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Monthly Archives: May 2012
Since the latest road (Trans Amazonia) built by last military regime who didn’t realcare what would be the environmental effect, is impossible to use for almost ¾ of the year, the only connection of between Amazon state, Randonia, Acre and neighbor countries is the navigable Madeira River. I book my ticket in advance but there is nothing like advance down here, I showed up to the boat office to be told ‘don’t worry the boat isn’t leaving today may be tomorrow but if you want to sleep in you’re welcome ‘ . During this waiting time the boat is loaded with all sort of fresh fruits, beans and empty crates of beer. Some of the fruits are natural growing in the jungle so they have to travel by mad road to reach the port.
I board banana boat at 12hrs and according to the ticket it was due to leave 13hrs but the engine was turned on at 19hrs, good thing there is no one was stressing about time. I took a tour around the wooden boat; the bottom deck it is biggest one with four divisions, first contain engine and the rest full of fruits and beans. The second deck is toilets, small kitchen, captain cabin and big empty space where the passages have to hang their hammock which is simply your seat and your bed. The top deck it has small cabin for bar and hug space to hang out.
Cargo is about 75% of the boat’s load. In the ticket they said they your fair it include breakfast, lunch and dinner, for me that was big joke. In the first evening there were small portion of noodle soup, which was served without any announcement and it was for brief moment, I thought it wasn’t mean to be for all. I was hungry, I wish to light my stove and cook instead I had a beer and sleep. Next morning the breakfast wasn’t any where a relive, it was a small cup of sweet coffee and 3 pieces of salt crackers. For the hungry cyclist this is more than a joke, I decide to light my stove and made my daily morning starter oats meal. This wasn’t ease as the boat is full of curious kids running around, want to touch and test everything.
Lunch come by surprise; rice, beans, spaghetti and beef which wasn’t good stood or something like that. The portion is also small, thanks for the guys who had pit to poor cyclist they asked chief to add a bit more for me so I end up having two plates. Dinner was same meal with chicken sauce.
The boat is full of all sorts of noise and smell. Children crying and screaming, dunkers shouting, guys playing guitar, thanks to Chinese several people have their own outlet small speakers in their hammock while the bar blaring loud music at least 15hrs a day. Though all these swallowed by the roar of the boat engine.
The most interesting part of Banana boat is the sailing, the scenery is fantastic. The river is immense and now in the rain season it said to be higher. The yellowish wide and relatively flat river curve it way through the dense jungle. Here and there are same river communities of one to 3 floating houses most are over flooded now. The most wonderful thing is how this pure green jungle stretch out just as fare as you can see, everything seem to be so perfect and total untouched, for duration of the trip I never get tired of lying back and watch it with main question ‘how long will this leave before our ignorance and greed destroy it?’ The most breathtaking moment of this river sailing is sun set and sun rise, look at this colorful sky reflecting the water in the wide but getting narrow as it goes far, it real calming and leave you relaxed. We had two night of clear sky; the milk way is so visible, Venus is in the horizon in the moon less night it looks like small moon. I was luck to see Scorpion and Libra constellation by necked eyes. There are several tributes which may confuse as Main River so the captains require certain amount of experience.
Most of the passengers are resident of Porto Velho/Manaus there were few hippies/gypsy from Uruguay and Colombia, they set up their shop of artisans in the boat. It seems like the boat ownership it sort of family and they are all here. There were bunch of people who seemed to be drunk or sort of high all the time, also there are ladies roaming around they actual come to ask me how my saddle feels like, I had to pretend I don’t real understand what they said so they had to try it themselves. Sex tourism is quite high in Brazil. In the last evening the space seem to be too small, guys almost break into fighting for the complain of loud music while the engine it was more loud.
At 6am the morning of Saturday the boat slowly start to approach Manaus city, the sky scrapers rising in the forest. The port is more organized but not out of pick pocket as one of the passage end up losing his wallet with 500 Reals. In the arrive there are bunch of small motor boat coming to the boat with guys shouting asking for the passages going to the next destination. From here I’m taking another boat to Tibatinga in the boarder of Peru and Colombia.
Before I enter Brazil my understand about the country was simple; fast developing country, facing lot of environmental challenge due to its position in Amazon basin and it industrial development and last but not on the list ‘the favelas’.
Guapore river it a physical border between Bolivia and Brazil, unlikely African border which real doesn’t mean much or show significant changes, this make lots of changes. First the language from Spanish (Castillano) to Portuguese (Brazilian).Second the currency and price while Bolivia it one of the cheap country in South America Brazil is one of the most expensive in South America. Even the faces changed.
I had good time at Curia in Guajara Marin, hang out at French missionaries, thanks to my friend Reg and Jac. Thanks to amigo de cyclist and Bantu students of Guajara Marin, all made my time in this small river town a memorable. I left Guajara cycling towards Porto Velho, the cycling in this day was good one; relatively flat road, no wind but hot and humid. In the mid day I stop for cocking in the farm house with lonely old man who keeps me busy with explanations of evangelical session on Tv.
