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A Day of Special Moments.

Yesterday was billed as the toughest day of the rally with 400 k’s of the worst dirt followed with a 200k tarmac run into Porto Velho including 2 river ferry’s and possible 1.5 hours wait until the next ferry. A well deserved rest day and car service.

When James and I travel we divide the day into ¼’s so we have our little targets, like that’s the first ¼ finished then ½ and then the excitement builds as you are in the last 1/4, which we split up again until we make the end. Yesterday we had divided the day into two; the dirt to the Ferry and then the tarmac slog into Porto Vehlo.

Starting without dust.

We started early before breakfast after sneaking into the restaurant to grab some bread rolls and slices of a Quiche to keep us going for the planned 11hour day. Due to the rain the previous after noon the dust was settled and the road was very good to the first ferry. The driving as been filled with masses of brightly coloured butterflies the whole trip. With the overnight rain the butterfly numbered must have quadrupled with one some damp patch’s of ground attracting them in the droves.

The Macaw.

Since being in the Amazon James and I have heard a lot Macaws but not seen one clearly. About an hour in we heard the familiar screech of a Macaw, we both looked up and an absolutely brilliant coloured Blue and Yellow Hyacinth Macaw was flying with us about 6 metres above our right shoulder. It was so special we both forgot to grab the camera before he flew into the trees, sorry to say no photographic proof.

The Snake.

As we closed in on the end of the dirt we both saw a snake crossing the road ahead, we slowed and started to stop beside it but penny isn’t really a stealth machine so a silent approach was not going to happen. We did get a good look at this brilliant coloured 2-metre snake as it left our company as fast as its scales would carry it. Again no photographic proof just the memories of a special moment. We later worked out from the WWW that it was a juvenile Green Anaconda. Still a cracker 2 meters long!

The end of the dirt and the ferry just in time.

As we counted down the last k’s to the ferry we speculated on how long a wait we would have for the next ferry? We knew the ferry was on our side of the river due to the number of cars we had been meeting in the last 20 odd kilometres. At last we see the gap in the trees that was the river ahead and the normal collection of building that accompany a river cross so we knew the end was near. We topped the riverbank to see the local that had passed us about 5 k’s back just getting on the ferry. So we raced down the hill to the shouts of “HURRY” from our fellow rally friends, to race on the ferry just as it was embarking. We found out that it had already started to leave and had come back to get the local and stayed for us as well as we came over the hill in time. This saved us a 1.5 hour wait for the next trip. Some of our friends had not been as lucky as us and experienced the long wait later in the day.

The clean fresh hotel.

After 4 days of dusty red dirt and basic hotel accommodation it was nice to check-in to the Holiday Inn Porto Velho. The accommodation for the previous nights was a hoot but some times it nice to have a little bit extra like a hot and a cold tap in the shower.

The day finished with a fantastic dinner out at one of the nicest restaurants in town all thanks to the great generosity of Martin Egli. It was Martins’ birthday yesterday so we all helped him celebrate it.

Today has been fix-it or wash-it day.

As the tourist industry in Porto Velho is a bit non-existent today stop was just planned as a rest and fix day.

Penny need a bit of love and attention with me finding the drive shaft bolts coming loose once again so this recurring problem will need sorting properly back at home. Other then that all was good.

The 2CV got a complete service and some more welding to the suspension ready for the challenges ahead.

The Willy’s and the Chevy only need minor love and attention with quite a few cars getting complete inside and out detailing for about $25.00.

Jack Amies has arrive to be Martins offsider and keep the Lagonda running for the rest of the rally, and seems to be busy today getting things sorted under the car ready for tomorrow.

Vultures are the Crows of the Amazon.

Everywhere you go in the Amazon there are Vultures and they have no fear. As you walk down the street in the towns the Vultures are in the gutters picking through the rubbish. As you drive along they sit watching and waiting for some morsel of road kill or rubbish, when lucky enough to have some, will only just jump off the road long enough to drive past, then back to it before some other birds lays claim to the trophy.

Yesterday we left Itaituba to head deeper into the Amazon on the Trans Amazonica and on towards Peru. The road has been dirt for the last 680k’s and we have 400 more of dirt tomorrow before the tarmac starts that will take us to the Peruvian boarder.

The dirt on a whole has been very good with us being able to average 50kph. In amongst the really good bits are lots of little bumps that played havoc with Penny yesterday meaning we arrive in town with a nasty crack in the right front of our chassis rail. This was aggravated by the fact that the heat had caused our tyre pressure’s to rise a lot above our desired level. Late in the day when I realized this and corrected it, the ride improved and the harshness of the bumps minimised.

Upon getting to town we found a welder across the road from our Hotel and after a couple hours a very nice welding grinding and plating job hard been done and today has been a very trouble free drive. Some things at the workshop would not have meet any safety standard with 2 live wires handing on a post at about chest height that the welder wires were just hooked on to when it was required. Jaime the cameraman nearly touched them while leaning on the post to shoot video.

We were not the only car in this little shop with the 2CV needing some shocky mount welding and the Fangio having an overheating problem.

Back to the drive, we drove through the Amazon national park for about 80k’s then another 80 odd k’s with out a lot of clearing. All the rest of the trip has been through jungle cleared at various stages for grazing cattle. We were lucky enough to see Ring-tailed Coati, some birds and a literally millions of butterflies with some very colourful ones. But the most common mammals of the Amazon are domestic cattle.

How do you describe the Amazon??????

