Brazil: Part One

Brazil is big. Covering roughly half of South America, it takes fifth place in the world geographical area race. Still, I was surprised when more than a quarter of my flight from the US was actually over cloudy Brazil. Numerous states are bigger than say, Bolivia, and however unlikely, Amazonas would barely notice if tiny Oregon slipped through its jungly borders.

Here, Paraguai feels unnervingly threatened by an encroaching mammoth Brazil, not to mention the possibility of big time agriculture crossing its borders.

Typical scenery, atypical road conditions: driving a relatively smooth road through a relatively large soy plantation. Most driving consisted of the tireless boredom of driving pothole filled roadways interspersed with expletive filled encounters with car width but not quite car depth potholes. As often occurs when estimating travel time from map calculations, using centimeters to surmise drive-time, we were regularly surprised to only drive a few centimeters in more than a few hours. 

Occasionally, there would be something nice like a sunset, bird, or random dirt road leading into a maze of soy fields that would distract us for a while. Anything really, seemed pretty nice compared to the endless pothole drag strip in a deep green soy sea.  Mostly though, we had to stick to memorizing all the words to the repeating songs of our single CD for entertainment. I don't think I will ever forget Jay-z's words "Don´t follow me youngin, follow my moves, I'm not a role model, a bad influence got the world drinkin gold bottles." 

Basically what all this goes to show is that Brazil is a great place to get lost in vast, cultured green fields, learn the words to what is sure to be your new favorite song, and be overwhelmed by the immensity of a place. 

What none of that shows is how great a place Brazil is to go kayaking, get knee-deep in jungle mud, and contemplate the edge of ancestral Amazonas. Just know that if you are coming here for any reason, it is huge, and though I can't depreciate our mix-CD, you should bring a library of more than 33 songs. 

There are, of course, other great things about travel in Brazil, and some of that follows.

Stepping off the plane in Brasilia I felt one of the things I was looking forward to most: hot, humid air. Coming from my first Oregon/Nevada winter in a few years, it was an appreciated reminder of the Southern Hemisphere's sweet summer, and more, that I don't actually have to leave it.

Ben Stookesberry enjoys a warm nap after a long night.

We got to it right away, leaving the airport with Jesse Coombs, Rafa Ortiz, and Brazilian Pedro Oliva after their first 3 days paddling. 

We got into planning and driving that first night, with logistics expert Coombs assuming the daunting roles of both manning the wheel and map. 

First morning: first test of our Fiat and first realization that we will be returning this vehicle at about half of what it was worth just seconds before this photo was taken.

Rafa getting a first look at what legitimized the night spent on the road. I'm not sure of the river name, but the Dos Couros Cachoeiras were what we came to paddle. 

Looking downstream from the same spot, we were thinking it would be nice not to portage.

Rafa looking downstream at a more immediate problem to negotiate, the Heath Springs style falls of Dos Couros.

Not a penny to spare, Mr. Ben Stookesberry deftly negotiates the falls. 

Rafa contemplates the next falls.

Descends them with aplomb.

Then documents while Jesse gives in to the ever present urge to plug straight in to the deep currents bypassing a menacing hole. 

Downstream was more of a jungle-bushwack, rappel, snake/spider kind of mission around two huge falls in a very vertical and tall canyon. 
It turned out that turning around and going back upstream was a similar endeavor, lacking a rappel, but substituted with a heavy population of spiders. 

This was where things eventually got interesting for me, hiking in the dark, through insect and arachnid filled vegetation, I learned a valuable lesson in Brazilian night-hiking: wear pants.