It was three days before christmas and the night before my planned big swim across the meeting of the waters when a massive rain storm hit the city of Manaus. It was one of the first really big storms of the wet season, marking a definitive end to the dry season and almost the end of the calendar year. All the accumulated litter that had been gathering in the dry gutters of Manaus over the scorchingly hot dry summer months got washed into the river, cleansing the city streets but polluting the river Negro. The next morning it was still raining, but after previously postponing the swim twice for various reasons, I was determined to go for it despite the fact I still had a cold, and despite the huge quantity of floating debris from the previous night’s tropical deluge.
I stripped down to my shorts, strapped my GoPro to my head, hired a small boat to escorrt me and just went for it. It was scary, exciting and exhausting to swim across the meeting of the waters, but a good few hours later I ended up eight kilometers downriver on the other side. With a successful swim under my belt, I returned to the city to wait for Valdo to return from Oriximina.
Christmas passed and New Year’s Eve arrived. Valdo had only returned a few days earlier, so I decided to start the 250km walk along the BR 319 to the point where I planned to leave the road and cross the jungle to Coari. We started by having to pass the Federal check point at Vila Careiro on foot. There was no other way past, and I dreaded being asked what I was doing and why. It isn’t easy to explain my madness to a European or a North American, but it’s often impossible to get it across to a Brazilian – especially the Federal Police. Luckily it was teeming down with rain and it was New Year’s Eve, so I guessed they wouldn’t want to cross the road to check us out. My plan worked, we slipped past in a deluge of rain, and my increased heart rate reverted back to its normal pace.
Free from the grasp of the bustling city of Manaus, we walked on without looking back. We were faced with the prospect of seeing in the new year on our own in a small pousada in a little community. We were the only residents, and even the owner was away. But luckily a house nearby was having a family party and when they saw us, they came over and insisted we join them.
The next day, New Year’s Day, Valdos foot for some unknown reason became painfully swollen and he had to stop walking. He caught a passing bus to the next town, and I caught him up the next day. His foot didn’t improve at all, so he went back to Manaus to a hospital while I waited in Careiro Castanho, about 100km from Manaus. Later, and unbeknown to me, Valdo decided to return home by boat to Oriximina. He still hasn’t contacted me so I assume he either didn’t want to or couldn’t walk any further. I hope he has recovered, and I sent money enough to cover his time with me and for medicines he may need. It’s a shame, as we got on well, and he was strong, good spirited and keen to try to continue on to Tefe with me. We would have been ‘jungle ready’ after the long road walk with our fully loaded backpacks.
I decided not to waste any more time, I was fed up with waiting around, so I left the second backpack in Careiro, grabbed my own pack, and headed south down the BR319 despite everyone saying that if I walked alone I would be robbed, shot, and eaten by jaguars. Five uneventful, interesting days later, having slept at various different places including a fazenda, an evangelical community, and a disused house where a flock of bats flew out as I entered, I arrived at the small community where I planned to leave the road to enter the Jungle for the crossing to Coari. Amazingly I found the local school (more like a big shed) has wi-fi, so here I am sitting on the wooden floor in front of the school writing this blog.
My next task is to find another person to walk with me and to retrieve Valdo’s pack somehow.
I have over 200km of rainforest to cross now, and being the wet season, traversing jungle is more problematic. The main river on the way, the Purus river, has probably already started flooding into the forest either side, into the seasonally flooded varzea. After traversing almost 600km of sometimes dangerous roads either side of Manaus, I’m looking at the route ahead and beyond Coari, and I can see that the roads are few and far between. Before me lies a green ocean of primary jungle. It is as daunting as it is exciting, this living blanket. When the equatorial sun breaks through here between the torrential thunderstorms, humidity is at its maximum. The heat is intense and photosynthesis is going on all across the ever decreasing but still vast sea of green foliage. As the sunlight from our celestial ball of fire is taken in, you can almost feel and hear the living network of trees and plants harmoniously growing, reaching, creaking and singing. The light, the water and the carbon dioxide is greedily absorbed and out comes the life-giving oxygen we all seem to take for granted as we breathe. Long may it continue!
A sincere thank you again to Piotr Chmielinski for the continuing support and the recent generous donation to my expedition funds. Thanks to Piotr my journey was recently featured on the Explorers Web website. Read here
Next blog from Coari.
Header photo: Absorbing sunlight, carbon dioxide and water, and giving out oxygen: Amazonas Brazil
An abandoned house on the roadside where I spent a night: Amazonas Brazil
The gate entrance to a wealthy fazenda we passed: Near Manaus: Amazonas Brazil
One of the old colonial buildings in front of the port in Manaus
A disused collapsed bridge along the BR319. Amazonas: Brazil
A cool wall painting on the wall of a restaurant in a local community I passed.
A friendly family rescued me from a thunderstorm while I was walking on the road. I stayed the night at their house. BR 319 Amazons .Brazil
The island we walked across was like going back in time, yet so close to Manaus city.
The route I took through Manaus and along the BR319 as recorded on my Garmin Inreach tracking map.
Pan and zoom map below to see more detail.