Tuesday, 29 March 2011

SOUTH-COASTING BRASIL










Four years on the bike, and I find myself celebrating by repairing 2 punctured tubes (which by now I could probably do with my eyes closed and my hands tied behind my back!). Let me rather say something about Brasil, where Leana and I have been cycling Northwards along the coast for the past 2 weeks. For starters, Brasilians are a difficult bunch to describe, as there doesn't seem to be anything like a typical Brasilian. This lot comes in all shapes and sizes, they are all colours of the rainbow, they wear anything they want (sometimes hardly enough), and everyone seems to be happily doing their own thing. Some people live in fancy condo's and glittering mansions, while others live in shacks and on rubbish dumps. Streets are shared by shiny black 4X4's and horse-drawn carts (the other day I was able to help a stranded cart-man by giving him one of my spare tubes). Bicycles are popular here, for sport as well as transport to the supermarket or to work. People are generally friendly, with lots of hooting and greeting and sometimes shouting (fortunately we don't understand the language much, but some of it may be related to the popular Aguardente cane spirit - I've tried the stuff myself, only because it is dirt cheap!). When we entered the South from Uruguay the land was very flat, with a lot of lakes and rice and cattle ranching. Gradually the environment has become more tropical in nature, with forested hills and a warmer humid climate. The other night we suffered a rather heavy rain-storm which demonstrated to Leana that her tent needed some serious water-proofing treatment (fortunately I'd given my old tent the treatment in Australia already). We're struggling a bit with the Portuguese language, which we mostly confuse with the bit of Spanish which we'd picked up in the previous 3 countries (as soon as we open our mouths people here assume that we're Argentinian). In the South there was a lot of interesting colonial architecture, and we also battled head-winds most of the time (we made the most of the couple of days when the wind was in our favour). Currently we're in the historic city of Joinville, about half-way between the Uruguayan border and Rio De Janeiro. One really good thing about Brasil is that they eat a decent breakfast - bread, cheese, ham, fruit, and cake! (in comparison to the measly croissant and coffee in the previous few countries). We've camped all over the show, but thanks to Leana we have stayed in budget hotels a number of times, where breakfast has always been included. Daily distances cycled since my last report have been:- Curral Alto 90 km; Pelotas 157 km; Camaqua 133 km; Guaiba 103 km; Osorio 125 km; Capao Canoa 47 km; Torres 63 km; Ararangua 60 km; Tubarao 81 km; Imbituba 57 km; Tujucas 129 km; Barra Velha 85 km; and Joinville 57 km. The total distance I've cycled in South America so far is 7 394 km. The total distance cycled in the 4 years of this trip is 73 881 km.

Friday, 11 March 2011

A BRAAI IN URUGUAY










Asado (a.k.a. barbeque, or "braai" in South Africa) is about as big in Uruguay as it is in Argentina. Leana and I have also found other similarities between the two countries, such as the love of football, the drinking of maté, staying up late at night and taking siesta in the day, the Spanish language, and there is even pampas grass along the road. From Buenos Aires we took a ferry across the wide expanse of the Rio De La Plata estuary to Colonia in Uruguay. We camped there in the local campsite that night, and were rather disappointed at the cost of the camping and also the price of things in the supermarket. The bit of Argentinian money we´d changed didn´t last long, so the following day we stopped at an ATM in the small town of Colonia Valdense. Well, what a co-incidence, as we bumped into Jo at the ATM and she invited us home to meet her South African daughter (Abegail) and son-in-law (Andrew). A couple of years ago Andrew sailed his yacht from Cape Town across the Atlantic, and the family cruised the S.American coastline for some time until they crept ashore for the arrival of offspring number 2. We got chatting over a few beers, so they insisted that we stay for supper and we ended up camping on their lawn that night. Andrew referred us to his Irish/English friend Lawrence (and Uruguayan partner Elisa) in Pireapolis, so a few days later we camped on their lawn and were invited to stay another night for a braai. The braai turned out to be a mean ex-pat affair, with Swedes, Americans, English, Canadians, and other South Africans all sending up the smoke. (The other South Africans were Pierre and Lindi from Durban, waiting for something to be done about their damaged yacht which had run onto the rocks). Uruguay is quite a small country, but we did manage to do a few other things as well. We stayed in the capital, Montevideo, for 2 days checking out the historic sights and so forth. Further East we passed through the international tourist mecca of Punta Del Este (reminiscent of Patong Beach in Phuket, Thailand). "Punta" is officially the end of the Rio De La Plata, and the start of the Atlantic Ocean (the first time my bike - Old Saartjie - had seen the Atlantic in almost 4 years). There are some nice beaches along this coast, and we camped at one or two of these. At the frontier town of Chuy (Chui in Brasilian) we crossed into Brasil. More correctly, we were stamped out of Uruguay 1 km South of the town where we spent the night "incognito", and we checked into Brasil the following morning about 1 km North of town. Officially the border runs along the middle of the dual main road in Chuy (the road is called Av.Brasil on the Uruguayan side, and R.Uruguay on the Brasilian side). Now we´ve moved a bit further into Brasil, just so that we´re less confused - at the border they seem to speak a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese, and the price of things in the shops is indicated in both Uruguayan Pesos and Brasilian Reals. In the process we´ve been welcomed into Brasil by the pouring rain - apparently there has been some serious flooding further to the North. We´ve decided to remain in our comfortable room in the town of Santa Vitoria Do Palmar for another day, as right now it is still pouring outside. Daily distances cycled since my last report have been:- Colonia De Sacramento 12 km (plus 3 hr ferry); Colonia Valdense 58 km; Playa Pascual 93 km; Montevideo 37 km; Pireapolis 110 km; La Barra (Punta Del Este) 52 km; Rocha 91 km; La Esmeralda 74 km; Chuy (Brasil border) 80 km; and Santa Vitoria Do Palmar 25 km. Total distance cycled in South America so far is 6 207 km. Total distance cycled so far on this trip in nearly four years is 72 694 km.