April 14, 2018
Alter do Chao is one of the administrative districts of the city of Santarem – we visited there on our way into the Amazon River. It was the site of several religious missions in the 17th and 18th century led by the Jesuits of the Franciscan order. Before that it was inhabited by indigenous communities Boraris. The area suffered great decline after the collapse of the rubber trade but is now the site for many day trips from Santarem and increasingly a location for people to buy vacation property.
It is best known for the Ilha do Amor (Island of Love) which is a small island with a white sand beach directly in front of the town. The island recedes now in the rainy season as you can see.
We went by tender to the floating dock and took a walk through town. We wanted to visit the local craft store that our enrichment lecturer, Don Klein, told us about. Luckily he was on our tender- he described the shop as one of the finest in the Amazon for the local products.
We first visited the church. Very simple and charming.
Then on to the shopping. I have a currency converter on my phone and can see what the price is in US dollars. In these two shops (Arariba), the number that looked like the price was actually a code that corresponded to the price. We assumed that the sheet that some people were carrying was a conversion sheet and I didn’t know until I went to pay that the price was different from what I was expecting! I bought two nice pieces of pottery there. Beautiful goods, Don was right.
One of the shopkeepers had her daughter there with her. Maybe she was the bookkeeper!
The town was very quiet and Don said they sleep till noon on weekends. At least the wonderful shop was open – I guess when a cruise ship arrives some people do get up early! There were also craft stands lining the area of the floating port, and here you could bargain.
When we got back to the ship, we saw lots of dolphins as we sat on our balcony after lunch.
After we leave this port at 2 PM we have a stop to let the pilots disembark tomorrow. But the 25% Brazilian tax is finished when we leave here – so I expect robust sales in the shops!