Biking the Amazon – Part 12-Cut with a machete when you see the light in the jungle!


By Piotr Chmielinski

The sun slowly descends, and for a moment it touches the horizon at the contact line of the sky with the ocean, delineating the boundary between the present and the future, between being “here, and now” and “there, and soon.” Here means a great adventure on the Amazon, there – is also an adventure, the memory of which will last forever.

By Piotr Chmielinski

The sun slowly descends, and for a moment it touches the horizon at the contact line of the sky with the ocean, delineating the boundary between the present and the future, between being “here, and now” and “there, and soon.” Here means a great adventure on the Amazon, there – is also an adventure, the memory of which will last forever. The Atlantic beach on the coast of Brazil, where Dawid Andres and Hubert Kisinski, with “THE END” still adorning their backs, are sitting brings nostalgic tunes and philosophical thoughts. Achieving the objective sought by the last six months makes them think there is something that ends and something that begins. Memories and plans, both stir excitement. Let’s start with the memories …

 

Will this bike prevail on the Amazon?

– Actually, over the last week we keep talking about what happened to us during the biking tour on the Amazon – says Dawid, the initiator of the expedition, whose idea was born under the influence of reading travel books and the irresistible need to experience an extraordinary adventure. – I think it’s going to be like with you Piotr, I will always live with the Amazon.

Dawid spent two years preparing to leave for the biggest river in the world. He absorbed all the information like a sponge: on the sources of the mountain rapids, about people, about the pirates of the channels, and the jungle. He long wondered how to make the trip into the Amazon and which way to go. He collected maps, studied and planned a route, contacting those who have already been there: me, West Hansen from the expedition “The Amazon Express,” Rafal Kosnik, and Jacek Klisowski.

– For two months before going on the expedition I worried terribly; it’s dangerous, risky, irresponsible – recalls Dawid. – But something inside of me said, “you have to do it.” On the one hand, I thought, that so few people managed to defeat the Amazon, so why should I try, and on the other hand- but if someone did it, why not me?

Some doubts arose about using a unique means of transport invented by the 40-year-old from Gorzow, Poland, now a resident of Arizona, USA. The Amazonian Bike, which met the dual function adequate to the concept of the expedition – the way riding on wheels, and flowing on the water using pontoons attached to the frame – would have its debut not anywhere else, but only on the mighty Amazon.

– I remember you asked me whether the bike would definitely stand up to the waters of the Amazon. I thought to myself, why are you so persistent, asking about our bikes. I will simply plop myself on the seat, and pedal hard. Great stuff! And later on I realized that you really knew why you were asking about the strength of the bikes. I had not imagined such waves on the river – Dawid laughs, remembering our first conversation and my initial doubts.

The most difficult is the coolest

Recall that the brothers set off in September 2015. They started from the town of Camana over the Pacific Ocean. Soon, they began to climb the mountain roads in the high Andes to reach the lake Ticlla Cocha, where the constant source of the Amazon is located. Right there, the bath at 5,142 meters above sea level inaugurated their expedition on the queen of the rivers.

– The mountain segment was one of the most difficult – says Hubert. – The high altitude took its toll, especially with its continuous changes – once we were at four and a half thousand meters, then at one hundred meters, again at four thousand to four hundred again. But the views were wonderful! I still have them before my eyes, though it was many months ago, and so many thousands of kilometers away.

Both bikers could not get over how their friend Dominik Dabrowski managed to control the altitude sickness, while accompanying them on the road for almost two weeks. Barely arrived from Poland, he immediately jumped on the bike we additionally purchased for him and pedaled a long way on the Andean hills. “He was breathing hard” it is true, but he did not give up, as befits a member of the expedition.

– Dawid, you remember those gangsters in the Ashaninka area? – Hubert smiled at the thought of goofy bandits. – How awkward they looked picking up their still running motorcycles from the ground. It was a pity to look at.

At Atalaya, the brothers launched their bikes and began the most enjoyable part of the trip. The first kilometers on the river were spent lounging on the platform planks attached to the pontoons. The water was carrying their vehicles, allowing the travelers to nap, take a swim, and to contemplate how wonderfully and effortlessly they floated down the Amazon. On the Ucayali – where they listened to “talking” fish and raced with dolphins – it took a little work, pedaling. And it was there that the problems started with the drives, which tended to break often and kept Dawid awake at night and Hubert “the brilliant handy man” provided with additional jobs during the day – repairing, modernizing, improving, disassembling, assembling, and so on, and again.

