Part 23.  Up the Amazon River to Manaus


Wednesday, 18 March, 2009

I was up at 07:30 and ate quickly.  My plan this morning was to take a load of things to the boat and try to put it in my cabin.  I didn't know if I would have access to the cabin or not, so I also needed to prepared to leave things with the bike until I was able to board the boat later.  I would leave some things at the hotel and will come back for them after loading the bike.

I got mostly packed and organized, but Alex called and threw me off my game plan.  He wanted me to look at the two KLRs this morning, and was on his way to the hotel to get me.  Okay, let's do that.

Alex had convinced Moacyr to let me look at his bike again, so we went there first.  It was early, so Moacyr wasn't drunk yet.  The KLR was in decent shape, but it had been setting in the back yard for a year.  We had a little trouble getting it started, and it was very low on oil.  The reason it was low on oil became apparent.  The exhaust was blue with smoke.  The motor sounded good, but it would need work.  Alex was mostly interested in the motor, and the bike's other accessories and modifications didn't make it worth the price in my mind.

Next, we went to the police garage where there was another KLR.  One of the mechanics in the garage used to work at Alex's shop, so that's how he had learned of the seized KLR there.

The green 2000 KLR650 was in really bad shape.  In this photo, it looks as if it had been on fire, but it's just dust and rust.  The ignition had been broken apart, probably by the police who had seized it.  Alex's friend managed to get it running, and it ran well.  No smoke, either.  It seemed the better motor of the two bikes we had looked at.

Not all the vehicles being worked on here were government property; some personal bikes were getting wrenched on, too.

Alex told me that the ROTAM were the special police, and were the better ones.  Alex seemed to know a lot about the local police, and he said the Belem police were completely corrupt.  The Federal police were better.  In his opinion, the best city police (in large cities) in Brazil were in Sao Paulo and Brasilia.  Those police were better educated and trained, and they got paid more.  (I later learned that in Sao Paulo, there is a college for police officers.  I don't know what that really means here, but it seems significant.)

Alex got me back to the hotel by 11:00, and will try to see me at the port before I leave.  I got busy, loading the bike with the things I wanted to take to the boat first and hopefully load into the cabin.  They let my stash my over-packed drybag behind their desk for a while.  I checked out and paid, taking a photo of the hotel owner.  She insisted that I take her picture in front of this poster, so I won't crop it out.  Nice gal, quick smile and very friendly.

I rode down to the docks and tried to get my bike through this entry, where I had been told to go by Alex and Udivan.  There were two security guards there.  There were in "Good cop, Bad cop" mode.  I showed them my entry papers and the helpful one tried to explain something to me, but Mister I Have A Gun And You Don't took charge and yelled at me for a while.  When he finally understood that his yelling was useless because I didn't speak Loud Portuguese, he got disgusted and waved me away from the gate.  He seemed quite angry at me.  Anyway, this is where you eventually enter with your bike.

Some raggedy-looking men hanging out nearby came to see what the fuss was all about, and they were far more helpful than Mister I Have A Gun And You Don't.  We communicated more like dolphins than humans.  We grunted and clicked and pointed in various directions until I got the picture.  I was too early.  Plus, I apparently had to enter the secured dockyards myself through the passenger terminal first, then take the bike in.  How was I supposed to do that?

I rode the short distance down the street to the passenger terminal and parked in the shade.  I watched the people, just to see what everyone was doing, but I didn't learn much.  I did see people selling cheap hammocks and rope here, so that would have been nice to know earlier.

I was semi-saved by Udivan, the Enart booking agent from whom I had bought my ticket.  He was able to get me to understand that at 13:00, I was to take the bike through the vehicle gate, then I could board the boat after 15:00.  It was to depart at 18:00, so there would be plenty of time to retrieve my bag from the hotel.

At 13:00, I rode back to the vehicle gate, and Mister I Have A Gun And You Don't ignored me.  Another guard pointed to where I should park the bike just inside the gate, then he pointed me back out of the gate and down to the passenger entry area.  Ah, I get it now.

(edit:  They did check to see that I had a loading receipt for the bike.)

I went to the passenger terminal and tried to go straight through so I could get to my bike, but they weren't having any of that.  I was taken by the arm and gently led back into the waiting area and to a small booth where a laughing woman took my receipts and stamped them after checking my passport.  She detached a stub from one of the forms and gave the rest back to me.  I was then able to pass through the security gate and was in the dockyards.

I walked back to the vehicle gate where my bike was parked.  All the security guards ignored me, so I ignored them and just got on my bike and rode back to the boat.  When I rode up, several men loading cargo waved for me to put the bike near the boat.  I parked it where they told me.  There it stayed for quite a while.

Fortunately, a woman from the boarding ramp came over to me and wanted to see my boarding paperwork.  She saw that I was in a cabin, and she led me onto the boat and to my room.  She took my boarding paperwork from me (something that was a problem later) and gave me the key to the cabin.  I was in Camarote 26, top deck, port side.  It was a large steel closet with two bunk beds.  The woman turned on the air-conditioner, but it didn't seem to do anything.  I was dubious, but she assured me that it would work.  Also on my key ring was a key to the bathroom that the cabin passengers shared.  It had a shower, too.  She explained that I was to lock it after leaving.  To keep the riff-raff out, I suppose.

I made two trips to carry things from the bike to the cabin, then tried to find a way to exit the dockyards.  This proved very difficult to do.  The guard at the gate where I had entered would not unlock the gate to let me out.  He said I could exit at the vehicle gate.  I walked all the way back down there, but they would not let me exit there, either.  This was not normal, and I could see their confusion.  They waved me back to the passenger terminal.  I tried another gate, but it was padlocked and no one was working there.  A security guard saw me through this barred gate, and he came over to me to see what the problem was.  I explained that I had another bag at the hotel and I needed to go get it.  He asked around, and someone said that I could exit through the employee gate at the other end of the building.  Rats.  This was a very long building.

At the employee and police entry point, the guard saw that I was neither and he simply went blank.  He wasn't hostile or anything, he just didn't know what to do.  I wondered how anyone ever got out of here.  The guard kept pointing at some paper that he showed me, but I didn't have whatever he needed.  I resorted to my fail-safe tactic of standing there silently, staring at him.  Another guard in a control room must have called for more help, because a few minutes later a man arrived who spoke good English.  He was probably a supervisor of some sort, because everyone deferred to him.

