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Biking in the Amazon – When the great river flows backward!

– That’s a first! The water is flowing backward! – Dawid Andres writes from the Amazon. He and his brother Hubert Kisinski are getting closer to the Atlantic Ocean, the destination of their bike ride on the largest river in the world.

Alternating direction of the water flow is a phenomenon characteristic of a network of channels to which the Amazon is converted in the area around Marajo Island. This island, the size of Switzerland, actually divides the river into two branches that reach to the ocean: the shorter branch starting from the town of Macapá and the longer branch beginning from the city of Belém. When the objective is to conquer the entire length of the Amazon River, only the second option is acceptable.

In the channels of the Amazon

The channel system in this area is so complicated that one can wander endlessly in the dense net woven by smaller and larger streams. When you are already on the water, even the most detailed maps of the area do not help much. I remember myself the constant sense of lack of confidence in knowing if Joe Kane and I were paddling in the right direction during our expedition, exactly 30 years ago. It is definitely easier to pave the route on the map than to follow it in this tangle of channels. Confusion caused by a labyrinth on the water hit Dawid and Hubert immediately after entering that zone of the Amazon River. Fortunately, modern technology comes to the rescue of the travelers. On the map locator, which defines the position of bikers, I set waypoints connecting the selected channels and enabling them to find the mainstream of the river. Following them, the brothers had no problems moving in this tangle of channels, focused and using their energy on the struggle with the Atlantic tides.
The system of channels through which the Amazon flows down to the main channel, is subject to the influence of ocean tides on both main branches of the river, one in the direction of the north-east and the other to south-east.
– We move in one channel smoothly along the current, we enter the next one and it starts to push us backwards, because everything here works the opposite way. – Hubert recounts his experiences – the current is so strong that it is impossible to counter it on our bikes.

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On the Amazon swing!

After the repairs made in Santarem and strengthening of the construction of their vehicles, the brothers agreed that only now they could call them Amazonian bikes. A rigid frame provides greater stability, even on choppy river. Horrible winds, pushing water, and big waves are no longer a threat for the bikers. Obviously, the water conditions are not forgiving, especially in the open river upstream and downstream channels.
– One day a powerful storm unleashed its strength- says Hubert. – The water drenched the bikes harder than ever. I rise to the top of the wave, which then folds and crushes with a bang against the bike and runs over it, as if it was in the middle of the ocean. In addition, very strong wind and rain accompanied those waves.
After 30 minutes, the storm, as suddenly as it appeared, just as suddenly disappeared. Sudden weather changes are actually not uncommon on the Amazon. The brothers have already got used to that. From 4 a.m. in the morning, when they start their day, into early afternoon it is fairly quiet, calm, and sunny. In just a moment it can get dark, a hurricane roars with heavy rain and the waves are huge. And then, after a short while … beautiful weather again comes back. – Fortunately, there are no such waves as before Santarem, choppy and striking from every angle. Here the waves are cool. We’re going like on a swing, up and down, up and down – says Dawid.

We have a cabin in Brazil

Dżungla amazońska zachwyca florą i fauną. Dawid Andres podziwia pracowitość mrówek dźwigających listki kilkakrotnie większe od nich samych. Fot. Hubert Kisiński

Dżungla amazońska zachwyca florą i fauną. Dawid Andres podziwia pracowitość mrówek dźwigających listki kilkakrotnie większe od nich samych. Fot. Hubert Kisiński

Amazon area channels, despite the problems with changing tides, enchanted the brothers. Enjoying the scenery of lush greenery, exotic trees, grasses, and colorful birds, they often stopped to capture the beauty in the photos, “so they will have memories to look back on. – We travelled so many thousands of kilometers on the Amazon, but we haven’t seen jungle like that. These are the views that I had seen only in nature and travel films and that is how I imagined the jungle – says delighted Dawid.

Gęsta roślinność przybrzeżna uniemożliwia pedałowanie. Hubert Kisiński wypycha swój rower amazoński z zarośli przed wyruszeniem w dalszą drogę. Fot. Dawid Andres

Lush vegetation so densely overgrows the edges that sometimes it is not possible to set up the camp for the night. Besides, it is dangerous to pitch the tents too close to the river, because the high tide water floods everything around. In addition Hubert is not “impressed” with spiders “as big as a hand,” so he is not too eager to venture into the dense undergrowth.

– We’re going for a long time without the possibility of setting the camp because the water rises and floods the shore. We’re trying to finish off the edge again and again. Finally, some local cried: go a little bit further and stop at an old abandoned hut. That cottage was a dream come true! Wonderful place! – Dawid says – we lit a bonfire and baked fish, which we had caught earlier. At night, in the silence you can only hear the singing and other sounds of the jungle of the Amazon. I was hoping to experience something like this during our trip. Piotr, stop by, we have a cabin in Brazil! – He adds laughing.

Belém on the horizon

Dawid_Andres!

The Atlantic is getting closer, but still a lot of effort is going to be needed by the brothers to reach their goal. They feel a little bit tired after the six-month journey, especially the struggle with the waves. This can affect the bikers’ health; Dawid recently caught the cold. However, what kind of adventure on the Amazon would it be, if not redeemed by blistered hands and … bottoms, wrists and elbows aching from the pressure on the steering wheel, felt especially at night rest. Therefore amused, they list the chafes, abrasions and other injuries that they do not want to take pictures of, just “for the sake of the readers.”
– Hubert has so far always said that everything had been so easy on the Amazon – laughs the elder brother. – A few days ago he said to me: Dawid, one has to be pretty crazy to do what we do ….
The closer the target, the more likely to think how little time they have left on the Amazon. For Dawid it is a happy prospect. He misses a normal life, home and family, his padded bench in the garden in Arizona, where at this time of the year the weather is beautiful.
– And I’m a little sad and feeling regret, when I realize that our expedition is nearing the end – Hubert says with a hint of nostalgia in his voice. – On the other hand, I really want to be with my boys.
But, enough of thinking about the end of the expedition! The brothers have yet to firmly fasten onto the last stretch to accomplish their goal.

Dawid and Hubert, safe travels to Belém!

By Piotr Chmieliński