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Old 06-19-2012, 01:48 PM   #196
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French Guiana...or Guyane...or whatever

The ferry from Albina to St Laurent du Maroni was super easy. It´s scheduled to run a few times everyday (only once around 2:30pm on Sundays, usually last boat is around 5pm) and has all the customs and immigration offices right there. There are also private boats that dock right at the ferry landing, so if you were impatient and felt like bargaining (and lifting a motorcycle into a boat) you can cross whenever you'd like.


(ferry to French Guiana. They only charged us for the moto at 15 Euro, making Jill and me free (should have been 4 Euros each). This was the first taste of French Guiana prices)

At immigration in St Laurent, we were stamped in by a national policeman named Phillippe who has a big KTM 950 Adventure bike and has traveled all over South America. He even hosts some travelers that come through. He was really nice. Mostly because he let us through with our questionable insurance document (the only French word that I understood when he spoke with his colleague was "photoshop"). But also because he shared a lot of information about camping in the area and what to expect in Brazil. That, and he complemented the TA, which always helps. He liked the growling exhaust note best.


Couchsurfing in St Laurent was a phenomenal success! Our host, Julien, drove into town to lead us back to his place, which is just a few kilometers south of St Laurent. Right away we knew we’d hit it off with Julien and his roommates Bertrand and Nanou. They cooked up a phenomenal pasta carbonara (but of course denied that it was any work at all) that complemented our Heinekens, Parbos (we thought we were done), and ti punch. It was a very warm welcome to French Guiana.


(Nanou, Bertrand, Julien, Jill, and Mike in St Laurent)

The next day was relaxing. While our hosts offered a few ideas of activities (including the prison that Mike had seen and some waterfalls that sounded okay but would have been a mission to get to) we just relaxed during our day in St Laurent. Until evening time. Then we were engrossed in French culture. Bertrand and Nanou invited us to learn pétanque with them, and a group of 15 or so of their French friends. The game is similar to bocce ball, but played with heavier, lead balls, with the men playing versus the women (note from Jill: the women won). To complete the culture of pétanque, we played with a cup of pastis in hand, which is a traditional anise flavored liquor from Marseilles. C´est le pastis! A superb way to spend an evening outdoors along the Marrowijne river.

On our way towards Cayenne, we stopped by the beach at Awala to see another area where green and leatherback sea turtles lay eggs. The best time to view turtles is within a couple of hours of high tide, and we were about as far away from that window as you can get. So we didn’t see any turtles. But we did see some evidence.


(broken egg shells on Plage Yalimapo. Unlikely that those were hatched naturally given that it’s still June, but hopefully that’s what happened. Also unlikely that they were poached or else the shell would be gone too. Maybe natural predators?)


(we weren’t the only ones looking down the beach. Unless those cameras are unmonitored Which is a distinct possibility.)

Further down the very well maintained road (is this still South America?) we found an open cafe in Sinnamary, which was more difficult than we expected. Everything was closed. Even the gas station. This country closes down between 12 and 4 every day. (Confirmation that we are, in fact, still in South America.)


((empty) street view in Sinnamary)

Cayenne was a quick stop, where we couchsurfed with our very kind host, Katia. She was great, but Cayenne as a destination, kind of blah. Ever since leaving Paramaribo, Jill’s been saying that French Guiana will be like Suriname but more expensive. I had higher hopes for the road conditions, amenities, all that, but knew that it would be more expensive. It turns out Jill was pretty damn close: we think Cayenne, in general, is equal to Paramaribo plus 25%, but is much more expensive (maybe Paramaribo plus 100%).


(street view in Cayenne)


(old port/pier where we went to see ibis birds)


(ibis flying out to their nests)


(a staple of Cayenne is the street lined with hamburger vendors, open every night, only at night)


(Jill, Katia, and Mike at the vendor we picked to try. We picked well. That madras burger was great, but probably not good enough to get us to plan a trip back to Cayenne…)


(…boxed rum helps, still not enough though.)


(sunrise in Cayenne)
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Old 06-19-2012, 01:52 PM   #197
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This is a great report love the Transalp
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:20 AM   #198
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Hotmamaandme - thanks for the compliment!

I am also a huge fan of the Transalp, but I am admittedly biased
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:23 AM   #199
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Back into Brasil

The ride across eastern French Guiana was outstanding! We had an early start, which kept it cool, along with the rolling hills and lifting fog.


(road east of Cayenne)


(stop in Cacao, a Hmong community, which has a blazing market on the weekends, not so much when we were there. The town was super peaceful, full of friendly people, and nestled in what felt like tropical mountains.)


