Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Back into Brasil

The ride across eastern French Guiana was outstanding! We had an early start, which kept it cool, along with the rolling hills and lifting fog.

(road east of Cayenne)

(stop in Cacao, a Hmong community, which has a blazing market on the weekends, not so much when we were there. The town was super peaceful, full of friendly people, and nestled in what felt like tropical  mountains.)

(the ride to St Georges continued to be fantastic )

As we pulled into St Georges, we missed the national police building, going instead right to the water where boat drivers had already started vying (that is, yelling) for our business. We went into the customs building where they directed us to the proper place, about 6 blocks behind us. We didn’t have the clearest set of directions to operate from, and not only because our French is non-existent. As we sat at an intersection questioning which way to go, a police car pulled in front of us, we told them we were looking for them, and
they led us the last block to the national police building. At first we were sad to see a line of people waiting, then we were even sadder to see that they were closed from 12-2 and it was exactly 12:08. Well, I guess 2pm is better than 4pm, like the rest of the country’s businesses. but as we were standing there talking, a lady opened the door and asked if we just needed a stamp. We were let in, stamped out, and on our way in less than 5 minutes. Sweet! The best part about France is that there’s no import docs for the bike, which made this crossing a breeze.

Back to the boat guys… The one in the street we spoke with asked for 60 euros to cross the river. That’s insane. We hoped to pay 20, expected more like 30 (based off of other travelers amounts paid, the cost of the infrequent ferry, and the going rate of 5 euro per passenger). Let the bartering begin. With me speaking Spanish, the boat driver Portuguese (much better for us than French), we finally agreed on 30. Good. Or so  we thought.

(the TA ready to load)

I assumed, but didn’t establish, that the price would include getting the bike into the boat, then getting her across the river and to the other side. The expectation was to pay more helpers. Aaarrgghhh. 2 of them wanted 10 euros each. Nope. Not gonna happen. After deliberation, us putting our helmets on to go talk to other drivers, and much time, we finally got a total price of 35 euros, all included. More than it should be.   But that’s what it was. (This is especially expensive not only because of the short distance across, but also because of the bridge that is built, but impassable. See below for more info)

(Mike likes riding the TA over water)

After the 5 minute boat ride, we arrived in Brasil! We unloaded (with the kind help of a Brazilian man at the dock who didn’t shake us down for money, but was content with a big ´thank you´ and a handshake) in a small town 5-10km north of Oiapoque, where we needed to get for customs and immigration.

(the tiny town where we unloaded felt immediately more like Latin America than anywhere we’ve been in months)

(bar and shopping all in one)

(on the way to Oiapoque)

(This is not the bridge that we could have used to cross the river…)

(…this is.)

This completely finished, modern bridge is impassable due to some political dispute. It was completed in 2011, supposed to be opened in 2012, now some say early 2013. But the hold up is political, not technical, so who knows when it will happen.

First stop in Oiapoque was the National Police which was a breeze. They asked how long we wanted to stay, we said 60 days to give ourselves a comfortable window, they returned with stamps for 90 days. In and out in minutes. (For anyone on this route looking for the National Police building, after turning towards Oiapoque onto pavement, you will pass a couple of gas stations and a military building on your left. keep going through town, until you find the national police building on the right side at a corner with a divided boulevard street leading down to the water.)

(street view in Oiapoque)

From there, we went down to customs (basic directions: take the boulevard street towards the water, follow the 90 degree turn to the right, continue along the water until you see the customs building on your right). This stop took longer, but they took excellent care of us. They didn’t even make me go get extra copies made, but just accepted a couple of crappy copies I happened to have and made whatever others they wanted. They were really nice, and the lady in charge even asked a couple of questions to improve her English (the most important was the subtle difference between “costumes” and “customs” which could actually come in quite handy for someone in her position). (Another note for anyone on this route: ummmm, it’s a one way street along the water in front of customs. Ooops.)

(customs building in Oiapoque)

Back on the main road, we were able to find some traditional Brazilian cuisine, which was delicious.

(Casa das Carne = House of Meat. Bife de figado served with rice, beans, noodles, and salad = yum)

(Brazilian food makes everyone happy)

(Our home for the night. A simple little pousada that had a garage for parking, A/C in the room, and free *cold* drinking water. All the little things made the 40Rs worth it)

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