Saturday, February 5, 2011
Belem to Fortaleza. 938 miles
When we were told that the RV would arrive in Belem on Sunday, we did not understand the implications of that. Sunday means no work. No-one working the dock, no-one to complete the exit paperwork, no-one to help us ashore. After arriving in Belem at about 2pm and being pushed against a pier, we were seemingly abandoned. Our crew, the captain, the cook and the guards all left. We chatted with our trucker friends. The consensus was 8am Monday morning would be when we would be unloaded from the barge. Tom jumped over the 3ft. gap from our pier to the dock and went in search of someone, anyone to see if we could get water for the RV. He came back with a guard in tow and conversed with our, by now, well versed hand signals that we needed water. The guard left, we shrugged. Our time on the road has taught us if nothing else, patience. We settled ourselves for another night on the barge, albeit against a dock within spitting distance of freedom. After about an hour or so, the guard came back pushing a cart with a 40 gallon barrel of fresh potable water for us. Tom got the hose and began siphoning the water into the RV, at the same time thanking the man for remembering us and going out of his way to help. After declining an offer to join the truckers at a local bar for drinks, we had an early dinner and watched the stars from the dock. Sure enough, 7:30 the next morning, the dock was a hive of activity. We are first off but wait for two of the truck drivers as they are going to show us the way out of town. Eventually by 10 o’clock, we have our paperwork and leave the port. We follow the trucks out of town to the first gas station and after hugs and handshakes, we separate company. The road is much better than BR174 to Manaus and we make good time, driving about 6 hours and covering 217 miles. Our first night is in a small hamlet, Governador Nunes Freire at a posto and it poured with rain the entire night, leaving us squelching around in the red mud trying to walk Winston. We have already realized that it is a long way to the port of Fortaleza and those amazing Brazilian beaches so Tuesday worked out being our longest driving day to date, 315 miles in 8 hours got us to the town of Caxais. On this stretch of road there are more date palm orchards than we have ever seen. For miles and miles, on both sides of the road. Are dates really that popular? We also have some mechanical problems. The second battery in the RV isn’t charging, the casing it sits on is broken, the steering column feels loose, the generator is acting up – again and Tom’s driver side door won’t close without a lot of slamming and maneuvering. We blame BR174, that road was horrendous. Wednesday is relegated to being a repair day. We are 40 mile from the large town of Teresina and once there, ask directions to the Ford dealership. They immediately find someone who speaks English and we tell him our list of woes. The door isn’t a problem and they have it fixed within an hour and in the meantime I got to use their internet hookup. For the other issues, they suggest another repair shop and the English speaking service manager offers to come with us and translate. Perfect. Except we arrive there at lunchtime. After speaking with the owner, we are told to return at 1:30 and the owner’s son who also speaks English will join us. They can do all the work and in addition they offer me an air conditioned office and the use of their computer and internet. The people we meet and their kindness never ceases to amaze me. Work went on until past closing but by 6 o’clock they were finished. All done and in good working order. They tell us that we can park in their lot overnight as they have security but we have already earmarked the BR posto across the street as they have showers. So, Wednesday night finds us again nestled in amongst huge truck trailers but with the repairs complete and ready for road test. Leaving Teresita we had planned on Thursday being an easy drive day to Park Nacional Sete de Cidades where we could overnight in a hotel parking lot. I even defrosted a large piece of filet mignon for us to barbeque later. When we arrived at the park the guard told us “no dogs”. We argue, “he stays in the home except for walks on a lead”, “we clean up after him”, even, “we have driven all the way from California to see this”, it was all to no avail. The man was unmoving and adamant. We turned away and shrugged. Oh well, might as well keep going to get closer to Fortaleza. Upon leaving we went to a gas station to fill up. Right there in the parking lot was a jewelry store selling opals. We are in the State of Piaui which mines among other things, opals. I looked through the window. They have a gallery in Sao Paulo but this is at source. The stones looked beautiful. Lucky for Tom – the store is closed. 175 miles from Teresita we were in the small town of Tiangua, spending the night at another posto. “Do you still want to cook?” I asked Tom. “Absolutely”, was the response. So there we were cooking filet over our small grill and watching the moon and stars slowly fill the sky. We don’t need a national park to fulfill our needs, just a small lot with a view of the surrounding area and sky. Winston was happy too, steak is on the menu. The last 190 miles to Fortaleza we passed through huge banana plantations and the National Park de Ubajare. Fortaleza is a port city and we had read we may be able to get propane here but we could not find the plant and no-one seemed to know where it was. We are still half full so we hope we can find some in one of the other ports as we drive south. We find another posto to stay at and plan to go to some beaches tomorrow.