Retracing my steps to Belem: Guyana and Suriname (4th October to 8th October)


I have to say I wasn’t thrilled to return to Guyana as it really is my least favourite country in South America as it is just filthy, however this time I did meet some wonderful people. The other reason is that you are such a target for people who want to take advantage of the ‘’walking wallets’’ we represent as tourists especially since I was staying in a nice hotel (frequented by wealthy business people) and not a B&B or hostel (my preferred choice of accommodation when travelling alone)

The taxi driver who fetched me at midnight from the airport was 24 years old, very friendly and chatty. He told me his whole life story and he had recently become a dad so showed me a ton of pictures of his gorgeous baby girl. I held onto his smart phone as long as a could with each picture so that he would keep both hands on the steering wheel and watch the road, it was the longest 45min drive ever.  Since the hotel pays for the taxi service (you are charged at the end, but they pay initially) the taxis get a very small cut as they are 3rd in line from the hotel to the taxi company to the drivers. So I gave this guy a very big (on my budget) tip and to my surprise it was obviously not enough and his whole attitude changed in a nanosecond. He actually said I thought it was a 50usd, to which I answered if I had 50s to give away I would not be riding such an old bike.  I was quite saddened actually as I always like to keep my faith in humanity even though it gets dashed time and time again.

A similar thing happened when I left the hotel. On the second day of my stay I went to get my Suriname tourist card and packed up all my stuff, repacked my panniers and threw a lot of stuff out.  I also went to post some things home but was told that in order to post a parcel I needed proof of address in Guyana and my hotel key was not enough I needed a bill from the hotel and a letter… yah righty like I was going to go all the way back to the hotel by taxi just to get that, guess I won’t be posting anything then. Anyway in the afternoon I was called to reception as the security team had found a young boy trying to steal stuff off my bike. He had tried to get the petrol bottles off the back. I tried to act all cross and stern but my heart was breaking, here was this kid no more than 10 who should have been in school out selling plantains (green bananas that need to be cooked and taste like cardboard) for his parents. He was clearly in shock at having got caught and could not say a word. All 4 security guys were there giving him a hard time threatening to call the police. Anyway scared to death we let him go on the promise that he would not have come back. In retrospect what I should have done was taken him aside on my own and have a heart to heart with him which I think would have done more if he was in fact trying to steal stuff or got the truth out of him if he wasn’t. I now wonder if he wasn’t just an inquisitive kid who was looking at my bike and who made the security guys day by being at the wrong place at the wrong time and giving the security guy a chance to look good… I’m not sure why but that is what my gut feeling is telling me but I’ll never know.

Needless to say the security guy made a big show to me and his boss of how he’s saved my bike.  He was a really nice guy and we’d got on really well having a good few conversations about Guyana. So when I left I dropped him a tip and a thanks, once again I saw that instant attitude change as soon as he decided the tip was not enough, and all the talk the day before of I’ll be here to wish you well and say goodbye  when you leave etc was quickly forgotten.

However my faith in humanity was restored again on three other occasions in Guyana. The first was another taxi driver who took me to the Suriname embassy. He charged a pittance compared to the hotel and had to wait almost an hour for me at the embassy. When I paid him I simply rounded up and told him to keep the change. He said no I need to give you your change I believe in honesty, to which I answered I know and that is why I want you to keep it … go on Guyana create more people like this.

The second time was in a restaurant after I left Georgetown on my way to Skeldon where I was staying for the night so that I could do an early run to the border for the ferry. When we arrived in Guyana as a group we’d stopped at this restaurant and the waitress remembered me. She was so sweet and asked all about the trip and how I was and even remembered that I had coke the last time I was there. When I paid the bill again I just rounded up and said that is fine keep the change,  she was visibly embarrassed and looked around sheepishly for her boss, she then tried to slide the bills back to me and I slid them over to her again and she quickly put them in her pocket.  It was just very sweet and innocent.

The third and best encounter I had with the people of Guyana was at the ferry. I arrived early as I know from experience that the border formalities can take a long time.  This was no different and to start with the border guards were just downright unhelpful and rude. I stopped my bike at the gate where I had seen a car go through to the border control section. A guard came out and told me to move my bike to the side and that I had to go see the police before I came through. I did that and had to really play the dumb innocent tourist for about 30 minutes as I had to register my bike with them when I arrived. The customs officials told both me and Rand that we needed to do this but when we told Mike from Motolombia he said no one had told him and it was not necessary, hmmmm say no more. Anyway after that I went back to the gate and waited there for the border guard to come open it, the bastard (sorry but this was so intentional) instead of opening the gate inward like he did with the car opened it outward so that I had to push my bike back to then go around the gate and into the compound, just unnecessary. Then off I went to buy the ferry ticket and go through immigration. The lady at the ticket box was phenomenally rude, she very angrily told the man in front of me to put his money on his passport. So when I went to the window I did the same to which she said ‘’what is this’’ I said it was my fair and that I was told they take USD. She threw the money at me took my passport and did the necessary on the computer and then said it is usd27 (is Guyanese Dollars it is 4100, usd 21) okay I said and handed over 27. She took the bill and said this is dirty do you have another 20, I didn’t but the lovely lady behind me offered to exchange the 20. So I then handed her 4100 Guyanese Dollars. She said it is 5700 I disagreed and said no I know it is 4100, she hit the calculator with her long red painted nail and said 5700. Sadly there is only so much arguing you can do at a border crossing. Smiling sweetly but seething inside I gave her the money.

I then had to wait 1.5 hours for the customs officials to get to work … I kid you not they were just not there so everyone with vehicles simply had to wait. Another driver just shrugged and said this is Guyana everyone starts work late.  The unbelievable pleasant surprise was that the customs official was super nice and simply took my temp import slip and said that’s it have a great trip … wow super cool.

The best part of the trip was that while I waiting in the heat for the customs officer a young man came over and said his mom asked if I’d like to come and sit with them under a tree as it was cooler.  How sweet and thoughtful. Romey, Gouli and her friend Ann were just the nicest people I had met on the trip.  I had such a great conversation with them about Guyana the economic and political situation and its future. Their friendship positive attitudes and general kindness completely overshadowed any negative encounters I had while in Guyana. THANKS :)

 a very Guyanan cactus (I’m guessing because of all the children at the border crossing but I still love it)


After meeting Romey, Gouli and Ann my good mood continued into Suriname, not so much the border process which had us all standing in a line for 2 hours to get our passports stamped but that is just life in a third world country the customs process for the bike was seamless the customs officer simply took my registration papers filled out a form and gave me half of it saying don’t forget to submit this when you leave Suriname … I love customs like that which only take 5 mins.

