A fortnight featuring tree climbing chickens, the statue of liberty, cows taking shade beneath palm-trees, aggravation by a thousand mosquito bites, and a hint of deportation.
Also a big jump in mileage, but not because of mysterious Amazonian strength, instead, a clerical error and a road wash out.
Arriving at the small village of Jundia, the start of an area of protected jungle, a courteous officer points out the absence of a Brazilian entry stamp, and that I had three days to get to a Policia Federal, the nearest being in Manaus, to pay a fine or risk being deported.
When I initially crossed into Brazil at Bonfirm, the office wasn’t open but the guard seemed to approve when I slowly motion to cycle on, smiling and gesturing to continue, rather than taking pursuit, which seemed to be a good sign.
Ney’s father is a Doctor, who had spent time studying and sharing his knowledge of Amazonian floral remedies in Durham. Disappointingly there’s no hint of a Geordie-Portuguese hybrid accent.
Manaus is a proliferating city in the middle of the jungle, and most of the one million plus residents typically live as Ney, in apartments. Ney's parents however have a place in the rural outskirts where a resident cobra lurks between beams in the ceiling and chickens have developed the strange evolutionary habit to climb to the tree tops at night.
It’s a four day trip down the Amazon from Manaus to Porto Velho, two sizable cities that bookend the jungle with little other than forest and a few wooden huts, between.
I wouldn’t say I was praying for rain but I clutched the hammock I’d use on the boat with crossed fingers. One of the few blogs or sources of information about the BR-319 labeled the road as ‘Brazil's worst highway’. The dirt road is often turned into a bog or completely washed out by the rains, and there's only one town or settlement of note within the 500 miles distance.
After the enforced rush to Manaus I have no shame in saying I’d already exhausted my body in pushing successive 100 mile days and happily string up a hammock on the second tier of the boat, which is al fresco, with cars parked on bottom deck and a seating area and bar on top deck.
In four days, a village of a dozen huts was the largest single settlement that lined the banks of the Amazon.
Telephone cables and satellite dishes reached out to most huts and the occupants, seemed to be familiar with the passing river traffic.
I was fascinated enough by our own boat.
A group of three men in there 30’s are the boisterous ones, often lifting there shirts to rest above there stomachs, I wasn't able to determine if this was a method to stay, or look, cool. They took to giving me the nickname 'Ingles' which they'd shout to involve me in there jokes with sign-language explanations when my Portuguese fell short.
A well dressed gentleman, always in trousers and shirt despite the heat, would take it upon himself to understand my broken Portuguese at least once each day, ending each exchange, like clockwork, with a pat on the back.
Away from the city, the jungle thins and slowly becomes interspersed with farmland, lush grassland and palm trees that puts an unusual slant on this first time seeing cattle in South America. The villages are small, offering only the necessities, and many follow the same layout, hotel, restaurant, gas station, goal posts, always goal posts in a field regardless of how small the village population is.
Even at the Brazil-Peru border there's a pair of goal posts just beneath the mileage markers which highlight Lima - 1,871km. As yet no sign of the Andes, long may that continue.