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Friday, September 23, 2011

INTO THE AMAZON - JUST

After leaving the Pantanal we head north, and then northwest. We do lots and lots of miles. This is a huge country and we drive on lots of rolling road with 1,00's of big trucks. Most of the land is cattle farming. Eventually we arrive at Porto Vehlo and drive directly into town to camp at waypoints we have been given, to the Museo de Ferro Maderia-Mamore (the train museum on the riverfront). It is Sunday night and the place is pumping. Lovers are out wandering. We head to a large plaza to eat with the locals. John is very adventurous and has a seafood soup with loads of unknown extras, while I stick to a corncob, but lash out with a tapioca pancake with a weird combination of cheese & banana.There is a performance going on at the ampitheatre when we return. Pity we can't understand a word of Portugese, but it is something to do with a bull and village people. Later we are seranaded by local singers and even later by ghetto blasters from cars. Peace reins by midnight.
After exploring the city centre and train museo we head further north into the Amazon area. A lot of overlanders catch the balsa/ferry at Porto Vehlo to Manaus, but we decide to drive as far as we can on the Manaus road.  All the info we have says that this road is impassable.  So we follow the signs to Manaus - which take us to a balsa, and we have our first Amazon cruise. They are in the process of building a massive bridge, but it may take a while yet. The road is great - smooth & sealed. The weather is hot & humid with temps up to 40 C, so it is more pleasant sitting in the cab with the aircon on than anything else. It's a lovely drive to Humjata, which is an amazingly large place in the middle of nowhere. Pretty scruffy, with lots of boats on the huge coffe coloured river.
Then we continue on the road to Manaus - we just want to see how bad it really is. We stop for the night beside a river just before it pours with rain. It is amazing how much trffic pases in the night for a road that goes nowhere. At about 4am a truck stops & honks his horn. When he gets no responce from us he comes over & knocks on the door. We gather he wants company on the road to Manaus. YES the road is open. We pass on the oppurtunity at 4am and in the morning decide NO we have not done any research for those countries, I think of the heat and John thinks of the sticky red mud and our tyres turning to slicks. We really need to go with another motorhome.
So back to Porto Vehlo and on to Guajara-Mirian, where we plan to cross into Bolivia. We arrive at 5pm, not the best time to cross a border as it will be dark by the time we finish. I have found a Lodge upriver that might let us park in their carpark, so we head there. We finally find Pakaas Palafitas Jungle Lodge (more by good luck than my navigational skills), the owner speaks English and says sure we can overnight in their carpark, use their pool and Wifi at no cost.WOW! There are no other guests staying and the pool is amazing. It overlooks the confluguence of 2 rivers. We stay for 2 nights and spend a whole day using Wifi and lazing by the pool. Luxury. We did buy lunch there (for all of you who think we are tight.)
The owner told us about a road from Brazil to Cusco that is all sealed. Sounds good to us. Better than all those extra dirt miles in Bolivia. So again a change of plan. We head back to town - it may have been "interesting" to cross here as we see no vehicle barges crossing the river. We continue on to Rio Branco. The road is a bit of a patchwork quilt, the scenery mainly farming with some remaining forest. There are even some rubber tree plantations. Then another river crossing, before we reach the modern city of Rio Branco. There are lots of cars and 1,000s of motorbikes, so Finally we find a spot and head off to explore. There are quite a few free museos to look at. The best is the Museo da Borrancha(rubber) with great exhibits. We even get a demonstration on cutting & collecting rubber on the tree outside.
In this area there are a lot of motorbike takis. The drivers wears a bright vest and carries a spare helmut for his passenger. There are heaps of these "taxis" nipping everywhere. Another thing we see a lot of are "lanchonettes" (cafes) that have pool tables. Very, very popular.
Our final detour before we leave Brasil is to the small town of Xapturi to see the home of Chico Mendes. He has hero status here with his efforts to preserve the rainforest. We also wanted to tour the Fabrica de Preservativos (condom factory- using the local rubber), but it wasn't to be. You had to ring ahead to book! Very differcult when you don't speak any Portugese.
The border crossing is pretty simple. We just have to wait for them to open from their 2hr lunch. We leave the Peru border with a new Sunat sticker on our windscreen (this one much easier to get than the one at the port of Lima)
Now we are in the Peruvian Amazon. Hot, humid and much more forrested than Brasil. The trucks are carrying massive logs. The villages consist of simple wooden thatched huts, but hey, the road is fantastic. Much better than the road in Brasil. We are travelling the Carretera de Pacifico.
Camping beside the river there are lots of bitey little midgees, and in the morning we see footprints of a rather large cat.
Before reaching the first large town there are huge areas of squatters on both sides of the road. They look like what you imagine gold rush shanty towms looked like. It would be fascinating to find out why these have been set up here.
Puerto Maldonado is the only town in this Amazon area. Here there is a massive brand new bridge across the huge river. There are lots of Amazon Lodges up & down the river (only accessible by boat). The town is frantically busy with the usual markets, and 100's of motorbikes & mototaxis. After leaving town we see lots more shanty towns before gradually heading up into the mountains. We leave the Amazon and the heat behind us.
Adios
Sorry guys, for some reason this old post was still sitting in my draft box....so you will get it very late

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