|Back to Brazil 4×4 Expedition Index|
|THE BARGE ADVENTURE
DOWN THE RIO MADEIRA TO THE AMAZON
|SEPTEMBER 9, 2006 • SATURDAY
WE ARE ON THE BARGE!!
| At 7am, Dr. Jose is at the hospital! We are up and ready for him, this time! Michael is given a tour of the hospital. It is a trauma-type hospital. If he understood correctly, it was kind of like 1 big ER. Cases are brought here first, stabilized, and then moved to another hospital in the area. I don’t exactly understand how it works, because there were also many actual doctor offices in the hospital, like you would make an appointment to go see them. We fill Kolob with water from the hospital before leaving for the Port.
It rained last night, which cleared the rest of the smoke out of the air, and cooled things down a bit. We are at the port at 10:30, but the boat has not arrived. Sr. Lins says that we will definitely make it on this afternoon.
The trip is 4 days, maybe 5. Come back at 2pm.
We visit the Museu da Estrada de Ferro Madeira-Mamore Railway museum today. I splurge and buy a few things in the gift shop. Oh yeah, we buy a hammock for the barge!
Porto Velho, Brazil – Train Museum
2pm – We pay 2000 real and are guaranteed to get on. There are 25 spots on his sheet, and he only has 19 vehicles listed. Then at the bottom, he has us listed!!! I am allowed to travel with Kolob, only asked to keep a low profile. There will be meals prepared for both of us, showers and toilets (which I tell him I will use our camper, and he thinks it best). He will try to get us loaded with our back pointed downstream so our back window at the bed can collect the air as we travel, to help keep us cool. It rains again while we wait.
3:30pm – They start to load the 1st barge. I go into the camper, just so not to make any problems while we are loading. I brought the 2-way radios, so they get their first use. The 1st barge (the one that will be going downriver in the front), is loaded 1st. Michael radios that it doesn’t look like we will get on where we wanted, as there are only 2 spots left. Then, as if they heard us, we are motioned into loading cue. I take pix loading through the camper window through a peep hole in the window screen! Oh, dolphins were jumping just past the loading barge! We park, and then I feel us move again. We get EXACTLY WHERE WE WANTED!!!
Right on the front of the barge, with our bedroom window looking downstream!!! How wonderful!!! We are so excited!! This will make all of the difference in this trip. Our barge is pulled to the side and tied to the shore while the 2nd barge is loaded. Then about 10:30pm the tug (pusher) brings the 2nd barge over to ours, and connects it. We are set, and ready for Sunday departure!!! Oh yeah, it rained again!
I text to Sheila everything I know about Ronav and the vessel. She replies back within 2 minutes that she received! I like text messaging!!
RoNav – Rondonia Navegacao Ltda.
Sr. Lins Muricy.
Terminal dos Milagres 400, Bairro Balsa, Porto Velho, Rondonia, Brazil 78900-000.
(69)3229-5115 / 3229-5400 / 3229-2969.
SEPTEMBER 10, 2006 – SUNDAY
We are untied and on our way at 6am. The breeze is wonderful. The rains have cooled things off, and it is even chilly. I put on a long-sleeve shirt just to sit inside with the windows open! It warms up around 11am.
No long-sleeves needed now.
On one of Michael’s social trips to the boat, he discovers the job of the Navigator. He has a rope with some flag tape tied to it and throws it over the side of the boat into the river every now and again, checking the depth of the channel. I guess they don’t have depth finders here!!
We stop at 6:30pm (about dark) because there is smoke ahead, visibility is limited.
SEPTEMBER 11, 2006 – MONDAY
We are sending this via satellite from the Amazon River!! (And you thought you wouldn’t hear from us for a week!)
We were able to secure a GREAT spot on the barge. We are on the very front, pulled in frontward, which puts our rear facing the river as we go downstream. This is VERY important, as it means we get air scooped in our back window, across our bed, and out the windows at the booths!! We have been very blessed!!
Michael tipped Sr. Lins and the crew for helping us load onto the exact spot we wanted. There is 8′-10′ of barge deck behind Kolob, and we are 2nd across, of 4 rows of vehicles. Beside us on one side is a black Mercedes car. On the other is a car hauler semi-trailer then a big work truck with some kind of tool things in the back. There are 3 refrigerated semi-trailers on board, but they are kind enough not to run them at all at night, and only a few hours during the day. (Got a picture in your mind? I’m trying to draw one!)
Yesterday, Sunday, we left at 6am, and stopped at 6:30pm. I don’t know where we made it to, but we were traveling, according to the GPS, at about 16k per hour (.62/miles/hour). I was told to keep a low profile. I promised not to prance around in my underwear or sunbathe on the deck!! There are 7 crew, 6 men and 1 lady cook, and 3 truck drivers on board. They all know I am here, but had not seen me (part of that low-profile thing!). All are curious, and keep coming from the back of the boat all the way to the front where we are just to “talk” to Michael. He says they keep asking about “esposa,” but he pretends like he “no comprehende.” Funny!
I came out “dressed as a boy-per Michael” yesterday afternoon and sat in a chair on the deck for a few hours yesterday afternoon and took a few pictures. I took more pix from just sitting on the bed looking out the back window. Comfortable there, breezy, and I can see (and hear) everything going on around (below) me!
