It was goodbye Venezuela, hello Brasil. We ran into Pablo again at the border and ended up travelling with him for a few days down to Manaus. The first thing to hit in Brasil was the prices. Fuel jumped from a couple of cents a litre to about $2 a litre and the price of other necessities like food,
and accommodation also shot up.
It was late in the day by the time we had sorted everything at the border, got rid of our last Venezuelan Bolivars while we could and hit the road south, riding with someone else for the first time since Colombia. After an hour or two we pulled in beside a river and camped the night, cooking rice and tuna on a small fire. Unpacking the bike, I noticed the head of the bolt holding the swing arm to the frame has snapped off and is just being held on by a small lip of metal. A bit surprised that the bike still is attempting to convert itself to a unicycle, I figure if it’s still holding it should make it a couple of hours to Boa Vista in the morning.
Luckily they didn’t end up becoming famous last words and after a stressful couple of hours looking down every few minutes to check the remainder of the bolt wasn’t working loose, we made it to town. We followed the standard procedure of asking locals and ending up following directions or locals to various shops before finding a bike shop that had one of a Honda something that would fit. $30 or so later I’m lot more relaxed with confidence that the old girl may stay in one piece a bit longer yet.
We stocked up on food water and fuel before heading south; as there wasn't much except jungle between here and Manaus we are told. While filling up with fuel a local riding past on a moto clips a car and ends up losing a whole lot of skin on the road. A huge crowd gathers around and he seems to get up but pretty soon after an ambualance takes him away. Shorts, singlet, flip flops and no helmet don’t offer much protection from the pavement.
We head off in the afternoon again and after a solid 5+ hours of riding we find a place out of sight of the road near some fairly recent virgin rainforest logging and set up camp on dark. I manage to get another small cooking fire going during the intermitting heavy showers so it’s a hot dinner. It rained alot during the night and Pablo came out of his tent /swimming pool looking a bit wet and we weren’t much better off.
Second night in Brasil
Back into soggy clothes and on the road again we head off. Right where the road crosses the equator there is a few km of bad mud road with lots of traffic backed up. I drop the bike once, losing the back end on a muddy off camber section. It’s at a slow speed and we are both fine with nothing more than a few bumps and bruises. We head on down through the section of road it’s illegal to stop while you drive through and the road is closed night due to the indigenous tribe living in the area. We stop at the police checkpoint after this section and they let us sleep on the concrete pad in front of their building with a covered roof. The roof is a luxury with the constant heavy rain showers every afternoon/evening.
Pablo and Kyla.
The next day it’s off to Manaus! We are quite excited to get to the city and see the big river. We stop for lunch in Presidente Figueiredo, a local resort town an hour or so before Manaus and a local guy, Genghis, runs up and tells us he was expecting us in broken Spanish as all our Portuguese is a bit pitiful. We are all a bit confused and eventually figure out we are the wrong people , he gives us a number to call in Manaus anyway and takes off to finish his lunch. We are a bit confused, and head on to Manaus. We get there as it’s getting late, ride around in the rain a bit and eventually stop at a gas station. Pablo calls the number and finds that it is for the Legion Phoenix M.C. and they would like to look after us while we are here. A couple of the guys from the club, Dieles and Ramayana, ride out to the gas station and tell us to follow them to the clubhouse. So off we go, ending up at Alcides house, who is the president of the club. Although none of us really had languages in common we got along very well and Alcides insisted there was room down in the lower house for us with some of his family. The hospitality shown to us by the club for the week we stayed was incredible. They showed us around the city on bikes and took us out for meals and drinks. They didn’t want me to have to go out in my one pair of torn up old riding jeans, so I was given a couple of spare pairs they had around.
Time for some rack reinforcement in Manaus.
The Manaus Opera House.
Legion Pheonix M.C.
The big river.
The guys showing us around. Bridge being built over the Rio Negro.
Going to the Opera.
At the Opera.
We decided here to head on down the BR 319 to Porto Velho and Pablo headed back to Venezuela. They warned us they didn’t think the road was passable but we thought we’d give it a go anyway. Before we left the club gave us a rear tyre as ours was running out of life and Pablo got a front one. This was a hard gift to accept as they had already given us so much but it would be insulting to refuse. We also got a couple of 5L detergent bottles they had for fuel containers and after a few tears of farewell were shed we headed to the ferry.
Crossing the Amazon amongst the tankers.
