The kindness of strangers

As we walked along the seemingly endless open sandy roads, we could see the shadow of a solitary cloud on the road in front and prayed it would give us a few minutes shade and relief from scorching midday sun, but it passed across ahead of us, teasing us before we managed to reach it.

We were two days into the walk from Alenquer to Oriximiná, and the heat was already affecting us both, but Edson more so. We were carrying enough water to get us to the next community or river but with the backpacks and steep hills it was tough going. Edson was clearly struggling, he had painful blisters on both his feet. I think the new boots I had bought him were a little tight, and he was also complaining that his head was very hot and that he had a headache, I realised this could be potentially dangerous – a sign of heat-related sickness, and was concerned that he kept stopping and sitting down under the shade of the occasional trees we passed.

We managed to make it to a river I had marked on my GPS, the only one we had seen all day. Edson decided to swim across the cool water with me, which gave us both a break from the heat. Edson stayed in the river for 20 minutes, plunging under the cool water several times, which I’m sure helped cool down his core temperature. He also chatted to a fisherman who transported our packs across and had already organised food and accommodation for us in the nearby community of Pacoval. Here, as in most cases, we had to ask for the names of the communities, as they weren’t on the Google Earth map.

The next morning, I decided to hire a motorbike from a member of the community for Edson to ride on with his pack as I walked in front so he had a chance to recover. This worked well and after about 28km of tracks we reached the next community late afternoon.

Again I have to highlight the amazing hospitality of all the Brazilian people we’ve come into contact with in the communities we stayed at or passed on this last leg….. Pacoval, Apolinario, Bamboo, Traverso, Ipichuna, Igarapé açu, Breu, Fe- em- Deus and Vargico. One of the most generous and interesting families we stayed with was that of an evangelical priest and his young family. When we arrived, the house next door to theirs had a bar with a large group of excited local community members drinking beer and watching a football match with music blaring out. On this side, the priest was in his church preaching and singing to a handful local residents.

That night we had the biggest and best meal since being in Santarem and slept under the large open porch in our Hennessy hammocks. We weren’t subjected to any religious preaching – just pure generosity, kindness and pleasant conversation, including a discussion about the fact that there are more stars/suns in our own universe than grains of sand on the surface of the Earth.

I offered some money the next morning but they refused to accept it. The family stood in a line and as we passed they shook our hands, hugged us, and said goodbye and “Graças a Deus (thanks to god) have a safe journey ahead”

The experience reminded me of an event I attended last year in London…

Last October 2015 I attended a fund-raiser in London organised by Fearghal O’Nuallain and Daniel Martin called Kindness of strangers. I thought it was a really good idea and it was interesting to hear about how people have been helped by complete strangers while on their journeys/adventures. This comming September 15th they along with others have organised another evening raising money for Oxfam’s refugee appeal. Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend, as I will be trudging along the the banks of the Amazon river here in South America, but I can highly recommend it for a cool and entertaning evening out. You can order tickets here


Facts & Figures Rio Trombetas

Oriximiná sits on the bank of the Rio Trombetas near its confluence of the Amazon

The Trombetas is 750 kilometres (470 miles) long, and is navigable by 500 ton vessels for a stretch of 230 kilometres (140 miles). It is formed by the junction of the Poana and Anuma rivers on the border between Brazil and Guyana. Where it meets the Paraná de Sapucuá it takes the name of lower Trombetas, and reaches up to 1,800 metres (5,900 ft) in width, with the stream divided by several long and narrow islands. It runs through the municipalities of Oriximiná, Terra Santa, Óbidos and Faro.

The river basin has an area of about 133,630 square kilometres (51,590 sq mi), with an intricate pattern of tributaries including the Poana, Anamu, Turuna, Inhabu, Mapuera and Paru de Oeste. In the Saracá-Taquera National Forest the main streams in the Trombetas basin are the Papagaio, Água Fria, Moura, Jamari, Ajará, Terra Preta and Saracá.

Its confluence with the Amazon is just west of the town of Óbidos, Pará in Brazil. Its source is in the Guiana highlands, but its long course is frequently interrupted by violent currents, rocky barriers, and rapids. The inferior zone of the river, as far up as the first fall, the Porteira, has but little broken water and is low and swampy; but above the long series of cataracts and rapids the character and aspect of the valley completely change, and the climate is much better. The river is navigable for 135 mi (217 km) above its mouth.

The river reaches its highest levels in April and May, since the rainy season usually peaks in April.

Information source Wikipedia





Header photo: Antonio Gedges and family at the Ipichuna community where we spent the night.




Edson returns from Manaus with a rotten cold & sore throat. Edson left of photo: Alenquer, Para, Brazil




Edson re-hydrating and taking a break from the midday heat at a house along the road




Getting the cleanest water i have ever seen, from a well at the back of the house. Community Pacoval




Me with dust mask, protection from the huge plumes of dust from passing vehicles. I think potential robbers were put off by my ‘Invisible man’ look! City of Oriximiná behind me.



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My delorme Inreach map showing the route we took from Alenquer to Oriximiná



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