(the ride to St Georges continued to be fantastic )

As we pulled into St Georges, we missed the national police building, going instead right to the water where boat drivers had already started vying (that is, yelling) for our business. We went into the customs building where they directed us to the proper place, about 6 blocks behind us. We didn’t have the clearest set of directions to operate from, and not only because our French is non-existent. As we sat at an intersection questioning which way to go, a police car pulled in front of us, we told them we were looking for them, and
they led us the last block to the national police building. At first we were sad to see a line of people waiting, then we were even sadder to see that they were closed from 12-2 and it was exactly 12:08. Well, I guess 2pm is better than 4pm, like the rest of the country’s businesses. but as we were standing there talking, a lady opened the door and asked if we just needed a stamp. We were let in, stamped out, and on our way in less than 5 minutes. Sweet! The best part about France is that there’s no import docs for the bike, which made this crossing a breeze.

Back to the boat guys… The one in the street we spoke with asked for 60 euros to cross the river. That’s insane. We hoped to pay 20, expected more like 30 (based off of other travelers amounts paid, the cost of the infrequent ferry, and the going rate of 5 euro per passenger). Let the bartering begin. With me speaking Spanish, the boat driver Portuguese (much better for us than French), we finally agreed on 30. Good. Or so we thought.


(the TA ready to load)

I assumed, but didn’t establish, that the price would include getting the bike into the boat, then getting her across the river and to the other side. The expectation was to pay more helpers. Aaarrgghhh. 2 of them wanted 10 euros each. Nope. Not gonna happen. After deliberation, us putting our helmets on to go talk to other drivers, and much time, we finally got a total price of 35 euros, all included. More than it should be. But that’s what it was. (This is especially expensive not only because of the short distance across, but also because of the bridge that is built, but impassable. See below for more info)


(Mike likes riding the TA over water)

After the 5 minute boat ride, we arrived in Brasil! We unloaded (with the kind help of a Brazilian man at the dock who didn’t shake us down for money, but was content with a big ´thank you´ and a handshake) in a small town 5-10km north of Oiapoque, where we needed to get for customs and immigration.


(the tiny town where we unloaded felt immediately more like Latin America than anywhere we’ve been in months)


(bar and shopping all in one)


(on the way to Oiapoque)


(This is not the bridge that we could have used to cross the river…)


(…this is.)

This completely finished, modern bridge is impassable due to some political dispute. It was completed in 2011, supposed to be opened in 2012, now some say early 2013. But the hold up is political, not technical, so who knows when it will happen.

First stop in Oiapoque was the National Police which was a breeze. They asked how long we wanted to stay, we said 60 days to give ourselves a comfortable window, they returned with stamps for 90 days. In and out in minutes. (For anyone on this route looking for the National Police building, after turning towards Oiapoque onto
pavement, you will pass a couple of gas stations and a military building on your left. keep going through town, until you find the national police building on the right side at a corner with a divided boulevard street leading down to the water.)


(street view in Oiapoque)

From there, we went down to customs (basic directions: take the boulevard street towards the water, follow the 90 degree turn to the right, continue along the water until you see the customs building on your right). This stop took longer, but they took excellent care of us. They didn’t even make me go get extra copies made, but just accepted a couple of crappy copies I happened to have and made whatever others they wanted. They were really nice, and the lady in charge even asked a couple of questions to improve her English (the most important was the subtle difference between “costumes” and “customs” which could actually come in quite handy for someone in her position). (Another note for anyone on this route: ummmm, it’s a one way street along the water in front of customs. Ooops.)


(customs building in Oiapoque)

Back on the main road, we were able to find some traditional Brazilian cuisine, which was delicious.


(Casa das Carne = House of Meat. Bife de figado served with rice, beans, noodles, and salad = yum)


(Brazilian food makes everyone happy)


(Our home for the night. A simple little pousada that had a garage for parking, A/C in the room, and free *cold* drinking water. All the little things made the 40Rs worth it)
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Old 06-20-2012, 10:26 AM   #200
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When there's no rain

Another early start took us from Oiapoque to Calcoene. This stretch of road is notorious for being mean, muddy, slow-going, nearing impassable. We got lucky that it has been rather dry lately (in June we are at the end of rainy season and it has already slowed).


(Mike is not yet back in the habit of putting in ear plugs every time we start off. But we get to take more breaks because of it)


(around 30 miles of paved road out of Oiapoque before hitting dirt)


(the road was in good shape at the start)


(the sky got a bit darker and brought some rain to make things more interesting)


(there were a few sections of deep mud and standing water, but luckily for us, there were only a few and each section was short. With a lot of rain, it's easy to see how those sections would be show stoppers. I imagine Markharf was seeing the worst of it when he came through here a couple years back.)


(lots of old wooden bridges in various stages of disrepair. Most did not have this much signage. Most did not have this much wood either - there were some gaping holes down to the creeks below on most. Some of the bridges are in the process of being replaced by concrete versions, but it looks like it will be a long process)


(some stretches of road had almost unavoidable potholes, the worst of it not pictured here (because Jill was hanging on tight))


(the sun came back out and we had some beautiful views)





Not knowing if we would pass much along the road, we were pleasantly surprised to see this restaurant about 60 km before Calcoene. They served us up a Brazilian feast!


