Sunday, 24 November 2013

Goodbye Brasil

By Mark

While in Florianopolis we met a young guy named Fernando, he had seen our bikes on the street and came looking for us. We were not too hard to find as we were sitting just across the road from the bikes enjoying our last Acai. He asked us about our route and then gave us a few tips on places to ride when we left from here. It was one of the best tips we could have been given! He suggested we head inland via a few back roads and ride the Serra Corvo Branco.

We left the city behind and instead of heading down the coast via the BR 101 we headed inland looking for dirt roads which we have not ridden enough of while in Brasil. We were rewarded for this riding through some beautiful countryside that at times reminded me of home. We weaved back and forth through the countryside on roads that were busier than I had expected. We did come unstuck a few times with our directions due to poor signage and our not so detailed map but it was well worth it.

Late in the day we finally had the Serra Corvo Branco in our sights and boy was it worth it. This has to be the steepest road we have been on in a long time with the tightest switchbacks leading us over the mountain pass. The view back over the valley was stunning. We were both looking forward to the next few days riding which would continue on through the mountains until we dropped back down to sea level.
Our stopover was in the small town of Uribici, and it just so happened that there was a Brazil Rider who lived in town who was going to host us in his guesthouse. When we got there however his guesthouse was full due to a long weekend. Marcus then lead us back out to a local campground and got us set up and even kindly paid for us since he was unable to host us and then invited us back to his place for dinner. Marcus, your risotto was delicious! We were not the only bikers in the campground, it was full of other bikers who were making the most of their long weekend.

The next day we had a full day of dirt roads ahead of us including a ride on another pass called Serra do Rio Rastro. Unfortunately the weather was not so kind and the heavens opened up on us so by the time we reached the pass it was engulfed in an enormous cloud of rain so we decided to miss riding the wet slippery roads and head back to our favoured dirt roads. We found ourselves riding in and out of the clouds all day through spectacular countryside which had me dreaming away of setting up home there. I thought about having a farm and maybe start my own off road riding school, then BANG, I hit another huge rock on the road which snapped me out of my dream state and made me realise I should be concentrating more on the road. It had to be one of the roughest roads almost of the entire trip. That afternoon we came by a little town which was one the creepiest places we have come across in Brasil. On the edge of town was a stunning little river which we were thinking of camping by until we headed into town to see what was about.
It was like a scene from an American horror movie, it was an all but abandoned town with one inbred looking person staring at us as we rode past. Others we could see were hiding behind their windows peeking through the curtains and conjuring up ideas what they would do to us. With these thoughts in our head we hightailed it out of there with the local rabid dogs chasing us out of town.

Just ten kilometres down the road we couldn’t believe the contrast off what we had just seen and where we now found ourselves. We managed to find a farm that had a fantastic campground and it was cheap. Score! It was also full of bikers, this time the bikers were all members of a club called the XT660 club and they had one of their meetings on that weekend which was more like a party which we were invited along to. It was great to be around more bikers. The camaraderie of bikers in Brasil is like no other I have witnessed anywhere else in the world.  It doesn’t matter what you ride as long as you are on two wheels.  Australians take note, this is lost on many of you these days. We enjoyed the company of the fellow riders and also many beers that came along with it. It was freezing cold outside and my way of not thinking about it was to get drunk and go pass out in the tent. Luckily the next morning brought with it beautiful clear blue skies. It was perfect for our last day in the mountains and our visit to the impressive Fortaleza gorge. With impressive views back towards the coast and rolling mountains of the interior of the country, little did we know at that time, that this would be the last beautiful place we would see in Brasil.

On our way to the coast we just happened to pull up on the side of the road for a quick break where a bunch of BMW riders just entered back onto the sketchy road. Sanne as usual rolled her eyes when checking out the guys on their flash big bikes dressed in BMW gear with all the latest gadgets from Touratech decked out on their bikes. As they rode off I said to Sanne: “You can have them, and how funny would it be to pass and roost the guys on our little 400’s?” With that, nothing more needed to be said and Sanne was off, riding like she was possessed. She had a point to prove and she was going to do it no matter how bad the condition of the road was. As I followed along behind I started to realise what I had said was probably not a good idea as I watched  Sanne’s bike stepping out sideways as she bumped up and down along the rough road until she caught up and passed the BMW guys. A few kilometres down the road we pulled over and I laughed as I saw this huge big grin on Sannes face, with a huge sense of achievement all over it. Sanne and her little Suzuki : 1. BMW: 0.

