24 January 2012

CYCLING BRAZIL (6) - Manaus to Venezuela

9 January - Manaus – roadside restaurant - 64 km

It was time to head for the border. I said goodbye to Amanda (who was catching her flight the following day) and Ernest and I headed out of Manaus. We had a rather slow start as, 4 km out of town, Ernest’s chain broke. Not much later heavy storm clouds came over, and I must admit I did not like the lightning hitting the overhead wires. Way too close for comfort! Soon it started to bucket down, so we took shelter for about 10 minutes till it was all over.

We continued north through a forest on a rather hilly road - at least it was scenic, albeit a bit hot! When the rain set in again we found a roadside restaurant with an old chicken shed next to it, and thought it a good place to camp. The owners didn’t mind and even showed us to the shower and toilets. Ernest quickly swept out the chicken shed and we were set for the night. Seeing that we were next to a restaurant, we also ate there as they had a buffet for a reasonable price.

10 January - Roadside restaurant - Presidente Fiqueiredo - 67 km
After some coffee, we left our chicken shed and what a stunning road it was! We were in the company of macaws, parrots, love birds and bright blue butterflies as we climbed hill after hill. We cycled past dense forests and across countless rivers. The rivers and ponds along the way seemed as if they had been undisturbed for centuries. We were lucky to have cloud cover and a slight drizzle all day long. Around Presidente Fiqueiredo, there were quite a few waterfalls with lovely picnic areas, a little too organised for wild camping. In Presidente Figueiredo we found a room for the night.

11 January - Presidente Figueiredo – Da Tia Restaurant (128 km) - 23 km
We cycled the short but hilly section to Da Tia Restaurant, where Ernest had camped on his way to Manaus. The owner (Antonio) was very friendly and had no problem with us camping next to the restaurant under the gazebo again. We got there quite early so Ernest had time to service his bike and fix all the odd bits that needed fixing. It was a fantastic spot and a short walk through his garden revealed loads to eat, including mangoes, avocado pears and bananas.

We had a few beers and ate at the restaurant before retiring. The following morning we woke to the sound of birds and were offered free breakfast by Antonio.

12 January - Roadside restaurant – petrol station - 76 km
It was another hilly section of road but again we had some cloud cover, which made it more bearable. The road was incredibly scenic and I was happy that I had made the decision to cycle to the border instead of taking the bus. I’ll deal with the visa problem at a later stage...

We continued on until we reached a petrol station that Ernest had spotted on his way to Manuas. It was another good camping place as they had a gazebo, showers and toilets. Ernest cooked a mean pasta, in anticipation of our long ride the following day.

13 January - Petrol station – Vila Jundia - 133 km
After about 6 km we entered a reserve for the Waimiri indigenous people. The reserved stretches for 120 km and it is prohibited to even stop or take photos in the reserve, let alone camp. It was a stunning road through virgin forest. It was also a rather long day on the road with no villages or roadside restaurants where we could fill up with water.

So I was happy to reach the end of the reserve and see a road sign indicating 10 km to Vila Jundia. It had been a long, hilly and hot day on the road and we made it out the park just as the sun started setting. In our process of looking for a camping spot we spotted a pousada with tiny colourful bungalows. Man, was I happy! It was not only cheap, but came with hot water and an air con.

Ernest went off to the supermarket and I could not wait to drag my body into the shower! Ernest once again conjured up a pasta dish to die for, and by 22h00 I was in bed.

14 January - Vila Jundia – Nova Colina - 98 km
For breakfast we ate our leftover pasta on nice fresh rolls from the bakery. Both the road and the forest flattened out a bit, but we found ourselves cycling into a head wind. The road also deteriorated and became rather muddy and potholely. They were busy building a new road so at least we had sections of nice smooth paved road.

Shortly after we left, we crossed the equator and had to stop for some photos; it wasn’t the first time we had crossed this line and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

On reaching Nova Colina, we found a bigger village than expected. We found a “hotel”, two supermercados and two bakeries! Ernest nevertheless wanted to camp behind the church where there is a shelter, but I headed straight for the “hotel”!

15 January - Nova Colina – Rorainopolis - 45 km
It was a short ride on a rather poor road to Rorainopolis. It was very dusty, hilly and into the wind so I was happy to reach the end of the ride. We found a room, did some laundry and I tried to do some internet, but the connection was so poor that it was too frustrating so I gave up.

16 January - Rorainopolis – Nova Paraiso - 36 km
From Rorainopolis we cycled 36 km to the tiny settlement of Nova Paraiso. There is really nothing there but neither Ernest nor I were feeling very well, so we made it a short day. We probably would not have stayed there if we hadn’t seen a small pousada hidden behind the petrol station. It was hardly a “new paradise” but we chilled out for the rest of the day.

17 January - Nova Paraiso – Caracarai - 127 km
It was a long day of cycling to Caracarai; fortunately it was a fairly easy road. There was hardly anything along the road, just some road works and a few roadside stalls where we could fill up with water. We pushed on to Caracarai where we found a room for the night. Ernest (as usual) went to the supermarket and got ingredients for a potato salad.

18 January - Caracarai – Mucajai - 87 km
The thick forest slowly made way for cattle ranches and there were plenty of cattle along the way. Fortunately we had cloud cover again, which made life a lot more bearable. Mucajai is a small village but we found a nice room and I even picked up a cellphone connection. I spent most of the evening uploading photos and playing on the internet.

19-21 January - Mucajai – Boa Vista - 63 km
I was looking forward to getting to Boa Vista and enjoying a day of leisure. It was going to be a short day so we were slow in packing up. Since the forest had disappeared, it became more windy and we cycled into the wind all day. Once we reached Boa Vista we cycled around looking for a cheap room, which we found around the bus station. It is a bit of a strange town as the centre was quite dead and the action seemed to be happening more around the bus station and outlying areas.

I thought I would be able to sort out my expired visa in Boa Vista, but after taking a taxi all over town we were still unable to find the right office. I gave up and did some laundry instead.

22 January - Boa Vista – Rosa de Saron - 106 km
It was not a bad day on the road at all. It was cloudy with a slight drizzle and the wind was coming at us diagonally from behind. We stopped a few times to fill up with water or have a cold drink.

Late afternoon we spotted a good campsite, next to a restaurant and under cover. The spot was in a half-completed building, which made a perfect campsite for the night. It was a busy little spot with busses and taxis stopping for a snack break, before continuing on their journey.

23 January - Rosa de Saron – Indiu Village - 92 km
It was a difficult day on the road. It was not only boiling hot but the road also became quite mountainous. We climbed hill after hill in stifling heat; at one stage I thought I was going to pass out as I was starting to see black and yellow spots! The road was very exposed and there was nowhere to hide, so we just continued on until we saw a small indigenous village next to the road. It had a good enough covered area where we could set up camp.

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