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Sunday, January 5, 2020

By car to the ocean. Amphibear

I have written and published a book about Amphibear adventures. Unfortunately in Estonian only!

Author Mait Nilson, design Andres Tali, edited Lea Arme, published Tammerraamat. 248 pages, December 2019.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Amphibious car longest sea crossings

After the journey I have been asked several times "Among different amphibious cars, where stands Amphibear with its Senegal - Cape Verde crossing?" Obviously car can drive on the roads and nothing to measure there. As I found out, it is not easy to answer question at all. Amphiclopedia is the most comprehensive online database of all amphibious vehicles thanks to Hans Rosloot hard work. However, there is no list of longest amphibious sea crossings.  No matter, the gold medalist we know without it. Gold medal belongs to Ben Carlin, Half Safe. Their first Atlantic leg Halifax - Flores Island (Azores) was 2720 km long. Atlantic third leg Faial Island - Madeira Island was 1208 km long and they survived hurricane. For sure, their Pacific crossing legs were long also.

Amphibious auto with second longest crossing after Half Safe is Amphibear. First leg in Atlantic was 760 km St Louis, Senegal - Praia, Santiago Island, Cape Verde. So Amphibear gets honorable silver medal by available information today.
In one category it is even gold medal. Sailors have different categories for solo crossings and crossings with crew. Amphibear did solo crossing.

Third place is difficult to determine. We all know adventures of La Tortuga and La Tortuga II from Frank and Helen Schreider in America and Indonesia.  Or we can learn about russian expedition over Artic Ocean with amphibious vehicles on ice (this is more polar ice expedition than sea voyage)

You can also learn about amphibious Land Rover crossings  over Irish Sea and Bering Strait. Naturally, as Amphibear crossed Gibraltar Strait, there are a lot of strait crossings with different amphibians and even more attempts.

Dobbertin Surface Orbiter did drive on Caribbean Sea and in other places during the journey in North and South America 5000 km on water. Detailed leg information however can not be found online. By map it seems that most of it were shorter legs from island to island. We must not forget one time projects also, like Cuban emigrants setting their trucks afloat with bunch of barrels and crossing from Cuba to Florida over 200km. So the bronze medal belongs to Dobbertin Surface Orbiter or La Tortuga or anonymous group of Cuban emigrants, hard to say.

Browsing through Amphiclopedia you can find huge variety of different vehicles. Big part of which are military, big part are boat based. The last should measure longest road trip for competition, I suppose.  Military vehicles are mostly meant for short missions. So it seems that even modest 760 kilometers with car on Ocean means high ranking among amphibious car sea crossings.

All distances measured in Google Earth directly from point to point.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Last leg of Amphibear journey

Martin from Scan Shipping notified me on Monday, I can pick up my car at 29 April from Muuga port in Estonia. At port it took some time for entrance and wasted time for waiting in wrong place. In right place we took pictures of sealed door and opened the container. There she is, Amphibear without pontoons, but with all the rest of equipment.

Started happily to release Amphibear from his sea voyage prison. After half an hour jumping on the lever was not so happy any more. Strong fastening!

Front was easier, just to get there was tight. So we towed the released Amphibear out of container.  Opened up the car and all boxes and called for coastguard. Soon patrol came, checked only the body number and said, as registered in Estonia it needed no control at all. Just to drive out of port territory their control paper is helpful.

For last Amphibear journey drive from port to home some more preparations were needed. As surprise both car key batteries had lost their power. So, we started our drive like alarm vehicle, but soon system recognized the key. All the rest worked as before and twenty kilometers to home were uneventful. Now Amphibear is at home and I start with cleaning, repairing and storing all equipment.

Amphibear drove on its own from Tallinn to Cabo Verde islands with Gibraltar crossing and Atlantic crossing from Senegal to Cabo Verde on the way. Then after few hundred kilometers in Atlantic pontoons were broken, Amphibear was rescued by Geoholm and shipped to Rio De Janeiro. In hope for new pontoons Amphibear traveled little more in South America, up to Lima. This was remarkable journey. It was possible because of help of so many people.

