Hassle #2

I have mentioned the rider who updated me on the road south and with the possible hassles.  The second hassle was the condition of the road just after the river crossing.  And as George had warned with his comment about the lack of traffic, it was set to be a real hassle.

BR-156, the Macapa road.  The road between Macapa along the Amazon river and Oiapoque on the river border with Guyane is one of the worlds classic terrible roads.  To become classics these roads all share the same basic characteristics- unpaved in areas of regular heavy rains, heavily traveled by trucks, and most importantly- the only land option for hundreds, if not thousands of kilometers.  The Mamfe road on the border between Cameroon and Nigeria, the Moyale road between Ethiopia and Kenya, The Magadan road (road of bones) in far eastern Russia, and the Macapa road- all classics.

I had been told that I should just put my bike on a truck at the start since I was going to have to do that end the end anyway.  I had been told to wait until trucks started to come down the road so I knew it was passable.  I had been told that the iron was hot and not to touch it.

So, after crossing into Brazil- and seeing what years of work looked like for bridges in the area…

I spent a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening in Oiapoque (the pharmacy made amazing brochettes) and was ready for an early start the next morning.

The clear sky seemed to indicate that I could expect a third day in a row without rain- an excellent sign.

Riding out, the first 50km or so are paved and then it just stops. in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason.

The road looked fairly dry- and was!  There were deep ruts, but they had mostly dried up enough that I could ride in them without difficultly.  Things were looking good!

Then, as I’m sure you expected, I hit the problem.  A long line of trucks was parked at the side of the road, and from the evidence of campfires, they hadn’t just arrived.  Riding slowly between then I arrived at the source of the problem.

Deciding to give it a try, I slowly started to make my way through the bog.  In the middle I encountered three trucks that had been chained together and were trying to push and pull each other through.  In the time it took me to get through I think they might have gone about 10 feet.  Backwards.

Then it was over.  I had made it through without help and without dropping the bike (!!).  I quickly took ooff my helmet for fear that my swelling head would get stuck in it.

After that there were a couple of other annoying bits, but it was generally okay.  I think even a day earlier I would have ended up in that line of trucks with my bike in the back of one, but the road had dried just enough that the ruts kept their form, with the edges supporting my panniers if I started to lose it, and so I was able to make it through.

I would never claim to enjoy that kind of riding, but feeling you get when you get through it and once again see this in front of you just might be worth it.


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