Leaving the Amazonas and
-- Story by Erin --
Sunday, November 24th: After 6 very interesting days riding
a wooden ferry boat up the Amazon River, we finally arrive in the famous Amazon city of
Manaus at 7 o'clock in the morning. Immediately the humid air felt to us like a big
wet towel draped over our bodies. Despite its location in the center of the South
American continent, Manaus is only 95 meters above sea level and surrounded by dense
jungle. Until the 1970's the only way to reach Manaus was either by river boat or by
plane. And, the road that connects Manaus to the Venezuelan border was just paved
this past year!
Manaus is a crucial river cargo port on the Amazon River,
transporting goods across the border with it's neighbors. So, this port was
particularly efficient and well equipped. Getting the bikes off the boat was
relatively easy, as there were many hands to help (most hoping for a tip of course).
The floating dock here is unique and crucial to the functioning of cargo
transportation on the Amazon. It floats because the level of the river can change as
much as 10 meters in the rainy season. Despite the floating dock, the cargo deck
where are motorcycles were stationed was still significantly below the level of the dock.
Some fancy maneuvering was required by the dock hands and the boat captain to angle
the boat away from the dock and with a narrow ramp, reduced the angle of the exit path the
bikes needed to take off the boat. All went well and we didn't have to go swimming
Unfortunately our tourist visas were about to expire and we
only got to spend one day in Manaus before riding directly north for the border with
Venezuela. However, we did get to see some of the beautiful old buildings and famous
opera house with its mosaic tile roof (reportedly the oldest opera house in South
Its nearly 1,000 kilometers to the border, which we covered
in two days. The first day started out well, then went bad just before lunch.
Chris chain decided to jump off the sprockets, which damaged the chain but luckily not the
sprockets. Luckily we had a new chain and the process went smoothly. Then
later that day, Chris' bike shut down for no apparent reason. Later we discovered it
was a blown fuse (related to the ignition switch) which was easy enough to change.
Curiously, my bike had the same problem just a few weeks ago. These problems reduced
our mileage that day and we were not able to make our goal destination of Boa Vista, which
is 250 kilometers from the border. The hightlight of the day however, was crossing
the Equator, which is marked by a sadly run-down monument covered in grafitti and a yellow
line across the road. Chris thought it would be great to take some naked photos
straddling the line with nothing but his boots on! Crossing the equator is
significant for us because it marks the first time since July of 2000 that we were in the
At sunset we stopped at the first town we came upon,
Caracari, about 150 kilometers south of Boa Vista. It was a small riverside village
which rarely, if ever, saw foreigners. Thankfully, though we were able to find
a clean hotel with air conditioning and secure parking.
The next day started out well and the scenery began to
change into more of a dry savannah landscape with lots of cattle farms. We also saw
some distinctive birds that we hadn't seen since crossing the Pantanal region much further
south in Brazil. Our luck still ran bad, however, and about 30 kilometers before the
border, Chris hit a deep pothole at full speed, sending him nearly out of control and off
the bike. He managed to keep it upright though, and his butt in saddle and bring it
to a stop to check the damage. Just after he hit the pothole he saw some kind liquid
spraying up from under the bike. We inspected the substance, smelled it, and felt
its consistency. It seemed like oil but not the kind we put in the engine.
Chris rode back to the pothole on my bike to see if there was oil in the hole (road crews
had obviously applied some kind of oily substance inside and around the edge of the
potholes). However he only saw dirty water in the hole. He got on his bike and
tested it's riding ability and discovered his shock had no "dampening" left in
it------ ah ha! That was the problem, the shock had blown a seal and lost all its
dampening fluid. Chris now looked like a human pogo stick going down the road with
every littel bump and ripple in road.
Unfortunately we were no where near a city where we could
have it looked at by a proper mechanic. Chris had to ride his bike in that condition
all the way to Caracas, Venezuela (some 1,200 kilometers more).
Chris' broken chain
Chris bearing it all on the equator.
Erin making the leap across in more conservative style.
Unique birds of the border with Venezuela.