Sunday, 28 April 2013

On the road to Iguazu Falls - Brazil!

After getting the big bike breakdown fixed up in Itajuba Brazil, we ride through the back roads heading south because I'd like to meet Evandro Dalben.  He along with Roney Podda in Sao Paolo, were always helping me by phone or computer when I needed Portuguese Translation.  A lot!  It was such a massive project trying to organize a KTM fix up in a country that doesn't deal with KTM - both mechanic and parts!  So when I wanted to make darn sure I was understood (and we knew that google translator only sort of does the job), I talk to them.  Evandro invited us to stay at his place and it was an easy stop along our route south in Campinas.

When we met him, he told us about his business and passion for motorcycle adventures..  (If you are traveling to Brazil, you can rent motorcycles as well as plan your whole adventure through Evandro and his website) Plus he gave me a really cool new shirt!  Really cool, and I mean cool like in keeping me cool!  It is so hot and this is one of those mesh shirts... Thanks Evandro!

We stayed the night at his house and then he rode us out for a few km's in the morning.  We are headed to Florianopolis on the south coast.

Ciao Evandro!

Riding into Florianopolis..

To be quite honest, Florianopolis was just a touristy coastal town.  It didn't do much for me or James. It was nice, but we didn't see the point to stay two nights.  I've got my bike photo on the beach.. we're done! ;-)

Down the road a bit, we head inland.  As we passed this sign, I had a bit of a chuckle.. but it was worthwhile to James that we turn around to get a photo.. ha!

We'd learned early on about riding a really pretty section of road, called the "Serra do Rio do Rasto".. or SC-438.  So we didn't waste our travel to Florianopolis as this road was a treat in itself!  And we can ride straight on from there to the Foz do Iguazu (Iguazu Falls).

How pretty is this!!??

At the top of this road is a look out.. with some very furry friends!

Don't feed the wild animals.. the sign says so little one, can't you read??? ;-)  He's pretending he can't by squinting his eyes..

 NO!  You're cute, but don't you need to go eat some ants, or something...

After leaving the look-out point, the road got a bit misty.. another beautiful day in Brazil!

Then it turned to full on rain, we stopped for the night in a little no-name town and their only little hotel.  This one is worth mentioning, because the old lady who ran it was such a sweetheart. James and I are terrors to the internet and whenever we stay in a place with wi-fi we quite often can't log on. I'm still not sure why it is a constant problem in this country, but we tend to get around it.  We go immediately to the ceilings or walls, following the wires to the router and go about resetting it.  For me, I pull out ALL the wires, to guarantee a reset.  And it almost always works!  Not this time.  Never mind, we can do without internet.  But the lady wouldn't let up, so she called over her grandaughter, who tried, and then the older grandson came along and finally fixed it. I kept telling her don't worry (nao se preocupe) we don't need it! She wouldn't sleep until the foreigners had their internet. 

After the rain last night, it's a bright and early morning!

Also worth mentioning is a Brazilian breakfast.. No eggs, just cake!  Lots and lots of cake.. with icing!  That's the plus side.  The negative side, is neither of those jugs have tea.. Only coffee in one and hot milk in the other.. This is not a tea drinking country...!

A quick photo of her after pulling out of the garage.. It was more like we just stayed in Grandmas house!  I really liked her..

The ride started off clear, but it's getting cloudy all ready.  Understandable for how hot and humid it is.

We pulled in for fuel and I found a familiar friend!!

Hey.. what are you doing here??  No.. what are YOU doing here?? 

Now these guys in the red chairs are at the gas station too.  Shall we mention that huge tube of beer on the table... AT the gas station??!! Anyone here consider the drinking and driving concept?

Now, hopefully those guys stay put and well off my road..on to Iguazu Falls!  I've been looking forward to this for a VERY long time!

We arrived Iguazu town just as it started raining for the afternoon and found a good campground.  It was raining hard enough, with few visitors so the lady let us set up our tents under an outdoor seating area that had a roof.. it was great!  James went to the grocery straight away.  As I was setting up my tent, this massive storm hit so fast and so hard I was scared enough to run into a little brick building and crouch down.  Then it was over, just like that!  It must have been a small tornado.. When I came out, all the electricity in the area was out and a super large tree went down and hit the house on the property next door...yep, I'd say mini tornado.  Hopefully James is safely inside the grocery and not riding!

The rain never stopped, so we went to the Falls the next day regardless. You gotta do what you gotta do!

Now these are... proper.... falls!!

Even on a rainy day, these falls are beyond spectacular.  The walkway is close enough that you'd get wet anyway, so what does it matter if it comes from the sky or the river?

We went back to the same campground that night, the rain finished thank goodness.

