March 05, 2004 GMT
Brasil .... beleza

It was sunday the border post was deserted. Even the vaccination caravan, for those in need of a yellow fever jab, was unmanned.
There was asphalt... ooooh.... after nearly a week of dirt and standing on the pegs it was very strange to be sitting on the bike - so low, so smooth.
My welcome to Brasil came in Caceres when a man and his son gave me a scooter escort to the Policia Federal. Much easier than directions in portugese!
The imigracion clerk scrutinized my passport for a long time. He made me very nervous, it felt like entering Canada.
I hoped he wouldn't question the bolivian stamp. How did i just appear at a land border with Perú but no stamps for Perú in the passport?
He stamped me in for 90 days and then an "oh shit!" look came over his face -- he'd forgotten to ask for my yellow fever certificate.
Aduana would definitely have to wait 'til monday... I needed lunch.
I wouldn't say there was nothing to eat in Bolivia; the saltenas (a juicey meat filled mini rugby ball) were yummy and the chocolate in Sucre is heaven. But i left the country very hungry.
I gorged myself on fish in a floating restaurant.
The fish i wanted didn't come with salad so i ordered a side salad too. Too much food... 18 inch plater of fish and veg surrounded by a garnish of salad, a 12 inch 'side' salad and a huge bowl of rice. There was barely space on the table for my cooler of beer!
I was eating for hours watching the birds and boaters on the Rio Paragui. Que boa. Bem vindo a Brasil. Welcome to Brasil.

To aduana monday morning. They were very officious, scouring over my papers, even checked that the vin numbers matched and asked for a value.

In Cuiaba the bike was spotted in the hotel parking by Paulo. He came to say hello and invite me to their club meeting the next evening. I asked him to recommend a bike shop --i still needed to find a C-spanner to tighten the stearing.
The next day he came with his friend and i followed them to Jô Motos. It's a multi marc shop, big bikes only - hyabusas and firebirds etc...there was even a secondhand BMW 1200 for sale.
Jô tightened the stearing then gave me the handy pocket size C-spanner. Muito obrigada!! Christiane gave me a club t-shirt. Tuiuius do Asphalto. Tuiuiu is the funky stork of the Pantanal.
Paulo lined up Renato, the son of his friend to accompany me into the Pantanal.
We had an invitation from Pena, whom i'd met at the club meeting, on his 70's Goldwing, to stay on his 'Fazenda' (ranch) in Porto Joffre.
Renato was typically geared up with runners, shorts and t-shirt. Helmets are the law so he had one of those. I had my usual cordura trousers and jacket -bought for winter crossings of Europe; a sweat box here. A cold shower at the lunch stop was heaven.


over dressed, Transpantaneira


Only 130 bridges to cross..the note on the map says..*majority in very bad state of conservation*


another dodgy bridge!