I really like Suriname and just being on the road here is great and comfortable and easy and made me feel good. I stopped under a lovely shady tree just outside a police station just over half way to Paramaribo for a break and had another lovely encounter. A police lady came out and said she wanted to meet me as they never see ladies riding motorbikes and touring, in fact they see very few motorbikes tourists but never ladies.  The other 3 policeman including the commandant came out and were nice enough for me to take pictures of them. We had a brief chat about the crime in Suriname, and I told them they were clearly doing a good job because it was very low, but they said they had seen a slight increase over the recent years, I guess that is just the way of the world. Suriname is so safe and has a lovely comfortable feel to it.

I arrived at the hostel at 16:30 (I got up at 5:30am in order to get to the ferry/border crossing early when it opened at 6:30 ), phenomenally hot and sweaty but so late only because of the 6hrs the border crossing took, including a very late ferry.

The Guesthouse Un Pied-à-Terre  is lovely in a renovated old colonial style house I just fell in love with it and thoroughly enjoyed speaking to the backpackers especially Arno who is from France and has been travelling for 2 years in Latin America and is thinking about spending a year in North America before settling down.

 Guesthouse Un Pied-à-Terre

a beautifully restored old Dutch colonial house what the unrestored places look like

Since I like and especially Paramaribo Suriname so much I decided to stay for an extra night also because I could not face another border crossing the day after the one out of Guyana. I also needed to continue researching the options of getting the bike shipped / transported to the South of Brazil as I was having serious doubts about getting got Buenos Aires by the 30th October to met Joern. I’m getting very mixed statements about the state of the road the availability of petrol, food and accommodation all of which could slow me down if anything goes wrong. If I can get the bike transported that would be a lot easier as these transport trucks travel up to 800kms a day which I could never do and am not prepared to kill myself because of a deadline.  Also the demons are in my head again, whispering about how crazy I am to attempt this and how dangerous it is how my bike is old and wont’ make it … I hate these demons this is not gut feeling this is fear and I wish I knew where it came from because it is not like me.

Spending the day in Paramaribo was just nice especially the food at Soupos the cutest little restaurant in one of the suburbs, and sitting there outside under the roof in a tropical storm (catching up on my blog) … I love rain especially tropical thunder storms … when I am not riding in it.

Venezuela: Valencia (1st October to 4th October )

I had no idea what to expect in Venezuela as I’d heard such mixed things from people who have both travelled there and people who live there. So the one reason I wanted to visit Venezuela was to see it for myself. Unfortunately flying into a city is nothing like riding through a country as it means you only see the tip of the iceberg but at least it would be something.  The other reason was that I could not bear the thought of being in South America and not going to Venezuela since I have no idea if I would ever get the opportunity to come back again.

My first impression was given to me by the taxi driver, an extremely nice man who spoke pretty good English. Johnny and I got to know each other not on the short 30min ride to the hotel, during which we spoke in length about food, but on the my third day when he took me sightseeing, but I’ll get to that later. My second impressions were the hotel staff that were super awesome.

I got up early the next morning ready to explore the city and nearly gave the girl at reception a heart attack when I asked her what was the best way to see the city from where the hotel is, walk, take a bus or take a taxi.  She was just horrified and told me that Valencia is a very dangerous city and not safe to walk around in. She explained that she didn’t know how to answer the question because she would be very worried about my safety. She told me to give her a little time and she’s think about it. 30 minutes later I went back to the reception and she told me the best way was to take a taxi and that her colleague George has a day off and would love to accompany me sightseeing in the city. Wow this blew my mind and I insisted it was not necessary to which she insisted it was and that he would be very happy to spend the day practicing his English. How fantastic is that? I think Georges English is perfect and he needs no practice but he said he was really happy to get to speak it; in a nutshell we had a really great day. It is always better to spend a day with a local as I would not have seen or done half the things I did if I was alone.

Valencia is a big business / industrial city not a tourist destination but with the flights it was my best option. It did feel very surreal sightseeing with George like I was with a body guard. George at times, I could see was watching left and right to ensure my safety, in certain areas he would also say okay now we cannot speak as we must not let people know you are a foreigner so no pictures and just look like you belong, in those places he’s also walk quite quickly.  George is 32 years old and spent 8 years living in Florida which is why he speaks such good English, but he really had a knack for languages and speaks Portuguese and some Italian, French, German and Japanese. He works at the reception of the hotel but really wants to be a translator, I think he certainly has the talent.

We started our tour at the botanical gardens and I was so happy about that as I love botanical gardens but had read that it was realy not safe to go there, well that is so not true or maybe it would be true is I was on my own but with George I was quite safe. The park has a ton of butterflies which just made my day and loads of squirrels which were so funny but way too fast for me to take pictures of, and sloths which I sadly did not see.


We then went to see Casa Páez the residence of the first Venezuelan president General José Antonio Páez.  Then on the way to the next significant spot we saw a park with a load of modern art in so stopped to check that out. And then continued our tour to the museum at Casa de la Estrella which is one of the oldest houses in Valencia and was once a hospital, a medical school and most significantly the seat of Congress of the Republic of Venezuela. We met a historian who was working there and George translated what he said which was a full on history lesson and incredibly interesting.


Thereafter we went walked around the area and then hopped in the cab and went to the Parque Fernando Penalver and Parquw Negra Hipolita, named after the nanny of Bolivara  stunning park, of which Valencia has many, and with the friendliest squirrels.

When it started to rain extremely heavily we went to the aquarium which is not just an aquarium but also a zoo, I can’t say much as it was pretty depressing. However the best thing is that I spent hours chatting to George about Venezuelan politics and economic situation. This was the best time I could have spent in Venezuela really getting to hear what the locals say about the country. To cut an extremely interesting and long story short the bottom line is a corrupt government and the country is a mess, I seriously hope it gets sorted out as it is a fantastic place with fantastic people and has so much to offer.  The country is rich in oil, gold and many other minerals, the Amazon, apparently some of the most fantastic beaches and nature which means it could be a fantastic tourist destination but it is just falling apart.

