Journey Along The Ghost Road BR319, Amazonia, Brazil. Day 3
I had a feeling and knew that it was going to be the hardest day on this road. Was I afraid? I guess not, there was a determination to go no matter what, curiosity whether I would manage it, excitement, or rather awe, if this word is appropriate here. It seemed to me that this day was the most important and responsible exam that would show what I was capable of, and whether I would move to another, higher level.
The nearest town of Realidad, with the gas station in it, was just 100 kilometres away. But it still had to be reached, and according to many people I talked to so far, about 70-80 km of the road would be a real hell. It is not even the road, but rather endless series of deep and treacherous potholes, and if it starts raining, I could be stuck for a long time. It looks like this is where all the scary photos and videos I’ve seen online about this road were taken, where even trucks were stuck up in the mud. So if I can handle it and get to Realidad today, it would mean I’ve handled the ghost road in general. I didn’t even dare to dream about it, and it seemed to me that if I would make it, I would hardly ever be able to experience more happiness and satisfaction.
There was another alternative, just in case, which my friend Genghis mentioned about in Manaus. About 10-15 km before Realidade there was a restaurant by the side of the road where I could sleep over – Restaurant de Cabeludo. But I really hoped that I could manage 100 km of even most difficult road in one full day.
I slept well at Gaucho’s restaurant that night, though I think it was raining at night. But when I woke up early in the morning, I saw the sun rays breaking through the trees, and I could not expect a better gift. Before I left I had to fill the tank with the fuel left in the cans, to have breakfast, to pack up, and to get on the road as soon as possible. So when I woke up and cleaned up, I headed straight to my bike parked right inside the restaurant’s common area.
There was an Africa Twin parked a little further away, all covered with stickers, just like my motorcycle. Of course, that motorcycle belonged to a rider who arrived last night, apparently a foreigner. He was putting back his tent, and soon we met and started to talk. His name was Eric, he was from Ireland and had been traveling around the world for three years. He was on his way to Manaus, meaning to the opposite direction from me, and yesterday he was riding that stretch of the road that I was supposed to ride today. Of course, I took the opportunity to ask about this road in detail. I can’t say that the information I received was very inspiring, but as they say, forewarned is forearmed. The first 40 km from the Gaucho’s restaurant will be manageable, but the following 70-80 km until the town of Realidad I will have to ride very carefully and slowly in order not to crash into any of the potholes. Well, one would still have to enter some of them because there would be no way to get around, so just riding them through in a slow pace. So it’s gonna take a few hours to cover this short distance. The main thing is not to get caught in the rain, so it’s better to start riding as early as possible. It usually starts raining in the afternoon, and yesterday there was a rain on this stretch. The good thing is that in this heat the road quickly dries up, but of course, everything depends on the rain itself – how strong and long it would be.
During the breakfast I had a few more words, as far as my knowledge of Portuguese allowed me, with some truck drivers and the owners of this place. It was interesting to learn from inside about the life of people on this road. There are very few of them living here, and life is not easy, especially when the rainy season starts. There is almost no infrastructure here, in order to get any help or some necessities, it may take a while. And it’s not just about the distance but rather the road condition that slows you down. For those who live here, not just travel or pass for work once in a while, this is a matter of survival, and this is the reality of their lives. So the name of the next town, Realidad, is actually a reflection of their reality.
Well, after breakfast, without wasting time, we took some photos with Eric and exchanged contacts, said goodbye to the owners, and went into opposite directions.
As I already heard and knew, the first 30-40 km of the road were quite good, it was a sunny and, of course, hot day, but it didn’t surprise me any more, the most important is that it doesn;t start raining. I felt great, and one phenomenon which I noticed since yesterday raised my mood even more. Almost all the way I was accompanied by a cloud of butterflies, which were circling around my bike. It seemed like it was their breeding season, and for that reason there were so many of them here. They were my good elves, my escort, and in their company I did not feel alone on this road. Their presence strengthened my hope that all would be well. I sometimes even stopped to get immersed into them. I had never seen so many butterflies at the same time, it was just amazing, and I was very happy that my first experience of being so close to them was right here in the Amazon jungle.
Every time I saw the telecommunications towers which I already knew and looked forward to each of them, I would stop to sit for a few minutes in the shadow of the covered area.
According to my odometer, that challenging part of the road was about to begin, and this anticipation made me squirm a little. I was glad that I still had enough time, so my chances of getting to Realidad before the sunset were good enough.
I immediately noticed when this stretch of road I had heard of so much, started. The relatively flat surface of the road so far was abruptly replaced by potholes, bumps, trenches of various sizes, depths, and widths. I had to stare at the road in front all the time to be able to choose the most acceptable trajectory and move there. Some pits actually looked more like small ponds, and sometimes it was necessary to get off the motorcycle and walk through them first, just like in case with some bridges in the previous days. I didn’t want to drop the bike at all. I knew that with such minimal speed neither I nor the bike was likely to get hurt or damaged, and occasionally passing vehicles would definitely help me, but I didn’t want any extra stress, time or effort waste.
There was another problem which worried me a lot, the condition of my motorcycle. It looked like the fan stopped working, the speed wasn’t enough to cool the radiator, and when the bike was overheating, it was pouring out the coolant liquid. In addition to all the potential complications and troubles, that was just what was missing. I had to stop even more often to let the bike cool down a bit.
My speed dropped to the minimum, every mile was hard, and still slowly but surely I was getting closer to my destination. The communication tower by the road just showed up, and I went there immediately and almost collapsed on the concrete floor. The drinking water became hot, but I had to drink it, though without any pleasure, to prevent my body from dehydration at least.