Last night Michael went to socialize with everyone, and they didn’t buy his ignorance any longer. They grabbed his hand, tapped on his wedding ring, and told him in charades with moving fingers that it was “no problemo” if esposa walks around on deck. It is ok. Then thumbs up! He says that he feels pretty comfortable.
Today, he has been sitting out on deck all morning so I could straighten things up inside. Amazing how a small space gets out of control fairly easily! Mid-morning I am out on deck, typing and taking pix. All is ok.
The cook, Gina, came and met me and said all is ok. She is actually cooking for both of us, too, but we have told her that we eat in our camper.
I guess we will be in Manaus around Thurs. night??? Michael took the map to the captain last night to see if we could gauge arrival by distance traveled in 1 day. When Michael came back, his answer was that he didn’t think the captain had ever SEEN A MAP!! Oh, well, we will get there when we do! One driver said 5 days, 4 nights, which would be Thurs p.m. Then I bet they don’t unload until Fri am.
We keep traveling after dark. In fact it is 12:30am when they stop and tie up. Yea! We are making some time now!!
SEPTEMBER 12, 2006 – TUESDAY
6am – They untie us and motor off . . . for about 2 minutes. Then just go into a free drift. Why? I can’t see any problems. Hope we don’t have to do an engine re-build in the middle of the river!!
7:30 AM – Michael goes to see if there is a problem. He is told that the channel is very shallow and there is already a barge in it, and we have to wait until it is through.
8:30 AM – We are finally under way, again. I bet our captain drove until midnight last night just so he could be first in the channel, but got beat out by someone earlier!
9:30 – I bake chocolate chip cookies and take them to the captain/crew and truck drivers. This is my introduction debut. I have now officially “met” everyone. I think I passed their inspection.
We sit out most of the morning and late afternoon, (in my long pants, loose t-shirt, stupid looking hat – all part of the Low-Profile thing. While it is hot, we come inside and play cards. I sure am glad that Jim and Betha taught us some card games! We would be going crazy with nothing to do.
My other leisure activity is using the computer and reading up on the travel books. We are still trying to decide about going to Venezuela, well at least to Angel Falls. I really hate to miss it. I have read about Guyana, Suriname, and French Guyana and feel that we can miss them and still see everything we care to see in South America.
I meet “Ruben Schmidt “a truck driver who makes this trip every month. He educates us about the “Jacare’” alligators on the river banks. By spot lighting the banks in the dark, we can see many, many beady eyes looking at us. Reminder not to go too close to the edge!!! If the river currents don’t get you, the gators will!!
SEPTEMBER 13, 2006 – WEDNESDAY
We traveled all night last night!!!! The river must be getting deeper, or something. We are told though that we will not make the turn from the Madeira River onto the Amazon until Thursday afternoon, about 4pm. This puts us into Manaus on Friday, sometime.– 6 days???
One of the crew comes up to the front of the boat every day at lunchtime and dinner and makes the gesture for “eating”. I feel badly that they want us to come eat with them, but I am more afraid of the food than I am about hurting their feelings, I guess. That sounds bad, doesn’t it? He comes to tell us this afternoon that there is Watermelon for us. We take them up on that offer. Watermelon and cantaloupe — yum!!
We are not eating too badly. We had lobster tail and grilled veggies last night and Kielbasa sausages with fried potato/onion tonight. We will probably pasta tomorrow. At least we are eating up some of the stuff that has been filling the refrigerator and freezer!!
There is fresh fish provided by the locals to the boat. As they see us coming down river, they paddle their canoes up to the boat and are thrown a rope. They then pull themselves close to us and show the people the fish they have. The cook or drivers then buy what they want. I saw one canoe tonight with a boy in the front holding his arms up showing that he had fish about 2 feet long. This process seems to give the locals a way to make a bit of money, plus keep fresh food on the boat without taking up too much refrigerator space.
Dusk is the best time for dolphin-watching. A couple of them were jumping beside the boat tonight. Almost all day long you can hardly go more than an hour without seeing dolphins.
Yesterday, I saw a PINK DOLPHIN, very close and a very good look!! No photo, but I saw it!!
SEPTEMBER 14, 2006 – THURSDAY
We traveled all night again last night. John, the Navigator who speaks English, says that we will go 24 hours/day now until Manaus. It is very windy today, great for breeze, but a bit choppy and rocky on the boat.
Things are never as they appear, here:
First we are told there is only 1 barge with the 1 pusher boat, then when Michael clarifies it to me in front of Lins, he then tells him there are 2 barges. We were hoping only 1 so we could go faster.
Michael is told that there are 2 captains, 2 navigators, and 2 mechanics. They work 24-hours a day, 6-hour shifts. Day 1 — we stop at 6:30pm. Day 2 — stop at midnight. What about the 24-hours/day thing?
-We are told the journey is 4 days. I even confirmed with Lins myself — 4 days. Today is Thursday — Day 5, and we won’t even make it today although I am confident that we will be there tomorrow. Proof that they know what is going on . . . they told us this morning that we would be at the meeting of the Madeira River and the Amazon today at 4pm. Then at 4:10 the grey-haired guy came to the front to tell Michael that we were at the Meeting of the Rivers, just as he told us we would be. (I think that is what he said. He tapped his watch
and gave the look of — I told you so!) So there is hope that we will be in Manaus at 8am, Friday morning, just as they are now saying.
|Continue to Brazil 4×4 Expedition • Manaus|