Monday, November 24, 2014

Nevado Mismi.



Off the boat and on the road by about 0930. The roadside scenery, once again, was magnificent. The roads 1st class. My F800GS gave me 28kms/litre at a 65km/hr average. And on shitty 85 octane petrol, with ethanol. Amazing.

All good things come to an end. There had been a massive landslide. The road had been completely cut since 5am. We rode to the head of the line and waited about 1 ½ hours. Our plan to be in Cusco by Sunday was shot.

This has to be one of the all time most scenic rides. Through farmland, jungle, alongside and high above the river. Mostly a tremendous surface, lovely corners. Very little traffic. It doesn't get much better than this.

We hadn't given our Metzeler Karoo 3's a workout on tight, smooth surfaced asphalt corners before. We were surprised how well they hung on. The Metzeler guy in Sao Paulo asked for us to give him feedback. He will be pleased with mine.

There is a serious security problem in this area. I don't think the Government has much control over the highways. We see guys dressed in black, wielding auto shotguns stationed at the side of the road. They are Farmer Vigilantes. They are the good guys. In years gone by, this was prime Shinning Path Rebel territory. Now the good guys run the show. Only problem is they go home to their families at sunset and Bandits have been known to roam. Their tactic is to roll a car across the road. So, we would have to stop. We are prime targets. Finished for the day at 4pm and stayed in a quaint town, Juanjui. Parked our bikes in the photo studio next door to the Hotel. Found a small grotty dump of a restaurant. The food was to die for and the Cusquena Negro beer as good as it gets.

On the road as day broke, headed for Cusco. Today’s ride was one of the best. The Perivians know how to build a fcuking good road. They must have a few motorcyclists in their design department. It was the grouse!

We had planned to ride over a 4,330 metre pass and sleep at a lower altitude. As they say, “best laid plans of mice and men”. Later in the day we were stopped at road works. For two bloody hours. It got cold, and dark. We waited. And waited. Then waited some more. Met some great people though.

Eventually the road opened. We were at the head of the queue. It was like the start of a Dakar Rally, but with cars, bikes and trucks taking off together. What a shit fight, and dangerous, and cold. The two hour queue from the other direction had been let go at the same time as us. We all met going through a large town. Fcuking chaos. It was dark, dust and the surface was shit. All great fun though. We loved it.

Arrived at Pasco and pulled the pin. It was 4 degrees and getting colder. Some new friends from the road block helped us find the best hotel in town. Clean rooms and beds, hot showers and slow internet. Lovely people as well. Our rooms were not heated, Julio and JC's was 6 degrees in the morning! Parked the four bikes in their restaurant. Pasco is a mining town, spread over the top of a mountain. They mine silver, lead and zinc. The joint is a dump.

In the morning Marcelo felt and looked like shit. JC had been talking on the big porcelain telephone most of the night. They had massive headaches, and thought they might be dying. I knew they had AMS. Both still wanted to ride. I pointed out, you can't ride if you can't walk. AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness) is caused by a lack of oxygen in the air. Riding from 200 metres above sea level to 4,300 in one day was pushing the envelope to far. People have died in under 10 hours. We caught a taxi to the Hospital.

This joint was also a dump. The nurses and doctors the best. Put both our boys on oxygen for a couple of hours. Gave them both a gigantic needle in the arse. Said go back to bed for the day and get the hell out of here in the morning.

JC said he hasn't been to Hospital since he was circumcised. Until this trip. Now he has been 3 times!

We all slept for a few more hours and walked to the local Sunday markets. Marcelo bought a sweat shirt. I think he has worn it 24/7 since.

After dark we walked to a pretty good sort of restaurant near our Hotel. It was 2 degrees and snowing. Decided we wouldn't leave until 0700 tomorrow. It rained all night.

Monday. Bright, sunny and at 4 degrees relatively warm. A great day for riding. The boys felt a lot better. I had lost my appetite, another sign on AMS. Bloody Julio was as fit as a bull.

We rode 260kms to Huancayo. Good roads. Fast riding. We loved it. Our BMW's loved it. This is what we came for.

As we rode into town JC's bike kept cutting out. Each time he managed to re start her. We tried every trick in our limited repertoire. She still wouldn't behave. Even hooked her up to Marcello's computer diagnosis tool. No problems. Decided, as we were less than 400kms from BMW Lima to put her in a truck and all divert to Lima. I liked this idea, as I like Lima.

Found a truck and headed for the big smoke. Only 10.5kms from town and my bike started to play up, 150 metres further and JC's spat the dummy. Julio's went for another 10 or so kilometres then became neurotic. There was only one answer and only one easy solution. Bad fuel and put them all in a truck (or 2 trucks) and head for Lima.

The security guy let us into BMW Lima. Left our bikes and checked into the Hitchikers Backpackers Hostel at Miraflores. This was great place last time I was here and still is. Got to bed at 4am, up at 8 am. Marcelo went to BMW, we played tourist, Julio and I the guides. Met Marcelo for a long and wet Cebiche lunch. As good as it gets. Our bikes were ready to go at 4pm. Eduardo and Julio from BMW told us we had been asking them to run on a mixture of petrol, kerosene and diesel. Not recommended practice.

Lima's traffic is notoriously bad. To avoid it we were gone by daylight. Rode our bikes like we had stolen them. They were running beautifully again. We planned to ride 985kms to Arequipa to meet our film crew.

I had ridden the first few hundred kilometres earlier in the year with Dale and Lindsay so knew what to expect. Stopped at Nazca and climbed a tower for JC to see the Nazca Lines and headed further south.

The road followed the Pacific Coast, most of the time only metres away. The Pacific on our right and sand hills on our left. Little traffic, only the occasional truck. JC and I rode fast. Possibly a little to fast. A young Columbian guy on a 650 V-Strom overtook us. He was riding like he thought he was Cameron Donald. A guy on some sort of Harley tried to keep up. He caught us at a couple of road works. I have never seen a Harley ridden this hard. We played with him for a while, then left him in our dust. This was as good as it gets.

It got dark, the road headed inland. Plenty of trucks and it was cold. To make things more interesting there was a small rain shower. We went from sea level to 3,300 metres in about 200kms. This is another motorcyclists dream road. Absolutely grouse.

Arequipa is lovely. Beth had an excellent Hotel for us. The Flying Dog Hostel. As usual, parked our bikes inside. The guy made us push them in, wouldn't let us ride them in. He must have had a bad experience. Pizza and beer for dinner with Beth and Mariana. They had been to Cusco. It looked like we weren't going to get there this trip.