After this amazing conversation we drove through the different areas of the city from the poorer south side to the rich north side where the houses were huge and surrounded by very tall walls and electric fences, a little like south Africa. We also went to the centre of the city to Plaza Bolivar de Valencia (kind of a very mini version of Trafalgar square) Bolivar was the general who fought against the Spanish and gained independence for Venezuela so I learned a lot about him. This square is great and clean and I enjoyed walking around it, and seeing the Catedral de Valencia which is just off one side of it.


We ended the day by going to eat at a typical Venezuelan restaurant which was great it had a thatch roof and open walls and I really enjoyed it and the food wow. Had meat that was done in a typical Venezuelan style its skewered beef that is cooked over a slow fire for 2 hours (not coal but wood and you can taste the difference)  OMG delicious, what an end to a great day.

Since George had to work the following day and we didn’t get time to go to Campo Carabobo, George arranged with  Johnny (the taxi driver who fetched me from the airport) to take me there.

Before going to Campo Carabobo I asked Johnny to take me to Parque Municipal Casupo, this is a hike up the side of a mountain which is extremely steep but has the most fantastic views.

Photo-0007(1) Photo-0009 Photo-0010

I struggled in the humidity and didn’t quite make it to the top, I think to Johnny’s relief as he had decided to hike with me as he said he’s just be bored sitting in the taxi. It was a great hike though and well worth it, it was also good to just do some exercise.  So sweating like troopers we got back in the car turned the AC on high and drove to Campo Carabobo about 45mins outside of Valencia. This is one of the most important historic monuments in Venezuela as it marks the spot where the main battle for independence against the Spanish took place and so is a monument to the independent of Venezuela. Wow I was truly impressed what a stunning monument. I did originally want to spend the day at one of the national parks or the coast but since I didn’t make it to Campo Carabobo I really wanted to see that so had to change my plans and was very glad I did as it was well worth it.

images 250px-Altar_de_la_Patria campo-carabobo-002  images0ND04DIC imagesN6O2FW66 untitled

During the drive I also got to know Johnny and heard his thoughts on Venezuela which were just as interesting and similar to those of young George. Johnny is an accountant by trade but due to the economic situation lost his job and became a taxi driver 4 years ago, but he says he enjoys it.  He also owns a restaurant with his wife but says that is struggling at the moment as not many people have the money to go out to eat and also it is hard to get many ingredients at the moment.  We saw many many examples of the queues and queues of people standing in line to get into the supermarkets to get food, quite unbelievable. Johnny’s take on the political situating is also that the government has screwed the country up purely due to corruption. The other point he made was that the government is trying to run the country is a socialist was, which we all know only works in theory. The trouble is he explained that many many people don’t want to work and are happy to just stand in line and get given basic food and basic housing so they don’t want the government to change. The country is getting a larger and larger poorer working class, and an upper class but the middle class is slowly disappearing. What the future holds no one knows but unless the government changes and a good less corrupt government takes power there is no hope.

I really would like to travel through Venezuela but do think I made the right decision not to this time, gut feel and now something backed up by a few people who live there.  This country and the people in it are great and one day I hope to return to see more.

Curacao: (28rd September to 29th September) Medellin: (29th September to 01st October)

I am so glad I decided to stay in Curacao for the night as opposed to just doing the 11hr flight stopover and heading out. What a lovely little place. Okay it is VERY touristy but since it is the first Caribbean island I have ever been too and I relay needed a little me time in a nice safe clean place it was just a great mini break for me. It is EXPENSIVE thought WOW shocker the taxi cost usd30 to take me on a 15min ride to the B&B, as opposed to usd20 for a 50min ride from the airport in Colombia. I spent the day walking Willemstad flat just enjoining the scenery, hamburgers and ice-cream.

I decided to get out of the sun and went to the Curacao African and slave museum, Kura Hulanda. What an excellent museum extremely well done and informative. I learned a hell of a lot and just cannot for the life of me no matter how much I think about it understand how one person can make a slave of another, I’m not even talking about forced labour where people could fool themselves that their workers are not slave, I mean true captured / chained slave how is this humanly possible.

One of the many facts I learned was a little more about why there was a slave trade in South America. As I mentioned in a post before the settlers found it hard to enslave the local South American Indians as they knew the jungles too well and would fight back. I learned that they were also very susceptible to the settler’s diseases so many of them died and large numbers of them committed suicide rather than remain enslaved. So the African slave market grew as it was seen as an endless supply of stronger hardier people. I also learned that during the slave trade roughly half a million Europeans were enslaved including aristocratic women who could not pay their debts. Their creditors were legally allowed to sell men and women into slavery if their debts were not paid. The museum claims that there are an estimated half a million slaves in the world and 20 million forced labourers. It was a very sad museum if one thought for any length of time about slavery, however it was extremely well done and factual.

Outside the museum I cheered myself up by having homemade lemonade sold by a really lovely chatty friendly lady selling her lemonade and homemade food and sweets outside the museum.

After a good night’s sleep I got up early the next day to go have a swim in the crystal clear clean sea, in a small bay area. There standing in the water was a largish lady in their underwear with a huge red afro smoking a very big cigar and chatting to her two friends. I was gutted that I did not have my camera with me as this was a sight worth capturing. They were very nice and friendly and explained that they did this every morning. I could only think that these are the moments one sees when you stop and smell the roses or go for an early morning swim in the sea.

After Curacao I felt like I had totally de-stressed and was my old chilled self again…welcome back me

At the airport on my way to Medellin I met a young Dutch girl backpacking in South America for 5 months. She had spent a lot of time in Suriname and enjoyed it as much as me. On recounting her stories I was reminded about why / how I like to travel. She’d spent some time in a home stay with local people and was a real adventurer going way off the beaten track. She really inspired me and helped shake some of the demons out of my head. The demons other people (at home and from the trip) had put in my head by questioning the reliability of my bike, telling me be careful, telling me that I’m travelling in a very dangerous part of the world, telling me not to ride in Venezuela and telling me stories of Joe Soap who knows Jane Doe whose fathers uncle got robbed in Brazil. Uuugghh sometimes I just let these things get through the brain filters and they start playing on my mind. BIG TIP people if you know someone who is travelling feel free to say good luck, enjoy, we love you, take care but that is it don’t go on and on telling people how dangerous what they are doing is or how bad the place is or that they need to be very careful. My safety is paramount to me so I don’t take risks but I’m not going to sit in my lounge and watch the world go by, so please stop getting my head by saying all these things it does not help and I think is even damaging.

