Friday, May 9, 2008

Shipping Home

It took two days to ride through the wet mountains of Colombia into the capital, Santa Fe de Bogota, and a beautiful ride it was. Climbing once again into the Andes, over 12,500 feet, the cool air brings chills down the spine, as memories of six months prior tingle my brain. I have such wonderful feelings for Colombia, it is very exciting to be back. And then I remember why I am going to Bogota; I have no money and I have to fly my bike back home.
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

Angel Fall

While in Ciudad Bolivar, Ted, Cristi and I looked into prices for the tour to Angel Fall. The package that we were looking for was for one day and included a flight out to Canaima National Park on a Cessna six seater, a flight over Angel Fall, and a tour around Canaima lagoon. We found the package for 1,000 Bolivars Fuentes and Ted and I decided to go with it. I ended up taking a loan from Ted in order to do it, but I figured this may be the only time in my life where I had this chance to fly over the tallest waterfall in the world. The flight was nice and smooth, cruising at 3,000 feet to Canaima. Ted and I had a little to drink the night before, so we ended up struggling through the day just to keep everything down. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful ride moving over the jungle of Canaima in a Cessna. After arriving in the national park and paying the 8 Bolivar entrance fee, we went straight back onto the plane and headed towards Angel Falls. Ted and I were the only two going on the fly over, and had the airplane to ourselves (pilot included of course). Flying over the bluffs, the anticipation was craving, so was the alcohol from the night before, as the pilot swung the plane around and shot into the clouds. We crossed over a number of large drop offs with small waterfalls, and then the pilot pointed over to the right. There it was, in its pristine beauty of the morning sun. It was breathtaking and wonderful, and after our fourth fly around, we received the thumbs up. On the way back we followed the river with canoes filled with tourists heading up stream towards the fall. We nosed dived and skimmed the water as the tourists waived from below and cruising into Canaima lagoon. We made a fly by of the waterfalls in the lagoon and then circled into the runway. I was all smiles. Ted and I were greeted by our tour guide outside from the plane, and escorted down to the lagoon where we took a quick swim in the earth tone waters before jumping into our own canoe to head out to the falls of the lagoon. These falls were much shorter, however, they had their own spectacular beauty. Golondrina fall has the larger water output and was definitely impressive. The second fall in the lagoon, Hacha, is a wide fall where we parked the boat and took a stroll behind the fall itself. The water came crashing down over as Ted and I crept along the wet stones enjoying the tranquility and coolness. Once again, all smiles. We brought the boat back in and had a nice lunch in Canaima, just before the downpour came in. The Cessna was waiting for us after our meal, and took off as the rain started to fade. It was a nice choppy flight back into Ciudad Bolivar this afternoon, with smiles of a perfect journey. I feel like I can come home now.

Angel Fall from top.
979 meter drop.
Golondrina fall.
Hacha fall.
Behind Hacha fall.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


Our trip into Venezuela was very comfortable. We did not have temporary import papers for our motorcycles in Brasil and were a little worried, so we decided to ride on through the Aduana after getting our passports stamped out in immigration on the Brasilian side. Well, it worked and we soon crossed over to Venezuela, where we were sure to get our temporary imports. We already had the acceptance ticket into Venezuela for tourism that we picked up for free in Belem, so it was quite easy getting into the country. The border town of Santa Elena was only a few kilometers away, and we had enough gas to get us into town.

The ATM machines do not work for our cards and so after five days in this country, we are still running off of the extra Reais we had from Brasil that we exchanged over the border. However, we have been able to use our credit cards at super markets and hotels, so we are making it through. This is where it gets interesting.

In terms of prices in this country, a person will pay around 15 to 30 USD for a hotel room. Pretty reasonable. You will pay 10 USD for a hot meal, a little expensive for a South American Country. At the super market, you will pay 40 USD for bread, ham, cheese and juice. Ok, this is getting expensive. Beer is about 1 USD per can, and you can only buy them at liquor stores. Different. Water is about 1 USD for a liter container. This is where it gets really interesting. If you want to buy 1 liter of gas, it is going to cost you about 0.06 USD. This means that water costs 17 times more than gasoline in this country.

Ok, I understand that this country has surplus of gasoline. I know that there are a few people is this country that are making a lot of money off of it (will explain later). However, if you cannot afford a car, how are you going to afford a sandwich?

We met a group of BMW riders in Santa Elena at the hotel (4/30). They live up around Caracas on the coast, and were down in the southern part of the country on a tour for vacation. They were all driving brand new shiny beemers (oil business) when I pulled up in my classic Airhead covered in red clay with a dirty sheep skin on the seat. I do not need to front in order to prove my status of masculinity; I was proud. They ended up being incredibly friendly and helped us out a lot in terms of information on touring in Venezuela.
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.

About an hour later, we heard the Shadow roar back up to the hotel. It turns out there was a protest going on down the road where some angry workers set fire to old cars in the middle of the highway and were not letting anyone pass. But not to worry, although it was a national holiday for workers in Venezuela, I was able to find a phone card and call my sister on her birthday.