Next morning we played tourist. This time Mariana our guide. Arequipa is a magnificent city. I could have spent a few days there. Later in the afternoon we rode the 160kms to Chivay. I don't know enough superlatives to describe this ride. Most of the time we were above 4,000 metres, a lot of the time it was around 4,900 metres. The F800GS's lost a bit of power at that altitude. We had them nailed most of the way. JC said we rode to fast. He was probably correct. It was definitely the best.

Metzeler Karoo 3's. Brilliant. They are an off road tire after all. We rode like they were a sports bike tire. Our BMW F800GS' handling, brakes and suspension are superb. This is a perfect combination for this type of trip.

One of the Worlds best road riding trips would be: Lima, Nazca, Arequipa, Chivay, Cusco, Lima. It would take about 2 weeks, with sightseeing and acclimatisation, and I know where to rent bikes in Lima. Anyone interested?

Chivay is quaint. Our Hotel good. Showered and headed for a meal and beers. We were still walking on air. The restaurant had a band playing Andean music, which I love. This had been a special day.

Our film crew arrived by bus at 0530. Beth had arranged a guide, and 4 wheel drive, to take them to Nevado Mismi. We left by 0700. About 20kms of superb asphalt then 26kms of narly, shitty, steep, winding, lovely dirt,sand and gravel track to about 5,250 metres. The scenery was beyond description. We all loved it. What a ride.

At one point I left the track to chase and film some wild Lamas. I tried to take a short cut back, through a not as dry as I thought, swamp. I got fcuking bogged. This is called “getting your ambitions mixed up with your capabilities”. What a dropkick! I tried to get her out. Nearly collapsed from the exertion. Fcuk all oxygen in the air up here. JC came to help. He got bogged, although not as bad. He is a little smarter. Julio had to come and help us both. He didn't get bogged. Must be very smart.

Eventually caught up to the 4X4 and made it to the top. We had to walk about 500 metres, down a bank and clamber across a field of large rocks to Nevado Mismi. We were all stuffed.

I was very surprised to find the water coming out of the cliff froze before it reached the ground. The Amazon River starts off as ice! This was good for us. I gathered some ice and covered our warm champagne bottles with it.

We took photos, did interviews and acted like school kids.Drank icy cold Amazon water and Brazilian champagne. I dropped my dacks and did a good old Aussie moon. Bet I'm the first to do that at the Amazon's scource! Even our guide hadn't been here for 2 years. People seldom come to Nevado Mismi. He thinks we are probably the first motorcycles to come up here. Not even the locals ride up this high. Our guide was the best. He was having fun, and champagne.

The walk back was a killer. The last hill, although not big, was murder. We had our riding gear and boots on. I, and everyone else, were completely buggered when we finally arrived back at the bikes. Almost in a state of collapse. Maybe the champagne didn't help.

I had to ride very carefully for the first part of the trip down. I was to stuffed to ride properly. After we dropped below about 4,500 metres I felt better and enjoyed the ride. At the Hotel everyone else had a siesta. JC thought his head was about to explode and Mariana thought she would hurl her guts up. The poor kid looked completely stuffed. I walked around the town. Eventually, we all seemed to gravitate to the Chivay's main Plaza. Mariana and JC had survived. All was good in our world.

An early dinner, a long interview each and we were all in bed at a respectable hour.

Once again we were on the road before 0700. We climbed to 4,900 metres. JC and I rode like we were teenagers. Dropped down to 3,300 metres and felt good. The bikes had there power back. Up to 4,900 metres and back down to the Amazon. After 22 hours we slept at 300 metres and passed out at 2am. I don't even remember the towns name.

On the road early. We are so far behind we can't hear the band playing. JC has to get back to France for business and I am a week late for work. Julio is meeting his girl in Sao Paulo. This was another great Peruvian road, through jungle and farmland.

I like Peru. I love Peru's roads. I even love Peruvians. This country is road motorcyclist's nirvana.

The Brazilian Border was 400kms. No problems. It was a quick crossing. Helps when you are accompanied by a Portuguese speaker. The first Brazilian town was another 100 odd kms. We arrived after dark. It was such a shitfightI didn't take the time to remember it's name.

We left early for the 200km ride to Rio Branco. Our mate Eduardo, the local Honda dealer was helping arrange to truck our bikes the nearly 4,000kms to Sao Paulo. This will save us 4 days riding. Eduardo sells plenty of bikes, nearly 10,000 per year. That's almost 200 per day. Every day, 7 days a week. I find that hard to comprehend. He is also a keen motorcyclist. One of his mates drove us around town. Even bought us lunch. He was a farmer, reminded me of Ron Campey.These are great guys.

Marcelo tried to book flights to Sao Paulo. All flights were full for 5 days. The only solution was to catch a taxi to the next large town, Porto Velho, 560kms away. This we did. At 1am we caught a 2hr flight to Brasilia, had a 2 hour lay over, then another 2 hour flight to Sao Paulo.

After the 1 ½ hour taxi ride to Marcelo and Beth's we had to have a sleep. Then a swim. Then some beer.

So. That is the end of this trip. Was it good? Fcuk yes. Would I buy a BMW F800GS and fit it with Metzeler Karoo 3 tires? Of course I would. They are a magnificent combination. Did I like my Mormaii jacket and helmet? Yes. I will wear them on my ride to work to work next week.

What about “Smiles”? They are the grouse.

And Marcelo, Julio & JC? Ride with them anywhere, any time. All three were team players and had a fantastic sense of humour. Particularly JC, he has a wicked sense of humour and of the ridiculous. And of course, we all love Beth & Mariana. Miguel is a good bloke a well.

I only hope Marcelo doesn't lose my fcuking phone number before his next project. I have grown fond of being a sponsored rider.

Chris.
xx







Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Up the Solimoes. Hopefully not in a barb wire canoe without a paddle.




Thursday morning. We had to be showered, dressed, breakfasted and ready by 0700. TV Amazonica wanted to film us strapping our gear on the bikes, interview us at some photogenic spot, then film us riding across a newly built bridge spanning the Rio Negro. I dressed in my freshly laundered, nicely dried, sweet smelling gear. They filmed, we did our thing, I led out of the hotel car park as the fcuking heavens opened up. This is the tropics. This is the Amazon. No where else does it rain like this. By the time I rode back into the car park I was soaked. Manaus' wet season had started with gusto. The other three were dry. I was the only silly bastard wet. We waited half an hour while the streets flooded. Cars and people were nearly washed away. Julio grabbed one old girl, saved her from being swept away. This was a serious thunderstorm.