(they also provided some shade to take care of some chain maintenance. Mud, slider gunk, oil, and a rock had gathered behind the front sprocket cover, causing a nasty racket now, and excessive abuse if left alone. So a good under the cover cleaning, chain check and lube and we were on our way.)

The road was paved for a stretch after the restaurant, but it was only paved in segments. The dirt segments were graded really well, so they were fast. Except for the last 15-20 km coming into Calcoene. Those were some nasty potholes.


(the road work was more obvious closer to Calcoene. Lots of partial bridges and road grading.)

We arrived at Calcoene in the early afternoon, but decided to stay put. The small, rural town has a nice feel to it. Lots of kids were out flying kites, some gave us funny looks, others wanted to talk. Outside of the pousada where we stayed a young guy on a bicycle was interested in us and our moto. He showed us where to find the pousada owner, and while we were talking to her he found a coke can to jam against his rear wheel so he could make motorcycle noises while he rode.

Attached to our pousada was a panaficadora who supplied us with all sorts of good bread based snacks – coconut bread, hot dogs wrapped in donut-like dough and served with mayonnaise (which may disgust some of you, but is really quite tasty. You are welcome to just take my word for it), and even normal bread, too. We had a relaxing evening walking around town a bit, planning an early departure to Macapá.


(the road to Macapá cut through savannah and was a good high-speed ride)




(we lucked out again and found a phenomenal lunch stop by the side of the road. You pay by weight. We each ate 3/4 kg of all sorts of good salads, meats, and beans for 10Rs each (that’s about 1.5 lbs of food for around US$5). The fresh salads with spices and seasonings that we haven’t seen in so long were a hit. And of course, the meat was great, too - we are in Brazil after all.)


(mostly, the road was in near perfect shape. Until this ugly set of potholes. It’s hard to make out in the picture, but the only building for miles around happens to be a tire repair shop (borracheria) and bar located directly in front of the worst pot holes. Prime location


(there were some tree farms along the way, not sure what they’re for. They do not serve very well as windbreaks.)
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:45 AM   #201
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the Southern Hemisphere

We have crossed into the Southern Hemisphere!!

We have also seen the Amazon River!!!!


(some big river)

Here's the story:

Macapá turned out to be a pleasant city and was the gateway for those 2 major milestones. The hotel that we had read about in someone else’s report, Hotel America Novo Mondo, served us well at 45 Rs a night (no rooms left at 40 Rs, their cheapest rate for a double, single rate is 20) with secure parking, free chilled drinking water, A/C, and a hearty breakfast of coffee, juice, bread, ham and cheese. The best part is that breakfast is served on a huge lazy susan on a big round table seating 12 (strangers, usually). The lazy susan battles that break out can be hysterically entertaining and make you want to linger around the breakfast table a little longer than usual.


(room at the Hotel America Novo Mondo)

Beyond that, the hotel is located very well for exploring Macapa.


(Jill keeping her balance at the middle of the world)


(Mike as NorthandSouth Man!)


(pretty darn close - Monumento do Marco Zero, Macapá)

We used the trip to the Equator monument as an excuse to go to the port in Santana and confirm a boat to Belem. We had already stopped in at the Secretary of Tourism office in Macapá to ask questions about the boats and the receptionist was kind enough to call a trusted travel agent to discuss options in the upcoming 2 days. We were then supposed to call to confirm our reservation, but a Spanish-Portuguese conversation on the phone did not sound like a challenge that Mike was up to, so off to Santana we went, with a little slip of paper in hand showing the tourist agency, contact name, and address. That apparently wasn’t enough.


(view of the Oliveira, at left, from the dock in Santana)

Those ferry salesmen at the docks in Santana are ferocious. I asked to speak with Marcio, who had been very helpful on the mutliple phone calls from the Tourism office. Everyone claimed that they didn’t know of him or his agency; one claimed that Marcio was his brother and that he could help me. I kept insisting on finding the agency, but finally went down to the dock with one of the salesmen to talk with the boat captain that was leaving the next day. While we had thought that the Oliveira was an option, that captain wanted nothing to do with transporting a motorcycle. He didn’t want anything to do with it the first time a salesman went with me to ask. And he definitely wasn’t interested the second time that I showed up with a different salesman (who promised me it would be fine). This salesman led me back to his office where we started talking prices for the Almirante del Mar, leaving Wednesday at 4pm.

That’s when Marcio found me. He came into the office, showed me his identification, and I was much happier to work with him than any of those other salesmen. He got us all set up on the Almirante del Mar at what seems to be pretty reasonable prices for the 24-40 hour ferry to Belem. If you are traveling through, get in touch with Marcio! He seemed to have the best rates - 100 Rs per person for hammock space (130 Rs through boat company day of departure) and 200 Rs for the bike.
Marcio's contact info:
Agencia de viagens Pará Turismo
9137-5633 / 8803-9894 / 8141-8982
office located next to the dock entrance, 1 building south on the same side as dock
Back in Macapá we had a full day to explore.