You were always with me in you thoughts. Thank you!

Mait Nilson.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TOP 10: Equipment

We all need travel equipment from time to time and it's good to know what works. The following is my top 10 of useful pieces of equipment as proven by actual travels on land and by sea. The order is, of course, relative and depends on the nature of the trip. For example, satellite communicators won't be necessary when you are in an area with cell phone coverage. Likewise, the usefulness of every other item noted here depends directly on the nature of the trip.

DeLorme inReach SE Satellite Communicator
This has been unbelievably reliable and useful so far. It is also possible to order it online if not found in Estonian stores. Cheaper than you'd expect. A bit time-consuming for independent use but really seamless when paired with a phone. Allows positioning and the option save the lost Amphibear by exchanging text messages. I was able to test its water resistance when I fell in the water with a case in my hands and the DeLorme in my pocket. It passed this test successfully. DeLorme's website allows for continuous exporting of location information and therefore Metrotec has connected its tracking device information with DeLorme's information. It is possible to buy rescue insurance when signing the contract, so the owner of the device can be rescued anywhere around the world within 72 hours in case there's any serious trouble.

Led Lenser SEO 7 R Headlamp
A useful tool in case of an unexpected breakdown but also just a good companion for nighttime activities. A lot of other headlamps would actually do the trick, too. I really like that fact that it can be charged with a mobile phone charger. I couldn't ask for more if it were also waterproof. Despite not being waterproof, it did survive being used every night on the sea. Convenient to use, emits even light and doesn’t feel heavy while worn on the head.

Aclima merino wool underwear
It is true that it can be worn for two weeks without beginning to smell. To be perfectly honest, it smells a bit like untreated wool even when new, and when worn unwashed, the smell gets a bit stronger. But it’s a pleasant smell. The underwear kept my body nice and warm when the weather was cold and when it was hot, it breathed instead of soaking through like cotton shirts do.

GoPro Hero Black and FineVu HD 500 cameras
Although I haven't really had the chance to upload any videos so far, there wouldn't be too many of them without these two devices. No matter the conditions, you turn them on and you get a sharp and well-lit video. The FineVu dash camera with its continuous recording allows the moments when you forgot to turn something on to be documented. Good recording quality, again.

Keen sandals
They have experienced seawater, damp conditions, sand and mountains. I wore sandals almost daily for four months. No signs of wear and tear or falling apart so far. They dry quickly. Comfortable even when walking for long periods of time. Not meant for sitting still for long. Good for active use.

Sony Xperia Z mobile phone
I chose this phone because of its water resistance, good performance and big screen. The performance and big screen are needed for navigation software. It was essentially the only navigation device in use on land and in water it had a navigation application that duplicated Amphibear's plotter. The phone is surprisingly durable. This, too, was in my pocket when I fell in the sea, and it was water resistant enough for a situation like that. It has slipped from my hand a couple of times and fell on the ground but luckily hasn't broken so far. I certainly would recommend it for water-related trips.

Dromedary 10l water bag
Simple and straightforward – holds 10 litres of water. It is also worth noting that the water doesn't take on any aftertaste even when kept in the bag for a long time in hot weather conditions. Doesn't taste like plastic or anything similar as might easily happen with other bags. It's easy to carry, fill, and empty. It's pretty strong and can withstand being stepped on or dropped. We discovered only halfway through the trip that the bag is just the right size to be used as an air pillow. So, if not needed for holding water, it can be used as a pillow instead. Of course, it feels nicer on the cheek, if you pull a shirt over it before making use of it as a pillow.

