North East Brazil – an overlanding journey

Everyone likes the seaside. Even the truck loved it.

Everyone likes the seaside. Even the truck loved it.

We drove from Belem down as far as Pipa on the Atlantic coast of Brazil. After spending almost a week on the Amazon barge, we decided to take the slower but more beautiful route down the coast, following the beach towns and sandy tracks as much as we could. North East Brazil is famous for it’s beaches, and we thought we would like to take a look. In the amazon we were really hit by the heat and humidity, and were wondering what the coast would bring. We found great onshore breezes which were most welcome when camping.

 

 

We had visited Brazil very briefly once before in early 2012, when we visited Iguassu falls. But, that was a good few thousand kilometers from this part of Brazil. That’s right – Thousands of Kilometers away. Probably about 5000 by a direct route, maybe 8000 to follow the coast. This is one seriously large country!

unimog camper on bridge

Small bridges = big inspection.

 

 

Our route brought us over a few small bridges. Luckily none that even creaked or groaned, so I’d be happy to say that anyone who wanted to drive this route could do it. We’re probably just over 7 ton and were fine.

 

We were heading for the town of Barreirinhas. We had heard they had some great dunes with super clear pools for swimming in. We did find it, and while it’s a small sleepy little place, we stayed there for 2 nights. We parked up where you get the ferry to the dunes area, and we went with a 4×4 tour to the actual dunes. The camping trucks were spared this one :-)

Not in the Mog, but a good bit of fun none the less

Not in the Mog, but a good bit of fun none the less

Footloose in the sand dunes

Footloose in the sand dunes

Sarah on the Dunes

Sarah on the Dunes

north east brazil dunes with water pools

Clear fresh water in the Sand Dunes

Storm coming to the Dunes

Storm coming to the Dunes

Photo of wind patterns on sand dunes in Brazil

The wind creates some amazing patterns on the top of the Sand Dunes

From here, we took a great wild 4×4 route to the town of Paulino Neves.  We did it this way as it was about 100km on the sand instead of 500km+ by tarmacadam. No contest!

Photograph of Unimog Camper on its way through the sand dunes in Brazil

Unimog Camper on its way through the sand dunes in Brazil

Unimogs, contrary to popular opinion, do not really love deep soft sand.

I was not digging out the Unimog, I was looking for my keys.....

I was not digging out the Unimog, I was looking for my keys…..

We did meet a little traffic on this route, a guy on a tractor towing a jeep of some kind. He was a bit surprised to see trucks out there. Once he dropped of his “client”, we followed him back to town. He gave us a tip for a space to park with just some light traffic.

The local traffic going by

The local traffic going by

Parking by a pond

Parking by a pond

Within 20 minutes wading on foot through these lagoons, we were in some wonderful wild dunes with an impromptu dune bar that arrived at the weekend! The dunes are a great hangout place for people during the day, and strangely, for goats during the night!

Beach bar

Beach bar

Friendly locals at the dune bar

Friendly locals at the dune bar

Straight ahead to the Dunes

Straight ahead to wade to the Dunes

This last light of the day looks like it might have been last light ever.

This last light of the day looks like it might have been last light ever.

 

These pink flowers came out at dawn and had disappeared 2 hours after sunrise when it got too hot for them.

These pink flowers came out at dawn and had disappeared 2 hours after sunrise when it got too hot for them.

We ended up staying there for 4 days, but that’s mainly because the next bridge on our route was closed for repair! This is a small fishing and farming community, and tourism is a pretty new thing for them. Well worth a stop if you have our own facilities. Once the bridge was fixed we were off again.