My new custodian was also unsure how I could exit and later return.  I had already passed through the passenger entry point, so that meant that I was in a secure area.  That meant it wasn't normal for me to leave.  That meant that no one knew what to do.  He led me to the locked gate that I had first entered through, and after quite a while talking with several other men, they finally agreed that I could leave to go to my hotel.  I asked if my cabin key (the only proof I still had that I had been aboard the boat) would get me back aboard, and they all nodded sagely.  They were all wrong, but I didn't know that yet.  I was also told that when I returned, I would not be allowed to leave the secure area again.

What I learned from this, and what I suggest to future riders, is this:   If you are taking a motorcycle, first take your bags (any that are not loaded on the bike) to the passenger terminal and leave them there (ask someone to watch them).  Then, go put your bike just inside the vehicle entry gate and go back out to enter at the passenger terminal.  After going into the secure area (take any bags you might have left there), go to the boat and get checked in to your room (if you have one).  Retain your boarding paperwork; you will need this during the voyage.  Once your gear is stowed, go get your bike and bring it to the boat.  You are now stuck, so plan on staying there on the boat all afternoon and evening.  You can walk around the boring docks and watch people load the boat, so that is cheap entertainment.

I hope this helps, but your experience might be different than mine.

I walked back to the area of my hotel, but I still had a couple hours to kill.  I took some more Reals from an ATM, bought some fruit (pears, apples, and large green grapes that turned out to be very tart).  I didn't know what might be available on the boat for food this evening, so I ate in a small diner.  The small hamburgers were cheap, but had never been any part of a cow.  The patty seemed to have been shaped from some kind of meat paste.  It tasted okay, but had no texture.  What I took to be mustard and catsup turned out to be mayonnaise and some watery red sauce that didn't have much flavor.  It was not bad for less than two bucks, and it would hold me until breakfast if necessary.

As I walked back to the hotel, I looked again for something to read, but there was nothing in English.  I wish I knew what this magazine article said.  Did they think he was a Communist?  Socialist?

I fetched my last bag from the hotel and walked back to the docks.  This was about two miles, and I was covered in sweat when I arrived.  If I had been in a hurry, I would have taken a taxi, but I had nothing else to do.  When I got back to the passenger terminal, I put my bags on the floor in line with others and got a beer from a small deli there.  Udivan came to me and wanted to see my boarding paperwork to ensure that all was well.  I didn't have the paper anymore, and this was another minor crisis.  It took a long time and several people to solve this confusion.  In the end, Udivan had to send someone to get the woman from the boat who had taken my boarding pass.  She handed the paper back to me through the barred gate, and that fixed that.  Why she had retained it in the first place is something I don't understand.  I would need this form for meals each day.

This is the passenger terminal waiting room.  The small white booth on the right is where you take your papers to get stamped.

Right at 15:00, a large group of English backpackers arrived.  More people were arriving now, so they must have know there was no benefit in arriving before that time.  The passengers were required to go through a security check, similar to an airport, and many of them had a lot of difficulty stuffing their huge bundles through the X-ray machine.  Some men were carrying car tires, and they just didn't bother scanning those.  None of that mattered, since there was no one watching the screen of the X-ray machine.  Waste of time.  They hadn't made me do this when I went through earlier to get my bike.

On the boat, the same gal who had checked me aboard recognized me, so she didn't need to see my papers again.  I put my stuff in the cabin (the AC was working!) and took my hammock to find a nice place for it before things got too crowded.

Too late.

That's my red and white hammock in the above photo.  They guy looking into the camera helped me hang it.  I didn't expect to spend much time here, but I wanted the option.  Most passengers basically lived in their hammocks during the whole trip, and the floor was covered in luggage and other property.  Most people were carrying their own food for the trip, too.

I was interested to see what they did with my bike, so I went down to the cargo deck.  No one stopped me.  The smell of onions was very powerful.  Lots of other goods and produce, too.

At the bow, I watched as they loaded goods from truck after truck.  This was all going either to Manaus or to stops along the way.  The tide was slowly going out, and the bike would wait.

As they dropped cargo to the lower holds, they would toss up those Styrofoam coolers to make room.  Eventually, they would re-pack the coolers back down in the hold.

These were the men who would later load my bike, so I tried to establish a rapport with them.  Some were willing to pose on my bike, others weren't.  Clown-boy, shown here making fun of his friend, took a particular interest in everything I did, and tried to get into every photo.  The other workers made fun of him a lot, too.  They didn't seem to like him, and I noticed that he didn't work much.

To get Clown-boy to ease up a bit, I finally let him sit on the bike.

Alex had told me that he would meet me at the dock gate at 17:00, and that was still a long time to wait.

I was briefly encouraged when a loading supervisor asked me to lighten my bike by taking the boxes and bags off it.  I took off the tank panniers, the camping bag, and the Jesse boxes, but I left the side bags.  These bags and boxes went into my cabin, and the workers carried them for me.  I was now even happier to have the cabin to myself, seeing how small it was and how much room all my crap took up.

More trucks.  It wasn't looking like the boat would be leaving on time.  Smaller boxes were thrown right through openings on the side of the boat.

When the tide was right, they loaded my bike.  I started to help take the bike across the plank, but they were so crowded that I finally just got out of the way.  I took photos instead.

Notice how Clown-boy is right there but isn't doing much?  Yeah, me, too.

When the bike was on the deck, Clown-boy ran up to me with his hand out.  Huh?  Others were watching with smiles, and I got it.  They wanted a tip for loading the bike.  One of the loading supervisors nodded at me when I looked his way, and when I asked how much, he said R$/100.  No, I said, and took from my pocket the only cash that I had with me.  I gave Clown-boy the R$/50 bill, but when he asked for the two R$/20's as well, I said no, I needed those for beer!  They all laughed and we were friends.  That looked like the end of the work day for the guys who loaded my bike, because they took the R$/50 and ran off down the docks.  I didn't see them again.

My bike got moved around several times as the cargo loading continued.  Two other Suzuki bikes were already on the boat, so they probably belonged to crew members.

The tide dropped another few six feet, and now they were sliding cargo down the loading ramps.  I called Alex to say goodbye, but he said he would leave work and come to see me off.  I waited at the gate for a long time, but he must not have been able to get away.  I tried to send him a text message, but couldn't get it to go out.  I'll write him an email when I get to Manaus.

It was dark, most passengers were on board (although some stragglers were still running up every now and then), and still the cargo loading continued.  On the upper aft deck were table and chairs for sitting outside.  The group of Brits were there, chatting.  I talked with them a little, but they were all in their 20's and we didn't have much in common.  I sent in a SPoT signal, and would try to remember to do so each day.

There was a bar area on the boat, with more plastic tables and chairs.  A beer was R$/3, and when I gave one of the 20's to the cashier, he told me that he couldn't make change.  Good grief, this issue came up all over the place.  Most customers were paying in small bills and coins, so how could they not be able to make change?  The cashier gave me the beer and a written chit for the remaining R$/17.  Okay, it'll work out eventually.