SealLine Baja Bag 30l dry bag
At the beginning of the trip, the dry bags were not in use and packed in some other bags instead. However, starting from Cape Verde they were used more often. If you need a bag where you can quickly store your essential things to take with you to the hotel, a bag you can use for support when swimming from the boat to the shore all while keeping the equipment and clothes from getting wet, and use as a carry-on item on the plane and is sure to fit in the overhead luggage compartment, then this is the right choice. This bag has been used for all that. And when somebody asks you in Cape Verde where you got this really cool bag, then in that case its appearance won't put you to shame, either. I don't think I would be taking this bag on my future business trips, but now and again it might have a place at the bottom of another bag. You never know when you're going to need something water resistant again.

Basic all-in-one kits
Quite often seemingly useless home toolkits were all used surprisingly frequently in the car. For example, a screwdriver kit that dated back to the Soviet times and hadn't been used since was used as a chisel, lever, and for screws, of course. A Leatherman knife was always in the door pocket of the car and when the primary equipment was inaccessible, the knife's several functions became the primary equipment. A hiking axe with an iron handle worked perfectly as an axe, hammer, and lever. Multifunctionality has its place while traveling and this is where the convenience of carrying and purpose of the tool come to play. In the end, only the products that were durable in all possible situations left a positive impression.

Moving straps, cable clips, tapes and glues
No matter how many of these you take, you'll always fall short of them on a specialised trip. I used Hydroscand's rather strong moving straps and at any given moment around a couple dozen were simultaneously in use. They were used to secure the equipment, to perform unavoidable repairs, and for a makeshift securement of the mattress (to prevent it from falling off the boxes). Cable clips and tape were indispensable when it came to unavoidable repairs. Henkel's self-amalgamating tape, which doesn't leave a layer of adhesive but forms a water-resistant and rather uniform cover, is especially good. It's a bit difficult to use in confined spaces but that's the only drawback. I also had several Henkel glues. Plastic adhesives and two-component metal and plastic-filled adhesive sticks were used most often. The only complaint would be that quite often the glues aren't packaged for light traveling.

Of course, there was a lot more equipment. Equipment that was not listed here worked fine, too. That's to be expected on a trip like this: the equipment was mostly by name brands and designed for these kinds of trips. The Top 10 was compiled of products that were of help in a critical situation or worked surprisingly well during the trip.

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seaman transformation

I decided to transport car to Europe without pontoons. Transport with pontoons was several times more expensive. As pontoons are broken, then no use of old pontoons anyhow. Closest big port for sea transport is Lima, capital of Peru.

Arrived at Lima late evening and looked for place to park car safely and spend a night. Navigation system proposed interesting campsite inside town - Lima Club Germania. At arrival, gate closed. Guards do not speak English. "No, I do not have invitation. No, they do not have campsite. Difficult to recommend hotel with parking for car of that size." Finally one of the passing quests spoke English, and soon everything arranged. Car safely at parking slot of their stadium, next to couple from France with their Jeep. Toilet and showers nearby, what else to wish.

Next morning started my search for 10x6m safe place to disassemble pontoons. Letters sent, FB posted got several replies soon. Tarmo Haud from Estonia had friend in Japan with friend in Firewheels worksop in Lima. Got letter from Ciacomo ja Santiago Podesta from Firewheels.

Wanted to pay for hosting services next morning at Club Germania. Administrator looked at me with surprise, "No, you have not to pay anything" Unbelievable hospitality! I hoped this is good sign for my Lima time.

Firewheel had huge workshop. Filled with clients car partly above each other. No place for Amphibear. Discussed with Santiago, and he proposed immediately another place out of town. Followed his bigger Toyota Land Cruiser with my Amphibear, Prado version and 40 km from Lima to my surprise we reached his mansion. Very nice one! Nice place to dismantle pontoons also.

Pontoons on ground the work begins

Firewheels lended me one pair more of helping hands. As Santiago made his hands with Amphibear dirty also, it all went quickly first day. We disconnected most of mechanical systems by the evening, also part of hydraulics disconnected.

Pontoon now free of most connections with three pair of hands. Santiago Podesta on the right.

