Riding the Amazon BR 319 – Part 2

Good morning from the Amazon!  My favorite part of the day. Sleeping amongst the amazing sounds of the jungle and waking up to even more unique bird songs me happy.  I know there is another tough day ahead, but for now, just enjoying what I see, hear and smell.

Good thing I took a moment to be happy because within moments of being on the road today, we come to this! I’m pretty sure this is the worst bridge we’ve had so far….

Remember when I said this is a road full of hazards? 😉

Around mid-day and while taking this little break in the shade I fell in to a proper super size worry.. maybe a bit of a panic.  We are running out of water and we are only near the half way point. We started off with 11 litres each.  Now, I have 5 litres of water let, and James only has 3.  James is going through his water much faster than me, and fair enough, he’s a big boy.. as he puts it.  But after 2 days and we’re only half way, he is going to need far more than 3 litres out of 11 to get out.  I’ve gone a bit over budget while taking only conservative sips. This heat is the hardest part of this road.  I explain to James how important I think it is to budget the water, and he continues to explain, he’s thirsty and needs it.  I agree, and I feel the same, but I won’t drink all my water now, because I want to know I will have at least a little each day. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, we don’t know if we will be out tomorrow or in 3 days. He’s going to run out today easy.  So after tonight,  I know I will have to give him my water.  We are both suffereing from dehyration, but I think him more than me.  However, if I give him my water, will I totally pass out? Can I go at least 2 days on an overheating motorcycle in over 40 degrees without any water? I’m completely aware that I worry too much, but it’s a fair concern out here. And it was only at this point where I think what we are doing is stupid.

The other big decision is to ride without my jacket.  He keeps telling me I could cope better if I didn’t have my Rukka jacket on.  My decision… I’m not riding without protection full stop on one of the roughest roads I’ve been on. Plenty of opportunities to make a wrong move out here.. whilst being dehydrated and light headed from the heat.  He’s not wrong, I’m not wrong, I just choose to keep the protection on.  If I fall and break an arm…. I don’t want to imagine how to deal with that. So this was my time for a little panic, I went into the trees and sat down, trying to cool down and catch my breath.

Then I got up and needed to go.  James says to stay and rest as long as I like to cool down, but bottom line, we are running out of water and I’d rather go and get out as soon as we can. I knew when I bought that water purifier it was for this part of the world, but it wasn’t wrong to send home the extra weight at the time.. aw well. I did my best to put a smile over my worries and get back on the bike.

I did procrastinate a little bit longer.. One of my greatest memories of the Amazon will be all the butterflies.  They are eveywhere, every day.  They are impossible to photograph on the move, but this one landed on my tank bag. Even though he/she doesn’t have the same brilliant colors as the others I’ve seen, I still thought it was really good looking; and because it’s white, a little sign of hope.

There was this one patch of pavement that I was SO grateful for.  Overheating all day and all night, this section of asphalt lasted for a total of 12 kilometers!  Unreal!  We could go fast enough to get a bit of a breeze which is why my arm is high up trying to let the air cool me down via a full sweat-soaked shirt.

Along the BR 319 are these electrical stations.  They still function, I assume to connect energy from Manuas to the south or vice versa.  We have used a couple of them during the day now for an easy place to park the bikes to temporarily escape from the blaring hot Amazonian sun.  Tonight we decided to pull into this one to see if we can camp here. There are supposedly jaguars out here and the stations are surround by fencing. Some of them are well locked up, but even though this one appeared to be locked, it wasn’t. So in we went.

Not long after a truck comes in with 3 Brazilian men in underwear.. Lord have Mercy!  I was, I guess I would say, concerned?  I didn’t feel I should worry about them, but at the same time, they were not talking to us at all and we are right at their door!  Not sure what their story is.. Do they work here? Or are they locals just using it for protection like we are.  The fact they are all soaking wet in their underwear made me think they’ve simply gone for a wash in one of the many rivers.

