The second day of my journey on the ghost road BR 319 in Amazonia started. I decided to wake up very early to leave before the heat. Already the previous day I noted how right were those who warned me that it was very hot in the Amazon jungle. I can hardly bear the heat, so any extra minutes, or if I am lucky, hours of freshness, I appreciate a lot, and even can sacrifice some time of sleep in exchange.
Moreover, I had to fill up my tank with the fuel from my extra cans, to buy water and food for the road, and to have breakfast. Everything didn’t turn out exactly as I hoped for. It was already hot since early morning hours, so there was no sense in rushing any more. Besides, all the stores were still closed, and it would have been a suicide to start riding without water.
While I was filling up my tank, I had a chat with some locals who were passing by. Of course, my bike and I caught everyone’s attention here, and a lot of people were wondering what I was doing here and where I was going. When I said that I was going to Porto Velho and would cross the road BR 319 alone, I immediately noticed disapproval on people’s faces. Nobody is going down this road alone, they said. It’s dangerous for many reasons. The road is deserted, there may be bandits in some areas, and there are jaguars, there have been attacks on people. And if it rains, the road is turned into mess and you can’t ride it. Don’t go on your own, that was their main advice.
But who will I go with if I travel by myself? : ) Going back? That’s not an option either. I’ve already taken a step forward, and I’m not going backwards. Although I confess that all these talks and warnings put some fear and doubts into my soul. I came to the conclusion that this village Igapo Acu was a kind of point of no return on this road. Here you can stop and think about whether you want to continue or better turn back. But if you decide to go, then you should go all the way till the end.
So, everything was ready – the tank was filled, I had breakfast in a restaurant across the street, bought some boiled eggs to eat on the road, had a short walk through the village again. You can really pass it all the way through in a couple of minutes – a few houses, shops, school, and then… an endless road with a lot of unknowns, at the end of which, if you get there safely, the feeling of satisfaction and victory is waiting for you. But that will be later, and today I still didn’t know what was ahead of me. I tried to shake my hesitation out of my mind, relying on the lucky star and my common sense, and hit the road.
To be honest, of all the potential difficulties and dangers on the road, I was most concerned about the possibility of rain. If it rains, the road will quickly turn into mud, where not only a motorcycle, but also trucks, will have difficulties to pass. Yes, it’s dry now, the rainy season hasn’t started yet, but that doesn’t mean there is no rain at all. It happens every few days, and no one can tell when it will rain again. The jungle is unpredictable. But if it never rains during my journey on this road, I’ll be very lucky. It was sunny this morning, there were no clouds in the sky, and I only prayed that the weather would not change.
After Igapo Acu, it finally felt like you were riding on a ghost road. There wasn’t a single soul around, and just occasionally trucks or cars were passing by. The road was in a fairly good condition, only the dust from passing vehicles once in while caused some discomfort, but overall, the condition of the road pleasantly surprised me. Only at the back of my mind there was always a thought flickering – – please please please don’t let it rain.
In fact, to my surprise, I learned that this road had previously been completely paved. Then, for some reason, the road was abandoned and the jungle reclaimed it. Those who dared to drive it at that time would say that it was a real ghost road back then. Almost impassable in all its duration, almost without a single living soul, and to drive it was a real adventure and challenge. Since then, the situation has changed for better – the road has been maintained to a more or less acceptable condition, bridges repaired, along the road you could occasionally find small settlements, restaurants and guest houses to spend a night. And there are even rumors that the new Brazilian government promises to pave the road again. So the road still keeps the name – ghost road, more by habit. Although it’s not a busy road anyway.
So, the road itself suited me quite well, I was riding slowly, but still faster than expected. In general, from the very beginning I decided that I would ride slowly and carefully, even if it’s just 100 km a day, I’m not in a hurry and not going to prove anything to anyone. But since I was moving quite fast today, I thought that maybe I could do more.
One of the features of this road is a large number of wooden bridges, due to the large number of small rivers and streams crossing the road. In the past, when it was in much worse condition, these bridges were one of the main difficulties on the road. Often they were almost destroyed and impossible to pass. You either had to wait for help or you had to turn back. I was very worried about this part, although I was assured that most of the bridges had been repaired now and were in a good condition. But one bad bridge is enough to ruin the whole trip, isn’t it?
Jumping ahead, I have to say that I had almost no problem crossing these bridges. Only in some places the wood was slightly rotten, and sometimes there were potholes entering or exiting the bridge, so I had to watch out. First I would stop in front of a bridge and walk across it to make sure I could pass on a motorcycle. But later I got brave enough, and did it less and less often.
