Archive for the Brazil Category
Posted on June 4, 2013 by jason
On our last morning in Manaus, we went on another wild goose chase with some guys from the club, looking for a distributor. Again, no luck. At least we got an escort to the city limit.
We only went as far as Presidente Figueiredo before calling it a night. The Reserva Waimiri-Atroari is just north of here and the road is only open 6 AM to 6 PM. The next morning, we made a break for it and drove the 150 km across the reserve with no stops – we couldn’t if we had wanted. It’s all jungle – there wasn’t a single place to pull over. I did see one road with ‘do not enter’ posted all over it, so I guess it led to an indigenous village.
Much farther down the road, we crossed the magic invisible line. The first time that Red Beard has been in north of the equator in two and half years. There was an accurately-placed monument, but for some reason it looked like a hockey stick.
Our 600 km day ended in the farm town of Boa Vista. Not much going on here.
The next day it was another 300 km or so to the border town of Pacaraima. Again, not much to look at on the way. We at least managed to climb up 1000 meters in altitude at the border, so the scenery has changed a little bit.
Checking out of Brazil was a little more effort that we expected. For no particular reason, handing in our car papers took almost an hour. We were the only ones there, so it must have been a new guy. Our vehicle document was stamped out in triplicate. Then, we were just in time for the exit aduana to close for lunch. So, we killed an hour waiting for the office to re-open to stamp our passports. Five minutes and we were done. The exact day our visas expired.
Venezuela is 30 minutes behind Brazil, so we had to wait a bit for it’s office to open after lunch as well. One of my favorite wacky dictator power moves is to invent your own time zone, and Chavez went for it. I’m not sure why you would choose 30 minutes, though. I would go with 12. Definitively twelve. If you’re going to arbitrarily impose authority, I say make it arbitrary. No more Mondays – let’s do Tuesday twice!
When the officer asked us for our hotel reservations, we didn’t have a good answer. Oops. This seemed to be a snag, but we eventually invented a hotel name and he decided we weren’t very interesting and that was that. You’re supposed to have proof of itinerary and an ‘exit ticket’ from the country, but we got off easy.
Getting our Venezuela car papers was the biggest deal of the day. We had all of our documents, including our ‘international vehicle insurance‘, but it still took an hour and a half. No reason. You just fill out all the papers and wait. Still, it seemed that the bigger wait might be for the folks returning to Brazil.
It’s official. We’ve driven into 19 countries.
Posted on June 2, 2013 by jason
Manaus (pronounced with a ‘sh’ sound at the end) was an interesting stop. It’s a huge port city – but 1500 km from the nearest ocean. One million people live in this metropolis – but it’s isolated in the middle of the Amazon rain forest. And, it’s famous for… opera?
More importantly for us, it’s the home of the Amazon Antique Car Club. Our new buddy Alvino’s family has a hotel in the city center and he set us up for our stay. Later, our new buddy Alex came by and we went to his house to fix our major oil leak. After pulling the motor and replacing the main seal, it was still leaking. So, we pulled the engine a second time and did it again. That seemed to do the trick.
An umbrella is useful at all times in this city. You never have to put it down. It’s either pouring rain or scorching hot.
We wandered a bit and got our last acai na tigela. Bode is sad that this may be the end of it.
We tried the local dish, tacaca. It’s soup, but oddly, you eat it with a single stick. It was pretty good, but as usual, I wish they would remove the cascas.
We even got lucky and scored a special outdoor opera one night in front of the famous Teatro Amazonas. Operas are far better when they are free, outside, and viewed from a sidewalk cafe with beer in hand. Trust me.
On our final night, the guys from the club picked us up and took us on a cruise around town to see a few more sights. We drove across the Rio Negro on the Manaus Iranduba Bridge. Apparently, the most expensive bridge (by length) in the world.
We’ve definitely got ‘family’ in Manaus, and it feels pretty good. Thanks for everything, guys!
Posted on June 1, 2013 by angela
We were still weak and sick and looking forward to getting off the boat. It was another rainy morning. There were several stops of 20 minutes or less – some of them being in the middle of the river with another boat tying up to ours and getting some bags from the hold.
Manaus came into view and everyone went to the rail to see, but it was still hours before we arrived. About 10 km before Manaus, we saw the Encontro das Aguas which is really unusual. It is the meeting point of 2 rivers, one ‘brown’ the other ‘black’. Because of the different temperatures, density and speed of the currents, the two rivers don’t mix and run side by side for nearly 6 kilometers.
We finally arrived in Manaus, about 4 hours behind schedule. Unfortunately, the now-orange tomatoes were unloaded first, so we had to wait. We were kicked out of our room, and it was raining, so we sat in the bus. Bode and I finally went to find some food at the port and Jason joined us when it looked like it would be another few hours.
After 3 hours, Bode and I took off to find our hotel and left Jason with the bus. We got lost in Manaus, but eventually found it. Jason finally met us around 9 pm – 8 hours and one questionable payment to a port security guard later.
Finally, a shower and a non-moving bed.
*A couple of good things to mention if you plan on taking this journey- The mosquitoes were nearly non-existent. I think it had to due with the time of year (the river was high) and the moving boat, but we never put on bug spray. I did notice some when we were at port in Santarem though.
The heat was only bad in the day, and there was always a breeze while we were moving. At night, it was downright pleasant, most folks on hammocks had a light blanket.
Finally, if going from Manaus to Belem, the trip is only three days.
Posted on May 31, 2013 by angela
We met a guy working on the boat who is retired, but helps manage the crew in exchange for free transport to Manaus. There, he either buys (or catches himself, I’m unsure) huge fish that are from the interior of the Amazon and then returns back to Belem to sell them. He spoke English pretty well, and says he has friends from the U.S. who are missionaries from Dallas. They’re always from Dallas.
