Day 289 Vista Alegre, Brazil to Santa Elena, Venezuela

Day 289 Vista Alegre, Brazil to Santa Elena, Venezuela      06/06/11      Mileage: 237

It poured overnight which did not bode well for us as we still had to get across the river. John and I walked 1 block down to the water’s edge and indeed the water had risen at least 2-3 feet from where it was last night. The tienda in which we had dinner last night now had 2 feet of water in it. Several motor canoes had come right up the street so I asked one of the owners if he would be willing to take 3 motorcycles across the river. He agreed and after negotiating a price we had a plan!

Me negotiating with the boat owner…

So, after packing the bikes we rode down the street to where our motor canoe was waiting. We discussed a plan and agreed that John and I would go across first with our bikes, then Ian would come across with his bikes and the gear.

John’s TT and my KLR ready to set sail…

I have to admit it was a bit nerve racking crossing the boiling and swollen river in the rickety underpowered boat. If the boat went over you could kiss the bikes goodbye…not to mention having to literally swim for your life.

Luckily, we made it across OK and I was relieved to have the bikes on dry land. The GPS said it was 2.5 miles across the flooded river that normally is only maybe 100 yards across! We knew we were witnessing an unusually high flood when even the locals, police and fire department were all turning up to see the flood and take pictures.

Our bikes back on dry land with the local police department standing by…

Ian showed up with his bike and the gear about an hour later…and after repacking the bikes we hit the road north towards Venezuela.

Wrestling Ian’s XTZ660 out of the canoe…

Two hours later I had a close encounter with a vulture, and sadly the poor guy didn’t make it. I really felt bad and I hope that doesn’t bring me bad karma.

After riding in the rain for a while we finally arrived at the Venezuela border.

It was around 4:30 in the afternoon and we were told that we needed to buy insurance in Santa Elena wound 10 miles into Venezuela, then return to the border to process the paperwork. Well, we arrived at the insurance place at 4:50pm….and of course they close at 5pm and did not have time to process our insurance. Crap, so, we got a room in town and the insurance and border formalities will have to wait until tomorrow. But for now, we’re all hungry and thirsty for some ice cold beers…..some things never change!

Advertisements

Day 288 Manaus to Vista Alegre, Brazil

Day 288 Manaus to Vista Alegre, Brazil       06/05/11       Mileage: 398

John, Ian and I planned on getting an early start, but you know how that goes. Either way it was nice to be back on the bikes and rolling north with 2 new friends. The first half of the day was uneventful with mile upon mile of dense jungle lining the roadside.

Leaving Manaus…..Caracas, Venezuela….2,250 kilometers to go…

Ian and his Yamaha XTZ660…

Ian with me in his rear view mirror…

Brazil doesn’t make a big deal about the equator…and this graffiti filled monument is all that marks its location. I flew right by and didn’t even see it. Either way…I was back in the northern hemisphere for the first time in 6 months…

We ran into some rain, but nothing too bad….but we did notice that all the rivers were high though, so there has definitely been a lot of rain here lately.

A quick rest stop and map check…

Shortly after we came upon a roadblock where the police said the road was closed due to flooding 10 miles ahead and that we could not proceed. He didn’t know when it would be open…could be days or even weeks! We talked our way past by saying we wanted to go take pictures and have a look for ourselves.

When we got there the road was indeed flooded for at least half a mile….but the locals said it was only knee-deep the whole way across. Score! We can ride that no problem, so we started across.

All was fine until my bike stalled shortly after getting through a deep spot. John was kind enough to walk back and help me push the bike the rest of the way across.

Once on dry land the bike fired up and we were on our way. A few miles down the road we came upon another section, though thankfully not as long or as deep…but again my bike stalled. WTF!

Fortunately, as soon as the bike was back on dry land it fired up….still pretty aggravating though. Back on the road we were pushing hard to make it to Caracarai where we knew there was some food and shelter.

But, right at dusk we were stopped cold in our tracks by a very flooded Rio Branco.

