manaus is not the most exciting place in the world. Apart from a certain charm due to its big port in the middle of the Amazon, there is not much to see and do. Furthermore, for some reason, it is also quite expensive.
The only beautiful area is around the Amazon Theatre, opened in 1896, in a period when Manaus suddenly became one of the richest cities in the world thanks to the trading of rubber, which was possible to make only with trees of the Brazilian Amazon.
Various accounts tell of the follies of the rich men of the time: who lit cigars with hundred dollar bills, who used to wash his horse with the champagne, etc… But when the British were able to steal the seeds of the trees which produce rubber for sowing them in their colonies, the monopoly ended and with it the luck of Manaus.

Beautiful and charming is, instead, Bogotà, where, despite the bad name for its recent past, the atmosphere is very quiet, apart from the sight of many different kinds of soldiers who are guarding the streets, some of them armed to the teeth. It’s very pleasant to get around, especially in the area where I stayed, the Candelaria, that, from the main square, climbs up to the mountain with narrow streets and colonial houses. Full of clubs, museums, libraries, universities.

Finally, the place where I am now, Villa de Leyva, a small mountain town. I arrived at night, walking on cobblestone streets between colonial houses. Then, when I popped in the main square, huge, made of large rocks, with little dim lights and a well in the middle, really I thought I finished in the past, like in a science-fiction movie.
In fact, next to the colonial houses, even those built later maintain the same style. People are very kind and although there is not much to do, it makes you want to stay here for long, just doing nothing.

 

The arrival at the port of Manaus.

 

The Amazon Theater.

 

Inside the teather.

 

The dance hall.

 

And here we are in Colombia, in Bogotà’s main square: Plaza de Bolivar. Bogotà is located at 2600 meters high.

 

Armar o Amar? (To arm or to love?).

 

Soldiers.

 

Mirror.

 

A Candelaria street.

 

Child.

 

Candelaria by night.

 

The museum of the Colombian painter Botero, who often paints fat women. Indeed, in the background, a self-portrait with one of his notveryslim models.

 

One of the rooms of the extraordinary Gold Museum, inside a safe.

 

Golden masks.

 

The main square of Villa de Leyva: Plaza Major.

 

Man in Villa de Leyva.

 

Arcade.

 

Children running.

 

Villa de Leyva street.

 

The well in the center of the square.

 

Girls.

 

Occasionally, with a little of luck, I get some nice room as this. For just 20 euros!

 

Finally, some thought on Brazil, that I left.
I really like Brazil and in fact it is the only not European nation where I have already been three times. The people are warm, hospitable, cheerful and with great vitality. Even for a somewhat ‘shy as me, it is natural to make friends on any occasion or starting talking on buses, in bars, streets, etc. …
Of course, is not just a bed of roses. The gap between the few rich and many poor is appalling and perhaps nowhere else in the world there is such a large percentage of people who seem unable to go beyond the horizon of football, soap operas, stars of TV and music.
Almost all large cities have favelas and are degraded and a bit dangerous, although, luckily, nothing of bad ever happened to me.
But, in general, Brazil gives me the idea of a young country, optimistic, with a great desire of life. Almost the opposite of Italy and Europe who give me an increasing feeling of oldness and weariness. Like a whimper of impotent agony. And perhaps the only ones who could bring us a graft of vitality are those immigrants, especially Africans, who are instead demonized.
In general, Italy is still better than Brazil, but I don’t think for long. The fact is that while Italy is in free fall, Brazil is in irresistible rise and, unlike Italy, has all it takes to believe in the future: a vast country, full of natural resources, where less than two decades of governments not totally corrupt, sold and unable, made possible an extraordinary boom. Nothing seems can stop this rise, but, maybe, the point is if the many democratic movements that, arising from below, led the Left to power after hard struggles and immense sacrifices, will retain the grit for the future battles for a more equitable distribution of wealth. Or, instead, they will fall asleep on their laurels so that the international finance and similar pigs will devour in one gulp all their social achievements, as happened to our poor Europe. In this case, Brazil will remain the same as always, with a small cast of insanely rich men barricaded in hidden fortresses and the bulk of the population massed in the favelas, glad to look stupid things on TV and to play football on the beach.

The trip on the Amazon from Belem to Santarem

Hi mates! This time I speak of the journey by boat from Belem to Santarem on the Amazon river.
Apart from a bit of inconvenience due to sleeping in the hammock together with a hundred other people in the under-bridge, the trip was really amazing and when, after more than three days, I arrived at destination in Santarem I almost regretted having to leave the ship. The fact is that you pass through spectacular scenery. Already during the first night I was filled with all the charm of the river, the forest, the lights of small coastal villages and houses on stilts, scattered here and there, mysterious, with little dim lights before the black wall of forest.
The next day, then, I have not ceased for a moment to contemplate “Heart of Darkness” scenarios, with thick vegetation that falls plunging into the brown water. In some places it is extraordinarily wide, it is amazing to see how much water pushes towards the sea. In other points we passed through archipelagos of small islands, entering in long corridors through the forest. Sometimes I saw freshwater dolphins.
Another curious thing are the children who come by canoe from their little houses to greet the boat. Some of them are very small, at six – seven years venturing alone in the canoe, and indeed in that context it is important to learn to drive one of it almost as walking. Other times, the mothers bring their children to see the boat.
However, I had never seen a river so big, and in fact it is the biggest. Then a question arises: how is it possible that with all the water that this and all the other rivers of the world always pour in the sea, this remains constant salty? I will look for an answer on google.
In short, an amazing experience, which however I will do again early to go to Manaus and then from there to Ecuador, although the latter seems not so simple as it seems looking at the map.
The Lonely Planet describes these trips much harder than they are, in the end there was no sultriness, nor mosquitoes, nor smell, and apart from some discomfort of sleeping on the hammock, the only problem was the food because a heavy rain in Belem had prevented me from doing the shopping before boarding, and being now vegetarian, the only choice were the cheese toast but, for some reason, they were pretty disgusting and were very expensive as well. Fortunately, the next morning when we stopped at Breves, a kid from the port sold me on the fly two baguettes of bread that I have used for the rest of the trip.
Arrived at Santarem I took a bus to Alter do Chao, where I am now. It’s a small village on the river where there is not much to do and then is a good place to rest before leaving again.

 

Boats in Belem, since always the main port toward the Amazon.

 

The tangle of hammocks in the underbridge where I slept three nights.

 

Amazon river.

 

A Canoe.

 

Hut.

 

Another boat with hammocks.

 

Boys in canoe greetings us.

 

During the trip I met Eva, a German doctor. Here she taught the flute to the children.

 

A boat.

 

People.

 

People.

 

The river.

 

Me on my hammock!

 

Hut on the river.

 

Little house.

 

Kid on canoe.

 

Another house.

 

Backlight.

 

Amazing Amazzon.

 

Sunset.

 

Twilight.

 

Big clouds.

 

And these were the photos. Ah, now on call me Dekaro Geographic! :-)