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Old 10-30-2010, 11:33 AM   #616
Throttlemeister
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Awesome to see these pictures of the mighty Trans Amazon Rd, I was hoping to run BR 319 from the North to PV, looks like it would be great to run the TA back to the Ocean. Looking forward to more of these updates.
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Old 10-31-2010, 09:32 AM   #617
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Brazil, Part 2: Riding the depths of the TransAmazonica

August 17 - 19, 2010

From Apui, it was 700 kms (435 mi) to the next big town of Itaituba. This was the remotest section of the route and most memorable.


Sunrise in the Amazon on the fazenda that I stayed at near Apui.


A long wooden bridge. I tried to see all the way across before choosing which side to cross on. Some of the planks would rattle as I rolled over them.


Dry, flat riding.


sanDRina enjoying a refreshing Coke. The gasoline in Brazil has 25% ethanol from sugarcane mixed in and that gives the fuel its red color. I had enough fuel to make it to the next town of Jacareacanga but, better to be safe than sorry. This is in Sucunduri and it cost R$ 3.40/lt.


Calling out to the boatsmen on the other side of Rio Sucunduri.


After a few minutes, they made the relaxed journey over to collect me. The ferry was powered by this little outboard motor.


A massive ferry for just one bike and this ride was free. I paid between R$ 4 and R$ 10 for all the ferries.


Glimpse of water.


The clearnings and burning of the forest took place close to the road, with the intact forest back there, a few hundred meters away. That says something about the link between deforestation and road building.


Ah, the reason for all this burning.


Not much shade to take a break under.


Local riders in Porto Velho told me the road is constantly being maintained and improved by the government. But, I don't think it's going to get paved anytime soon due to the lack of traffic.


The route getting narrower in places, with foliage right by the road.


However, this was the more usual sight; huge clearings.


A few trees left standing and the purple flowering tree.


I was taking my time and chugging along, because the road surface would change repeatedly from hard pack to sand.


Intact jungle on the right side and recently burnt, shaved hillside on the left.


I didn't see any fazendas around, but maybe they were preparing land for their move in.


When there wasn't sights of burnt jungle, it was a nice ride.


Uggh, didn't have to go far to be turned down by man.


A fire in progress of virgin Amazonian jungle.


A truly sad sight. I stopped and reflected on the damage man can do to his own home. This is my planet as it is everyone else's and it's only our short-sightedness that perpetuates these actions. There's signs of hope though with the World Bank stating at the UN Convention of BioDiversity that all nations will be economically held accountable for the damage done to their natural ecosystems since the Amazon doesn't belong just to Brazil, but to every human.


This tree was about 60 m (196 ft) tall and you can see its tip has been charred by the high-reaching flames.


I was told that sometimes these wildfires were started on fazendas to clear a small patch of land, but then they get out of control and start burning protected areas. This has also been an exceptionally dry season for the Amazon and Brazil in general, with reports of huge wildfires across the region.


Where are the helicopters with those mega buckets to pick up this water and douse the flames with?


A well-maintained bridge towards the end of the day.


Getting close to the next big town of Jacareacanga.


Riding through some thick jungles softened the rage from seeing all the burning today.


Before the turn off into Jacareacanga, I came across this fazenda and asked if I could stay for the night. I was glad to have some covering for the tent and the bike, since the morning dew is quite heavy.


The young couple taking care of this fazenda, while their owners were visiting Itaituba.


After gassing up in Jaca, I turned north towards Itaituba, 400 kms (248 mi) away, going parallel to Rio Tapajos. The locals drive like they're in a hare race and said on my big bike it'll only take 6 hours to cover the distance. Ha, I took two days.


This section ahead had the steepest hills of the route, with the expected bridge at the trough. Elevation was around 100-200 m (328-656 ft).


The road got narrower and it felt nice to be riding through a proper jungle.


There were also very few straight sections on this part of the route, with enjoyable twists and turns.


The grandness of the trees in the Amazon. They must be over 80 m (260 ft) tall.


A good reason not to be riding at night. This bridge reminded of Simon Thomas and his fall from a bridge on his RTW trip.


Just my luck that I should encounter the little traffic that exists on this route during the sandiest portions of it. Oh well, everything was already grimey, so go ahead and dust me.


Construction laying down some new wet mud to harden up and provide a smooth surface.


After a few hours, I saw my first jungle clearings and...


...as expected, more burning.


Taking a break as the thicket closed in on the road.


