Boats and Trains.

We are currently parked behind the gift shop of the Museu da Estrada de Ferro Madeira-Mamore (Railway Museum) down by the Rio Madeira in Porto Velho. (S08.765778 W63.909288). The museum "houses a fascinating display of old railway relics and serves as a plaintive reminder of a dark era in Amazonian history" - it says in our guide book. It also has room to park three vans, staff who don't care if you do, lots of places selling beer, and is reasonably near the "ferry terminals".

It has taken us five days of hard driving (for us) to cover the 1500km between the Northern Pantanal and Porto Velho. The road has been paved all the way with occasional stretches of very poor tarmac with deep holes that you (and the oncoming trucks) have to drive round at 5kph. Most nights we parked at one of the many huge fuel station/truck stop/restaurants, where for the price of a couple of beers, we were able to park for the night and fill up with water.

The scenery has been boring (after the wildlife delights of the Pantanal) with long stretches of charred vegetation by the roadside, often still smoking. The weather has been humid and overcast due to the extensive smoke.

The only reason for coming to Porto Velho is to get to Manaus, capital of the Amazon. Those of you with an old road map or atlas (say 25 years old) will see that there is a major road between Porto Velho and Manaus. Well there isn't now, the jungle has reclaimed it. The only way we can get to Manaus is to put our vehicles onto a ferry/barge on the Rio Maderia and the Rio Amazonas, a journey that we think will take four days.

Don't confuse Motels with Hotels in Brazil.

On the outskirts of most Brazilian towns you will find a "motel zone". These motels usually have a short driveway off the main road flanked by dense bushes. The secretive entrance to the motel courtyard is often via an automatic gate and there is usually a separate exit. Within the courtyard each room has its own private parking area. Room rates are for one hour, two hours or overnight. Room range from "executive" ($10 USA) thru "master" and "presidential" to "imperial" ($45USA). Motels are a "Brazilian institution" used by adults who still live with their parents, kids who want to get away from their parents, and parents who want to get away from their kids.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2006-09-06
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