I leave Colombia and enter Ecuador. Not far from the border I am stopped at a military roadblock. They pull me out of the traffic randomly and want to search my bags. They are friendly enough but armed to the teeth, one guy with a pump action shotgun. I ask what they are searching for and an English-speaking officer tells me they’re looking for munitions. After not finding any munitions in my gear they ask to pat me down. I say it’s ok, but so long as you take a photo. They are happy to oblige.
Through Ecuador and back into shitty Peru. The stench along the roadsides in northern Peru has to be experienced to be believed. The joys of motorcycling...
8 days after leaving Colombia my foot is beginning to improve. Still most comfortable in its riding boot, I’m able to hobble about a little as the swelling recedes. I’m still changing gears with my heel but can rack up some decent miles.
I climb into the Andes once more. There is fresh snow and I have several ranges to cross.
Between ranges, there are some lakes and here I disturb flamingos before the final push over a gravel road and plunging down the other side.
The road down from the Andes to the Amazon basin is a marvel of engineering. So many switchbacks, tunnels, and bridges. It rivals anything I’ve seen in the European Alps, and within a few hours I go from freezing alpine landscapes to sweltering jungle. Alongside the road I notice a lot of rainforests being cleared. Once felled and burnt, the Peruvians are sluice mining the fragile soils for gold, and it’s sad looking at the destruction.
I spend my last night in Peru at a great hostel in Puerto Maldonado, overlooking a steamy river that feeds into the mighty Amazon.
The following day I make my way to the border between Peru and Brazil. No problems getting out of Peru, but further up the road at the Brazilian border, I have to wait two hours while they send for someone to do the paperwork for my bike.
It’s a busy border crossing with local traffic moving back and forth across the border unhindered, but they don’t get many foreigners wishing to bring a vehicle across here. The official duly arrives, the paperwork is completed, and it’s goodbye Peru and olá Brazil!
My transformation from Spanish to Portuguese is easy when you don’t know either, and I’m soon dodging the potholes and on my way to Rio Branco and Porto Velho.
Here the landscape reminds me of Australia's Northern Territory, with temperatures to match. Fire is used near the roadside to clear fuel when conditions are favourable, just as in Australia.
I’m sweltering in my riding gear and ditch it for T-shirt and jeans. It’s a mistake. By the end of the day I’m burnt and still suffering from the heat. At least in my gear I get an insulating effect, and the next day I’m back wearing my full kit. Lesson learnt.
Much of the rainforest has been cleared here long ago and herds of beautiful Nelore cattle graze the fertile flats.
I was looking forward to the ferry crossing over the Madeira river, but a new bridge has been recently built and the ferry discontinued. It’s a great view of the river and the jungle from the top, and always smoke on the horizon.
It’s a long day on the road to Porto Velho and I enjoy an evening meal at an outside restaurant listening to local music.
As I ride further south the rainforest disappears and Brazil reveals itself as an agricultural giant. Huge areas planted in wheat, barley, maize, cotton, and soya beans.
Massive agro-petro plants converting maize and soya bean into ethanol fuel, and a modern fleet of euro trucks shifting the grain from fields to silos. Here I see many older trucks, seemingly restored but in daily use. The favourites seem to be these older Mercedes and Diamond Rio trucks.
The scale of cropping operations in Brazil has to be seen to be believed, easily rivaling anything I’ve seen before in Australia, Canada and the US. It’s an agricultural powerhouse, and service cities like Rondonopolis and Campo Grande offer sophistication and great restaurants. A welcome change from the roadside chop houses in Peru offering guinea pig (cuy).
Brazilian hospitality is amazing. The people are open, friendly and helpful. Here as in other places, while sometimes feeling a little disadvantaged without any Spanish or Portuguese, there are times when it can be advantageous. Twice in Brazil the waitress seating me at a restaurant has thrown her hands in the air, not knowing how to deal with the English-speaking gringo (while I’ve actually been quite happy just to order from the menu using Google Translate). Both times it resulted in someone more senior (once the hotel manager and on another occasion the restaurant owner/chef), coming to greet me personally in good English and offering me all the assistance I needed. And both times they helped me order and checked in on me several times to ensure that I had everything I needed.
I’ve never felt I’ve missed out on anything I’ve really needed due to being monolingual. Sure, it would have been nice to hold a detailed conversation from time to time, but it sure hasn’t stopped me enjoying my travels, and Google Translate makes almost anything possible.
Just as in New Zealand, spring is in the air as I journey further south (even if the temperature still peaks daily at 30+ degrees) and trees are blossoming.
At a nice rural hotel, the lady behind the desk insists I park the bike right outside the front door overnight, where she can keep an eye on it “for security”.
I’ve never felt unsafe or worried about the bike in Brazil. Security seems to be a little more relaxed than in other parts of South America, although I’ve been advised not to wander the streets at night a couple of times.
Riding further south through the cities of Dourados, Cascavel and Foz du Iguacu, I check out of Brazil and ride across the ‘Friendship Bridge’, crossing the mighty Parana river, and enter Paraguay.
So, how does Brazil fare on Muzza’s shithole scale? Brazil scores an 8.5. It is vast, thoroughly modern, clean, with no street dogs, and friendly helpful people. I enjoyed being there.
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