About halfway to Itaituba, I came across this lone house in a clearing with a man drinking some yerba maté. I asked Sebastian if I could stay for the night and he welcomed the visitor. He's from the south of Brazil, explaining the maté gourd stuck to his hand. It's a tea that's sipped through a metal straw in the countries of Uruguay and Paraguay and also southern Brazil. He moved out here with government incentives to cultivate the land. We had some good talks and he found it interesting that an engineer would give it all up to travel, considering us to be the more sane members of society :p


Inside his little house that he keeps stocked with food from Itaituba. He invited me to sleep on the hammock, but I was more comfortable on my mattress on the ground. I hoped no crawlies would want to keep me company as I slept, but the raised floor helped in that respect. He asked me if I wanted a bath and took me about 15 minutes into the jungle to a small clearing where a stream of cool, clear water was collected. It felt refreshing to take a bath in the thick of the jungle listening to all the birds.


The next morning, the fog was very thick. There were trees just a few meters behind his house that were engulfed in the thick forest fog.


Felt quite eerie. The Amazon, in the midst of man.


The front porch of Sebastian's jungle house. He also has another house in Itaituba, but stays out here for long periods tending to this land.


An efficient design of a wood-fire stove.


Sebastian's cat with my Oxtar TCX boots.


Just north of Sebastian's place, I entered the official Parque Nacional da Amazonia, the one protected place in this whole massive jungle and that too, it appears it's just a park on paper with no real enforcement.


Getting a feel for the thick jungle in this panorama stitch of 12 photos spanning about 180 degrees left to right and about 30 degrees up and down.
Click here to see the high resolution version.


The only difference about riding through the actual park was that I didn't see any burning of the jungle. It felt good to ride with the trees leaning over the road.


Oops, the trailer slipped into the ditch. There was no one in the truck, so I presume they already went to get help.


View of some waterfalls from the road. I wanted to jump in for a dip.


The rivers are so huge here they easily resemble a lake, but that's Rio Tapajos, emptying into the Amazon near Santarem. For the last 160 kms (100 mi) of this river, it is between 6-14 kms (4-9 mi) wide.


Arriving in Itaituba, the end of the fun part of the TransAmazonica. From here, there's another 1,000 kms (620 mi) of dirt to Maraba.
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Old 10-31-2010, 12:58 PM   #618
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Brazil, Part 3: The end of the TransAmazonica

August 20 - 25, 2010

From Itaituba, the TransAmazonica is more busy and was not as enjoyable as the section west of there. It was another 1,000 kms (620 mi) to Maraba, where the dirt road ends and then I turned north for Sao Luis.


Oops, I made a boo-boo. I pulled into Itaituba and went about setting up camp at the side of a petrol station. The station manager insisted that I move in front of the office so that he could keep a proper eye on me for my safety since it was too unsafe in the shadows. But, as I parked the bike up front, I didn't pay attention to the slope and sanDRina went crashing down on her right side. These poor Happy Trail panniers are sure taking a beating, but I'm quite impressed with their strength. I used a hydraulic jack from a nearby tire shop to straighten out the box so that it would close again.


The box was the lesser worry because I found my subframe had cracked on the opposite side. As the bike fell on its right side, the weight of the left pannier impacting the subframe through the pannier rack was too much for it and it sheared around the joint. Note: this is not the actual frame of the bike, but the part called the subframe, which supports the rider and the luggage.


A welding shop was nearby and the guys got right to work. They were quite young, but looked experienced in the jobs they were doing. Lots of cracked crankshafts, wheel rims and other heavy duty vehicle parts were being welding up by these guys.


In the process of filling in the hole. They did a good job for R$ 20 and it hasn't shown any signs of weakness, yet.


Ready to hit the road with the bike all put back together. That's Edson, the son of the petrol station owner who let me use some free internet and wanted to practice English with me. I slept on the sidewalk there with my tent, but it was too hot at night and I was sweating buckets. I was ready to throw in the towel, but I didn't want to move sanDRina with all the luggage until I could fix the subframe.


On the shore of Rio Tapajos in Itaituba.


Boarding the ferry across the wide Rio Tapajos, which left once every hour for a 20 minute ride to the other side.


Having a quick snack of a pastel (pas-teu), a typical friend snack found all over Brazil. It's a puffy pastry shell with meat or cheese inside. Goes well with hot sauce.


Looking back at the shores of Itaituba from the ferry. I didn't get to see the Amazon River, but I can imagine how grand it must be, compared to these gargantuan tributaries.


