July 02, 2003 GMT
Waiting in Sao Paulo

After 10 days, Florianopolis had had enough of us and let us go. We left our many new friends and rode to Blumenau, famous for being the centre of German culture in Brazil and for holding the second biggest Oktoberfest in the world. Staying in Hotel Hermann, near the centre, we spent a day wandering around the very German looking city. As before though, the lack of German speakers was a disappointment - only in the Brewery Museum were we in luck.

The towns and villages surrounding Blumenau were much more like Germany, nestled in the rolling hills, the small town of Pomerode especially. This was probably the only town in Brazil to be supporting Germany in the last world cup final!


Pomerode, still keeping the German traditions alive

The ride to São Paulo was interesting but dangerous, the 3 lane road wound through the mountains, clogged with lines of slow moving trucks. Overtaking was a gamble, lines in the road were ignored, the crazy had priority. Hate to ride this road in the week, we chose a Sunday to ride into the city as it has proved in the past to be less stressful and much quieter.

Once inside the city itself, we stopped at a fuel station to get our bearings and directions. We got into conversation with a customer there and he phoned the hostel for us to get directions. After more chat, he offered to take us to there, wow – saving us about 3 hours of frustrated city riding! So after 20 mins or so, we were checked in and the bikes safely off the street.

We had planned to ride around São Paulo, so much for planning! After 10 days we were still there, almost a permanent fixture at the hostel. Why the change of heart, is the city really so interesting? Well, no actually, we were stuck waiting for the guys at Pirelli/Metzeler to come up with 2 sets of tyres.

One rainy day, the email came with the address of where we had to ride to pick up our tyres, it was a good distance north of the city and proved tricky to find, being up a muddy dirt track. Only Arno was allowed past the gate, I was relegated to the waiting room! One day I would like to travel with another woman – that would stump them! Arno had to have his bike weighed as he drove in and before leaving, no doubt to make sure he didn’t secrete any extra tyres under his jacket or in a pannier. It took some time, but we left a couple of hours later with the right tyres and the right sizes.
It was still raining and getting late as we rode back into São Paulo, the traffic was terrible, several accidents adding to the chaos. We scrapped plans to ride down to Santos and checked back into the hostel – the staff no doubt thinking that they were never going to get shot of us and our bikes.

The road between Santos and Rio is supposed to be one of the best coastal roads in South America, not when its raining and misty though, we gave up at the village of Boicucanga, and checked into a hotel to dry off.
The road, when the rain stopped, was nice to ride, most of the time high above to ocean and gave spectacular views over secluded bays and the islands lying off them. There were some blots on the landscape, the town of Caraguatatuba, the nuclear power plant at Itaorna and the oil tankers at Angra dos Reis.


Riding the Emerald Coast towards Rio

The ride into Rio was surprisingly easy, we had been warned of terrible driving and a lack of road signs, but we found our way with no problem and only a couple of near misses. We passed by the beach at Copacabana and we couldn’t resist parking the bikes and taking a few photos of the famous strip!


Posing at Copacabana with our new tyres

The bikes securely parked, it was back to public transport to see the city.


Bikes parked at El Misti hostel in Rio


Rio by night, the Sugar Loaf above Botafogo beach

We did get the bikes out a couple of times though, once to ride up to and around the Corcovada, the hill where the statue of Christ stands, where the views over the city were amazing.


Looking out over Rio, Corcovada to the left, Sugar Loaf the hump in the middle.

The second time we rode to Petropolis and Teresopolis for the day with a Harley rider we met at Ipanema beach. It was fun riding with a local rider and as his bike caused more interest than ours we could relax a little more than usual.

After a week in Rio, it was time to head to the beach at Cabo Frio, where there just happened to be a bike meeting happening, should be an interesting experience!

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 01:00 AM GMT
July 31, 2003 GMT
Mud, glorious mud.

Trikes and choppers, street bikes, dirt bikes, self-made bikes, madmax bikes, mopeds and even the odd sidecar combi. Thousands of bikes of every imaginable sort were lined up along the beachfront at Cabo Frio, for the annual Bikefest, including ours of course! With our sets of spare tyres perched on top of all the luggage, we sort of stood out a little, and once people spotted the funny looking number plate, they just had to ask!