So with fresh enthusiasm I flew out to Medellin. It was a quick stop to get my panniers but boy did I enjoy it all I can say is Empanadas :) I really really like Colombia and the people are fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed spending the day walking around (finding a new plastic petrol bottle to replace mine that got a hole in it) and just chatting to friendly helpful people via sign language and the few Spanish words I’ve learned. I would very much like to come back to Colombia and spend more time travelling here.

Trans Amazonian Challenger fellow riders:

The guides
Riding KLRs:
Mike – Our illustrious leader, what can I say this man was made for this job, he has an endless supply of patience and a great sense of humour. With all the truck issues he must have been stressing big time but never showed it to the group always keeping his cool and with a smile on his face. I think he is a great tour guide. Mike is from Denmark but lives in Colombia with his wife and two daughters.

11898822_794078750660142_1700635281315564469_nThe guides (left to right) Rick, Roberto, Peter and Mike

Roberto – Mike’s right hand man is from Argentina and works for Motodiscovery. He is a great rider and a fun guide

Peter – Peter is also from Denmark and came to S America to support Mike on this trip. Peter was the primary driver of the support truck and as a rally driver was extremely qualified but also rode the sweeper bike a few times. Peter is a quiet guy but also has an endless supply of patience, a great sense of humour and was a great support to Mike during all the truck issues. He is also one of the best photographers I have ever met, his pictures are just awesome

Rick – Rick the youngest of the guides is from the states and a good laugh, always positive and I enjoyed having him on the trip.
The riders:
Riding BMW 1200 GSs

Rob and Alison – Rob and Alison are from Canada and just great people like every Canadian I have ever met. Alison rode pillion with Rob and wow what a strong lady, I could not have put up with this kind of endurance riding as a pillion I take my hat off to her. I really enjoyed meeting and travelling with this couple.

 (from left to right) Rob, Alison, Cathy and Leigh

Leigh and Cathy – Leigh and Cathy, who also rides but is riding pillion on this trip, have been married for 51 years and ridden all over the world. They are the most awesome couple I have ever met, they are clearly still in love but also just seem to get on flawlessly and are great friends. I hope Joern and I are the same when we are in our 70s (I suspect we will be) I cannot express just how fantastic it was to travel with this inspiring couple, not only that but we hit it off instantly and became good friends. I will miss the great intellectual conversations we had as well as the light hearted ones. I am very determined to meet up with Leigh and Cathy again.

Rand – We celebrated Rands 58th Birthday on the trip and I almost made him show me his passport to prove his age as he does not look a day over 50. I had a fair few great conversations with Rand about life the universe and everything and just downright enjoyed his company. He is a serious and very intellectual person, however has a wicked sense of humour that pops out every now and again. Rand lives in Wisconsin and I’m hoping to meet up with him again one day when I go to see my nephews who now live there, I don’t know when it will be but I hope it’s not too many years away.


Riding BMW F800 GSs

Brian – Brian lives in the states but is from Zimbabwe and spent many years living in South Africa. We clearly got on well as we come from the same cultural background and it was great to hear the saffa coming out when he spoke. Brian was one of the best riders on the trip and just downright easy to get on with.

12049422_809284452472905_8370259990585125308_n Henry and Brian

Pete – What can I say, Pete was one of my favourite people on the trip, he is also from Canada which is clearly why. Pete is a vet and just awesome, a really good rider, an easy easy person to get on with and always positive. Pete and I had some great conversations about bees and pigs and abattoirs and religion it was a please to spend time with him. I also genuinely hope I get to see him again one day.

 Pete (on the left) with Brian, Roberto and Rob

Steve – Steve is from Australia and only stayed on the trip until Cusco Peru. Steve had some issues with the trip which is why he left early. Once I found out about them (near the end of the trip) I understood his perspective but it’s not my place to discuss it here. I can’t say I hit it off with Steve very much but only because we didn’t really spend time together or get to know each other he seemed like a very nice but quite quiet person.


Riding KLR 650s

Jules, my roommate – Jules is from California and a few years older than me. I think Jules and I would have got on far far better if we didn’t’ share a room. I’m sorry to say but I found sharing with her hell to be honest. I started sharing rooms when I was a student 30 years ago and have had many different roommates over those years. I’ve shared on all my backpacking trips, I lived with people and had different flatmates, and I have never in all my years of sharing had any issues until now. I could probably write many chapters on my experience with Jules from the chain saw snoring (I had to wear 2 pairs of wax earplugs) to the hissy fit she threw because I used the plug socked she wanted to use (even though there were 6 in the room and I was only using 2) However I’d rather say that we are both good and nice people but just couldn’t live together, it happens.

 Jules and Roberto

Ken – Ken is from the states and is a journalist who writes for a few bike and car magazines. Ken could be very negative but is extremely knowledgeable about everything mechanical. He is a nice guy and I didn’t have a problem with him but I have to say we didn’t become best buds. The biggest problem with him is that he just always talked about himself and all the stuff he has done and the minute someone mentioned doing something he’s better it, not a great trait to have. Every now and again however he would show this great sense of humour and it’s just a pity we didn’t get to see it more often.

Rob – Rob was the funnies guy, I liked Rob instantly and he was what I would call a harmless dirty old man and very charming. We had a few god laughs together and I’ll never forget one night when we literally ended up giggling like kids all night it was the funniest night I had on the trip. Oh yes Rob is another Canadian.

IMG_2172 Rob and I doing the Motolombia hug

Henry – Wow what can I say about Henry this man is an enigma and reminded me of my father. Henry is in his late 70s and has 9 lives (but I think they are running out) Henry had 3 bad accidents on the trip including scraping his skin up his arm down to the bone, you could literally see the bones in his arm. We thought that was it, he’d need to be flown home but he got it stitched up sat in the truck for a week and was then back on the bike. I spent a lot of time talking to Henry when I was truck bound for a few days and he is seriously knowledgeable about so many things. We spent many hours talking about war and I think my dad and Henry would get on like a house on fire.


