Porto Velho is a vital link in Brazil’s agricultural economy, as soybeans and other products are shipped on huge barges from here down the Rio Madeira and transferred directly to ocean liners headed abroad. That same ride – albeit on a boat not a barge – draws some travelers up from Cuiabá and the Pantanal on the slow route to Manaus and the Amazon. The city itself has a few bright spots, but mostly serves as a transfer point.