Guest post: Hitchhiking the Transamazonica (from Santarem to Maraba)
Hitchhiking from Santarem to Maraba (Transamazonican Highway)
If you would want to establish something like a hitchhiker’s driving license, the Transamazonica would definitely be the place to execute the final exam. It is a nasty shaking dirty little bitch with a stunning landscape and amazing people. It basically is a mud road, climbing up and down through the deep hills of the Amazonian area. Challenging for the driver as much as for the passenger, as you constantly get bumped from one side to the other, while the omnipresent dust is trying to invade every part of your body and equipment.
Take this with pleasure and modesty. The Transamazonica is hard but fair, as long as it is dry. When it starts to rain it can become impassable. Especially for trucks. I had friends that were stuck for 3 days on that road with a truck convoy, all detained in the road between two ascending slopes, unable to move in either direction. It turned out not too bad, they went fishing and hung out with the other truckers, while waiting for the road to dry again. If you go on the Transamazonica, prepare yourself, that it might take a bit longer than expected.
To cross from Brazil to Venezuela or vice versa you will, most probably, have to go through Santarem and take the Ferry from there to Manaus, because this is the easiest connection. Another possibility is a 2000 km detour with a road that nobody knows if it even exists.
A good hitchhiking friend told me, the Transamazonica is not only the slowest, but also the easiest road to hitchhike on. He lied. Or I am too spoiled. It was not easy to catch a ride. But definitely possible and if you get a car, it goes for a while. As I mentioned, the road is definitely challenging even if you are a passenger. But I enjoyed this time more than any other road before. I was on the back of a truck, exposed to the beauty of the landscape and the dust. After Altamira, gets a bit better and more gentle, but still not like a “real road”. I loved it. It is special. It is for road lovers and people who want to hitchhike something extraordinary.
Distance: 1057 km
Number of lifts: 13
Journey Time: 59 hours 49 minutes
Average Waiting time: 28 minutes 9 seconds
Alternative transportation costs: ~170$ (Bus)
Santarem is an old gold mining city in the heart of the Amazonian area. It lies in the connection area of Rio Tapajos and the Amazonas. Nowadays, the economy is dependent on fishing and cattle breeding. Santarem has around 300 000 inhabitants and is a livable place in the wild Amazonas. The temperature is, all year long, between 22°C and 30°C and you can count on the hot humid Amazonian climate. Although, you wouldn’t expect it, Santarem has the most beautiful beaches within the Amazonas and stunning blue water, which is also referred as the Brazilian Caribbean.
Maraba is in the Para State in northern Brazil and will be your first contact with real civilization and more important, with a real road. From here, the 153 interstate highway leads all the way South towards Sao Paolo. Maraba is known for its huge cultural diversity and if you know Brazilian diversity, this should make you prick up your ears. Also, here you can have a good swim within one of the beaches or follow other activities in the river like fishing or watersports.
What to visit on the way?
Have you ever been on a wild west set in any movie studios around the world? Visit Ruropolis. It is as dusty, rusty and fucked up, as we imagine the wild west was. And it is a wild place. Here you enter the Transamazonica the first time and this town give a legit welcome to the following route.
The city of Altamira has not the best reputation within Brazil. People say it is dangerous and indeed it looks a bit dirty here and there. Another sad fact is, that Altamira is in the middle of an area, that is to be flooded, as part of the construction of a huge power plant nearby. Especially, the suburbs will be flushed away and also a huge island in the Amazonian river, that exists in front of the beach promenade. On the way to Maraba, you will cross the Belo Monte Dam, which is the third biggest capacity in the world. 2015 it was still under construction but very impressive none-the-less.
I was stuck in Altamira during the night, got ripped off by a drunken man, found a bunch of wonderful Brazilian people with whom I had a big party. Suffering and joy are close together sometimes.
Stefan is doing a world circumnavigation, with hitchhiking as the basic principle of moving. His blog WarmRoads provides road stories, extraordinary observations and hitchhiking techniques. So far, Stefan has covered 60,000 km, crossed the Atlantic by sailboat, conquered the Darien Gap, got lifts with trains, airplanes, drunken policemen on motorcycles and a hearse.