The boat finally pulled away after 20:00, leaving the lights of Belem behind.

The Brits thought that maybe our course would take us out to the Atlantic first, then up the actual Amazon.  I told them that Cicero (the Hippy-Dippy Guide Man) had told me that the course went inland past the island of Marajo, then north to the main Amazon river.  Our boat kept going north and east, though, so maybe he was wrong?

Eventually, the boat cleared the smaller islands in the area and made a big left turn, going west as Cicero had told me it would.  I found that my bike was still on the forward deck, now tied to the rail.

A couple more beers, and the bartender gave me my change, so we were square.

On the main social deck (the same deck as my cabin), the bar area had a big-screen TV, and they were showing concert videos the whole time.  Very loud.  Some music videos got mixed in every now and then, and I liked seeing Brazilian music videos very much.  Mostly because of the topless women in them, I think.

I used the Zumo to mark my location, then took a nap.  It was midnight when I got up again.  Many people were still up, walking around the boat.  This made for constant noise on the steel decks, and I resigned myself to not having any quiet for the whole trip.  I had earplugs if it came to that.  At least the music had shut down for the night.

Back to bed.



Thursday, 19 March, 2009

Breakfast was to be at 06:00, so I had set my alarm.  A traveler from Toronto chatted with me a while.  He was originally from Latvia, but had been living in Canada for a long time.  He thought that the idea of being on the Amazon river was just fabulous.  We didn't know anything about how the meals worked, so we went down to investigate.

The dining room was on the second deck, behind the big hammock room.  We got in line with others, and when a man came around ringing a small bell, the line got crowded.  I saw ahead of me that a guy at the doorway was checking each person's boarding pass.  Whoops.  I went back to my room for mine and the Canadian did the same.  He was back in line before me, and got inside earlier than me.  That worked out, though, because the dining room could only hold so many people at a time and I had to wait.  Why this was good was because the Canadian came out soon after and said that the 06:00 breakfast was only bread and coffee.  He thinks that there will be a later, more complete breakfast that you can pay for.  Just then, it was my turn at the door, and the guy checking papers stopped me and pointed to a sign on the wall that showed breakfast for those in suites and cabins was at 07:00.

I piddled around for a while, and I almost lounged in my as-yet-unused hammock.  But it was so crowded, busy, and muggy in the hammock room that this wasn't an attractive option.  I might not use the hammock at all.  It hadn't been expensive, and I planned on leaving it on the boat anyway.

At 07:00, the guy at the door checked-off the first breakfast box on my boarding paper (see?  it's important to keep this paper) and let me into the dining room.  The food was R$/5, and worth it.  A small buffet, bread, ham, cheese, fruits, fried eggs, juice, coffee.  Not many diners, so there was plenty of room.  Again, most passengers brought their own food.  The guy in the green shirt below kept trying to talk with me all day, even though he knew I didn't speak Portuguese.  He would say something long-winded to me, then he would wait for me to respond.  I never understood a single word he ever said.  He was persistent, but I have no idea why.

I retired to my cabin to write all this down.  Now to wend away the rest of the day.  Jeez, the smell of onions is still very strong.  Why couldn't it have been ten tons of oranges?

At 11:30, the boat made its first stop.  There were lots of villages along the river, but this was the first actual city.  Don't know what its name was.  We pulled in and tied to the dock, and we were immediately swarmed by men and boys selling things.  Before anyone could get off the boat for the 30-minute stop, dozens of vendors came aboard.

They were selling food, mostly.  Some were selling meals in pie tins, and these seemed popular.  It looked like they were R$/2 each, so less than a buck.  Bread, fruits, shrimp, nuts, some other veggies that I didn't know.  Few of the souvenir and crafts sellers came aboard.  Too hard to carry their wares, I think.  The boys who climbed onto the pier posts did the most business with passengers on all levels of the boat.

In the water below were the women and young girls, waiting for money and treats to be tossed down to them.  I didn't see much going their way.

I went ashore in search of a pair of sandals or flip-flops, but there were none to be found.  My shoes were too hot on the boat.

We pulled away as smoothly as we had arrived.  There were streets and some cars and trucks, but I didn't see any of the city aside from the riverfront.  I saw several lumber mills along the river as we motored away.

Once we were moving again, it was time for lunch.  The Canadian guy said that the free lunch was some rough meat and pasta, but it was okay.  I waited and paid R$/10, which was about US$4.30 for some tender chunks of beef, chicken, rice, pasta, beans, cold fruit (very nice), and juice.  It was a buffet, so I could have eaten more, but it was too much food as it was.

Lots of canoes rowed out to meet the boat and hook on.  Most were boys, maybe selling something, maybe just goofing around.  I saw one boy's canoe come unhooked and fall behind the boat.  Someone must have told him pretty quickly, because he dove into the river and swan after it.  He looked like maybe ten or twelve years old.  Later, another boat tied on and they spent over an hour unloading milled dowels onto the Amazon Star.

It was a rare few minutes that went by without seeing a house or a village.  Usually just one house by itself.  There was always a canoe, and often a larger boat as well.  Two cars in every garage, so to speak.

I went down to upper cargo deck and bought some of these things from a kid in a canoe.  I had no idea what they were (and still don't), but I had seen other people breaking them open and eating them, so they must be food.  Time to experiment.  The pre-teen kid wasn't interested in selling me only one of them, so I got four of them for my forty-three cents.  They are like a large, hard bean.  The long one is about 10" long.

They split open easily, and the inside looked like a fuzzy, segmented banana.  Each segment was attached to the shell by a small fiber that was easily broken.  Pop one in your mouth and...  How to describe it?  There was a crisp, bitter, green seed in the middle of each segment, but the white stuff is what you're after.  You chew and suck it off the seed.  This takes some doing, since it is very tough stuff, and it gets slimy.  It is sweet, though, so that is your reward.  Not really worth the effort, but it was different.

It rained a few times, but you must always assume that this goes without saying.

In one village, lots of canoes came out near the boat, but they only seemed to be playing in the wake.  Most were paddled by kids that looked like they were under the age of seven or eight.

It's a way of life on the river.  These kids paddled through the boat's waves without even slowing down.  They probably learned to swim and paddle as they learned to walk.

The afternoon wore on, and most people from the cabins and suites were just hanging out on the decks to get some air.

The aft deck.  Those are shower heads, and they get turned on for a while in the afternoon.