We had one more stop to make and that was down on the coast with our last host, Humberto and his girlfriend Deborah. They are not Brazil riders but are part of another club called VMAS but are friends of some Brazil riders we had stayed with. They took us in along with their five menacing Dobermans. I really needed a day to check over the bikes after the past three days on some of the worst roads we have been on, no complaints as it was great fun but the bikes always need a once over after those sorts of conditions. I am glad I did, I found one snapped mounting on my pannier racks, one cracked mounting on my rear subframe, one snapped spoke and two more that needed replacing. After almost 80,000km’s on the road the bikes are starting to feel the pain of long distance travel. With the help of Berto and his friend we got the bikes sorted out. The local welder on the other hand butchered his way around my subframe and after a few words and one welder storming out on me when I questioned what he was doing, we did somehow get it sorted. I just don’t know how long it will last.
Berto and Deborah were great hosts, just like almost every other host we have had the chance to stay with in Brasil. The following day we left and I didn’t realise it at the time why I was feeling so off that day. Now thinking back over it, it would be the last time we would be hosted by such fantastic people. We had only one night left in Brasil and we found ourselves bush camping for our last night. With time to reflect on what the past two months had meant to us.

To everyone we met, were hosted by and talked to, we will remember you always. When I think of all the great times we have had in Brasil and the wonderful openness of the strangers we have met and the new friends we have left behind, your kindness means more to us than you will ever know and we hope through your generosity that we will grow from this and try to do the same in the future, when we eventually return to Australia our home will also be your home. Mi casa es su casa.

The back country on our way to Uribici

Quick stop off for a lunch break

Beautiful countryside

Jawohl, Danke!

Serra Corvo Branco, Santa Catarina

Still attracting a crowd, maybe it was just the view and not me?

A complete white out over Serra do Rio do Rastro 

We both love being off the tarmac, especially with the spectacular scenery that surrounded us.

Our great campspot,very tranquil after the ghost town we had just left behind

Fortaleza Canyon

Our last hosts in Brasil, Debora and Berto

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Coast Way

By Sanne

Before we leave Brazil and before I forget I need to get this off my chest: “WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH ALL THE SPEED HUMPS!??” Seriously, it’s insane the amount of speed humps in this country. They pop up everywhere, highway, or small streets, much to the annoyance of yours truly. Maybe they should invest in some more police on the roads instead if it’s speed they want to control, because I don’t know what the police in Brazil spends their days doing but it sure as hell ain't spent patrolling the roads. The few police I have driven past didn’t look twice at people who were driving too fast – myself included! We have been told the Brazilian police are amongst the most corrupt in the world, so I guess if there’s no money in it for them, they turn a blind eye.

Moan aside, we left Rio to head south and returned to the lovely beach village of Trindade on the Costa Verde. Here we once again ran into Jonas, the 50-something year old dude who have lived in his tent at the campground for no less than 3 years… We suspect he’s the local drug dealer. Nice guy though.
After that we spent a night in Caraguatatuba where we stayed before. It’s some holiday apartment being renovated and since they’re owned by a Brazil Rider we were invited to stay there.

The next day we made our way to Peruibe, a coastal town with not much interesting to mention. The skies had opened and it was raining buckets. We stopped to get fuel at a petrol station and as I was riding out I rode over an oil spill and with barely any acceleration my bike did a 180 and I ended up on the ground.

Our next hosts were Isa and Zequina from Curitiba (also Brazil Riders) but we visited them in their holiday home in the beach town of Pontal do Parana. They were both really lovely and we managed to communicate with not too many problems, and this was when I realised that when Mark is trying to speak Portuguese he sounds exactly like stuttering Jim Trott from Vicar of Dibley! This is not meant to be a payout on him, believe me I’m not doing much better! I think we have by now both resigned ourselves to the fact that the Portuguese language is just never going to be part of our vocabulary. Thank god, it’s only Spanish from here on in for the rest of the trip.