Second day worked alone. Sad, sad! So far cancellation was just decision. Here it became the finite reality. To the evening of second day car was separated from pontoons and full of stuff.

Amphibear still there, but not functional any more.

Under driver side front leg discovered unexpected damage. Instead of crack there was real hole in pontoon.

If nothing fits, then it is just matter of next effort to fit it all. 

Next morning at Firewheels.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Titicaca genuine right

This time, explaining what kind of a vehicle we were driving and how to fill in the paperwork took quite some time on the border. Luckily, a young official took us under his wing and explained to everyone how to formalize the process of getting an amphibian car over the border in one piece.

Peru surprised us with its originality. Initially, this was not due to its heritage or scenery. All the people we saw had Indian facial features. This would not have mattered, but it made any 'gringo' stand out. The people looked more European in the southern part of Brazil. You had to really make an effort to find black or Indian people. We were used to blending in, without the car obviously.

The desert continued as a sandy one. There were some huts at the side of the road. These were empty. Agriculture is probably practiced here in the winter.

Still headed towards the mountains, towards the desertous mountains for the time being.

The greenery continued in the valleys that had split the road.

The higher up we got in the mountains, the more beautiful the nature became. Finally, the road rose as high as 4500m.

The emergence of greenery brought along animals as well.

However, the desert, which had started in Chile, continued without change for the time being. We headed towards Cusco, near Cusco is the city called Puna, from which you can get to Lake Titicaca. We did not have a lot of time, of course, since Peter's flight was nearing. Greenery appeared as we approached the mountains. We reached Lake Titicaca in the third evening, after spending our nights in dusty Peruvian towns. The lake made a shallow and boring first impression, rather than a fascinating one. In any case, there were a lot of reeds everywhere. We found out that it would not be possible to see a reed boat within an hour. It would take three hours. And one can only see them on the floating islands. So we went on the excursion.

Amphibear at Lake Titicaca. The car is obviously in the wrong position for the lake, but it had no business in the lake with a crooked frame. 

Upon arrival, a local Indian gave us the mandatory speech about the island, the boats, etc. in Spanish. In the meantime, I investigated whether the island really sways with the waves, climbing the observation tower was beneficial for this. I also went to have a look at the reed boats. Surely, the local boat experts would be willing to tie a few pontoons under the amphibian as well. But I was gravely disappointed. There was blue plastic visible underneath the first layer of reeds. I do not know what was inside the plastic, but the boats were traditional reed boats only as decorations. I touched the reeds as well, they had a very hard outer bark. The ones in Estonia are much weaker. Coaxing tourists into buying souvenirs, which were bought from elsewhere, seemed to be the main source of income for the local Indians. The tour price included a ride in a reed boat. We climbed into the boat, and immediately the village chief showed up with his motor boat, he drove it into the stern of our reed boat and the ride could begin.  It was a nice and quiet outboard motor. The traditional right to do reed side-jobs is an interesting folk tradition.

A bit of dry land and an administrative building near the floating village.

New buildings and traditional round houses. 

The view from the observation tower. The blue plastic does not just cover the boats, it is inside of them as well. 

A more recent reed boat for joy rides.

Close-up of a reed boat.

Listening to the tour guide. 

A motor boat into the stern and off for a joy ride. 

From the souvenir counter.

There is plenty of commerce, we were taken to see shops on the other side of the floating island as well.

Of course, there are more islands further on, these might be more genuine. But what else can you expect, Thor Heyerdhal made this place famous and the resulting hordes of tourists need to be addressed. At least we got to feel the reeds, see the lake and even some reed architecture. A night-time drive to Cusco was ahead as a punishment for going on a three-hour excursion.