The next morning, we took off early with our new friends on the Shadow, Orlando and Joseliana from Barquisimeto, thinking the protest would be over and we would be able to pass. Unfortunately, the rusted cars were still in the middle of the road, with trucks, cars and touring buses stopped up for miles as people shouted back and forth over the economic hardships of Venezuelan life. We turned around and went back to the hotel to ask about an alternative route. The ended up taking us up into the mountains on dirt roads filled with clay pits filled with water and makeshift bridges that formed tricky obstacles. The road took us through a series of mining facilities that extracted minerals from the mountain sides. They used old techniques of pumping water through tubes up the mountain side on supports made of sticks tied together. It was classic and adventurous. When Cristi fell over in the mud, we had our laugh, however, that turned around and they soon were laughing back at me when the guy from the hotel that was showing us the way, stepped out of his buddies pick up truck and asked to ride on the back of my bike. He was not a small man, however, the space left on my bike certainly was. I was feeling mighty friendly with my gas tank as we went through mud pits and puddles. I ended up taking him to work, which was not far off from when we made it back to the highway, around the barricade. We ended up running into another group of bikers wanting to head south. They did not feel like taking a Gold Wing through mud, so they headed up to Puerto Ordaz with us.

Orlando and Joseliana were wonderful. They let us shower at their place and camp out at Orlando´s sisters for the night. They took us to the biker rally, where they gave us free admission and introduced us to all the clubs in the area. Our bikes were a major attraction as well. Apart for the Moto Guzzi, the fancy Suzuki Boulevard, a nice Harley, and the boys pulling spinners, I really think they were attracted to the dirty sheep skin on my seat.

The next day, we had breakfast with Orlando and Joseliana, who then went and purchased our gas for the fourth time, and sent us off to Ciudad Bolivar. They were wonderful and amazing and have given us a warm feeling of this country. Americans are definitely welcome here...excluding the President.
Jasper Fall, north of Santa Elena.

Of road detour around demonstration.

Do I even need to explain this one?

Friends Orlando and Joseliana with their uncle at the farm.

Ride north of Manaus through the Indigenous Reservation

From Manaus, we left the boat and Ted, Cristi and I split from Pete and Carol to head straight north towards Venezuela. In order to do so, you must first cross an Indigenous Reservation with plenty of fuel in the tank.
So, we took off north in the rain, and made it about 50 kilometers before it stopped and the sun and humidity came out. We ended up filling our tanks just outside of the reservation. While in the reservation, Ted and I had pulled up ahead of Cristi and pulled over to wait for her. They tell you never to stop in the Indigenous Reservation north of Manaus, but they have never told us why. We figured they were just telling us that there was no gas or amenities there.

Cristi finally came up to us, we took out some sausage and crackers for lunch, and Ted used the jungle facilities. I was joking to Cristi while Ted was position up against a tropical bush, and told her that he will probably get a blow needle soaked in poison shot into his neck while he was over there. Luckily for Ted, but unfortunately for the aesthetic uniqueness of my blog writings, that did not happen. So we continued on.

Up the road, there was a guy on a scooter waving us down. So we stopped and he ended up being from Colombia and on a similar trip as us. His key was broken off in his panel and he could not get it out. He seemed to be very worried. We flagged a pick-up over and the nice gentleman inside took the guy and his scooter to town 100 kilometers up the road. So we continued on, happy and hot, watching the 4 foot lizard that looked like an alligator run out in front of the bike as the parrots cawed in the background of the dense forest.

Towards the very end of the reservation, we came upon another traveler. He was from Brasil and had traveled up to Alaska and all the way back through South America to Ushuaia. A really nice guy and his Spanish was perfect, so we were actually able to communicate with him. We told him about the guy on the scooter and about stopping for lunch, and then his jaw dropped, with eyes wide open. Perplexed at his expression, we asked why. He then went on to explain to us why they tell you not to stop in the reservation. It turns out that the Indigenous people of this reservation like guns, and they also like to kill people that stop on their land. We thought the guy with the shot gun just before we entered the reserve was going duck hunting...oh we are such ignorant tourists. So I was wrong, they would never of shot Ted with a blow gun...they would have just blown his head off with a rifle!

I guess we were pretty lucky, so we said our goodbye to another traveler and headed north to the equator. It was a funny line, about 20 feet off the actual GPS location of 0 degrees, with a hockey stick posted on the side. We took pictures anyways, and then headed north to a nice town with a hotel to camp out for the night.

Over all, the boat did not sink, we had enough gas to make it through, and we were not shot. I consider it a successful day.

Interesting birds, they looked like half flamingo and half vulture, north of the reservation.

A little closer to home.

Amazon Boat Trip (5/23 - 5/29/08)

I remember my sophomore year in High School biology class when we learned about the ecosystem of the tropical rain forest. There was this laser disc movie about the Amazon which included a rap song called the Rain Forest Rap. The only part of it that I remember is the chorus, which repeated, “the rain forest, the tropical rain forest.”
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.

The lovely hammock quarters where joy and happiness took place.

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.