From Iquitos the bikers entered very fast water, which was noted especially with pride and joy when they achieved an average speed of 10-14 km/hr. They have already begun to think that at that rate, reaching the ocean would be possible much earlier than thought. That is why they decided to stay in Tabatinga on the Peruvian-Brazilian border a bit longer for the holidays. There, they met the nicest people from the large group of people of the Colombian family that at Christmas time “adopted” the two Poles traveling on their strange vehicles on the Amazon.

It turned out that even pirates prowling between Tefe and Manaus spared the brothers trouble. Admittedly, the third meeting with a bunch of thugs was quite stressful and “mentally exhausting”, but it ended happily because, after circling them four times around, the pirates left them alone.

Hospitality and friendly, warm relations with the locals were particularly valuable experiences of the bikers; they had the opportunity to learn about the life, customs and culture of the inhabitants of the Amazon River basin.

– We were hugely impressed with the children we encountered in the villages where we stayed – says Dawid. – They seemed much more mature, more independent, and they worked well in different situations. I remember especially Arexa, a 10-year-old, the boy of my son’s age, whom we met in the village close to Coari. I was moved, when I saw how early in the morning in the rain he put in his rowboat into the river to catch fish for breakfast for his siblings. This sense of responsibility made a huge impression on me.

While the beginnings of the expedition were difficult, the final stages of the expedition solidly challenged them, although in quite different situations.

– From Santarem we had to fight with the river for a month- says Dawid. – I never imagined there would be such big waves that would shake us so much.

– And that there would be tides that upset you so much too – adds Hubert.

Storm and wind, a moment of calm and then a storm forming again on the river with waves as big as on the ocean. The same conditions every day. Additionally ebbs and flows, which complicated the journey, especially in the channels where the river could change the direction of the current unpredictably.

– I had a moment of weakness – admits Dawid.

If the brothers thought that moving by land would be easier the jungle quickly changed that impression. Why? Because the road, which was visible on the map, appeared long overgrown with dense tropical vegetation, flooded with water, which often turned into a muddy quagmire. Trudging the bikes through this area topped the challenge. And in the case of brothers, we can say that it tripled the challenge because they made three loops in the “Amazon Bermuda Triangle” to make sure they maintained the continuity of the idea of traveling in the right direction and on their own power!

The road from Belem to the Atlantic would be just a 200 kilometers walk, like a snap of the finger. -Another false impression. Part of this tour was the jungle again, by which biking was not such a treat. But then … then in front of the brothers’ eyes appeared the view long awaited for and dreamed of – the Atlantic.

– It was the greatest feeling to jump into warm ocean water, touching it with our hands, not even so much swimming in it. We had reached our destination – says Hubert fondly.

 

Lessons from the Amazon

Half a year on the Amazon was enough time for Dawid and Hubert to learn a lot about the river, about the people living in its basin, and about themselves.

– I must admit that we have become very strong physically and psychologically- says Dawid. – The Amazon gradually was preparing us for increasing difficulties. If situations that happened at the end were to happen at the beginning, our expedition probably would not have been completed. – He adds with a laugh.

When it was especially hard, he thought about the heroes of books about the period in history that I am particularly interested in, like Gulag work labor camps and German concentration camps. The attitude of people who have undergone the ordeals that happened i.e. to his favorite author Stanislaw Grzesiuk inspires him and makes him look at the problems from a different perspective.

– What these people went through makes them really tough guys. Sometimes on an expedition I told Hubert and myself: man, what are you complaining about. People survived the nightmares, spent many years in the camps and had the strength to live, to be happy, and we pedal the Amazon, which we ourselves chose to do and it is great. It gave me courage.

Different, yet alike, equally determined and stubborn, the brothers admit that one without the other wouldn’t have completed that expedition. Supporting and complementing each other not only with the skills, but the personality and strength of character have become the best reflection of the power of brotherly ties.