The next day, we planned to leave the country to Paraguay.  James visa expires one day earlier than mine, so we have to go.  Because it's such a sunny beautiful day, we wished we could see Iguazu Falls on a day like this.  The man at the Brazil border gave him a 10 day extension, no problem!

Check out the curl they put in the motorcycle lane. Easy on the little bikes, but a little harder for us!

This is what the border from Brazil to Paraguay looks like.. Can't wait until tomorrow!  Not.. ;-(

We went back to the falls.. bought another ticket and did it again!  Woo hoo!

And they do look different.. I'm glad we came back already!

This is a view to the people on the Argentinian side of the falls, and their flag.  They look really crowded at that view platform, but it would be fun to see the falls from above like that.  However, I think being close to where they crash down is an even better viewpoint.. Not sure, maybe we should go to Argentina to check them out from there first.  Well, first we have to go to Paraguay actually.. ha!

This being our second visit, we wandered on to the walking trails a bit.  Lots more falls to see, but what I really enjoyed more I didn't expect... butterflies!  Lazy ones too, they're hitching a ride on me!

In this photo I have 3 on my hand, at one point I had 5!

This one is my favorite.. it even has a red heart.. love it!!

Trying to not forget I'm here to see the falls.. I'm not sure now which I'm loving more!

Oh yeah, more falls.. we've not seen these ones yet.. ;-)

There's the odd lizards here and there..

Even found some PRE- butterflies..

Lord have Mercy.. check this one out on the bench at the bus stop!  I decided to name it Albert Einstein..

One last butterfly. I've not seen this one before, and it was hard to carch the photo with the wings open.. but just fascinating colors and design.

We really should go... one last look at Iguazu Falls.  This place has become one of my favorite highlights of my entire world tour..


Friday, 19 April 2013

BBB - Big Bike Breakdown - Brazil

Well I only got about 100 km out of Rio de Janeiro when the bike broke down.. this is a big one too.  I didn't like how it felt while riding away from Rio but we were only going slow along the coast.  Then when we went up to speed, it felt really bad and I just pulled over to the side of the road and stopped.  James came back and asked what's wrong and I told him I don't want to ride it anymore, something is VERY wrong.

We rolled it to the shops across the street, where I stuck into finding a solution.  

What makes this problem worse is KTM no longer exists in Brazil. So finding a mechanic, let alone parts, is going to be a super huge challenge.

The best I could do from here is get the bike on a truck and down to the closest somewhat large-ish town to the south, Paraty.

While on the side of the road, our Kiwi friend, Simon, whom we met on the boat in the Amazon passes by riding his little Suzuki.  He rides on with James while I take the truck.

The driver and I keep a fairly decent conversation going, even though he doesn't know a word of English and I have the most limited Portuguese.  With a mix of Spanish and Portuguese words I've learned, we did well!

Into a hostel in Paraty, James and Simon get into taking the motor apart to see what happened.  Lucky I have these guys here to help me, because I wouldn't know how to take the insides apart! Another good thing is that I've downed a couple of beers, as this looks worse than I've ever seen on my bike before...

That rocker arm James took out to have a look the other day in Paula's garage in Rio seized up, causing damage to the camshaft as well.

Being on my own without a KTM mechanic around, I am spending hours and hours on the internet, skype, emails all over the world about how I can go about fixing this.  With their help I got the parts on order and with the help of my Brazilian facebook friends, which has also been great, Roney Podda and Evandro Dalben gave me suggestions of a couple possible mechanics for KTM.  One thing they all agree on is that I pulled over and didn't force the bike to continue on as they say that my damage is actually quite minimal in comparison to what it could be. Along with James and Simon, I've got a good group of people helping me out so much. 

I think now is a good time to pray... ;-)

With all of my information lined up on the computer, I chose to use a mechanic in Itajuba, in a town about 200 km away... yes, that was the best I could do. There are zero options in Paraty.

Now the waiting begins.  Craig at CJ Designs  in Wisconsin, is always helpful in finding the KTM things I need and has no trouble shipping to me no matter where I am in the world.  If you ever need KTM parts, he designs and makes his own and really worth knowing in the USA.  It's at least two weeks before I can even hope to see any parts arrive as the customs and importation is a real hassle for Brazil.  So I need to find a way to waste some time.

Not as bad as it sounds! Paraty (pronounced Para-chee) is an awesome place to be stuck for a while, and might as well accept it! It honestly took me a while to accept it, but what can ya do...

Paraty is renowned for the old historic town... so very Portuguese Colonial.  It's almost like I am back in Portugal! Just gorgeous.

 I really like this door..

This is a really special village. So much like stepping back in time.

As pretty as this town is, I am getting a bit bored.  I tease Simon that I might as well take off and finish my trip on his Suzuki.. ha!  He's packed and ready to go, and I can't help but to sneak on the bike ;-) Look how he's set this thing up off the cuff in Guatemala.

