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Brazil, Part 2: Riding the depths of the TransAmazonica

Amazon, Brazil, South America5 min read

August 16 - 19, 2010

From Apui, it was 700 kms (435 mi) to the next big town of Itaituba. This was the remotest section of the route and most memorable.

Sunrise in the Amazon on the fazenda that I stayed at near Apui.

A long wooden bridge. I tried to see all the way across before choosing which side to cross on. Some of the planks would rattle as I rolled over them.

Dry, flat riding.

sanDRina enjoying a refreshing Coke. The gasoline in Brazil has 25% ethanol from sugarcane mixed in and that gives the fuel its red color. I had enough fuel to make it to the next town of Jacareacanga but, better to be safe than sorry. This is in Sucunduri and it cost R 3.40/lt.

Calling out to the boatsmen on the other side of Rio Sucunduri.

After a few minutes, they made the relaxed journey over to collect me. The ferry was powered by this little outboard motor.

A massive ferry for just one bike and this ride was free. I paid between R$ 4 and R$ 10 for all the ferries.

Glimpse of water.

The clearings and burning of the forest took place close to the road, with the intact forest back there, a few hundred meters away. That says something about the link between deforestation and road building.

Ah, the reason for all this burning.

Not much shade to take a break under.

Local riders in Porto Velho told me the road is constantly being maintained and improved by the government. But, I don't think it's going to get paved anytime soon due to the lack of traffic.

The route getting narrower in places, with foliage right by the road.

However, this was the more usual sight; huge clearings.

A few trees left standing and the purple flowering tree.

I was taking my time and chugging along, because the road surface would change repeatedly from hard pack to sand.

Intact jungle on the right side and recently burnt, shaved hillside on the left.

I didn't see any fazendas around, but maybe they were preparing land for their move in.

When there wasn't sights of burnt jungle, it was a nice ride.

Uggh, didn't have to go far to be turned down by man.

A fire in progress of virgin Amazonian jungle.

A truly sad sight. I stopped and reflected on the damage man can do to his own home. This is my planet as it is everyone else's and it's only our short-sightedness that perpetuates these actions. There's signs of hope though with the World Bank stating at the UN Convention of BioDiversity that all nations will be economically held accountable for the damage done to their natural ecosystems since the Amazon doesn't belong just to Brazil, but to every human.

This tree was about 60 m (196 ft) tall and you can see its tip has been charred by the high-reaching flames.

I was told that sometimes these wildfires were started on fazendas to clear a small patch of land, but then they get out of control and start burning protected areas. This has also been an exceptionally dry season for the Amazon and Brazil in general, with reports of huge wildfires across the region.

Where are the helicopters with those mega buckets to pick up this water and douse the flames with?

A well-maintained bridge towards the end of the day.

Getting close to the next big town of Jacareacanga.

Riding through some thick jungles softened the rage from seeing all the burning today.

Before the turn off into Jacareacanga, I came across this fazenda and asked if I could stay for the night. I was glad to have some covering for the tent and the bike, since the morning dew is quite heavy.

The young couple taking care of this fazenda, while their owners were visiting Itaituba.

After gassing up in Jaca, I turned north towards Itaituba, 400 kms (248 mi) away, going parallel to Rio Tapajos. The locals drive like they're in a hare race and said on my big bike it'll only take 6 hours to cover the distance. Ha, I took two days.

This section ahead had the steepest hills of the route, with the expected bridge at the trough. Elevation was around 100-200 m (328-656 ft).

The road got narrower and it felt nice to be riding through a proper jungle.

There were also very few straight sections on this part of the route, with enjoyable twists and turns.

The grandness of the trees in the Amazon. They must be over 80 m (260 ft) tall.

A good reason not to be riding at night. This bridge reminded of Simon Thomas and his fall from a bridge on his RTW trip.

Just my luck that I should encounter the little traffic that exists on this route during the sandiest portions of it. Oh well, everything was already grimey, so go ahead and dust me.

Construction laying down some new wet mud to harden up and provide a smooth surface.

After a few hours, I saw my first jungle clearings and... expected, more burning.

Taking a break as the thicket closed in on the road.

About halfway to Itaituba, I came across this lone house in a clearing with a man drinking some yerba maté. I asked Sebastian if I could stay for the night and he welcomed the visitor. He's from the south of Brazil, explaining the maté gourd stuck to his hand. It's a tea that's sipped through a metal straw in the countries of Uruguay and Paraguay and also southern Brazil. He moved out here with government incentives to cultivate the land. We had some good talks and he found it interesting that an engineer would give it all up to travel, considering us to be the more sane members of society :p

Inside his little house that he keeps stocked with food from Itaituba. He invited me to sleep on the hammock, but I was more comfortable on my mattress on the ground. I hoped no crawlies would want to keep me company as I slept, but the raised floor helped in that respect. He asked me if I wanted a bath and took me about 15 minutes into the jungle to a small clearing where a stream of cool, clear water was collected. It felt refreshing to take a bath in the thick of the jungle listening to all the birds.

The next morning, the fog was very thick. There were trees just a few meters behind his house that were engulfed in the thick forest fog.

Felt quite eerie. The Amazon, in the midst of man.

The front porch of Sebastian's jungle house. He also has another house in Itaituba, but stays out here for long periods tending to this land.

An efficient design of a wood-fire stove.

Sebastian's cat with my Oxtar TCX boots.

Just north of Sebastian's place, I entered the official Parque Nacional da Amazonia, the one protected place in this whole massive jungle and that too, it appears it's just a park on paper with no real enforcement.

Getting a feel for the thick jungle in this panorama stitch of 12 photos spanning about 180 degrees left to right and about 30 degrees up and down.
Click here to see the high resolution version.

The only difference about riding through the actual park was that I didn't see any burning of the jungle. It felt good to ride with the trees leaning over the road.

Oops, the trailer slipped into the ditch. There was no one in the truck, so I presume they already went to get help.

View of some waterfalls from the road. I wanted to jump in for a dip.

The rivers are so huge here they easily resemble a lake, but that's Rio Tapajos, emptying into the Amazon near Santarem. For the last 160 kms (100 mi) of this river, it is between 6-14 kms (4-9 mi) wide.

Arriving in Itaituba, the end of the fun part of the TransAmazonica. From here, there's another 1,000 kms (620 mi) of dirt to Maraba.

Next: Brazil, Part 3: The end of the TransAmazonica

Previous: Brazil, Part 1: The start of the TransAmazonica


Jammin thru the Global South was the 3+ year, 100,000+ km ride Jay did from the US to India via Latin America, Europe and Africa. Explore the photojournals at the Journey Posts tab.

Jammin Global Adventures is a tour company run by Jay Kannaiyan. He organizes small group, premium motorcycle adventures in Peru, Kenya, Mongolia, India and more.

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