When I think of mouth, I think of an opening, a beginning. However with rivers, it’s exactly the opposite, the mouth is where the whole thing ends.
Perhaps it’s ironic then that for us, this is where our week and a half journey along the Amazon begins. Then again, perhaps not. Isn’t that how most of the world’s major rivers were discovered – from the mouth? The city of Belem at the mouth of the mighty Amazon, where we are at the moment, was founded by the Portuguese in 1616, however the source, the ‘beginning’, of the river wasn’t definitively found until 1996 – nearly 400 years later (and only with the advent of satellite imaging).
So perhaps it’s not so odd that our first sight of the Amazon is in Belem. It is the gateway for the river for travellers and merchants alike, and really developed during the rubber boom of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The late Victorian wealth is obvious, with stunning buildings such as Teatro de Paz – a grand theatre that would outshine many of London’s.
However I’ll admit to being apprehensive about arriving into Belem. Since our decision to fly rather than travel by land (and river) Belem hasn’t strictly been necessary. Would this city be another white elephant with nothing to keep us amused for the 4 days of our visit.
If Teatro de Paz didn’t convince me otherwise, sitting in a converted warehouse, drinking a locally brewed beer watching the sun break through the scattered clouds and bounce off the river – modest at this point at only a few kilometres wide – certainly did.
I have to admit that the scene overwhelmed me a little and made me somewhat awestruck. Whatever about the rest of Brazil, the Amazon had always seemed somewhere exceptionally remote, something only true explores see, and something, sat in all those geography lessons, I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be looking out over.
Combined with the highs and the lows of traveling up through Brazil (and with the addition of several beers), I felt somewhat emotional at being here. The odd night in Maceio holds nothing to the joy of the sight.
And it can only get better as we travel deeper into the rainforest!
Sunlight breaks through the cloud to highlight the Amazon River
Disused cranes at the converted docks
Giant water lilies at the Zoological and Botanical Gardens
The interior of the Teatro de Paz