– I’m glad I went on this trip together with Hubert – emphasizes Dawid. – Not only he could fix everything and cook great meals, but he often toned my impatience and dark thoughts.

And besides, Hubert is back to being himself. He is a cheerful, open and warm young man as he was before he became caught up with drug problems. The expedition into the Amazon proved for him a way of saving himself, escape from an addiction that had possessed him.

– The Amazonian therapy allowed me to look at myself out of the box, from a certain perspective, and allowed me to recover. I started to think normally and rationally; it took me many months, only now I am able to understand and assess the scale of the situation I was stuck in. The Amazon left a kind of mark in my life-learning experience that teaches something new and something good. What was more difficult to overcome, the Amazon or drugs? Definitely, the latter. On the Amazon you can call for help when things go wrong, with an addiction you have to cope alone, or you are drown.

On the Amazon Hubert regained most of his faith in his strength and his confidence. He felt again the persistence and consistency that he wanted to strive for.

– When we did go wrong in the jungle, in the dark, in the thicket, through which the sun was not able to break through, I could see the light. And then with even greater intensity with my machete I was able to cut my way through and … actually there was a light and the solution – Hubert talks about his little bit of metaphysical experience.

Welcome home

Dawid and Hubert parents’ apartment in Gorzow was overflowing with the smell of fried pork chops, cabbage and other savory dishes. Mother, Bozena Kisinska prepares them to welcome the sons with a typical Polish dinner.

– Sure, they missed home and home-cooked food – she says, her voice combining excitement and emotion. The guys should be in the house in an hour and a half, they have come back safe and sound, what a relief. – Get even some pickles, maybe they will feel like pickles – she calls to her husband.

Mr. Zdzislaw, like his wife, is immensely proud of the sons’ achievements but is disconsolate that he could not go to meet Dawid and Hubert in the airport – shingles grounded him at home for a good two weeks. It’s bad luck!

From the next room, children’s voices are heard again: when will our dad come? Hubert’s sons, Dawidek and Filipek, have been occupying a strategic place at the window from early morning. With breaks for cleaning the room, “because it must be neat and tidy to welcome dad”. Time drags on mercilessly, there is nothing to occupy the boys. So once again: When is dad coming?

The doorbell sounds! Daddy! Daddy is coming!!! And Uncle Dawid!!!

Dawid and Hubert do not have much time to rest. On Saturday, March 12 they will be in Gdynia for Kolosy (kolosy.pl), meeting travelers and explorers, where late at night they will be talking about their Amazon biking expedition that they just finished a few days ago. By the way, the Amazonian bike, which traveled the largest river in the world, could be seen during the presentation.

Conquerors of the Amazon

Dawid Andres and Hubert Kisinski, having realized the goal of their trip, became members of the select group of people who have conquered the Amazon from the source to the Atlantic., continuously in one direction and on their own power.

Check a link to AdventureStats’ Amazon River Statistics:

http://www.adventurestats.com/tables/RiverAmazon.shtml

Dawid Andres and Hubert Kisinski at lake Ticlla Cocha at an altitude of 5 124 m above sea level where the constant source of the Amazon River is located and where the brothers began their journey along the queen of rivers (Photo. Dawid Andres)

The reward of the hardship of "climbing" on the bike on mountain roads were gorgeous views to admire for Hubert Kisinski and Dominik Dabrowski (Photo Dawid Andres)

With luck you can not only jump but also fly. From left to right Dawid Andres Dominik Dabrowski and Hubert Kisinski (Photo Dawid Andres)

The Amazon is sometimes idyllic as evidenced by the view of Dawid Andres biking on the Amazon (Photo Hubert Kosinski)

And sometimes you have to toil on the waves Hubert Kisinski (Photo Dawid Andres)

Hubert Kisinski with machete making his way through the jungle (Photo Dawid Andres)

Triumphant bicycle wheels off the coast of Belem (Photo. Dawid Andres)

March 4 2016 the Brazilian Atlantic coast - the end of the expedition from the left Hubert Kisinski and Dawid Andres (Photo Dawid Andres)

Dawid Andres with nephew Filip and Hubert Kisiinski with his son Dawid at Warta River in Gorzow Poland (Photo. Bozena Kisinska)

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