We stayed late in Boa Vista to allow the hotel to finish our laundry. We also looked around for a bank machine, but the only machines we could find would not recognize our cards. While laundry was being done, Shay and Tyler took a swim and I drank limonadas while reading my current book, “A Density of Souls” by Christopher Rice.
We finally left town heading south at around 3pm. As we drove south we passed numerous small settlements burned out of the jungle. The burning is actively happening… in many places we passed fires. If the Amazon is the lungs of the planet, then our planet has become a heavy smoker.
After about an hour of driving, we saw a group of seemingly riderless motorcycles coming towards us. As they passed we could see that the riders were lying prone on their stomachs, their feet sticking straight back like the tail of a bird. From the front you could only see the bump of the helmet, as if it were resting on the seat. Gasoline in Brasil is expensive, and folks do all sorts of things to conserve fuel.
We also passed several banana trucks heading north, each piled high with green fruit. Each truck hauled a lifetime’s supply for a vaudeville comedian. It’s amazing that it’s easier to truck the fruit north than to ship it from Manaus, since the ride north is both long and very hot.
At the Rio Branco a bridge was under construction. (The road from Boa Vista to Manaus was only paved in 1999.) It wasn’t yet complete, so we took the ferry. On the far shore was a small pueblo, and children swam in the river near where the ferry ran itself aground.
We stopped and asked to use a restaurant’s rest room. They pointed us towards the back of the building, where a board walkway led across the swampy, malarial back yard to a cement outhouse. People here are not immune to malaria, and many die of the disease every year. This backyard / mosquito breeding ground was a good example of the compromises that are made when villages are hacked out of a rain forest.
A lily pond by the side of the road caught my eye, as did the head poking up from among the green pads. A boy swam in the pond, only his head above the green tiled surface. His head swiveled to watch us drive north.
We’re getting a lot of attention in Brasil. Perhaps that’s because there are so many VWs here (there were very few in Venezuela.) People walk around the vans, point, and ask us to see the cars. Today I had three teenage girl gas station attendants taking turns to look at my upper bunk. They each stepped into the van, poked their head up, and then quickly ducked out, giggling. Their green-and-white BV uniforms made them look like a pack of Catholic school girls.
Darkness came before we found our intended place to park. As the sun set, I saw a flock of macaw parrots flying overhead, their long tails trailing behind. Macaws are beautiful and magnificent birds, which is why folks keep them as pets. But in the air, flying in formation, they’re easily twice as magnificent. They have all of the nobility of a hawk or eagle, but in technicolor.
We continued to drive until we came to the small settlement of Nuvo Paraiso (‘New Paradise’). We pulled into the bus terminal / restaurant and asked if we could spend the night. After they agreed, we ordered Antarctica, the local beer. It comes in a huge bottle, and each person gets a small glass, Japanese style. The beer bottle comes in it’s own cooler to keep it chilled in the tropical heat.
The restaurant is called the Churrascara Caminhoneiros, and it’s essentially a meat restaurant. To one side of the entrance is a Dantean rack of swords, each impaling a body part over glowing embers. After you sit down, one of the servers comes by with a sword and proceeds to hack pieces of meat off onto a communal plate. There is also a smorgasbord to accompany the flesh, including salad, polenta, rice, and beans.
I asked if they had Franga (chicken.) Nope, the server replied, only goat. He hacked a few pieces off his sword for us. I generally don’t eat mammals, but I tried this. It was fantastic. The slices of meat are crispy on the outside where they sat over the coals, and tender inside. After the outside is sliced off, the meat goes back onto the coals, so the slices are always crispy / juicy. I kept thinking that this sort of thing would be very popular in the States.
This restaurant/bus station also functions as a sort of truck stop, and several trucks stopped while we were eating. One gasoline truck stopped and a husband and wife came out followed by their two young daughters.
Apparently the entire family drives around Brasil delivering gas. The rear of the cab was curtained off as a sleeping / private space.
At around midnight, the truck stop was closing down, the temperature had dropped to ‘balmy’, and I went for a walk on the highway. There wasn’t any traffic, since the road south of us closes down at night. I walked a long way. For some time, the noise of barking dogs followed me, and then that died out. The moon was nearly full, so I could clearly see where I was going.
When I couldn’t hear the town, I stopped and listened to the rainforest. Thousands of insects and frogs sang around me. Lightning bugs flashed paparazzi strobes around me. For a while, the world seemed to spin around me.
The rest rooms have simple showers… basically a shower head and a valve. The water probably comes from a holding tank, and was a comfortable 80°F. The walls of the bathroom were tiled, and insects buzzed around inside the rest room, drawn to the light bulb overhead. Several frogs crawled up and down the walls, dining at the Light Bulb Café. While taking my shower I also noticed several lizards, blending perfectly with the stippled pink tiles.
The warm water rinsed off several layers of salt that had accumulate during the day. Manaus is supposed to be the hottest city in Brasil, and we’re not that far away, perhaps 500 km.
Tomorrow we go there.