Although I have spent 2 months in Argentina, 6 weeks of those learning Castellano, I have seen little of the country, but Buenos Aires I know pretty well now, and love. I have been trying to buy a bike, but they are expensive and the paperwork arduous.
I'm still reflecting on the city, and the idea of putting all these thoughts I have about the place on the blog seems a tricky at the moment...
Classmates & profesora...
Rosanna y Eugenia...
Silliness! - James, Axel & Sue at 'Museum', the tackiest place in town...
Well, I have been in corresondence with a Danish guy, Robin, who brought a Canadian bike down from Canada in a mere 6 months We both agreed that it is probably better to buy and sell in Montevideo, as the problems with exiting the country and the paperwork in general are likely to be less heinous.
I caught the boat from BA to Colonia de Sacramento with Sue, my Swedish friend from the course at Latin Immersion, and Sara, an Argentinian exile in the process of trying to renew her passport against all odds, in a country where beauracracy is an art form.
Sailing across the Parana takes an hour and a half on the slow boat, and from half-way you can hardly see both sides on a clear day! - I keep calling it the sea, itīs so, so big.
Colonia is the perfect antidote to crazy BA, but a trifle boring. Sue and I found ourselves a nice a little hostel, nostalgically called "Espanol" for a mere $6 a night. I decided that I had suffered a lack of 2 wheels for long enough, and we hired a dodgy little moped, and took to the beaches. I have to say, what Sheraton are doing here is very sad indeed - hasn't the world got enough golf courses and private beaches?
2 nights in this sleepy backwater and it's time to get down to business...
Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, a once thriving city with the relics still scattered around - battered vintage cars and decaying grand colonial buildings. I hesitate, because I don't want to offend anyone, but I find it sad, and any comparison to Buenos Aires, I find odd. Poverty is in more evidence than in BA, and the people seem sad and downtrodden in comparison to the bright, savvy but gentle Portenos.
Many people seem to enjoy this city, though. Those I have spoken to, say that this is an escape from the clamour of Buenos Aires. Maybe I miss BA too much, or the task in hand is preventng me from seeing beyond the veneer,
I arranged to meet Robin about buying the bike, and here she is, all 650cc's of Kawasaki KLR...
But once again all was not what it seemed. The simple task of getting a Notario to certify the transaction is not happenng. All those approached say that they cannot do the business because the bike is not Uruguayan. To us, that is the very point.
Well, I posted a plea for advice on the Horizons Unlimited Community page for Montevidoe. I received a reply from a really helpful fella called Santiago, who said we should speak to a guy called Diego at Domingo Motos. Coincidentally, Robin already knew the place, having bought some bits for the bike earlier. We trundled off to the shop immediately, and they were so helpful, I cannot say how grateful I was. Monica who works there, researched everything for us, and found us a Notario who would do the business. She did say, however, the papers would not be legal outside Uruguay - not something that particularly bothered us.
So clutching our very official-lookind docs, we headed off to the British Embassy for a rubber stamp, only to find that they were on an extended siesta - alright for some!!
Sod it, I thought and the next day, I set out on my new ride for the Brazilian border, arranging to meet Robin at 1230 hours.
Break for the border - Chuy
A bad day!!!, but also a good one in that I reached my target destination, and in one piece...
The night was spent in a Brazilian love shack, somewhere you can rent by the hour. I have resolved to return one day in order to stay-in, and photograph Brazil's "motels", for they are weird, wonderful and some of them damned luxurious! On this occasion, the privacy afforded meant a complete lack of windows, secluded garaging, (a plus!), and a very seedy atmosphere.
There was some interesting stuff on the box that evening, as well...
Not as early a start as I had planned, and I had just loaded up the bike, when the whole thing toppled over bending my brake lever, but luckily nothing else. Before I could get her vertical I had to remove all the very, by now, muddy luggage - such a Mick Pugh moment!
Having got up a head of steam, I could not for the life of me, locate the correct road North. I rode up and down endlessly whilst the heavens opened. Not an unfamiliar problem in itself, except guess who had forgotten his waterproofs? I decided to brave it out and press-on to see if I could leave the now torrential rain behind. Eventually, after 40 km or so, I conceded to the elements and decided to make a pit-stp. As the the bike had now started mis-firing badly, and as I didn't know whether to blame the fuel, the rain, both or neither I decided to top-up anyway. Whilst astride the bike, I opened the fuel cap and started to dismount. As I did so, the bike came with me. I ended up on the deck with with a fully loaded bike and fuel pouring from the tank all over yours truly - a comedy moment indeed, as we all scrambled, slipping and sliding, in frantic attempts to right the bike. Back in the UK, this would have been an incident worthy of informing the CFDA and closing the gas station, but not here. They hardly batted an eyelid, and I was amazed to see people continuing to smoke, not 3 metres away. After stopping for some food and multiple coffees, I was approached by someone I presumed to be the owner of the restaurant. He was keen to learn of my intentions and equally keen to inform me as to the quantity and quality of women in the North East of Brazil.