Its now over 12 hours since we left the boat that took us up the Amazon for 36 hours from Macapa to Santarem. Quite a few people from the rally are still talking about the enormity of the Amazon.

It is a river like no other river I seen. I’ve be fortune enough to travel to the Nile, Mississippi, Mekong, Ganges, and the Yangtze. All big rivers in there own right and the Amazon makes them look like a creek in the back yard. We ended up about 800k’s up stream and bulk carriers are still steaming up stream and I’m told go another 700k’s to Manaus.

Tonight we are at Itaituba, 300k up a tributary called the Tapajos and its still 4 km’s wide and bigger then the above-mentioned rivers. We crossed the Tapajos by barge like most of our river crossings as bridges just don’t exist and don’t get built.

We are here in the dry season with the rivers at there low levels. In March at the end of the wet season when the river is up to 4 to 8 metres high it would be a whole new jaw dropping experience.

Back to the boat ride and loading the boat. We had to arrive at the boat at 1300 to load ready for a 1800 departure. The boat had 3 decks, a car deck, an air-conditioned hammock deck and an open hammock deck, with cabins forward on the 2 hammock decks. Our group had booked the car deck and all the cabins for our 2 nights cruise.

Loading the cars was a hoot to start with as the tide was down, to get the cars over the sharp angle of the dock ramp we drove over a seesaw plank. Then the cars were manoeuvred around posts and hatches on the boat till every one fitted on. Penny would not turn the sharp corner’s on the boat so was just backed on last ready to drive off at Santarem first.

All the locals’ travel and sleep in hammocks on either the AC deck or the open deck for the journey’s on any boat on the Amazon.

The next 36 hours was spent steaming up the river stopping at a few ports to load and unload people and freight. This freight was a real mix of eggs, spare parts, furniture and various sorts of fish. One stop was just with a local boat mid stream to load bags of fish, which were then packed on ice on our boat.

While at the port waiting to get away, a boat arrived with a lot of cheering. It then proceed to unload a couple hundred people and massive amount of freight which was all done by hand and thrown out of the holds one box at a time. This boats main cargo was Acai berries from a palm tree which was all in cane basket then measure in to woven bags at the port before leaving on a mix of different vehicles to places unknown. This was followed but oil, grease, printing paper, cabbages, onions, limes, oranges, carrots and many more sundry items of everyday use.

Most of the trip up the river was through cleared country with cattle grazing. We always steamed very close to the edge to keep out of the main current and every time I looked at the sounder we were in 15 to 30 metres of water so how deep is this river in the main channel? The thing that was always reminding you how immense it is was the other side was miles away and often not the other side and just an island in the middle. Occasionally we’d see a bulk tanker in the distance.

This morning we disembarked from the boat at Santarem for the continuation of our drive. Disembarking was over the edge on to the dock similar to loading.

Then it was heading south to the Trans Amazonica Highway to turn right and head to the Pacific Ocean. This trip was through cropping and grazing land with the main crop being Soya beans. The roads varied from great tarmac to potholed tarmac with the pothole that old weeds were growing in them.

James just read me a couple facts while I’m writing this Blog. “The Amazon flow is greater then the total flow of the next 8 biggest rivers in the world.” “The Amazon flow is 20% of the total river flow in the world.” “In the wet season it is up to 200 kilometres wide.”

When I set of on this I thought that it would tick the Amazon box for me. I will try and come back because it has that attraction I cant explain.

We are lead to believe that from here to Peru we are on dirt road for all but the big towns so it’s going to be a dusty week coming up.

Till next blog its goodbye!

After our night in Macapa we headed to the boat for our journey up the Amazon. On the way we crossed the Equator so that took us from Autumn to Spring in a flash however we thought it was really summer as it was about 35C.

A Long Hot Day to Start Brazil.

Our first day in Brazil was a 590k-day with 120k of dirt start 40 k down the road.

James and I elected to have an early start to escape some of the heat and dust as the locals got on the road. The road varied from freshly graded and very good to as bad is it gets with us climbing out of one pothole into the next.

The early start paid off with us only seeing one local car and a truck for all the dirt. We did however catch up with Reg and Jaime in the 2CV because they started even earlier. Reg was going very slowly up the hill with a serve lack of power which a lot of people would put down to it being a 2CV. When he stopped we discovered he was driving a 1CV as one plug lead had fallen off. Reg had to put it back on a couple of times before he used Duct tape to hold it on for good.

We had only driven of the end of the dirt about 200 metres before the rest of the rally started to overtake us. James and I reckoned we timed that well so as not to have eaten dust for 2 hours.

Lunch was at the fishing port of Amapa. While James rested I went for a drive to the river to check out the boats. The tides here varies about 4 metres and all the boats where sitting up on the mud having come back in on the high tide.

Many shops around the port were cleaning and filleting Catfish, which was the main catch for the boats. One boat had had a very good trip with a couple tonne of fish on the deck in the process of getting cleaned.

The run into Macapa after the lunch stop was 300 k of very good tarmac with the sun beating down so a lot of water was consumed in our car for the afternoon.

Early in the trip I pointed to the forest of tree along side the road and James was pleased to see Australian Eucalypts growing. He is always surprised at the places in the world Eucalypts are grown either for firewood and building poles all over Africa too wood chip in a lot of South America. This was being harvest for wood chip and carted to the port as we drove into town.

Loading the boat and the trip up the Amazon will be covered in the next blog.