Chapter 1: Preperation

Physical Training has Begun for the Trip...Minus a Bike

By on June 23, 2009 in Preparation // 2 Comments

With about 90 days to go before lift off from Boston, I am well on my way planning and preparing for the trip. I’d like my endurance to be top notch once I hit the highways of Brazil as I plan on biking 6 hours plus per day in temperatures hitting the upper 90′s with relentless humidity. These are easy statements to make from my 65F hometown conditions so far this June here in Boston. I am narrowing the search and criteria for the bike I will be taking on the trip and plan to be performing trials with the equipment within a month.

Procuring a Brazilian Visa...Let the Headaches Begin

By on July 09, 2009 in Preparation // 1 Comment


The process of getting a Brazilian Visa should be straight forward for most tourists. Simply present your round trip ticket, passport, pay the fee, hand over some little square photos and off you go. Luckily I live close to the Brazilian Consulate here in Boston as well. My one dilemma is that round trip ticket part!

Since I plan on leaving the country via a land route I won’t need a round trip ticket. Getting in touch with someone at the consulate is nearly a joke. You can visit between noon and 1pm…with an appointment. You can call between 3pm and 5pm, but the line is typically busy the whole time. When you do get through you’re sent straight to an answering machine. Messages are left unreturned, emails unanswered, even having your Brazilian friend work his magic and experience has been fruitless.

Plan B is to apply for a Press Visa. For this I need a letter of Good Standing from my local police department, a letter from my media company (luckily I do have one and it’s my friend Matt and myself, incorporated in New Hampshire), my Birth Certificate, and a passport. That sets me free to the interior of Brazil for up to 4 years! It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

Advice From Jeremy Wade of River Monsters

By on July 20, 2009 in Preparation // 47 Comments


I recently emailed Jeremy Wade of the TV show River Monsters on Animal Planet to ask his advice on certain factors when trekking in the Amazon. Jeremy is an accomplished angler and biologist with much experience in the Brazilian Amazon.

My questions were as follows:

  1. Do you ever use a water purification pump for drinking when in the Amazon?
  2. How you deal with waterborne diseases such as trichomoniasis, leishmaniasis, etc?

I am a huge fan of River Monsters and its host, Jeremy, and highly value his input. I promptly recieved this email in response, despite the fact he was on location filming the next season of River Monster’s coming on in 2010:

Water filter of some kind a good idea, various different ones on the market, but to be honest most of the time (except when on film trips) I’ve just drunk straight from the river. But I do have a fairly cast-iron constitution, possibly a result of getting quite ill in the past and then getting over it.

On a cycle trip, though, where you don’t want to be laid up at all by illness, water quality very important. Incidentally you should be able to get bottled mineral water in quite a few places, if that’s OK. As for general illnesses, it’s just the basic thing of washing hands before eating (there are some good hospital-style spray-on soaps which evaporate after application, which are very good) and keeping fingernails short. You can’t really do much about stuff in the water, or insect borne (apart from anti-malarials and repellents and a lightweight mosquito net) — except get checked out when you get home.

Make sure you treat small wounds (you probably know this) as in the tropics they can get worse if not attended to.

Definitely a good idea to learn as much Portuguese as possible too….

Boa sorte










I'm A Vaccine Machine

By on July 22, 2009 in Preparation // 3 Comments


I made my first visit to the travel nurse for this trip and already have a fever from the injections. Although no vaccine’s are required to enter Brazil for Americans (unless they have visited certain countries in the past 6 months) there are more than a few recommended. I’ll be receiving five!

So far I have finished my Hepatitis A series, started my Hep B series, received 1 of 3 for Rabies (kind of a weird one!), received a booster for Typhoid, and started my Yellow Fever series. I’ll also be receiving the brand new H1N1 virus vaccine…suck it swine!

In the past I have received multiple vaccinations on one day (for a trip to Nicaragua) and the side effects included cold like symptoms, mostly sneezing and running nose for 24 hours.

However, this time around I feel physically beat up and I have a low grade fever. This is common, from what I have read, and I don’t think it will progress beyond today.

Letter of Intention to Consulate General of Brazil

By on July 22, 2009 in Preparation // 6 Comments


After approximately 30 phone calls to the Atlanta, Miami, New York, Boston, and Chicago Consulate of Brazil it was determined that I should write a notarized letter stating my intentions and why I don’t need a roundtrip ticket.

