While preparing for my Amazon trip, I came across an interesting article rabout a ghost town on a tributary of the Amazon river. This city is called Fordlândia and was founded in 1927 by the automobile company of Henry Ford. The aim was to produce the raw material for tire production on large rubber (caoutchouc)plantations. However, the project failed for several reasons. The Americans left the city after nearly 20 years and left behind a lot of machinery and also many residential buildings built in the typical american style of that decade.
Traveling to Fordlândia
You can reach Fordlândia by car via the Transamazônica, but the four-hour boat trip from Santarém is easier. I choose this option. The only problem was that I got wrong information about the depature time. For this reason I had to spend one night in a hostel close to the harbour. For a foreigner, the harbour might seem chaotic. There are some many ships in different sizes going to all kind of places, I had the feeling that they also went to the smallest village in some of the many tributaries of the Amazon or Rio Tapajos. So asking and confirming several times with the people selling the tickets is necessary.
Althoug I missed the connection, there is a good thing about it. There is one catamaran going to the mining city Itaituba, which takes half the time than one of the older boats. The ride is surprisingly comfortable, only the air conditioning makes me disturbs me, like in so many other transports in South America.
In Fordlândia, only one older man gets off with me, all other passengers seem to have targeted the industrial city of Itaituba. After walking carefully over the provisionally patched dock, I am standing in front of the first relic from the American settlement time: A large factory hall, on which you can still read the sentence "Bem Vindo À Fordlândia" despite strong decomposition. Nowadays, the hall is completely empty, only a few cars of the few villagers are parked in it.
Fordlândia - in fact a ghost town?
On my exploration of the city I quickly realize that refering to Fordlândias as a ghost town is an exaggeration. At present, several hundred people live here. However, you hardly see anyone on the streets. It is hot and very humid. There are two small shops, wich have a very limited range of goods. So my conclusion is: Time did not have stopped here, but is just running very slowly.
First, I visit the old power plant. Here I can see an old double piston engine of the German company Junkers from Dessau, east Germany. It is remarkable that such a big machine from Germany found its way by ship across the Atlantic Ocean and the Amazon almost 100 years ago.
The old water tower is located within walking distance of the power plant. With a lot of courage and adventurousness you can climb it up and you will be rewarded with a unique view of Fordlandia and the Rio Tapajós. Of course I did climb the tower up, but maybe this was a foolish idea ;-)
In the workshop, which stands next to the power plant, surprisingly I find more machines from the 1920s. When I tell Luis, who leads me through the plant, my amazement over the extremely good condition of these machines, he tells me that these machines are still used today.
Farther back in the workshop, I find the car bodies of some old Ford models, as well as many items that used to be in the hospital of Fordlândia. The whole hall of the workshop looks like on the set of a movie scene.
The old hospital, which was also built by the Americans, allegedly had the best surgery in the country at that time. However, I only get to see a lot of rubbish here, because the building was burned down to its foundations 10 years ago.
Not far from the hospital are the houses, which were built in the American style of the 1920s. Huge mango tress are forming an alley on the streets, while we my guide and I are walking between the old houses. The typical single-family homes are located on the left and right side of the streets, most of the houses are abandoned. Some of the inhabited houses were partially renovated. However, some of the inhabited houses are still in their original condition, including the original painting! This opens my eyes about how poor some people at this place are....
Fordlândia is not a ghost town, but a very "sleepy place". Anyone who is interested in the industrialization of the Amazon region or wants to visit a place off the beaten tourist track is certainly right here. It is a nice adventure in one of the most beautiful areas I have seen so far.