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Hidden Paradise in the Amazon

Hidden Paradise in the Amazon

AlterDoChaoBeach

We both knew that the first month of our travels would be rough.  Perhaps the roughest of our South American leg.  After we left Colombia and ventured into Venezuela and the Amazon, we were far off the typical gringo trail.  I’ve been looking forward to getting to the East Coast of Brazil – home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.  But after a 30-hour boat trip, we were thrilled to find a little bit of heaven right in the middle of the Amazon – the small town of Alter do Chão.  I have to continually remind myself that I’m on the Amazon River, not in the Caribbean.  It’s beautiful here – powdery white-sand beaches, tropical breezes, clear, warm waters, and a charming, clean town.

Although nothing strange or ridiculous happened here (which is unusual for us), I couldn’t leave this little gem of a town off our blog.  For those traveling through the Amazon region, Alter do Chão is a must!  The residents here actually take pride in their hometown – and it shows.  All day you see them sweeping, raking, cleaning, and maintaining the place.  Over the last few days, they have totally redone their main church, inside and out.  But the hard-working residents of Alter do Chão know how to have fun, too.  The center of town, overlooking the breathtaking beaches, comes alive in the evening until the early morning hours.  The town is especially lively after Christmas, with the 12-day festival honoring the Mother Mary.  Music and fireworks blast as early as 6 a.m.  And when you hear fireworks and church bells clanging, you know someone has rolled out the statue of Mary holding Baby Jesus (covered with flowers).

Before we set foot on Brazilian soil, we knew Brazilians are geniuses when it comes to handling children.  In November, Bryan went to the Brazilian Embassy in Washington, D.C. to apply for our Visas (you need a Visa for any length of travel in Brazil).  In the center of the embassy’s waiting area, there is a glass, sound-proof room where all the children play while their parents wait.  Bryan could tell they were yelling, screaming, and crying – but with the sound-proof walls no one could hear a thing!  I have no doubt that my engineer husband will attempt to make one of these for our home when we have children.  We witnessed another intelligent idea for children here in Alter do Chão.  In the town center, there are several large, screened-in trampolines with big colorful bouncy balls.  In the evenings, during the church services and dinners, the children all wear themselves out playing together on the trampolines.  The parents have a nice, peaceful night together and the children go home happy and tired.  Brilliant!

As the Amazon waters recede, a large island called Ihla do Amor appears across from the town of Alter do Chão.   To get to the island, you can take a 1 minute boat ride for about $1.50 USD.  Or you can do it the fun and free way – wade across on your tippy toes with your valuables on your head, shuffling your feet to scare off the stingrays.  At the water’s edge, there are locals offering boat tours for reasonable prices.  Another great thing about this town is that no one haggles you to buy things!  The boat captains just politely offer their services.  We enjoyed a sunset tour with our new American friend Bridget to see the dolphins and the Lago Verde (lagoon with bright green water).  There were tons of Amazon River dolphins.  They are funky looking – humped backs and narrow snouts.  Some are bright pink (Pepto-Bismol color) but unfortunately I didn’t see a pink one.  Bryan said he did though.

On the island, there is a long row of palm-roofed huts with mouth-watering aromas of freshly cooked food for sale, along with refreshing beers and caipirihnas (Brazil’s national cocktail).  To the right of the island there are tables and chairs at the water’s edge.  To the left there are a few boats along the sand and a few families swimming.  In the center, there are usually locals playing soccer in speedos, using coconuts as goal-markers.  Don’t worry, Bryan refrained from joining in the speedo soccer games.  We preferred to walk to the more deserted section and tie-up our hammocks in the trees’ gnarled branches.  I kept forgetting when I was cooling off in the water that I was in the Amazon River.  Where were all the man-eating piranhas?  I don’t want to know.

We have no doubt that Alter do Chão is the next big thing for international travelers coming through Brazil.  In a few minutes we are headed to the airport in Santarem to fly to Belem.  Wishing you and yours a 2012 filled with many blessings and adventures!


  • Rick

    Happy New Year to you guys and be safe. Great to read each and every blog, very exciting!!! Thanks

    • Bryan Waugh

      Thanks Rick. Happy New Year’s to you too. Hope the shipyard isn’t making you work over the holidays!

    • grandma

      Very interesting I’m enjoying your adventures right along with you.Happy 2012.
      Keep having fun and stay safe.
      love & miss you,grandma

  • Mama Waugh

    Glad you were able to experience some beauty as the year ends. Happy New Year!

    • Mama Waugh

      Oh, one more thought…I hope my grandchildren will not be kept behind soundproof glass…lol

  • Kimberly Bruce

    Happy New Year

  • Mama Munch

    Happy New Year! May God Bless you with many more lovely places like this.
    love you.

  • Vicky

    That has got to be the coolest pic I’ve seen in a long time! You all are really catching air 🙂
    Happy New Year!!

  • Kit

    Happy New Year, guys… glad you enjoyed Alter do Chão!

    • Bryan Waugh

      Thanks for another good “must-do”. We’re in Sao Luis now and things are definitely looking up! If you were here I’m sure you could spend hours getting the perfect pics….

  • Kelly Waugh

    Yaaaaaay!!!! I’m glad this went a lot better than yall’s Christmas :o) Love the jumping pic!!

  • Dad Munch

    Happy New Year Kristin and Bryan! Thanks for all the fascinating blogs during your first month of travel. I hope that 2012 will bring you “fair winds and following seas”, as they say in the Navy.

  • Ian

    Yea great job with the blogs so far… I really enjoy the story… I also enjoy a lot of the good quality pictures :)… Never would have guessed that was the Amazon…

    • Bryan Waugh

      Thanks Ian. Hope all is well in the Burgh!

  • MarkBoyd

    Happy new year Waughs!

    • Bryan Waugh

      Thanks Mark Boyd! You too!

  • Erin Wederbrook Yuskaitis

    I loved this post and the pictures are just gorgeous!! So glad you look much happier in these pics 🙂

  • Sandy

    I saw your story in the local paper (FLS) and want to thank you for sharing this with us. You have the right idea!!!

  • Crystal

    I love the sound proof room at places where kids need to be quiet! I love that the locals don’t haggle you! I love the white sandy beach and island! I love the men playing soccer in speedos, Bryan totally should have joined! And I love love love the jumping pic, please blow that up, and frame that when you get home. 🙂

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