On the final stretch of the TransAmazonica Highway. It immediately felt less interesting of a ride with trucks and buses rushing by with hordes of small motos swarming like mosquitoes.


There was lots of construction and looked like they were getting ready to make it a 6-lane highway, uggh.


My first lunch since the churrasco. A typical Brazilian meal of rice, noodles, beans, meat and some salad for R$ 5. I was happy not to get the post-meal-sleepies after such a heavy lunch, which is the biggest meal for most Brazilians.


A distance board at the intersection to the road heading north to Santarem on the Amazon River, where you can take a boat up to Manaus. I was heading to Altamira in two days.


Filling up at a Shell station, but since the roads were all dirt, so was the station grounds.


The construction sections were sandy and I just couldn't get over how wide the road was in places.


Towards the end of the day, I felt my clutch finally losing grip on the steep hills and knew it was time to put in the last spare KLX disc that I was carrying from La Paz. I pulled up to this tire repair shop, called a borracharia (bo-ha-cha-ria) and asked the mechanic if I could borrow an oil pan to drain my oil. A few people gathered as I set about installing the last good clutch fibre plate that I had.


Excuse the blurry image, but you can see the edges of the fibre wearing, causing the clutch to slip. The fix got me to Sao Luis and then all the way down to Sao Paulo.


The mechanic said I could camp there for the night. His family were running a small rural bar and convenience store.


Sunrise the next morning.


It soon became quite hot and I took a break under a bus stop stand.


Similar lunch of rice, noodles, beans, meat and some veggies. I only found out later that if the food comes in separate dishes, it's R$ 8, but if it comes on one plate (like yesterday), then it's R$ 5. This is a lot more than I've been used to eating in the last few days.


The scenery was pleasing as I got closer to Altamira.


An old bridge deteriorating as the new bridge is being built.


The pavement beginning outside Altamira with cattle being herded down it.


But it ended soon for construction.


I decided on no more tenting it in cities, since it's too hot at night with no breeze blowing through. I got a R$ 25 room (negotiated down from R$ 35) at Hotel Paulista in Altamira and most hotels in Brazil come with breakfast included.


Setting out the next day for the last 500 kms (310 mi) to Maraba. The dark clouds only threatened a few times with drizzles, but I was glad to traverse the whole TransAmazonica without encountering any rain.


As I stopped to reduce the air pressure in the tires for the off-road, these three Brazilian bikers from Belo Horizonte showed up.


Homemade panniers. They were making a big loop around Brazil and did BR-319 up to Manaus and were coming from Santarem.


The first bit of washboard that I experienced on the TransAmazonica, giving an indication to the traffic and the speed they fly at in this more crowded section of the route.


I met up with the guys again at the ferry across Rio Xingu. This river has made international news as the government wants to build the Belo Monte Dam on it to create the world's third largest hydroelectric power station. The proposal has so far been stalled since the 1990s due to strong opposition from numerous groups in Brazil and abroad. The main reason being that the social costs of the dam outweigh its benefits. The dam would flood 400 sq km (154 sq mi) of low-lying forest and this flooding will lead to an increase of methane emissions, which are far more deadly than CO2. Also, two huge canals, bigger than the Panama Canal would need to be carved up to divert water for the dam. With Brazil's new discoveries of massive offshore oil fields, it's been suggested that the environmental and social impact of producing electricity from burning oil would be less than that from this dam. Let's see the direction the new president takes this project.


Enjoying the road again as it resembled areas west of Itaituba, winding up and over hills.


Riding too much washboard and this is what happens. The bracket holding this tool tube onto the pannier frame finally gave way and swung on to the tire, chewing a hole through it.


Getting a cheap bed at Hotel Betel for R$ 15. They had a newer section to the right with beds for R$ 40.


The last day on the TransAmazonica. While I was ready for the dust clouds to be done with, I sure did enjoy the remote riding.


You can tell civilization is close when you see plantations of eucalyptus trees, instead of indigenous forests.


Getting some lunch close to the end of the TransAmazonica.


Having a huge piece of fried river fish that the lady said she caught that morning from the nearby river.


Coming to the end of the off-road section of the TransAmazonica. Wow, it was a long journey but totally worth it and glad to provide proof that this fabled road does exist indeed.


The pavement beginning outside Maraba. BR-230 carries on for another 1,880 kms (1,167 mi) to the coast, terminating at Joao Pessoa, but I was turning north for Sao Luis from here.


