BR319 Day 2: CONFIDENCE – Amazonas, Brazil


We wake up early and the rain has stopped. Thank God! Instant noodles for breakfast go down well and the best news is we’ve managed to trap a couple of litres of rain water in the poncho, which brings us back to our planned level. However we now know that we could very easily be using up more water per day than expected.


We pack up and safety check before hitting the road. Strangely I’ve had to add a bit of engine oil again but I guess that may be because of the driving conditions.


The road has changed unbelievably since yesterday. The slight amount of moisture remaining following the rains last night has turned the surface into a mud-slide. It’s not deep slush, but it’s slippery as hell! Well, with a bit of luck it’ll dry out in a couple of hours.


Our driving tempo has slowed considerably. We’re averaging 5 to 10 km/h and it’s not fun. At kilometre 219 we see the final farm house and thereafter nothing. The surroundings are beautiful, for sure, but I have to focus on driving so intensely that I can’t take most of it in. Whenever we reach bridges now, Ebru gets off the bike and I drive across very slowly.


Late morning, a chap, plain clothes, is standing at the road side looking towards us. Unexpected. There’s a very basic shelter on the deforested plot behind him, wooden posts, palm leaf roof – he must be stationed here for something. As we pull up next to him we stop and greet. He seems very cheerful and invites us for coffee. We’re dying for a cup of coffee right now, but we’re progressing so slowly, we’re worried about making it out of this desert before we run out of supplies. Regretfully, we explain, we must decline and move on.

It’s only later, looking at the photos, we realize what a gorgeous paradise we were in…

An hour down the road the view gets more and more enchanting: the sky above the trees is an ominous grey, as we move closer we hear occasional rumblings of thunder. The situation is becoming really tense. Soon we meet the first rain drops. Light and fine, but wet none the less, and out here that is BAD news! It’s almost like a wall of rain which doesn’t move one way or the other, it just stays there in its same position and makes things wet. Here it’s dry – there it’s wet. We push on carefully, hoping that the rain will subside ahead.


By kilometre 243 the drizzle has not let up. Riding along, even at 5km/h is scary business! The bike is heavy and my shoe soles are caked with a fist-width of mud. So are the tyres – “Enduro” my ass…

At some point it all becomes too much. We can’t take it anymore. We have something like a break-down there. An argument – or an angry outburst of sorts. Talk of regrets, stupidity and agonizing visions of thousand-mile back-tracks to the countries we came from. We’re destroyed – out of energy, out of confidence, out of hope. We turn the bike around and slowly ride back in disappointment.

An hour and half later – or 15 kilometres – we again pass the chap we spoke to earlier. He’s come up to the road side again and invites us for coffee. “What the hell,” we say to ourselves, “might as well.” We follow him into his little hut. It’s more of a roof on posts, a hand-made clay oven on one side and a bunk-style bed fitted well above the ground with a ladder to it – apparently to protect against the wild cats.


The man speaks Portuguese, which we already hardly understand, with a twang that’s almost unintelligible to us. Yet he’s very talkative. In a flash he cuts up a log with his chainsaw, sparks up a fire and cooks up a bashed up pot of coffee – black, sweet, Brazilian style. It goes down like a dream! He tells us he lives out here for several weeks at a time, working to maintain this plot. We don’t really get it but as I drink my coffee I think to myself how grateful one must be out here to get some company once in a while.


We explain that we’re returning to Humaita. The road conditions have become unmanageable ahead and we’ve given up. “Back to Realidade”, he asks – meaning, unbeknown to us, the last village we passed through. What a fitting name indeed! “Yes”, back there. He looks thoughtfully at us as we savour the feeling of caffeine and sugar pumping into our veins.

“Why do that?” he continues with a smile, “your way back is about as long as your way forward. No point in going back. Might be raining back there too.” Ebru and I look at each other, not sure what to think. We walk with him to the top of a nearby mound. Indeed there are grey clouds back there as well as ahead.