My Portuguese hasn’t kicked in yet, and I do my best to ask if it’s okay that we camp here tonight.. even though I’m wondering if that is a safe option.  They all have their big knives in view.  But they said OK and went into the station.. Whew!  That means they work here, I think.

While we set up our tents, they pulled fish out of the truck.. Ok then, now I understand.. they went fishing for dinner!  Concerns get less and less.

I’m not sure why they didn’t seem too friendly at the beginning, but after they had their meal, they came out to talk to us.  James showed them some photos and some GPS information which they liked.  But at the end of day we can’t communicate well through the language barrier. The one thing they did do which I am beyond grateful for was give us 7 litres of COLD water they had collected from the river!!!!  A wish come true!!!  They told us we can drink it, but there are plenty of bits and pieces floating around.  The horror stories I’ve seen online or in a documentary of the crazy parasites you can pick up in the Amazon from either the water or mosquito bites.

It turns out James is carrying a Steripen. A device you can hold in the water for a minute or so and the light is supposed to kill the bugs. He’s never wanted to use it out here because he doesn’t have experience with it and we don’t know what the big particles are.  I tried it first.  Yeah, I’ll be the guinea pig.  I’ve always had a bit of a tough gut, so if I get sick, we’ll know.

If you want to see some gross photos of bugs you can pick up on the road, check this website out: http://sickontheroad.com/2011/03/02/7-terrifying-small-organisms-that-can-ruin-your-trip/

The next morning, my stomach still good, so we drank more water. Can you imagine, my biggest worry yesterday?  The white butterfly of hope and within hours we are not only drinking water, but COLD water!!??  Hallelujah….  The guys are entertained by watching us pack up.

Day 3… the same temps as 1 and 2… ;-/

Seriously, this road would be super fun on a light dirt bike without having to carry any gear.

In the afternoon it was a great surprise to come to a river crossing that did not have a bridge.. but a proper ferry! And people!! Wow!

And THEN!!!  I look to my left and there is a dag gone building that looks like a restaurant.. For real???

Unfortunately, this was my view when I walked in the door.. Well??

I still asked.. do you have food?  “Yes, we have fish..” Great! I’ll take it! James is not so easy.. He is vegetarian, and even though I do my best to help him come up with a meal.. he doesn’t want it anyway.  Second question.. “Do you have beer?”  Yes.. “Is it cold?”  Yes..  Awesome! This is like the oasis in the desert! Well, it wasn’t cold, more like cool. I won’t complain!

While I was waiting, this gorgeous little boy was around.  I just fell totally in love with this kid! I think his faces says.. “Whew!  The white lady doesn’t smell so good.” It’s been 3 days since my last shower in this sweaty heat!!! ;-))

Look at those eyes.  They are the most sparkly happy eyes I’ve ever seen.

He wasn’t happy when his parents ordered him off my lap so I could eat my meal.  I would have let him stay and even share the meal, but they were adamant.  Such a cute and loving little boy…

It was a nice surprise to see this turtle hatchery across the street. The Amazon gets a lot of bad press for poaching, and even though it’s just a small hatchery, it was good in know it’s here.

And water.. it’s cool too so I’m drinking it all!  Thank goodness it was here.. I still can’t believe it. We are nowhere near the end of this road, and there are people here.  It’s not as bad as I thought.

Lastly, I asked where I can buy fuel.  I think I had figured out the correct amount of fuel from Humaita, but just to be sure, I want to buy some. Why not. They have it and it’s one less thing to worry about.  Very expensive, but well worth it if I did come up short.

Ahhhh.. on the ferry completely refreshed! Well fed, well watered, well fueled… This place has it all!!! Life is good!