With Isa and Zequina we went on a daytrip to Ilha do Mel (Island of Honey). Why it’s called that, I’m not exactly sure as there’s no honey on it as far as I’m aware. It’s a beautiful little island that’s barely been developed, there are no roads, just sandy paths and no vehicles are allowed on the island. It is very pristine and picturesque and the majority of the island is an ecological reserve which is closed off to the public. There are a few surfers around, some people hiking, it’s very “tranquilo” to use a Portuguese term.
When we left Isa and Zequina (who by the way nicknamed me ‘rabbit’ presumably because I like to eat lettuce a lot) we managed to make our second person cry. Poor Isa had tears running down her face when we said our goodbyes… I don’t like to see people cry because of us, but if it’s a sign they have enjoyed our company, we can only feel incredibly blessed to have met such lovely people.  

Next stop was Blumenau, which was founded by German Immigrants and is known for its many breweries and has the biggest Oktober Fest outside of Germany, which unfortunately we missed. Here we stayed in the home of another Brazil Rider, Venturini and his wife Lily. They were incredibly nice to us, however I don’t think they quite understood the concept of Vegetarianism. They made us lunch and in the bean soup which they claimed was vegetarian were chunks of meat floating... “But it’s only small pieces!” they exclaimed. We skipped the beans and had rice instead.

While in Blumenau we also met James and Jonas, two local brothers who have traveled around South America on their XT 660’s and they invited us to their house to meet their family and exchange stories from the road. Like many of the people we meet it is their dream to do a big trip like ours but for many it is a difficult dream to realise. You need not only money, but also the time and the ability to let go of any commitments you might have. If you have a family and kids and a mortgage on top, well it’s just not that easy. In that sense Mark and I are fortunate because everything we own is on the bikes! James and Jonas are really top guys and we were lucky to meet them completely by coincidence by James spotting our bikes in the street. We hope to see them again on the road someday, somewhere. And Jonas, all the best for your speedy recovery mate, you have been through a lot. Positive thoughts go out to you and your family.

Then it was on to Florianopolis, and yes, you guessed it: another Brazil Rider! This time Edson who himself have done a bit of traveling in South America on his bike. Our arrival was celebrated with a party thrown for us attended by the local motorbike club. Seriously, our egos are growing bigger by the day! What are we gonna do when we return from this trip and no one treats us like celebrities anymore?! I don’t even want to think that thought! Pizzas and beers were in abundance and we greedily tucked in. Everyone was so nice (as is the case with everyone in Brazil, seriously Brazilians have got to be the friendliest and warmest people we have encountered on our entire trip) although I wouldn’t mind if I never again get to hear the sentence: “What??? You ride your own bike??!” followed by a look of utter disbelief and shock! Because as progressive as Brazil might be, women riding their own motorbikes just still seems too out of this world for them. It is a little disappointing to have met so many bike riders and literally none of them have been female. The women are present at all the events and even on the trips they do, but always as the passenger. Come on ladies of Brazil! Get off that pillion seat and get your own bike. Let’s see some girl power here!

This was around the time my camera started playing up. It is now 4 or 5 years old and we have been using it every single day now for 2 ½ years. It has seen sand, dust, rain, snow, been exposed to soaring heat and freezing cold and being tossed around on bumpy roads. And now is the first time we have had any problems with it. Well, as it turned out it wasn’t actually the camera that was faulty but the lens. We took it to a camera repair place and this Japanese dude took it apart and found that the reason we are having problems is that the shutter gets stuck because of a faulty flat cable diaphragm. Unfortunately he told us he couldn’t fix it, that we had it to take it to an Olympus Service Centre to get the part replaced. So now we have to wait till we get to Montevideo which is where the closest one is. I just hope that 1. They can fix it 2. It won’t cost a fortune and 3. Our camera won’t sh*t itself completely on the way there, as for now it still works intermittently.