He bought a couple of backpacks at the market in Guatemala and had them sewn together.  He travels with only a hammock.  No fancy riding gear, only a helmet and gum boots.

I personally wouldn't cope.  Even in warm summer weather, I am only too grateful for my Rukka gear, that always keeps me dry.  And I'd be hopeless on a cool night or even in colder climate with only a t-shirt and gum boots.  But he did well, and he's not going to ride into cooler climates anyway.

With the parts on their way from America, I need to make my way to the town of Itajuba, where the mechanic is ready to fix up this seizure problem.  The cheapest way I can get my bike to the mechanic is to rent a little ute (low truck) and drive it there myself.  James offered to help, so he drove the truck back to Paraty and stayed there for a little while longer.

My parts are not here yet, and this is a nice but very boring town.  It did have good internet which gave me the opportunity to catch up on the blog everyday. James is being far too kind and sticking around.  I really want him to move on and continue his own journey.  I will get this sorted eventually.  But he wants to stick around and help.  I can't force him to go and I'm grateful for his help, but I feel really guilty.  Every time I knock on his door to see if he's still alive while waiting for my parts to arrive, he's in another world anyway.. Video games...!

The view from my room in Itajuba, Brazil

Itajuba is not a touristy town at all.  There are no young people scouring the streets with supersize backpacks.  Just a normal inner Brazilian town.  Luckily we met Ronny, who speaks pretty good English.  He is the only one I met.  And he was super helpful.  He's about the same age as young James and I kept trying to get James to go out with Ronny to meet the young locals, but he'd never go.

On facebook again, I was introduced to Pino Rossi through Roney Podda.  A fellow biker who owns an Italian restaurant.  So I suggested to James that we take a Sunday drive out to visit Pino and have a good meal.  Plus, I get to ride on the back of his big bike and take in the scenery.

I sort of showed up unannounced.. but it was fun to meet Pino.  He asked what we would like, but one thing I have learned from Italian chef's around the world, it's more interesting to find out what they would suggest.  And it's quite easy to find a vegetarian dish for James especially in Italian food.


Pino rides his bike often and he is super involved with local history.  We learned so much just by talking to him in the restaurant and then he wanted to take us and show us some things personally.. all right!

First up, a beautiful waterfall and an old power station they are working to restore.

It's quite nice riding on the back of a bike.  I wouldn't want to do it full time, but it's a nice change and I enjoy it.

A turn off into this out-of-the-way little country store and pub, were we sample the home made cheese and Cachaça (pronounced Kas Sasha).  Cachaça is fermented sugar cane juice.  Wow, does it pack a punch!  Good thing I'm not driving today!

Pino bought us a bottle to take with us.  Given my motorcycle dramas, this could come in quite handy! ;-)

I tried to take a photo with my little camera.  Didn't work too well.. but the boys look nice.

Next up we travel to another important part of Brazilian local history.  This beautiful old train station Estação Ferroviária is in ruins, but you can tell it was quite the station during it's day.  It was a major port of connections for the coffee industry in Brazil.  Eventually the high cost of transportation made it impossible for the coffee producers to be competitive in the markets, and the station went into sharp decline, eventually closing.

Unfortunately, it's now used to house the more active drug vendors.  One of them walking out of an opening holding his needles as we walked past. Very sad.

Pino is actively uniting with people to try to bring the station back to glory, maybe a place for future shops!  I hope he is successful, it is truly a beautiful building that deserves to be saved.

Off we go back to the restaurant, for one last drink before riding an hour or so back to Itajuba.  Thanks for the super meal and showing us around, Pino!

Waiting, waiting.. I am watching the shipping websites daily to keep track of my package.  Once it arrived Brazil, I can no longer track it easily on the USPS website, however, I did manage to find a new way to track it in Brazil.  It was stuck for quite a while in customs, for them to determine the amount of tax I might pay.  I was reading online that the charges can be sporadic.  Sometimes you are lucky to not get charged at all, and sometimes up to 60% !

My tax ended up being about as much as the parts cost, so essentially I paid double, but I'm just happy it's here and I can have it!  Now lets get it over to the mechanic and get this thing finished once and for all!  I am SO ready to leave Itajuba!

Herbert worked until late as he knew how bad I wanted my bike back.  I really appreciate it.   It's exciting to think that tomorrow I can pack up my bags and re-enter the world of motorcycle adventure. ;-))

Wow, that was a tough one.  Nice to learn that anything can be accomplished against all odds, no matter where you are in the world.  A very expensive breakdown, but with tons of support from so many friends. From James who is traveling with me, to many friends I haven't ever met in person, but helped anyway.  I feel really lucky and grateful. Super big ginormous thanks to everyone!