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