(13) Brasil: Santa Ines and Belem
They say it is tough to leave Brasil. To the layman that doesn´t mean anything. When I first read the statement, I had the typical, standard reaction. "Oh yeah...what do they mean? Why would it be different?"
After over two months of travel Belem was still out of reach and time was ticking away. I had fallen into the trap. It was hard to leave! In order to avoid becoming a prisoner I decided to cross off items from the itinerary and make a concerted effort to reach Belem. Even once there it would be almost three weeks before I could leave Brasil, if I left at all. I could feel the noose tightening. I could feel her fingers grasping mine...was that you Brasil or was it someone else?
The road north from Santa Ines went to Belem. It was the only road north. The sign said it was 569.8 kilometers. I pointed the RANA north.
The problem was there was no road. It took 3 hours to travel the first 100 km. It was a non-road. There was no part about that first section that resembled a road, except for maybe the edges that provided a demarkation line.
The semi-trailer traffic, myself and the odd car struggled through the maze of ruts and craters using whatever piece of the road looked the best. Oncoming traffic sometimes passed on the right with a semi in the middle and me on the left. It was a scene right out of a dodge-em car carousel. Holes four feet deep and ten to fifteen feet across marked the path. It was the poorest excuse for the main and only link north that there ever was.
The second section resembled a road but was still a non-road. It too had crater sized vados and pavement shrapnel littering the surface. This road had not been neglected for years...it had been neglected for decades. A road only becomes this bad after it is totally abandoned for untold years.
Brasil you have turned your back on the north. You have nourished and fattened your Politicians, Wealthy Land Owners and Business Owners to the south of Rio but this is the forgotten north...the nameless land. You have turned your back on 2/3 of your country and its people. Shame on you BRASIL.
The last 200 kms were actually a road that deteoriated somewhat as I approached Belem. My fond memories of Brasil had been scarred. The poverty here was out front...in your face. It is absurd to rape and pillage your own country and provide nothing in return but Brasil has played the game well...they were trained by the best.
The RANA clicked over 190,000 kms on the way to Belem as together we contentedly hummed down the last few kilometers of pavement to that port city. We had some hard knocks on the journey here...we had endured alot together...we had cursed the road and pounded through holes...we had fought the weather and its vagaries and won. In five months of travel you could count the hours of rain on the fingers of one hand. We were both seemingly in good health. We moved towards the next phase of the journey.
Belem was the eastern terminus for staging trips up the Amazon to Santarem and Manaus. From Manaus you could go further west to Iquitos Peru, all by river. There were no roads west from here. The Amazon River was the road. The Brasilian dream of a Trans-Amazonas road had vaporized years ago. The jungle was now busy reclaiming man´s most recent assault.
Crowne Plaza Belém. In my quest for a place to stay the Crowne Plaza stood out from the crowd. It was new and shiny and tall. I knew it would be expensive but I needed to stop somewhere and get my bearings. I pulled into the entrance area. Almost immediately there was a flurry of activity about me.
"Good to see you sir. Welcome to the Crowne Plaza. I am glad you stopped to see us. Please come in and we will give you a tour." The words rolled off of his lips like stacatto gunfire.
"Easy does it. Hold on a moment. Well...since you are here, how much is a room?"
"We are not officially open today but please come and tour our facilities."
"OK, so that´s it. I had stumbled onto an 'Open House' and by the looks of things I was one of the few people to show up today." I pulled out my City Map. "Can you show me where I am?"
"We are right here. There is a hotel here and here and here."
"Thank you very much."
"Come back and see us."
"Yes, maybe tomorrow." Nice chaps but they need to take a pill.
Visions of Jakarta danced before me. A clean shirt lasted exactly 5 minutes...the length of time it took to take the elevator from my air conditioned room to the lobby, step outside and walk to the curb. With the humidity at 99.9% and the thermometer at 35.9 C I instantly looked like I had just run a marathon...my shirt soaked through and stuck to my body like paint.
I delivered my bike to the docks on Monday. They put her in the bowels of the N/M Amazon Star...or not. I would know for sure when I returned on Wednesday to sail. They offer the suite, the standard and the hammock at deckside. I paid extra for the suite, a 10 ft x 7 ft box with air conditioning, a bunk bed and a private banő in a separate room. I can't even begin to imagine what the standard room would be like. I hope they have a light passenger load so I don't have to share my cramped quarters.
The rainiest city in the world never shed a drop.
Posted by Robert Bielesch at August 22, 2006 09:32 PM GMT