It was a little scary riding through a strange city, in peak hour, with it pissing down pick handles and on a new back tire. We lost the TV Amazonica film crew, our film crew and our Native Indian Guide.

Eventually they found somewhere dry and scenic to do the interview and we shot through. Our Indian Guide led us out of town to a settlement to meet a local Indigenous Tribe. It rained all the way. My clean gear was again covered in mud and slush.

Marcelo interviewed the Head Woman for his doco. What a lovely bunch of people. It was an extraordinarily interesting few hours. I have only seen an Armadillo twice. Once on a jungle walk in the Pantanal with Dale and Lindsay and today. Unfortunately, today's was being cooked over an open fire. We feasted on Armadillo and turtle eggs, washed down with a drink made from some nuts from the jungle. Tasted a bit like chocolate flavoured muddy water. Only a little above Karva on the taste scale. I suppose, when in Rome etc, etc.

Our transport for the next 40 or so hours to Tefe was to be the N/M Severino Ferreira, a 45 metre, 3 deck passenger/cargo river ferry. She carries about 400 passengers, and 386 tons of cargo on the bottom deck, and in two cargo holds. Powered by a single 6 cylinder Yanmar. Everything imaginable was loaded on, including 30 new Honda motorcycles (now those guys knew what they were doing) and a several of pallets of beer. After the bridges on the BR319, wheeling our bikes up a see saw style plank and over the forward bulwarks was relatively easy. Marcelo had hired a cabin. Not for us to sleep in. To store our gear in. The camera and sound equipment are worth a motza. A side benefit is having our own shower and toilet.

Beth and Mariana slung our hammocks among the masses while we loaded the bikes and stowed our gear. There are only 6 cabins, everyone else sleeps in hammocks. Nearly 400 of us. Our own little space is about 500-600mm wide. We line up for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The tucker's is pretty good. Although, maybe I have just been away from home to long!

The Solimoes is the colour of Karva, which is the colour of the water in puddles on the track to Ron, Whitey or Tony's farm, after a week of rain. We swim in it, shower in it, do our washing in it, even clean our teeth in it.

But, worst of all Severino Ferrfira is a dry ship. Fcuk me. Nearly 40 degrees and almost 100% humidity and we can't get a beer. Lucky I have an 1125 of rum. We buy cans of coke and drink our rum Neva style.

N/M Severino Ferreira's owner, Giselle is on board. I showed her, and the Captain, the photos on my phone of Sydney Ferries Rob Gawthorne gave me. Giselle was more than impressed, blue toothed them to her own Samsung phone. She asked a lot of questions about HCF's operations.

Our Ferry stopped at several towns to unload cargo and passengers. The scenery is bordering on spectacular. The other river traffic is extremely interesting. Our fellow passengers and the crew are all friendly. Our Captain's navigation skills are second to none. At night it is as black as the ace of spades. No navigation marks or lights at all. Most small vessels are unlit. I don't think anyone has ever studied the Col Regs, particularly XXXXX (lights and shapes). N/M Severino Ferrfira does between 9 and 11 knots. (SOG)

Our 600km or so voyage to Tefe' has been relaxing and very, very enjoyable. Stinging for a cold beer though!

Unloading at Tefe' was a snack. The pontoon was level with our deck. We had to unload the 30 Hondas before we could get to our BMW's. Our bikes and gear are over 200kg, the little Hondas probably not even 100kg. They were child’s play.

Our F800's are the biggest bikes ever grace the roads of Tefe'. No one can remember the last time Foreigners were here either. Except for the 14 Cuban doctors working in the hospital.

Tefe' is a town of 25,000, surrounded by jungle. No roads or tracks in or out. There are several Indian Communities nearby. Marcelo had a contact, Atenielson, who could take us to visit one. Now here was an likeable, interesting guy. With a terrific sense of humour. Atenielson knows everybody, has 14 kids, 4 wives and rides a small Honda without a front brake. With wife No4 and their 3 month old baby on the back.

Good dirt roads and more interesting scenery. Marcelo interviewed the No 2 ranked Headman, who was around 30, had seven kids. I forget how many wives. These people are lovely. JC and I ended up taking a heap of kids for their first motorcycle ride, three at a time. Two on the back and a little one on the tank. I was careful not to drop it on the rough dirt track with all those kids on board.

We were fed, showered and ready for bed by 8pm. I went in a vain search of wifi to post a Blog. Only a couple of places have it and the heavy rain stuffed their satellite reception.

As it was Saturday night, JC and I decided to hit the town. Panorama Bar is the place to go. We had a beer. OK but frozen. Ordered a Caipirinha. A good Caipirinha is made with Cachaca, which is Brazilian fire-water at the best of times. These bloody things must have been 85% Cachaca, 5% lemon cordial and 10% cats piss. Talk about totally fcuking undrinkable! We tipped them into some plants and gave the game away, went home to bed. Bet the bloody plants were dead by sunset the next day.

Sunday morning and we had to be at the Port at 0700 to take our bikes across a lake, ride 14kms to a wharf, catch a ferry to Tabatinga. Easier said than done.

Loading two big, laden bikes into an overgrown, narrow beam tinnie is no fcuking joke. Marcelo and JC went first. I thought we would never see them, or their bikes again. They laid one bike down and stood one up. These Boatmen have never been to one of Dick Gandies stability classes. They don't know what a “C of G” is. A righting lever is probably a big stick to them. They most likely think Metecentric Height is the top floor of a shopping mall in Manaus. JC said Marcelo was worried about BMW Motorrad Brazil's bikes. JC was worried about his life. I'm on JC's side.

They loaded both Julio and my bikes standing up. I have never been on a vessel so tender. It definitely would have flipped. I convinced then to lay Julios down. Mine stood up with me straddling her. I thought, if she goes I will probably get caught between my bike and the boat. I will be fcuked. Even if I end up in the water clear of the bike I will still be fcuked. Has anyone ever tried to swim in a pair of BMW GS riding pants and Forma Adventure boots? And lived to talk about it? Probably not.

Our skipper took off across the lake like he was being chased by the Police. My GPS showed 18 knots. It was nearly 8kms, the longest 15 minutes of my life. JC and Marcelo laughed when we arrived. They too, had been to hell and back!Then, a pleasant ride to a pontoon on the river at Alvaraes. I wished I could get that damned tinnie skipper on the back of my BMW for 15 minutes. I'd show that fcuker what being scared was.

We arrived at 0900 for a 1000 Ferry. Eventually, our Ferry turned up at 2000. Another de-hydrating almost no food day. Try two beers and a dry bread roll with two sardines each. Tasted good though.