He says to me, “You want to go to Manaus right?”
“Well then go,” he smiles casually. “If that’s where you want to go there’s no point turning back. Just go. You’ll get there, all you need is PACIENCIA. If you go back you’ve got a similar distance, probably similar conditions, and you won’t get to Manaus. So just go.”

Ebru and I look at each other, not believing how our minds actually seem to be inclining towards trying this again.


We ponder and discuss the matter some more. Ebru is scratching sums into the ground with a stick, confirming the exact mileage we have ahead of us, compared to behind. We’re still not sure what he put in that coffee, but by the time we leave there we’ve got the confidence to move forward again, towards Manaus.


We leave at about 13:30 and we cover another 55Km that day. But it’s a hard slog in first gear. Muddy, slippery, dodgy bridges to cross. Every few kilometres we have to stop and use our hands to scrape the thick mud cake out from under the mud guards and rear suspension and chain area because it’s causing so much friction when turning the wheels, the clutch is having a hard time – I can almost smell it!


Other nutcases on a misson… at least they packed light…

Every time we cross a bridge Ebru is off the bike and guiding me. Now, in fact, she’s guiding me constantly: at this rate I’m only able to focus on the three or five metres right in front of me, trying to avoid obstacles and prevent dropping the bike, but that means I can’t look further ahead to plot a course, so Ebru is focussing there, telling me whether to veer left or right, or whether something’s coming up. It’s like playing an FPS game with one person concentrating on the close-range melee while the other is steering the way to go and checking the coast is clear ahead. It’s team work, real-time.


At one point in the late afternoon, from behind us a couple of large 4×4 pick-ups overtake us with farming machinery on the back. They stop and a number of big men and a woman get out. We greet, exchange a few words, and I think we must look pretty shattered to them, because the lady goes back to the car and brings us a bottle of ice cold water. Holy smoke! Has she any idea what an angelic gesture this is? We are exhausted, we’re not doing well on water supply, and this stuff is ice cold! We drink like it’s Ichor. She brings us a box of biscuits. This is unbelievable!


Well the people encounters we have had along the way have seemed almost prophetic. As if some universal force was telling us to move on just as we’re about to give up, and making sure that we have enough help and supplies on the way. Or maybe that’s what we want to believe to convince ourselves we’re not completely stupid to go on with this journey.



The rest of the the day’s journey is a slog. Mile after mile of slippery clay-mud, wooden bridges in various states of repair – or disrepair, sections of road disappeared into deep ditches filled with vegetation or water. Occasional stretches of crumbling asphalt or grass-overgrown road are a respite from the intense grind of riding the bike onwards on this terrible muddy terrain. Every now and again a glimmer of hope as we imagine the weather may be clearing up, but no such luck this time.


The final tally for the day: By nightfall we’ve made it a whole two telecomm’s towers ahead – a distance of about 70km. We did a detour of 30Km to “get coffee” though. Total distance from starting point Humaita is now: 283Km. We crossed 24 bridges. Our water reserves are according to plan but that won’t be enough at the rate we’re consuming. Food levels are as expected.


The night in the Embrahotel is a bit more comfortable than last. We pitch the tent for storing our things and as an emergency shelter in case of rain, but this time our bedroom is a set of Thermarest mats covered by a mosquito net, out in the open, suspended directly from the large transmitter tower – which we hope doesn’t double as a lightning conductor!

Another friendly Amazonian insect pays us a visit…

Dinner is a delicious serving of roast chicken and vegetables on a bed of noodles, all magically re-hydrated with boiling water. We sleep under the stars with a cool breeze caressing our skins, while the jungle orchestra plays us a magical lullaby. In the early morning hours we feel the touch of drizzle. At least we have an idea what kind of a day lies ahead. But the drizzle is minimal, barely enough to get us wet, so we stay where we are and enjoy the last hour or two of slumber before it’s time to rise.