Exploring the Amazon – Part I

Apologies and many thanks to all who have written complaining about the lack of blog updates. I haven’t been feeling very bloggish lately, but have decided the show must go on, so I’m going to kick off again with news of my first trip in Shamrock. If you’re not much into boating, you can probably skip this and await the next blog item; but if you’re interested in coming to the Amazon and (eventually) visiting the floating bar, you might like to see what you’re up against. You can get some idea of it from the pic., I hope (click to enlarge). It’s a 200km jaunt from the Marina Rio Bello (at top) to the proposed location of the flutuante (Careiro do Castanho -LCROM, at bottom), via the Rio Negro and the Rio Solimoes (or Amazon, if you prefer, although technically it’s not called the Amazon until the former two rivers join, at the “encontro das aguas” , seen upper right, with the two rivers running side-by-side for some distance).

I’m taking Flavio, a friend of ours, along for the journey, and hopefully we can do it in around 6 – 7 hours, depending on conditions. The problem is the low level of the water, and the trickiest part will be the stretch from the jungle town of Manaquiri (MQ in the pic.) and LC46 (sorry – it’s just a waypoint name). In particular the little igarape, or stream, connecting Lago Manaquiri (stretch between MQ and Ig LC N) and and Lago do Castanho (LC46 to LCROM) may be un-navigable, or possibly only navigable with local knowledge, whereas we’re relying on a Garmin GPS60, a Google Earth screendump (pretty much as per pic, but with more waypoints) and a lot of luck. But it may just not be possible, in which case we’ll turn tail and run back, at least as far as Manaquiri, to reconsider.

The motor is now 50% run-in, allowing a top speed of around 38kph in ideal conditions, but if we encounter one of the frequent thunderstorms en route we’ll have to run for cover and tie up somewhere to wait it out (the wind and rain can whip the Negro and Solimoes into the equivalent of a fairly energetic sea, given that the breadth of the rivers can be just over 6 miles – much too much for Shamrock and el Capitan). And the speed at which this can happen is pretty impressive. Even our friend Charlie with his pocket battleship Sammy III doesn’t venture onto either of these rivers in a thunderstorm, and another friend of ours, John Harwood, has already lost a boat in these conditions, doing a run between Manaus and Cacau Pireira on the south bank. They clung to barrels of petrol for a couple of hours before being rescued, which left John with some serious petrol burns on his chest and arms.

So there we are. We’re all set to leave at 06:00 on Thursday 6th September, with a newly serviced engine and 100 litres of fuel. If we make it there, we’ve arranged to secure the boat at a government flutuante near Careiro do Castanho, and sleep over at the local hostel, returning on Friday (all organised by Naice’s brother Romulo, for which many thanks). I’ll post events and pics on the blog in due course.

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