Oh yeah, the rough road is still there…

I’m traveling ahead of James because it’s easier for me to go quicker in some places.  I ride standing up but I lean down and check my mirror from time to time.. One time, I looked back and he wasn’t there.  I stopped the bike, looked back again and thought.. “that doesn’t look right”.  I stared a few seconds longer, and I’m like ‘bugger, he’s down’…

I pulled up to him in surprise, because quite honestly, this is a really easy part of road.  I really would have expected one or both of us to go down in other sections, but not here!  What happened?

He honestly doesn’t know.  He’s thought about and usually has an answer for everything, but this time he doesn’t.  Oh well,  let’s at least get it up and see if there’s any damage.

You wouldn’t believe.. on a road to nowhere, a truck comes up while we’re standing there.  Three men jump out of the truck and like magic, picked up the bike for James and then continued on their way.  Lucky for him!

The main thing is that he’s hurt his ankle.  He sat down for a while and confirming everything still moves, there mustn’t be anything broken.  Very good news, but he is in a lot of pain.  Secondly, he broke a few bits on the bike, bent the pannier frame pretty good.. and all this while riding slowly.  My opinion?  He is riding without his jacket, which means he can be guaranteed to go down, right?  Murphy’s Law?  I tease him about it, but we give some time for the pain killers to kick in and carry on slowly.

Riding along, I noticed a big dark cloud in the distance.  I know we are on the edge of rain season and the farther north we get closer to the big Amazon river makes we wonder if now is the time.

I stopped taking photos and just hoped to get as far as we can before the rain hits.  James is stopping often. He feels he needs to stay off his foot.  I totally agree and look for him a place to camp.  The sprinkles turned into rain and within seconds we are riding in the slipperiest squirmy mud… ick!  Still trying to find a place in the bush to camp that is open enough for the tents and wouldn’t fill with water.

The sun is going down and we come to a deep hill that is only mud.  I can hardly see in the rain and dark and I make an executive decision to put the tents up now.. in the road.  It will be the driest and safest place. And tackling that steep incline in the sliperry mud with a man who needs to rest his foot.. time to stop. James asks.. “what will we do if a car comes along?” I can not imagine any cars traveling this road at night in the rain. I think we’re good.

Sunrise in the Amazon… love it!  Even in the middle of the road, I slept very well!!

This is a photo of the muddy hill I took in the morning. It doesn’t look difficult at all in the photo but it was so slick.

James wakes up a couple hours after, and he really doesn’t want to move.  He is quite sore from his fall yesterday.  He is actually asking to stay here for the day to rest.  Hmmmm.  I would agree if something is broken but is there any way he can take enough pain killers to keep going? (and ride the bike safely). We might be able to ride out of here today.  He really doesn’t want to.  I’m struggling because I feel quite mean trying to convince him we should continue, however staying here all day means we run completely low on water AND food.  It would not be a nice day in the horrendous heat and I’m not sure what good it would do.  I want to respect what he wants because he is hurt.  What do I do?  I packed up my bike anyway.  He didn’t.  At least I am ready and out of the way in case a car or truck does come along.

Lo and behold.. a truck does show up early!  They stopped and asked what the problem is.   I did my best sign language and bits of Portuguese and told them that my friend fell over yesterday and hurt his ankle.  The men quickly got a woman out of the truck.  From what I understand they are telling me she does natural Amazon medicine.. How freakin’ lucky is that!  When he fell over yesterday, these men show up like magic and pick it up.  And today, like magic, a bush doctor.

She rubbed James swollen ankle with an oil first and then a creme.

In the meantime, this guy had lots of questions for me.  And then he came up with a brilliant suggestion.  He offered me Castanhas. In English, Brazil nuts.  James jokes, “If we call the Brazil Nuts, what do they call them in Brazil.. just nuts?”  🙂

Our pretend Amazon doctor finally gets us to understand that this is oil of the serpente.. Snake oil.  We have no clue what the other twigs and leaves are.

I have eaten these nuts all my life.  My Mom used to give them to us.  However, these are fresh.. really fresh and are THAT MUCH better!!  A bit of work to get them out, but I am loving them.