(Jill looking forward to her Brazilian complete)




(public library - home of free internet around the world. And books. I guess some libraries still have books too.)


(weird flying/crawling things are everywhere)


(some animals seem a little friendlier)


(the trapiche, or pier, at the renovated waterfront)


(a section of the waterfront restaurants. There were also many stands set up selling fresh coconut water for 5 Rs. Vodka or rum was available for another 2.50 Rs. A lot of vodka or rum.)


(fishies)


(Casa do Artesao had some really nice craft souvenirs. I hate to say it, but the quality far surpasses what's available in Suriname and the prices were still great)


(while most of the city was pleasant for walking, this street following the wastewater canal was not so much)



(Fortaleza de São José de Macapá)

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Old 07-17-2012, 11:47 AM   #202
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Acoss the mouth of the Amazon

We arrived in Santana a few hours before our scheduled 4pm departure, we even got there before the boat did.


(waiting to be loaded onto the Almirante del Mar)

The tickets we bought from Marcio a couple of days ago needed to be traded in to the actual boat company for our boarding documents. When the guy at the counter saw the bike, he balked at the 200Rs we had paid, stating that a bike like ours should be 600Rs. I started arguing against that real quick, but the helper from Marcio's company and 2 of the young women taking tickets told me not to worry. the helper then went down to talk to the captain. He got it worked out so the bike was considered 1 m of freight, costing 200Rs, as agreed. Then we just kept waiting for our chance to load.


(...closer...)


(after 1-2 hours of pulling cargo out from every nook and cranny on that boat, we finally rolled the TA right onto the deck, squeezing her past the water fountain, and lashed her to a poll on the aft deck. 3 other Honda 125/250's made the journey too. Thankfully, we didn't have to try to get the bike down into the cargo hold. That would not be fun, but some others have had to do it. We'll see what happens on future boats...)

In the meantime, we had already loaded all of our luggage and tied up our hammock to claim space. Since this boat was a "short" one - it only takes about 28 hours to go directly across the mouth of the Amazon - we decided to just get hammock space instead of a private cabin to store all of our stuff. And surprisingly, when it's not on the bike (and we're not wearing the bulky riding gear) we have a ton of stuff.


(Jill getting comfy in our hammock. While we do have a double hammock, it does not provide for the best night's sleep when there are actually 2 people in it)


(leaving Santana)


(sunset over Santana/Macapa)


(sunrise over the Amazon from our hammock)


(there were a lot of small houses along the banks, all with dugout canoes paddling towards our boat...)


(...some passengers throw care packages of food and clothes to the families along the way...)


(...going for the pick up)

We arrived in Belem in the evening, around 8 or 9pm. Our boat docked beside another river boat, meaning that we had to pass through it to get onto land. That was fine for us with the luggage, but a nightmare for the bike. The closer boat sat really low in the water, so the ramp up to the dock was fairly steep. Worse yet, it came too close to the ceiling of the lower deck for the TA to pass through. So we rearranged the huge plank a bit and gave it a shot. It was unsettling. I was on a separate walkway to the left, pushing on the handlebars while trying not to push the walkway sideways. We had to dip the motorcycle low to each side to get the mirrors through. And the guy in the back was not pushing up that incline like he should have been so it came down to whatever I could do on the bars (which was not enough from that angle) and a boat hand pulling the forks from the front. That guy most certainly saved the day.


(what you can't see here is how much fun Mike and 3 other Brazilians are having while unloading the TA)

We tried to get out of the dock neighborhood but meandered our way through some seedy streets until we found a major avenue. Then we were on our way to Jill's family's place. Us, and a few thousand of our closest friends apparently. Traffic was intense. Buses were all over the place, swerving quicker and more violently than most we've seen. Tons of small motos, taxis with no headlights, you name it. And it was dark and rainy. Even though we try to avoid it, we still get stuck traveling at some inopportune times. At least we didn't have far to go. Even so, the 14 km took us almost 2 hours. Part of that was getting lost, but not much. And once we did arrive at where we thought we were supposed to go, there was some confusion because we were staying with Jill's uncle at a different address. But the confusion settled out after a bit of time and we were happy to be in Belem with family.
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:49 AM   #203
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Family Time in Belem

Since we were in northern Brazil anyway, we definitely wanted to make it over to Belem. Jill’s great uncle was a missionary there for a long time and when Jill was young he brought several Brazilians to America with him. One, Mada, ended up marrying Jill's uncle John and has been a big part of our family ever since. They have two kids and Mada has lived in Missouri for the past 25 years or so. All of Mada’s family, including her mother and 5 siblings, still live in the Belem area. Jill visited Mada’s family in 2006. She remembers having a really good time there, going site seeing every day, drinking lots of beers on the beach, and eating lots of good food.