Meeting up with Guilherme, through CouchSurfing in Maraba. He's an architect from the state of Minas Gerais and moved out here to this 'frontier' town as business is booming. He wondered how I was actually going to ride from Porto Velho to Maraba and didn't believe the TransAmazonica actually existed, but I'm living proof. From Maraba, it's a different kind of Brazil, the more developed part.


Having more tasty river fish with some veggies.


We had dinner by the riverside of Rio Tocantins, the central fluvial artery of the country. It flows directly into the Atlantic at Belem, not meeting the Amazon River. Guilherme said in the rainy season, the rising river level brings up that floating restaurant up to road level, even flooding some of the surrounding streets.


Riding the smooth highways up to Sao Luis, where I was looking forward to resting my sore body and giving sanDRina a break, as well. I also really wanted to wash everything. My helmet and gloves were feeling nasty to put on towards the end.


A distance board. Heading right. Almost there, but...


I picked up this nail just 135 kms (84 mi) from Sao Luis. I was so close.


The reason I like using a heavy duty tube is that when it does goes flat, it doesn't deflate all the way and still has some structure to it, which helps in not ruining the tire. But I thought running a heavy duty tube would make punctures more rare. Who knows, maybe lots of punctures were averted by running this tube, but I'll never know, since I only pay attention when it does get a puncture.


When the tool tube broke loose and rubbed against the tire, that friction wore a hole through my spare rear tube. My heavy duty tube is made from a different rubber compound and the patches I have don't stick to it.


What to do? Try and fix either tube with lots of patches and hope it holds till Sao Luis?


Like an angel appearing in a time of need, Bianca stopped by and after explaining my situation, she offered to take my tube to the nearest borracharia to get it hot vulcanized. After a few hours delay, I rolled into Sao Luis and rejoiced in the accomplishment of having crossed the great TransAmazonica Highway.
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Old 10-31-2010, 02:47 PM   #619
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So many good pictures and descriptions, nearly as good as being there! (nearly )

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Old 10-31-2010, 04:07 PM   #620
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Not bad at all consdering many believe it to be some mythical road that's overgrown and unmaintained Hope stories of BR 319 are laid to rest too. Any information from the group you met I can't find any real good up to date information from anyone who's ridden it.

Really enjoyed seeing the Trans Amazon Rd pictures, thanks for mythbusting it
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Old 10-31-2010, 04:53 PM   #621
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Most of us will never experience a trip such as your's Jay but through your excellent write ups and pictures we can pretend that we are there.

I've been following from the very start and looking forward to each new chapter. Someone (R Doug) posted a link to this on the ST.N site where you used to post. I think you were at the ST.N National in West Virginia in 2006 but we did not officially meet.

I was just wondering how long ago you left so I went to the first page and saw that it's been almost 8 months. My longest MC trip was just short of 6 weeks and I thought that was long.

Would it be possible to put dates with each chapters? For example, you just finished posting Part 3 of your Amazon crossing today and it would be nice to know when that was done.
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Old 10-31-2010, 05:49 PM   #622
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Glad things are going well for you! enjoying reading along with you.
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Old 10-31-2010, 06:59 PM   #623
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Old 10-31-2010, 07:44 PM   #624
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Lookin' great - thanks for the update!
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Old 11-01-2010, 04:22 AM   #625
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mb8
So many good pictures and descriptions, nearly as good as being there! (nearly )
Thanks. Ride reports are like virtual reality trips for riders

Quote:
Originally Posted by Throttlemeister
Not bad at all consdering many believe it to be some mythical road that's overgrown and unmaintained Hope stories of BR 319 are laid to rest too. Any information from the group you met I can't find any real good up to date information from anyone who's ridden it.

Really enjoyed seeing the Trans Amazon Rd pictures, thanks for mythbusting it
Yeah, it wasn't bad at all. But, that's only in the dry season. The nightmare and scare stories all come from riders who attempted it in the rainy season. Can you believe that myth is still going on even in the towns along the route. People in every town would look at me like I was crazy for saying I was going to Maraba. They were like, 'no way, I heard the road isn't finished' and it was built 30 years ago.

I believe BR-319 is a bit more rough than BR-230, but riders are constantly doing it with big touring bikes, so can't be that different. Igor recently went through there on a KLR. PM him or check out his RR here.

The original plan was to ride down from Venezuala to Manaus, then BR-319 to Humaita and then up BR-230 to the east. But one would need much more time to wander around like that.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Acadian Rider
Most of us will never experience a trip such as your's Jay but through your excellent write ups and pictures we can pretend that we are there.