The bikes stopped dead in their tracks by the flooding Rio Branco

Undeterred at first, John and I got off the bikes and started walking across to see how deep and how far the water was. Several hundred yards into thigh deep water…at night, we came to two revelations….one, we still couldn’t see dry land on the other side and two, wouldn’t this be a perfect spot for a big angry caiman to attack two big tasty (if not smelly) bikers? Errrr, should have thought that one through a little more before plunging right into water. Ummmm, first one back to shore get’s to live to see tomorrow!

John and I returning from our little river walk…

Safely back on dry land we discussed our options, which ended up being pitching our tents in one of the locals yards nearby. After getting out of our wet riding gear we went in search of some dinner and found a little tienda that was open. The selection was meager, but a tin of canned meat surprise and some crackers will do just fine. The woman working the tienda was also kind enough to heat up the canned meat on here stove in back. Oh, and she had cold beer…so all is right with the world.

Tin of canned meat and crackers, $4. Six rounds of beer, $22. Dinner in the Amazon jungle with your riding buddies after a great day on the bikes….priceless.

Tomorrow….we have to figure out how to get across that flooded river.

Day 286 – 287 Manaus, Brazil

Day 286 – 287 Manaus, Brazil      06/03-04/11      Mileage: o

The last two days I spent mostly running errands, getting chores done, catching up on email and shaking off a mean hangover. I did spend one afternoon walking around town and did make it a point to see the Teatro Amazones (a grand theater from Manaus’s heyday during the rubber boom) which is an impressive building for sure.

 

John had to track down an electrical problem with his TT600….fortunatly he’s an electrician in the UK…so he found it pronto…

It’s been two weeks since I’ve done any real riding and tomorrow I’m looking forward to getting back on the bike!

Day 285 – Amazon Jungle Day 2

Day 285 – Amazon Jungle Day 2        06/02/11       Mileage: o

We were up shortly after 6am and we all slept surprisingly well….all except for Ian that is. It seems there was a malfunction of sorts with his mosquito net on his hammock, because the mosquitoes used his back for a pin cushion. Poor bastard.

Morning everyone….

Here’s a closer look on how the shelter was built…pretty cool…

Packing up camp…

In case you’re wondering what 200 mosquito bites look like….now you know…

After packing up camp we headed back to the natives house for breakfast in our trusty wooden canoe…after we bailed it out of course.

Next on the agenda was a short jungle trek with Antonio pointing out many interesting things about the Amazon jungle. He pointed out trees and plants that were used for everything from medicines for different ailments to poisons for blow darts and even a particular ant that hunters would smear on themselves to mask their scent while hunting.

That is one %#$&% big spider!

He pointed out some monkey’s but they were too high up to get a picture of. After a few hours we arrived back at the canoe and started making our way back towards the base camp. Along the way Antonio spotted a sloth high up in the trees along the river. With a branch Antonio tried to get him to come down…but then with a splash the sloth fell from the tree into the river. Amazingly it just started swimming back towards the trees….who knew sloths could swim?! Antonio picked him up out of the water and we all had a closer look.

 He’s a shy fellow for sure and looked ready for a nap despite being roused from his perch. How Antonio saw him up in the tree in beyond me….all I can say is Antonio is the real deal when it comes to jungle guides. Back at base camp we unloaded the canoe and had another nice lunch and were entertained again by the “house” monkey.

We all relaxed for a while as well but soon it was time to head back to Manaus the same way we arrived….first on the small boat back to the van to another boat across the main Amazon River to a car to take us back to town. All in all, it was an amazing experience that I’m glad I didn’t miss. Later that night Ian, John and I ate and drank our body weight in pizza and beer…a nice little capper on two very memorable days in the Amazon. Bucket of beer…yep, that’s for us, gracias…

More posts coming soon!

Sorry for the long delay between pots, but I’ve been on the road and haven’t had time to write or post. I’m currently in western Venezuela and will be crossing back into Colombia soon. More posts are on the way!