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Nahuel Huapi

Bariloche city in Argentina is a famous holiday destination. The city is situated on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Both the road and the city follow the contours of the bay, thus dividing the city into cosy smaller sections. The Nahuel Calel National Park surrounds the lakes. The temperature resembles that of a beautiful Estonian summer: 25 degrees during the day, 16 at night. The vacation destination is so immense that a continuous stream of cars poured out as we were driving into the city on Sunday, there is a shortage of diesel as well. We were only allowed to refuel 30 litres. However, we later found out that it was possible to refuel some more elsewhere. The shortage was limited to the road to Buenos Aires. Lake Nahuel Huapi is relatively large; not as a single big body of water but more as lengthy coves. There was no wind, the water was clear and clean. Mountains with white peaks were visible from afar and there was a view of a Chilean Volcano from the end of one cove. There are a lot of lakes here and one can travel from lake to lake as far as the Chilean border, both with an amphibian and by local ferries.

Road no. 40 is picturesque and full of curves. The driver faces quite the dilemma of what to look at. In reality, the driver has to hold the camera in one hand and drive the car with the other.
Bariloche city in Argentina is a famous holiday destination. The city is situated on the shores of Lake Nahuel Huapi. Both the road and the city follow the contours of the bay, thus dividing the city into cosy smaller sections. The Nahuel Huapi National Park bears the same name as the lake. The temperature resembles that of a beautiful Estonian summer: 25 degrees during the day, 16 at night. The vacation destination is so immense that a continuous stream of cars poured out as we were driving into the city on Sunday, there is a shortage of diesel as well. We were only allowed to refuel 30 litres. However, we later found out that it was possible to refuel some more elsewhere. The shortage was limited to the road to Buenos Aires. Lake Nahuel Huapi is relatively large; not as a single big body of water but more as lengthy coves. There was no wind, the water was clear and clean. Mountains with white peaks were visible from afar and there was a view of a Chilean Volcano from the end of one cove. There are a lot of lakes here and one can travel from lake to lake as far as the Chilean border, both with an amphibian and by local ferries.
Road no. 40 is picturesque and full of curves. The driver faces quite the dilemma of what to look at. In reality, the driver has to hold the camera in one hand and drive the car with the other.

The views are breathtaking even before reaching the lakes.

While preparing the car for launching it into water, we were approached by Nico, who thought that the next lake would have too steep shores for an amphibian. He promised to get back with more details. Additionally, we were approached by a vacationing Chilean, who started off asking us questions but then spent a couple of hours answering ours. Delightful casual encounters are becoming a staple during this trip.
A perfect ramp for the Amphibear and local boatmen. Judging by the number of trailers on the shore, it seems to be a very popular place. You do not have to wait after anyone, there is plenty of room, the bottom of the lake is solid enough for a car and safe for a boat.

This is where a deep and narrow bay cove leads to Chile.

In the evening it became clear that we would not be launching the car into water due to other travel arrangements and the necessity of Internet. We searched for a local lodging house so that we could continue our journey to Chile around the lake and on the picturesque road no. 40 the next day. We spent the night at another camping site, which was covered in dust instead of grass like the adjacent camping ground. The reason for this was simple - we had run out of Argentinian pesos and neither of the campsites accepted card payments, but the dusty one was willing to wait until the morning. As usual, Amphibear was a hit around the camping ground. Unfortunately, I am not able to give coherent answers to most questions any more. I do not have enough vocabulary to convey all the information. Therefore, English speakers get all of the information and Spanish speakers continue to be informed that we are driving around the world.
Argentinian helpfulness is extraordinary. Once they found out that my pontoons were broken, they searched out a local handyman who can do anything with aluminium. What a pity that this is not enough to continue our journey.

