September, 25, 2009. Belen, Argentina.
TUCAN'S, CAPIBARA'S AND THE ABRA DEL ACAY.
On the long way to the Panatanal we drove through farmland and we didn't see anything interesting for days, only the Brazilian version of Ayers Rock and some strange birds who must have been roll models for John Cleese's department of silly walks.
It was still very hot and Andy's helmet smelled like a hamster cage.
We saw enormous grain fields which make some people very rich, the workers, the poor people, where living next to the road in buildings made from cardboard and plastic. No water, no toilets.
The exhaust mounting broke again and we asked at a garage for some wire. A car stopped, some Indigenous people asked for money. I refused, they were fat, driving a car, smoking cigarettes. No dignity.
In Aragarcas we found a place where they welded the frame bracket that holds the exhaust. It cost us a fortune, but they did it with a great smile.
Again endless fields with corn, soya and just cut cotton. Andy is complaining about a sore throat, his back hurts and he thinks he is going to die.
For nine days we drive through this boring landscape and the traffic is building up towards Cuiaba. For dinner we eat each half of a cake that collapses in a thousand pieces on our lap and for desert we have a vitamin pill.
We are looking forwards to see the Pantanal's wildlife and hopefully it will be not to touristic.
In Pocone we stayed in a noisy hotel where I knocked out a fire fly, it glowed still for a long time.
The ride over the Transpantaneira into the Pantanal, over more than a hundred wooden bridges, was fantastic, birds everywhere....storks, herons, tucan's, parrots and many more, a real bird paradise with pink trees.
We were fascinated by the bubbles in the pools , they turned out to be fish. The pools were also full of frogs or Cayman crocodiles. They were size extra large and there were thousands of them hunting in the water or taking a sun bath next to the track, so they were only a few meters away from the bike and us. Salamanders, capibara's ( they look like ultra fat Ginny pigs with a big bum) with young ones and howler monkeys were around, snakes as well. One moved sidewards very fast.
We camped behind the Jaguar Lodge, we could not afford to stay inside, only breakfast costs a third of our daily budget. But we could use the toilet and they were happy to see us. Rich tourists stayed inside and were flew in from the nearest air strip. They drunk cocktails in the evening, but at the end of the day we all got bitten horrendously by the mosquito's, they even bit through our cloths.
In our tent we could see the stars, I saw a falling star, did a wish, but it turned out to be a fire fly. At night it was never quiet, birds and monkeys were having a party.
Very early in the morning a little bird sat on a pole, it had a whole orchestra in it. We saw some very rear big purple parrots and small green ones, aggapornisses they are called, they can't sing, they just scream all the time.
Just outside the Pantanal is a nice place to stay. Andy fitted new chain sprockets and a chain in the garage in town. The woman of the owner showed me her house, it was very big, full of religious stuff and pictures of the family. It also had a special room where people with alcohol and drug problems could gather once a week, she explained to me how it works. Interesting for me because I use to work with people with these problems in Holland.
Then she took me to the neighbor. In a rocking chair was sitting a very, very old lady. She was white, unusual for this area, her hair was Grey and long and bound together on top of her head. I could see that people were taking very good care of her. There was no fat on her body anymore, her hands were the most bony and fragile I have ever seen. And then I discovered that she couldn't see me, she was blind , so I started to talk to her in my two words of Portuguese and she took my hand and was holding it for a long time. She smiled all the time and all I felt was peace and later on I was so impressed by her age, 97 she was. I have never seen so much beauty in this age.
Our last days in Brazil were not much fun, we were riding through flat fields that remind me of the polders in Holland, boring. Our sidecar is to attractive, people were trying to make pictures while they were driving far to close behind us, that happened to often.
One morning, we were just on the road, we got a flat tyre. Luckily we were driving not fast at all, but we had to repair it in an awkward place. People stopped to take pictures....and then Marcelo stopped his bike and offered us his help. He even got us a cold drink, that made our day!
Muchas obrigado Marcelo!!!!!
That night we stayed in a lovely love hotel, it even had a couch and a table and chairs, very comfortable. We didn't need the mirror above our bed, but it was not in the way. Outside a thunder and lightning storm went on all night.
