Brazil- Northeastern Amazon and a little more…. saw

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The time has come for us to exit Europe.  We passed this graffiti on our way out of French Guiana.  Please be reassured that we did not paint this, it was already here.  But of course we stopped for a photo! mike graffiti.jpegEntering Brazil from French Guiana was long accomplished by the use of an expensive, irregular ferry boat and small water taxis.  Then a bridge was built, but Brazil didn’t pay their portion of the cost, so the fancy bridge sat unused for a few years.  Recently they reached an agreement and opened the bridge for travelers and commuters between the two countries.  Now Brazil is linked to Europe by bridge (in a sense).   brazil entry bridge.jpegbrazil entry..jpeg The Americans spell it- Brazil, the French spell it-Bresil and the Brazilians spell it- Brasil.  But however it is spelled, once we got the papers in order, we entered again and were issued another 90 days to explore this huge country.  Near the border we spotted this rig, painted up in the colors of the flag.  It looked rather permanent and housed at least one human, one large furry dog and two cats, perhaps more.

The Brazilian side is not well-improved.  The roads are unpaved or very pot-holed.  But we found some beautiful campsites.  And even took a day to change our front brakes.  road and bridge.jpeg

riverside camp.jpegriverside front brakes.jpeg

The little villages we passed through were sleepy places with poor infrastructure and rough lifestyles.  This was a very interesting glimpse in to a part of Brazil that many travelers never see.  village transport.jpegvillage taxi.jpegvillage meeting.jpeg

city tire repair shop.jpeg

This far-north portion of Brazil is crossed by the equator.  In the city of Macapa, we found a geocache on the equatorial monument.  There was a concrete line signifying the equator and a large obelisk which is supposed to be threaded by the sun during the solstice. This was our second country to provide an equator crossing.  (Click here for link to Ecuador, will open in new window) equator solstice obelisk.jpegequator line brazil.jpeg

Shortly after entering Northern Brazil we needed a ferry ride to get across the Amazon River estuary or the mouth of where the gigantic river meets the sea.  There are no bridges across the Amazon River.  Securing a ferry is chaotic and the port is crowded, loud and dirty.  ferry port around us.jpeg

We worked with some other travelers and secured a ferry that would fit for our size and weight.  Then there was a lot of standing around.  We watched the business of the Port of Santana.  We watched the Amazon River water taxis move people around.  We chatted with the other travelers on our boat.  It was hours of waiting in the steamy sunshine.

Then suddenly it was time to load.  The well-dressed boat crew came out and adjusted the ramps for our wheel width.  (Check out those spiffy, white suits!)  Then we drove onto the ferry and settled into our crowded little corner for a 28 hour journey.  ferry port loading.jpegferry port loading1.jpeg

Apparently it is standard to take a desk on your Amazon River ferry boat ride.  You may remember the one we named Chester Drawers on our last Amazon trip.  In case you forgot, here is a link to that story.  ferry boat another desk.jpeg Once we found this desk, we could explore the remainder of the ferry boat.  This boat has four decks.  We were on level one, This included bathrooms with showers inside, free drinking water, some rooms for rent and all the cars and trucks tied down to the outside decking.  ferry boat tie downs.jpegferry boat dogs.jpeg

The next two decks were for passengers in hammocks.  These hammock decks were very crowded.  People were assigned a “hook number” for where to place their hammock.  Then their luggage was stacked beneath them.  This would be their space for the next 28 hours.   People brought on meals, snacks, pets and entire families for the journey between Macapa and Belem.ferry deck2..jpegferry deck hammocks..jpegferry deck hammock..jpeg

The upper deck featured a bar, lunch counter and dance floor area.  A whole bunch of life rafts were securely lashed to the ship.   Also on the upper deck is the control room for the crew that will operate this big ship. ferry boat control deck.jpegferry boat party deck..jpeg

The boat took off and began traveling quickly.  We were moving “with” the flow of the mighty Amazon River.  The scenery quickly began to change. ferry amazon ahead.jpeg

ferry amazon wide.jpeg

We watched with horror as passengers tossed bags into the water from each deck.  We thought these were bags of trash!  But then when we asked around, we learned that the villagers along the shoreline paddle out to the daily ferry boats and wait in their small boats.  The passengers on the ferry toss out bags of old clothes, food, medicines, toys and such.  The villagers paddle over and grab the floating bags before they sink.  We quickly grabbed a few things we were getting rid of and joined in the apparent custom.

ferry amazon locals begging.jpegferry amazon shore 3..jpeg

ferry amazon shoreline.jpegferry amazon shore1.jpegferry amazon shore.jpegferry amazon shore2

