At this point in the trip when I tell people where I have come from I watch their eyes dart up and down from head to toe. While in a pharmacy before leaving Apui´ the woman came from behind the counter while I was explaining my trip and stared at my face from less than 10 inches away. Then she says, “Bacana, Americano. Bacana.”
It means, “Cool, American. Cool.” I saw her again later on that day and she yelled from the sidewalk, “Bacana, Americano.” I have to admit, I didn´t know what it meant until days later.
The leg from Apui´ to Humaita´ had been a bit of a mental obstacle since Jacareacanga. From the map and any research I could gather on the internet there would be very little spread over this roughly 250 mile span. If it decided to rain, I´d be up a creek. If it was too dry, I´d be toasted on the road. However, everyone kept saying that is gets flatter. Everyone always says it´s flatter ahead. Maybe I have my adjectives mixed up.
My new handle bars were treating my neck and shoulders well and I made Rio Aripuana by mid day. There was a small roadside bar there so I filled up my water and waited for the ferry to arrive. I had some company too. A 40 something year old caboclo, or person of mixed Indian and European decent who lives in the jungle.
He was nearly legless drunk and asked me about sleeping in the mata, or forest, and how long I´d been doing this. I told him this is my first time to Brazil, I´ve been here a month. He shook his head and said he´d been in the jungle 40 years. He asked what I knew about cobras, or snakes, and I said I´d never seen one in the mata.
I began to feel he thought I was an idiot. Most likely he was right. By the time I am ready to camp I´m usually so tired I just blunder around the brush like I was back home in New England. I stick my hands in places I can´t see and get up to use the bathroom at night with bare feet. I´ve been lucky so far I guess. I´ve only seen snakes crushed and dried up in the road.
After about an hour the ferry came and he insisted on walking my bike down to the boat for me. I held his tobacco and rolling paper (he used a sheet of notebook paper) and I was worried he´d try to ride the thing down the embankment. I soon noticed he was holding the bike up and much as the bike was holding him up.
On the otherside of the river I was almost in heaven. Around the first bend it became true. After all the weeks and gruelling miles I saw something I thought would never come. FLAT ROAD! As far as the eye could see. Such a bountiful sacred expanse of flatness all in one spot, right in front of me.
It was 106F degrees that afternoon but the road was smooth hard packed mud and I was smiling the rest of the day. After a few hours I noticed the back end of my bike seemed loose and I saw I had a flat. Coincidentally a road workers camp was in sight so I rolled over and said hi.
This camp was smaller than the previous one I had slept in and was completely overrun by flies. There were 6 men there and one with a blue jacket was squatting on the ground. He must have had thousands of flies camped on his back and armpit region. They swarmed everything. Little flies, big flies, long flies, bee looking flies, wasp looking flies… a complete nightmare.
After some coffee and alot of fly swatting we used the truck pump to fill my back tire. I said “See ya later” and pedaled as fast as I could away from that place. I got less than 2 miles before the tire was flat again so I pulled into their previous camp (they went from bridge to bridge making repairs) and fixed the bike.
My fears of no water along the route had abated and I shared this river side camp with only a few flies 2 stray dogs. I have no idea where these dogs came from. There were no houses for over 30 miles in either direction. Maybe they just followed the workers and lived off their scraps?
To end the day this 77 mile day I cracked what might be some of the foulest booze I have ever tasted. I think it was called Corote and it was a type of cachaça, or sugarcane rum, and the first I´ve had since landing in Brazil (which is a sin). It came in a small 300mL plastic soda type bottle and cost 2 Reals. I guess you get what you pay for.
Mind you, it had been sitting in my panniers all day and was probably over 100F. I took a swig and it felt like hot kerosene. Next came the closed-throat, salivating, I´m-gonna-vomit response but I fought that back. The next swig I was prepared for. I earned this god awful booze dammit!