We just ran aground!

Today (2006-10-29) at 11:36:14 (UTC) at S00.521529 W50.867965, for no obvious reason, our ferry ran aground. We were sitting on the front of the barge admiring the view over the loading ramp (left picture below) when we noticed that we were getting closer to the right bank. But the captain knows what he is doing! Right? No wrong!

He just ran into the bank and felled a small tree. Luckily none of our vehicles were near that corner of the ferry. The driver of one of the trucks that might have been damaged (right picture below) indicated that he thought the captain was of uncertain parentage and reduced intellectual capabilities. He probably just fell asleep.

We are on the ferry between Macapa and Belem. This is our last ferry for some time, and the final obstacle on our loop through Venezuela and the Guianas. (We believe Mel is the first standard campervan to attempt this route.)

The road between Oiapoque and Macapa has failed to live up (down?) to its reputation. We had been told that even if there was a ferry from St. Georges to Oiapoque the road on to Macapa was so bad that we would not make it except in a 4x4 or large truck.

The truth is that of the the 600km between Oiapoque and Macapa, about 300km are good tarmac and the rest is reasonably good dirt, with a few corrugated sections and a couple of rough bridges. At this time of year no problem at all for a campervan.

The biggest problem in the Guianas, for a standard campervan, has been getting on and off ferries. The departure angle of a campervan like Mel is probably less than 8 degrees. Raising this to say 12 degrees with air assisted suspension, different springs and/or larger wheels or tyres would make a lot of difference.

There are apparently several vehicle ferries between Macapa (actually Porto Santana) and Belem. We used Sanave who's offices and pier are in an industrial park about 3km off the main Macapa - Santana road at S00.014272 W51.202737. Access to the tug could not be called wheelchair friendly!Although nobody we met at Sanave spoke English, the manager Jusceleno Paulo da Silveira Alves was very helpful (Phone: (96) 3282-1368 or 3282-1500). The cost per vehicle (including two passengers) was Rs1300 (about $450USA, payable only in cash Reals).

Although we did not park in the Sanave compound overnight, I suspect that we could have. There did not appear to be a water supply within the compound.

Unlike the ferry between Porto Velho and Manaus, there was no problem with two passengers per vehicle on this ferry.

As before, the ferry consists of a large barge (balsa) big enough for twenty trucks, pushed by a tug boat. Food, showers and toilets are available on the tug. However access to the tug could not be called "wheelchair friendly" (or even safe). The above photo illustrates the passage from the barge to the tug boat "dining room" (bottom right).

Stephen Stewart.

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