Sunday 25 November 2001
Peter Blake history
March 19, 2020

“We are once again on the waters of the Rio Negro after an overland trip by truck to join “Seamaster 2” in the border town of Cocui, Brazil. At the time of writing, however, we are in Venezuela.”
– Sir Peter Blake

“Big Bongo”, or “Seamaster 2” as she is now known, is 15 metres long and made from a large tree locally called the “Cachicamo”. She is actually two large bongos joined together to make a catamaran. In the next few logs we will be telling you more about her.

We are once again on the waters of the Rio Negro after an overland trip by truck to join “Seamaster 2” in the border town of Cocui, Brazil. At the time of writing, however, we are in Venezuela. If we look out to starboard (right) we see, a few hundred metres away, the jungle of Venezuela. If we look to port (left) we are confronted by Columbia. The border hereabouts travels right down the middle of the Rio Negro.

We are all feeling bit exhausted after some serious overland travel yesterday. At sunrise we loaded our truck with all the expedition equipment. A second truck (no smaller vehicles available) was required for additional gear plus ourselves.

After some last minute provisioning and a visit to the Federal Police, to clear out of Brazil, we finally got away at 11:30am and set off for the border town of Cocui, 200km away. We were soon on the dirt road surrounded by dense jungle. We soon realised, after just a few kilometres, that the continually washed-out road was going to be extremely bumpy and very, very dusty.

It was particularly uncomfortable (try precarious) for those of us on the flatbed tray of the truck. We took turns at being airborne or at being in serious danger of getting tossed off the truck completely and into the surrounding jungle. The “Doc”, sitting comfortably in the cab listening to the same Brazilian tape on maximum volume over and over, wondered what all the fuss was about.

Five hours later, after crossing a spectacularly long but rather treacherous wooden bridge, high above the river, we thankfully arrived at the Cocui Federal Police station to check in.

The local people were quite surprised. To be covered in such bright, red dust is a usually a sign that you have been to a Yanomami party. Alas no, just survivors of the dreaded Sao Gabriel to Cocui main highway.

The heat and dust of the trip had taken their toll but there was still the unloading of our equipment and gear to be done. First, though, a quick, refreshing drink at a local bar and off to see our new home on the twin-hulled bongo.

Unloading the trucks and loading everything on to “Seamaster 2” took quite some time. We completed the job just before dark, just in time for a refreshing swim in the river before a lovely dinner of spaghetti bolognaise prepared by our new cook, Augusto. We all slept where we dropped – exhausted. That was until a huge rainstorm made some of us relocate at around 2am.

We left Cocui at around 10am after further stowage and preparation of equipment, and check-out with the National Guard. It is now 8pm and we are nestled to a sand bank approximately 40 miles up river. The crew are all ashore preparing a campsite in the jungle, slinging hammocks for those who are not sleeping aboard. Progress has been slow today. Head currents, low water levels, plus another stop to check in with the Venezuelan military that guard the river, have all contributed.

See you in two days.

Best wishes from the Jungle Team.

Photo credit: Don Robertson