Thursday, 27 November 2014

From Brazil to French Guiana

Anybody with a bit of knowledge of this part of the world might realise that we've headed up the coast of Brazil, going North then West, rather fast. We had a few good reasons for this: 1) Brazil only allows a 3 month stay (unless you can apply for an extension) and our time was running out. Plus we wanted to have a little of our 3 months left to re-enter Brazil to get from Guyana to Venezuela (later on). 2) The last 110kms out of Brazil, going to French Guiana is dirt, and we wanted to pass it before the start of the wet season, or, if we failed that, we might need those extra days we'd already been keeping. 3) French Guiana has a major rocket launching facility and we hope to see a rocket launch scheduled for early December.

So, from Belem we took a cargo ferry to Macapa. I've written about the process of sourcing a suitable boat on my Brazil Overlanding notes page for any interested overlanders. 

The cargo boat took 40 hours (2 nights) to cross the mouth of the amazon river, passing various islands on the way. H insisted that he'd sleep in Blac, I took our hammock to the top deck where everyone else was sleeping (about 10 men, almost all staff). 

On a couple of occasions H was in Blac (the camper), down on the deck, when we hit very rough waters. It was scary for both of us and H says that waves hit the back of the camper and water came in. I get sea sick, so I was taking ginger pills and just holding on (ginger is wonderful, I wasn't sick). 

The scenery was interesting, lots of people live on the waterfront in basic shacks and the main industry was obviously timber. We also saw many boats carrying baskets and making regular stops. These, we believe, were collecting Açai. It's a miracle food from the amazon that you'll find I'm many western health shops. 

On the wildlife side we saw dolphins twice. We think the first sighting was a pink river dolphin!

When we got to Santana (Macapa) we had to wait all day to unload. First they had to unload, by hand, enough stock (rice, salt, flour, eggs, corn, farinha) for  H to manoeuvre Blac into a suitable position, and then we had to wait for the tide to go out enough. Finally we unloaded, and discovered that across the river was a very pretty historical area of protected houses connected by boardwalks. 

Macapa itself was a pleasantly surprising city. We visited the fort and had Açai (it really does make you feel good), before starting north west again. 

Late the next day we arrived in Oiapoque, the place from which you get your passport stamped and leave Brazil. From Oiapoque to Grench Guiana they've built a wonderful bridge, but, years later they still haven't opened it, so you have to pay a ferry to take you across! 

At immigration (Policia Federal) we discovered that despite rushing to come North we'd been wrongly processed as exiting when we entered São Paulo airport. We talked things over with the man and eventually he was able to fix things a we were allowed to exit Brazil (where we officially never were!).

By now it was just on 6pm and the ferry was closing for the day. Oh well, at €200 for the boat we hoped that by waiting until the next day we could share the expense, so we waited. But then we found out that only 3-5 vehicles cross each week and the next reservation was in 3 days time, so late on the next  day we paid the 200, and crossed. 

The ferry journey from Oiapoque to St Georges is actually upriver and takes about 45 minutes, and the scenery is nice. 
In St Georges we got directions and headed straight to immigration, but they'd just closed (6pm)! So we parked by the river overnight and enjoyed the scene with a few drinks and sardines on toast. We'd left Brazil, and made it to French Guiana!

We are loaded and ready to leave Belem, but they are still stacking freight.

EVen a basuc lifestyle in Brazil seems to have a satellite TV dish!

Our path, acording to the GPS,  through the mouth ofthe Amazon River

The lovely historical boardwalk area of Santana (Macapa)

H, testing the hole in the bridge before we drive across, on the road to Oiapoque. 

The final ferry from Brazil to French Guiana! 

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