During the day, when the sun was at its highest, trucks started turning up to our pontoon and unloading 60kg bags of Farinha. Being a smart arse, I carried one from a truck to the pontoon, on my shoulder. Almost like the locals. The other boys did too. So I carried a second one. So did the others. JC ended up carrying six. Superman!

Now Farinha is like a coarse flour. Made from the root of a locally grown plant, Manioc. It is crushed and ground then baked and dried. Brazilians love it. They smother most meals with it. Marcelo is an addict. Beth and Mariana are a little wiser and avoid it like the plague. They are arguing over its merits as I write. I think it looks and tastes like sawdust. I even broke I filling trying to get to like it. Sally, what's the name of your Dentist in Mona Vale?

We were still waiting at sunset. Prime malaria mossy time in a prime malaria area. We smothered ourselves in good old Aussie Bushman Insect Repellent. Supposedly the best in the world. The bloody mossies still bit us, through our 'T' shirts!

Our new vessel is N/M Itaberaba-1. Also a three deck, single screw, 6 cylinder Yanmar powered steel mono hulled vessel. This one, 48 metres. We are on board for 4 or 5 days. So much cargo on board we only just managed to squeeze our bikes on. I counted about 18 new Hondas on board. This boat is six years old, although recently had a major refit after a galley fire. Not many passengers and very good food. Our storage/bathroom cabin is roomier as well.

Guess what? She is dry too. Lucky I have an 1125 of Wyborowa vodka. One of my favourites. Tastes great, Russian style. Straight. Except for Marcelo, our whole team are vodka drinkers now.

Apart from us, N/M Itaberaba-1 has another problem. A bent blade or two on her prop means she is only making 7 knots. They carry a spare prop on board and sent a diver down to try and change it. He couldn't free the nut so she has to be slipped next time in Manaus. The Captain knows his stuff but is a cranky prick.

Last night it pissed down pick handles. All night. Our Captain had to slow for a couple of reasons. Firstly, he couldn't see where he was going and secondly he was worried about running over freshly washed down logs. JC and I saw one gigantic tree sweep past. The Helmsman told Beth he tries to steer as close to the river bank as possible, mindful not to go so close the mossies can fly on board. We don't wear repellent while on the river as it is a mossie free zone. He must have gone a little close once or twice last night as I have a couple of bites.

Today our boat stopped for 4 or so hours at Santo Antonio de Ica. The towns pontoon was washed away last wet season and is high and dry on the wrong side of the creek. No drama. Our man ran his vessel ashore and unloaded the freight via the longest plank in Brazil. We walked into town and had a couple of coldies.

We steamed for another 8 hours before berthing at Amatura. This was a long stop, about 11 hours. The pontoon had a little shop. With cold Bramha beer. The Guys went ashore to explore. I turned my ankle on something on the cargo deck (before beer) and retired to my hammock. Time for a post beer siesta.

We found out why all the river Ferries are dry. On long Ferry trips Brazilians like to drink, as do Aussies. But, when the Brazilians drink, they like to fight. The Police banned alcohol sales on board and fixed the problem.

This afternoons stop was a little weird. There wasn't a town, a pontoon or a wharf in sight. Our Skipper just nosed into the bank, bow in the jungle and small launches came from a little creek and loaded their freight.
We have a guy on board we call “The Chicken Man”. The vessel is carrying 5,000 boxes, each holding 6 of his frozen chickens. At every stop shops buy box after box of frozen chickens. For cash. He runs to the local Bradesco Bank to deposit his loot. Always manages to jump on board before we leave. The locals eat fish all week and their weekend family treat is chicken. I think “The Chicken Man” is the wealthiest guy on the river. Apart from the owner of our boat.

A 45-50 metre river boat, in good condition, is worth about $2,500,000. They gross about $50,000/week and pay them off in 2 years. New buildings are nearly 70 metres and have pretty flash passenger cabins. The masses still sleep in hammocks like we do though.

Our last stop was Benjamin Constant. Not a bad joint, just across a 15 metre wide creek from Peru. We berthed at 0600 supposedly for 4 or 5 hours. After 9 hours the crew was still working cargo so we jumped ship, caught a water taxi to Tabatinga, 30 minutes at 25 knots. Itaberaba-1 and our bikes, would theoretically arrive sometime that night.

Now, Tabatinga is a shit hole. A typical 3rd world border town. It ranks with Birganj in Nepal or Medan in Indonesia. We caught a taxi across the border to Letica in Colombia. Also a border town. But lovely. The Hotel was great, air conditioned, a pool, a bar, we slept in beds. Lovely after 6 night is a hammock. A magnificent meal, several beautiful Colombian beers and I was primed to fight with the internet. It was crappy.

Next day was Saturday. Marcelo wanted to get out of town that night as nothing happens on Sundays. Except Church. We were going to be busier than one legged blokes in an arse kicking contest.

We collected our bikes from the ferry. Marcello went to sus out Customs and Immigration in both Brazil and Peru while we visited another Indigenous tribe to film and interview them. Quite close to Benjamin Constant, only about 10kms out of town, over pretty good clay tracks. Dry as well.

Another group of lovely people. One old girl could talked under water.. I haven't seen anyone sweat as much as Mariana. She had to hold her boom microphone in an awkward position in the heat and humidity, while the old sheila rambled on. I thought she might melt. Miguel was a little luckier, he could set and forget his camera.

We loaded our gear onto the bikes back in Colombia. Then it bucketed down. Just as we rode away to Brazil Immigration. Try filling out forms when water is still running down your arms. Fortunately, I had paperwork to show I had paid my fine from 2013, as it still doesn't show on their computer.

In the last 24 hours we have entered and left Colombia 3 times. No one in authority even knew we were in their country. Weird eh?

Our river changes its name again. This time from the Salimoes back to Amazon River.

Peru Immigration and Customs are on Santa Rosa de Yavari an Island in the middle of the river. This dump makes Tabatinga look like paradise! We road and manhandled our bikes down a wet clay bank and into two large canoe style boats to take us from Brazill to Peru. They were powered by Honda 4 stroke stationary engines,Thai “long tail” style.

They pulled alongside our new ferry, the M/F Carlos Antonio. I have seldom seen a bigger heap of shit. A narrow beamed 35-40 metre mono-hull with a barge like swim end bow. Three decks and powered by a 6 cylinder turbo Cat. I don't think anything complies with any safety regulation anywhere in the world. The Skipper is the owner. Another cranky prick of a man. The oldest, crappiest davit and chain block lifted our bikes aboard. And the roof leaks.

