April 2009 Update
Delaying our departure from Rocha was the correct decision with a clear blue sky greeting us early in the morning. Hotel Arrarte included a light breakfast in the price and after a quick pack we were on the road early. The Southern Atlantic coastline of Uruguay shares a lot with the Pacific on Australian shores although the prolific predatorial wildlife of the Australian waters is not present here. We visited several beaches in the region including La Paloma, Costa Azul, La Predera and Punta del Diablo. The beaches were very quiet despite having excellent surf and a lot of the businesses were also closed. While enjoying a lunch of fresh fish at Punta del Diablo the weather decided to do a U turn and a very strong wind began moving some very dark overweight clouds in our direction. A few photos and a hasty departure we headed back to La Aguada Campground at Costa Azul. The choice of places to camp was not limited with the grounds having hundreds of available sites and only two occupied. Such are the extremes of the tourist industry in South America. I can only visualize what the grounds would be like over the Christmas New Year period and we were even a little surprised the grounds were open as in Argentina and Chile most of these types of facilities would have closed. Our host was very helpful and while doing a little internet in the reception another two travelers (backpackers) arrived to swell the numbers.
Hotel Arrarte in Rocha
Inside this grand old hotel
Black clouds at Punta del Diablo
Punta del Diablo
Don’t fall Ken!!
Our small loop to the north of Uruguay was almost over as we headed back to Montevideo. Carlos extended his hospitality once again inviting us to stay until we completed a quick check of the bike. It was rattling a bit more than usual!! We spent a relaxing few days with Carlos, Leo and a few friends while attending to bike maintenance. All went well with the barrel studs still holding, but we discovered a slow puncture in the rear tyre, Leo was quick to assist and had it repaired in no time at all. Our plan to head north and camp along the beaches was postponed when Carlos informed us the roads and holiday accommodation would be extremely busy as it was Easter. Sounds just like home and we heed his recommendation to stay a little longer and head off after Easter.
Our camping site at Costa Azul
Another asado with Leo and Carlos
Carlos and Gilson
The beach at Atlantida
Leo landed a job with an Australian Motorcycle tour company as a back up driver and rode back to Buenos Aires to take up the position. Not long after he left Gilson (Yamaha XT660R) from Brazil arrived. We spend plenty of time trying to communicate with everyone. Fortunately both Carlos and Gilson speak Portuguese and Spanish. We speak neither but some where in between a few English words get padded around and we all have a good laugh. Gilson was looking for tyres before heading to a bike rally in Mercedes. He departs asking us to visit him in Santo Angelo, Brazil. It was very difficult to leave Carlos and his easy life style on the beach and really appreciated his hospitality. The road to Brazil was waiting however and our farewells were made with assurances we would return one day.
A family of capaburras
Lets hope the croc is not hungry!!
Due to our slow traveling pace we decide to skip the beach camping plan and head to Chuy/Chui on the border with Brazil and begin our journey north. Chuy was a typical border town bustling with people, street vendors and vehicles. Advertisements for hotels dotted the streets so we followed a couple of signs away from the centre and booked into Hotel Bianca. Secure parking and a type of dining room come kitchen with stove and refrigerator helped us organize an early breakfast.
With Laureano and Andre at the oldest coffee shop in Pelotas
The border crossing and welcome to Brazil could not have been more pleasant. Our documents to leave Argentina were processed quickly and on the Brazilian side one of the Aduana (customs) officers spoke English and offered assistance with sights to see in the first state of Rio Grande do Sul. Although all the official paperwork only took 20 to 30 minutes the time spent there was closer to two hours.
The old jetty at Praia do Laranjal
Heading north on the BR471 advices from our Aduane translator could not have been more wrong. The anticipated boring road turned into a fauna smorgasbord with abundant birdlife, numerous families of capaburra and crocodiles. Needless to say this slowed us down with the number of photos taken. Prior to arriving at Pelotas we had been in email contact with a friend of a friend. Laureano, a keen traveler and motorcyclist who owned a Photographic Shop/Business in the city. Despite the one way streets and detours we located his shop. What luck when we met up with Laureano’s brother, Andre. Andre lived in the UK for some years and spoke perfect English. We were concerned as our email contact with Laureano was helped significantly by a computer translator and our Portuguese had yet to be developed to the communication stage. Portuguese is very different to Spanish.
