December 06, 2005 GMT
On the road again

There's nothing positive to say about the coastal road from Florianopolis to Porto Alegre. If you expect beautiful sea-and-mountain views - forget it. It's largely a long truck queue through an industrialized plain with some hills in the background.

I couldn't do a long time without being on the road. Actually being on the road is kind of addictive. The island of Santa Catarina is a lovely place, the Pousada is really homely, every dinner was a feast and ice cold beer was always available - but with the weather not really being beach weather and a few thousand road kilometers waiting for me until end of January, I decided to hit the road again and move southwards.

Since the sun kept hiding behind the clouds I cancelled the beach 'do Rosa' and headed towards the mountains instead. After some 25 kilometers of ascending dirt road I reached the some 600m deep Itaimbezinho Canyon with a view of an impressive waterfall.

While I continued my way into the Sierra Gaucha, riding at an altitude of some 800m into the late afternoon, it was getting cold on the bike. So I was happy when I reached my destination, a small town called Canela in the middle of the green hills.

This town is mainly characterized by italian and some german and swiss immigrants. It is neat and clean with some nice bars, restaurants and a mix of architecture that makes you believe you are somewhere in South Tirol or Swizerland.

This is what actually characterizes the entire South of Brazil: You don't actually feel like being in Brazil since the infrastructure and the people are so European that it almost bores you: The asphalt roads are in perfect condition, the drivers have some respect for each other and for the pedestrians and rarely use their horn. The towns and cities are clean with asphalt roads and you find all comodities of civilization that you are used to. You do feel as safe (or even safer) as in any place in southern or central Europe.

So I was almost happy when I got into wild and untamed Uruguay - which is pure irony since Uruguay is even more European than southern Brazil - apart from the fact that it's very scarcely populated. The most shocking fact about Uruguay is that the drivers show a kind of aggressive kindness and consideration towards pedestrians: They already stop and wait for you to cross the road before you yourself know that you want to do so.

However, their attitude towards other drivers is not that kind - it might happen to you on a highway with one lane for each direction and within a no-passing-zone, that two cars overtake you in parallel, which means one in lane 2 and the other on the sidestrip - one at an estimated speed of 120 and the other at 150 with 90 kph allowed officially. But of course these are all Argentines ;-) - who have a very bad reputation in Uruguay.

Since still no beach weather showed up, I drove more or less directly to Montevideo - which turned out to be a real capital and not bad at all - in particular if you compare it to Paraguay's capital Asunción - the world's 'deadest' capital, the 'city of the living dead'. Montevideo has some interesting and impressive architecture, interesting bars, a lot of water around and restaurants and friendly people - apart from my hotel receptionist. However I only stayed two nights and then continued my way towards Colonia del Sacramento, which is a really nice, calm and friendly place with lots of beautiful colonial houses, long beaches (yeah, here finally the weather got kind of 'beachy') and loads of trees along the roads - so actually a place to stay.

Anyway, adventure is waiting for me - and for this I have to return to Argentina - so tomorrow morning I'll take the ferry to Buenos Aires.

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at December 06, 2005 11:57 PM GMT

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