February 3, 2007
Craig and I went to Macapa's small airport today four our forty-five minute flight to Belem. After the plane circled around Macapa and pointed southeast, we began flying over the Ilha de Marajo, which appears small on a map of Brazil, but is actually bigger than Switzerland. The island was populated with only a few dots of houses, and seemed much like the rest of the Amazon rain forest I've spent half a year exploring. Suddenly, there was a huge contrast in scenery as soon as we passed the island and flew over Belem, which has a population of over 1.5 million, more than all three of the Guianas combined.
We took a city bus into the center of town and found a hostel recommended by the guidebooks as popular place among backpackers. We were surprised to see, however, that the place was almost empty. I wanted to meet some other travelers after being way off the beaten path for so long, but the empty hostel didn't upset me too much. After all, I got to sleep in a bed for the first time in a month.
With the few hours of daylight remaining, Craig and I walked around town a bit. The streets were packed with people and smelly trash. The market by the river offered some good, cheap food, but it seemed to be at the expense of our personal safety as dodgy characters always seemed to loom nearby. I was not at all enthusiastic about being back in a big city.