While Jill’s strongest memories from her first trip were going on fun excursions with her cousin and a neighbor that spoke good English, the family’s strongest memories of her were that she didn’t understand anything. Which is true. She did not understand any Portuguese or Spanish when she was there, which is kind of important when communicating in Brazil. Fortunately this time Jill’s Spanish was a little better and Mike was able to communicate pretty well with the family.

We ended up staying in Belem for about three days. Most of our time was spent hanging out with the family. On one of the days, Katrina’s father in law took us for a tour of the city. We checked out a large piece of downtown, including the renovated docks, Estacao dos Docas


(at the docks)


(downtown Belem seen from the docks)


(these docks are still used)


(there are a ton of churches in Belem. This happens to be a nice big one)


(street view in Belem)

And we spent some time walking at the mangrove of the egrets (Mangal das Garcas)




(we think these may be egrets)


(we are pretty sure these are not egrets)


(this one is showing off its legs)


(a rare blue macaw)

And Katrina’s new house on the beach in Outeiro would be an ideal place to spend weekends. That's why they spend most of their weekends there.


(mostly open air)


(and an incredible view)

The local feira provided us a chance to do some shopping - replacement jeans for Jill and replacement sandals for Mike.




(apparently this is a necessary sign in these fitting rooms)


(back in our neighborhood in Belem)

We really had a good time in Belem and are very thankful to Mada’s mom, sister Katrina, and brother David and his family for taking such good care of us. They welcomed us into their houses, fed us extremely well, and were incredibly kind to us.


(Us, Juliana, Leila, and David in Belem)

We also enjoyed hanging out with David’s neighbors, who showed up at just the right moment for a bus ride, welcomed us into their house, showed us lots of good pictures, and offered us an impromptu flute concert


(Rocha, Gabriel, Ezequiel, Christina and us)

Strangely, it took us longer to leave the gas station down the street than it did for us to say goodbye to our hosts. Things just kept popping up. First we asked for some old oil containers to be able to carry extra gas. The attendant gave us 2 out of the 3 that he keeps in the trunk of his car. Then people kept coming up to talk to us. Some locals. One guy who moved from Rio, driving to Belem on his 125. And a couple who were gassing up their BMW caught up with us right as we were leaving. It turns out he edits a Moto Adventure magazine in Sao Paolo. They were nice and offered us any help if we were to need it while in Brazil. This Brazilian hospitality is incredible, even from strangers!


(Us with the moto adventurers from Sao Paolo)
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:51 AM   #204
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Making a loop

Leaving Belem we were on our way to Marabá, destination Manaus (eventually).


(tons of random churches, not just in Belem, but outside of it, too)


(a common roadside view)


(outside of Jurunda, just north of Marabá. We stayed in a pousada there for one night, covering the last 100 km to Maraba the next day)



(on the road to Marabá, there were a few of these encampments, which were extremely impoverished. These may have even been set up by the government, but that´s just a guess based on some flags and one sign that we saw.)

Marabá is a decent size town with a hotel district surrounding the bus terminal. The hotels range in quality from rather nice to supremely crappy, but all seemed to be priced about the same at around 40-50 Rs, so we went with a decent option with the nicest staff.



The first night in town, Mike managed to kick a paving stone while walking in the street. His big toe (link to picture HERE) was hurting bad enough that jamming it into a boot did not sound pleasant, so we got to enjoy a few more days in Marabá.

One of the nights, we met up with Marcel through Couchsurfing. He picked us up for dinner and drinks with some friends. Little did we know that the dinner he invited us to was supposed to be a date. He insisted it was fine, but I'm not so sure the girl agrees. Aside from that little bit of awkwardness, the pizza was fantastic! We tried shrimp and "Jambú", which is a green vegetable, with almost a cooked spinach consistency, that numbs your mouth. It was strange but quite good.


(the pizza restaurant we ate at was nice. It happened to be located up some stairs at the back of a big supermarket. Even so, it had a live band playing some good music (similar sound to Jack Johnson) and formal waitstaff. Most importantly, the pizza was delicious.)



(after dinner we joined Marcel for some drinks with friends. We didn't leave the following day, either. I'm not sure if it was entirely the toe's fault that day...)

After that one last day of rest, we were ready to set out across the Transamazónica.


(first sign for the Transamazónica highway, BR230)
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Old 07-17-2012, 11:56 AM   #205
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Transamazónica - Part I

Day 1 - Marabá to Novo Repartamiento




The first day was dusty and heavily trafficked by vehicles at the extremes of size - big, heavy trucks and small, nimble bikes. we were caught in the dust in between.