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The End of Amphibear Journey

We have reached some of the most beautiful lakes in the world, which are situated near the Argentina-Chile border. We prepared the car to be launched into water. Here we had the opportunity to cross the border by travelling from one lake to another, as it can be done only with an amphibious car. This is the southernmost place where we planned to go and one of the highlights of the trip. I decided to check my emails once more before launching onto the water. Perhaps the Canadian pontoon manufacturer has informed us of the precise schedule of the production of pontoons.
I had indeed received an email. The email stated that they agree to manufacture pontoons only if I submit a type approval of a modified and strengthened version of the pontoon suitable for open water use. In actuality, their pontoons are meant only to be used close to the shore. Granting such an approval is impossible keeping in mind the content, the financial side and the schedule. The pontoon manufacturer is probably aware of this too. From their lengthy letter it can be deduced that they do not dare to produce and purvey the pontoons as they fear the potential liability. Obviously, I have the opposite opinion - they would be liable for leaving me stranded with broken pontoons. In order to avoid remaining too general in the eyes of supporters and followers, here are some extracts from our correspondence (names have been excluded).
Before the trip I asked the manufacturer if my pontoons would hold out, 16/10/2013:
As aluminium welding does not tolerate vibration, or repeated bending forces, some engineers have proposed it can crack as a result of repeated wave forces (develop micro cracks that later lead to a structural break in a pontoon). But practise is usually a better criteria – have you ever had these kind of issues over the years, that welding between pontoon chambers will crack eventually as the result of lengthy use of a boat?
I had previously approached them with an overview of the journey and an application for sponsorship, so they knew what was under discussion. The manufacturer's answer to my question: 16/10/2013:
In 14 years of supplying our pontoons we have never had a warranty claim on any of our pontoons and I have never heard of any structural cracks of the welds in the baffles. 
Vibration is the big enemy of aluminium welds and most of this type of damage occurs when transporting / trailering the boat or lifting the boat with a fork lift and then having it drop. For your application, I am very confident that the welded baffles will not be an issue. 
We started the specification and production planning of pontoons in the beginning of January. At first, everything went smoothly, but now we are suddenly presented with new information and a new viewpoint. Extract from an email, 15/02/2014:
Round aluminium pontoons are not meant for open water use and are only meant for use within one nautical mile from shore in open water. I know and understand that vessels that are privately owned for personal use do get used in open water conditions but it should be determined if your vessel is for private or commercial use. It might be determined it is for Commercial use. 
For a Commercial application like your application, the vessel gets evaluated under a different ISO standard.
The stricter operating conditions for commercial vessels operating in open water have to meet such restrictions as.....
~ being able to operate safely in wave heights up to 2m
~ being able to withstand wind speeds up to 33 knots for example and there are also limitations on class of voyage
Round pontoons do not meet these conditions. 
An extract from another email, 16/02/2014:
My main fear is liability against (pontoon producer name) and I understand very well what you are attempting to achieve and I respect your decision. It has nothing to do about me blaming anyone, or any project management decisions past or present and it is everything to do with moving forward safely. 
That is also another type of fear and that is fear of knowing beforehand that our round pontoons are going to be used for a Commercial application where our present round pontoons do not meet the ISO standards. You or I don't need any help from a Naval Architect or Marine Engineer to tell us that is not a good idea with regards to protecting (producer name) from liability.
Additionally, today's correspondence conveyed clearly that the experts who helped me are not considered competent and, for safety reasons, they are not willing to manufacture the pontoons on the basis of the specifications, since I have not submitted new drawings that would meet the requirements. There is no point in referencing from that email, it does not add anything here.
All in all, the manufacturer is afraid of responsibility and is not willing to purvey pontoons, unless a marine engineer has submitted drawings and thereby taken the responsibility upon themselves. Unfortunately, in Europe such type approval is the responsibility of the manufacturer and it cannot be delegated to someone else. Thus, I do not know of a way to provide the necessary documents, even though I have received qualified help when it comes to the strength calculations of the new pontoons.
It is not hard to guess how I feel when announcing that this journey will be not completed. There is a possibility that we will find an alternative manufacturer, who can make the pontoons by focusing on the content instead of the juridical aspect. We need them in Peru by the end of March. This means that there is very little time. This also means that it is unlikely to find a suitable manufacturer in the Northern hemisphere. However, I do not even know who to ask in the Southern hemisphere. Over here, the end of March might mean the end of April in some cases, and this would not work.
We decided not to go to the most beautiful lakes of the world. Although, this is why we left the old pontoons attached. But if some chance of manufacturing remains, we must have access to email, even though there might not even be any mobile reception in the mountains and on the lakes near the border. Furthermore, Peter has to be taken to Cusco in ten days for his flight, and it is necessary to start thinking of ways to somehow get Amphibear back to Estonia. And to be honest, this kind of information overshadows the beauty of these lakes.
Amphibear travelled over three continents and crossed the Atlantic from St. Louis to Praia without a hitch. It is probably the first amphibian built on a base of a conventional car to accomplish this. That is an achievement in itself, although, it makes up only a fraction of the initial plan.
This does not bring the blogging to an end as there are a couple of posts about South America waiting for their turn (i.e. availability of time and Internet access). Additionally, it is quite tricky to transport Amphibear home without the cost of an arm and a leg. Ironically, the cost of shipping Amphibear to Estonia is in the same price range as the cost of new pontoons.