Once more on the road and the bike behaved no better, but I did manage to procure some very rubbery waterproofs on the way.
As I reached a point some 100km outside Florianopolis, it seemed like a total eclipse was in progress as the sky blackened, the rain beat down reducing visibility to some 10 metres and I was treated to a display of thunder and lightening immediately above my head. I spotted a supermarket, itīs lights flickered wildly pending a power cut. Diverting to the car park, I joined other bikers mostly dressed in T-shirt and shorts, where we sheltered good-humouredly from the worst storm I have witnessed.
Half an hour or so, and although the storm had only partially abated, I decided I should carry on. As I got up to full speed, I could see a double line of traffic up ahead, a car on my side of the road, heading my way, at a rate of knots. The driver was flashing his lights madly, and only by jammng on and hugging the lumpy nearside of the road could I avoid this lunatic, or should I say, criminal.
As I arrived in Florianopolis, somewhat more soggy than I left Osarios, I reflected, gratefully, when checking into the hotel, that had I been in a car, little could have been done to avoid a head-on collision.
I managed to exit the city with out too much of the hassle that has become the norm. Philosophically, I have come to accept it as a means of exploring my environment more thoroughly.
The narrow mountainous roads through the Serra del Mar seem to have a reputation as a kind of "death valley" because of the huge numbers of lorries plying their trade to and from Sao Paulo. Wrecks line the route acting as a constant reminder of deadly possibilities. On negotiating another bend in these challenging roads, I came upon uprooted vegetation scattered across the road, (which I later realised was a local hazard warning). This was followed by twisted road furniture, and finally, a lorry skewed across the carraigeway. A sight I have since become all too familiar with.
Walter - he drives lorries and drinks tequila. He transports stones 11 times a year from Fortaleza to Curitiba, some 9,000 km. He hates it.
It was in these hills that I met Joao Charles, the owner of a Yamaha Tenere. This was unusual in itself, as although to Brazilians, motorcycling is almost a religion, they tend to worship at the temple of Honda.
My new friend informed me that he worked for Samur, the equivalent of our emergency ambulance service, and when he learnt that I was in the same business, he offered to show me their facilities, some 50km away.
The station was staffed by a doctor, nurse, two drivers and 2 dogs, with a basic response vehicle and a UTI, (Intensive Therapy Unit, NOT Urinary Tract Infection!). Dr. Berragano treated me to some video footage and a gruesome set of slides showing me the type of work they undertake, put simply, trauma, trauma amd more trauma, with only about 2 cardiac conditions a month. The slides continued: truck on truck, truck on pedestrian, truck on tree, and with resources that come no way near matching the calibre of work they undertake - true heroes.
Thanking them for their hospitality, I moved onto the sprawling mass they call Sao Paulo. I had not reckoned on the complete lack of road-signs, which made the incredible friendliness and will to help of other moto-riders very welcome. But to no avail, and I got hopelessly lost as usual. With darkness looming and with no obvious direction to head in, I was failing to find Santos, and the beach at Praia Grande. It was at this point that I realised that I had no lights, (I had not planned on riding at night, anyway ), so I decided my best means of defence was to tailgate a lorry. This proved a horrendous experience as we overtook crawling lorries, and faster moving ones sweeping downhill, inches from me, all the time spiralling, cornering, cornering with the constant smell of burning brakes filling my helmet and the hydraulic screams filling my ears, all the time, darker and darker - no moon.
Eventually, I found Praia Grande, I checked in at the first hotel I found without looking at the room. They invited me to leave my bike at reception. When it's all over for the day and it's been this chalenging, you feel tired, but you know you're alive.
The next day, this is what greeted me, the beaches at Flori were wonderful but now I had sun aswell...
The road to Rio~
The drivers in Rio are the craziest yet. I witnessed my first accident within minutes of arriving in Copacabana. They treat the roads of the city as a race track, which is ok if you know where you are going. I didn't.
The beaches of Copocabana and Ipanema are undoubtedly beautiful, but normal by Brazilian standards. The city is expensive, and well...overrated. I guess as a week's clubbing package it's quite good.
Managed egress surprisingly easily.
The benefits of an early start. I could have taken a handful of wonderful pictures, that morning...
Arriving in Salvador by boat, one Sunday afternoon...
Bahia - mile upon mile of white sand and swaying coco palms...
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