A larger village; a few dozen houses.  As it started to get dark, I saw some electric lights.  I wonder how they get their electricity.  Solar?  I suppose there might be electric lines in the jungle, but man, that's a lot of wire.  Some houses had satellite dishes, so that's probably not going to run off a solar battery.

At 18:00, it was dinner time for those who wanted to pay for the better meal.  I'll probably not do this all week, but for now I want to see what the food is for the money.

It was R$/10 again, and it was almost the same as lunch.  Not as much fruit, but more meat and a very nice salad.

We were sometimes in narrow water channels, working our way north toward the main Amazon river.  Here, it's not long before sunset, on a wider part of the local waterway.

I had saved a few GPS locations during the day, interested in our actual course through the maze of islands and water channels.  We should be on the Amazon's main course later tonight.  I also sent a SPoT signal.

One DVD I had with me was in Portuguese only, no subtitles.  Another comedy (a parody about superheroes) was set for a different world region than my laptop's DVD player would accept.  I chose not to reset my player's regional code, so that disc went into the trash.  I watched another DVD and at least it had subtitles.

I went out to the social deck and did some Sudokus and other puzzles.  I had lots of such books with me, but nothing to read.  The group of Brits pretty much kept to themselves, although they did manage to recruit a young blond woman from Australia into their fold.  She was very attractive (and tattooed and pierced in various places, but that's normal these days) and a couple of the guys attached to her right away.  Woof.

There were several young Brazilian men on the social deck, and they had been there all day.  Beer cans were piled on their table and on the floor under the table.  One of the men was dancing all over the social deck.  I must admit, he was a pretty good dancer.  Not much to look at, but he had his moves down.  When he treated everyone to his version of a stripper's pole dance, everyone started hooting and cheering.  He was quite the showman.  Didn't have my camera with me at the time.

I saw that the sky was clear for the first time in a long time.  Orion was almost directly overhead.  We were less than two degrees south of the equator at this point, headed north, but we would turn west before much further.  I would cross the equator on the bike somewhere north of Manaus next week.

Back to the cabin to write and laze under the air-conditioner.




Friday, 20 March, 2009

I woke at 01:30 when the boat's motor went quiet and something thumped the hull.  We had docked in the small city of Gurupa.  I went out to watch a few people get off the boat and some cargo get loaded and unloaded.  Didn't take long.  Twenty minutes max, and we moved on.

Back to bed.  One of the things about a bunk bed is that it is hard to sit up on the lower bunk.  I sat up or sat back several times with a whack to my head.  So, when I was in the cabin, I was laying down all the time.  The top bunk had gear strewn all over it, and it had even less headroom.

I had decided to skip breakfast today, so I just kept snoozing.  One of the passenger aids who had taken to looking after me came and knocked at my door at 07:10, but I told her that I was okay.  I'll plan on a large lunch and maybe a light dinner.  Three full meals and nothing to do all day isn't a good plan.

I spent the morning watching a movie, walking around the deck a few times, taking a few pics.  We were now officially on the Amazon River's main course.  Didn't look any different.  Bigger than some of the waterways we had passed through.

We slowed and angled to the shore as we neared Almeirim, so it was obvious we were going to stop.

A smaller city than yesterday's stop, so it was less hectic.  Some passengers disembarked here, and again some cargo was loaded and unloaded quickly.

This wasn't going to be a long stop, but I got off the boat and went looking for some sandals or flip-flops.  They sold a lot of cheese here.

I found a shop with flip-flops, so that will be better for padding around the boat and making midnight trips to the toilet.  I also got some more cookie snacks.  More cars and trucks here, so there's got to be a road in and out of this city.

My bottle of Cupuašu yoghurt had started to ferment, so I had to toss it out.  Too bad; I liked the stuff but it was too heavy and sweet to drink much of it at once.

This is the social deck during mid-day.  Nothing going on now.  The hammocks will come down when it gets crowded in the evening.

Another big boat pulled in just as we were leaving.  It had some cars and trucks on it, plus lots of passengers.  The second deck is full of hammocks.

Time for lunch now.  Only R$/7 today, and I got an IOU for R$/3 from the bartender/cashier on the social deck.  Again they're out of change?  No matter; it'll get me a beer later (and it did).

The beef was again a bit tough.  There were two sauces for the chicken breasts, both good, and the chicken was very tender and moist.  Pasta, bean stew, potatoes, rice (which I would have happily traded for a salad).  Or anything green.

Some Brits sat with me for lunch, and we chatted.  We talked about the differences between traveling by bus and by motorcycle and the places we had all seen.  The Aussie gal was with them, but she never spoke to me at all.  When the guys asked me how I could manage to be away for so long, I told them that I was a retired police officer.  This is when the Aussie gal got up from where she was sitting across from me and she moved to another seat further away.  She apparently doesn't like police.  I thought it was funny.

I passed the afternoon by doing more puzzles and watching a couple movies.  Some of the DVDs didn't work, so they got tossed out.  A couple others were only only in Portuguese and one was a different movie that it was supposed to be.  Once movie turned out to be porn that wouldn't run right (yeah, I checked), and the contents of another disc looked to be a supplemental disk for a video game.  You pay very little for bootleg movies, you take your chances.

Hanging out on deck was relaxing, but the heat and humidity wears me out quickly.  Just sitting there sweating is no fun, so I resorted to brief walks during the day but otherwise I stayed where the air-conditioner was my friend.  This wasn't a very rich travel experience, but it was what worked for me.  The younger travelers hung out on deck most of the day, and took a shower on the aft deck now and then.

I skipped dinner, since lunch had been so heavy.  I snacked on cookies and the fruit I still had with me.

The river's edge isn't always defined by jungle.  There are often low, green areas that didn't look like farms.  Sometimes there were small shacks and barns on these flat areas.  Why, I don't know.

I sent a SPoT signal and saved a few GPS locations before heading for bed.  It was still quite warm out at night.  We made another port call after sunset, and we were there for almost two hours while goods were transferred.  Again, some passengers got off, others got on.

Another passenger told me that there would be a longer stop in the night as well.



Saturday, 21 March, 2009

At 02:30, the motors went quiet again, so I left the cabin to investigate.  The boat was gliding up to another dock.  A much larger city, but it was mostly dark.  We would be there several hours, but there was no reason to leave the boat.  The laborers got to work, and I went back to bed.

I was awakened by the motors revving up again at sunrise.

It got light quickly, and I took some photos as the boat left the port and headed west again.

At breakfast, one of the young Aussie guys sat with me and we talked for a couple hours.  He was maybe 19 years old, and this was his first world travel experience aside from a few trips to the Philippines (something that is common for people from Australia).  He didn't know much about the United States, and said that most young Aussies didn't go there because the drinking age was twenty-one.  Aussies like to drink and party younger than that, he said.

