07 March 2010

Santarem and Alter do Chão

The port of Santarem, with most lancha's going to Belém. Only once a week to Macapá.

4/3. Thursday.  We had asked our taxidriver, Josias, to come at 8 a.m., but when we went for breakfast at 7, he was already waiting with a guide. This is Brasil, not Peru! The guide was Albert Boy, who spoke very well english as he had worked in the U.S., helping his father with a pineapple plantation.
We first went to the harbour to ask for a passage on a lancha to Macapá. But most lancha's went to Belém. For Macapá we had to wait several days. Then we informed about a flight to Belém and this appeared to be not much more expensive. So, we made a reservation for a flight on the next day.
We told Josias that we wanted to look for "macacos" (monkeys) in Alter do Chão (pronounce like in french 'auter do champs'), according to the directions given to us by Marc van Roosmalen: he had seen La Condamine's "Golden monkeys" in the savanna's ("campinaranas") near Alter do Chão, east of the mouth of the Rio Tapajós with the Rio Solimoes. But Josias insisted that we first go to Zoofit, the Jardin Zoológico de Santarem. And there, in a cage, we saw Mico argentatus! Luckily, some time later, we saw these Amazone marmosets also in the trees around us, more or less in the wild....
Zoofit was a well-kept garden with animals that seemed to be in a good condition. It looked better organized than the Quistococha in Iquitos (25-2-2010).


Left: La Condamins's "Golden Monkey" from the book of Neil Safier (see previous posts).
Right: We found Mico argentatus in the Zoofit of Santarem!
Left: Luckily, we saw the monkey also in the trees around us. Right: Mico argentatus in a cage.
A young manati, that would soon be freed into the river. La Condamine still thought that this was a big fish.
I was a littlebit disappointed: where was its red face? La Condamine wrote about the present given to him by the governor of Pará: "The monkey's tail, in contrast to a body whose skeen radiated like 'the color of the most beautiful blond hair' was of a dark and lustrous brown, almost black. But most impressive of all were the bright red tints with which his ears, his cheeks, and his muzzle were adorned, a vermilion so vibrant that one could hardly be persuaded that the color was natural." Our monkeys were not that red in the face. Did La Condamine exaggerate or is it a matter of age or diet? Perhaps Marc van Roosmalen can comment on it.
Then, finally, we drove the nice, new road to Alter do Chão, where we took a boat to the "Moro de Piroca", a hill sticking out of the savannah plain. We climbed the hill (100 m?) in the middle of the day, but it was worth the view! We heard a few birds, but no macacos......

In Alter do Chão we took a boat to a place close to the hill "Moro de Piroca" (see left panel).
On the top of the Moro de Piroca. Far in the distance (to the north) the brown water of the Rio Solimoes.
North-West: where the bluish-coloured Rio Tapajós flows into the Rio Solimoes.
In a fish restaurant in Alter do Chão with Josias and our guide Albert Boy.
5/3. Friday. In the morning a rain shower kept us in the hotel. But at 10 a.m. the sun was shining again and we can walk through this nice little town. We walk up a hill towards a Fortaleza. Although La Condamine mentions the Rio Tapajós, he does not mention the fort here. In a nearby museum we do not find much information about the fort. An old, almost blind man, who spoke well english and who said to have lived in this beautiful house before giving it away as a museum, had never heard about La Condamine & Maldonado. A wall painting in one of the rooms showed a brigant with sail, perhaps similar to the one La Condamine and Maldonado had sailed on?

Rain in Santarem.
In the museum: no information, but a nice painting of a brigant with sail.
At 2 p.m. we are at the airport Santarem-Fonseca, lying quite far west of town. The GPS gives position: S 2° 25' 29'', W 54° 47' 9'' and an altitude of 47 m. it was a well-organized, pleasant flight of 1.5 h. This time we were sitting above the wing. At the airport we met Alex Alfred, lawyer in Alter do Chão, but born and raised in the south of Brasil. According to him a completely different country with different people of German and Italian descent and ...múch cleaner! He brought us with a taxi to Hotel Soft.
From the airplane the Rio Solimoes: brown water everywhere.
La Condamine writes that his principal task is the construction of his map: "Il me fallut redoubler d'attention pour ne pas perdre le fil de mes routes dans ce dédale tortueux d'iles et de caneaux sans nombre".
View on Belém from our Hotel SOFT, 13th floor.

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