Small Ferry could not take us, so we had to detour

Small Ferry in Camocim could not take us, so we had to detour by road

Dad teaching his son how to fly a kite

Dad teaching his son how to fly a kite in Jeri

Jumping wild

Jumping wild

Dune buggy ride

Dune buggy ride

Dune buggy ferry - definitly not unimog sized

Dune buggy ferry – definitely not unimog sized

In the town of Jericoacoara , or simply Jeri, we got directed to the short route back to the coast, and we took it. It was fine, but as we discovered later it is not allowed to take that road in a truck in case they get stuck! No signs, no warnings – nothing. When we arrived at the coastal town of Jeri (yes, the same name – a bit confusing), the car park attendants told us the police wanted to see us for driving that route. We waited for them for a while, but they never showed up. We are suspicious they got stuck on the road we had just traveled, and never had the nerve to tell us we might have gotten stuck :-)

Jeri was a nice spot to stay, we camped in the car park as no cars were allowed into town, just beach buggies. At night the atmosphere was superb, live music, great shopping and cool spots just to hang out and have a beer. The central streets are still just sand, even some shops and pubs. They got it right!

 

Ferry helper

Ferry helper

no idea.

no idea.

Dune buggy about to cross 4 inch deep water....

Dune buggy about to cross 4 inch deep water….

Oyster time

Oyster time

Ever eat fish in a restaurant, while other fish nibbled your toes?

Ever eat fish in a restaurant, while other fish nibbled your toes?

Grilled red Snapper. Best we ever had - big enough for 4.

Grilled red Snapper. Best we ever had – big enough for 4.

Good times

Good times

We moved on from Jeri along the coast to Pipa, stopping off here and there.  Some of the little spots did not have vehicle access, you had to take a bus, hike, horse and cart or even a boat in the case of  Galinhos. You do not see to many foreign tourists in a lot of these places. Definitly they get Brazian visitors, but they are not on the main backpackers or “must do” circuits. That made them nice, and they were all very welcoming to us. All along here we were made to feel very welcome, and very safe.

Fishermans boat

Fishermans boat

Wild beach camp, we stayed for 2 nights

Wild beach camp, we stayed for 2 nights

End of a days work

End of a days work

After some rains, the route got interesting.

After some rains, the route got interesting.

This route brought us all the way to Pipa, a really cool surfers town, and a great place to watch the World Cup! More next time!

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Brazil | Comments Off on North East Brazil – an overlanding journey

Moglander sails 1500km on the Amazon

Sarah in charge of the barge.

Sarah in charge of the barge.

We have been on beaches, in deserts, on salt flats and high in the Andes mountains. but we had yet to take a barge down the Amazon with our truck. We knew this was the plan as we traveled from Venezuela to Manaus where we hoped to find a barge to get us to Belem. It is possible to drive south BUT only with a lighter vehicle or a motorbike. Our truck could not cross the dodgy bridges on the only road south, the BR319, so it was the barge for us.

It took us a couple of days to get to Manaus from Venezuela. We quickly dropped down from the few hundred meters altitude that it was in the Gran Sabana to almost sea level in the Amazona region and immediately the heat and humidity went off the charts. Not nice! I have no idea how they are playing soccer in the world cup in Manaus, it cannot be easy! We had a bit of rain, but we got a great place for overnighting.

Camping at the parish hall. Many of these community halls have no walls, and if you ask nicely, they make great overnight stops when it's raining.

Camping at the parish hall. Many of these community halls have no walls, and if you ask nicely, they make great overnight stops when it’s raining.

Equator in Brazil

Crossing the Equator. Going South this time though.

Once we got to Manaus, we tried to sort out the barge, and almost booked ourselves onto a passenger boat that could take the trucks up the front. This may have been ok, but pure hell as I gather it’s loud music and parties for 5 days straight all the way to Belem. No pauses even for a bit of a hangover!  Manaus itself was ok for a day or so to look around. There were loads of jungle tours you could do, but since we had previously visited the Jungle in Bolivia and in Peru we thought we would keep on going.

the opera house in Manaus is very impressive.

The opera house in Manaus is very impressive.

Easter procession in Manaus.

Easter procession in Manaus.