We talked about traveling by bus versus motorcycle (each has its advantages), traveling in a group versus alone (ditto), and about the places we had each seen in South America.  The Canadian guy who was originally from Latvia joined us for a little while, and after he was gone, the Aussie told me that this was the first actual traveling experience for the Latvian/Canadian guy, too.  That got me talking about how a couple of decades can change many things.  Twenty years or so ago, no one from Latvia would have been able to travel so freely.  The U.S.S.R. was still around back then.  That was just history to these young guys.

We talked about other things that were interesting to us, but not worth writing down here.  The cleaning women in the dining room were working around us since we were the only people left, so we had to move along.

As I passed through the hammock bay, I noticed that my hammock was gone.  Someone had obviously noticed that it was unused, so it was now being used by someone else.  That was okay with me.  Most the European tourists slept in the hammock room with the hundreds of others, but they spent their days on the upper deck.  Some of their friends had cabins, and I think they were sharing those at times.  The local Brazilians seem to spend the entire voyage in that room and the connecting bathrooms.  No wonder it smelled that way.

I did some writing to keep this report up to date, but I was mostly just killing time.  The scenery was interesting, but it rarely changed enough to be interesting for long.

There might be a time zone change along the way at some point, but if so, I don't know when.  I asked some of the Brits, but they weren't sure either.  It doesn't really matter.  If the local time changes, it will get an hour earlier, not later.

I sat on the social deck for a few hours doing puzzles and staring numbly at the passing greenness like so many others were doing.  So many shades of green, above the various shades of brown in the water.  The erosion from the Amazon was incredible.  It was a very big area, of course.

It was a cooler day than most had been, so that was nice.  I skipped lunch and just ate some fruit in my cabin.

In the middle of the afternoon, we docked in a large city.  This was Santarem, and it showed on my maps as being on some major roads in the Amazon.  We would be here for hours.

Okay, this guy in the blond wig (in the next photo).  Let's talk about him for a moment.

He had walked around the boat with a big grin on his face for the last three days, and he usually wore that really bad blond wig (I saw him once in a longer black wig that was in better shape).  The blond wig was so bad that you could see the netting through the bare patches in the hair.  What's his story?  I have no idea.  Things like that are lost when you can't walk up to a guy and ask.  He and an older woman got off the boat here, but he later re-boarded alone.  He didn't seem to say much.

This was the final destination for lots of passenger, but many others boarded here.  Soon after I took these photos, the trucks showed up to start loading cargo from the boat.  The gal in the middle on the photo below is the Aussie woman that the Brits and Canadians had adopted.  She was departing the boat here as well, so she had her packs with her.

These two groups are most of the Canadians, Aussies, and Brits (and the Aussie gal again) that I had talked with now and then.

The boat had docked about two miles from the center of the city.  There were many other large boats right in the middle of the city, but for some reason we went past it to docks further away.  I walked back into the city, which took a while in the increasing heat.  There were lots of mango trees along the road, and the ground was covered with the fallen fruit.  It's of no interest to anyone, apparently.

Lots of small and medium-sized boats were tied up along the waterfront.  Most had signs advertising them for rent.  For fishing, cargo hauling, or touring, I would think.

In the city, I went through a small plaza where some musicians were playing.  A guitarist might have been blind, but the singer definitely was.  I forgot to take a photo.

I did take this photo.  The guy had been trying to pull down some small red fruit with the pole, but the woman got impatient with his unskilled efforts, so she took the pole away from him as I got my camera ready.  I don't know what the fruit was.

One side of the plaza was lined with these old trees.  Sitting and sleeping under them were some hippy-looking men and women, all in their late teens and early twenties.  They were sort of selling beads and bracelets.  Mostly they were just lounging around.

I walked some of the major commercial streets, but I wasn't looking for anything in particular.  I bought some more fruit and snacks and headed back to the boat.  A taxi, or even a moto-taxi (scooter) would have been faster, but I had lots of time.  Still, I sweated bucketloads.

When I got back to the docks, they were still unloading onions.  In the end, they loaded several trucks with onions, and there were many more still on the lower cargo deck.

I took a shower in one of the small bathrooms that the cabin passengers shared.  This was a good time, since many passengers were off the boat and I didn't keep anyone waiting.

I watched another movie and just lazed a while.  I sent a SPoT signal and saved a GPS location.  The boat's siren blew, and that served as something like a departure warning to those still ashore.  The time wasn't long though and if you were still in the main part of the city, you were at risk of being left behind.  The boat left the dock at 21:20, and the passengers applauded.  They were eager to get moving, too.

It was a nice night.  Clear skies again, so the stars were shining.  There was lightning in all directions (which is always very pretty), but we were in a pocket of calm, moving a bit north with the river at the moment, but always heading upstream.

We were a bit more than halfway to Manaus.



Sunday, 22 March, 2009

The boat blew its horn and slowed to pull into Obidos, a small city, at about 05:00.  I was still dark, but I got up to watch men loading big, heavy bags onto the boats.  They had help putting the bags on their heads since they were too heavy to lift alone--especially repeatedly for an hour.  (I saw the bags in the cargo hold later.  They were full of sugar, just over 50 kilograms, so about 110 pounds each.)

Back to bed.  I was going to skip breakfast again anyway.  Right after we started moving, a monster rainstorm came through.  The whole boat was vibrating like a drum from the pounding.  The wind was rolling the boat side to side a bit, and that was very unusual.  The boat was normally very stable and gave little sense of being "on a boat."  I tried to peek out once, but the wind almost snatched my cabin door right off the hinges.  I heard other doors slamming shut, so I don't think anyone was going out for a while.

I got up later (when it was calmer) and snacked on fruit and some small croissant things that I had bought yesterday.  The star fruit I had bought looked ripe, but they were very hard and sour.  I hoped they would ripen before they rotted.  The small apples were more dependable.

These floating rafts of vegetation were always around.  Some were huge.  They must be anchored by roots, since they aren't being carried away by the river.


The water seems unusually high.  Almost all farms and houses along the river were swamped.

Lunch was about to be served when we stopped again in a large town.  I had known about the river dolphins but hadn't seen any until now.  As we neared the docks, a couple of them were surfacing casually nearby.  They were pink, as I had been told.  Never got a real good look at them, nor any photos.

The floating steel dock says Manaus on it, but were were still at least a day away from there.

The guy with the wig stood next to me to watch the boat tie up.  I said hello to him, but he just looked at me and smiled.  I saw him once today without the wig or the goofy grin.  He had a full head of hair, cut short, so he wasn't hiding baldness.  Whenever he wore a wig, he was almost constantly fussing and playing with it like it was a toy.