You have to love Bureaucracy! I also included 3 months of bank statements proving I have the funds to remove myself from the country within 90 days if need be. For good measure I included a Google map and directions of my intended itinerary and a copy of my one-way ticket.

If this doesn’t work I will purchase onward airfare that can hopefully be refunded later. This is a method frequently used by other people with similar intentions as mine.

The Very Elusive Visa Has Arrived

By on August 12, 2009 in Preparation // 4 Comments


I thought I sent my money order, passport, letter of intention, and bank statements into a bureacratic black hole in downtown Boston. My plan of attack was to storm down to the consulate and demand to speak with someone about this outrage…then again they hold the power to let me into Brazil. Alas, bright and early Saturday morning the two-page 90 day visa arrived on my porch.

If anyone out there has to deal with the Boston Consulate of Brazil my advice is patience. I called the visa department about 30 times over 2 months, sent 4 emails, left phone messages in English and Portuguese and received exactly zero responses.

For advice I called the consulates in Houston, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, and New York. Each had a slightly different answer about applying for a visa with a one-way ticket with New York advising to not worry about it and Miami saying it was “impossible.” I followed the Atlanta office’s advice and wrote the letter etc.

At the end of the day I am psyched to get my visa in one attempt! I wonder how difficult it will be to get back home…

AmazonPilgrim Prep Work Video

By on September 02, 2009 in Preparation // 5 Comments

One Week Before Epic Jungle Expedition: Time For a Soak & a Beer

By on September 12, 2009 in Preparation // No Comments


With one week to go it’s time to fatten up, stay healthy, keep out of trouble, and relax! Over the past few months I have chipped away at the slew of preparatory tasks. With the exception of a few minor loose ends (waiting for the camera and dry bags to show up) I am ready to ship out to Belem.

I have been force feeding myself this past week and a half (I usually have a light appetite) in an attempt to put on some El Bees (lbs) of fat. I’m predicting some significant weight loss with the long hours on the bike, the heat, and general effort it will take to get by each day.

The bike is in top notch shape with the help of my friend ,and complete bike Guru, Greg. I’ve replaced the handle bars from carbon fiber to aluminum (more durable), the pedals have changed three times (finally have brand new Crank Brother Candy’s), the tires have been switched from tubeless to standard inner tube style, brake pads have been replaced, middle chain ring replaced (worn out), racks installed, seat changed to a Brooks Flyer touring saddle, a kickstand added (so convenient!), and a front fender installed.

The hard part to prepare for is leaving everything I know, everyone I know, and communicating only sporadically. At any given moment we can connect with our friends and family. Whether it’s by Facebook, Twitter, cell phone, text, etc we never have to be truly alone.

Even while taking a bath “alone” I was talking to three people via text. Those moments will soon be over, and may be the biggest adjustment I’ll have to make in the comming months.

Flawless 70k Ride: Last Run Before Belem

By on September 17, 2009 in Preparation // 2 Comments


I loaded all the gear I currently have, filled all my water containers, and weighed the whole package. Including the bike, rack, bags, and gear I have about a 82lb load. Once you add my weight (165lbs) the entire machine is quite a beast that likes to go in a straight line!

That being said the trip was completely smooth with no red flags to worry about at this point, which is good considering the next time I ride will be the real thing! I had a nice lunch in Carlisle, MA and completed the ride, including the lunch break, in under 4 hours. I am happy with that considering some uphills had my max speed at 9mph!

However, the weather was rather brisk and of course the road conditions here in MA are perfect compared to northern Brazil. I would be more than happy to make this distance with a full days effort while on the TransAm.

Sewing Mosquito Nets and Skining My Knuckles

By on September 17, 2009 in Preparation // 1 Comment


These next few days are all I have to iron out the kinks in my gear and pack it up. My mosquito netting needed some alteration to accommodate guy lines, the bike needed to be broken down and boxed, and the remaining gear divvied up into the appropriate weight bundles to minimize baggage fees.


It took me about 5 tries and three different bike boxes before I found a combo that fit. I took the rear derailleur off, put it back on, took off the fork, duct tape all the parts in a myriad of positions, skinned my knuckles on the damn disc brake rotors (those suckers are sharp!) but finally have the bike boxed and under 50lbs.


God help me when I have to ship this thing back home.