During the passage across the Amazon we passed through some smaller tributaries and narrow areas.  Occasionally a local water taxi would zip out from the shoreline and transfer goods and passengers.  Here is a little video of one such exchange.

ferry amazon taxi drop off.jpeg

About 28 hours later, as promised, the ferry ride was finished.  It was time to drive off the boat.  But this time the transition between the boat and the port was much more extreme than before.  Water levels were high, so our boat was sitting about 5 feet above the shore!  The crew rigged some pallets, sawhorses, old timbers and ropes.  Then placed the steel reinforced ramps over the top of the whole mess.  We were to drive our entire house down this precarious set-up.

ferry offload ramps.jpegferry offload gap.jpeg

If you have not seen this little video yet, be prepared to gasp.  Most viewers hold their breath for it!  I am still not sure how Mike had the nerves of steel to trust the guys signaling.  But I do know that his heart nearly stopped when he hit that bump between the two sets of ramps.

Rest assured that we safely exited the ferry.  And the two large trucks behind us did also.  These folks do this all day, every day.  It all works out!

One of our first destinations was the Brazilian Space Station.  This ill-fated attempt at space launch is located near the historic village of Alcantera.  We drove to the gates of the space station and were met by several curious, young military men.  They were quite confused by our request to tour.  No one had ever asked them and they had no idea what to do.  After a few calls we were told “NO” and informed that the military base is closed to civilians and there are no space operations currently in place.  So here is our photo of the Brazilian Space Station.  space station access.jpeg Instead we spent a day checking out the nearby town of Alcantera and their historic ruins.  This was an important city in the heyday of rubber production.  The old wealth is apparent in the elaborate, antique tile faces on the buildings.

Many of the other buildings are much older.  The carefully stacked lava rock has begun to collapse and the carved marble windows and door frames are hanging on where they can.  The town is working on renovation, but it is a slow and expensive process.

old building.jpeg

dog nica playing.jpeg Belem was a difficult city for us to visit.  There is very little parking available near the major areas of interest.  We spent our nights at a city park on the shores of the Amazon River, with free overnight parking.  During the day we tried to explore the city a little bit but driving around was very difficult in our truck and camper.   We did see a place where they produce and dry concrete pavers in the sun and heat each day.  These men were working so hard in the humidity.

We visited a small museum at the old port of Belem that included this fun reference to Geneva.   In case you weren’t aware, the word geneva is also ginebra which is also gin in some languages.  So this contained a drink similar to modern day gin. city museum geneva water.jpeg  We also went geocaching in Belem and saw this interesting feeding station for homeless street dogs.  Nica had a hard time resisting the food being dispensed in the PVC tube.  city street dog feeder station.jpegcity bird.jpeg  While driving through the city, we unfortunately discovered that they do not trim their decorative trees back very far.  A large branch was protruding into our lane of the roadway.  The branch hit our newest solar panel.  Fortunately it didn’t damage the panel, it just knocked it off the mounting bracket.  We were able to pull over in the shade of an overpass and Mike made a quick solar panel moved.jpeg While parked there, we saw this SUV drive by with really cute, artsy graphics on the side.  What a clever and simple way to customize a plain white paint job!  city fancy car art.jpeg We also explored some of the huge grocery stores.  The stores were shiny, well-stocked and reasonably priced.  We were able to find unique Brazilian products, some imported products but no French Vanilla Coffee Creamer!  If you come to visit, please bring us grocery store.jpeg

That was just about enough big city time for all four of us.  We were ready to check out our first Brazilian beach.  We headed towards the shore and found a few nice areas to camp and explore. beach dog play.jpegbeach camp1.jpegbeach dogs.jpegbeach dogs1.jpegbeach camp.jpgbeach bird wave.jpegbeach horses.jpegbeach beauty.jpegbeach big bird.jpegbeach lighthouse

And with this beautiful setting sun, we will head off for the inland mountains of Brazil.  Are you ready to explore Brazil with us?


6 thoughts on “Brazil- Northeastern Amazon and a little more…. saw

  1. I love following your travels, but have to admit that exiting on that ferry ramp almost gave me heart failure! I’ve had some adventures but that takes the cake! Good thing you guys are young and strong!

  2. It’s so interesting reading about your adventures. Thx for sharing! Safe travels!

  3. Wow didn’t think it would take so long to cross the Amazon river! Great adventure!! The tiles on the front of that building reminds me of Portugal where they also attach beautiful tiles to the fronts of their homes! We are getting close to Buenos Aires 🙂

  4. Oh, but the waste of those gorgeous tile faces buildings and the marble! Enough to make you cry!

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