 -Lenny

Day 284 – Amazon Jungle Day 1

Day 284 – Amazon Jungle Day 1       06/01/11       Mileage: o

Today was day one of a two day trip into the Amazon Jungle and it began when our car picked us up to take us down to the docks where we would catch the first of 3 boats.

The fish in the lower right are piranha!

The first boat took us across to the south bank of the Amazon River. Along the way we crossed the “Meeting of the Waters” which is where the black water of the Rio Negro and muddy brown water of the Rio Solimões come together and run parallel for a few miles before mixing together.

Here is a shot from a plane which is much more clear….

Next was a 40 minute van ride to catch boat number two which would take us to the outfitter base camp on a small tributary of the Amazon.

L to R: John, Ian and our guide Antonio

At the base camp we had nice lunch and were entertained by a small monkey that had us all laughing.

.

.

Piranha…it’s whats for lunch…

After letting lunch settle for a bit we packed boat number three….a motorized canoe…which would take us deeper yet into the jungle.

Machette…check, tarp shelter….check, bug spray…check…….crapload of beer…..check!

In addition to John, Ian and myself, we were joined by a lovely couple from the UK and a young guy from Holland.

Our guides name was Antonio whom we had met the day before while booking the trip. He grew up in the mountains of southern Guyana and speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, French and two local Indian dialects…amazing. So with the boat packed we headed deeper into the jungle.

After cruising along a small river we entered the flooded forest while Antonio pointed things out to us along the way…including several large spiders which were kind of hard to miss!

Just in case you missed it…that is one big spider!

Once back in more open water we came upon a pod of river dolphins that were all around the canoe…amazing.

Continuing on we headed back into another flooded forest, this time to do some piranha fishing!

.

.

OK, so they are not very big, but I guess if you were surrounded by 500 of them all taking a bite out of you, you might be in some trouble! Did I mention that our wooden canoe had a leak and we had to continually bail it out…yep. So after amateur angler hour was over, we went out in search of a place to setup camp for the night. We went deeper into the bush down a small stream, then a smaller stream until Antonio found a suitable site which we began clearing by hand and with machetes.

We then helped him construct our shelter which we made from several cut tree trunks and blue tarp.

 Next we hung the hammocks under the shelter and covered them with the all important mosquito net….as we are square in the middle of the malaria zone.

After camp was set we got back into the canoe and went to a native’s house where we had dinner and some great conversation.

With our bellies full it was back to the canoe, but before heading back to camp Antonio took us looking for caiman…the Amazon’s answer to an alligator! They can apparently grow up to 15 feet….much larger than the canoe, so lucky for us the one he caught was just a 7-9 month old little guy.

 Those who wanted to hold him got their chance, but then it was time to let him go before his little chirps for help were answered by mommy! Once back in camp we built a fire and had some nice ice cold beers before retiring to our hammocks….now this is the life…..

Day 283 – Manaus, Brazil

Day 283 – Manaus, Brazil       05/31/11       Mileage: 0

This morning we pulled the bikes off the boat which was a piece of cake because we were tied to a floating pier the exact same height as the boat cargo deck….sweet.

Bikes and bananas were the only thing left on the cargo deck in the morning…

We found a place to stash them for a few hours while we walked around Manaus to get the lay of the land and find a place to stay.

First order of business….some breakfast at a street food stand….

We also rand some errands which included a stop in the pharmacy where we had a funny exchange with the gals behind the counter.

When you are trying to describe to someone that you have a bad case of the shits in a foreign language, laughter is going to be the inevitable result!

John taking the prescribed remedy…

The two very helpful pharmacists…

This guy had a, ummm, unique seat cover on his bike.

After settling on a private room in the Manaus hostel, we went back to collect the bikes and relocate them to a French School across the street from the hostel that was kind enough to let us leave the bikes in their gated parking lot.

Nos motos à l’Ecole de français, oui

That night we had a low key street stand dinner and all caught up on our email and wifi. Tomorrow we’re off on a two day jungle excursion which should be a great experience!