I don’t know how long I spent near the tower, I guess, not too long. But when I saw the dark sky in the distance, I realized that I needed to speed up and continue riding. It’s important to get to at least some sleepover and not to get stuck on the road because of the rain. I was more and more inclined to stop at the restaurant Cabeludo and not even try to get to Realidad. There were about 10 km left till Cabeludo…
After covering only a few kilometers, I noticed that the road was getting wet. It must have rained a little earlier and the clouds went forward. The main thing is not to catch up with them, but I thought it was unlikely to happen at my speed.
It started raining pretty soon…but the rain was not strong, so I kept going, although I remembered my friends’ advice to stop right away when it starts raining. But where would I stop? There was nowhere to hide and wait for the rain to pass, it was getting dark soon, and I couldn;t waste any time, moreover the rain was just small, the road still fine to ride and I could keep going. I’m almost there, I have to be lucky.
The rain made it cooler, and at least I could breathe well. Fortunately, the rain was over soon, but the road was getting worse. Now there were puddles and mud which I could still ride around. But the road was getting more slippery and I had to ride more carefully. Now I wasn’t counting the kilometers covered, but the meters.
And soon I noticed a truck at the roadside, most likely it did not just stop and park, but got stuck in the mud. Well, here we go… When I got closer, I realized that I couldn’t get around it, there was a huge puddle and mud around. I stopped behind the truck, not sure what to do next… The driver came out and offered to help push the bike to the other side. There was no other way out, I was tired, my hands were shaking, but I was happy that at least someone was around to help.
We managed to push the bike across the puddle and parked it in front of the truck. Soon other trucks showed up and the drivers stopped to help their comrade to get his truck out of the mud. I didn’t start riding straight away, but decided to stay and rest for a while. One of the drivers had cold water with ice in a can, and I was offered to drink. I had never drunk such delicious water, for me it was the most exquisite delicacy that I would not trade for anything in the world. I just couldn’t get enough of it and couldn’t let a mug of water out of my hands.
I already noticed a special spirit of comradeship and mutual help on this road. When I was occasionally stopping by the side of the road to rest and drink water, passing vehicle always pulled over to ask if I needed any help. It was incredibly satisfying, even though I didn’t meet people that often, but I felt much safer here than on some other roads. There was some kind of unwritten agreement here that everyone on this road is a member of the team, a part of the whole, and everyone was helping each other, in any way they could. In all the days on this road, I’ve never felt like a stranger or being alone.
By the time I had enough rest and energy to ride on, the first truck had also been pulled out of the mud and was able to keep going. He even offered to follow me slowly in case I needed help again.
I soon came across another bike on the road, which was obviously not a local one, most likely a member of some motorcycle club according to the patches on his vest. We both stopped to meet each other and to chat. It turned out that the motorcyclist was the president of a motorcycle club, his name was Massa, he knew Genghis well, and was on his way to Porto Vello with his wife to some motorcycle event. We talked a little bit about the road ahead, asked the local motorcyclist who was riding from that direction. He confirmed that the road all the way to Realidad was in a very bad condition because of the rain, so it was best to stop for a night at the restaurant Cabeludo. I didn’t mind, as I didn’t think I would manage another 15km to Realidad, and there wasn’t much time left until the sunset. The perspective of being caught in the jungle at night did not appeal to me at all.
Massa and his wife went ahead faster, they wanted to get to Porto Vello today, but I only had a few kilometers left, so I could afford to ride slowly. Especially since my bike kept overheating and it took more and more time for it to cool down.
There were not many “alive” stretches of the road, there was mud and puddles everywhere, and I maneuvered between them and miraculously kept straight on the road. Literally one kilometer before my destination, a motorcycle going in front of me stopped and I had to stop too, because I could not get around it. The bike soon continued, but I just got frozen and couldn’t move. I was panicking, I was paralyzed by fear, I felt that as soon as I got my feet off the ground, I would immediately fall. As the trucks were passing by, they stopped to ask if I needed help. But how could they help me…? So I waved at them to keep driving.
My panic got worse when I saw a huge pink puddle under the radiator of my motorcycle. According to the puddle size, all the coolant liquid leaked out of my bike, and now it was empty… besides, I almost ran out of fuel. Although initially it was enough until Realidad, at this low speed and off-road, the bike used up a lot more petrol and now it could stop any moment.
The sun was setting and it was almost dark, I couldn’t believe I was stuck only one kilometer away from my destination. I decided to get there by all means, even if I had to roll the bike by hand. I have to admit that I did it for a few meters until my second breath got open, I collected all my will power, and in the dark, I got on the bike and rode on.
There was supposed to be the restaurant around here somewhere. I knew for sure it was around, but there was no sign of life, no light. And it wasn’t until I pulled over to the side of the road near the place on my map that I could hear the voices of people on the sidelines. I left my bike on the road and headed towards the voices. I could barely walk, staggering and seeing nothing around. It was the right place I was looking for. The power was gone, so it was dark, and they could not offer me any food. But it didn’t matter. I was incredibly happy that I got here and that I could spend the night even if I had to sleep on the floor.
The owners seemed very surprised to know that I was here alone on my bike, and they said they’d never seen anything like this before, even though there are a lot of bikers passing by. At the time, it seemed to me too that it was a hasty decision on my part.
I didn’t even have the strength to bring the bike here, so the owners helped me with that too. I don’t remember ever being so tired before, but I also don’t remember ever being so happy to get to my destination safely, to be able to relax now and disconnect from all the troubles of the day. I wasn’t hungry at all, but, as always, clean and cold water was my most coveted treat.
I was invited to sleep in a hammock on the veranda, and I gladly agreed. It was the sweetest and most serene night. I was sleeping like a baby, and I watched nice and pleasant dreams. Even though being slow and feeling insecure, with frequent stops, overwhelmed with stress and paralyzing fear, I managed to cover the most difficult part of the ghost road.
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