Manaus by Barge?

It is 750km in a straight line from Porto Velho to Manaus. There used to be a drivable road 25 years ago, but now the only way to get a vehicle from Porto Velho to Manaus is to put it on a barge and that is what we have eventually done. Each barge takes five or six lanes of trucks with about four trucks in each lane. Often two barges are lashed together and pushed by a single tug. When there is plenty of water, the trip takes four days and the barges travel at night. When there is little water as there is now, the barges only travel in daylight and the trip can take up to nine days.

There seem to be at least two ferry companies to chose from. The one nearest the centre of Porto Velho is Ronav. Talk to Lins on (69) 8405 3816, or better still, drive to their loading dock at S08.743885 W63.916663. Lins speaks some English. Rovav seem to run three trips a week from Porto Velho to Manaus and you can (at least in principle) make a reservation. However a reservation does not seem to guarantee a specific departure time (or even date)!

The second company is either Passarao or more commonly known as Olivieria Navegacao. You can try and talk to Shes Marilene on (69) 3229 4033, but only in Portuguese. Passarao do not seem to accept reservations. You simply turn up and queue in their compound (where you can, indeed must, live in your vehicle). Their dock is at S08.716324 W63.919994. (Turn off the main road at S08.733037 W63.900926 and follow a fairly rough and convoluted unmade road for about 4km). Passarao seem to run barges every day.

We arrived with our vehicles at the dock on Thursday evening (a public holiday). Went to the office at 08:00 Friday morning, drove onto our barge at around 17:00 on Friday afternoon and the barge left without waking us at 05:15 on Saturday. Payment can be made by credit card on arrival in Manaus. Our vehicles have been tentatively classified as "mini-busses". Once tax and compulsory insurance (at 0.1%) are added, we expect to pay about $1100USA each.

There is no way we would have been able to arrange our passage without the help of three very special "truck drivers" - Hugo (who speaks excellent English and Portuguese), Buda and Junior who helped us with many critical things.

Unfortunately the vehicle barges do not carry passengers, just one driver per vehicle. In fact we were not allowed to put our vehicles into the official queue until our "passengers" had left the dock area. So Ann, Mo and Judy accompanied by Clive had to return to Porto Velho to make alternative arrangements to get to Manaus! (Mick accepted the awesome responsibility of backing K-Nine onto the barge!)

Although the barge tug is very quiet (and a long way away from where we are parked on the front barge), many of the trucks have very noisy refrigeration units so our "river cruise" is far from tranquil, but it is turning out to be great fun, of which more later.

The photo above shows Mel and K-Nine parked at the back of the front barge, the trucks on the left are at the front of the rear barge. Mog is parked in front of Mel on the far side of the coach. When parking great care has to taken to make sure that critical doors and lockers can still be opened.

Life on board has settled down very quickly with the truck drivers setting up their chairs, tables and "kitchens", as well as washing their trucks, clothes and cooking utensils in river water and Omo! So far Mick and I have resisted the temptation to wash our vehicles.

Stephen Stewart.

Home - This page last changed on 2006-09-09
This page contains the latitude and longitude (from GPS using WGS84 Datum) of places of interest.