The real challenge for me that day was the heat. Even riding a motorcycle did not help, it felt like you were in a hot oven. And lack of wind rather made me happy. Wind at this temperature does not cool you down, but heats even more like a hot hair dryer blowing right into your face. I often stopped to drink some water, but soon it warmed up too, and quenched my thirst very relatively.
So when I saw a small kiosk after one of the bridges, I couldn’t even believe my eyes, what if it was a mirage in the desert? Fortunately, the kiosk was real, and they sold me the coldest water in the world (at least that’s how it seemed to me at the time). At such moments, you begin to understand what is really important and valuable. Just a few sips of cold refreshing water and a few minutes of rest brought me back to life.
Here, next to the kiosk, several trucks were parked, their drivers also rested and exchanged news from the road. Of course, I didn’t miss the opportunity to ask them about the road condition ahead. They said that the road till the Gaucho Restaurant would be good, about the same as now, and then very difficult kilometers would start, especially if it rains. In the meantime, the weather is good, the road is dry. There were about 150 km to the Gaucho restaurant left, and at the beginning of the day I even thought that I wouldn’t mind getting there the following day. But there was still enough time and quite a good chance of being there tonight.
Soon I saw, tested and appreciated another feature of the BR319 road. Telecommunication towers.
You can encounter them every 40 km on this road, and the first of them soon appeared in sight. Of course, I went there immediately. These towers are a kind of small oases on the road, and all travelers, especially those on motorcycles, often stop there to rest or even to spend a night. At the bottom of the tower there is a small covered space, not visible from the road, where you can hide for a while from the heat, and if necessary, pinch your tent there. By the way, presence of jaguars in this area is no joke. Fortunately, I didn’t see them on the road, they say that the engine sound scares them away, and it’s not so easy to see them during the day. But at night, the chances are much higher. So if for some reason you couldn’t get to a safe place to sleep, camping next to one of those towers is your best possible option.
By the time I got to the first tower, I was again exhausted by heat and thirst, so I stayed quite long under the tower’s lifeguard canopy. By the way, there was also a well, but the water was just a little bit cooler than the one I had. I had a good rest, treated myself with boiled eggs, which I prudently stocked up in Igapo Acu, and reluctantly continued to the red-hot Amazonian jungle stove. I’d stop by every tower, I told to myself. Forty kilometers, not that much, but in such conditions there is not enough strength and energy reserves for more.
It turned out that it had rained before closer to the Gaucho restaurant, but by the time I got there, most of the road had already dried up. Only small puddles at the edges of the road indicated that it was raining. On one hand, I was glad it was just a light and brief rain, but on the other, I knew that if not today then tomorrow it would rain again, and it was possible that I wouldn’t be so lucky again.
But so far I was happy to approach my oasis for today – the Gaucho restaurant. It is a small and very simple place to eat and sleep over. It is the only one within a radius of many kilometres, basically in the middle of nowhere, so there are no other options for travellers. I was happy I managed to cover the double mileage norm today, and at the same time I managed to get here at the daylight, so I was even a little proud of myself. As usual, I was dying of thirst, so the first thing I asked for when Gaucho himself came out to welcome me, was cold water. Well, the next question was if I could sleep here that night.
There were a few rooms for rent at the side of the restaurant, with a bathroom and shower outside. The setup inside a room was pretty much like in Igapo Acu – a bed and a ventilator – and that was all I needed today. There was no Internet even with a weak signal, but to be honest, I was even happy about it. I was so tired that I didn’t have energy to write even one message. At least now I had a very good, and, most importantly, truthful justification.
I parked the bike inside, cleaned up as much as possible, ordered myself a meal. Again, the dinner seemed a luxury to me at that moment, so I can’t give an objective assessment. It was a buffet dinner, so I was able to eat up to the pile, and I was already half asleep from fatigue and full stomach when I was back to my room.
Already in bed, I heard the sound of a motorcycle, and it looked like someone was coming from the opposite side. I wonder who it might have been… But I didn’t have any energy to go and meet him or her, so I decided to postpone it till the next day. And the next day promised to be harder than today in terms of the road condition, and who knows, perhaps in terms of the weather as well…
But I decided not to occupy my thoughts with bad feelings now and to enjoy the comfort and safety of my stay for today. As Scarlett O’Hara said, I’ll think about all the rest tomorrow… )
For the video version of the second day on the ghost road BR319 road in the Brazilian Amazon, click here: