We leave Colonia in a steady drizzle. The forecast for the next three days is rain but we must move on. Autumn is creeping up from the south, inching northward day by day like the cold black shadows of sunset. Our plan, now that cruel autumn is showing her real colours, is to follow the coastline of Uruguay east and north and enter Brazil at Chuy.
After an hour of formalities at the Uruguay/Brazil border at Chui, we are on our way in another new country. We ride through lowlands heavily saturated with standing water full of standing cows. Our first night in Brasil is in the city of Rio Grande. Hey, that´s the same name as the city we spent our first night in Argentina, only that Rio Grande on Tierra del Fuego is half a continent away from here.
Brazilians, we discover, are just as helpful, curious and friendly as their Spanish counterparts. But in daily communication it´s a different story. The Portuguese language, although similar in writing to Spanish, when spoken is entirely incomprehensible to me. Case in point. After finding a place to stay for the night, Katie and I head downtown to the Banco do Brasil for an ATM. I can read the street signs but when I ask for directions (in my kindergarten Spanish, because it is my only hope) I get back a blur of Incomprehenseguese. Seems they can understand me but I haven´t a clue in return.MORE...
Leaving Pato Branco in scattered rain showers, we press on westward to one of the world's greatest natural wonders, Foz do Iguaçu. Located well away from well known large cities like Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro or Asunción, this corner of the world is literally that, with the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meeting here.
Meeting here too is the Rio Iguaçu, after wandering westwards for 600km, with a three kilometre wide escarpment. The result are 275 individual falls, averaging from 60m to 87m in height, making the whole spectacle wider than Victoria, higher than Niagara and to our mind, grander than either.
A side trip to Ouro Prêto, about 100 kilometres south east of Belo Horizonte, turns out to be one of our best diversions. Even the ride down is fun. For two hours, Katie and the Bumblebee thrive on the curvy mountain roads of Serra do Espinhaço as we head southeast to the old colonial city.
Ouro Prêto, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was capital of the state of Minas Gerais from 1822 until 1897, when the needs of government outgrew this opulent berg wedged in a narrow valley. We approach the city by angling down a mountainside, arriving just above the city centre. We stop and look down. From here it looks like 90% of the streets are black diamond runs made from cobblestone. Tightly packed tile-roofed buildings, like an over-eager crowd, squeeze in too closely both sides of the streets. Motorcycles and cobblestones are not friends. Cobblestone, especially made from soapstone, and rain are not friends. We could have fun getting back out of here.
Sometimes, well OK, on rare occasion, an innocent event provides an unexpected Ah-Hah Moment. Our innocent event starts out as a need to repair the steering head bearing and ignition circuit on the Chicitita. An internet search reveals a BMW dealer in Belo Horizonte. In two days we are there. Luckily, like looking for a needle in a haystack, in this case a haystack of three million people, we find Euroville BMW on first try. No sooner have we explained the mechanical problems to attentive staff than boom, the Chicitita is wheeled into the shop, up on the mechanic's lift and being fixed. We get an immediate good feeling about this BMW auto and bike dealership and the folks here.
The Ah-Hah! moment arrives with two new BMW motorcycles from the factory. Still in their crates, the new bikes pass by as we stand visiting in the shop. We think, hey, those are good crates....we want to ship our bikes to Texas soon - hey, wonder if we could crate and ship our bikes right here from Euroville?MORE...
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