Most, if not all, the catering staff are Lady Boys. Full on, like in Pattaya. The only thing clean about the Galley is the Lady Boys virgin white uniforms. So white they cannot possibly be washed in water from this river. Their hair and make up are always pristine. Get the picture?

We stopped at Caballococha for about 4 hours. Buggered if I know why. I walked up the river bank to the town. Typical Spanish influenced South American town with a lovely Plaza in the centre. Brazil doesn't seem to be as keen on them. Everywhere else has them. I love them. We wanted an ATM to get some Peruvian cash. JC got his, then the machine died.

Fortunately, we are only on this shit heap for about 40-50 hours. On our way to Iquitos. It is so filthy Beth and Mariana won't even have a shower.

There aren't wharves or pontoons on this part of the river. The skipper just noses the bow into the bank, runs ahead and everything goes up and down one of the magnificent tropical rainforest hardwood planks, that would be worth as much as my house.

This is the prime Peruvian and Colombian cocaine production area. Hence a large Police presence in towns and on the river. I still find the sight of uniformed guys brandishing machine guns intimidating. You never, ever see this in Australia.

Funny, but I am enjoying my time on this shitty heap of a ferry more than the other two. Beth is smarter than I. She hates it with a vengeance! Mariana isn't in love with M/F Carlos Antonio either.

The wheelhouse doesn't have any instruments or aids to navigation at all. Nil. No radio. No radar. No charts, paper or electronic. The spot light used would not be as good as the one Con Smith has for shooting. It runs from a motorcycle battery, charged by a really old battery charger. A young boy turns the spot on for a few moments occasionally. I imagine the charger won't keep up with the drain from the light. It is blacker than black outside. I don't know how the cranky old bastard sees!

We have finished our second breakfast. Same shit, different day. I imagine it was similar to that given to prisoners on the 1st Fleet. Lunch and dinner weren't any better. Our 50 hour voyage has turned into a 60 hours. I think I have discovered the Captains sexual preference and the probable reason for so many Lady Boys on the crew! We had a not so cold beer on Sunday evening. At lunch on Monday another, this time cold. Then they ran out. Fcuking dopes!

Yesterday they loaded a cow, a pig, plus a few chickens. The main freight is fish. In large supposedly insulated boxes, some are old fridges. They are packed in ice and theoretically stay frozen, outside on the deck, in the tropical sun, for up to 60 hours. The crew regularly wash away blood leaking from the “frozen fish”.

During the night the cow went ashore. This morning they loaded six more pigs. Animals don't seem to like boarding our vessel. I can understand why. Beth, Mariana and I went to inspect the pigs and our bikes. The first pig had been tied in
such a way it had been forced to stand on 3 legs for about 18 hours. Without being able to sit or lie down. Beth spoke to a crewman and told him to loosen its rope. Even a pig on its way to be slaughtered deserves to be comfortable.

The biggest danger in the Amazon doesn't come from Caymen, Anaconda or Jaguar. It's Candiru, also known as Orifice Fish. The simplest way to stop Candiru swimming into your body is by wearing tight fitting swimming costumes. In Belem we went to a sports wear shop and bought matching tight fitting costumes. Now look like we should be on a float in Sydney's Gay Mardi Gra. Bring back the budgie smugglers.

Had a long discussion with Beth and Marina over what constitutes 1st, 2nd and 3rd world. This vessel and the villages along the Peruvian Amazon, in my opinion, are 3rd world. Still, the people are all beautiful. Our last two Ferries and most villages on the Solimoes are probably 2nd world. Manaus and the Sao Paulo I saw are 1st world.

In the evening we did another pig inspection. The rope around the neck of a large Sow was to short to allow her to lie down. Luckily Miguel had some spare hammock rope. I think this poor animal was grateful.

The amount of rubbish, particularly plastics thrown into the river is distressing. Both in Peru and Brazil.

Our Captain just drifted aground while loading a passenger from a launch. He broke a few branches off a tree getting under way again. Unfortunately our camera man was asleep.

Eventually our shit heap of a boat arrived at Iquitos. Just before daylight. Talk about fcuking chaos! The Skipper found a gap, marginally bigger than the beam of his vessel, and beached it between the many vessels already working cargo. I thought the fish boxes would be taken ashore. No way. The crew ripped the tops off them and multitudes of women, (fish wives??) came aboard and loaded bags with fish. I don't know how they measured or paid. Other freight was being unloaded. Through this chaos we wheeled our bikes, along a plank and pushed/powered them up the bloody steep riverbank.

The pigs didn't get to be dragged squealing across the plank. They were just dragged off the cargo deck onto the sand, about 2 metres below. Can't put brains in statues.

Police cars turned up. An officer came aboard looking for us. Someone was worried about our safety. Fearing we would be mugged and our beautiful F800GS BMW's hi-jacked, they had tipped off the Cops. Two cars and 4 officers turned up to escort us to our Hotel. I'm talking about the real deal. Flashing lights, sirens and running the red lights. Excellent.

I was showered and eating a hygienically prepared breakfast by 0700.

Caught a Tuk Tuk back to the port to look for a boat to take us to Yurimajuas, another 60 hours up the river. We found a good boat, the M/F Eduardo IX. She is leaving tonight, has a clean kitchen and toilet/bathrooms. Looks to have been loved by her owners, Master and crew. She is similar in layout to our last vessel, although about 45 metres and with a Volvo main engine.

After a long lunch and a few beers we checked out of our hotel, without even sleeping in the beds. The film crew were staying a few more days to interview another Indigenous Tribe and film the local markets. They will fly to Cusco via Lima. We'll catch them in about 7 days. Beth will spend her time in Cusco making arrangements for our ride to Nevado Mismi. With the amount of flying going on, it's a good thing Smiles is our major sponsor.

Loading our bikes was a snack. Just rode them up the plank and parked them inside on the cargo deck. The top deck is large has a few cabins and an awning to sling our hammock under. A slightly weird German couple were already there. Soon the rest turned up. A Swiss couple, two Italian Guys, one freak from god only knows where. Looks like Jesus Christ gone wrong. JC said he saw him walking across the water. The last two were French. He had lived in Australia as a young boy, she was born in Manly hospital. Turns out her Aussie born father is Bill Bradley's best mate. (yes Jess and the Manx team, your and Sydney Ferries Billy Bradley) Six degrees of separation or what!