Charqueada Sao Joao Museum
Andre did a great job of translating for us
The hand of Brazilian hospitality was extended to us in Pelotas and the next few days were spent busily sight seeing, snapping photos, eating, and trying to learn Portuguese. Laureano could only join us in the evenings due to his very busy work schedule but he certainly knew the good food places to share with us. The waist line is going to be a problem here. The huge fresh water lakes impressed us although a walk on the jetty on Praia do Laranjal had Carol feeling a little shaky. Pelotas is famous for its sweets, most of which prepared from traditional 18th century recipes and a festival (Fenadoce) is held every year to indulge the huge varieties they make. Another highlight was an old house (“Sao Joao” or St John) turned museum where charque (dried salted beef) was produced many years ago. Also, a prospering local Pharmacy has started an excellent museum (Memorial Farmacia Natura) collecting items showing the growth of drug laboratories and attached industries in Pelotas.
Maybe this could be our next touring vehicle!!!
Andre and his mother Nair Almeida showed us great hospitality in Pelotas
Sharing the house with Andre’s mother and grandmother we were thoroughly spoilt. The house was around 100 years old but needed a little restoration. Pity our visa was so short we could have offered some help. We also met Andre’s neighbour who was a trike enthusiast. Now there’s an interesting mode of transport!!!
Our first churrascaria (BBQ) in Brazil
The traditional dancing was great
It is very difficult to leave places when we are having such a good time but the road beckons and we ride the short distance to Sapucaia do Sul which is a city bordering Porto Alegre. An arranged rendezvous we meet up with Fagundes and Luciane along the highway. We had the good fortune to meet this couple in Salinas Grandes, Argentina when they were doing the normal Brazilian ‘mammoth’ ride, five countries in 30 days and almost 10,000 kms. They had previously done the Ushuaia/Chile ride, 15,000 kms in 30 days!!! In our travels in South America we have met several Brazilian riders attempting huge distances in a very short time which is in such contrast to our life style.
The stony road to the canyon
At the canyon with Fagundes and Luciane
After numerous emails with them since our first meeting it was great to finally meet up again. They throw open their casa (house) to us and the talking begins. Fagundes apologizes for his English but it is far better than our Portuguese or Spanish. Luciane relied a lot on Fagundes for translations but when alone she managed just fine with her English and gave us numerous Portuguese lessons. Obrigado(a). That night we were taken to a great Churrascaria, our first in Brazil. Churrascaria CTG35 had live music and dancing. The food was superb and the show fantastic. Rio Grande do Sul is the Gaucho state and its history, music and food are dominated by these phenomena. It was a long weekend (four days) and our hosts were keen to take us into the surrounds of Porto Alegre for some sight seeing so we chased the Super Tenere into the mountains enjoying the ride and Carol enjoying a holiday from navigating.
The road out of the canyon was just as stony as the road in, this is a good bit!
On the way down
Flat tyre and both our pumps would not work
Taquara, Sao Francisco de Paula, Cambara do Sul then a very rough stony 20 kms to the Canyon Itaimbenzinho in the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra. We were a bit concerned as our tyres were more street orientated and a little thin. We survived the ride then walked a few kms to view the spectacular canyon. We took way too many photos then rode the remaining 20 kms out of the park however around 5 kms from the end of the dirt the rear tyre let the air out. Patched tubes with ‘slime’ do not hold we found out and it was dark before we left our unplanned stop. For the second time on our world travels both our pumps failed so it was our hosts small hand pump that brought our tyre back to life. Our destination of Torres was not too far and the distance was covered quickly.
