December 20, 2003 GMT
Backyards, Bolivia, Jungle slot cars, Indians, Missionaries, I take the plane

Saturday afternoon, we met up with a large (about 18)
group of Brazilian dirtbikers who go riding every
weekend. Some of them were pretty good, others were
just learning. I rode close to the front to stay out
of the dust but still wanted a faster pace. I knew the
locals wanted to see just what a big Six Five Oh would
do and showed them a few times with generous amounts
of throttle. Matt impressed them with lots of
wheelies. I crossed a DEEP mudhole along with a
couple of other front runners, only to find that we
shouldnt have crossed and needed to go back. Lots of
throttle and momomentum carried the Great White Pig
thru, but the others didnt make it, so I helped drag
them thru. I hated to think about the creatures both
great and microscopic living in that ooze, but helped
them out just the same. A few more open trails led us
into the jungle trails. I was eager to show the boys
that I could ride the tight stuff too, even with the
heaviest dirtbike on the continent and passed 3 or 4
immediately and hung right with the front runners, but
it was tough. My front tire is pretty bald from 6000
miles of mostly pavement and the jungle trails were
all slippery mud. But there were ruts through all the
turns so I just rode the ruts like a slot car. Hard
work and when I came out the other side and stopped
with steam from the mud coming off the engine, the
heat was indescribable.

On the way back, we took the powerline path through
the neighborhoods. Thick, viney grass up to 10 feet
tall, glad I was wearing moto boots in case one of
them little fellows with no shoulders and long fangs
should try to bite. Our fearless leader fell on an
unseen rock in sight of a backyard. I heckled him
with the horn, children cheered, dogs barked,
shirtless men waved the remnants of their beers. We
rode over handmade plank bridges that looked like they
would barely support a fat man on a bicycle, much less
a slim man on the Great White Pig, through a soccer
game in progress, several backyard barbeques, dumps,
and businesses. We would have been lynched in the
USA. The value of local guides.

Sundays ride was much more tame, but still fun. Mostly
dirt roads, only fun when you rode them really fast.

Monday we went out to the missionarys compound to fly
to the Indian tribe. I got lost, but got there
eventually. From the air, we confirmed what the
missionary had told us about the shrinking rainforest-
Yes, there is logging near the towns and roads, but
there is still one hell of a lot of it left untouched
in the interior. The landing strip was small but one
of the best ones they have. We came in steep and
slow, with the stall warnings blaring, bounced twice,
then stopped.

The tribe came out to greet us. We werent sure how to
greet them, but they mostly came with hands extended
for shaking, saying Bom Diar (Portugese for good day).
One of the leaders, dressed in a very old sport coat
and slacks, gave us each a hug. They were mostly
dressed in tattered Tshirts and shorts with bare feet.
Some of the girls had red face paint which used to be
symbolic, but is done now mostly for fun. I was a
full head taller than the tallest man.

I climbed a tree with some of the kids to get some
fruit and was scared to go as high or far out as them.
We walked through their whole village with Steve.
Steve was born and raized in the village, the son of
the first missionaries there. Steve is a real life
Tarzan and until recently held the worlds record for
finding trhe largest Tarantula (something like 15.75
inches in diameter!) We saw where they worked, played
and slept. Most of the men were out hunting or
something and most of the others were either following
us around or lounging in hammocks. Not much to see in
terms of activity, but I guess it was like trying to
see what a north american family does and finding them
watching TV. Not exciting, but typical, nonetheless.
We did see their pets and livestock- monkeys, a tiny
deer, a ratlike thing, another ferocious rodent type
thing, dogs, and chickens. The chickens had to be
kept in very tightly woven coops at night to keep the
vampire (yes, vampire) bats from killing them.

My overall impression was that the missionaries were
doing more good than harm. These indians had been
contacted by the outside world by miners and fishermen
who would have done far more to corrupt them than the
missioanries. The missionaries also do seem to be
sensitive to keeping their way of life intact. Where
the Brazilian governemnt has interfered, the indians
have moved to town, forgotten their own language, etc.
Still I wish the good things they do could happen
without the religion.

Steve took us for a walk through virgin jungle, very
thick, and the ground was not dirt- it was soft dead
vegetation. I dont know how deep you would have to
dig before you hit dirt, but I guess 2-3 feet in most
places. Thats why they have to burn it off to plant
anything.

Before we took off, I told our pilot, Ray, that I fly
a paraplane at home and had read a few books on flying
real planes and that he could talk to me intelligently
about what was going on. Just after takeoff (we
barely made avoided haveing to abort it), Ray told me
to take the plane because he had to write some things
down. I thought he was joking, but he wasnt. I flew
almost the whole way back (he landed it, of course).
Overall, it was a very good experience and I feel much
better about the missionary presence here.

Yesteryday, we rode to the Bolivian border but did not
cross. We crossed today, having to take a very small
boat across the river. I was more than a little
worried as the bikes made the center of gravity pretty
high and I was wearing heavy moto boots and a
backpack. (The driver was wearing the only lifevest.)

No problems getting through customs and we rode good
dirt roads for about 100km before stopping. Tomorrow
will be a big day with about 10 hours of dirt road
riding (almost all the roads in Bolivia are dirt).
All for now.

=====
Jim Stanley
Managing Member
Stanley Alpine, LLC
www.sopgear.com

Posted by Jim Stanley at December 20, 2003 06:11 PM GMT
 
 

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