Guyana: New Amsterdam and Georgetown (23rd September to 28th September)

After saying goodbye to Pete in Paramaribo, as he had decided not to go onto Guyana since he could not ride anymore as his foot was in a cast, we headed to the Guyana border.  Leaving Suriname was the easy part, but on the Guyana side things took forever. We had all disagreed with Mike for wanting to leave at 7am since the journey was only 250kms, including the border crossing. Well he really did make the right decision as the border crossing took hours and hours. It was quite amusing to watch the whole border shut down and everyone go home a couple of hours after the ferry arrived (there are only 2 a day so the boarder staff just come in at the ferry times) the person staying was the customs person processing the bikes, and one security guy on the gate waiting to lock up the border. Finally the wait was over and we headed to New Amsterdam for the night.

12049548_808792089188808_5694107797976776960_n on the ferry filling out yet more customs forms

 another exciting border crossing

After saying goodbye to Pete in Paramaribo, as he had decided not to go onto Guyana since he could not ride anymore as his foot was in a cast, we headed to the Guyana border.  Leaving Suriname was the easy part, but on the Guyana side things took forever. We had all disagreed with Mike for wanting to leave at 7am since the journey was only 250kms, including the border crossing. Well he really did make the right decision as the border crossing took hours and hours. It was quite amusing to watch the whole border shut down and everyone go home a couple of hours after the ferry arrived (there are only 2 a day so the boarder staff just come in at the ferry times) the person staying was the customs person processing the bikes, and one security guy on the gate waiting to lock up the border. Finally the wait was over and we headed to New Amsterdam for the night.


Once again I was totally surprised at what I saw, this time we could have been in India. Guyana is completely different to Suriname. The houses are huge and very colourful, there are a lot of Mosques and Hindu temples. Sadly the place is also disgustingly dirty there is garbage everywhere. I just cannot for the life of me understand why people just throw garbage around them in the streets and in the small water canals. It’s just crazy and begs belief not only is it unsightly but seriously unsanitary so why do people do this?

Anyway dirt aside it was very interesting to see the differences in these small countries. Everyone warned us how dangerous Guyana is but I must say the people we met were all very nice.  It is only Georgetown that is dangerous and only at night. Georgetown is the biggest dive you have ever seen, really not a nice city to visit (which is why we ended up spending 4 nights there). We stayed just outside the town in a huge house which is an annex to the Grand Coastal Hotel (and nowhere near the coast)  It was actually a great house and a nice change to the hotel, and the best thing ever was that I had my own room. Unfortunately they would not allow us to make our own food (so we had to go eat at the hotel), but it was still very nice and private. We needed to stay a few days while Mike sorted out the shipping of his bikes, in case he needed the riders to process anything at customs. He needed to do this as it is just too dangerous to ride across Venezuela, and his bikes with Colombian number plates would really be a target and also possibly not get over the border.


I have to say that I was disappointed that Motodiscovery / Motolombia didn’t have a plan B firmly investigated and in place for this possibility. The trip had been cancelled before due to the Venezuela situation and it’s been an issue for many years bubbling up every now and again.  However since they had the go ahead when we left Colombia they just thought we’d get through Venezuela but had no Plan B for their bikes or their clients bikes in the event the situation would change, which it did. This cost me a lot as I had to fly to Colombia to go get my panniers (they refused to take them on the support truck, so I had stored them in Colombia as I didn’t need them for this part of the trip since we had the truck with tools and were not camping etc) Bad decision on my part as I now needed to fly to collect them. I could have got them sent for a few hundred dollars, but then there was no guarantee they wouldn’t be stopped in customs or delayed etc so I didn’t want to take the chance.  I did also want to go to Venezuela, I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to go there since who knows if I will ever come back to South America. When we found out that we weren’t going through Venezuela I really had a mind burp. I was just stumped and panicked a little. One option was to ship my bike with Mike’s bikes and then continue my trip as originally planned. However I’m sorry to say that I (and Rand who also had his own bike on the trip and needed to get it back to the states) felt that we got very little support from Motolombia/Motodiscovery as we kept getting told they are working on it but we need to investigate options ourselves. Mike also came back to me and said my bike has to be in a separate container and could not travel with his. In the end it was very obvious that all the companies were doing was worrying about their own bikes and just sent us the email contact of an agent in Georgetown and said it’s better if we contact her ourselves.

I had spent days sitting in various hotel rooms since we were in Brazil trying to arrange shipping/flying my bike to Colombia or Lima or Buenos Aires. I was really angry at that as I was supposed to be on a trip seeing different places but most days instead of sightseeing I would be on the laptop trying to sort out what to do with my bike and also investigating the option of riding through Venezuela.  It really stressed me out as I didn’t have time to just sit and think, it was on the bikes speed to the next place, cross a border, spend a few hrs on the laptop, panic about what to do. It all seemed a bit rushed / panicked and surreal. Once in Georgetown when everyone went sightseeing I slept late and spent the entire day on the internet and just on my own in the house thinking and that is when I decided I was being dumb and just needed to ride down to Buenos Aires as all the other options were far too expensive. This meant that Joern needed to change his shipping and meet me in BA instead of Lima, but that will actually worked out.  I also then worked out how to get my panniers and see Venezuela, the good thing is that it also meant going to Curacao which turned out to be one of the best things to come out of the fiasco.

After spending the day alone and making my final decision I felt free and relaxed enough to take part in the final sightseeing event which was to go see Kauaituer / Kauai Falls WOW

We headed out mid morning to one of the Georgetown airports and hoped on a small 12 seated plane for a 55min flight to Kauaituer. It was great to see the Amazon from the air it stretches as far as the eye can see like a green carpet, you really do get the impression you could walk on it. Every now and again you do see these big brown scars where the mines are. This is terribly sad and damaging to the environment as the mines use huge amounts of mercury and it is washed straight into the rivers. The later part of the flight was a bit bumpy and my stomach was extremely happy to land.


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The tour to the falls takes 1.5 hours and you walk to three viewing points. I cannot tell you just how worthwhile this is they are truly stunning. The guide explained that we cannot say Kauaituer falls as tuer means falls and the name is Kauai so if we say Kauaituer falls we are saying Kauai falls falls. Kaieteur is the world’s widest single drop waterfall, it is 226 metres high when measured from its plunge to the first break. It then flows over a series of steep cascades that, when included in the measurements, bring the total height to 251 metres. While many falls have greater height, few have the combination of height and water volume, and Kaieteur is among the most powerful waterfalls in the world with an average flow rate of 663 cubic metres per second. Kaieteur Falls is about four times higher than the Niagara Falls, and about twice the height of the Victoria Falls. It is a single drop waterfall. According to a Patamona Indian legend, Kaieteur was named for Kai, a chief, or Toshao who acted to save his people by paddling over the falls in an act of self-sacrifice to Makonaima, the great spirit. I can honestly say this is one of the most beautiful natural sights I ever seen and definitely the best thing we’ve seen on this trip.