I've been following from the very start and looking forward to each new chapter. Someone (R Doug) posted a link to this on the ST.N site where you used to post. I think you were at the ST.N National in West Virginia in 2006 but we did not officially meet.

I was just wondering how long ago you left so I went to the first page and saw that it's been almost 8 months. My longest MC trip was just short of 6 weeks and I thought that was long.

Would it be possible to put dates with each chapters? For example, you just finished posting Part 3 of your Amazon crossing today and it would be nice to know when that was done.
Glad to provide this service to fellow riders. I'm completely aware of the fact that very few people get the chance to embark on a long voyage and when I saw I had that chance, I had to take it, for me and for everyone else that can't.

Yup, ST.N was my home when I was sport-touring around the States and I posted my Alaska and CDR trips on there, but didn't get around to posting this one, but it's too huge now to cross post on multiple forums. Yup, was there for the ESTN in Canaan Valley on my GSX-R. Awesome riding through the twisties there. Did Blue Ridge Parkway and Deals Gap, 3000 twisty miles in 6 days. I do miss hyper-touring.

Before this trip, my longest bike trip was only 3 weeks (to Alaska) but honestly, I dont feel the duration now. I just see it as multiple small segments. Taking breaks is a good thing.

Good point on dating the chapters. I thought about that after I posted these since I'm now about 2 months behind. Will get to it.

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Lookin' great - thanks for the update!
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Old 11-01-2010, 05:54 AM   #626
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Your pictures are great, but, we want to see the pictures from the night spent in the mechanic's "small rural bar."
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Old 11-01-2010, 07:03 AM   #627
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Wow Jay,
Really impressed with your trip and RR, and also saddened by the shots of the burning jungles. I read and hear about the burning and how much is lost each day, but your pics drive it home. Being that the government supports the deforestation, is there anything that can be done to stop it? How about you talk some sense to those people and have em' stop, OK?
Stay safe.
Chris
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Old 11-02-2010, 06:00 AM   #628
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Your pictures are great, but, we want to see the pictures from the night spent in the mechanic's "small rural bar."
Hehe, you need access to the VIP section of this ride report to see those kind of pics

Quote:
Originally Posted by F.P.
Wow Jay,
Really impressed with your trip and RR, and also saddened by the shots of the burning jungles. I read and hear about the burning and how much is lost each day, but your pics drive it home. Being that the government supports the deforestation, is there anything that can be done to stop it? How about you talk some sense to those people and have em' stop, OK?
Stay safe.
Chris
Thx Chris. Yeah, you know how I feel. Exactly, statistics read from faraway don't usually make an emotional impact. I was glad to have the chance to see for my own eyes what it means to say the Amazon is being burnt down. It's real and continues daily.

I think the only thing that'll have an impact is to raise awareness about it to the local people, so that they see the higher value of an intact forest over a cut down forest. I read (as part of my studies) that the value to humans of say a 100 acre plot of rain forest is around $6000 (per year) from all kinds of forest products (medicinal plants, selective logging, ecosystem services like filtering water, air, intrinsic value of nature, etc), compared to the one time value of around $500 from cutting down all the tress for timber and to the lowest and most prevalent use of around $100 for making it into pastureland for cattle (since lots of land is needed for cattle). But, this requires a change in lifestyle and as you know, humans don't like change until they're forced to somehow by natural or political causes.

It's a tough battle, but I see progress happening. It just needs to happen quicker.
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Old 11-02-2010, 06:10 AM   #629
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Wow, is the dry season that strict (July - September)?? I'm considering this (or similar) route in reverse.

Great story, btw.
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Old 11-02-2010, 10:02 AM   #630
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Wow, is the dry season that strict (July - September)?? I'm considering this (or similar) route in reverse.

Great story, btw.
Yup, the rains start in October and the real heavy rainy season is from Jan-March, but it rains on and off throughout the year except during the aforementioned dry season. I went in August, just to be extra sure

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I've finally posted my packing list. Check it out on the first page.


I need to do a tonne of miles in the next few weeks, so pictures will be on the back burner. Hold on and when I get some downtime next, I'll finish up Brazil.

From Rio, I'm heading to Buenos Aires to pick up the package with my jet needle. My visa for Brazil expires next Wednesday and it's a pain to get an extension. I'll be back in January to check out the southern states. After BA, I'm heading north to try and get into Bolivia to check out the salar, but if I can't get the visa, then I'll start heading south to Patagonia...
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