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Amazon boat trips beckon World Cup visitors

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 16, 2014 at 11:21 pm •  Published: June 16, 2014

MANAUS, Brazil (AP) — Light plays off the Solimoes River, duplicating the verdant canopy of the Amazon rainforest on the water's surface.

The landscape that glides by the Almirante Barbosa is breathtaking, but almost no one aboard the boat pays attention. Nearly all the passengers doze in dozens of hammocks strung from the boat's rafters, lulled to sleep by the rocking motion, the motor's chugging, and the tropical swelter.

Boats like the Almirante Barbosa are the lifeline of Brazil's Amazon region, carrying passengers and staple goods ranging from rice to diapers to remote riverside villages inaccessible any other way.

They're also a great way for World Cup fans in the remote Amazon city of Manaus to make a quick jungle escape between matches.

The lumbering wooden vessels are slow going — the Almirante Barbosa chugs at some 20 kilometers (12 miles) an hour — and trips can stretch out for days or even weeks.

While most tourists opt for speedboats for their jungle journeys, a riverboat day trip can give even World Cup visitors on a tight schedule a taste of authentic Amazonian life.

Carved out of the heart of the world's largest forest where the onyx waters of the Rio Negro and milky tea-hued Solimoes meet to form the immense Amazon, Manaus is host to four matches, including the game between Cameroon and Croatia on Wednesday.

Dozens of boats set sail from Manaus daily for destinations such as Belem, about 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) to the east, or to Sao Gabriel da Cachoiera, 860 kilometers (530 miles) to the west, along the Rio Negro's headwaters near Brazil's border with Colombia.

Around the port, hustlers with loudspeakers announce their vessels' destinations and the various stops they will make along the way. Laborers wearing hats that look like Turkish fezzes jostle up and down the docks with giant loads atop their heads, the hats' flat surfaces helping balance impressive loads — sacks of beans and sugar, giant bunches of bananas, six-packs of beer.

 Manacapuru, about 79 kilometers (49 miles) up the Solimoes from Manaus, is among the best destinations for an easy day trip — and a ticket that's just $11. There's not much to see in the town itself, but the six-hour voyage is stunning. Plus, Manacapuru is among a few destinations easily accessible by car, and a $65 cab ride gets day-trippers back to the city in an hour.

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