Pacas That Go Bump in the Night


From the fires and horse battles of Ruropolis I headed further west into more hills. I think the most memorable part of my journey will be the endless hills of the TransAm. I passed a hunter during the day with the creature that had woken me in a naked frenzy many nights earlier. He had bagged two and called them Pacas. In the photo we see the white underbelly of one, both were beheaded.

Paca foraging at night

Between Ruropolis and Itaituba was about 100 miles of straight up and down. I had the beginning of a sore throat and runny nose but made 60 miles in nearly 8 hours. The road had some fairly pristine scenery in the beginning that eventually decayed into one of the longest construction sites I have ever seen.


Towards the end of the day I was into this construction area of the TransAm (BR-230). There is an effort to greatly improve a North-South route to connect the ports of Itaituba and Santerem with some of Brazil´s more southerly areas and the good produced there. The work is well under way with the TransAm tripling in width through this area, drainage pipes are being dug in, and some actual principles of civil engineering are taking place by reducing the ups and downs of the highway.


I duck into a patch of jungle, hide my bike close to the road under some palm fronds, and head into a secluded spot for the night. I cooked some Brazilian brand Ramen noodles with a can of Vienna sausage that I hacked open with my machete…who needs a can opener? Immediately there are bees crawling all over the opened food, but they don´t seem interested in stinging me.


Ahhh, a campfire in the jungle. To help you understand what this is like imagine cooking stirfry in a sauna. It sucks. So does eating piping hot food in this climate. I probably sweat much more water out from cooking and eating than I take in from my soup. I drank two liters from my Platypus bag and still barely urinate. This is probably a large part of my weight loss.

I´m only woken once in the night by footsteps in the leaves but am fairly confident it´s nothing dangerous. I got out of the hammock to try and take a picture of the beasts in action but couldn´t see a thing. Overall a decent night out and quite comfortable in the hammock, except for the heat.

The “hello” gesture, or rather gesture for nearly anything in Brazil, is the thumbs up. I kind of dig it, old men walk by and just give you a thumbs up out of the blue  as if to say, “Keep on keepin´on.” I gave this night a thumbs up dressed in my fashion catastrophy.


The morning I left my campsite I resumed the march of death through the construction. I made some of my slowest progress to date averaging about 6mph. The surface of the road was very rough for a bicycle from the construction vehicles and the traffic was heavy with Big Rigs bringing in what looked like topsoil to cover the dust. They also trucked in water to spray the soil before packing it down with the waffle like roller machine. Also, I was nearly run off the road then given the finger by a moto-taxi. Not a fun day to be a cyclist in Brazil.

The construction reached all the way to Itaituba, or the ferry that crosses the Tapajos river. I will rest for at least a few days in Itaituba. After 17 days of cycling with one rest day I have a fatigue in my legs that I have never felt before. My morale was also drained from the endless construction mess.

Oops! I think you missed one.

Oops! I think you missed one.

10 Responses to “Pacas That Go Bump in the Night”
  1. Doug, eat and drink more I worry about your health.

    by Mom
    on 10. Oct, 2009

  2. that animal looks weird! anyway, good to hear you are eating what seems to be the most calorie-laden things available. think in terms of maximum calories for as little density as possible. fry everything!!! :-)

    by sara
    on 10. Oct, 2009

  3. Hi Doug, have been following your trip. Good luck, seems
    things get tough down there. The heat must be the worst.
    Smart to take a break when tired out. Did not realize it was like that in that area.
    Take care, and be careful.

    by donna Diharce
    on 11. Oct, 2009

  4. You have almost completed a Grand Tour!! Eat up and stay safe.

    by Greg
    on 12. Oct, 2009

  5. You are cranking a lot of miles out each day, so your legs are letting you know it. Did you pack any EmergenC or eletrolyte drinks to add to your water? Hydration and replacement of salts make a big difference in holding off fatigue, especailly in those hot and humid conditions.

    Nice to now that Vienna Sausages are still around as a survival snack, as those were a staple on fishing trips with my dad back in Louisiana.

    by Ken
    on 12. Oct, 2009

  6. I can’t even imagine riding along with the tracks of the construction vehicals all dried up…. They don’t look too bad since they aren’t deep but they knock all your momentum down real quick…. that must be brutal.

    What type of intrument did that hunter have to kill that dog lookin thing?

    by John
    on 17. Oct, 2009

  7. a small rifle i think, or something like a 4-10 shotgun.

    by doug
    on 27. Oct, 2009

  8. if only there was a way to radiate the intense heat emiting from not only the sun but from the road, the leaves, the grass, and the superheated heavy air,,, then and only then would your readers truly understand what a spectacular achievment that you have completed.BRAVO!! You are an indestructible man on a mission.
    Did you have a the chance to be introduced to indigenous tribes (specificallyl the Panarim Indian tribe) somewhere between Porto Velho and the Roosevelt river? Im on my way there this sept. and wondered if you had any first hand information.

    by basil vecchione
    on 02. Mar, 2010

  9. Hello,

    Thank you, it is very difficult to explain the heat of the Amazon, especially on the shadeless road.

    I had some encounters with native peoples, check out this post to read a brief swim I had with some along the TransAm.

    by Doug
    on 02. Mar, 2010

  10. I would also recommend this book:

    Don’t Sleep There are Snakes is about a tribe on the Maici river. It will give a glimpse into a native indian culture that sees the world completely differently than a westerner. I am still digesting my experiences now that I am back home trying to understand peoples and places so foreign to me.

    As I have quoted before “There are more things between heaven and earth, especially out here in the jungle, which no westernized person could ever understand.”

    by Doug
    on 02. Mar, 2010

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