Itaituba: A Transvestite, Tattoo Face*, and a Thorough Toothbrush


When I reached the Tapajos River and the ferry to Itaituba there was a makeshift road block and a protest taking place. Evidentially cyclists were immune from the protest and I crossed with some minor harassment from a very tactile Tranny on the ferry boat. I don´t think spandex shorts are common in rural northern Brazil and maybe I´ve been giving off the wrong impression!

*Correction: He wore semi-permanent facial paint, not tattoos. This is typical among Indians of the Amazon, usually a skilled learned by the females of the tribe.

I was polite enough but had to make it clear I wasn´t interested in sharing a beer or anything else with this man. I found it amusing if not a little annoying being as tired as I was. I´ll have to keep in mind that I must look absolulety rediculous to the average passer by. God knows I attract enough looks everytime I roll into a town.

The next part of my trip I have been looking forward to and fearing since I first started planning. It starts with 180km (or over 100 miles) of pure jungle reserve with no people, houses, farms, supplies, food, help, anything. I spoke with a truck driver who of course said there are lots of mosquitos (so far I have barely seen insects besides roaches and ants), snakes, and onças (pumas). He tells me the mosquitos start just 20km west of town but he doesn´t know why?

I have been going over my gear with a fine tooth comb making sure everything is in good repair for the next leg. I had my bike cleaned quite professionally down by the river, not knowing what I was getting into. I went looking for a hose and parked my bike to use one that I found. This was a car wash area however (unknown to me, just a hose running up from the river) and for 5 Reals (maybe 2.50-3.00$) a man cleaned every centimeter of the bike with a toothbrush. It took him over an hour but the bike has never looked better! I gave him double what he asked and was very pleased to see all the dust and grime cleared from my chain, gears, and other components.

While this was going on I walked across the street to a bar for a coke. It was 8am and for the first time I saw a truly terrrifying sight.

The bar was blasting Brazilian techno music and had two patrons, myself and the man in the corner. He was at a table with a large beer in front of him. There he sat, sullen, in the darkest corner just watching. He was an Indio with a completely tattooed face, in the traditional style of this area. He had his hair done in what might be called a “faux-hawk” back here in the states but other than that was dressed like me, tank top and shorts. Of course I didn´t take a picture, and he looked in no mood or state to oblige anyway.

The end of his nose was blacked in completely with large black circles around his eyes, giving a skull like impression. From his mouth raking back towards his ears were straight lines that looked like whiskers and on his forhead were a series of vertical and horizontal lines that made for a menacing appearance.  He swaggered down the street after about an hour in the bar and I watched him the whole way.

After this stop it could be a very long time before I reach internet access again. Today I am going to shop for a spare water container even though I´ve been told there are many rivers along the way. Jacareacanga will be the next town of any stature where a great many indians live, many with a drinking problem I´m told.

I need rest and food for now so until then I am taking it easy!


18 Responses to “Itaituba: A Transvestite, Tattoo Face*, and a Thorough Toothbrush”
  1. Wow! I think I have seen that guy in Walmart. Be careful.

    by Mom
    on 10. Oct, 2009

  2. LOL at the above comment. nice… jesus, can you imagine it? i think of a Walmart in Iowa or something. it would be hilarious!

    by sara
    on 10. Oct, 2009

  3. Rest up and eat. Eat until you can eat anymore, then eat some more. Also sunblock can keep your temp down by as much as 15 degrees. That will help you get through the hottest parts of the day. “Thumbs Up”

    by Pete
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  4. Wow, face tattoos are serious business!

    Good luck on the next stretch…you’re a champ!

    by Becky
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  5. looking at the german dude’s blog, he reached Itaituba on oct. 31st with much difficulty.. you are rockin…

    by sara
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  6. We looked for 2 or 3 days, eagerly watching for your news. Nothing. Then 3 new posts in one day! All very interesting. We’re hooked.

    As we read these together, I keep telling Ed (when referring to you), “He’s an animal!!” Of course, that’s a compliment- for your strength on ALL levels.

    by Kathy&Ed
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  7. Amazing stuff, Doug. Your posts definitely have me hooked. Keep up the good work and good luck.

    by Nate A
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  8. Best of luck with the 100 mile leg – you’ll do great! Eat some of those bananas…with all the coke, vienna sausages and ramen you need some vitamins : ). (I think your mother just somehow spoke through me)

    by amy gunz
    on 12. Oct, 2009

  9. If those mosquitos are anything like salt march mosquitos, keep covered and moving, and be extra careful taking a leak, as that is when they gave me some nice quarter sized welts on my back and legs.

    Interesting to hear that your encounters deep in the Brazillian Amazon could just as well have happened in the French Quarter down in New Orleans.

    Best of luck traversing the jungle, and will be waiting to hear from you when you emerge from beneath the canopy.

    by Ken
    on 12. Oct, 2009

  10. good luck doug, everyone will be anxiously awaiting your next post

    by mike d
    on 12. Oct, 2009

  11. Good luck on this next leg bro! Stay tough, I’m proud of you man!

    by Yost
    on 13. Oct, 2009

  12. im waiting for another photo without your shirt!

    by Greg
    on 14. Oct, 2009

  13. Doug, Every Thursday when “the cosmo girls” gather you have become our main topic of conversation…we are always looking to your mom and Sara (we love it when she joins us) for an update. I have also become hooked on your web site…what an adventure…be safe and as always you have our best wishes, joni & jim

    by Joni
    on 15. Oct, 2009

  14. That dude sounds like moby dick’s Queequeg… Crazy! I’d stay clear of men like that…

    I wish I could pay someone to clean my bike with a toothbrush…. well worth it!

    by John
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  15. I ended up seeing him on the local news a few nights later. They were doing a story on the living conditions in the reservations. He had a basketball jersey on with mesh shorts and a hunting bow in his hands.

    by doug
    on 27. Oct, 2009

  16. Sicko….(I´ll see what I can do).

    by doug
    on 27. Oct, 2009

  17. Thanks man. That is interesting with the sunblock. good tip. I’m down about 20lbs at this point. Gettin into the old college running days weight!

    by doug
    on 27. Oct, 2009

  18. I’d bet that the man with frightening facial tattoos would be friendly and helpful if you spoke to him. With that appearance few if any people approach him. If you are that one guy who walks up and sez hello, he’s immediately your friend.

    by Minnetonka_Mark
    on 21. Jan, 2010

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