Our ticket cost us about $1,000 for the truck and us to Belem. The only problem we had was that at boarding time, the officials told us there was a rule that no women were allowed on the barges, a rule introduced in early 2014 following an incident involving a bunch of truck drivers, a woman and way too much alcohol and time. We managed to talk our way on, and once on board it was no problem at all, everyone was very friendly and there was NO hassle at all.

Family transport, Amazon style.

Family transport, Amazon style.

Once we were out on the water, life was great. We sailed day and night, so we always had a breeze except for 1 pause of about 12 hours (more on this later). We managed to get loaded last, which means we were at the very front of the barge and furthest from the pusher boat. This meant we had most of the breeze, and none of the noise. Perfect! We kept an eye on the world going by, and realized they were also keeping an eye on us!

Kids playing in their boat on the Amazon river.

Kids playing in their boat on the Amazon river.

Mum and kid coming to the barge to trade.

Mum and kid coming to the barge to trade.

Kids in a canoe on the Amazon

Kids in a canoe on the Amazon

On the barge, the price did include your meals, but we opted to cook for ourselves. This may have been a good idea as there is only so much beans and rice that we can handle in a 5 day period.

Amazon barge kitchen. Just for you Peter so you do not get confused.

Amazon barge kitchen. Just for you Peter so you do not get confused.

The pusher boat attached to the barge.

The pusher boat attached to the barge. The wheel house is at the very top so you can steer by looking over all the trucks.

Little house tucked away under trees ont he banks of the Amazon.

Little house tucked away under trees on the  banks of the Amazon.

Large taxi on the Amazon

Large taxi on the Amazon

Amazon farmhouse.

Amazon farmhouse.

As well as canoe's we saw some very impressive ships on the Amazon.

As well as canoe’s we saw some very impressive ships on the Amazon.

Amazon riverbank. We saw a LOT of this.

Amazon riverbank. We saw a LOT of this.

Amazon homestead.

Amazon homestead.

Amazon home.

Amazon home.

Houses and sheds on the Amazon river banks were sometimes in the water on stilts.

Houses and sheds on the Amazon river banks were sometimes in the water on stilts.

 

Dinner. Showing how much space we really had.

Dinner. Showing how much space we really had.

Dinner on the Amazon. Picture this while sailing along at about 20kph to give a gentle breeze. Perfect.

Dinner on the Amazon. Picture this while sailing along at about 20kph to give a gentle breeze. Perfect.

Amazon river Taxi.

Amazon river Taxi.

Raining - no problem.

Raining – no problem.

The folks on board were great. Even through we had no Portuguese, we managed to understand enough.

First mate on our barge.

First mate on our barge.

Brazilian truck driver.

Brazilian truck driver.

Brazilian truck driver relaxing out of the sun under a trailer.

Brazilian truck driver relaxing out of the sun under a trailer.

We did make a 12 hour stop, something about not wanting to go through a certain police checkpoint while it was open. We didn’t understand completely, but just went with it. It did mean we got to visit a little town in the middle of the amazon region which was great. Our captain went into tour guide mode and we had a great few hours out.

Walking the streets of Obisos with our captain

Walking the streets of Obidos with our captain

Riverfront bar where we had our first drink. The start of our demise.

Riverfront bar where we had our first drink. The start of our demise.

The ice factory was pretty much flooded.

The ice factory was pretty much flooded.

The new and the old, this hardware store in Obidos had an ancient cash register, and a computer.

The new and the old, this hardware store in Obidos had an ancient cash register, and a computer.

The church in Obidos.

The church in Obidos.

School buses are a little different in the Amazon.

School buses are a little different in the Amazon.

A riverfront bar to relax at - why certainly sir!

A riverfront bar to relax at – why certainly sir!

Obidos town flooding

The Amazon river does indeed flood, and gets pretty high in the town of Obidos.

