Monday, July 30, 2012


Once we got into Manaus, we found a hostel, Natureba, a couple blocks away from the Opera House that was as cheap as we were going to find in the city at 57 R a night.  It wasn't necessarily our favorite place, but it was a good location.  In Manaus we were trying to book a boat to Peru and replace the chain/sprockets on the bike.  We arrived on a Friday afternoon and the town kind of shuts down on the weekend, preventing any errand running, so we explored the city for a couple of days.

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(the plaza in front of the Opera House was very nice)

(every Sunday there is a street fair with food, clothes, and lots of other random stuff)

(we went to the port to get information about boats leaving for Peru.  But, it was Sunday, so we didn't find out much.)

The next day we met with a tourist agent to get prices.  We were quoted 400 R each for a hammock and 1200 R for the motorcycle.  We thought those prices were ridiculous (especially given that we knew hammock space was available at 180 Rs).  Then we started thinking about what a hassle (and how expensive) it will be to transport the bike on not only this leg of the boat, but on the additional 2 boats we would have to take to get to a road in Peru (well...actually...3 additional boats, counting the required canoe from Tabatinga to Santa Rosa).  We figured we could find a better price somewhere in Manaus, but decided against looking all over town and talking to all the boat captains we could find for something better.  Instead we decided to change our plans and drive north, go back through Venezuela, then over to Colombia to head south.  That way we will get to see Colombia, which we really wanted to do anyway, and we will not be dependent on a boat for our transportation.

Since we would be driving more now, we really wanted to get the final drive replaced in Manaus.  We figured it was a big enough city to have the parts we needed.  First we got the bike washed, which it badly needed.  The owner of the carwash had a friend who owned a motorcycle shop, who met us on his Shadow and took us to a mechanic who dealt with big bikes.  He didn't think we needed a new chain at all, even though we had stretched the chain past its adjustment limit and there were some kinks that didn't like to pivot no matter how much grease they got (Brazilians seem to have the attitude of don't fix it if it is still running, something we don't have the liberty to do as we travel through a lot of areas that do not have any access to parts, we try to take advantage where we can).  He did call a few shops for us and sent us across town to get them.  Our new friend, Beto, who had picked us up at the car wash, came with us to show us where to go.  After several stops, we finally found a shop that claimed to have the sprockets and chain we needed.

While the shop and parts store seemed to have a good selection, even confirming the appropriate parts were in stock over the phone, it was surprisingly difficult for the young parts guys to find a chain and sprockets that would work.  The shop let me use their tools and even helped get the 2 sprockets pulled to take into the parts store for comparison.  After rejecting countless attempts that the kids brought to the counter, we finally found a set that could work.  However, instead of 15 teeth up front and 47 at the wheel, the closest options were 16T and 48T sprockets.  Not only that, but some custom machining was requied to get them to fit (the threads of the thru bolts on the rear sprocket caught, so the holes were opened up a touch.  The front was a real treat as it took 2 custom shims to space the sprocket the correct distance out from the transmission cover, matching the position of OEM part).  After a couple of hours of this finnagling, the biggest hassle was then finding a 525 chain of appropriate length.  Those wonderful parts guys had set us up with a 530 chain with only 100 links, not quite a 525 with 118 links.  After them doing more of whatever they were doing in the parts aisles, they could not turn up a chain.  So they had one delivered, Domino's style.  But sadly, not within the half hour.  Eventually we got out of there with a new chain and sprockets, all for the price of parts alone (270 Rs).  We owe Beto big time for all his help in tracking down those parts, leading us around Manaus, and convincing those parts guys to keep looking.

The next day Mike went back out to get an oil filter for an oil change (not wanting to deal with the parts guys at the previous day's shop any more than necessay).  This one should be easy, right?  For the most part it was.  For the price of the oil filter and 4 new plugs (40 Rs) the oil change was done for free in the shop (imagine that in the states) which is much easier than coming up with a catch container and a way to dispose of the oil.  The obstacle today was a random checkpoint set up in downtown Manaus.  Soldiers were pointing cars and motos over to the side.  As I rolled past, there was another bike next to me, so when the soldiers pointed me over, I just assumed they meant the other guy and kept rolling.  That plan (comically?) backfired since we were in downtown traffic and the next light left me idling about 2.5 car lengths in front of the soldiers.  One came walking up and told me to go to the side.  He asked for documents.  I had none.  I told him I just left the hostel to get an oil filter and that was all.  After a couple of back and forths, he told me that I'd be able to find a filter up ahead no problem and sent me on my way.  It may have worked out in my favor that I wasn't stopped in the big group of soldiers.  Whatever did it, it worked out the best way possible.

On Sunday when we went back to our hostel after walking around town, we found another motorcycle traveler trying to get into our hostel.  The hostel owner was nowhere to be found, so Mike took Werner looking for another place to stay in the area while Jill met up with his wife, Claudia.  They were on two BMW GS bikes (from the same year as our trusty TA) and had also just rode the BR-319, although they got rained on a lot more than we did.  They are originally from Germany, and rode Africa and Australia about 5 years ago and are on the road again after living in Australia since then.  Their ride report is on the HUBB.  While looking for another hostel, the guys ran into two other riders, Helmut from Germany on a KTM 990 and Guillome from Canada on a KLR.  Their blogs are here for Helmut and here for Guillome.  The hostel hunt was unsuccessful, so Werner and Claudia ended up camping at our hostel for the night.  That evening we all met up for some beers and meat.

(Jill, Helmut, Werner, Claudia, Guillome, and Mike)

After spending 5 days in Manaus, we were ready to hit the road.  We were in very rural areas for most of our time in Brazil and we felt a little out of place in such a large and modern city.

The 1000 kms to the Venezuelan border were rather uneventful and boring, except for the fact that it was rainy and cold the entire second day that we traveled.  We did drive through an indigenous area where stops and photography are not permitted (photo not included).

(outside our pousada/restaurant/moto repair shop/taxi in Novo Paraiso)

(we shared breakfast with their cat, who enjoys bread and butter best)

(we also crossed back over into the Northern Hemisphere)

(this was our view for the majority of our second day)


  1. Hi Mike and Jill

    We were only talking about your trip earlier today and then I see a msg from you! You certainly made use of the Transalps off road ability in the Amazon - great pics! I think ours has got accustomed to asphalt - need to change that when we leave the US :-) Keep up the good posts - we're taking notes!

    Dan and Lisa.

    1. Hey Dan and Lisa - it's been a lot of fun getting the Transalp a bit dirty, but I'd have to admit that returning to pavement is a relief after awhile. We are excited to follow along with you guys (and your TA), especially as you hit Mexico soon!