There are few villages on the way at about 30 to 40 km, the people are so friendly wherever I ask for water I got ice cold water. The challenge of the day came when I have to find place for camp, alongside the road the forest have been cleared for farms just few km then the jungle continua. To keep the livestock out the road all the farm are fenced. I don’t have problem with Portuguese since it very close to castellan but I’m still straggling to switch to Portuguese ascent and grammar which make huge different. In this evening I end up knock in five different farms to find camping space at last one. Every house goes with it story some communication sucks, some couldn’t make up let this strange camp in their back yard, in two houses the husbands were not at home so the wives couldn’t make decision. At last I camped in front of pond which means more mosquitos, the man who lived with a wife and two doughtier he dint talk much but just simply point me to the space. He visited me later with bottle of ice cold water, bow of soup and invitation for soup, in the morning he come again with cup of coffee and bread with a story that his grandparent also were African. Before I leave I went to the house to say thanks and bye I was welcomed with the Parrot yelling something I guess ask who I was, the poor creature keep on screaming ciao as I pedal off.
From the pot hall road I join the good road coming from Rio Branco and Acre but still had relatively low traffic with big shoulder. The jungle paved road goes through several bridges with rivers like lakes. Soon after lunch the cloud which was moved with wind to several direction final start to pour. Surprise instead of putting on my rain gears I enjoy the shower; it was a hot day and rain itself hot. I realized the rain it was strong when the road turn to a river bring the logs, branches and what not. As I cycle in this basin I saw may alligator sun basking in the river banks or dam snakes are also common here. When the water slow down I pass several snakes killed with vehicles, I wonder what would happen if one rolled in my spokes while I was pedaling! The worse thing about cycling in this river road is when the huge tracks passed; they simply spread mad water to you and no way to avoid.
Hydro power project…what is the future of Amazon.
At the evening I arrive at Nova Mutum Parana, as the name suggest (nova-new) it is brand new village relocated from the jungle to give chance for massive hydro power dam. I have heard lots concerning this kind of project in the Amazon basin so I was curious to here from the affected communities and see. The hydro power in Parana, it will be among the largest in the world. It an investments of Swiss firm carried on by Belgium company (So we don’t have to think it only Brazilian government are responsible for the future of amazon).
In this village I had invitation from Nicholas who I meet in the worm shower (www.wormshower.com). He is very sanative life and cycling enthusiastic and intelligent person. He is one of the engineers in the hydro power project; later on we had very interesting conversation regarding the hydro power project, Brazil development and so on. When I arrive in this village I had to call him but since I don’t have sim card I had to find someone to help me. I pass at one of the resto-bar and some guys call me so I ask them for help. Nicholas was on his way back about 100 km driving back from Sunday ride. Brazilians are very open and social; as I was waiting for my host to arrive they install me to their part, huge cold beer…what an evening!!! These were also work in the hydro power dam, they told me a lot about the project, and they said few months ago it was the hydro power construction with high number of employee in the world. For all of the information they gave me they were very defensive any ways they were drunk a bit.
Nicholas he was less defensive, he said that hydro power had less environment impact after construction. The dam will change the eco system of the river and also it doesn’t consume huge part of the forest compare to illegal tree cutting. We both agree that such kind of project has more impact on local communities for instance Mutum Parana villagers were located to this new place compensated with new and sort of modem houses. These houses are built together in the sort of quarters, creating a urban life. These communities are forced to adapt the life which they never lived before.
There are hundreds hydro power projects in Brazil, most of these are private firm some foreign investments which do business of selling energy though still Brazil which has second largest general motor firm has to import energy from other countries.
Another big challenge Amazon face is deforestation from both illegal and legal. It is difficult to reforest most part of this jungle particular due to administration. Also Amazon soil it not such fertile but with the complex natural system it manage to survive, most of the trees takes decades to reach mature so for this reason it not ease to plant native trees. In the several farm houses they showed me the tree they try to plant but couldn’t work out so in some case they had to put industrial fertile.
Nava Mutum Parana home stay filled me with love and energy, thanks to Lili, Nicholas and Francisco. Accompanied with a family I cycled out of small town towards the capital of Randonia state Porto Velho. In this day 110 km seem to be like 50 km, it was cloud day unlikely other hot days the weather made this ride to be more ease. I had more long time for lunch after had superheating and can fish I brew coffee (apparently I’m getting addicted to good Brazilian coffee) then read two page of my boring book.
At 3 I was in the Porto Velho, this is a port city; from here to Guajara Marin the river isn’t navigable. The port is main link to another big city of Amazon state, Manaus. The road about 600km link these two city is only passable for about 3 months of the year.
In Porto Velho I had also host form Couch Surfing (www.couchsurfing.com) , Fernando my host offer more than couch, he offer a house! He loves people and enjoying cycling. I had a chance to do short presentation in Rotary Club of Rio Madeira which led to the connection of interview with local radio station. I’m now waiting for the boat to sail down the river to Manaus, the cargo and passenger boat it planned to sail on Tuesday hope the it will leave because doesn’t look like there is real schedule.