Friday, May 9, 2008
I found a company today, Girag, who will ship my bike next week to Miami International. There were no other cargo flights to the Midwest, and so I will be venturing through one more week of culture shock before returning to my home in Kansas City.
I shall spend the weekend with friends in Bogota, while receiving the excellent hospitality from a new friend Michael, out of London, who is also a biker that decided to just stay in South America. Not a bad idea.
So friends, this will be my last blog from South America. Latin America is a wonderful place filled with love and hospitality, of which I shall cherish dearly for the rest of my life. I will take the values that I have learned from my friends on this trip, to try and live with such modesty, patience and empathy. Gracius para todos.
Monday, May 5, 2008
Sunday, May 4, 2008
We took off the next morning and filled up for the first time, laughing at the prices. We made it to kilometer maker 88 when we ran into a couple from Venezuela on a Honda Shadow heading north as well. They told us about a biker rally in Puerto Ordaz and asked us if wanted to go. We told them that it had been a long day and were actually looking for a hotel. They were great and showed us to one, exchanging info before they took off.
Of road detour around demonstration.
Do I even need to explain this one?
Friends Orlando and Joseliana with their uncle at the farm.
Interesting birds, they looked like half flamingo and half vulture, north of the reservation.
A little closer to home.
This is what I had going through my head, as I walked out of my room the next morning on the boat and saw the sun rise over the river. The jungle was full and crowded with vegetation, which is actually second growth, after the deforestation occurred around 100 years ago.
Thicket houses line the edge of the river, literally built into the jungle side with docks edging into the water. The canoes that give the homes their only means of transportation, are carved out of whole tree trunks, and ebb to the ripples made by passing cargo and passenger ships. Children from these homes are told to take the canoes and paddle out next to the large boats, with engines screaming, and wait for alms to be tossed down from the boat’s passengers. It was amazing to see these children, no older than 8 years old, paddling out to gigantic ships, waiting for a plastic bag to be thrown off the side
The night afterwards, I went into my cabin, and dug through all of my things, trying to think of what may be useful to the Amazonian river dwellers. I put some clothes, kitchen supplies from camping, and other miscellaneous things in plastic bags, added a plastic bottle for buoyancy, and threw them off the next morning to the kids in the canoes. The smiles on their faces as they paddled toward the floating gifts were magical and unforgettable.
The living situation of the boat is divided up into three parts, the outside hammocks, the indoor hammocks with air, and the cabins with air. With our entire luggage from the bikes, we paid the extra 30 USD for the cabin to keep them secure. With the upgrade, also comes separated eaten quarters. I was disappointed about this, as I watched the interactions between the people staying shoulder to shoulder in hammocks, with children running around and laughter in the air. Our separated eating room was quiet and dull and filled with the same rice and beans every day. Those rice and beans would have been more special having come from a room filled with people who actually appreciated them. However, I must say having a separate shower was very nice. Besides the eating quarters, there was also a bar upstairs, which simultaneously filled the men’s bathroom with the smell of urine and vomit.
The river is large and very alive. It is the major transportation system for the northern section of Brasil, shipping a vast amount of manufactured goods between Manaus and Belem. I spent numerous nights up on the top deck, watching thunderstorms over the Amazon basin or looking up at the stars south of the equator. I will never forget the sunsets over the flowing river or when the Rio Negro and its black waters mixed with the brown waters of the Rio Amazona. The families taking naps in hammocks, the domino players at the bar, the same rice and beans, the children in canoes waiting for the plastic bag from the outside, and the life of the river itself; these will all be wonderful memories in my mind. The rain forest, the tropical rain forest.
Children in canoes riding out towards the ship in the late afternoon.
Children going after the bags thrown off the ship as alms.
Sunset from the boat over the Rio Amazona.
They guys from the club were great. They are not the Hell’s Angels type what so ever. Actually, they are very involved in the community, and seem more like the Rotary Club on Harleys.
One of the clubs social chairs, Alfredo, took us in his arms and showed us around Belem. He invited us on a day trip up the river to a beach that is one-of-a-kind. It is the only river beach in the world that has waves! Go figure, the width at this end of the Amazon being 80 kilometers across. Not to mention, the Amazon has two separate mouths to the Atlantic!