Our room and bathroom is moldy, and Jason seems to be allergic to it. So on top of stomach issues, he’s got a cold. The kitchen staff bought fish off some fisherman on the river, but we are uninterested in food, and frankly a bit scared to eat it from the boat’s kitchen. Again, we can only manage crackers and ramen.
There was a mid-river drop off of lightweight bags containing some sort of grass-like substance. Probably shouldn’t transfer those in an actual port.
We feel like we’ve been on this boat forever, but at least today we saw a toucan.
Overall, the trip has been interesting, but rough. Real rough.
Posted on May 30, 2013 by angela
We were still in Santerem in the morning and were supposed to be there until afternoon, but the boat moved to a port outside of town. There were no vendors or any good way to get to town for supplies, but we were too weak to try anyway. We haven’t eaten in 48 hours, so we planned to eek out what we could from the bus. The heat made keeping fruits and veggies impossible, though. They turned liquid within a couple days.
We should be fine, because between the 3 of us we managed to eat only 1 bowl of ramen for lunch.
There’s more heavy rain today, so we were content to stay in bed. The vodka was unloaded, but there were still plenty of tomatoes still on board.
There are limited electrical plugs in the hammock area, so we’ve been charging the cameras and phones of the other passengers. It’s no problem. We have 8 plugs but only one converter for ourselves. Also, the camera lens loss and illness have meant few photos, and no need to recharge our stuff.
Our room is directly under the pilot house, and we hear clanging and clamoring all day and night. At least the captain wears flip flops.
The other passengers seem to have a sleep schedule we aren’t privy to. There are only a few chairs, so most of the day people just hang in their hammocks. At certain points of the day, you can walk through and every single one of them is asleep. Every time I got up in the night though, there were people awake and watching the dark waters.
We are starting to feel a tiny bit better, thankfully. The 3 of us shared a can of tuna with a few crackers for dinner.
Posted on May 29, 2013 by angela
The next day, it was all I could do to take a shower. I could only stand for about 3 minutes at a time before feeling terrible. Bode slept until 4 pm, which wasn’t totally surprising since he was up literally every 20 minutes the night before.
We forced down some bottled water – no food today.
We figured since it happened to all three of us at once, it was probably either the food from the night before or the water from the nice big machine that said Agua Gelada we assumed would be okay to drink. We didn’t really notice anyone else getting sick, though we were in our room or bath the entire night and day.
We washed the sheets in the shower. I wasn’t pretty.
Compounding our misery was the constant chug-chug-chugging and brain shaking vibration of a diesel powered vessel rumbling up river. It felt as though we were on a bad railroad track. Also, our air conditioner had no adjustment knobs – just on and off. The ‘on’ worked extremely well, so that we were freezing within minutes. Naturally, one of us had a fever while the other 2 had chills, so there was never agreement on whether it should be on or off.
The boat made quick stops at a few small ports that we didn’t even get up to see. The Amazon is at it’s highest point of the year, and not all the stilt houses are clearing the water level. By nightfall we arrived in Santerem where we intended to get out and go to dinner, but we couldn’t make it off the boat.
Posted on May 28, 2013 by angela
We slept in today, as we had air conditioning and a pretty dark room. The sound of metal chains and banging had kept us awake a lot, but by morning we could tune it out and just keep sleeping. The river was pretty narrow in this area, so everyone was at the railing looking out when we finally emerged from bed.
First stop – dig up our old point-and-shoot camera from the bus.
A bit later we started seeing small boats, lots of dugout canoes really, with tiny children paddling them up near our boat. Someone threw a few filled plastic bags overboard and they paddled over and got them. A few minutes later, more kids, some with an adult, and I thought maybe people were throwing food, but it turns out it was toys. A lady was throwing out dolls to the kids in well-tied plastic bags – and each included a message of salvation.
The kids were obviously expecting something. I thought maybe Bode could pitch over a few of his toys. I really wanted him to see this, but he was still asleep. Some of these kids were 3 or 4 years old, paddling a handmade boat out in the open water alone, and I was worried about my son standing next to the railing. Makes you think for sure.
When he did get up, he immediately went to play with a friend he had made the night before. And unfortunately, there weren’t anymore kids in canoes anyway.
The next bit of entertainment was in the form of motorized boats. Usually a father with a kid or two. The boats would speed up to ours, throw a grappling hook on, tie up and the kids would climb aboard selling shrimp. Again, pretty small kids. We decided to buys some for a snack and skip the boat’s lunch. It was a slow meal, but fun to eat Amazonian camarao. Everyone eats the skins here, but I just couldn’t do it.
Then, it got really interesting. Kids in canoes paddling up to our big moving cargo boat and latching on. Some were selling things, but other just seemed to be on a joyride. When are cargo boat came the other direction, they would unhook and paddle furiously over and try to catch the next one.
By early-afternoon, we were all feeling a little off, and I chalked it up to dehydration from the day before. I had a headache, Bode was just run down, and Jason’s stomach hurt. We all laid down in our cabin to read/watch a movie, but by 3pm we were all violently ill.
From that point, all through the night we were awake with varying bouts of vomiting, diarrhea, severe stomach cramps , headaches and fever. We were glad to have our own bathroom, but we had to leave our room to get to it. It has a key, and the light is up near the ceiling so someone needed to go with Bode every time he needed to go. I spent so much time in there waiting for him, I eventually put our camp chair in the bathroom under the shower. It was a complete nightmare of a night, and I’ll just say we got to know each other more intimately than we have in 3 years living in a bus.
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