Monday, April 29, 2013

Traveling South America

Today we leave Brasil for the fourth and last time.  We can't say the entire time has been enjoyable but it has been very memorable.  Brasil, for all it's problems, is a very diverse country.  The northern section here in Boa Vista has been more of the same.

Here is a picture of our Spotwalla travels, until I have proper time to write a post.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


So below is a note I wrote to my wife.  It fairly well explains what has happened, except that our plan was to divide the ride from Campina Grande to Belem (1,360 miles) into three equidistant days.  But on the second day my bike developed a deep loud sound that I thought sounded kinda cool.  But there was something obviously wrong.  The KTM had blown an exhaust gasket between the header and the muffler.

Why it would do this can only be faulty assembly.  We tried a make shift gasket with tin cans but we apparently didn't have enough cans on the wrap.  It was a good temporary fix, but still leaking exhaust.  It needed something more.  In the next sizable town Alto Algre we actually found a motorcycle shop that had many different exhaust gaskets sizes and who did the repair there in their shop.  All in all, they charged my 30 real or $15 US for about 2 hours of work and parts.  I threw in an addition 20 real for Cerveja (beer).  So this necessitated a longer third day.
Header pipe sans Exhaust Gasket

The usual group that gathers to watch the Gigantic Gringos repair their machine

Fixing the exhaust gasket
Group at motorcycle shop
We made it to Belem, but not without trials and tribulations.  It was about 600 miles we rode in 13 hours, to make up for the day before when my bike broke down.  We went through at least four separate rain storms and I think one of them messed up my cruise control because it stopped engaging.  I had to shut it off, turn it back on, reset the speed and every time I hit the brake for a truck or speed bump (lambada) I had to go through it again.  After a while, even shutting it off stopped working.  The problem with that on a motorcycle, especially on long days like yesterday is my right hand starts hurting from holding the throttle open.  BUT, THE GOOD NEWS … another rain storm came along and fixed it.  Ha!  Well for the time being anyway.

Belem, for being a city I had never heard of is remarkably large.  We had bumper to bumper traffic for the last hour into the city.  It was dark by the time we got to a hotel Chuck had found the day before.  Fortunately, it wasn’t like most of our searches for hotels; go here “we’re full”, go there “we’re full too”, end up in some little hotel at the side of the road.  They actually had a room with two beds.  SCORRRRRRRRRE!

Tomorrow we will board the ferry for travel north across the Amazon to Macapa (pronounced “ma ca Pa’” emphasis on the P).  The trip is supposed to be a day and half.  We are going into the downtown area today, to the ferry building.   We need to find out what we will need to bring with us on the ferry; food, water, and of course beer (or what passes for beer here).  Fortunately we have an air conditioned cabin because no matter what time of day it is here, it is HOT and HUMID!  This is like what people think of when they think of the Amazon.   Once we arrive in Macapa we have 400 miles of mostly dirt north to the border with French Guiana.  We have to be at the border by April 22nd when the bikes need to be out of Brazil.

In Macapa, we will cross the equator for the second time.  The first time was in Ecuador, but we were late getting into Quito, it was dark and we didn’t realize we were crossing the Equator.  This time we plan on stopping and taking the perfunctory pictures.

Santo Amaro / Aracaju / Penebo / Maceio

This is more or less a place holder for more information and pictures later.  As I write this we are in Belem, making arrangements for the ferry to cross the Amazon.  We are on our return trip home.  We have been through this drill before, once we turn the corner to head back we are like old stable horses, heading toward the barn.  We have traveled over 18,000 miles and have less 7,000 more to do.  We have been on the road since September 21st, 2012 with a respite of about 2 months to attend to personal matters from February to  April..  

This time would probably be different if we didn't have people at home, or a home to return too.  But we have things to do, and it seems we have reached a point where we have grown tired of "seeing things".  There are few sites we want to see as we return, but in general, we are trying to get home as fast as we can.  For this reason, blog entries may be fewer and less complete.  When I get home, I can come back and edit and add; it will give me something to do.

Santo Amaro
After we left Rinopolis we traveled some of the worst roads of the whole trip.  We choose this route to avoid Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro and all the traffic.  On a back road to avoid even this road we ran into Nino riding a CB600.  He stopped us to see what we were riding and where we were going.  He did not speak much English and we spoke no Portuguese.  But somehow we conveyed that we were looking for a hotel.

Santo Amaro was essentially closed for celebration.  But, Nino led us through the streets and talked some of the police into letting us through to a hotel that was the best in the city at the city center.  The hotel staff told us the hotel was full, but again Nino talked them into extending us a room somehow.  We have been very fortunate. 

After getting settled, we invited Nino to dinner.  After food and drink and meeting some of Nino's friends while we sat watching the celebration, there was sudden commotion, someone yelled 'pistola' and Nino and his friends scurried us away to the back of the restaurant for safety.  We are gringo's and very large targets!  Later we heard it was only a fight.  The kind of thing in the states everyone rushes towards instead of away from.

The next day we rode with Nino to Fiera de Santana to met Geraldo.  Geraldo is a professor teaching English literature at one of the colleges.  Geraldo is part of a motorcycle club that Nino belongs too and thinks of Nino as his son.  Geraldo and I have become good friends since meeting and share e-mail on almost a daily basis.  Some day I will try to get back to see Geraldo again.

Geraldo is restoring a 1979 Yamaha RD350.  He has many parts acquired from sources all over the world to rebuild his bike.  He isn't quite sure where he will find the time to finish this lengthy project, since he is still working and has many other interests to pursue as well.  I will post some pictures when I have a little more time.

Aracaju / Penedo / Maceio
We left Santo Amaro and headed for the beach town of Aracaju.  Our plan was to spend a week or so there relaxing and enjoyng the beach, the sun and the culture.  But frankly after a little of all that, it became boring, so we left after five days.  We took some small trips up the coast and stopped at some small communities which was more interesting in one day than everything we did in Aracaju in five.

We started by traveling to Neopolis to catch the ferry across to Penedo.  We were amazed to watch what was probably a 5 ton delivery truck get stuck while trying to board the ferry.  It took two hours of re positioning the ferry, jacking the truck and using wood and stones for leverage to get it unstuck.  This is something I suspect you would never see in the US.  Then it was a wild scramble to get onboard.  Moto's last because they had to get the cars on first.  We were barely able to get a spot on the ferry even though we were first in line, because all the locals knew the process and were scrambling before we got a clue.

Penedo is what you think of when you think of small South American towns on the coastline.  Lots of church steeples, beach side bars and restaurants.  We were there on one day but we had to keep moving on.

North of Maceio we then stopped at a pousada called Arco-Iris.  If you are passing by way of Maceio, I would highly recommend this place.  Clean, not far from the beach, a pool and good food.  

The last day we made it to Jaoa Passoa.  This is where Chuck's friend Marc lives.  We spent a few days there getting our bikes serviced.  Chuck's wife Karen came down and I returned to Houston.  During the time I was in Houston, there was a death in Karen's family.  Chuck and Karen returned home and I changed my return flight to Brazil to be as late as possible and still get the bikes out on time.  Vehicles are only allowed to stay in Brazil for 90 days maximum.