We went for a swim and body surfed in the waves, as tree limbs and nut shells floated across the brown water. It is amazing to think of all the nutrients in this river, not to mention the other living organisms. The day was very nice, and everyone from the Para Moto Clube was incredibly hospitable, except when I tried to trade my BMW for Alfredo’s 1000cc V-Strom.
We were able to get our tourist cards for Venezuela at the Consulate in Belem without any problems at all. There was no charge, which made us all very happy.
Alfredo came out to the port and saw us off on the ship. It took a day of waiting at the docks for us to get our bikes loaded, and we were surprised at the loading crew (aka dock mafia), who insist on loading all of your things, and then give you an outrageous price to pay in return. The boat then filled up with an assortment of cargo on the bottom deck before finally setting off into the Amazonian night.
Sunday, April 20, 2008
Here is a short list of what we saw from the road:
naked black boys bathing in a tub
women washing laundry in brown rivers.
Here is a short list of what we saw on the road:
Locals selling fresh fruit, coconut ice, and hammocks
herds of goats, cattle, donkeys, mules, dogs with cowboys
vultures eating the corpses of cows, donkeys, horses, dogs
six foot cobras and other Amazonian snakes jumping at the bikes
lizards racing across
10 inch grasshoppers
three semi-truck accidents
one dead body.
The small villages that sit between Salvador and Belem are filled with warm hearted people and tasty food. They do not see many gringos in this part, and the interest is pure and exciting. This is also the area where you see the real Brasil. An area without money and very little tourism, however, the culture is pure and includes the indigenous peoples, traditional foods, and plenty of truck stops. It was a very pleasant ride, although hot and humid, we rode into Belem with smiles.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
We all have seen those Corona beer commercials, with the coconut palm trees and white sand beaches, calm surf and seclusion. Well, I am there. Or at least at one of those places. The beer here is called Skol though.
The sand squeaks under your feet, and you can watch the sand crabs run from their holes to the water as you walk. Fish swim up through the rocks at the shoreline and turtles parade the waters here. You can see monkeys in the trees and lizards on the ground, geckos in your room and parrots. Old wooden boats sit in the harbor, and are used daily for the fresh catch. Little black boys and girls run around in the sand, then do cartwheels and flips into the salty waters. The older boys practice Caiporera for the young girls to watch. Happiness lives here.
We rented a surf board today, and walked out over the 200 meters of coral where the surf was actually breaking. The runs were short, but had enough behind them to get up. I sat on the board, watching eels jump out of the water and the sunset behind the coconut palms. Praia de Forte is paradise.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Thursday night, we stayed in a cheap hotel outside of Euphanopolis, ate a big meal, repaired the bandages on Ted´s foot, watched the geckos climb the walls, killed hundreds of mosquitoes, and went to bed early.
The ride on Friday to the beach town of Guaibim was short and sweet, and the small town was deserted from tourists. We found a Pousada that was open and booked into a few rooms across from the white sand that squeaks when you walk on it. Coconut palm trees line the beach and the salty water breaks out from the shores, so surfing is popular here. The beach was beautiful, and the Brasilians are incredibly hospitable. It was difficult to push on the next morning.
Saturdays ride was a short 70 mile run to the ferry at Bom Despacho that took us into down town Salvador. Christi had been outside of Salvador in Barra, a beach suburb and hot spot, for a few days already. She directed us to a lovely Pousada a few blocks from the beach next to the lighthouse Farol da Barra. I took a walk and found some rocks that sat behind the lighthouse where the Atlantic came crashing in, and watched the sunset over the ocean.
You may ask, `how can you watch the sunset over the ocean from the eastern side of the continent?´ Well, Salvador and Barra sit out on a peninsula that raps around, so you can actually look across to the mainland and see the sunset to the west over the water.
Sunday morning was alive and beautiful as we walked through the historic streets of Salvador. The port was a major hub for slave trading, dating back to the seventeenth century, where bones of sick African voyagers are still being excavated around the peninsula. The Portuguese tax dollars were at work, when building the dozens of cathedrals that flood the two layered city. Half of Salvador is built on a bluff that overlooks the harbor, while the rest sits down below along the shoreline. Certain sections are known to be a little dangerous for tourists, and we were thankful for the number of locals who politely warned us before wandering off too far.