With the tour over people started flying out some on the 27th others on the 28th (including me) and one on the 29th leaving Rand, Roberto and Mike who were sorting out bike shipping. I left for Curacao and to be honest was not sad that the trip itself was over but was sad to say goodbye to most of the people they really were a great group.12043222_809462059121811_955221892987993229_n

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Suriname: Paramaribo (21st September to 22nd September)

Suriname as a country and the capital Paramaribo are by far the best places we have been to our this tour, which is why we only spent 2 days there (one day I’ll write a proper post about the soap opera, comedy of errors of this tour , but right now I’m only focusing on the good things) I really wish I had more time to spend in Suriname , I could spend a week  here just going on all the various tours especially those to the jungle as I still don’t feel I’ve really seen the Amazon as one needs to fly into it and stay for a couple of days not just drive through the populated areas of it :(

The first thing I did notice when entering Suriname is that I could not decide if I felt like I was in Africa or China. Every shop I saw and all the wood mills were Chinese. I have no problem with this except for the fact that I’ve been told that the Chinese companies have no concerns about the environment and are just raping the jungle. They also use mercury in their mines which is just washed straight into the rivers. One must blame the governments of French Guiana, Suriname and especially Guyana (which has the worst ecological problems) since the governments are doing nothing to ensure proper ecological practices.

 bridge into Paramaribo

I did think that Suriname as a country and especially Paramaribo have a nicer feel to them than almost any other places we’d travelled. I cannot explain it but the place is cleaner, feels safer, the people are friendlier (they are friendly everywhere but even more so here) I just liked it. Although a lot of the buildings are in need of TLC, there seems to be a lot of growth and some stunning old colonial style buildings many of which have been restored. Since we arrived at lunchtime we had the afternoon to enjoy exploring the city and the pool at the hotel. Every time we arrived at a hotel we asked if there was a pool since to us this was like liquid gold after travelling in this unbearable heat.


The following day we went to see the dolphins and it was great. They are like bottlenose dolphins but a bit smaller. There are a lot of them and they fish in an area where a the large Suriname river meets the ocean. So we boarded a small boat at 9 am and went to search for them. They are not tame and not attracted to the boats as it is illegal to feed them or disturb them at all since they are a protected.  You only get to glimpse them for seconds as they peak out the water perhaps to get a glimpse of these strange creatures in boats, you see just their dorsal fins more than the dolphins themselves but I enjoyed it and thought it was worth the trip.

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We then stopped at a small sandy island for a walk and to meet some of the fisherman. I made a big mistake and left my bag on the boat. I asked the guide a young Dutch lady if it was ok and she said sure the boat captain remains on board and will keep and will keep an eye on it, yup that he did he also helped himself to Euro20 out my wallet. Totally my stupid mistake so I didn’t say anything when I discovered this after the trip while paying for lunch. Not the first or last mistake in my life but hopefully I won’t make the same one twice dumb just dumb

Anyway the walk on the beach was interesting, some of the guys spoke to the fishermen who live in these tiny shacks but were extremely friendly and generous and wanted to give them some fresh fish, it was impossible to take them with but such a lovely gesture.  There were also loads of birds on the island most of which you just heard and they sounded like Budgerigar. The one sad thing is the amount of litter, I managed to avoid the litter in my photos but it was their and quite disgusting. The other interesting thing was that there seemed to be hundreds of round black rocks all over the beach but on closer inspection they were soft and squishy and I realised they were balls of compacted oil of some sort, disgusting but at least it wasn’t like an oil spill just these balls so the fish and birds could avoid them but it was rather weird.

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French Guyana: Cayenne, St Laurent (17th September to 20th September)

Wow what a difference French Guyana is to Brazil, to start with it is expensive ouch European prices and in Euro.

As was the usual case we had to board a ferry in the morning, the northern part of S America has so much water and so many rivers, small and VERY large you are constantly hopping on and off ferries. This one was booked for us and consisted of a barge that transported sand up and down the river (cheaper than the official ferry)

On the French Guyana side the first thing I noticed is that it was full of African people. This is due to the large slave trade back in the 16th century. In fact more slaves were traded in South than North America.  I did not know this and on reading up about it the one reason cited was that the colonialists found it too difficult to enslave the South America Indians as they would fight back, escape and knew the jungles  far too well so were hard to recapture.  This trade was focused in French Guiana, Suriname and Guyana, which are all now predominantly African. I found the accents of the people very interesting for example in Guyana many people speak with a Jamaican like accent. The people in all 3 countries are great, very friendly and interesting. Suriname is my favourite and the people are awesome there, but I’ll get to that in another blog.

Postlady at small border town

So we arrive at the border of French Guiana and Brian has a flat, we had almost 30 on the trip with Lee and I being the only people to escape the flat plague. People watching while he had it fixed was interesting and a nice introduction to this part of South America. Flat tire and border formalities completed (so easy :) I love countries that don’t have customs procedures for private vehicles which  makes so much sense)  we push on to Cayenne the capital. The roads are great, flat but some twisties and real jungle. It was highly enjoyable and I saw a tiny black marmoset monkey sitting eating at the side of the road, plus a lot of birds and a few lizards.


We stopped at a restaurant / bar along the way and chatted to a lovely French lady who moved to French Guyana with her husband 3 years ago and love it. Their closest neighbour is 3kms away and they like the solitude, they have a small rustic restaurant and B&B, in a very picturesque setting. They are obsessed with spiders and snakes (we didn’t get to see them as they are in the house) which was also part of the reason to leave France, well hey one reason is as good as any.

Cayenne itself is a nice city but not as nice as Paramaribo in Suriname (I’ll explain later) it did have great restaurants and it was such a  pleaser to have some different food. All the food in S America has been good, no complaints, but this was great. One can see the whole city in half a day so we needed to find stuff to do as we were there for 2 full days.  SO the following day we went to see the market, nice and interesting not full of dead animals or live ones stuffed in tiny cages, but loads of vegetables many of which I did not recognise. Plus a great Vietnamese food vendor and a fresh fruit stall, again with the gooooooood food.