Needless to say, say it anyway, i was a sweaty nervous-wreck!
One time i was frozen on a bridge. My approach speed and attitude was all wrong. I stopped but could just manage one toe on the board to hold me; i didn't want to lift that toe. Can't go back, can't move... stay calm, be brave and breath... aye aye aye
Racing against the sun and concentrating on bridges left little energy to appreciate alligators in the water hyacinths, the capivaras and all the birds.
We made it to the fazenda at nightfall. Blue eyed Gaucho welcomed us; Pena was in Cuiabá. The mossies were viscous.
Next morning we scouted for boat trips but very expensive for just 2 people. So after lunch Renato went back to Cuiabá -some people work on mondays.
I couldn't face those bridges again so soon.
It rained. I was 'trapped' on the fazenda for 4 days. I tried once to leave and only managed 5km. Bit too slippery.
Not too many sticks to dig the mud away to free the tyres. While digging out the mud i noticed a water leak...back to the ranch.
The leak was from a wee hole in the rad hose, caused by the petrol tank rubbing on it for one year.
The fazenda is on the wide River Cuiaba. The toucans flying over made me laugh; they fly with such a flapping panic that i didn't think they'd get their beaks across the river!
I heard squacks like crows so didn't give much notice, it was a pair of hyacinth macaws! Flying so low the yellow ring around the eyes was clear and bright. Beleza.
Going back over the bridges wasn't nearly as nerve wracking. I had all the time in the world and was hoping to do some rough camping, but there isn't really any opportunity. Water, alligators and fences.
I stopped to take a photo of a field of giant termite mounds, and as i walked to the fence i saw a black eagle hawk perched in a dead tree. It didn't fly away. I crept around some bushes to get a closer look, and still it sat. Closer yet and no movement. Very curious.
Beneath it was a ring of reeds and mud. A scan with the binoculars revealed the answer, an alligator with more than 20 babies in the mud. The babies were only 6 inches long including the tail. aaaahhhh cute.
The hawk flew off, i presume without lunch.
When i looked at the reeds around me i realized they had been flattened and formed into tunnels... 'gator tents. hmmm, maybe i'm in the nursery. They all looked empty though, so i decided to take another step closer.
That step took a long time to do.
The mother shot into a tunnel on the far side of the ward, so why not... one more step. Much easier with a zoom lens but i don't have one, and where is the excitement.
Back to Cuiabá and Jô motos. New hose, cleaned the carb, mended the broken tank plate, put in a fuel filter and charged me a whopping $25.
Renato took me to lunch. We rode in his air conditioned car and watch the outside temperature readout climb to 40C, i didn't want to leave the car.
Lunch was in a churrascuria. Pay a fixed price and eat to your stomach's content. There is a buffet of salads, hot veg, pasta, rice, beans and all sorts. Each person gets a card; one side is green, the other red. Green is go for the meat.
Waiters wonder about with great skewers of meat and carve bits off onto your 'meat plate'. Just like typical Cuiabá drivers running red lights, the waiters ignored our red cards and kept coming to the table.
I left Cuiaba through the Chapada dos Guimaraes; one of the oldest plateaux on the planet, and the geodesic centre of South America.



Careful



it said be careful

In one day i saw 4 giant anteater..... as road kill. So glad i saw one alive in the Pantanal.

I stopped in Goiana to visit the Museum of Ornithology. A private collection of stuffed birds and mamals.
Upstairs i watched as the owner's son turned a bird inside out. Then he stuffed it with cotton wading, wrapped it like a mummy and set it aside to dry.
The attic room was dedicated to siamese twins, two headed ones in particular. There was a goat, a calf, and a pig. Other bizzare things were represented in news clippings. A mad place.

Brasilia is the capital of Brasil. A city 'planned' by an architect. When you look at the map of the city it looks great -very symetrical. When you drive in it it is a nightmare.
I was doing an oil change out front of a bike shop and a customer on a 850 Suzuki invited me to go to a bar where bikers meet every friday night. I figured it would be another run down the "strip" so just had a t-shirt on. We went for miles out to an industrial park at the edge of town, where the local chapter of The Abutres run a bike wash/bar. LavaMotos. A cool place and cool people. It was a good night.
I had been having trouble with the fuel filter. I'd go a few miles and then conk out, shake the tank and watch the filter fill with fuel again and off i'd go. Sometimes it would be fine for days. Strange.
On a sandy road in eastern Bahia i got fed up with it; conking out in the thick sand, with big trucks coming behind and nowhere to pull off... Found a rare tree for shade and took the filter off. What to do with a cut fuel line?....
My pen had a rubber grip just perfect to force over the ends and cable tie then a bit of tape for good measure and...BYFU (bob's yer friggin uncle)!! Worked a charm. *(and is still working 6mths later! - gee i'm late with this blog))
The BR 116 to Salvador is the Road from Hell. Potholes to swallow a cow and lines of trucks swerving around them like sports cars. Hot as hell as well. The Sertao is not even fit for cattle and only a few goats. A difficult place to scratch out a living. Boys and men come to the road to shovel a few scoops of dirt and sand into the sinkholes; never once saw any money given. I've seen the generosity of brasilieros toward beggars in other cases.... i guess no one wants to stop in hell.
Lencois is an oasis. One of those colonial places the brochures would call "charming". It really is. It's back garden is the Nat'l Park Chapada do Diamante one of the few interior parks not on fire. Grotos, quarts and WATER.
Arriving to Salvador was exciting. For me it is one of those cities whos name evokes fantasy; like Cartegena or Marrakesh. I wasn't disappointed. So much the better for coming through dry, hot hell.

Posted by Jo-Anne Smith at 01:10 PM GMT
 


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