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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
The folks on board were great. Even through we had no Portuguese, we managed to understand enough.
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.
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!
Enough said about that night. Enough to say that we woke up under way and well down the river. 🙂
And for those that want to get a good look at where this is, This map shows our route in Blue.
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After this, it was off to see the famous beaches of Northern Brazil!