I made the most of the breakfast in the hotel as it might be my last chance of a full English breakfast for a while. I had no idea what to expect on the ferry, but I had my original bag, my bag of replacement items which now were duplicates of what I had in my original bag, plus a large carrier bag of food and drink for the ferry trip.
The hotel receptionist ordered a taxi for me to get to the ferry terminal. It wasn’t far in distance terms, but I didn’t want to walk in the heat, carrying all my luggage. The traffic was awful and it wasn’t even rush hour. I got to the port and was at the front of the queue to get onto the ferry, which was due to sail at seven p.m. I hate being late and there are always some unexpected events that if you leave it to the last minute, might mean that you miss the departure. I had plenty of time to wait.
But some things are never easy, and my ticket was not in order. I had a receipt and an email confirmation with dates and times, plus my passport details. For some inexplicable reason other than this is South America, I had to go to the small ticket office window and wait whilst my ticket was rewritten painstakingly by hand, the details checked again against my passport and everything was the same except my ticket to board the ferry was on a piece of headed notepaper complete with the name of the company in corporate colours and a colourful logo rather than a black and white printed copy of the electronic version. The office proceeded to rewrite my ticket whilst the gate staff called everyone through to bypass me. I eventually got the rewritten ticket back and I was allowed through the gate.
The rewriting the ticket saga delayed me for an hour, but I hadn’t really lost much as all the other passengers were still in a holding area something like an aircraft waiting lounge before being allowed through to the ferry itself. Those with cabins were held back as the cabins had already been allocated. However, those with just hammocks wanted to get through to get their choice of the best hammock spaces, and there was a bit of pushing and shoving. Many of those who had this option had already brought their hammocks with them.
The cheapest option was deck, and you could erect your hammock on the lowest deck amongst the cargo consisting of cars and pallets of produce being taken up river. However, for a little extra you could upgrade to a large air-conditioned room more like a dormitory, with space for over a hundred hammocks. A further upgrade was available for those that wanted a cabin to themselves. A cabin was designed for two people in bunk beds and they had en suite showers and toilet facilities.
The facilities for those that slept in the air-conditioned dormitory were basic, with toilets and showers at one end — with their accompanying smell and noise — or at the other end, a single large industrial-sized air conditioning machine, which would be like sitting in front of a wind tunnel. The best options were furthest away from the toilets and the air con at either end, but not in the exact middle, as this was where a few lights were positioned which would be left on all night.
Hence there was a rush to bag the best positions. What the seasoned traveller also knew was that even if you had not paid for the air-conditioned dormitory, when the ferry is quiet in out of season, you get an automatic complimentary upgrade to the air-conditioned dormitory. Right now, it was out of season, so people could get the air-conditioned dormitory hammock space for the price of a deck ticket.
The next upgrade was a cabin for two, but without their own facilities. After this — and by now the jumps in prices were getting quite large — was an en suite cabin for two, in bunk beds with their own shower, toilet and basin. Cabins on ferries are not known for their space and true enough, the cabins were cramped and you had to be tolerant and get on well with the person that you were sharing with as it is so tight that only one of you can dress/unpack, etc, at a time. And sharing with someone who is untidy and flarches would be a nightmare.
Despite the cost of buying two tickets to ensure that I had a cabin to myself, I found it cramped. I couldn’t sit up on the bunk without crouching or hitting my head. The air conditioning worked wonderfully, but whatever temperature you might choose to set it at, it seemed to be only on or off, with no fine graduations in between. The water in the shower and basin came from a large onboard water tank. The passengers had all been warned that it was only filtered river water and was not drinkable. The toilet water was straight from the river and it was the same brown colour in the bowl as the river outside. Even the bowl was stained brown, and I tried to clean it with the toilet brush but to no effect, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was unappealing. An added bonus was that there was also a fridge in the en suite cabins, so somewhere cool to store my food and drinks.
I was standing on the top deck outside my cabin as I waited for the ship to cast off. It was due to sail at seven p.m. and it was some forty minutes to go, so I just stood and watched the activity on the quayside whilst I waited to start my trip up the Amazon.