Yes, I look dreadful. Hot, super sweaty dirty stinky clothes and my last shower about 3 days ago.

Totally irrelevant, I saw this flower near the side of the road where we are, and needed a photo.  Really thought this was a special one.

Ok, James concluded that he’s not sure if it’s the extra pain killers he took, or if the snake oil did the job but he feels marginally better and thinks we can try to ride now.

It was a very long 2 or 3 hours of checking on him.  He is going slower than slow, we still have some mud left over from last nights rain meaning he has to quite often put his foot down which hurts.  I really wish I could make him feel better, but he’s losing his will.  I am still feeling very mean, but I stay ahead of him on purpose because I think if he sees me riding in the distance, he will want to follow. Otherwise I am sure he is on the verge of giving up. The other side of me wants to just stop and let him have the day off.  In the modern world, no problem, but here?  I’m not sure which is the smartest solution.

This house showed up.  Other than that little group of houses by the river yesterday at lunch I’ve not seen any others.  We are still around 170 km until the end of the road.  However, seeing that house gave me a sign that I liked.

Jame is still “dying”.. and amongst the mud some proper newish looking asphalt showed up.  It looks like we’re outside a miliary construction base. So I expect the asphalt will go away, but it’s the nicest break we’ve had all day. A few kilometers down the road and the asphalt is still here!  I am doing the hallelujah dance in my seat, however not getting too carried away, because it’s quite likely to go away again.  I’m weaving and swaying all over the very smooth road as if my motorcycle is dancing too.

I like this happy picture, because I can not tell you how good it feels to know we are somewhat close to finishing this road which means.. we’re going to live!! My boots and pants are covered in mud.. so yes, I’ll take that Amazon with me!  I slowed down to check on James.. and for the first time in 2 days I didn’t get a “I’m hot, I’m dying”!! He looks fairly normal again and riding well.  Everybody’s happy….!

That wonderful asphalt continued all the way to the end of the road…. From here we take a ferry directly to Manaus.

Whew!  That was quite the experience!  I am still glad we did it, but in my dreams, I wouldn’t mind having my big water purifier next time.  Or even better, a support vehicle!  That would be ideal.. well a but too easy and less adventurous. I’d probably just stick to the water thing.

This was quite interesting..  It’s where the famous Amazon River meets another river called Rio Negro  “Black River”..  This meeting of two rivers near Manaus is where you can see two distinct colors of water that flow side by side for almost 4 miles. This all happens because of differences in water temperature, density and speed of the current.

Since I knew nothing of what’s going on here, I looked it up on Wikipedia:  Rio Negro: Black River is the largest left tributary of the Amazon and the largest blackwater river in the world. It has its sources along the watershed between the Orinoco and the Amazon basins, and also connects with the Orinoco by way of the Casiquiare canal in southern Venezuela. In Colombia, where the Rio Negro’s sources are located, it is called the Guainía River.

Now for the Amazon:  The Amazon River carries more water than any other river in the world. In fact, the Amazon River is responsible for about one-fifth (twenty percent) of the fresh water that flows into the world’s oceans.  The Amazon River is the second longest river in the world (the Nile River in Africa is the longest) and is about 4,000 miles (6400 km) long.

Off the ferry and we are right in Manaus.. into the hustle and bustle once again.. Where 3 color street lights seem to function but everyone goes whenever they want and we’re all out for our own lives.. just like the last few days in the jungle..!!

As a conclusion to this little adventure, I am very happy and proud to experience and survive such a difficult road.  However, I am quite disappointed at our preparations for water.  I am still glad we did it, but in my dreams, I wouldn’t mind having my big water purifier next time.  Or even better, a support vehicle!  That would be ideal.. well a bit too easy and less adventurous. Not so ideal. I’d probably just stick to the water thing.

About kangamerican

Originally from America. Proud citizen of Australia. Currently riding my motorcycle around the world. 44 countries so far and counting. ;-) View all posts by kangamerican

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