IGNORING THE 120 ATVS, 14 TRUCKS, 30 MOTORCYCLES, school kids, politicians, soldiers, beauty queens, a band and the TV crews that have been lining up in front of her open front candy store since sunrise, a woman wearing long black pigtails sweeps the faded red walk that lies between the columns holding up colonial adobes washed in raw colors of pink and blue. This is the main street of Trinidad, which probably hasn’t changed since the 16th century when the Spanish began taking the silver that supported them for 200 years.
This is our point of departure. It is already hot at 10 a.m.
From Trinidad we will ride 178 kilometers to Santa Ana. Then it is a 157 k. ride to Los Lagos. We R n’ R on the crystal clear waters of Los Lagos before two days of over 350 clicks to Cobija. A lost town on the river across from Brazil. This will be the roughest part of the trip. But I am prepared. www.aerostich.com took care of all my needed adventure gear. I could buy all of Bolivia with the Petzl LED they sent for my forehead it is so trick. The ATV RiderCourse provided free by the ATV Safety Institute refreshed my ATV riding.
From Cobija we return to Trinidad under the green darkness of the Amazon jungle.
Three planes, two doctors and gourmet chefs will follow us into the wild from Trinidad. No one will ever be on time including the speechmakers this morning.
Finally, to a grand salud of off-key brass and sporadic gunfire, all 590 wheels are out of town like the Oklahoma land rush on high test.
Locals are on every corner waving Bolivian flags and cheering. Kids have been let out of school to see us. Pretty girls and boys yell from the doorways of white washed walls. Little old ladies stop on the way home from the market to raise their shopping bags in salute. The ice cream vendor toots his horn. The mayor of Trinidad makes a long-winded speech, then, with the accompaniment of the off-key brass band and sporadic gunfire, all 596 wheels are screaming past an abandoned hacienda that signals the end of town. The snake like train of ATVs, trucks and bikes start to race the mile thick red dust left on a road stranded high above the savannah by this dry season. Not us.
Giving the right of way to a waddling tank of an armadillo, we five gringos now on Bolivo’clock, stop to have a lunch break of fresh fish, rice and plantains in the open front of a palm roofed cafe happily painted bright red and sitting between miles of three foot tall anthills.
“I ride ATVs at home when I’m not on my motorcycle” says David who looks too big for anything smaller than a Road King.
Having crossed South America alone on a two-wheeler, Hulk is just too happy being in an organized group with two more wheels under him. “With all the magic of being out in the elements like a motorcycle, but having the stability of four wheels and four wheel drive grunt with light weight, riding an ATV here in the unexplored world is the answer.” Hulk explains.
“So is talking into a shoe phone,” says Jeff barely covering his mouth.
Lee adds: “Racks in the front and plastic trunks add cargo space for a change of clothes, camping gear and plenty of water.”
“I did the Caravana last year,” says David. “The butt friendly soft seat of an ATV is very easy on ol’ El Mister Prostato.”
MIDNIGHT WITH A TEMPERATURE OF 100 and the humidity its twin number. This is the longest ride. We missed the overnight stop at Sena and now must put together over 700 kilometers to Cobija. But we are not alone. Half the group is going very slowly just in front of us. All in first gear. The trucks and ATVs are pulling four-wheel drive trying to push a hole through dust the weight of baby powder. Visibility is barely two feet. I cannot get enough water. The skin on my fingertips is drying into potato chips. My heat rash has mosquito bites. My tongue is swollen and feels a tennis ball.
ATVs are bicycling on two wheels in the meandering ruts of ox cart tracks cut into the scabs of the too dry veldt. Motorcycles simply give up.
Yet, there is something magical about following a centipede of taillights twisting over the empty and treeless plain under a sky showing off every star. No phone. No Freeway. No tolls. TV? No worry.
Then, at dawn, like Alice stepping through the looking glass, we break through the curtain of dust. The road slows down and turns into a narrow dirt path at a village of two thatched roof huts and a Coke sign. A hard turn over a big hump and at the bottom of the brown hill is a river. There are two huts in front of a wall of jungle on the other steep shore and a dugout canoe right in front of me.
This looks like a foggy scene from a Fellini film. I roll onto the boat. The twelve-year-old captain pulls a rope which will drag us across the water to the other end of the line and the beginning of another land as wet and green as this is dry and golden brown.
(To be continued…)
For the free ATV RiderCourse nearest you call 1 800 852 5344.
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Great once again…Fellini…My great friend Jim LaJune loved two lines in the Satyricon and I adopted them as well: The young man exclaims apologetically to the huge woman he is supposed to “screw”…”Ai, my sword is blunted.” And: when our hero is about to be cut down he pleads for mercy saying: “I am but a student.” Joe T.
Thanks, Joe. (great lines.) MS
Thanks – I’ve been enjoying your Amazonian recklessness as well…;) JM
High five, Mike!!!! Xavier Pujol Baterno
That was awesome, man!! Gunner W.
Thanks, g.w. MS
Cool. Gene C.
Thanks, Gene. MS
We’re enjoying the ride, on Bolivia time, waiting for Part 3. Kenneth A.
Thanks, Kenneth. MS
Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps! Much thanx, Mike, for this, it makes my day. Just returned from Savannah where one man’s party is another man’s wife. I will never accept another drink from a urologist. Taking my dog to hunt bear in Montana. Rather go on a caravan with you, pal. Maxx F.
Thanks, Maxx! MS