After saying good-bye to Daniel and Hotel Fazenda, our second home in Cuiaba, we set off to make as much time toward Porto Vehlo as possible. We almost make it half way. We park at fuel station in Comodoro, at the north of Mato Grosso state.
Take BR 070 to Caceres, 220k. A section on this road had potholes 3 feet and 4 feet across, 6″ deep. Sometimes the potholes were lined up all the way across both lanes, so it was smoother to drive in the dirt beside the highway. A big iguana ran across the road.
At Caceres the highway changes to BR 174. We drive on it the rest of the day. Just before dusk, just as we started to look for a place to park, we started driving into smoke. The sides of the road had been burned and out into the forest was still smoldering. Not exactly the best breathing conditions and not something we wanted to smell all night! It was a bit better in town where we parked.
At dusk the birds started flying to their roosts: many pair of green parakeets, and 1 pair of blue and yellow macaws.
There was cloud cover all day, so the temp only got to mid 70’s. The camper was cool enough to cook in, so we had a hamburger helper. Amazing what tastes good when you are away from home!
SEPTEMBER 6, 2006 – WEDNESDAY
520 MILES – WE MAKE PORTO VELHO
Drive day. BR 174 to the state line of Mato Grosso where it changes to BR 364, as we enter the state of Rondonia.
Arrive in Porto Velho about 5pm. Try to find parking and find an enclosed parking lot set off of the main street of Porto Velho, 7th of September. We try to ask permission and are directed to a room where some men are having a meeting, but 1 speaks English – Dr. Jose Augusto. He says no problem to stay. He is a cardiologist. Something inside me tells me to ask about Mefloquina, even though it is not logical that a heart doctor should have any way to obtain it. We are told to follow, as he gets keys and takes us across the lot to a 7-story building – the hospital. We are taken into the locked pharmaceutical room in the basement. He walks right over to a shelf, takes out a bubble pack of Mefloquina (14 tablets), and asks if that will get us
by???? What a Godsend!! I could have kissed the man!! (But didn’t) I didn’t know that he was actually going to GET the med for us. I thought he was taking us to someone who would then call someone else, who would then call the government for permission, only to be rejected again!! This pulls a lot of pressure off of us. We had decided that we would start taking our Malarone the day before we boarded to travel Porto Velho to Manaus, but that would then leave us with nothing for Manaus or the Amazon, so we HAD to get our Larium package from home by Manaus. Now we have a 6 week grace period!!
Dr. Jose Augusto is running for Senator (Senador) for Rondonia. Elections are October 1. If he wins, he will have to move to Brazilia.
He asks if we have had dinner and if he can join us. He drives us in his Mitsubishi to Remanso do Tucunare on Brasilia Street. He calls it simple, but the best, and is right. Very good. We insist that he calls his wife to come for dinner. She does, and brings their 11 year old girl and 10 year old boy. What he didn’t tell us was that his wife was 34 years old!!! He is 58!!! Sallia is very beautiful and very nice, but doesn’t speak English. The children do, some, but are too embarrassed to talk to us!
We offer to taxi back to the parking, but Dr. Jose insists on driving us back the few blocks. He offers us a city tour, showing us the restaurant/bar areas – crowded with people, airport, then takes us to the Port to try to help us find out about shipping (although we didn’t know this is what he was doing!) Then to a different Port, where we makes us an appointment with Sr. Lins of Ronav for tomorrow at 9am!
How great that we have met someone else so nice to us!!
SEPTEMBER 7, 2006 – THURSDAY
BRAZIL INDEPENDENCE DAY!!
All of the hustle and bustle of last night makes today look like a ghost town!! Because of Independence Day, many businesses are closed, and there is no one on the streets!! Dr. Jose is at the hospital at 7am. I try to find out what celebrations there might be in town for Independence Day, and am told that there is a small military parade where they show off their varied parade uniforms, but that is about the extent of it.
We text PanAm what we have found shipping and that we hope to leave Fri am. They were in town at the train station when we came into PV yesterday.
Our 9am meeting gets pushed to 9:30. He tells us that the Friday morning boat is full, but that he hopes to get us on the Sun. boat. He says that only 1 person per vehicle allowed, but that he can make an exception, since we have our own accommodations. He says that since this is cargo transport, there are no amenities, but that there is a toilet and shower available on the boat. He quotes 1800 real, a bit under $900. As we are speaking with Sr. Lins, the 3 guys from PanAm show up. We tell them what we know, but the earliest they can get on for 3 vehicles is Tues departure.