It was an interesting ferry, crossing just below where the Rio Negro joins the Amazon and passing over the mixing of the waters, where the brown and black rivers merge. We headed off down the surprisingly decent paved road to Cariero, where we stayed the night. After an early start it was time for the fun to begin. There was a big concrete bridge built across the river beside Cariero but like the other one or two big bridges on the road, there were no on or off ramps built. Funding for this project had been cancelled at some point in the project, so people could cross climbing up the 3 or 4 metre drop on each side but vehicles and bikes had to take small ferries.
Ferry at Cariero.
Ready to go. The pointless bridge is behind me.
We had filled up with petrol and were ready for 500km of jungle. Or so we thought. After 100km and a couple of these ferries, we passed an army base, the last of civilization for awhile. No private contractors were willing to rebuild the BR 319, so the army was sent in to do it. The road was originally built to maintain the communication towers every 50 or so km that connect Manaus to the rest of the country. It had not been maintained since the 80’s. At the time the 10-15km after the army base was the worst part of the road. We had to repeatedly unload as we sunk stuck into mud to the bottom up to the bottom of the bags, push the bike through and reload. After valiantly battling through 8km of mud in 2+ hours, the bike decided to completely consume her clutch.
Into the jungle.
Right before the end of the clutch.
Crap. It’s getting on to mid afternoon. No people. No traffic. Decisions.
The bike is given a sad farewell and pushed into the bushes for a night alone. We start the walk back to the army base. Arriving just after dark the army boys are shocked to see two random gringos walking in. Although we can’t talk because of our limited Portuguese we end up with an empty dorm room/container to ourselves and leftovers from the mess. I never figured I’d join the Brazilian army for a week but they were great.
The army base. As viewed from one of the communication towers looking towards the closest civilisation.
After a few hand signals and trying to communicate in broken Spanish, I realised they would love to pick the bike up but they don’t have enough diesel which is why they aren’t working and why the generator only runs an hour or two a day. So off we trot back up the track with no bags this time and spend the entire day pushing the bike back through 8km of crappy mud with no functioning engine to help.
Getting in on dark we enjoy another meal of salty meat rations and retire to our quarters. The next day one of the army mechanics wants to take a look and it is confirmed. No clutch and the nearest possibility of a replacement is the small town about 100km and two ferry crossings away. The army can’t give us a ride because they have no diesel. Joining the army seems the only option. Kyla told the guys somehow it was my birthday and they find a few
s and make pizza for dinner. A unique enough place for a 22nd birthday I guess.
Hmmm, it is broken!!
The next day, Renan, the commander returns to camp. He speaks English which is fortunate for us. So the story is they have been waiting longer then they usually wait for fuel because the ferry is broken. In a few days they will drive in a truck our side of the crossing 30km away where a small boat can ferry drums across (and us!).
During the next few days we encounter an anaconda cruising through camp, I catch a small fish with big teeth and eat it, we read alot and live on army rations. Life’s not bad when you have a dry place to sleep and food in your stomach.
Off to the truck. The guys in the background are carrying diesel from the genny tank over to the truck.
Up she goes.
The day has finally come, the boys helped me load the bike the night before and we are off. The first 18 km it is such a relief to be on the move again.... until the drive shaft decides to remove itself from the centre diff. That trucks not going anywhere. A couple of hours of waiting on the side of the road and the other working truck comes to pick us up. And take us back to the base for the night. Frustrating.
That driveshaft doesn't look right...
Round two and we head off the next morning in the other truck and make it to the river. Freedom! There is no traffic on this road but Renan says we will have a chance of getting a ride. (We saw a total of zero vehicles go past in either direction in our week at the army base). After pushing the bike for 8 or 10km a van that passed us earlier going the other way is coming back. I frantically wave it down and he stops. I get Kyla in the van with bags before tying a rope on to the van, wrapping one end around my bars and holding on. The road is paved mostly, interspersed with sections of potholes. The driver is a crazy Brazilian. The next two hours are the most mentally straining two hours I have had in a long time. Motorbikes are not meant to be towed. Arriving shaking at the ferry to the small town of Cariero I thank the driver profusely, give him 10 or 20 dollars and push the bike on to the ferry and off up to a bike mechanic. He pulls the clutch off and luckily it uses the same size clutch as Honda 150 I think and he gives me two options; $15 for the Chinese made clutch or $25 for the Brazilian made one. I splash out on the pricier one and then it’s time for another go at the 319. Taking the boat to Porto Velho would just be too easy.