Yesterday we left Nuvo Paraiso at 8am. It was the earliest we'd ever
started, but Manaus and the Amazon beckoned to us from 500 kilometers
to the south. We drove in formation... I took the lead, Tyler followed
a few thousand feet behind, and Jeanne would guard the rear.
All day we followed the same pattern. I would spot potholes and call
out their location to the vans following via the CB radios (called 'PX'
in Brasil.) Properly warned, the others could slow to avoid major holes
and ruts across the road.
Since I led, I often collided with road hazards head-on. My entire
day consisted of smashing into a pothole, cursing, and warning the folks
behind me. (The routine varied a little while Shay was in the car with
me. I would curse, apologize, and then warn.) We could easily maintain
a speed of 55 MPH using this technique.
As we drove south, I would occasionally call out the latitude. "Zero
degrees, fifteen minutes north!" "Zero degrees, five minutes
north!" And then we were there. The Equator.
Crossing the equator
The equator crossing in Brasil is marked by a hockey stick mbedded
in a stone. It's not clear to be why, but I guess that the first man
to pull the stick from the stone is destined to win the Stanley Cup
and be proclaimed King of the Brasilian Empire. I didn't try, mainly
because I didn't want to spend the rest of my life learning Portugese.
We lined our vans up at the monument and took pictures, of course.
It's the first time I've ever crossed to the southern hemisphere. Jeanne
filled up her sink with water, pulled the plug, and... the water went
straight down! No swirl at all!
Science Moment: The earth's rotation causes everything moving
in the northern hemisphere to have a slight deflection to the right,
and everything in the southern hemisphere to have a slight deflection
left. This is called 'Coriolis force' after the French civil engineer
Gaspard G. Coriolis.
In the northern hemisphere, Coriolis force causes water in a sink to
swirl clockwise when the drain is pulled. South of the equator, the
same force causes water to swirl counter-clockwise. (I just confirmed
this in the hotel sink.) At the equator, there is no Coriolis force.
After performing physics experiments, we mounted up and drove south.
Another hour brought us to the northern boundary of the Uaimiri Atroari
Indian Reserve. Cars are not allowed to stop or take photos within the
reserve. Cars and trucks are not allowed to drive within the reservation
between sunset and sunrise.
The Uaimiri Atroari seem to respect the forest. For the most part,
the jungle grows naturally, crowding the road from both sides. Animals
are also more visible in the reserve. Shay and I spotted a monkey and
species of birds, including parrots.
We also spotted Uaimiri Atroari. We passed a large group of children
walking alongside the road escorted by several women. A little later
an elderly gentleman was strolling, wearing shorts and carrying a bow
and arrows. We passed another young man carrying a rifle and a handful
birds. The women and children smiled and waved at us. The men we passed
looked like they hadn't smiled since their circumcision ritual.
Without exception, these people were beautiful. Their skin was smooth
and brown, their eyes black and round, and their hair was onyx and hung
straight down. When they smiled, their teeth were perfect and white.
These were designer people. They looked like they should have a tag
on the back of their necks reading 'Gaia Designs'.
After 120 kilometers we left the reserve and were again in the impacted
forest. We stopped at a restaurant about an hour south of the reserve.
The restaurant, like many roadside restaurants, was a patio with a roof
and no walls. While we ate, two ducks and a goat wandered through, apparently
to see where their lives were leading.
The restaurant served one thing, and what that was wasn't clear to
us. (Our portugese is nearly non-existent.) We told the boy serving
that we wanted four of whatever he would bring us, and about a half-hour
later the food arrived.
He brought us a dish filled with potatoes, boiled eggs, and hunks of
chicken in broth. Another bowl contained beans. A big platter of rice
appeared, and a plate of fried chicken. It was delicious, and it cost
is about US$2.50 apiece.
As we approached Manaus, Tyler took the lead. He's more comfortable
with driving in cities, and after circling around a few times we arrived
at the Central Hotel Manaus. They have parking, and the rooms were decent,
so we took rooms for the night.
We ate dinner at Galo Carijó, where we all ordered Tucunaré,
known in English as 'peacock bass'. It was served whole, deep-fried
and incredibly good. We squeezed lime across the fish and ate rice and
beans on the side while drinking cerveja estupidamente gelada ('idiotically
On the 17th I awoke to find Jeanne already working on her car. She
was going to drive it to the VW dealership to try to stop her oil leak.
A gentleman from the hotel went with her to show her. He was driving
a 1995 white VW kombi. Jeanne also has a problem with her air conditioner.
condensation is leaking into the van, and every time the passenger door
is opened, about a gallon of water comes pouring out. You expect to
see a goldfish flopping on the ground in the middle of the puddle. Because
of the constant moisture, the carpet has acquired an odor that could
be charitably described as 'funky.'
The first thing I needed to do was to find money. I was down to my
last hundred dollars (in Reals, abbreviated 'R$'), and if I couldn't
find money in Brasil, things could be difficult. Luckily, I was successful.
On the Use of Bank Machines in Brasil: First of all, make sure
your bank card works with the Cirrus network. (The Plus network works
banks, but is less common.) Then, when you go into a bank (such as Banco
do Brasil), look for the one bank machine that has your network's symbol
somewhere on it. In a line of 10 electronic tellers, only one will have
this symbol and only that one will work. Banks have a withdrawl limit
of about R$1,000 per day.
I went off to try to find Enaza, which supposedly ran ships to Belem.
After wandering around the alleys of Manaus, I figured out that Enaza's
office had moved. I asked at the Best Western, and a gentleman there
told me he would help me find it. This is how I met our second guardian
angel, Aguinaldo Teles S. Aguinaldo lives across the river on a house
set on poles. When the river is down, there is a trail to his house.