Para Moto Clube in Belem

Through a few connections, we were able to find a boat called the Rondonia to Manaus very easily. With our bikes, it cost us around 400 USD for the five day trip up the Amazon River. Our connections in Belem were also part of the motorcycle club known as the Para Moto Clube. Belem is the Capital of the state of Para.
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

Road to Belem

The road, or rather collection of roads, that lead you to Belem from Salvador, stream you through hills and valleys filled with grazing pastures, small villages, and amazing life...and death.
Here is a short list of what we saw from the road:
Ford factory
excavated forests
naked black boys bathing in a tub
flooded villages
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

Praia de Forte

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

Boa Praia

After Vitoria, we had nice rides through the hilly jungles of northern Brasil, where skin tones darken and poverty increases. There is a lot of history in these jungles along the coast line. The Portuguese in Brasil used slaves well into the late nineteenth century, and the living situations have not improved dramatically since.
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

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.

Cidade Alta.

Graffiti art of Salvador.

Traveling with Ted

After a long ride through a very hot and humid Brasil, we made it to Vitoria late on Wednesday night, and decided to take a swim in the hotel pool. The night was alive and beautiful, with the smell of BBQ coming from the beach. Women were out running while their boyfriends walked the Shitzu-Poodle lap dog.
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

Who´s Yo Daddy?

Final - OT

(1)Kansas (37-3, 13-3 Big 12)
(1)Memphis (38-2, 16-0 C-USA)

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Miss Moneypenny, have you ever seen the sunset over Rio?

Ted on Ipanema beach one block from the hostel
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.
Copacabana and the Red beach at dusk
North Rio at dusk with Christo in the upper right.
Copacabana facing South
Copacabana facing North

Not wasting one minute in Rio, we woke up early from the Favela Funk Party hang-over, and prepared ourselves for a city tour. This included the Christo monument that overlooks the city from the west, the Metro Cathedral, the Carnival street and Museum, and Sugar Loaf Hill on a cable car that overlooks the city from the east side.
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 a really really really large country.

Favela Funk Party

In the early part of the 19th century, the ruler of Brasil at the time decided to bring a wealth of hands from the country into Rio de Janeiro to help build new additions to the old capital. After the majority of the work was done, the people decided not to leave back to the country, but rather start their own communities up in the hills of Rio. In these hills, a large green plant we leaves called Favelas grew abundant. So, when the locals described their area of town, they would call it the Favela. This name has grown through the years, and has been taken over as the Portuguese term for `slum´. The name Rio de Janeiro was given by the Portuguese settlers who sailed into the bay and thought it was a river. Go figure, they came in the wonderful month of January.
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! 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

Costal road to Paraty and Rio

California has highway 1, and I have never ridden on it, however, I expect it to be beautiful. Nonetheless, the coastal road BR-55 that goes from Santos (East of São Paulo) to Rio is curvy, mountainous, and absolutely breathtaking. We left São Paulo early and road through Santos, across a ferry, and onto the BR-55, headed towards Paraty.
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.

High School Reunion in São Paulo

In Florianapolis, we met up with a couple from Western Canada, Pete and Carol. I had met the couple in Buenos Aires, while my motorcycle was getting worked on. They are very experience travelers, who have already ridden around the world once, and now are going from Alaska to Ushuaia and back. We decided to ride north together and ended up in Morretes, just outside of Curatiba, along the river. It was a very nice little town, with an old railway that passes through the jungle filled with birds and flowers.

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.

We made it into Embu, on the outskirts of São Paulo, early in the afternoon this past Wednesday and enjoyed the outdoor market filled with artisans and craftsmen. We enjoyed coffee and cake as we waited for my good friend Pati (pronounced Pátchee) from senior year in high school, and her husband Edwardo, to get off from work and meet us. It was interesting, because it has been eight years since I last saw Pati, and I was not quite sure what she looked like. However, when she stepped out from the car it hit me, and senior year memories came back to me. They live in Baueri, and so we followed them with our bikes to their upscale apartment just outside the city.
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

Dinner with the Yamaha XT Club

Our friend Hart, who had found us lost at the Supermarket, and found us the place to stay in Florianopolis, had invited us to a BBQ at his house just up the street. He and his friends are all part of the Brasilian Yamaha XT club, that spreads throughout the country, with about 8,000 XT motorcyclists.
His house is a modern, self built, beach home built up on the east side of the hill that overlooks the Atlantic. His garden is filled with Brasilian tropical vegetation and houses a workshop on the bottom of the slope. His plans our to build a room and bath onto the workshop and an outdoor patio in order to have motorcyclists come to visit while on the road. This is very similar to the place in Azul where we had the Biker Birthday, and Dakar Motos where my motorcycle was repaired.
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.
Hart has been a great help. He has given us the contact information to other XT riders in northern Brasil, in order to help us out with problems if they occur.
Later that evening, we walked down the beach and heard live Samba coming from the local bar. We took a late night swim in the ocean and watched the stars twinkle over the surf. All of those great beach shots in the posters at the cold KC airport that you look at in disgust as you leave to Detroit...well, I finally made it.

Wipe Outs and Board Shorts

Florianopolis has beaches and surf that boarders from around the world only dream of. Well, this Kansas boy thought he would put up his saddle for a few days and try out this sport they call surfing.
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.