It was a relatively simple affair to get a ticket for the boat in Belem and the boat was much better than I expected - thank God I didnīt go for hammock class - similar to 3rd class trains in India, with ten hammocks in the space I would think only two should go. My cabin was small but clean and also cool as it had a fan - I shared it with a french backpacker, - they had assured me that they donīt allow mixed cabins so at least I didnīt have to worry about sharing with some amorous Brazillian bloke.
I also met up with another biker on board, the first overlander I have met in ages, Raymundo Huerta from Mexico riding a Harley-Davidson and also heading to Venezuela - having ridden down to Ushuaia and is on his way home - despite most people's misgivings and the poor state of many of the roads, Ray is proud to report that he has not had a single mechanical problem with his Harley
There were almost no mosquitoes due to the constant movement of the boat and even the food was OK - rice, beans, pasta and potatoes for lunch and dinner every day- it was actually served with beef and chicken - but I don't eat meat.
Loading Thelma onto boats is always an experience and this one was no different- I was screeching at the deckhands like a fishwife as they almost let Thelma fall into the hold with me on her!
I had ridden up the gangplank (nerve-wracking in itself) and at the top, they were all so busy watching Ray's bike they didnīt catch me as I was heading towards the black hole of the hold whilst braking as hard as I could - Iīd had to do a bit of an Evel Knivel-style rev up the narrow gangplank ramp as it was quite steep, so there was no room for error at the top.
They then tied a rope around Thelma and sweating profusely, they creakily lowered her into the hold - I could hardly bear to look.
The views from the boat were superb - lush jungle, children in dug-out canoes trying to "surf" the boatīs wake, villages on stillts, Amazonian River dolphins swimming alongside the boat and even a sighting of the rare pink dolphin.
Parrots, storks, eagles, parrakeets - hundreds of birds and some of the most stunning sunrises and sunsets I have ever seen.
Here I am now in Belem after a 5500kms ride along the coastline of Brazil. It is hot and humid (well, what did I expect??), but it feels good to be here.
The last two days on the road were tough due to the mud, I did point out that the wet season was officially supposed to have ended three weeks ago but no-one took any notice of me.
There were also incredible potholes - actually that's a misnomer, they were craters with a fine network of crumbling tarmac between them. At times it was like being on a tightrope, trying to balance Thelma on these 6 inch wide tracks with a deep muddy abyss on either side - oh well at least it provided entertainment for the truckers - virtually the only other traffic up here.
From here the road ends and I take to a boat, five days up the Amazon, complete with hammock swaying in the breeze. Though the reality will probably be a seething mass of humanity crowded onto a leaky tub.
Time to relax and so I went to the beaches at Itacare - white sand, coconut palms, clear sea, good company and cocktails at sunset- bliss.
Then, when I left I had a horrible day when my shock absorber fell off. OK, slight exaggeration, the bolt holding it sheared off and...
Thelma looked like she was in pieces. Naturally this occurred on an appallingly bad dirt track in the middle of nowhere with humid jungle all around me - the ground was so uneven that I couldn`t even put my side-stand down. Using a complicated combination of holding Thelma up with one hand, whilst unlocking and removing a pannier with the other, I managed to manoeuvre Thelma onto her side resting on the pannier (she weighs almost 300 kg with the luggage!)- a passing cyclist was commandeered into helping me to clout the shock absorber back into position - then, with just a half-inch of snapped bolt holding it in place I gingerly proceeded.
It fell off twice more before I managed to reach tarmac and then a bike workshop - four hours to cover 30 miles, I don`t think I have ever been so tense in my life.
I have now reached Salvador - a beautiful colonial city and am going off in search of a 15 mm spanner... such is the glamourous life on the road.
Next HU Events
- Brazil: Feb 22-23
- Germany: May 29-June 1
- HUBB UK: June 19-22
- NEW! Canada Maritimes: July 4-6
- USA Colorado: July 11-13
- Ireland: July 18-20
- Canada West: Aug 21-24
- USA North Carolina: Sept. 4-7
- Canada Ontario: Sept. 11-14
- NEW! UK - Haggs Bank: Sept. 19-21
- USA California: Sept. 25-28
- Aus Queensland: Oct 3-6
- Aus Perth: Oct 10-12
- Aus VIC: Oct 24-26
- NEW! South Africa: Nov 14-16
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