In total we spent 4 nights in Vilhena. Over the weekend not much happened other than Rudy searching the web for replacement parts and contacting friends to work out how to get the spares as quick as possible to Brazil. On Monday the VW garage in town was closed for the Christmas break so Rudy went back to the same mechanic as on Friday. The mechanic removed the broken CV joint and the rest of the left driveshaft.
Put everything back together again and said it was no problem to drive to Peru. Rudy was not so sure but still we started to drive on Christmas morning. (There is nothing to do or see in Vilhena. It is a transit town. Even the hotel we were staying didn’t have any or bother to put up Christmas decoration at all). First we drove slow but after a while we speeded up to 80 km rolling up and down the hills in the direction of Puerto Velho. After 370 km we stopped for the night at a Petrol station in a small town. The Christmas decoration was light up so we got a bit of the Christmas atmosphere. There was however no Christmas dinner. All restaurants were closed.
In the night it started to rain which continued for most of the next 2 days. Sometimes the rain was so heavy that it was difficult to see the road. Also the potholes filled up with water so you could not see how deep they are. On this highway we have to do many “pothole tango” which is sometimes dangerous considering the oncoming traffic is also doing this dance too. In Porte Velho we drove to the harbour to see the river boats. From this town passenger and cargo ships go all the way down river to Manaus (3-4 days, 1000+ km) or over the Amazon to the Atlantic ocean. A boat tour on the river was about to leave so we jumped on board. The rain had just stopped in time.
On iOverlander app we spotted a campsite on a river some 75 km further down the road. We were not sure what time it would be dark (given the changes in time zones and driving North West) so we speeded up a bit and arrived at the site at sunset (18:50). It was not as nice as we expected but better than the petrol stations. Despite the rain it was still very warm and humid. There was also no wind. Rudy sleeps on the top bed with windows on both side. At least there is some fresh air. Jamaliah prefers to sleep on a matras on the bench below. There is little ventilation there so her small battery operated fan comes in handy. We have not been able to find a larger fan yet. All fans sold here in Brazil are 127 volt while we have 12 or 220 volt in the camper.
From Porto Velho to Rio Branco the road follows a large river. Since it is rainy season the river is overflowing and we often drive on a dike through the flooded area. Large stretches are under repair which slows you down but also puts extra stress on our 3×4 drive system. In fact it is primarily the front right wheel which pulls the camper forward. The rear wheels get only some 30% of the power. This is the reason that Rudy wants the camper fixed before climbing the Andes. The internal flights in Peru are much cheaper than in Brazil therefore we decided to drive on the Puerto Maldonado in Peru and have the spare parts sent to Luisabel (another ex Shell colleague) in Lima. If needed be, we can than fly to Lima to pick up the spares.
When the rains finally stopped we were close to a roadside restaurant at a petrol station. You see this combination throughout the whole country. They are sometimes very well laid out and serve good buffet meals at lunch time. These meals cost very little (4-5 euro) so it saves on cooking in the evening. The disadvantage is that Rudy is not losing any weight. Along the road you also see lots of small churches. They all look similar. A simple square building painted blue with the churchs name painted on the front. Sometimes they are near so houses but other times there are in the middle of nowhere.
In Rio Branco we drove to the other side of town and camped in the recreation area of the army camp. There is a swimming pool and a small pond around which you see the people jogging/walking. The swim was very welcoming after the long strenuous drive. Beacuse of the rain it had cooled down significantly. Also they had fumigated around the pond so there were no musquito’s. We both sat outside till late for the first time.
Before continuing on to the boarder we paid the town centre a visit. The Palacio de Branco and the church are the main attraction. The Palacio is maternally furnished on the inside and was home to the governor till 1990. The church interior was simple and tastefully decorated.
The road to the border town of Assis Brazil was not very busy but the rain and the potholes slowed us down significantly. Sometimes it cannot be avoided to drop into a deep one because the cover the complete road. Not good for the suspension so you hope that nothing gets damaged.
Contrary to what we had seen before Porto Velho the jungle below Rio Blanco has been removed on a large scale. Before only some 1 km
left and or right of the road was cleared for farming (cattle, rice, cotton, soya) but here it was removed till the Bolivian border. You saw the jungle only in the far distance. No wonder Chico Mendes made his stand here which caused him his life.