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Boat trip along the river Amazon

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The river Amazonas is not the longest in the world (it is second only to the Nile), but it is by far the river with the highest volume of water.

Sailing the Amazonas is an unique experience.
Nowhere in the world can the sailers see such a so wide and deep river, surrounded by such a thick forest; besides, there are many cities and villages on the banks, whose population's lives depend on the river (and the boats which sail along it).

There are a few different ways to sail along the Amazonas.
If you can afford it, the poshest option is the Grand Amazon, supposedly a five star floating hotel.
Most local people are poor, and take unsafe short boat trips.

Many people want to experience a closer contact with the Nature combined with a minimum of comfort and safety.
Brazilian newspaper o Globo published this interesting report about a boat trip along the river Amazonas.

A few interesting facts mentioned by the report:

  • Not only in the Amazon, but in whole Brazil, the fluvial transportation is the least regulated of all.
    Unlike other modals, there is not a contract to establish the duties of the transporters; the transporters are supposed to obtain official authorization to operate, but many just don't bother. Even when authorized, it is up to the transporters to determine frequency of journeys and places to stop.
    In 2011, according to the Waterways National Agency, there were 132 authorized companies operating, which carried a total of 12 million passengers.

  • The trip reported by the newspaper was aboard the Amazon Star, leaving from Manaus and arriving in Belém.
    The trip of 1,584 km (984 miles) took 5 days, with an average speed a bit higher than 13 km/h; in the opposite direction, from Belém to Manaus, you are travelling upstream, and the trip will take 6 days.
    The Amazon Star has a capacity of 750 passengers, and carries 30,000 passengers per year.
    Many of the passengers are people moving to Manaus in search of jobs and a new life; many others are those who failed in Manaus, and are going back to their cities.
    In the trip reported, the boat left Manaus with 145 passengers, and 50 of them travelled all the way to Belem; along the way, a total of 500 passengers boarded the boat.

  • Boat owners are free to set the prices of the journeys.
    The cheapest fare is paid by those passenger (the majority) who stay in the hammocks hall. This is nothing but a large room, 300 square meters with no walls, where 300 passengers have two stakes each to hang their own hammocks.
    Ticket goes for R$ 150 during the low season, and R$ 326 in the high season; there is no luggage limit - but passengers must watch their own luggages.
    For comparison, an air trip between Manaus and Belem costs between R$ 300 and R$ 1.200, but there is a luggage limit of 20 kg.
    The best accommodation available is the suite (there is only one), with 25 square meters, which costs R$ 1.000.
    Bathrooms and toilets are filthy. Supposedly, there should be air conditioning in certain areas, but they are often broken - the hammock hall is very hot.

  • People talk loud, at any time of day or night.
    The only moment of silence during the trip reported was when the Police stopped the boat to do a search for smuggled cargo (including weapons, drugs, persons, wild animals, etc).
    When the boat approaches the city of Breves, near Belem,
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