I think one of the main highlights for my entire South American experience was that bike ride down the most dangerous road. It was SUCH a rush. We started at the summit of an Andean pass near 13,000′. Our guide said to walk around slow or else you could lose your breath and have a hard time catching it again. No matter though, we would be on our way
soon enough. We passed around a bottle of cane liquor, took a sip and sprinkled some on the ground as an offering to Altualtapec asking for protection. A short safety speech and
we were off. The first 8 miles were asphalt which was a nice way to start and get used to the bikes. I was short on cash so opted for the budget package which gave me a front suspension only bike. It actually turned out to be faster than the “fullies” and I was at the
front of the pack the whole way. We stopped frequently as to not get too spread out. There were wrecked cars here and there along the canyon floor. You couldn’t help but shake your head and imagine going out that in that way. The guides were good at filling us in on the particulars of certain wrecks. “Those two trucks were going too fast and collided on a blind corner.” “The truck that went over here wasn’t found for four days.” “That’s where the tourist bus went over last month. We arrived about on hour after it happened and helped in the rescue.” Just crazy, crazy stories. A man who lost his whole family in an accident now mans a blind corner with red and green flags. If you’re clear to go he holds the green. If somethings coming he shows the red. People give him tips on the way by and that’s how he makes his living. We almost had a tragic day. A girl in our group wiped out on some mud and slid on her belly to with in 3.5 of the edge. We were all
shaken up for a while but she insisted on finishing the ride under her own steam. Wow,
what a trooper. We all made it down safe and had a huge feast by the river. I highly recommend that trip. Check it out at www.gravitybolivia.com
I spent the next few days working my way through the Bolivian Amazon on 4×4 buses. My back is sure glad it was a one way trip. I’ve never been bounced around, cramped in tiny seats and blasted by dust from passing trucks so much in my life. It’s a big laugh now that it’s over. I really like Bolivia. It’s super cheap, chill and the locals aren’t trying to rip off the gringo’s like they were in Peru. I’ll go back.
I crossed one of the tributaries of the Amazon and was then in Brasil. I worked my way to Porto Velho which is the northern terminus of the Railway of Death. The railroad was built in the early 1900’s to transport rubber from higher up river past rapids and waterfalls. As many as 25,000 people died during its construction from tropical diseases, animal and Indian attacks, gunfights, accidents and disappearances, hence the name. It stopped running in 1972 but there are about 10 old steam locomotives in various states of disarray around the train yard. It was such a cool place to trip around. It was there that I found out that no boats were leaving for Manaus for five days!!! My guide book was
wrong and that put me in a bad spot for catching my plane. I looked on a map and found that there was a town further down river that could be reached by bus. I asked around and found out that the only bus for the day would leave in twenty minutes!!! I made a mad dash and I just made it. I was betting on my luck that there would be a boat there that at least would get me closer to Manaus. I got there and went straight to the port. No boats to Manaus but found one to the next town downriver and leaving VERY soon and not another for two days. I needed a hammock for the over night trip and went and bought one. As I was walking back I could hear a boat engine revving up. “SHIT!!! It’s leaving!!!” I ran down to the dock but it was too late. It was off. A fisherman in his boat just pulled up and I jumped into his boat. “Amigo, to that boat please!” He was a bit surprised but totally cool and took me along side so that I could jump on. How’s that for an entrance?
The next day we passed a section of river with about 150 rafts with gold mining sloughs working the bottom. It looked like each raft had a family on it. As we pulled up there was a big rush for our boat as we were their supply boat. Food, boxes of live chicks, hoses, fuel, you name it we had it on board. It was cool to see the real thing. The town where the boat stopped would be the end of the line for me. No more boats down stream for days. The trans-amazonian highway was well overgrown so cars no longer make the trip. My only way to get to Manaus on time would be to fly on a small plane three days later. I spent the time there making friends and also rented a motorcycle to explore the jungle. Before long the wheel wells were all mudded up and I was totally stuck. I’m sure it was my imagination going wild but I got the creeps thinking of jaguars waiting for foolish foreigners out there in the middle of nowhere and stuck. As i feverishly worked away trying to clear the mud with a stick I kept an eye on my surroundings just in case. It’s so funny how your mind can get carried away. The flight to Manaus was fantastic. It was a 10 seater turbo prop but with no cockpit door. I sat right behind the pilots and took it all in. What a treat that we rarely get these days. We flew nice and low which was another treat. Miles and miles of lush green never seeing the ground itself. As I mentioned in the first update I toured the Theatro Amazonas but didn’t get to see a show. So this time the
only two objectives I had being that short stay in Manaus were catching my plane the following morning and getting myself into a show. When I got to the city I went straight to the Theatro to find out if there was one that night. There was but it was an “Invitation Only” opening day event. “Damn” I thought, missed it again. I looked up my tour guide, Sandra, from six months ago. We got pretty friendly last time but had lost email touch. She was there was there and stoked on our reunion. There aren’t too many tourist that make two trips to Manaus in less than a year! We caught up and then I
told how grateful I would be if she could sneak me in that night….. She made it happen! I couldn’t believe it and was totally beside myself the rest of the day. She snuck me in and even though she was working the event she gave my the royal treatment. Before the play started I sat in my seat taking in the architecture and artwork and had a hard time believing that I was actually in the T of the A about to see a show. There were very well dressed VIP guests and lots of smiles and happy people. I was chatty with a few of them and Sandra actually thought I knew them from somewhere else. Funny. It was nice to fit in that well. The play was a comedy and we all laughed our butts off. Bravo. After the show a phat spread awaited us outside. For me it was like a fairy tale night at the ball. Thank you very much Sandra. You’ve made my Amazon experience complete.
Okay, now. Short story longer. I made it back to the ship safe and sound and was blown away by the progress. The two aft cabins were converted into three using a sketch I left with the carpenters. I have my own cabin now!!! Amazing hardwood floor has been laid down. Granite floor tiles in the main saloon. The list goes on and on. It just really looks terrific everywhere. It was really great to see the crew too. They faired well tied up in the marina for five months. I think the girlfriends they’ve picked up here has helped with that! We way anchor for Trinidad on Fridayish. It’ll be about a 8-10 day sail. We will be going with the wind and current so it’ll be a terrific trip. All of us except for Cesar haven’t sailed across the equator before so it’ll be a particularly special trip. Since he has he is officially entitled to haze us. Fat chance, Cesar!!!! I think it’ll be more like a round of Champagne for everyone.
We’ll spend a month in Trinidad. We aim to haul out, repaint the bottom, check the propeller shafts and install a copper grounding plane for the Single Side Band radio. After all that work I think some steel drum lessons will be in order.
I’m wishing you all the best.
Love and Luck,