Returning to Barra, I took a walk along the beach, filled with sun bathers and male on-lookers. Coconuts with straws are a popular treat down here, and the milk is refreshing in the extreme heat. At the end of the day, the sun sets over the harbor, drums beat with Caipoera money handlers rockin´, and pink straws in coconuts rest in the sand.
BR-101 south of Euphanopolis
Boa Praia (Nice Beach) in Guaibim, Bahia
Sunset over the Atlantic from Barra
Lighthouse of Barra at sunset
Historical downtown of Salvador, Cidade Alta.
Cidade Alta, historical downtown.
Plaza de Pelourinho, Cidade Alta.
Graffiti art of Salvador.
The swimming pool at our hotel had an infection, so they directed us to the hotel next door. So we walked over and entered the pool area, where people sat drinking cocktails and relaxing in the cool evening breeze. I dipped my hand into the pool and it was very comfortable. There was a lamp post that illuminated the pool about two feet from the edge, a brass antiquity that created a pseudo ambiance.
Ted grabbed onto the lamp post to dip his foot into the pool, and took the entire thing in with him. The bloke was submerged underwater with a brass lamp post and a live 220 volt circuit. He managed to jump out of the pool, shortly after seeing the X Ray image of his right leg that was being zapped by the cord. Blood started collecting all over the pool deck, as the night watchers watched, and hotel management was called. The lamp post was put into the ground with three rusty quarter inch screws and no breaker.
After bringing out my first aid, Ted told me I could not practice sutures on him, so I used iodine, gauze bandages and tape to get the bleeding to stop. With the stethoscope, I checked his heart to make sure there were no irregular rhythms, although he does have a slight murmur.
Speaking with the manager, he was quite sympathetic, and told Ted he would not charge him for the damages.
Later, I turned to Ted and laughed. When asking me why I was laughing, I told him if this were to happen in North America, he would be a millionaire.
Never a dull moment.
Friday, April 11, 2008
Tuesday, April 8, 2008
The market in Ipanema one block from our hostel
Jesus designed by a Polish Brailian guy.
Carnival Museum with Ted and Carol
Christo at sunset from Sugar Loaf.
I have dreamed of seeing Brasil since I was 16 years old, and happened to run by the amazing photos of the country while looking for pictures of naked women in the National Geographic. These parts of the tour were all staples of memory that enriched my hormonal mind and filled it with the idea of traveling.
The tour was wonderful, and it finished with Sugar Loaf Hill which overlooked the city and Christo as the sunset. Moneypenny would have loved it.
The next morning, we left after breakfast, headed north towards Victoria. We stopped by Copacabana as the sun came out, and so did the lovely brown brasilians in swimming attire, and took some pictures of the beach.
Heading north, we made it as far as Campos, where we took apart Ted´s carburetor and adjusted the intake to make up for the terrible alcohol flooded gasoline they sell here in Brasil at outrageous prices. Tomorrow, we continue north. I looked at a map today, and am not terribly sure that you all understand this, but Brasil...is a really really really large country.
The favelas in Rio have been hyped up a lot lately in news, movies and literature. There is a book, film and television series known as ´City of God,´ which is the name of a favela on the southern side of the city. The stories are mostly of gang violence, drug use and rape. Over the years, the favelas in Rio have become much more controlled with a great reduction in violence. However, like any large city, you need to be on the lookout in certain neighborhoods. So, Ted Carol and I decided we wanted a closer look, and signed up for the Favela Funk Party.
The bus left the hostel at midnight and headed south from Ipanema to the Favela. The discotheque was an old storage house painted black and vibrating from the bass of samba coming from inside. Walking into the club, we were patted down by security and warned not to buy drugs from locals. We were reserved the VIP balcony up top with its private cash bar selling 75 cent beers and 4 dollar whisky cokes, two of my favorites.
This place was bumping, and hot sweaty brown people were dancing with one thing in mind...sex! This samba Brasilian disco is a kind of hip hop and techno house mix where the dance moves are sexual gyrations. The women are stunning, piercing your heart with large brown eyes, amazing curvature, and little clothing. The traditional transvestites of Rio roamed the room looking for vulnerable males as the large gay bodybuilders waxed down an grinding each other, were stealing Carol´s attention. This place was hot, sexy and unlike anything in this world.