(all of the small towns along the way felt safe. However, while the unloaded bike was parked out front of this hotel in Novo Repartamiento we came outside to find a mototaxista unscrewing the cap of our (empty) tool tube. I called him out on it in front of a few of his buddies, but of course he kept saying that he didn't understand a word I said. I know that me yelling in Spanish wasn't going to get each word across to him, but i'm pretty sure he got the point. Him and his buddies went back to sit down and we tried to figure out how to get the bike parked safely out back. Nothing else happened, so it was really no big deal, but it still left a bad taste in our mouth for this otherwise quiet little town.)
Day 2 - Novo Repartamiento to Altamira


This was another dusty day of driving, that to our surprise included random bursts of asphalt. Whether dirt or paved, the road was in decent shape.













The ferry took us across the Rio Xingu, which has been in the news a lot lately as it is going to be blocked by the Belo Monte dam, a huge hydroelectic project that began planning stages in 1975. It has come under fire lately because of the massive environmental damage that will be caused - some accounts place the environmental damage from equivalent energy production by fuel-burning generators as less - as well as the social implications. It is estimated that a few thousand indigenous people would be displaced by the reservoir. Many indigenous groups have been protesting the dam construction, particularly now in the week befoe the Rio+20 conference. It will be interesting to see how the government handles this.

The road was paved from the Rio Xingu to town, and even 35km west of town, too. That dam construction is bringing about changes. And having other impacts as well. Altamira turned out to be expensive. We asked in all the hotels we could find and the cheapest room was 100 Rs. Finally we found some crappy dormitorios near the bus terminal that were 30Rs per person, 50 Rs for shared bed. Parking was safe and we met some nice people there, one of which we had dinner with at Beto's burger stand across the street.

Also, this was the first time when someone admiring the Tansalp asked why we would take such a heavy bike on this trip. The usual conversation is the oppositie of that - "oh, with that big of a bike, you will be at (next town) in 2 hours." Then, 5 hours later we get there. (I can't imagine what kind of time estimates someone riding a 1200gs would get.)

Day 3 - Altamira to Placas

On this stretch there was basically small towns every 50-100 km. Most of the road was in good shape and traffic was definitely lighter on this side of Altamira.











We chose to stay in Placas, which was a nice little town that had everything we needed. It was full of some really nice people too.



(hotel in Placas. 40 Rs for a good room with air, private bath, and breakfast. The owners were really nice and sat around drinking mate most of the day, which is a plus in our book)

Day 4 - Placas to Santarem

Our plan was to keep driving to Manaus, but we took a detour to Santarem to get new tires. Santarem was also going to be a place to take a rest day or two after a few long days of riding.



(the 3 most common sights along this stretch - fazendas (cattle ranches), borracherias (tire repair shops), and pool tables. The smallest, most run down looking bars in the middle of nowhere all manage to have a pool table on their porch.)

Another common sight was bridges. This area of the world obviously has a lot of water in it, some in big rivers, others smaller creeks.



(all of the bridges were in decent shape, most having clearly been rebuilt sometime recently)



(some bridges may be even nicer in the future)







The road was paved going into Santarem, after about 45km of dirt. It seems like there may be more asphalt soon, as the dirt is being worked by man and machine in camoflauge.






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Old 07-17-2012, 11:58 AM   #206
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Santarém Detour

Immediately upon entering Santarém, we happened across a large moto shop that turned out to be fantastic in getting us set up with some new rubber. That afternoon they didn't have the tires at the store, but they were willing to get them in by closing (6pm) or have them first thing in the morning. Since it was already 4, we decided to find a hotel, unpack, and get showered, putting the tires off until the next morning. Asking about a hotel led the manager to send an employee out on his own moto to lead us to some hotels. The first one was expensive (80 Rs) and the guy didn't have any problem showing us another. The next one seemed fine at 60, and we really didn't want to drag this poor guy through our cheapskate search pattern, so we took it. Turns out the part of town with the hotel lost power that night, so no A/C after all. Not even a fan without power. Hot.

The next morning the tires were waiting for us at the shop. They were both Rinaldi tires which caused some hesitation since I don't know the brand, but the guys behind the counter understood the concern, knew what we were looking for, and seemed honest in their approval of this tire. Not only were the shop guys helpful, but they were super curious about us and our trip. One of them, Dariosan, had even taken the time to research Colorado, showing me pictures from the internet of our flag, seal, sports team logos, mountains, mines, towns, etc. It was cool. Eventually, we had the neighboring borracheria throw the new rubber on (8 Rs total), went back to the hotel to pack up (and ask for a discount for an extremely uncomfortable night at a reasonably high rate) and head out to Alter do Chao for a relaxing day on the beach.

While our seasonal timing is perfect for riding this stretch, we are still close enough to rainy season that the beach at Alter do chao was literally non-existent.



In fact, there is an island that you can usually walk across to in the afternoons, or take a short boat taxi ride to, but because of all the water we did not have a chance to.





