The freight boats that bring cattle down from the farms to the city, are the same that bring the farm workers, groceries, household appliances up the river. They are rather simple though we didn’t ask too many questions but focussed instead of getting hammocks, mosquito nets, water and some snacks.
The last item proved to be unnecessary as all food was included. By making friends with the ship cook, nicknamed Bolacheiro “big cookie” earlier on, we were sure to have our share.
Despite its small size, the boat had three classes for sleeping – upper deck with wind = 1st class, lower deck, no wind = 2nd class, and the cattle platform = 3rd class – and everybody shared one bathroom. The water from the river was not only used for showering and flushing, but also, as we found out later, for cooking.
All in all, there were 40 people on the boat: Families with small kids on the way to visit the in-laws, farm workers going back after the Christmas break, a nurse working with a 750 head strong community of indigenas further inlands, and a father with his less than enchanted teenage daughter who were going to spend the next month on the farm of the extended family.
Even though I enjoyed every minute of the trip, I can see the point of the teenage daughter. The modern world has not reached most of the farms which often have no electricity, no mobile network and of course, no internet. One month can be very long under such circumstances.