Sundown on the Amazon River

Sundown on the Amazon River

Once the sun went down, a little bit of sailor style drinking began. Oh dear! For reference, a Caipirinha is a pleasant refreshing beverage when made correctly. When it’s made with sugar, 2 squeezes of lime and in 1 litre jugs, it is LETHAL!

After our town visit was done, a few casual beers seemed like the thing to do.

After our town visit was done, a few casual beers seemed like the thing to do.

After the beers, the jugs of Caipirinha started to flow. Many jugs. the camera was put away around about then.

After the beers, the jugs of Caipirinha started to flow. Many jugs. the camera was put away around about then.

Enough said about that night. Enough to say that we woke up under way and well down the river. :-)

Sarah in charge. What else is new?

Sarah in charge. What else is new?

Small boats come along side to trade goods with the truck drivers.

Small boats come along side to trade goods with the truck drivers.

Sarah chillaxing on the Amazon

Sarah chillaxing on the Amazon

Boatbuilding was visible on the shores in a few places where they still had big trees to get the timber.

Boatbuilding was visible on the shores in a few places where they still had big trees to get the timber.

Backgammon time! Not a bad setting for a match.

Backgammon time! Not a bad setting for a match.

Sunset with the trucks on the front of the bage on the Amazon

Sunset with the trucks on the front of the barge on the Amazon

Sunset on the Amazon

Sunset on the Amazon

First mate in touch with the harbour in Belem

First mate in touch with the harbor in Belem

Amazon cruise

Moglander leaving the barge in Belem

 

And for those that want to get a good look at where this is, This map shows our route in Blue.

[google-map-v3 shortcodeid=”e9fa25d1″ width=”550″ height=”350″ zoom=”12″ maptype=”satellite” mapalign=”center” directionhint=”false” language=”default” poweredby=”false” maptypecontrol=”true” pancontrol=”true” zoomcontrol=”true” scalecontrol=”true” streetviewcontrol=”true” scrollwheelcontrol=”false” draggable=”true” tiltfourtyfive=”false” enablegeolocationmarker=”false” enablemarkerclustering=”false” addmarkermashup=”false” addmarkermashupbubble=”false” kml=”http://moglander.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Amazon-barge-cruise.gpx” bubbleautopan=”true” distanceunits=”km” showbike=”false” showtraffic=”false” showpanoramio=”false”]

 

After this, it was off to see the famous beaches of Northern Brazil!

 

Categories: Brazil | 4 Comments

Venezuela Travel in the Gran Sabana

 

Venezuela Travel - Backgammon in the Gran Sabana

Backgammon in the Gran Sabana

After Angel Falls, we did not think that the last few days of Venezuela travels would amount to much. We were so wrong, the area just north from Brazil is superb for overland traveling. The area is called the Gran Sabana, and while it’s largely a flat area, it holds some stunning table top mountains and waterfalls that you can visit, and you can camp in indigenous Indian villages. Mind you, these villages looked like any other, but the people were certainly the friendliest we had seen and the most open. And had no worries in asking for any old clothes or tools that we might have that we might not want.

We also got to repair a boat for some Indians, they had mainly got older timber boats, but had one aluminium one with a few bad cracks and holes. since we carried some silicone, drills and a pop rivet gun, we managed to patch it up for them. I got a gift of a blow pipe with a few nice darts for my efforts! I’d love to know if the boat is still floating!

 
We ambled about the gran sabana area for over a week, and really enjoyed it. Anyone going through should allow quite a bit of time. The exact places we went are on the map on the previous Venezuela overland travel post.
 
Supplies at the ready. check.

Supplies at the ready. check.

It is hard to express how relaxed and easy we found this part of Venezuela. We had been fine throughout the country, but cautious and on our guard. In the Gran Sabana, you can really relax. What better way than with a few home-made cocktails. For anyone in the debate as to bring a fridge or not on such a trip, here is why you need a freezer, chopping board, lump hammer, sharp knife and some Argentinian mate straws.
Tom Cruise, eat your heart out.

Tom Cruise, eat your heart out.