I want to thank all the followers, supporters and sponsors! Without you this journey would have found its untimely ending a long time ago as it has not been easy. We have received a warm welcome in all parts of the world that we travelled through and in many cases the help received has been invaluable. Despite this, I do not believe that I will be able to embark on a similar journey, even if it would be possible to attach world class pontoons. Unless a miracle happens, this journey will be permanently halted.

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Lost and Found

The city of Maringa was just 80 km away when we started driving in the morning. We tried to locate a Toyota service outlet with the navigator to no avail. There did not seem to be one on the side of the road either. That is until we reached a roundabout where I managed to get on a new road, cross a bridge and of course, drive the wrong way. Mistakes happen. Then I made a u-turn and managed to get off the roundabout the wrong way. The navigation device got fed up with my circling and it calculated a new route. We joked that it could only be fate at play if that road led us to a Toyota service outlet. A giant Toyota service outlet appeared a minute later.

As usual, no-one initially understood what I wanted. But as usual, they soon found English speakers in addition to Google translate on the computer and it was understood what I wanted. Television and newspaper reporters were present the next day as well. Much to my delight, in addition to implementing the Toyota quality system, Nova Motors turned out to be open-minded as well. There were no extra fans - but they were quickly located in town. There was no Prado battery, but Hilux has a more powerful version over here. And everything worked. The job took a day and a half as the remodelled front end of the car had to be torn apart as well. The owners, who appeared to be Japanese, only charged us for the cost of direct materials. That was their support for the trip, similar to what I have often encountered along the way. Thank you, Nova Motors!

Amphibear now has three fans cooling its radiators. Another big one is at the back.

There should be no more starting trouble. 180Ah batteries.

We could not leave without seeing the greatest sight in Maringa - the largest church in South America. There was a beautiful view of the town from the church. Life is more peaceful around here than it is in the big cities, and to my surprise, it is completely European as well. The traffic is calm during the day and night alike. There are a lot of people in the city who are light-skinned or appear to be Japanese. Somehow everything is clean, tidy and calm. Leonardo from the car service, who could speak English, only confirmed what we had seen. When Brazil was colonised, it was the Europeans, Japanese and Chinese who came here. After all, there is a German-speaking town near by that is familiar to Estonians as well.

The church was so big that it could not fit in the picture. Kind of like a big upside-down ice cream cone. Made out of concrete.

Maringa - a pleasant city in southern Brazil. Tall buildings, not as tall as the church though.

But we got going towards Cascavel in the evening as the waterfalls awaited. Although the two hotels that we found late at night were no good, the grand Prix that we finally found had affordable prices, parking in a secure area, an air-conditioned room and a good choice of breakfast - all this made it just the right place to spend the night. 