I tried to sneak a better photo of Blondie when I saw a guy behind him making fun of him.  Blondie saw him too, and put his head down on his arms to ignore the guy.

The stop was about an hour.  Lots of boxed goods got unloaded, along with maybe a hundred large steel tanks of propane or maybe natural gas.  Each tank was about eight feet long and 18" or so in diameter.  It took several guys to roll each one off, but they were working pretty quickly.

I ate on the boat while we were docked.  Wasn't worth exploring the town.

Once we were moving again, I did puzzles on the social deck for a couple hours, but then went back to the cabin to write and watch a movie.

The afternoon rain was light and short, but it cooled things down nicely.  At dinner time, I was joined at my table by many of the Brits and Canadians so we got to talk more.  It was like being back in high school for a while, and I had mixed reactions about that.  Before long, our age differences had again separated us, though we were still at the same table.  It was just as well.

Another DVD movie wouldn't run, and another was only in Portuguese.  The next one was The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and it worked.  I had no idea what the movie was about, only that it was a recent release with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.  I'm glad I was alone, because I hate to cry in public.  *sniff* *sniff*

At 20:15, we made another stop in Parintins, a decent-sized city.  It was dark and most everything along the waterfront looked closed.  A couple bars or small restaurants looked open, so I went strolling.  I ran into the Latvian/Canadian guy in a market where he had found Ašai juice.  Like me, he had discovered it in Belem and was happy to have another taste of it.  He and I walked back to the boat together.  He had left Riga, Latvia when he was 24 years old, and has been working in Toronto for about ten years.  Something to do with programming at a hydroelectric plant.  He was on a rare long vacation, spending time only in Brazil.  It was five vacation weeks that he had saved up.  Being from Europe, he was used to longer vacations than were common in the U.S. and Canada.  He thinks Americans work too much.  I know lots of people who would agree with him.  Including me.

The stop was only supposed to be 90 minutes, so there was nothing else to do but watch men load and unload stuff.

I couldn't get a clear answer on when we would get to Manaus.  One more night on the boat or two?  I suppose it depended on several factors.  This was going to be our fifth night aboard, and maybe the last.  Tomorrow will tell.

After about an hour at the port, a bunch of the Brits left the boat in a party mode.  Maybe they knew something.

A couple hours later and we were still there.  The laborers were still at it.  There had been a lot of water damage to many cardboard boxes in the cargo hold, and they were pulling the merchandise out piece by piece.  Some of the boxes were being taped back together, but many were damaged beyond repair.  This was slow going.

About midnight, I watched them a while longer.  Some men were doing an inventory, since it seemed hard to account for many things that were no longer boxed up.  I saw that there was now a car in the main cargo level that hadn't been there before.

I watched the last movie I had with me and dozed a while.  At  02:00, the boat blew its horn and we started moving again.  There had been no warning horn, so I hope we didn't lose anyone.



Monday, 23 March, 2009

I deliberately slept through breakfast, but got up later and had some fruit.  It was drizzling, and cool.  The cool felt good, but it was windy enough that there was no protected areas on the decks, so I went back to bed.

At 10:00, I walked around the boat for a while.  I noticed that the lock on my cabin door has been getting more and more difficult to operate with my key.  Some of the British gals saw me fiddling with it and told me that their door lock had seized or gotten fouled up somehow and they had feared that someone had tried to break into their cabin.  Their lock look okay, so that probably wasn't the case.  It eased their worries that someone else was having a similar problem.  I think that it's just cheap hardware.

I saw the wig guy without his big hair again.  He was standing with one side of his head pressed against a large speaker on the social deck, singing along merrily.  The music was very loud, so I thought that he must be looking for a hearing loss.  When I passed closer to him, I saw that he already had a hearing aid in one ear.  Okay, that explained a few other things that I haven't written about him, including some very animated gestures and behaviors.  He must be essentially deaf, and maybe mildly retarded.  Seems a nice enough guy, judging by his interactions with others.

A few more photos along the riverbank.  It was often very dense jungle, looking like the riverbanks on the Amazon Queen tour that I had taken in Belem.  When it was like that, you couldn't see anything past the first wall of green.

At the front of the second deck, many people sit all day (when it's not raining) watching the scenery come at them.  These two kids were playing with a large cricket and an even larger cockroach.  They had no aversion to picking the insects up and tossing them back and forth.  In the end, they smashed the bugs with their flip-flops.

There was a time change during the night, so it was an hour earlier than I thought when I went down to lunch.  I had expected it, but no one I asked knew anything about it, and most passengers weren't wearing a watch.

As I stood and waited in the hammock bay, an older guy came up to me and said something timidly.  He eventually pointed at a hammock and then to where my hammock used to be.  He directed my attention to where someone had moved it, and I think that he was telling me that he (or someone he was with) had been using it.  I patted him on the shoulder and waved off the hammock with a smile.  He seemed relieved.  He must have thought that I had finally come down to use it.  It wasn't my hammock any more, as far as I was concerned.  (Later in the day, I saw a young man with a baby in that hammock.)

In the afternoon, I just walked around the boat's decks for a while.  There were more small kids in canoes who would paddle out to watch our boat go by.  In this region, they sat at the very front of their canoes, not the very back.

We docked in Itacoatiara just before dinner.  We weren't here long, so I didn't bother getting off the boat.  Floating docks are more common further up the river.

People seemed to be able to drive their personal cars down to the docks, but I didn't see any taxis.  Passengers leaving the boat hired these bicycle cargo carriers to get their stuff to the shore.

We got moving again and I went down to dinner.  The extended delays in some of the ports would mean that we should get into Manaus sometime tomorrow morning.

I developed a very bad stomach after dinner.  I suppose it was something I had eaten earlier, but the only thing I could think of was some of the star fruit.  I felt nauseous and I was cramping, but I didn't have much of a diarrhea problem.  Of course, just a small diarrhea problem is enough to change your day.  I took some antibiotics and tried to rest, but it was impossible.  I knew it was going to be a bad night.

I started to sweat after a couple hours, and the air-conditioner in the cabin was not enough to help.  There was no better place to be on the boat, and nothing else to do, so I resigned myself to being miserable for a while.  I wasn't able to drink much water, since my stomach was bloated, so I was also concerned about getting dehydrated.  Great.

Later in the night, I was able to drink some, so that helped.  I felt for a long time that I was going to vomit, but that never happened.  I felt like I wanted to vomit my stomach out, invert it, scrape it off, and stuff it back in.  Odd, the things you think about when you are not feeling well.