Dr. Jose and campaign supporters are having a meeting. We already have his bumper sticker on the bumper of Kolob, but ask to hang a banner on the back of the truck. Eager for the support, we have a banner up in no time. We take pix of Dr. Jose and his gang with Kolob. We tell him that we are in town for another couple of days and ask to park. No problem, and have you had lunch?? Off we go in the campaign-mobile for a town tour . . . Mirantes lookout. Only the smoke has moved in overnight and you cannot even see the other side of the river!! We are all starving, so he takes us to a VERY AIR-CONDITIONED Japanese restaurant, Mishoti. It is hot and humid out, so the A/C is so nice!! Sr. Lins from Ronav is there with his family. It is probably good for him to see us with Dr. Jose. Maybe it will help us get on the boat, for sure!!
We Internet for a couple of hours, then decide to go to the movies at the Rio Mall. The girl at the Internet persuades us to use a taxi, not walk in the dark, by charades of a finger and thumb like a pistol and saying “pow pow”.
Ok, I understand. That is convincing. Please, call us a taxi!! The guidebook says that PV is used as a highway for drugs from Peru and Bolivia, but that it is not a bad threat for tourists. Still, we usually are in the camper early, just to be safe.
At the mall, there is only 1 movie showing, and it looks too depressing, so we eat pizza, have a great pineapple juice and caju juice and back to the truck by 9pm.
SEPTEMBER 8, 2006 – FRIDAY
Today is the day to get things ready for the river trip, dump toilet, Groceries and water and more water.
We go visit Sr. Lins again, trying to confirm our place on the boat that loads tomorrow, and leaves Sunday.
He is now pretty confident that he will get us on. He says that the boat should arrive at 9am to unload with loading in the afternoon. We assure him that we want on, and will be there Saturday morning, waiting.
We talk to Dr. Jose about politics. He was approached by the PT party and asked if he would run for Senator.
Although he does not agree with everything that Lula is doing, he says that he wants to make a difference, so that is why he is running. He especially has a passion for trying to change the health system. He is leading in Porto Velho, but says he doesn’t know about the other areas. His bumper sticker has his picture, then a picture of Lula on it, showing that Lula supports him. Since Lula is pretty much assured to win the Presidential election, this should help Dr. Jose. It is hard to figure out if Dr. Jose really wants to win. He is not only a cardiologist, but the Administrator of the hospital. He has taken a 2-month leave of absence from private practice (that is why he is at the hospital every day at 7am!! Ha!), to campaign. When asked if he will move his family if he wins, he says that he will have to sell his house (condo) here in Porto Velho in order to be able to afford a house (condo) in Brazilia. The pay is better for Senator than doctor. He is off to campaign in some surrounding towns. Campaigning is quite interesting, also. It means you hire a truck, load as many loud speakers in it as will fit, about 6′ tall, record a propaganda (advertising) speech dubbed over some loud Latin beat music, and drive through towns blaring the message to the loudest decibel level possible, mindless of the poor pedestrians innocently walking by, or worse, stuck at a red light trying to get away from the overbearing sounds. Surely the drivers must wear earplugs; otherwise this should be considered hazardous duty.
While driving around, we notice a steady stream of semi-trailer trucks coming from 1 direction. We are curious as to whether they are coming from another Port. Sr. Lins told us of another port, but we could not find it yesterday. We follow the trucks to the J.F. De Oliveira Navegacao Ltda, Estrada Do Belmont, km 06, Bairro National, 69-3229-4033/4034. (Manaus 92-2129-1900). No one in the office speaks English. They yell at a guy to come translate. He was actually the Dragoman tour driver, Ugo. He explained that there is no boarding list here, first-come, first-serve, but that they do have a barge that leaves every day to Manaus.
He also tells us that there are 3 English with motorhomes in the cue to leave tomorrow – PanAm. They say that the trip is 7 days, but plan on 9!!! The administrator says that they have enough vehicles in line to fill Saturday’s barge, but that we could get on for Sunday departure, 1980 real + 300 real for insurance. Only 1 passenger allowed per vehicle, period. We ask Ugo what PanAm is doing. He says the ladies have left, but are planning on sneaking back in tonight. I wonder how they are planning on staying hid for 7-9 days. It
doesn’t sound like that good of a deal. Think we will stick with Ronav.
We had dinner at Mirantes II, coconut fish.
At 10pm, Dr. Jose drives into the parking lot to check on us. He proudly pops in his advertising CD (which he has no doubt been blaring in some small town today). Of course, we tell him how nice the music is, having no clue what the message is!! He invites us to go dancing with him and Sallia. Wow, this guy has some energy!!
Michael has dubbed him the Energizer Bunny. He didn’t know that we were already in bed, and we were not about to tell him!! We tell him to have fun, and we will catch him tomorrow before we leave.Continue to Brazil 4×4 Expedition • Barge to Manaus