Saturday, January 29, 2011
The Brazilian border at Pacaraima to Manaus. 606 miles.
The border crossing was uneventful and by far the most efficient we have experienced. It took only 35 minutes to turn in and get stamped, our Venezuelan paperwork and another 45 minutes to enter on the Brazilian side. Everyone was friendly and courteous and no money was needed for any of the permits, although it had cost $168.00 to process Tom’s visa from the Brazilian consulate. After crossing the border, the only road south is BR174. It is unequivocally, the worst maintained road of our trip. Major sections consisting of 100kms or more are in such need of repair that we are forced to drive at 10 to 15 miles an hour. The motor home bumped, jarred and rattled its way through plateaus and jungle on the way and there was little relief in sight. In addition, we are in shock at the gas prices. After paying 10 cents a gallon in Venezuela, we are now making up for that with gas at $6.60 a gallon. Our RV only gets about 8 mile to the gallon so it is almost, for every mile we drive it costs about 75 cents and we have figured that we may drive 4,000 mile in Brazil. Ouch! After 4 hours of driving and covering 126 miles we arrive at the town of Boa Vista just as it was getting dark and after looking at several parking possibilities, we spent the night at the Department of Transportation parking lot under the watchful eye of a guard and numerous drive bys by local police. The next morning after stopping at a supermarket to replenish our supplies, at a bank for reais and at the local fire station (bomberos) to put water into our holding tank, we were on our way. We pass over rivers and streams, Brazil has a lot of water and everything is lush and green and jungle. Six hours and 180 miles later, we arrive at the small town of Rorainopolis. We find a gas station that is next to a park with numerous fenced areas for Winston to run and decide it looks like a good place to overnight. Due to the vastness of the country many of the gas stations in Brazil are termed “posto”, meaning they have facilities – bathrooms with showers, convenience stores, small restaurants and banks – for trucks to park. These work just as well for us and we have always found truckers to be a friendly, gregarious bunch, who watch out for one another. We chose to park the RV close to the park and later regret that decision. It is Saturday night and there is a pickup volleyball game which meant a lot of noise. No sooner did the game end and the young men left than a band started playing at the restaurant next door. The music went on until 4am. When I got up at six, I felt as though I had had no sleep but we still have a long way to go to get to Manaus. On our third day in Brazil, we cross the equator, 385 miles from the border. It is pouring with rain and so we park along with some other trucks to wait it out. We want to take some photos and hope we don’t have too long to wait for the rain to let up. Sure enough, not 15 minutes later, the sun is peeking out. The only problem, bright red mud and lots of it. Still this will be our only opportunity to photograph this end of the equator; we will get another chance in Ecuador. Tom gets out and sets up the tripod and I walk Winston a little. Within minutes, his white beagle belly and legs are covered in mud. Tom calls us over and we manage to get a few photos of us at the equator before heading back to the RV and with the help of some old towels, clean up ourselves and the pooch. Not nine miles further the road ends and we are forced to pull into a police checkpoint and posto. Apparently, this is the start of the indigenous Waimiri Atroari territory and once you pass the gate which is open from 6am to 6pm for 120Km you can’t stop, take photos, get out of car, nothing, as the police informed us. It is not safe with banditos! “How long to Manaus?” we ask, we have found it better to refer to a place as how long it takes because kilometers are deceiving when the road is in bad shape. 10 Kms could take an hour. “Four hours”, was the reply. It is 2pm and gets dark at 5:30. We don’t want to get caught in the dark and in indigenous territory so decide to call it an early day drive and barbeque hamburgers for dinner. I checked our mileage, only 88 miles in 5 hours including the photo stop. Slow progress indeed. But we are safe for the night. As we wait many trucks pull in to park to wait for daylight and activity is high until about 7, when everyone settles down. At least we will get some decent sleep and be in Manaus on Monday. The final stretch to Manaus was 200 miles from the Indigena Reserve and took us closer to 5 hours to drive. Driving through the reserve is beautiful with the jungle growing close to both sides of the road, interspersed with swamps and wetlands. When we finally arrive in Manaus, we have one main objective. This is where we need to secure passage on a barge to take us down the Amazon River to Belem, as there are no roads to get to the southern part of Brazil.