June 29, 2009 GMT

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?

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To communicate important questions like, can you fix the bike; how long will it take; can we ship our bikes from here; can you recommend a logistics agent; etc, etc, we need a translator. Up steps Danielle Zubeu, Euroville receptionist and totally fluent in Portuguese and English. As a young girl she spent several years in the USA. Over the next week we utilize the translation skills of this intelligent and personable woman a number of times. Thank you Danielle, estamos muito obrigado a vocês.

Chicitita is ready the next morning. Good news but not as good as what Cassius Nunes, Gerente Comercial, tells us next. He confirms, much to our delight, that yes, Euroville can crate and ready our bikes as air cargo; and yes, he can introduce us to a local shipping agent. Cassius recommends we come back in a couple of days to start the process. In the meantime, why don't we check out nearby Ouro Preto? Only 2 hours drive away, the former capital of the state of Minas Gerais is famous for its baroque architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We agree it's a must-see. For our excellent time there, see blog chapter, "Ouro Preto, City of Black Gold".

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When we return, an email awaits with the shipping quote. We accept. Euroville mechanics Eduardo Lacerda and Rodrigo Marinho begin preparing Katie and the Bumblebee (aka Chicitita) for shipping. Bikes are washed within an inch of their lives. Windshields and mirrors are removed, handlebars rotated downward to minimize height. Since used motorcycles are classified as dangerous goods, batteries must be disconnected, fuel completely drained and all aerosol products removed from luggage. Out goes my cans of WD-40 and Pledge. Katie's shocks are compressed to minimum height then tiedown straps are solidly cinched down to secure bike to crate. When the lid is closed and the crate is double strapped, Katie is safer than money in a Scot's pocket.

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Under the direction of Cassius, even our personal To Do Items are taken care of. Marcos Prado, partsman, (see photo above, steadying the tail of the Bumblebee) acts as our guide and guard as we run around Belo Horizonte collecting shipping documents, cash money, and getting verification that our identity documents and Brasil entry papers are valid/authentic, as well as assisting us complete other mysteriously redundant Government requirements.

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Just a few days ago a brand new BMW 1200GS sat in this crate on its journey from Germany to Brazil. Now a 2004 KTM 950 sits ready to go from Brasil to the USA. The crate, light yet strong, measures 102 cm W x 113.5 cm H x 227 cm L. Euroville BMW charges us a very reasonable amount to prepare and crate the bikes. When the next lid goes on the Bumblebee's crate we are locked and loaded.

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By brute force, we hand load the two crates onto a flat deck truck. As dead weight the crates are 340 kg and 300 kg respectively. As air cargo, each crated bike adds up to a dimension weight of "403.5 Kg". It's a number that, utilizing a formula combining both size and weight, represents the chargeable value. Ciro Fonseca, our freight forwarder agent from CFSA Servicos Aduaneiros Ltda, informs us the first quote was too low as it didn't account for the bikes being dangerous goods. The new quote is USD $4785 for both bikes to travel from Belo Horizonte via truck to Sao Paulo and thence by American Airlines to Dallas. Plus 930 Brasilian Reais for the services of his company to act as our agent. Wow, that's a hell of a chargeable value. But the thought of riding 3000 kilometres back to Buenos Aires to the next best departure point, especially with winter coming on in Argentina, is even less attractive. We clarify details with Ciro with the help of Danielle, then start collecting additional cash at every ATM in Belo Horizonte that will accept our bank cards.

Sérgio Machado, Service Manager for the BMW automobile side of things, fluent in English as well, helps communicate technical details accurately between Cassius and ourselves. Like everyone else we met at Euroville BMW, Sérgio is an intelligent, interesting, down-to-earth person with a genuine friendliness so typically Brasilian. It should be noted this team of customer service experts is headed by Marlus Pires, Gerente Geral (general manager) of Euroville BMW, who, we noticed more than once, leads by example and walks the talk.

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Although every person we meet in Euroville BMW gives their time generously, our true champion is the man above, Cassius Nunes. A longtime bike enthusiast himself, Cassius has won top honors as the best in Brasil for motocross more than once. With piercing green eyes, a tireless energy and a charming personality that Joyce describes as "dangerous", Cassius helps us accomplish things we didn't even know we needed to do. Often he is on two cell phones at once and talking face to face with one of his staff at the same time, but never once did we see him lose the plot. No wonder he won those tough motocross races so often. His broken English is 10 times better than my Portuguese but there is no mistaking his command of the situation.

Nine days after our Ah-Hah Moment in Euroville BMW we are climbing out of Rio de Janeiro on American Airlines Flight 904 on an overnighter to Miami. Waiting in Dallas, our final stop, are our very good friends, the Martsolfs. Little did we all know we would be four weeks (!!) in their lovely home waiting for our bikes to arrive from Brazil. Lucky for us Rick and Paulette are as easy going as they are generous.

What made us exit Brazil a month early? Well, mostly it was a matter of travel weariness and more month than money. Brasil, lovely as both the country and its people are, is more expensive than we anticipated.

Looking back, our original plan was to ride from Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of South America, up the graveled Ruta 40 and the Carretera Austral to Mendoza, then pavement to Salta in northern Argentina and maybe further north to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia. We would travel the full length of Brazil, taking a ferry up the Amazon to Manaus, and end our trip in Caracas, Venezuela. One end of South America to the other.

But we also knew once we started traveling adapting to unexpected obstacles was key to both our safety and sanity. As General Dwight D. Eisenhower said, "In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." And obstacles we did indeed encounter that made our plans all but useless. The resulting journey is the one you have read. But as Joyce reminds me, never once did we feel in danger and our journey was much easier than she had anticipated. I enjoyed it too. Although I found it significantly more expensive than my trip in 2006, South America continues to be a best kept secret for travelers.

Now we are back on the most fortunate continent in the world. And we have returned healthy and happy puppies. Here our blog ends. Even though we have another 3000 kms planned before arriving home in Calgary, the remainer of our wee adventure is just another vacation. Thank you for reading our story and sending us emails. For the last six months your words of support have comforted us as if you had been traveling with us in person. To our friends, both new and old, estamos muito obrigado a vocês (we are much obliged to you).

Posted by Murray Castle at June 29, 2009 11:29 PM GMT

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