One of the first things I noticed the day we arrived were the stuffed spiders in the souvenir shop next to the hotel. The following  day when it was open I just had to rush in to see them. There were hundreds mostly bird spiders huge and I wanted one, but it would have been destroyed by the time I got it home.

In the afternoon we went to the zoo, I know sounds crazy but it was so worth the visit. It is a small zoo and I was a bit unsure at first as so often in 3rd world countries the zoos are depressing and I cannot even force myself to enter them. This was a very pleasant surprise. The cages were large and well kept, plenty of trees and ropes and branches etc for the animals. The animals all fat and all looked well cared for. The reason I wanted to go was the see the animals we hadn’t seen in the wild and which most European zoos don’t have. There were lots of snakes and caimans, the birds were fantastic especially toucans one especially who seemed to really enjoy posing he beak for us left then right then up asking us all the time to get his best side or so it seemed)

come on I’m at the zoo what do you expect

 the snake cage

pink Ibis

the gorgeous toucan

the lovely friendly Tapir

 monkey island

There were also jaguars and tapirs who swam up to the bridge you walk across their cage right up to up to have a look just too cute. The zoo also has a canopy bridge and walk through the rain forest area, there are no animals to see there but you get a good idea of what it’s like to be in a rain forest.

The following day we went to Kourou to see the space centre. We were told that the museum was open but there were no tours so were surprised when we go there that not only were there tours but that day everything was free. The bad news is that only Peter had his passport with him so the rest of us, me, Jules and Henry couldn’t go on the tour to the launch pads. Damn I was so disappointed as I have never been to a space centre and wanted to see the huge building where they house the rockets, but Pete took plenty of pictures for us and the museum was great.

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Eager to go to Suriname we headed to early the next morning to Saint Laurent where we stayed for one night in order to do an early morning ferry / border crossing. I won’t say anything about saint Laurent because it isn’t worth mentioning.

12049731_807089272692423_6565266564795776325_n The guides eating dinner in Saint Laurent

 French Guiana also like to decorate their traffic circles, just like Switzerland

Brazil: Macapa, Amapa, Oiapoque (13th September to 16th September)

Macapa was not too bad a city, it is supposed to be very dangerous but didn’t feel that way.  Since it was a Sunday when we arrived we went down to the waterfront and it was teeming with people and dogs. There seemed to be some kind of pets on show thing going on, plus people were kit surfing, picnicking, walking, jogging, you name it they were out there having fun. The street vendors were also in full force and we had a fantastic meal on the street consisting of meat skewers and savoury rice.

The next day I just walked around a bit and went to visit the old fort, nothing special but something to do.

Early on the morning of the 15th we headed out to Amapa. One of those shitty little one horse towns, and nothing to write home about.  However on the way we did see a few interesting lizards.

12019769_804934456241238_2984047432282018186_n they grow critters big in this pert of the world

 blue tailed lizard

 gadgets new handle since the last one got wrecked begin tied to the trailer.

The following day we headed to Oiapoque this is another good dirt road and I enjoyed it tremendously.  It did not start out that way however, we started in a cluster of bikes and dust with some people doing 30/40km/hr. It was physically painful to ride so slow on dirt as you hit every single corrugations, you need a little speed and to put your weight a little back which slightly raised the front wheel and the bike just glides over the corrugations. I was getting a tad frustrated so overtook. We then pulled over for a break and Pete and I took one look at each other and I said I can’t do this and he said this is painful and dangerous all these bike clustered together in this dust. He spoke to the guide who said it’s one straight road and we can just go ahead. We took off and for 75kms had the most awesome ride :) just being able to ride at one’s own pace with no other riders. The next minute the guide passes us and slows down and we end up in another cluster. We get stopped for a few minutes as there has been an accident and a large digger is trying to get an overturned bus upright. Pete said again he’s going to lose it if Roberto does not ride faster or let him pass. So we all head off and the dust is horrific so I slow right down to let these guys and their dust disappear. Things start looking good and I’m enjoying the road and the next minute I come across Pete, Brian and Henry stopped on the side of the road and it is obvious that Henry has had another accident, his third. Fortunately this one was not as bad as the last and he does not need stitches he just has a couple of very deep scrapes and a very big bruise on his head where he hit the dirt. His front wheel hit a rut and he went over the handlebars. Damn poor Henry, we bundle him up as best we can and put him in the temporary support truck (our support truck is still in Belem getting fixed, so Mike hired a driver and van).  We finally arrive at Oiapoque, Henry gets taken to the Dr and fixed up, he does not have concussion, and just takes a couple of days off riding.

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one horse shitty town with beautiful people restaurant kitchen

I have to say though that I’d rather stay on one of these one horse shity places with character and giving you a good idea of how the average person lives than in Belem.  We had yet another good meal but this one came accompanied by the local prostitute who attached herself to Rob and then demanded money from a couple of people. She followed us back to the hotel and the landlady a lovely and stunning young woman called Laura had to call the cops.

After one night we finally headed to the ferry and French Guyana, another extremely easy border crossing.

Brazil: Belem (11th September to 13th September)

Reunited with the group we find out about the things that happened to them. The most sever being Pete’s accident. Pete t-boned a guy on a small 125 bike, the guy got back up and just rode away apparently he was quite young so I guess just scared. Pete damaged his bike quite a bit but it was repaired and Pete himself hurt his foot. Initially he thought he may have broken it but the next morning realised that it could not be broken and was just badly bruised and swollen, he was able to ride though as it was his rear brake foot and not his gear lever foot which would have been more difficult.

Rand also had a couple of accident he bumped into an army ambulance twice and also came off his bike in the bull dust a couple of times. His bike was fairly badly damaged the stabilizer arm was wrecked, his panniers came off and he damaged his lights. However lucky for him the hotel in Belem was 400m from a BMW dealer and they did wonders fixing his bike. He was also not hurt in any of the falls.

The group also had a number of flat tires over the two days. Jules had a flat one afternoon and the two guides were way behind the group. Not knowing how far they were behind, not having any way to fix the flat without them and being sick and tired of riding the bad dirt roads and waiting Jules left the bike with the keys and got a lift with Pete. It sounded like the group had a tough 2 days and were a bit, to say the least, fed up and ready to mutiny, plus they had not had luggage for 4 days which added to their discomfort. Roberto and Rick however got them back on track and to Belem safely, where they spent 2 nights waiting for us.