The next night Edson took us to a Triumph store opening. I don’t know what I expected, but had it been a motorbike store opening anywhere in Australia it would have gone off with a lot less pomp. You would have had a ‘barbie’ going on in the carpark on a Saturday afternoon and people would have shown up in their double pluggers and wife beaters to have a scurry around or at least to get a free feed.
When a motorbike store opens in Brazil on the other hand, it’s more like a movie premiere in comparison. First off all there was a queue to get in, when we got to the end of the queue we were greeted by scary looking doormen (do doormen always have to look so damn angry??) and glamorous girls who checked us off the guest list much like a private members club. We then proceeded to walk up the red carpet which lead us inside where we were greeted by more girls wearing skintight leotards posing with the bikes. The next thing we knew a posh-looking waiter presented us with a glass of champagne each and for the remainder of the night that glass never went empty thanks to the ever-attentive waiter. Wonder how that fits in with Brazil's no tolerance policy to drink driving. The limit here is 0.0% and if you get caught it means a night in prison and a hefty fine. Everyone had come on their bikes that night and everyone drank. Lucky the police are so lazy here or they would have had a field trip that night. 

Another thing that surprised me was that here people could get on the showroom bikes, turn them on and rev the living daylight out of them. Almost like a burnout. It is very popular to do that here in Brazil. At every single bike event we have been to (and just generally on the street), there is always some knobhead reving his bike so loud that you think your eardrums are going to explode. They don’t seem to realise/care that they’re actually destroying their bike by doing so. I have now resorted to waving my pinky finger at the offender every time I see someone do this. But from the reactions I get I don’t think they understand what the ‘pinky wave’ means and I realised that maybe it’s just in Australia we do this. It is basically a way to show the driver/motorcyclist that they have a penis roughly the size of a pinky finger and are trying to make up for it by either going fast or doing ridiculous stunts. Anyway, after one day waving my finger right in a guy’s face and he just smiled and started talking to me, I think the joke is lost on them. I’ll keep on doing it though. I know what it means.

After leaving Edson we spent a few days on Ilha Santa Catarina which is gorgeous but way, way, way too overdeveloped. We were there midweek and it was still full of people. I would hate to be there during the holidays. It has some stunning beaches as well as lakes and mountains AND the tastiest Acai we have had to date! I am sorry I keep on ranting about this damn Acai but I cannot get enough. The three days we were there we each had an Acai every day. The excuse being that this was going to be our last chance to eat it as further south of here they don’t sell it.

After trying our hand at paddle boarding in Rio and mainly succeeding in falling off a lot we wanted to give it another go. At least here we could do it on a calm lake with no waves which made it a hell of a lot easier. It was actually really enjoyable paddling around the lake while fish were jumping out of the water all around us. We were lucky to find our very first bush camp in South America down a dirt track which lead through a pine forest all the way to our own little beach. Here we camped undisturbed for two nights and man, it felt good to be back in nature again. I am forever thankful to all the people who have hosted us in their homes here in Brazil, but nothing compares to camping in the wild with no people around, just Mark and I and nature. It doesn’t get much better than that.

A return to lovely Trindade...

Sliding rock

This is your beach Felix!

And lovely it is, we wish we could have camped there

The caretaker of the holiday apartments in Caraguatatuba

Drying out the tent (and everything else) after a wet night...Wonder how we'll cope in Patagonia...

Dead penguin on Ilha do Mel


Our hike around the island took us on an unexpected route!

Isa, Zequina and Mark

Dead turtle (does everything wash up and die here??)

Beautiful beaches

Paths like these traverse the island

I'll try to control my euphoria but I can't make any guarantees...

Giving the babies a much needed hose down

Saying goodbye to Isa and Zequina

Barge from Matinhos-Guaratuba

Yes, this is really Brazil! Blumenau's Oktober Fest area

Can't believe they roped me into character as a German Hausfrau

James, Jonas and their family

Venturini and me

Brazil Riders party in Florianopolis

We are now proud owners of Brazil Riders t-shirts

Ilha de Santa Catarina

Our bush camp

Oh Acai, how I love thee!

Paddle boarding

I had to include this one; notice the by-chance caught moment when Mark drools beer out of his mouth 
and it lands on my arm. Classy as always.