A steel boat is like a big bell.  Every rattle, bang, bump, or closing door resonates throughout the vessel, and you get to hear it all.  People moving around in the adjacent cabins could be heard, and people walking around the boat (even on other decks) could be heard.  Like every night, it was very noisy, but my illness made it much worse.  I knew that I was lucky, to a small degree, because a few other passengers had gotten sick earlier and had to suffer on the boat longer.

I was unable to sleep at all, and could only sit up or lay flat on my back all night.  If I turned onto my side, my stomach immediately complained and it was too painful to stay that way.  I sat up a couple times in the night and whacked my head on the upper bunk.  Fun stuff.

I felt a little better as morning arrived, but I was exhausted.  Small sips of water is all that I could manage.  I wanted to just stay in the cabin when I heard the engines slow and the horn blow at about 06:30, but I got up to see our arrival in Manaus.  Brazil highway 174 runs north-to-south through the country, crossing the Amazon River here in Manaus, so this is a major hub.  Ocean-going ships come a thousand miles up the river to exchange goods and passengers here.

I knew that it would be a while--maybe hours--before my bike could be unloaded, so I went back to bed and stayed there.  I heard other passengers packing up and leaving the boat, and I regretted missing a chance to say goodbye to a few of them, but I wasn't up to it.

When the employees came around to clean the cabins a couple hours later, I got them to understand that I had to wait for my bike, so they left me alone.  At about 09:00, I finally crawled out of the bunk and got dressed.  My stomach was still fragile, but mostly I needed about twenty hours of sleep.  For a distraction, I went back to watching men unload the boat.

The dock was very crowded, and our boat had wedged itself in between other boats and the dock.

An hour later, the car got driven off the boat, and that cleared the way for my bike.  At least they wouldn't have to lift the bike out.

Other stuff started getting unloaded first, so I decided to see if I could get into the city and find a hotel now.  I would come back for the bike later.  The floating dock is very large.  Asphalt-covered steel, and segmented so it could move around.  When I tried to leave the dock area, I found a security checkpoint and I saw the guards deny entrance to a few people.  I didn't feel like risking it, so I went back to the boat.

When I returned to the boat, they were ready for me.  Three men with matching t-shirts came to me, offering their help to get the bike off.  They were laborers who worked on the docks, and I knew they would need to be paid, but I did need their help.  The boat had been full of goods when my bike was loaded, so they had to put it in the open foredeck (which is why they had to lift it down).  Now, however, with most of the cargo cleared, I could move my bike through one of the large doors into the main cargo hold and roll it off the boat as the car had done earlier.  The one problem was that the door from the foredeck had a tall lip at the bottom, and the bike would need to be lifted over it.

I started the bike and began to power-walk it on the foredeck, but the leader of the helpers waved me off and had me shut the bike off.  He took it from me and the three of them pushed the bike to the door, lifted it through (I helped some, but not much), and rolled it onto the dock.  I thought they would leave it there so I could load the other bags and boxes on it, but they pushed it all the way up the ramp and parked it on the upper platform behind a truck full of potatoes (see the 4th photo above).  That was a long way to carry my things.  Of course, they came with me to my cabin and carried most things for me, so that helped.

I made one final trip back to the cabin to get my last things, and signed a receipt on my way off the boat.  I assume it was for final delivery of the bike from the boat.

When I started to attach the aluminum boxes to the bike, the potato truck pulled away and another truck needed to back in and get loaded.  I was in their way, so I had to move the bike and all the bags further up the platform.  My helpers were still hanging around, so they helped.  I started strapping on the soft bags, but another truck needed to be where I was, so I had to move again.  It was impossible to be anywhere without being in someone's way.  I moved the bike and the bags again.  My helpers wanted R$/60 for their work, and I was happy to pay it.  All I had was some small bills and some 100's.  They were happy to take the R$/100, and I didn't want to haggle over change.

This is when I noticed that my machete was missing from the bike.  It had been sheathed behind one of the Jesse boxes, mostly out of sight.  I had only taken it from the sheath a few times to clean it, so it wasn't like I was going to miss it or anything.  Still, it irked me a little.  It might have gotten taken on the boat or on the dock.  It's easily replaceable.

Another rider from Brazil talked with me while I finished loading the bike.  He had just done a long ride on his 150cc bike, and was now returning from Venezuela.  He spoke decent English, and he was very friendly.  He told me that he liked Venezuela, and the gasoline was very cheap there.  Three times, they hadn't even had him pay when he filled his tank.  I had heard this before--that gasoline is almost free.  Hugo Chavez seized the petroleum industry in Venezuela some years ago (and still hasn't paid the international corporations for their massive losses), but this is at least one small benefit to his people that helps keep him somewhat popular with the masses.

I felt a bit light-headed and sluggish, but I was glad to finally get on the bike and ride it off the heaving dock.  I was stopped by a checkpoint guard on the shore, and I had to produce identification and my bike papers to proceed.  It also cost me R$/20, which I suppose is a dock tax.

When I went on, I approached the final gate off the dockyards.  Just as I came to the gate, I heard my name called, and I saw two men with motorcycles nearby.  They were friends of Alex's, and they had been alerted to my arrival.  That's how I met Joelmir and Fabio.

They invited me to come stay at their house, and I said okay.  I really wanted a hotel and to sleep, but I couldn't say no to Alex's friends who had been waiting for me to leave the boat all morning.  Joelmir spoke a little English, so that was enough.

I followed them through the city to an outer neighborhood to the north.  Fabio opened the sliding gate to their covered driveway, and I parked with their bikes there.

They had a nice house.  Concrete like all the others.

Since Manaus has a large Free Zone for manufacturing and commerce, a lot of Brazil's goods are made here (especially clothing, electronics, and motorcycles).  I would look for another camera while I was here.

This is Joelmir's bike.  It's a Honda Shadow VLX, 600cc, made here in Manaus.  It's very loud, with straight pipes and a major backfire problem.

Joelmir used to own this Honda Tornado 250, but he has now sold it to Fabio.

I had a hard time understanding the names of Joelmir's two dogs.  It took me a couple days to remember.  The big female was Maggie, and she was in heat.  The younger male is Tapajos, and he was crazy from Maggie being in heat.  He kept getting too familiar, so she bit him on the face while I was there, and cut him badly under one eye.

When they offered me a beer, my stomach heaved.  No thanks, not yet.  The only other thing they had to drink was milk, and that suited me just fine.