M/F Eduardo IX is a well run friendly vessel. The main passenger deck is chock a block full of locals, sleeping shoulder to shoulder in hammocks. All friendly, all happy. I took a bottle of rum on board. The shop has cold beer. The cargo deck has 100 new Honda motorcycles and 17 new Auto Rickshaws or Tuk Tuks. (depending where you come from) No pigs, cows or chickens.

With the exception of the two Germans, the other ex pats are great. I love travelling with backpackers. The Germans are fcuking weird. They spend most of the day reading, aloud from a Kindle to each other. For about 6 or 7 hours. I had to pull rank last night when they started reading to each other at 11pm. My German Intrepid mates are nothing like these fruitcakes. They are the best.

Marcelo talked to some Malaria medical type of person. His town had 2,000 cases of the disease last year. That's 40 per week. Terrible. I think the Bill Gates Foundation will find a cure for Malaria.

About 24 hours upstream from Iquitos and the Amazon is no more. She is now the Maranon River. Lots of small fishing and farming communities. Plenty of magnificent virgin jungle. This has been the most enjoyable of the 4 ferry trips. We have spent 13 nights sleeping in hammocks and covered around 2,000kms up stream from Manaus. We are still only 120 metres above sea level!

It has been excellent. We are all over bloody riverboat food. Although thirteen days on these shitty boats was more than enough.

Unloading at Yurimajuas was easy. The Skipper nosed into the river bank, we rode off and up the river bank and hit the road. No plank needed. All to easy.

Peru has good roads. Bring it on.

Chris.
xx

Friday, October 24, 2014

The BR230 and "The Ghost Road", the BR319



So. A funny thing happened on the way to Santarem. JP (our Production Assistant) travelled in the Ambulance with Guy. Now the road was a bit special. Pretty fcuked, actually. Ambulance drivers in the Amazonia drive a little more exuberantly than those in Australia. Poor young JP thought he was going to die. That was enough for JP. The straw that broke the camel's back. He asked Beth if he could fly home to the comfort of his own bed and computer in Sao Paulo. He had decided he wasn't cut out for an “adventurous” life. I liked JP. A nice guy.

Guy is back in Sao Paulo, en route to London. His leg X-ray looks impressive. Guy was grouse to travel with.

On the road from Sao Paulo to Belem, people were impressed when I told them I was from Australia. Up here, they don't know about Australia, they are suitably impressed with my bikes Sao Paulo numberplate though.

The road from Ruropolis to Itaituba was shitty. Many, many trucks use this road. Mainly B Doubles. More than 200 per day. All European trucks. No American trucks at all. It is the same all over South America. You only see US built trucks where the roads are good.

Most of the BR230 is built on clay. When it rains it turns to slush. A little rain equals a lot of slush. Lindsay and Dale will understand what I mean.Then the trucks stuff it right up. The damage has to be seen to be believed. Road maintenance is not high on anyone’s agenda in this neck of the woods. There had been enough rain to settle the dust. And give us a few slippery patches to keep us on our toes. It was only 150kms for the day, the last 30 on asphalt. We were drinking beer in the hotel pool by lunch time. An excellent mornings ride.

Sunday is election day for Brazil's President. Brazilians are very enthusiastic in every thing they do, except road maintenance. Electioneering is no different. Many flag waving, cheering, loud music playing, people marching, car horn sounding parades. All in a good temperament. We saw two groups of marchers approach an intersection from different directions. Trouble? No way. Just chaos. All in good humour.

Itaituba to Jacareacanga was 380kms. We were up at 0500, left just after daylight. Talk about a fantastic 10 hour ride. Dirt all the way. The track had every type of surface, some crap, some brilliant. It wound through rainforests, jungle and unfortunately, areas that until recently had been rainforest, now were only dead tree stumps and no vegetation. My F800GS averaged 45kph and 24kms/litre. Bloody good, considering the fuel in Brazil is 25% ethanol. It was still hot. Bloody hot. We were completely stuffed, and once more, soaked from head to toe in fcuking sweat. By lunch time we can wring our gloves out!

Jacareacanga is a gold rush town. A bit of a dump, apparently crime is rife. We went to bed early, slept for 10 hours and left at daylight next morning. We wash our socks, jocks and T shirts every night. Our riding gear stinks. JC, Julio and I room together. The film crew tell us our gear makes our room stink.

Adam and I rode in Kazakhstan and Russia for days and days in temperatures of 43-45 degrees. It was hot. But dry hot. Here it hasn't hit 40 yet, with almost 100% humidity the heat is a proper bastard. I cannot believe how much I sweat. The roads were much, much harder in the Ghobi and Kazakhstan Deserts, though the riding was no where near as tiring.

Beth and Mariana tell us we stink and won't come close when we have our gear on. The smell emanating from some of the vagrants around CQ comes to mind. We all look forward to Manaus and the chance to wash our gear, including helmets. They stink as much as the rest of it.

Yesterdays ride from Jacareacanga to Apui was another stunner. Try a 63kph average and 25kms/litre. What would she achieve with good Aussie 98 Octane petrol, without ethanol?. The track was made for bikes. Tight twisty stuff, plenty of fast open areas with sweeping turns. We sat on 80kph a lot of the way. My speedo showed 130 a couple of times. The amount of de-forestation was upsetting. We had a late start, it was only a 280km ride so we were in Apui at 1230.

Had arranged to meet our Camera crew in Apui. They were driving Marcelo's lovely black Toyota Hilux turbo diesel wagon. Marcelo was a little concerned when they had not arrived on time. I rode back the way we had come to look for them. A young bloke on a bike pulled me over and in Portuguese, told me there had been an accident. Now I can't understand Portuguese, although facial expressions and hand movements tell a lot.

I hurtled out a few more kms to find a small gathering of people and vehicles on a corner in the track. Beth, Mariana and Miguel were standing, looking more than a little shaken, stressed and flustered. Marcelo, JC and Julio arrived a couple of minutes later. Mariana forgot about the stench and gave me a hug!

Mariana had rolled their car down an embankment and ended on its wheels with the back in an Anaconda infested swamp, slowly filling with water. It was stuffed. Thankfully, our crew were OK. With the help of locals, a truckie and his Mercedes bogie drive tipper, she was back up on the road in under an hour. Some guy offered to take all their gear into town in his ute. We left Marcelo's poor old Toyota on the side of the road and followed them into town. She was totally rooted. After a shower we did what any Aussie bikers and their mates would have done. Drank beer and ate food.

Luckily Apui is a reasonable town, with good restaurants and at least one good hotel, as we are here for two nights. JC is as sick as a dog. Has a fever and is to crook to ride. Beth took him to the Hospital where one of their 5 Cuban doctors thinks he might have Malaria. At 3pm today they will have the results of his blood test. In the meantime, there is a lot of organising to do.

