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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!

Tracking is working at last

This is a quick post to let everyone that is interested in the tracking that I got my tracking working this morning.

You can follow our progress as we steam up the Amazon over the next couple of days then on to Lima.

This is the link

My next post will be after we disembark the boat up the Amazon for the next 2 days and drive 400 k’s on the 15th our time.

Thwarted by the French.

This morning we all headed off to the Space centre for an official tour of the facility and launch pads, which had been pre-booked for 2 months.

This all fell in a screaming heap on our arrival when the guide advised us that the rules had changed on the 1st of October that we needed to advise them 2 days prior everyone’s details and passport numbers.

We were however given a discounted entry in to the museum, which didn’t require the 2 days advice. We spent an enjoyable time there before heading to the Brazilian border.

Today’s drive took us from the coastal flat jungle in to some rolling hill and windy roads. Part of the drive was in a national park and it was very obvious the extent of the national park because out side the national park was a lot of clearing and burning taking place.

Finished the day with a border crossing into Brazil by barge up the river 10 k’s from St Georges, French Guiana to Oiapoque, Brazil. While going up the river by barge we passed under a huge bridge across the river. We are told its been built for a few years with everything completed on the French Guiana side but Brazil has not built the road or border control post on there side so a many many million dollar bridge stands unused.

After clearing Brazil customs in a timely fashion fro the Brazilians we all converged on accommodation for the night. It’s no Hilton but it is the best in town with clean beds and most importantly the AC works so no extras are really needed.

Tomorrow’s drive is one of the biggest for the trip and takes us to the mouth of the Amazon ready for the boat trip.