Even without the beach, Alter do Chao was a good full day of rest. And a good chance to fix a front flat. With the patch in place and the tire bead seated correctly (thanks to a quick stop at the ever-present borraceria to overcome my hand pump deficiencies) we moved back towards Santarém with 3 goals: talk to the hotel manager about that discount (they told us to come back), get money from an ATM before leaving the big city, and talk to the moto shop about a tread block that had aleady torn off the front tire.

At the hotel, we got 10Rs back. The guy wasn't happy about it, but we still feel that even 50 Rs is a lot to pay for a very dark room with no ventilation, so we got over it pretty quick. Pulling out onto the street it was obvious that the front tire was flat again. Since we were only 3 blocks from the sister shop of where we bought the tire, now was as good a time as any to go talk to them about that defect.



Without a hassle, the shop took the tire back and offered me the choice of a direct replacement or an upgrade to a Metzeler for the difference in cost. I decided to upgrade, which made this a very expensive front tire (250 Rs), but the cost seemed worth it. If you are in need of any moto help in Santarém, check out this shop:

Mega Motos
Av. Curua-Una, 2430 - COHAB
(93) 3522-8888
GPS - S 02deg 26.585min W 54deg 42.217min

or, the sister shop:

Moto Sport
Av. Borges Leal, 3557 Caranazal
(93) 3523-5396 / 3522-4737

After a stop at a bank and a food stand that gave us a chance to let the downpour mostly pass, we were backtracking towards Ruropolis. It had rained just enough to make the dirt very slick, and we realized just how difficult these roads would be in the rainy season. Fortunately for us, the rain had not reached a majority of the road, so we only had to deal with the muddy conditions for a few kilometers.
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:00 PM   #207
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Transamazónica - Part II

Day 5 (not including 3 day Santarém detour) - Ruropolis to Parque Nacional do Amazónia

Staying in Ruropolis was actually one of our favorite nights along this route. The small town had a nice feel to it; we received a warm welcome from everyone we met, including a kiss on the boob for Jill from the local crazy woman. That night we walked down to the main plaza and got to watch some court soccer while we ate a good burger from a stand (which even took credit cards!). On the way back to the hotel, we saw a group of high school aged kids who set up their own dance in the park. The sense of community reminded us of the midwest a little bit.

The road was in pretty good shape and we got to Itaituba, the next town 145 kms away, pretty quickly.



(that early morning fog was back, which was horrible for visability, but good for keeping the heat away...at least until a little later in the morning)



(Along the entire route, there have been fazendas, or cattle ranches, when there is little else. This stretch was no exception, we were definitely still in cattle county.)



(We had to take another ferry to get into Itaituba. A couple of the boats at port with us were transporting their precious cattle across the river and onto trucks for slaughter.)





(Itaituba did not impress us too much, but it definitely was a large-ish town where you would be able to find anything you need.)



(We only needed the town for some lunch, gas and water, which we were able to get all in one place.)

We knew that the next town, Jacaréacanga, was about 400 kms away, and we didn't really know what to expect. We traveled along the Tapajos River for awhile.



And then we hit signs for the Amazon National Park.







Then the sky got much, much darker



And we got rained on for awhile



Which was the last thing we wanted after seeing how slick the road can get. Luckily for us, after getting some heavy rain it let up some, so the road conditions did not change too much.

By this point, it was getting to be later in the afternoon, and since we were still in the National Park, for the first time on this stretch, there were no fazendas to be found. We were lucky enough to find a pull off where it looked like constuction crews had parked their trucks. It was even off the road several hundred feet and hidden pretty well. So, stealth camping in the Amazon National Park it was. We tried not to worry too much about the huge animal track we saw on the path leading to our camping spot.



And the spot was great, except for the fact that within minutes of getting there and getting our gear off, we were swarmed by what must have been sweat bees, because they loved our gear, especially Mike's. Fortunately, they didn't sting. The stinging was left for these other vicious gnat-like blood suckers that especially liked Jill.



It was pretty darn hot in the tent at first, but the night ended up being pretty nice, with our only disturbance being calls from howler monkeys - closer than I have ever heard - that carried on though most of the early morning.
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:01 PM   #208
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Transamazónica - Part III

Day 6 - Parque Nacional do Amazónia to Jacaréacanga

After a long travel day and no shower, we were hoping to get to the next town, Jacaré, in order to clean up a little bit. But, it was about 300 kms from where we camped, and with our average rate of about an hour and a half to cover 50 kms (30 miles) on the Transamazónica, we were looking at another long day. The stretch from Itaituba to Jacaré turned out to be the best maintained and quickest moving section for us.







(While we were in the Amazon National Park, the forest was much more lush than we had seen yet.)



(Once we were out of the park, burned trees and cattle land made their appearance again.)