The original plan was for us to arrive in Belem and catch the ferry to Macapa the following day. However Mike vetoed that idea as he needed time to sort a number of things out with the truck and Venezuela so we stayed one more day. I was relieved as I needed to get to my luggage and do some washing as well as get my bike battery issue resolved, I was also exhausted after the truck trip and need to just gather myself and feel normal again. That done and the bike fixed with a new battery and Mike and Peter staying in Belem to get the truck fixed the rest of us headed out of Belem on the ferry.

testing Henrys hammock on deck of the ferry to Macapa hammocks on the top deck

cheers Belem


enjoying an ice-cream on deck


 I just cannot believe how huge the Amazon River is

The ferry ride was uneventful even boring, we had 3 cabins supplied with free cockroaches and plenty of them (6 beds, for the 4 ladies and Rob & Pete the 2 injured riders) and the rest of the group stayed in hammocks on the deck.  We mostly just slept, ate and chatted. Except for Rand, Rob and Pete who had a cigar and rum party in the one cabin. I joined them for a few hours and spend the night highly entertained by these 3 funny guys, you had to be there but trust me it was one of the most fun evenings I had on the trip. The following day after zero sleep in my cabin as the captain had his music blaring full ball all night. I sleep with very good ear plugs as am very sensitive to noise at night and could not sleep a wink with this cacophony and Jules would not close the cabin door as she said she needed the fresh air, but would not put the cabin aircon on instead as it was then too cold. How she slept through that noise is beyond me, but let’s just say I woke up in a less favourable mood.  I tried to sleep later that morning but to no avail so just gave up, at least I don’t need to get off the ferry onto a bike so I’ll live.

5 hours later we arrived in Macapa.

Brazil: Altamira, Tucurui, Belem (7th September to 10th September) Cont…

At 3 am we got up and put the bikes on the trailer and left at 4 am heading to Altamira and then on to Tucurui to pick up Rick and his bike that has completely seized. So bikes on the trailer and off we go the journey is hmm what can I say hell on wheels. Riding bad dirt roads is one thing but try doing it in a 4×4 man oh man you get bumped around like washing in a tumble drier, and then things got worse.

The truck started struggling and choking and I could just see Mikes face drop, the problem had returned and we’d only gone about 200kms and had 1100 more to go. We pulled into this smallish town and Mike managed to find a really good mechanic, what luck. We spend 4 hours sitting in the mechanic shop while they remove the fuel filter and tank and clean them out, added good fuel and put the whole lot back together again. Finally we set off with a truck that sounds and felt great…for 250kms that is. The minute the choking and struggling started all our hearts sank, it is now 4pm and we’d been on the road for 12 hours (including 4 at the mechanic) and had only gone about 450kms.

We pulled over and Mike hoped on his bike to go find a town with a tow truck. Fortunately we were now off the dirt road but it is hot and I mean hot that is one thing I can say about Brazil. So we sit and we wait and we wait and we wait, I take a short walk to see the trees, and the lovely little purple orchids that grow everywhere, and then go back to the truck and sit and wait some more, almost 2 hours later Mike arrives with the news that he has a huge flatbed that is used to transport diggers and construction machinery, and we can put the truck and trailer with the 2 bikes all the way to Belem, awesome. The truck driver was fantastic, only 23 and a really good driver and very responsible. We load the truck and trailer, Mike sits up front with the driver and the 3 of us sit in the truck on the truck. It was not so bad on the tar road sections but the minute we hit dirt OMG the bumps and shakes were incredibly intensified, I have never experienced anything like that before.


To make matters worse I needed to pee OMG so bad, I was really in pain. Peter and Henry were fast asleep in the 2 front seats and I had no way of communicating with the flat bed driver to ask him to pull over. I was counting the minutes hoping we’d stop but to no avail. Eventually I could not take it anymore and decided I needed to pee in a bottle. So I took my penknife and cut the top off an empty water bottle of which we had plenty in the truck. Then the fun began. I was so conscious of not wanting to wake Peter and Henry up so I tried putting the bottle down my trousers, but nope that did not work. I gave up on the idea and thought I just need to hold it in…well that lasted about 10 minutes and I knew I had no choice. So I had to kneel on the back seat and take my trousers down, phew what a relief, this had to be the best feeling in the world. But there I was kneeling on the seat, pants down with a bottleful of pee in my hand hmmm I was a bit stuck but somehow managed with one hand to pull my pants up while balancing the bottle with the other. Job done I now sat in the truck with this bottle in hand not knowing quite what to do. I hate to litter but honesty had no choice I had to open the door and lob the pee grenade as far out as possible. Of course this completely foiled my plans of not waking Henry and Peter as this stupid damn truck has this alarm system that goes off if the doors are opened without pushing the unlock switch on the key, even from the inside.  Alarm going I dive back down on the back seat and feign sleep while with one eye open see Peter wake up, find the key and press the alarm … sorry Peter.

About an hour later, now midnight and we’ve been driving since just after 6pm the truck pulls over. The driver says to Mike he needs to sleep for 6 hours, fair enough. So we find another really good trucker hotel for 6 hours, heading off just after 6am. Another 12 hours in the truck and I’m just getting sick of it, damn I wanted so badly to be on my bike but with the battery issue and having to jump start it every time I stopped (even push starting it did not work) that was not an option.  I must say poor Rick was far worse off as he is about 7 foot tall and had very long legs so being cramped in the truck on top of a truck was just hell for him. Eventually we reach Belem. I have never been that happy for a journey to end :) we are reunited with the group at last and get a chance to catch up on all their news.

11010624_801945109873506_9149546064833434571_n one of the many pics Peter took from the truck on the road12009716_802756389792378_2553771572338414379_nthe trees in the Amazon are truly magnificent

 there is so much water around it is incredible, we take barges / ferries across rivers at least once a day and they are huge, and we haven’t even hit the Amazon river yet these are just tributaries but I have never seen such huge river sin my life

 some of the many many hundreds of small ugly black vultures we have seen everywhere. I’m keen to see a documentary on them as I am convinced there are so many because we have destroyed so much of the Amazon and brought in domestic animals and loads of people which means loads of garbage. They are like rats all over the place and all over the garbage heaps and road kill.