Plastic bottle of ice, fresh from the freezer

Plastic bottle of ice, fresh from the freezer

Limes, expertly cuy by Jurgen.

Limes, expertly cut by Jurgen.

Crushed ice, from the aforementioned plastic bottle and a large lump hammer.

Crushed ice, from the aforementioned plastic bottle and a large lump hammer.

Cheers!

Cheers!

Cocktails and  backgammon. not the worst way to pass a sunny afternoon

Cocktails and backgammon. not the worst way to pass a sunny afternoon

 
We bought some great honey in Venezuela, really good stuff actually.
 
 

Honey with Chocolate anyone?

Honey with Chocolate anyone?

We stayed in the camp ground near this house, a french lady who lives here with her Colombian husband makes the most amazing honey based products you have ever seen!

We stayed in the camp ground near this house, a french lady who lives here with her Colombian husband makes the most amazing honey based products you have ever seen! Even better for tasting. On the map on the previous post, it was campsite6.

Bootleg diesel in Venezuela, not always worth it

Bootleg diesel in Venezuela, not always worth it

One thing that loads of people have been asking about is the diesel and petrol prices in Venezuela. I’m not 100% sure what they are as my brain cannot compute prices that small. fractions of euro cent per litre!  Right until the day we left, we had driven over 2500km in Venezuela, and spent less than 1 Euro on Diesel! We had spent more on water, more on coke, a lot more on beer and definitely a lot more on Wine. It was the first time the Mog drank less than we did!  BUT: foreign registered vehicles cannot buy fuel near the border, within 100km or so. And since we spent a long time wandering about in the Gran Sabana, we ended up at the border almost empty of fuel, and not looking forward to paying about 75 euro cent per litre in Brazil. (Think about buying 250 litres at a time, and you will soon see why the price matters!).  At the border, we discovered that the money changers could also get us some diesel at a price half way between the Venezuelan price and the Brazilian price. The price, and the fact that we were almost empty, made us go for it, and we bought quite a bit. BUT: the diesel we bought for the Mog was dirty/
contaminated, and once we were into Brazil the Mog coughed, spluttered and came to a halt refusing the consume this black market fuel. OOPS! We were glad we had some jerry cans, clean filters and a tow off the main road. A few hours of replacing fuel filters, blowing out the fuel lines with compressed air, and “borrowing” some clean diesel from Jurgen and Ruth, and we were on our way again. We dumped off the bad fuel at the nearest road works site, they burn it to heat the tarmacadam. Perfect!
Good diesel, bad diesel and worse diesel

Good diesel, bad diesel and worse diesel

MERV3402

 
But all this to one side, the Gran Sabana was great. But here, and in loads of other places in the Amazonia region, people are having a hard time working out a living, and raising their families. One way they have to do this is to “make” a new farm by clearing out some of the rainforest, and making a settlement.  Any one family doing this is not a big deal, but overall it is eating into some of the most stunning areas we have seen. It is hard if not impossible to blame the people themselves as they are just trying to make a living, but it would be great if there were other options….
Rainforest burning in Venezuela

Rainforest burning in Venezuela

Rainforest on fire

Rainforest on fire

After the rainforest is gone, this is the farm for the next few years.

After the rainforest is gone, this is the farm for the next few years.

 

Caming breakfast in Venezuela. Times were tough.

Camping breakfast in Venezuela. Times were tough.

We could not read what this sign said outside a restaurant, but we worked it out.

We could not read what this sign said outside a restaurant, but we worked it out.

Venezuela waterscape

Venezuela waterscape

Evening view from our window

Evening view from our window

Morning views from our window

Morning view from our window

Group shot over the Venezuela rainforest looking out towards Brazil and the Amazon

Group shot over the Venezuela rainforst looking out towards Brazil and the Amazon

 

And so ended our Venezuela adventure. It was off to Brazil, to see what it had to offer in a world cup year….

Categories: Venezuela | 2 Comments