It seems Brazil has a lot of Cuban doctors. They are supposed to be well trained. Brazil hires them from the Cuban Government who pays them $400/month and gives them a bigger pension when they retire. Every town in this neck of the woods has Cuban doctors.

Good news. JC doesn't have Malaria. Just a really savage urinary tract infection. He has good drugs now. Today is rest and let JC get some strength back day. It is 0930 and we are already as bored as batshit. Had breakfast. Washed our helmets and gloves in the shower. Both smell like Palm Olive now. Tried to do some laundry. There was a demarcation issue with the laundry staff, so they are doing it. WTF will we do for the rest of the day?

Beth just popped into our room to talk. Held her nose between her fingers. Can't understand why.

Rode out to look at the local waterfall. Interesting without being brilliant.

As this is my first time as a “sponsored rider”, I don't know how often I am expected to mention the guys who are paying our bills. Now seems as good a time as any.

My BMW F800GS is a beautiful bike. She does everything well, is very economical and comfortable. BMW's ergonomics are always good, the F800 is no exception. She handles the rough stuff, the smooth stuff, the tight stuff and the fast stuff exceptionally well. She has more than adequate power. I would love to take this one home!

Our Metzeler Karoo 3's are a lovely tire. Both on and off road. The front tire is confidence inspiring and predictable. It has incredible grip off road. They is the best tire I have ever ridden on over roads that have been freshly re-profiled.

My Mormaii helmet is comfortable and quite, the peak is a great thing off road.

Smiles” are great. I love them. They pay most of our bills.

Tomorrow we ride to Humaita.

JC still felt like shit, He is a tough little French Truckie though. Up at 0400 and on the road as daylight broke. (0530) Humaita was 380kms and two ferry trips away. No one could tell us exactly how far. Estimates ranged from 370 to 480kms. Hence the extra early start. The film crews taxi driver had the closest guess. And was the best looking Taxi driver in the world. By far.

The road was brilliant. Mostly. Not to hot. About 33 degrees. Not to humid. About 99.9%. We mostly cruised on 80kph. A great surface, little traffic and fantastic scenery. Crossed many, many bridges over crystal clear rivers. We realised we were running late for the 1330 ferry. Next one was at 1500, so we gunned it. I sat on 130-135 for a while. Touched 145kph. The F800 loved it. She glided over the rough stuff. I didn't have to stand up once. Thought I had better slow down and be sensible, so sat on 100 until the ferry. JC said he felt much better. He thinks a ride like that is better than any medication!

Humaita's hotel was our best by far. Definitely “Karen” standard. (the standard by which hotels world wide are judged) Our evening meal was magnificent. The beer chilled. The ambience just right. We slept like the dead. Breakfast was more than up to standard.

Today, “The Ghost Road”. The infamous BR319.

This road was built in the fifties to connect Manaus to the rest of Brazil. And the world. In an attempt to stop illegal logging and wild life poaching, the Government hasn't maintained it for many, many years. Manaus only has one road out. That leads 2,000kms to Venezuela. Passage out to the rest of Brazil is by boat to Belem. (5 days and 6 nights) or by plane. The BR319 is only used by crews maintaining the communication towers and back up electricity wires for the tower's power. And some silly motorcyclists.The towers are about 35 to 40 metres high and are around 35kms from each other. (line of sight)They provide data communication for Manaus' 2,200,000 inhabitants and the many industries in the city. BMW has a factory there. Our F800's were built there. Honda has one of it's biggest factories in the world there. Amazingly, Harley Davidson build bikes there as well.

The towers have a building were we can shelter for the night. They also have a well with drinking water. More importantly they are surrounded by a 3 or 4 metre high fence and with a gate we can close at night. Great for keeping Jaguars, Caymen, Anacondas etc from eating us. We planned to sleep in one tonight.

We were gung ho. Left our hotel at 0715, promptly got lost riding to a service station. Manaus was 664kms. The first 80kms was pretty reasonable asphalt. It gradually deteriorated as we rode further from Humaita. Eventually it was pretty shitty. It was bloody hot. And humid. We made good time and were killing it. We would do this in 2 days. We were the men they “couldn't root, shoot or electrocute”.

Stopped for lunch at a farm house. One small, stale bread roll and cheese, we had stolen at breakfast, and about 2 litres of water. The farmers wife was lovely. A family of German heritage who had moved up north from southern Brazil to farm cattle. She said we could stay and offered us food, a shower and a bed.

We mixed our ambitions up with our capabilities and rode off to find a tower about 70kms further on to sleep the night.

Then it fcuking well rained. Not buckets, but enough to fill the puddles and make the track as slippery as shit. You only have to spit on this stuff and it is like ice to ride on. It is the nearest to pottery clay I have ridden on.

100 metres after it started raining and JC went to drink from his Camelback. Threw his bike down the track. Another 100 metres and I had an almighty off track, out of control excursion through the jungle and back onto the track. Kept her upright though. Must have been all the swearing. Our pace slowed considerably.

The “Ghost Road” has 110 bridges. Some are shitty and dangerous. They are the good ones. The bad ones are incredibly, unbelievably, terrible. The surface is like polished hardwood. Like glass when wet. The bad ones need to be scouted and sometimes have running repairs made before we can cross. A couple are to dangerous to ride when wet. The four of us push our bikes across. One at a time.

Marcelo had woken in the morning with the flu. By late afternoon he was totally stuffed. He could hardly walk, let alone ride. Progress was painfully slow. Marcelo has a “never say die attitude” and battled on.

As dusk approached Julio suggested we find one of the few remaining patches of asphalt to sleep the night. We don't carry tents or sleeping bags, so made a four sided corral with the bikes. Cut branches with our Leatherman knives and laid them across the bikes. We covered these with some leaves that looked like banana leaves. Julio and I were the builders, while JC lit a fire. Marcelo filmed.

Then it rained. But, we were relatively dry.

We ate dinner. Two tins of tuna and one of cat food between 4. No plates or cutlery. Eaten directly out of the tins with fingers and the tin lids. Water was rationed. Not much of that to go around either.

We slept in our wet riding gear, boots and all. Directly on the bitumen. There was a small lake about 20 metres from the road. Nice clear water. The sort favoured by Anacondas. Locals tell us all these lakes have Anacondas. And Caymen. (freshwater crocodiles) At night the lights from our head torches reflected several pairs of beady little eyes watching us. Fcuking Caymen.