All the way to the border we had rain. To check out of Brazil was weird, you have to find the Police station first, which is in town. It was Sunday and the officer was sleeping, so we had to come back twice. We had to stay in town, Punta Pura, because the Aduana at the Paraguayan side was closed. The next day we found out that we didn't had to go there anyway. In Paraguay you don't need to arrange a temporary import paper for the bike. Very strange, because you need it in every other country. In case we would have a problem, we got a card with the name of the border office boss.
In the room I colored my hair and I changed in 45 minutes from a Red head into a Burgundy Brown one, because I didn't understand the Portuguese on the package.
Paraguay is different, more hills and rocks, very clean farms, good roads with almost no traffic. We got stopped by the police and after they had checked the paperwork Andy started the bike with a BIG bang. The police officer jumped in the air and everybody around us had to laugh.
I feel suddenly very rich. 120.0000 Guarani's is worth 12 Pounds. The wallet can't take it all.
The heat is gone, it's much colder now and we have more wind. Once Andy was peeing against the wind and afterwards he wanted to rub his body against mine. Nice boy friend!
There are not many people in Paraguay, due to a war in 1860 that killed a big part of it's population.
There are about 6 million people living here, most of them live in a few big cities.
We visited some bike shops in Asunción, found some really wanted oil filters in a shop. And we got invited to a paella, organized by the members of the Tekoreis bike club. That was very nice !!!!
Patricio from the Horizons community in Asuncion asked us to put his email address on this site in case biker travelers want to contact him: firstname.lastname@example.org
We found tyres with help from the owner of the hotel, he took us in his car to some shops. That was great, especially because Andy's back was playing up.
The border offices of Paraguay and Argentina are both just over a bridge. You are already in Argentina then. An officer had to inspect the in and outside of our bike, but he was so homesick and soft that that didn't happen. My words 'You can check everything as long you let us into Argentina', were not necessary at all.
It's great to be back into Argentina, we immediately recognized the Argentinian way of driving, we love empanadas, the meat of course and the Argentine smiles...
We camped a few nights, once in a field and luckily it didn't rain. We drove over a long straight road with lots of dust towards Salta and found a hotel in town. We did some luxury shopping and the highlight for me was a haircut, which I hadn't had for over a year.
We saw demonstrations in town while we were washing the bike and moved to the camping municipal. That one was overcrowded already, there would be a rock concert in the arena behind us the next night. We were discussing what to do when Andy discovered a travel vehicle....with Anja and Bennie from Belgium. And while the toilets were overflowing already, fire works were going on and loud rock music was playing during the night, we had a very pleasant evening. Together we planned to meet again at a camp site in Cachi.
The road to Cachi showed lots of colorful hills, great scenary, we loved it.
On the campsite Anja and Bennie cooked our first assado, it was super. Bennie explained to Andy how a new map system for our GPS is working and we found already out that it's 'spot on'.
We had loads of things to talk about and especially for me it was so nice to talk to a nice girl!
Then we drove North and they went South. We hope we will meet again, great company they were.
The next morning we followed route 40, which is extremely colorful. Than we hit a pass called Abra del Acay. By that time the wind was very strong. The pass is almost 5000 meters high....oops. It's hard work to get the bike over this pass. I had to jump off the bike and push it up the mountains several times and then I have to walk all the way uphill to catch Andy again. The altitude is very high, The air very thin. My heart was beating twice as fast as normal. I got overheated in my bike cloths, my legs went everywhere from exhaustion. We both had headaches.
The wind is very strong an at one point a dust devil is coming towards us, it's trying to lift the whole sidecar up. It takes only a few seconds, but it feels like if a big fat monster wants to throw us off the cliff. Finally we reach the top and I am screaming 'Well done Berwick!', but he can't hear me, the wind is howling.
All the way up and at the pass the looks are stunning. A lot of work to get there, but it was worth it.
In a very dusty mining town, called San Antonio de Los Cobres, we stay inside. The next morning we both feel like somebody has beaten us up. Everything hurts. Our faces are red from the sun, our skin feels like leather.
We want to go west and then south again, following a track though mountains and over another bloody pass. Then we follow route 40 for a while while we are traveling to San Rafael, to meet our friends John and Annette.
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