When the river is up, there is a boat. He crosses the river every day
on the ferry to visit friends and sometimes to take tourists on cruises
into the jungle. He's from an indigenous tribe, and learned to speak
English from missionaries.
Aguinaldo told me he had nothing to do that day, so he would take me
around to find a cruise ship. We walked along the waterfront until we
came to the ticket offices of Serpe, and Aguinaldo quickly scooted me
into the back. There I met with a man who spoke portugese very quickly,
gesticulated, and then pointed to the number '24' on the calendar.
Aguinaldo translated. The next Enaza ship didn't depart until October
24th. That was six days away. After some more portugese and more gesticulating
(the calendar was knocked off the desk) I learned that we could
go downriver on an air-conditioned luxury boat, and ship our vans separately
on a barge. They should arrive in Belém within an hour of one
The gentleman from Serpe gestured some more, and then wrote down some
prices, and then grinned and stuck his thumb in the air. This is the
most common gesture in Brasil. It's used to indicate that God's in his
heaven and all's right with the world. When we drive by, folks give
us a thumbs up. Waiters give us a thumbs up to indicate a good choice,
or to inquire if we're happy. Folks don't wave, they simply put their
fist in front of their chest with the thumb pointed up and they crack
a smile. It looks so exagerated it's almost comical, and everyone does
it from 2-year-olds to grandmothers.
The price would be R$400/600 for a double cabin / suite respectivly,
and R$500 to ship each van. That's about US$450 to US$550 per vehicle
including passengers. Less than the US$750 I'd heard. I told Aguinaldo
that I needed to consult with my friends, and we returned to the hotel.
The rest of the day was spent Doing Things. I did the following:
Got most of my hair buzz-cut. It's much cooler and low-maintenance.
Bought two bottles of Bombay Saphire gin. If I'm going to drink
martinis, I want them to be worth drinking. (Dry vermouth is still
missing in action. They have about 10 different kinds of vermouth
here, including white, pink, and red, but ask for 'vermouth seco'
and you get a blank stare.)
Bought a bottle of Phillip Rothchild chilean wine. The
combination intrigued me. We plan on drinking it on the boat.
Bought underwear. Underwear is the single gating factor in the
need to do laundry. I also bought a new towel, since
the one I brought had gone missing in Santa Elena.
Pulled everything out of the van that I would need on the boat,
Bought a few fresh rolls of medium-format film.
You can get anything in Manaus. Because it's so far away from everything
else in Brasil, Manaus has been given a special tax-exempt status. As
a result, the downtown blocks of the city are a bazaar, and you can
about anything except dry vermouth. All of the latest video game consoles
and software are sold from booths in the street, each containing a TV.
Most of the time the owner simply bangs away at the controller, ignoring
everything except the game.
Near the hotel are two stores selling radio equipment, and Tyler bought
an external antenna for the CB he's using. This should give him better
range. We have used both FRS (talkabout) radios and CB, and find CB
to be much
clearer. FRS communications often require things to be repeated several
times, and then people simply give up out of frustration.
Jeanne and Shay crossing the Rio Branco
Towards the end of the day we all paid for our passages, and inspected
the boat. It was more like the African Queen than a cruise ship, but
it's a noble vessel. Our cabins are tight and clean, and there is a
restaurant and bar. There is a hammock deck, and several people
had already strung
out their hammocks and were waiting for the boat to sail. (On this ship,
the hammock deck is also air-conditioned, making this method of travel
quite comfortable, albeit with less privacy.) On the aft deck of the
boat are open-air showers, where you can stand under a shower while
watching the scenery pass by.
The dock was crowded with cars, trucks, and boats. Cargo of all sorts
was being loaded and unloaded. One boat was unloading an entire truckload
of Antarctica beer. Bale after bale of toilet paper were being thrown
into the hold of our ship.
We heard a scream, and turned to see a pig being pulled from a boat
by a rope tied around it's rear leg. It was black, hairy, and very fat.
This very unwilling pig was eventually pushed into the passenger seat
of a VW
beetle, which then drove away into Manaus. The pig stood with it's hoofs
on the front dash looking out the windshield.
A small boy at the dock was hovering around us, watching us intently.
(I think he was fascinated with the push scooter that Tyler bought Shay.)
Under one arm he carried a foam cooler. I asked him what he had in the
cooler, but he wouldn't open it to show me, he just kept saying the
same word in portugese. Finally he opened the cooler to show me a single,
half-melted popsicle. "How much?" I asked. "Uno".
One Real. I nodded and handed him the bill. He opened his cooler, and
I retrieved what was left of the popsicle. It was yummy... sort of a
toasted coconut flavor.
The boy ran around to all of his friends showing them the empty cooler.
He was practically dancing with joy at having sold all of his popsicles.
This was much sweeter than the popsicle.
If this dispatch gets out, it may be a while until I'm able to send
another. The 'Navio Santarém' sails 18 october at 4pm. We'll
be 4-5 days on the river, and though 'internet' was mentioned in connection
with the boat, I just can't make myself believe that there will be a
Note: If you need assistance with anything in Manaus, or are
looking for an interesting, English-speaking guide, contact Aguinaldo
Teles S. He can be reached via the Central Hotel Manaus, fax +55 (92)
622-2609, or email.
Make it clear that your message is for Aguinaldo Teles S.
Just the facts
Mileage driven today:
Mileage to date:
Distance from home:
mi (as the crow flies)
Distance from Ushuaia:
mi (as the crow flies)
Min temperature in the van:
°F (last 24 hours)
Fuel cost today:
Heard *Believe* by Cher:
TVLAR electronics, corner of Rua Quintino & Rua Guilherme