(Although we didn't see a whole lot of traffic, when we did it was generally moving way too fast and none of the trucks wanted to budge an inch off the one track road, so we had to make sure to get over for them. We didn't really enjoy this game of chicken, but we did have to play. This truck looks like it lost it's game of chicken with the bridge.)



(This section was much more secluded than what we had seen, but there were still services, including a hotel and restaurant with gas at 170 kms from Itaituba, this restaurant where we ate lunch, which also had gas, that was 250 kms from town, and another gas station at 270 kms. Our stop had a little bit of eveything you could need, including an air strip where an airplane landed to drop off someone. We saw another air strip on this stretch as well. Not sure what these planes are transporting, but we would guess that a majority of them are not very legal.)

We managed to get to Jacaré in the late afternoon - the turnoff is a little tricky to see, so be sure to be on the lookout for it (although it looked like they were starting to work on that turn, so it may be easier to spot in the future). Surpisingly, the first two hotels we tried were full, so we went into the center of town and found something, although a little more expensive (at 50 Rs) than we expected from a small town in the middle on nowhere. The town is pretty small, with a lot more indigenous people than we had seen in other towns. Overall, we enjoyed the town, but went to bed pretty early to try to recover a bit.


Day 7 - Jacaréacanga to Apui









(Not too far from Jacaré, we officially entered into the state of Amazonas)



(the cows took some time out of their busy day to check us out)



(Around lunchtime we had another ferry crossing. The ferry was across the river, but we didn't have to wait long for them to come pick us up)



(luckily there was a restaurant waiting for us across the river)



(there was also a town of about 300 people)

We arrived in Apui with enough time to walk around town a bit.



(these trash cans were all over town and made of old tires. We thought they were pretty cool.)



(we were happy to eat here, although we had burgers instead of a hot dog)



(our hotel was a good deal at 28 R for an air conditioned room with a bathroom, that was also right across the street from the bus station)
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Old 07-17-2012, 12:03 PM   #209
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Transamazónica - Part IV

Day 8 - Apui to Km 180

Our goal for the day was to travel the 220 kms to the next town known as Km 180, because it is 180 kms from Humaita. Road conditions got a bit worse as it seemed like either maintenance had not made it this far yet after rainy season, or maybe it is just less maintained than the other stretches that we had seen on the Transamazónica.



(this was the worst bridge we crossed on the Transamazonica. Not only was there a plank to walk, but the road leading to the plank was in pretty bad shape too.)



(thoughout our trip, the rivers were stunning)



(another ferry crossing, conveniently at lunch again)



(this butterfly stopped in to land on our helmets several times before taking off)



(after crossing the river we stopped in at this place for lunch. It was a weird lunch for us. We will just say it reminded us a little of Deliverance. We were glad we weren't staying there for the night. Plus, the blood sucking gnats were there with a vengence.)



(the road was pretty washed out in sections)



(we finally got to Km 180. Our biggest difficulty was finding a hotel that didn't cost 80 R. We finally found this one for 30 R. There were a lot of locals hanging out there, with lots of interest in the bike.)




(Km 180 was another nice little small town on the Transamazonica)

Day 9 - Km 180 to Humaita

We were starting to get pretty exhausted from our long days of traveling this dirty beast, so we were looking forward to a shorter day to get us to Humaita, which is a larger town, where we would rest for a couple of days before deciding if we would drive to Manaus, or catch a boat. Despite having a shorter distance to cover, we still had a long day because the road was by far in the worst condition we saw on the Transamazónica. It was 180 kms of bumps.



(but we did get another glimpse of the Amazon River)



(lots of truck tracks in the road)



(this stretch also had a lot of fazendas and other property for sale)




(lots and lots of bumps)



(one more ferry to cross to get into the town of Humaita)



(We were hoping for a comfortable, cheap spot to rest for a couple of days. We found it with this pousada. It was close to downtown, and large enough for us to spread out and enjoy our time. We had a much needed break, mainly watching a lot of the Wire, and eating lots of Brazilian completes.)

After 2 full days of rest, we were ready to attempt to make it to Manaus. The road, BR-319, is supposed to be even less maintained, more secluded with less services and harder to travel than the Transamazónica, but it seemed like a lot of vehicles are doing the trip right now, so we thought we would give it a shot.



(to prepare for the trip to Manaus, we brought 4 days worth of food, an extra 24 liters of gas, and 8 liters of water and a water filter. We were as ready as we were going to be.)

Less than 20 kms outside of town, the bike stopped running. We flagged down two trucks coming from Manaus. They were nice enough to give us a lift, free of charge
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csustewy screwed with this post 07-29-2012 at 02:14 PM Reason: we dropped Day 9 accidentally. Now it's there
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Old 07-19-2012, 10:17 AM   #210
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Thanks for the detailed posts...
They will be very useful as I plan to ride the same route sometime next year.

How come you are going to Manaus? Aren't you continuing your trip south?
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