Night shot at Torres
Some of the members of the XT600 Club
With Cristo, Luciane and Fagundes on the beach at Torres
We pitched our tent amongst the members of the XT600 Club, friends of Fagundes and Luciane. They do not have camping gear so enjoyed the luxury of a cabin. When we crossed the border at Chuy/Chui our enquiries had pinpointed the dates of a hot air balloon festival in Torres so arriving here when this was happening was an added bonus. The next day was a bit of a loss as wind and rain curtailed the balloon activities. Because of the weather we accepted the invitation to share Fagundes and Luciane’s cabin. Next morning the unmistakable roar of ignited gas blowing hot air could be heard nearby. The clear blue sky was littered with large multicolored balloons. What a sight!!!
What a great sight
Colourful balloons floating through the sky
Great road up the mountain to Caxias do Sul
The Plaza in Caxias do Sul
Wine tasting at the Wine Museum in Vale Trentino
We just had to buy some chocolates in Gramado
Our destination today was Caxias do Sul and the ride was a superb, green, windy road edged by banana and pineapple farms. Collecting information at the Tourist Office, we rode to an old Italian winery in Vale Trentino that had been turned into a museum. A very informative tour with Fagundes doing a great job translating. When we were all finished the guide rang around the area to find us a cheap hotel. Close by the hotel Sao Cristovao at Farroupilha attracted our weary bodies with the manageress locking up the two bikes in an attached shed. Another old historic building with creaking, polished floors, a huge wood stove and a host who could not do enough for us.
Gramado is a very German looking town
Trying out the Military Police motorcycle
Nova Petropolis was preceded by a brisk ride down a small range to a German buffet lunch at Restaurante Tiro ao Alvo. Chocolates at Gramado and a little more sight seeing in Canela then we joined the traffic motoring back to Sapucaia and Porto Alegre arriving back at the house just after dark.
Very pink motorcycle rain gear!!
Pink boots, might have to get a pair of these!
Its back to work for the real people and Fagundes is a Captain in the Brazilian Army. An early start for him but we could have a little extra sleep. In the evening we use the four wheeled vehicle and attend a motorcycle show where we meet Fagundes’s Dad (Neto) and Alessandra. Could not believe the range of painted helmets and how big the colour pink is in Brazilian motorcycle fashion. We enjoyed a late sandwich with everyone and accepted an invitation from Neto and Alessandra to call in to see them at Santa Maria on the way out to see the Missoes near Santo Angelo.
Fagundes and Luciane
Late night sandwich with Alessandra, Neto and Fagundes
Sightseeing in Porto Alegre with Luciane and her mum
Central Markets in Porto Alegre
Ken buying some charque
Many different kinds of ‘erva mate’
Dinner with Cristo, his wife Jose and daughter Barbara
The next few days were spent socializing, sight-seeing, BBQ’s, bike shops, emails and looking at travel photos. A really great time. Eventually we got motivated and headed west to Santa Maria meeting up with Neto and Alessandra. Our short stay extended by one day to enjoy a little more sight seeing and socializing. Having guides in an unknown country makes it all very easy and sights you would probably never see are now in our photo collection. Obrigado… Neto and Alessandra and all your crazy friends. A memorable time.
Meeting up with Neto and Alessandra in Santa Maria
A churrascaria with Neto and some of his friends
Loads of meat
Neto and Alessandra
The small village of Silveira Martins
We found a swing bridge but Carol would not walk on it
Ken had no problem
Santo Angelo was much smaller than all our previous cities so we had little difficulty in finding Gilson’s apartment. He organized a small dinner party with a couple of friends and to ensure nothing was lost in he translations their sons girlfriend who spoke perfect English joined us. Unfortunately she had to leave for an early appointment so we battled along through dinner with our language barrier still enjoying plenty of laughs. Tomorrow Fagundes and Luciane are coming out to Santo Angelo to share our sight seeing in Sao Miguel das Missoes.
The Gaudérios do Asfalto Motorcycle Club house in Santa Maria
Thank you to Luciane and Alessandra for some of the photos used in this update.
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