This was Joelmir's house (his wife was still at work), but he told me that Fabio lives there with them.  Joelmir told me that other local riders would meet us tonight for a get-together in my honor.  I had mixed feelings about that, but I said okay.  Joelmir wasn't surprised that I had gotten a little sick on the boat.  He said that many passengers do, especially tourists whose stomachs aren't up to it.  I still think that it was the unwashed star fruit that got me, not the boat food.  I was still thankful that most of the time on the boat had been without incident.

Joelmir is a lawyer of some kind.  He said that I should make myself at home, but his one rule was that no drugs were allowed.  He repeated this several times, and I told him that I thought it was a good rule.  He has opened his home to many motorcycle travelers before, so I suspect this has been a problem in the past.

Joelmir told me that another rider from the U.S. had been there recently on a 2005 KLR650, but had gotten malaria and had gone home.  His bike was still in Manaus somewhere, in storage.  They had a lot of photos of him and his bike.

I was shown into Fabio's bedroom, where he re-made the bed for me and removed some of his things.  They both smoked (as did Rayane), and that really irritated my eyes.  Joelmir was gracious enough to not smoke near me.  I took a shower and changed clothes.  Fabio was starting a load of laundry and asked me (by sign language) if I wanted to add anything.  I gave him a few things to put in with his clothes.  We chatted for a while, but it was clear that I needed sleep, so Joelmir showed me how to work the air-conditioner and they left me alone.

I did manage some sleep, but not much.  The two men laughing and talking loudly was distracting enough to keep me up most of the time.  Also, there were mosquitoes in the room, so I swatted them for a while.  I was too tired to get my net from the bike.

I got up for a while, and ate a little of the rice and bean stew that Joelmir had cooked.  I avoided the mysterious ingredients in the stew, settling for the beans and some small bits of mild sausage.  A little was all my stomach could manage, but it was enough.  Joelmir showed me some photos on his laptop computer, and I did the same.  When he saw the photos of my Honda Valkyrie, he liked it very much.  He said that there were many Gold Wings and Valkyries in Venezuela, but not so many in Brazil.  He would love to own one, but they were expensive.

Joelmir was a hard-core AC/DC fan, and he played some of their music, but I was getting tired again.  Back to bed.

When I heard a woman's voice later, I tried to get up, but I think that gravity had increased during the day.

An hour or so later, Fabio knocked and came into the room for some things.  I had a few mosquito bites on my face and neck, so I would have to do something about that later.

I got up and dressed, and I got to meet Rayane (pronounded "hai-AH-nay"), Joelmir's wife.  Another cutie.

We rode our bikes around the city for a while, but I had no idea where we were going.  Joelmir and Fabio had their club vests on, because we were supposed to meet other bikers.  It was a warm evening, but it felt good to be riding again, even if we did stop twice at gas stations for beer.  Fabio talked a lot, even to me.  Then he would get Joelmir to translate, but most of it got lost.  He was really drinking a lot, and he seemed to have his doubts about me because I only drank some juice (which they would not let me pay for).

We went down to the Rio Negro waterfront, to the Ponta Negra area, where we stopped in a parking lot.  Fabio went in search of beer, and I was finally able to enjoy a cold one.  The river's water level was high now because of the rainy season, and it came right up to the retaining wall where we sat.  Later in the year there would be a wide beach here.  I took their photo on the riverfront wall.

Joelmir, Rayane, Fabio.

Fabio had a t-shirt with an oddly distorted picture of Keith Richards on it.  It was mesmerizing and a bit eerie, with his eyes a sick yellow color.

We rode further up the waterfront to another spot where we stopped for a while.  Each of the men made phone calls, and I came to understand that they were having trouble getting other riders to come join us.  Well, that was amusing.  Tells me where I rate.  Actually, I was glad.  Less fuss is what I was in the mood for.

We sat for quite a while along the Rio Negro, and it rained lightly most of the time.  Manaus is where the Rio Negro and the Amazon converge.  On some references, the Amazon west of this confluence is called Rio Solim§es.  It's possible to go up the river all the way to Quito, Ecuador, at the opposite side of the continent.  The Andes are the continental divide, and everything east of there drains to the Atlantic.  Joelmir said that within a year or so, a 5-mile bridge would be completed across the Rio Negro.  It was going to be a tall arch, to allow the big ships to pass under it.

Joelmir had a Beevis and Butthead button on his vest, and he kept calling Fabio "Beevis."  Did that make him Butthead?  Fabio kept calling Joelmir another name, and kept trying to get me to repeat it.  Joelmir told me that it meant "chicken ass," so my instincts were good.  Joelmir kept calling Fabio "The Shitter," which Rayane agreed was the right name for him.

We finally gave up waiting and headed back toward home.  Of course, we stopped twice at gas stations for beer.  Fabio was pretty drunk by now.  When we continued riding, he kept pestering Joelmir and Rayane by riding up to them and kicking them, poking at them, etc.  It seemed like a common game between them, and there was no evidence of hard feelings.  I don't think any of it was for my amusement.  Once, Fabio rode up on Joelmir's right side and reached over and grabbed Joelmir's front brake lever briefly.  That was a bit too much, it seemed to me, but Joelmir just waved Fabio away.  Fabio rode out front and pulled his pants down, mooning everyone as he rode along.  He was quite the entertainer.  He managed his many wheelies pretty well for as drunk as he was.

I thought we were headed for their house, but we stopped one more time at a sidewalk bar in their neighborhood.  More beer.  I had a couple small glasses of beer, and was feeling well enough to be hungry.  They had no food here, so when I asked what could be had nearby, Fabio asked if I wanted a cheeseburger.

A cheesebuger?  Well, yes.  Yes, I would like a cheeseburger, come to think of it.  Off he went on his bike.  Um... Should I follow?  Joelmir waved for me to sit, so I did.  Fabio soon came back with a cheeseburger in a plastic bag.  It wasn't like any cheeseburger I had ever had before, and the fried egg and the slice of what might be ham were interesting touches.  The meat patty, however, was another of those pressed-paste jobs that had no texture.  It went down well enough.  I gave a little of it to a yellow cat that had homed in on me earlier from across the street.

Fabio finally made a pantomime (complete with lots of graphic hand gestures) of having sex with someone, and decided he needed to leave.  Joemir and Rayane laughed and waved goodbye.  Fabio didn't get far right away, because he tipped his bike over as soon as he sat on it.  Other men went to help him get it upright, and he went riding off with a lot of yelling and singing.

We stayed a while as Joelmir and Rayane talked with the waiter at the bar.  When we left, I wasn't allowed to pay for anything.  Fabio's bike was at the house when we got there, so he either had a very fast date or no date at all.  He hung a hammock outside under the back porch, and that was the last I saw of him that night.  It was after midnight, so I didn't last long either.

Welcome to Manaus.



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