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 isn’t much to see and do. Furthermore, for some reason, it is also quite expensive.
The only beautiful area is around the Amazon Theatre, which opened in 1896. At that time, Manaus suddenly became one of the wealthiest 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, as lighting cigars with hundred dollar bills, washing horses with the champagne, etc… But when the British were able to steal the seeds of the trees that produce rubber for sowing them in their colonies, the monopoly ended, and with it the luck of Manaus.

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

From Bogotà, I arrived in Villa de Leyva, a small mountain town, where I’m now. I arrived at night, walking on cobblestone streets between colonial houses. Then, when I popped into the vast main square, made of large rocks, with little dim lights and a well in the middle, I really felt as if I had been transported in the past, like in a science-fiction movie.
In fact, next to the colonial houses, even those built later maintain the same style. Although there isn’t much to do, people are very kind, making 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.


In Colombia, in Bogotà’s main square: Plaza de Bolivar. Bogota is located at an altitude of 2600 meters.


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






A Candelaria street.




Candelaria by night.


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


Entering the extraordinary Gold Museum, inside a safe.


Golden masks.


The main square of Villa de Leyva: Plaza Major.


Man in Villa de Leyva.




Children running.


Villa de Leyva street.


The well in the center of the square.




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. In fact, it is the only country outside Europe where I have been already 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, it isn’t 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, TV stars, and music.
Almost all large cities have favelas, are degraded and a bit dangerous. However, luckily, nothing bad ever happened to me. Nevertheless, Brazil gives me the idea of a young country, optimistic, with a great desire for life. Almost the opposite of Italy and Europe who give me an increasing feeling of oldness and weariness.
It seems, at the moment, in the unstoppable rise and 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 and unable, made possible an extraordinary boom. Let’s hope now that the various democratic movements that, arising from below, reached power, after hard struggles and immense sacrifices, will retain the grit for the future battles for a more equitable distribution of wealth.
But if they fall asleep on their laurels, the international finance, and similar pigs will devour in one gulp all their social achievements, as already happened to my 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 bullshits on TV and to play football on the beach.

Alter do Chao and the new river journey to Manaus

Hello! I am in Manaus, where I arrived yesterday after another boat trip of two and a half days, from Santarem.

I was in Alter Do Chao for 5 days, and I was a little sad to move away from there. It’s a beautiful and peaceful place, where the river looks like a lake since it is surrounded by a bay. There are beaches with white sand, especially the “Ilha do Amor”, approachable by taxi-boats.
It has nothing of the hostile environment one would expect in the middle of the Amazon. The only animals around are some curious ugly black vultures searching for waste on the streets and, by the shore of the river, iguanas that look like mini-dinosaurs escaped from a Japanese cartoon.

After, I took another cargo boat to get to Manaus from Santarem. This time the boat was worse, and the trip was a bit harder.
Also, last time I managed to place my hammock at the end of one side, so, at least on one side, I had no one near. This time instead, I was in the middle of the hammocks tangle, on the right, left, up, down, and only a great weariness made me fall asleep the first night.

The next day, after many people left the boat at a stopover, I hung the hammock in another place, relatively spacious. But I didn’t think about the engine, which was just down there. It made a continuous noise that prevented me from sleeping. I don’t understand how the others around me could. It was really impossible, so I left my hammock and I reached a silent place on the boat where I spent the night with my laptop, reading, playing chess, and watching a couple of movies. (Thanks to my friend Stefan for giving me some films to watch in these situations.)

In the three days on the boat, an almost persistent flat white sky washed the colors, making the scenarios less spectacular than the first trip. We crossed several areas violently and sadly deforested, turned into meadows where cattle, buffaloes, and horses graze. On other stretches, we skirted high cliffs, covered with an orgy of clinging trees of all kinds. The dolphins appeared more often, together with all sorts of birds, herons, hawks, etc… of various sizes and colors.

In the meantime, a powerful thought conquered me: if this crooked proceeding in a dark forest, to the West … The road to western lands … if it was just a symbol, a metaphor of existence? “Why do we fly precisely in this direction, where all the suns of humanity have hitherto set? Is it possible that people may one day say of us that we also steered westward, hoping to reach India — but that it was our fate to be wrecked on the infinite? Or, my brethren? Or?”


A beach of Alter Do Chao.


The boats that ferry to “Ilha do Amor” (Love island).


A small strip of sand connecting two shares dell’Ilha do Amor.


Giovanni De Caro, DekaroMe :-)






Carnival in Alter do Chao. On small chariots, people danced frenetically while other people threw each other flour and spray foam, impossible to avoid.


Gentleman asked me to take his picture.


Canoe at dusk.


Sunset at Alter do Chao.


Again on the boat, this time from Santarem to Manaus, again a tangle of hammocks.


My hammock’s neighbor. Well, in the end, a little promiscuity is not so dramatic ;-)


But sadly, it was forbidden to jump on the other net :-(


The same girl as before.




Mother and son.


Canoes on the river.


Boys on a canoe greet us.


Canoe and hut.


Another blue sunset.


Next time I will tell of Manaus. I was thinking of making a tour in the forest from here, but by all accounts, those in Ecuador are nicer and also cost less, so, since I will also go there, it’s better to wait.
Also, I’ll do a little “cheating” in the sense that I will take a plane to get to Colombia. The reason is that there are not freighters for passengers to Ecuador, the only one passes (maybe) once a month, and the travel conditions are terrible. An alternative to reach Ecuador from here is: Manaus-Tabatinga (a week by boat), Tabatinga-Iquitos, Peru (another week by boat) Iquitos-Yurimaguas (still another week by boat) where finally the road is reached, and from there to Ecuador it takes maybe a week, in short, more than a month of traveling!

So, because the flights to Ecuador are very expensive from here, I changed my original plan, and I booked one for tomorrow night to Bogotà… keep following me! :-)