Now, Caymen aren't supposed to eat people. They aren't as big as Aussie Crocs. Only grow to 3 metres. I hoped these Caymen weren't hungry and someone had told them they don't like to eat people. JC and I saw one swim past. I slept with my Leatherman at the ready.

We were asleep by 8pm. Me thinking of bloody Anacondas and Caymen. The road was hard, we all had to roll over every hour or so. In unison, as space was limited. I was awake at 5 and we were on the road at 6. It was actually a pretty good sleep. Dry and warm. No one was eaten. Not even by a Malaria carrying mossy.

Next day was harder. After 13 hours riding we had only covered 114kms. But, we had broken the BR319's back. Marcelo felt a little better, though still far from his best. JC fell off another 4 times and I dumped my bike once. JC is a rather exuberant rider! Marcelo had a big one. He almost totally submerged his bike and himself in a puddle the size of the dry dock at BSY. Bloody mud was so deep it came over the top of my previously bone dry Forma Adventure boots and filled them. The next mud hole was nearly large, as big as your average backyard swimming pool. Marcelo was really tired, so I rode his bike through it. Or attempted to. Dumped it as well.

The bastards all laughed!

Julio is smooth. Didn't drop it once. Fcuking Ecuadorians!

The only car we came across was a young family in a 2 wheel drive ute. Hopelessly bogged. We tried to get them out but it was a lost cause. Gave them water and Bushmans Repellent. Marcelo rang for help on his Sat phone. They and their 6 month old baby would be there until sometime the next day.

Arrived at some little dive of a place in the middle of no where sometime after dark. It was a small joint run by a really poor, but lovely family. They had about 6 other guests (hunters) so JC and I had to sleep in hammocks. Good practise for next week. Their girls were incredulous when told JC and I had never slept all night in a hammock. We bathed by dipping buckets in another infested waterhole. I don't know what it was infested with. Bloody grubby though. The cook asked if we wanted chicken, eggs, rice or pasta. Marcelo said all of them please. We hadn't had a proper meal for over 36 hours. Slept like the dead.

Another breakfast of dried biscuits and we shot through. Manaus was 350kms and we wanted a decent meal, a shower and several cold beers. I would kill for a Coopers or an Old Peculiar. After about 50kms the track improved. Hit a decent road at 0900, then a small shit dump of a town. Bought petrol. Had a beer while we waited for a ferry and kept going.

The Ferry Master and his crew were possibly the most ignorant pricks I have ever met. His vessel, a disgrace. Its water tight integrity a long distant memory. The other 200 million Brazilians are beautiful people.

As we got closer to Manaus the road improved, the towns bigger. There was more and more de-forestation. Perhaps the Governments theory is correct. Nearly everyone we saw gave us the thumbs up. We looked so filthy we could only have come from the BR319. “The Ghost Road”.

The last last three days have been an exceptional ride. I loved it. My BMW F800GS loved it. We all loved it. Our Metzeler Karoo 3's were superb. After a shower and a cold beer, we would have liked to turn around and do it again.

Photographers, a lot better than me, have posted great pictures of the BR230 and the BR319 on Google Images. Maybe worth a look.

Manaus is big. Beth excelled with her choice of hotel. A pool, and with a revolving restaurant on the top floor. Reasonable internet as well. Definitely Karen standard. Our film crew had been there a couple of days, so things were organised. We pulled up out the front, passers-by stopped and took photos. I felt important for about 5 minutes.

The city is famous for its opera house, the Teatro Amazonas, built between 1894 and 1896. Almost all building materials imported from France. The steel columns cast in Liverpool. An amazing building in a plaza surrounded by beautiful old buildings, only about 3 minutes walk from our hotel. The plaza has a couple of great restaurants and bars. We ate like kings and drank like troopers. A world away from the BR319!!!

First morning, the cleaner didn't like entering our room. She held her nose. We washed ourselves, our boots, helmets and bikes. Someone else washed our clothes and riding gear. Now Beth, Mariana or the cleaners don't mind entering our room. We almost smell civilised.

Julio and I had to go to the Police to extend our visas. Easier said than done. Luckily, Beth came along to translate. JC and Mariana went to find a good Brazilian doctor to sort out JC's waterworks.

Back to December 2013. Lindsay, Dale and I thought we were pretty smart. Didn't go through immigration or customs when we entered Brazil from Uruguay. The Brazilians showed us who was boss and wouldn't let us leave to go to Bolivia until we paid an exorbitant fine. And filled in reams of paperwork. Which we did.

Now, yesterday, in October 2014, the Police in Manaus don't have a record of me paying the fine in December 2013. Of course, I have a receipt. In Sydney. No bloody good there. Apparently, in Brazil all fines are paid straight into the Governments bank account. We must have paid ours straight into some corrupt Immigration Official's wallet. Our receipts aren't worth the paper they are written on. Bastards!

So, we walked up the road to the office of a little man, who charged us to fill in a multitude of forms on his computer and transferred the fine, hopefully, to the Government's bank. Then more forms filled in, eventually, several hours later, I had my visa extension. Manaus Immigration Police are good people.

We picked up new rear Metzeler Karoo's, visited Manaus BMW and washed iur bikes. Fajundas, the Metzeler agent, has ridden the BR319 seven times. He must ride like Gaston Reiher! Pirelli fitted our new tires. Their equipment was the grouse. Their tire fitter extremely competent.

Manaus is on the Rio Negro. A couple of kilometres down stream is the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes. This is the start of the Amazon. For the first 7-10kms the two rivers run side by side. The lightly coloured Solimoes and the dark tannin coloured Negro. Eventually they mix and the Amazon River runs nearly 1,600kms to the sea. We crossed the coloured line in a Ferry and photographed it from a lookout. Amazing. Tomorrow we, and our bikes board a ferry to travel 40 hours up the Solimoes to Tefe. We get to sleep on deck with 3-400 others. In hammocks. Bring it on!!

Chris.
xx


Guy's bike. 

And I told Guy it was only a sprain!


Don't piss off the locals. When they say they want a new bridge. They mean it.


They got their new bridge, in a little over 24 hours.

Marcelo.

 My first Brazil nut tree.

Ruopolis








The start of the BR319. The "Ghost Road".







Julio.







Our film crew's Hilux.





Our mate Genghis.



Mariana. One of life's beautiful people.


JC at our camp on the road.


Marcelo and Julio are in bed early.








Julio's "stop the rain" dance.


Disembarking at Manaus


The confluence of the Rio Negro and the Solimoes Rivers. This is the start of the Amazon, 1,600kms from the sea.  


Teatro Amazonas.