Fireworks lit up the room as 4,000 dancers grinded ass through the large warehouse. We all moved down stairs where the locals were making it happen up by the stage, as the fruity MC pulled 4 women and 4 men out of the crowd for a coitesque dance-off. One of the beautiful girls up on stage for the competition, was the same beautiful girl that came up to me, grabbing my crotch and asked me to buy her a beer. As I moved swiftly through the crowd for the bar, that is when the sparklers were lit, and she was invited on stage. What timing!
There is no way to describe the sexual appeal behind this night. If you know, then you know. However, the Favela Funk Party is unlike any party in the world.
Waking up at 10 the next morning after four hours of sleep, I looked down an notice that not one, but two of my testicles were a hue of blue.
Monday, April 7, 2008
The ride has mountain passes that overlook stranded beaches with the Atlantic blowing a nice breeze up the hillside. Sailboats and yachts poke around finding secluded spots to chill, while palm trees climb the mountains from the beach to the peak. The BMW moved swift and clean around the jungle lined curves and the tarmac was nice and gentle.
The day was long and a little wet, as we battled through a bit of darkness and rain as we road into Paraty. Our friends Pete and Carol from Canada were waiting on the main drag as we strolled into town. They set down their beers and showed us to the hotel around the corner through the cobble stone streets with lighted lamp posts gleaming across the wet surface.
The next day we spent changing fluids, head lights and adjusting valves. In the end, we had enough time to eat dinner and walk along the shoreline where the fishing boats sat beached with the tide hundreds of meters from the docks. Portuguese iron cannons lined the walkways along the shoreline and the Brasilian flag stood strong and proud through the soft sea breeze.
We left Paraty early the next morning (Sunday April 6, 2008) and headed north once again on the coastal road towards Rio. The skies remained a little cloudy, however, we made wonderful time as we strolled into the old Capital of Brasil. We were told to stay clear of the yellow and red lines of Rio, so we decided to stick to the coast line and go strait for Ipanema beach. Getting into the city was much easier than what we expected and after an hour we found a reasonable hostel a block from the beach. A cold beer was well deserved and the sign on the wall told of a Favela Funk Party that night. We knew we were exactly in the right place.
Pete and Carol on the way to Morretes.
The river through Morretes, outside of Curatiba.
Pretty flowers with an amazing fragrence.
The next morning, we left Morretes early and the road led us through a national forrest filled where the hightway was built from cobble stone, which bended around mountain sides through forrest filled with waterfalls and giant blue butterflies. As we left heaven and moved onto the interstate, we split up from Pete and Carol, because they were not interested in São Paulo, and decided to meet up with them in three days. So Ted, Christi and I headed towards the big city on a hunt to see an old high school sweetheart.
Cobble stone highway through a national park.
São Paulo was fantastic. Pati´s sister, who also spent a year at Hutchinson high, gave us a city tour and took us out for a wonderful vegetarian lunch. Pati works at a not-for-profit agency in São Paulo that works with teachers in the public education system, Edwardo (aka Dudu) works for his father´s tomato sauce company (and he really loves tomatoes), and Pati´s sister Barbara is an actress in an underground theater company downtown.
We visited Pati´s work, toured an art gallery and enjoyed São Paulo´s famous espresso. It was a wonderful, but short trip to a great city, with a wonderful reunion. Hanging out with Pati at her apartment in BaueriPati and here husband Edward (Dudu)...very cute couple.
Monday, March 31, 2008
The BBQ was fantastic, and a lot of beer went down in the warm evening. The company, like all of the people I have met thus far in Brasil, are incredibly warm and empathetic. It would have been very easy to have spent all of my time for this trip, in Brasil alone. It is that welcoming.
Do not get me wrong, just because I have spent my entire life land locked in mid-continent, does not mean that I do not love the water. Putting things into perspective, I thought that if surfing was anything like snowboarding, then it should be pretty easy.
We found a shop down the road that actually made surfboards. The company is called SRS, and is actually a two room house with an office and a workshop where the fiberglass shaping and painting takes place. The boards are cut sharp and made light for fast tight turns and big waves. I found out later, that this is definitely not the board you want to learn on.
Surfing is not like snowboarding at all. The difficulty with snowboarding is in staying up on your board, whereas, the difficulty with surfing is getting up onto the board. I learned this quickly as salt water slammed quite easily into my lungs and sinuses. I will not give up though. I am determined, and next time I will find a larger Malibu board to start on.
It must be said, however, that I do look quite good in my new Brasilian Board Shorts.