Translated by Luisa Translation Agency

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Southern Brazil

Headed to airport cargo terminal for our long waited equipment on Monday morning. Port Logistics was also there and we started the process of waiting. I counted eight interactions in total with officials. Luckily, with help of Bianca and Andre officials were friendly. They accepted my list of used equipment with marginal prices and calculated the fee smaller than expected. At 15:00 we had our stuff and just stacked it into the car to a big pile. Started our drive out of Rio, coastal road towards Sao Paolo. Rio treated us for good-bye yet another 39 Celsius in the suburb.

Coastal road offers nice views and lower temperatures.

For motorcycle travelers this is the road to go. Curvy, good asphalt, and not obscured views to the bays and sea. Every next bay offers something new, either pretty yacht harbor or ship dock or factory or just beach. Temperature was moderate 28-32 Celsius. Our goal was to find nice camping to lay our equipment around the car and re-pack it sensibly in again. Close to Paraty we found the campsite. In rural village, surrounded with horses one side goose the other and chickens the third. As Peeter said: "I met a horse on the street. It was followed by a barking dog. There was nobody else. This is real countryside" We were only visitors in campsite, so it was excellent place for our re-packing, finalized next day afternoon.

Cozy campsite with no other car than Amphibear.

Now we had courage to set our destination to a distance. So we set it to Foz city, close to Iguacu Falls. To our surprise GPS guided us not back but ahead of small village road. Road headed to hills. Car started to overheat. Air conditioning stopped working. Then asphalt road ended and gravel continued. Then gravel ended and pure rocks and holes continued. And then road construction on the way. But roadside with most diverse jungle we have seen so far. After every few kilometers we stopped to let the car cool down a bit. And then waiting two times for road builders to free the road. Good for the overheated engine and gearbox but bad for our planned distances. Finally at the top of coastal mountains height was 1500 m and temperature was welcomed 24 Celsius. Landscape offered pleasant views to forests and farms.

Waiting for road did take some time, but was useful to cool the engine

Views across the mountains were pleasant and restful

To overheating problem there was added strange noise from front right wheel. Roadside under the car crawling's did not resolve this tingle-tangle. As late afternoon already we decided to look for campsite for repairing the front wheel. By roadside sign we found one. Road to it was more like old riverbed and campsite gate too low for Amphibear. No problem, the host dug out part of fence and we drove in. If last place was rural village, then this one was pure nature. We stopped between ponds and frog concert for free for all night. Car repair was simple, just loose wheel-cap inside of cover cap. For variety I slept in car, but temperature 32 was too much for comfortable sleep, so I listened to the frogs.

Ainsad külastajad ka siin. Tiigi ääres põnev õhtune kontsert - konnade poolt.
Only visitors here also. Free entertainment by ensemble "Frogs and Frogs"

Looking at odometer in the morning realized that this way Brazil distances will not be quickly.
Headed on to Rio De Janeiro - Sao Paulo highway. Road and roadside were continuously nice until highway. Highway, as they are all over the world - fast and boring. Reached Sao Paulo and had idea to find Toyota service there. After tens of wrong turns in city we had new idea to find it in some smaller place. Sao Paulo is just too big metropolis to find anything quickly. Headed on inland of Brazil. Brazil agriculture started. Only fields, few gasoline stations and nothing more. At evening the GPS suggested closest hotel in 250 kilometers. So did take our driving in darkness. Finally found nice hotel next to Londrina. Name Solarium did met our expectations in heat of 35-37, but hotel did. Nice air-conditioned and with fast internet.

Straight road to horizon. Not Argentina yet, Brazilian agriculture instead.

Follow the Sun, in case you circumnavigate from east to west.

Hendrik Ross form design bureau Aramet OÜ, did strength calculations for pontoons and some important design changes are planned, as I need to keep the weight, but get much stronger pontoons. Voluntary help without any fee as Amphibear has met so many times. Without this kind of help the journey would be much more difficult. Than you Henrik Ross, Mihkel Güsson and all the rest for your work for Amphibear!