Some days everything just clicks. I left Humaita´ after downing a pineapple vitamina, or smoothie with milk and sugar, and headed down the longest paved straightaways I’ve laid eyes on since my days in Indiana. The heat never passed 98F and a headwind kept me cool. I pedaled like I would never get tired, and yesterday, I didn´t. After 131 miles I reached Porto Velho and felt exhilarated. As the ruthless commodities trader Mark Yost would exclaim…”TASTE IT!”
I passed from the state of Amazônas, to the state of Rondonia, back into Amazônas before returning to Rondonia and Porto Velho, this state’s capitol. I went through two check points insuring no cattle from Amazonia enters Rondonia where all the cattle are vaccinated. I didn´t ask what they are vaccinated for…I had already eaten my share of Amazonian beef.
I was straight into a headwind for the first 8 hours of riding. I haven´t faced much headwinds whatsoever to this point. Part of the reason I chose to ride from East to West was to travel with the prevailing weather patterns. I was averaging 10.4 mph until the headwind let up in late afternoon and I could put the hammer down.
To be honest my intention was to get fairly close to Porto Velho and camp. I tried to find a suitable spot along the road but only succeeded in adding some painful lacerations to my legs from grass I waded through. I don´t know the name of this type of grass is but it reminded me of the elephant grass in Vietnam I have read about. I couldn’t really tell how bad it was until 10-15 minutes later when I started sweating again. Today they are sticky oozing messes! Anyway, there was only scrub and fazenda without a decent tree to hang my hammock by late afternoon.
A feature of the landscape I have passed since leaving Belem are these enormous and far reaching ant hills which are easily seen in cleared fazendas. I stopped to take a picture of a field with a typical group of these mounds which regularly reach heights taller than me. I’d like to take my machete to one but have images of ants exploding out of the hole and dragging me back into the earth. I’ll stick to taking pictures.
As the sun set, and my hopes of finding a campsite faded, I began to focus on reaching Port Velho. I had only 18 km to go by the time I switched from sunglasses to clear lenses and donned the headlamp. My legs still felt strong so I said “Let those dogs hunt!” and cranked up the tempo. I pedaled through swarms of tiny bugs that got stuck in my beard, hair, and sweat with the beam of my headlamp bouncing all over the road.
After almost exactly 12 hours since leaving Humaita´ I reached the ferry to go back across the Rio Madeira and into Porto Velho. My pedaling time was just over 11 hours. The ferry was crammed with tractor trailers, dirt bikes, other bicycles, pedestrians, and a bulldozer. When I rode into the downtown region I realized this was a very major city.
I found a cheap hotel next to the bus terminal (Hotel Porto Rico, very classy at 20$ a night) and strolled to find some food. I quickly realized Porto Velho was indeed urban in every sense. On my block I passed 2 rather suspicious motels connected to rowdy bars. This morning I received some flattering words from two transvestites drinking beers at said motel. Always a nice ego boost first thing in the morning!
However, despite the fact the some street fighting experience may be a plus to those looking to visit Porto Velho, I was able to replace my completely shredded pedals with a decent pair of Shimanos (the bolts and bearings were no longer in existence in the old set, it’s been over 800 miles since the pedals started to fail). I also re-outfitted my rear tire which was worn thin and pieced back together a set of worn out bearings in my headset. However, these will need to be replaced as soon as possible.
I meandered the streets trying to find the main nerve of the city when I found a side street bar packed with people dancing to a samba band. Everything was set up on the sidewalk under the canopy of two huge trees. There was beer drinking and dancing between the plastic tables. Of course I just watched, I couldn’t dance two steps without looking out of place next to these guys . Besides soccer, and pool (which is played more than soccer from what I’ve seen up here in the north), the Brazilians that I’ve observed can dance like it´s nobody´s business… just effortlessly. I stayed up until midnight watching them boogie before limping back to my room.