The tyres were centre of attention

By Sunday, our throats were sore with answering all the questions, but we had had a wonderful weekend, met lots of other riders and been invited to another dozen meetings. We also met another traveller, Antonis from Cyprus, he had plans to go up to the Amazon, but maybe our paths will cross again later in the year.

Paulo and Josane from Campos, invited us to ride back with them and spend the night at their place. We took our time and spent the afternoon riding along the coast, stopping at some of the beaches and small towns. It was dark by the time we got onto the main highway and it was a scary 90 minute ride to the outskirts of the city. After 2 months here in Brazil, I am still surprised how friendly and welcoming the people are to Viajeros, when was the last time a perfect stranger invited you to stay in their home? A rare occurrence in Europe for sure. Riding a motorcycle makes a big difference though, it opens many doors that would otherwise stay closed.

A few days later we were at the beach again. After the busy Bikefest weekend, it was time to relax, we ended up in the small seaside town of Conceicão de Barra just north of Vitória. It was a quiet little place, perfect to unwind for a day or two, the highlight of the day; watching the sun set over the fishing boats in little harbour.

We did manage to tear ourselves away long enough to visit the huge sand dunes at Itaúnas, a dirt ride away. You’re not allowed to ride on them, much to Arno's disappointment, but spectacular nonetheless.

Riding inland once again, we took the smallest roads, many of them dirt, taking us through small villages and the mountain roads. There were many mines and quarries to be seen in this area, and we met many trucks taking huge chunks of stone to factories further afield.


The trucks had to use these bridges too!

The colonial mining towns of Ouro Preto, Tiradentes and São João del Rei kept us busy for a few days, on our way towards Bolivia and in Campo Grande, we did some maintenance on the bikes and put on the new tyres.
West of Campo Grande is the area known as the Pantanal, a huge wetland that is full of wildlife. A dirt road branches off into the Pantanal from the main road to Corumbá and we decided to use this and do some of our own exploration instead of taking a tour.

The paved road from Campo Grande to Corumbá skirts the lower part of the wetland and, after passing through the town of Miranda, the wildlife began to appear. Jacarés (a medium sized crocodile) were basking in the sun on the edges of waterholes and the amount of bird life increased dramatically. We got to the turn off to Passeo do Lontra at the same time as one of the tours, they had spent 3 days in the Pantanal. We chatted to the guides and asked about the roads and the ferry across the Rio Negro. We had been told various tales, but they said that the ferry was running, despite the higher than normal water levels and that the road was a little muddy after the recent rains.

The road was indeed pretty dry and it was fun, riding around the mud holes, glimpsing various wildlife. At Passeo do Lontra, we stopped to get a few extra litres of fuel, the sun was beginning to redden, so tempting as it was to keep riding, we decided to stop at the campsite there. A good decision, we later found. The campsite was part of a hotel complex, all suspended on wooden walkways above the swampy ground, even the camping area was a wooden platform. As we carried our stuff across the bridge – no bikes allowed! – the wildlife was also preparing for the night, not exactly peacefully either.
Capybaras were snuffling in the swamp, birds were twittering in the eaves, monkeys were chattering in the trees above our tent and of course the mossies were making their presence felt.

The next morning we were up early, along with all the other local inhabitants. The birds came for their morning feed and the monkeys, still above our tent completed their morning grooming and crapping rituals. Lesson learned; never camp under a troop of monkeys!!

We made an early start, hoping to be at Porto Manga and the ferry by late morning, the road however had other ideas. It lay much lower than before and so was wetter and muddier, in most places there was a dryish track to ride on but at times water covered the road and there were a few long stretches of mud to negotiate.


This isn’t going to go any longer is it?

Now mud and my bike don’t get along that well and I am the one that ends up on the floor, only twice today though, it could have been a lot more!!


A little frustrated?

The compensation however, was the wildlife, hundreds of Jacarés, a couple of deer, lots of capybaras (a strange dog sized aquatic guinea pig), thousands of birds and my favourite, the giant anteater, who was strolling along the side of the road.


Capybaras look on as Arno slithers through

We reaches Porto Manga around lunch time to find the ferry waiting to leave, what good timing! Just had to manoeuvre the bikes up a temporary gravel ramp and we were across the swollen Rio Negro in no time. The road didn’t get any better and we slithered our way through the mud for the rest of the afternoon until the road took us back to tarmac just before Corumbá our last stop in Brazil.

Posted by Sian Mackenzie at 12:18 AM GMT

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