Monday, December 31, 2012

Straits of Magellan

We took a four night, three day cruise from Punta Arenas, through the Straits of Magellan, visiting Cape Horn and disembarking in Ushuaia. Part of the cruise around the Straits of Magellan include observing penguins and other water birds.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Montevideo drive by

I have been without a working computer since I left Itcare (a beach town south of Salvador, Brazil.) The computer was set to HIBERNATE mode, then I closed the lid before it completed the process. Closing the lid is configured to put the computer into SLEEP mode. The computer was packed away in the mototcycle for the next 8 hours or so in this state. I guess the poor thing was confused, try to figure out what I wanted it to do, SLEEP or HIBERNATE...  In the end the motherboard gave out. That is what opinions on the Internet say and Toshiba Tech Support said as well.

The good news, a new laptop will meet me in Buenos Aires. Another Toshiba , but this time its an ultrabook. It will take some time to rebuild the computer, made harder by doing it on the road with minimal Internet connections to download software. But rebuild I must. Keep watching this blog, I will start posting new stories and pictures.

I arrived in Montevideo last night, after leaving my new favorite country, Brazil. I will miss that country and even more, the people that I met. The only thing I can do is look forward to returning there and having my new friends visit the US.

I will take a quick look at Montevideo this morning, then head to Colonia, a beautiful town to the west and port for the Buenos Aires ferry boat. I am within stricking distance of Argentina! Wahooo!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Arraial D'Ajuda - Send in the Clowns

Leaving Itacaré in the early afternoon, I reached Porto Seguro sometime after 10:00 PM and found the ferry that crosses he Rio Buranhem to Arraial D'Ajuda. On the ferry a guy approached me and starts asking me questions. I learn that he is a professional clown. Soon I figure out via his broken English that he has a simple place and is inviting me to stay with him. We find a lady that speaks some English to confirm what he is saying, then she tells me that she know him and that he is a good guy. Luis “Drop Pants” opened the door to his home and the town.
Luis is riding a motorcycle with a cheerleader’s megaphone and a flag. He was returning from a performance when he met me. Now we are racing through town and back streets to his apartment. The last bit is negotiating an incline and turn through a gate into a compound of low rise buildings, a tricky maneuver, but one that I would grow. Luis is something of the mayor of the half a dozen apartment blocks. The motorcycles were parked under an open air combination of outdoor kitchen and workshop. DSCN7194

Once my luggage is unloaded I try to start my computer only to find that it won’t come out of “sleep” mode. After going to an Internet café to research the problem, the situation with my laptop does not look good. After a call to Toshiba technical support and trying several possible remedies the news was grim. All fingers pointed to a burned out motherboard. When leaving Andy’s place in Itacaré I set the computer to “hibernate”, but failed to wait for the process to complete before closing the lid. The laptop was configured to go into “sleep” mode when the lid closed. The two processes were in conflict all day while I rode south. Eventually a micro thin piece of metal in the motherboard gave out and the computer like Sleeping Beauty, would not wake up. A suggestion was made to kiss the computer, it worked for Prince Charming. By from the end of the next day I was resolved that the laptop was now replaced with a brick. I investigated and contacted repair centers in Uruguay and Argentina. As with many services in South America, they have the talent, but the parts have to be ordered. I would not have time to wait and decided to ask my wife to bring a new laptop to Buenos Aires, where we were meeting in a few weeks.
Luis “Drop Pants” set up a large slab of foam for me to sleep on, then proceeded to arrange a collection of objects by the side of my bed: a bottle of liquor, several crystals, a small Buddha and other things to make me comfortable while I slept. With my mosquito net in place, I drifted off to sleep quickly.
In the morning Luis’s took me to his mother’s house. She does the tailoring for his clown costumes.
Next we went to visit Luis’s father. Next to his house there is a tree with the most exquisite flowers.
Afterward we went to a site where a four day motorcycle rally would take place, start that evening. Luis introduced me to Mario, an expat living with his Brazilian wife and children in this quiet beach town. Mario provides wide area wifi to the hotels and bars. He generously set me up with a free account, so I could access the Internet from anywhere within the town.
As luck would have it a BMW dealer would be attending the rally. I needed a new low beam bulb and work on my clutch cable. Before leaving on the trip I had “risers” added to my handle bars. Risers made the handle bars higher, so it is easier to stand straight up while standing on the foot pegs. Unfortunately the clutch cable was not long enough to accommodate the extra distance between the handle bars and the engine. After dropping the bike a few times the cable attachment point separated, preventing the clutch from disengaging properly and causing general havoc. The representative for the dealer said mechanics would be arriving the following day. Great! The day was spent learning that my laptop was a brick and going to the beach. 
Mario told me about a bar on the south end of the beach. It took two tries but I found it. On the first attempt I stopped at a cool tourist bar and asked what they had to offer. They claimed to make the best mojito in the world. If is isn’t the best, then it’s right near the top.
The following day I found the bar Mario recommended. The owner rides a motorcycle and after hearing my story gave me the first beer. DSCN7372
Night one at the rally produced a few interesting characters and the music was provided by a DJ. The second night there were two live bands. The singer below has a much more famous brother. Marion described him as a one of the brothers of a Brazilian Michael Jackson. His was the warm up band, which I will never understand because the second band wasn’t as good. I was told that many of the bands that play events in Brazil are either famous and play their own music or they are not as famous and play covers. It must be hard to make a name for yourself in Brazil.
The BMW mechanics arrived in the late afternoon, but weren’t advised to bring a spare bulb for me. At the end of the night they pulled a bulb from a demo bike and reattached the clutch cable anchor point and re-routed it behind the handle bars giving it more play and reducing the stress on the cable completely.
Night two at the event was better attended. More vendors and a bigger cast of characters. DSCN7386
I met these cool ladies on the first night and hung out with them after the rally closed in two locations. It turns out they were local police and the one was a captain. You never know who you end up drinking with. Late the second night we ended up at an open air bar that was playing “falso” music. It sounded some what like Louisiana cajun music.
There were two more nights of the rally, but it was time to hit the road and make my way towards Rio de Janerio.
Greetings Gentle Readers,

My laptop has gone south. Looks like a new motherboard will be required. Updates to the blog have been spotty at best and will only get worst. Rest assured, I have been taking lots of pictures and will catch up at some point. Right now it looks like the first authorized repair station is 2 weeks away, in Buenos Aires, AR.

I have been staying at my friend Andy´s place in Itcare, Brazil for the last three nights. As I was leaving town I stopped to see Andy´s friend Alex to get suggestion of places to visit as I head south. Alex said that I would do well to stop in Trancoso, a cool, tranquil town. As I crossed the river from Porto Seguro to Trancoso by ferry, a guy approached me and soon I was adopted by a professional clown. I spent the night in his humble apartment, and in the morning I met his mother and later his father. Tonight there is the start of a four day rock festival. I am sure to stay for the first night and see how it goes from there.

The adventure continues...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Itacaré –Tropical Paradise

I spent three night and days in Itacaré. Four hours south of Salvador, this beach town is a tropical paradise. A friend of mine built a house there and said I could stay there, rest up, for as long as I wanted. The danger being, the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave.

On the night that I arrived I followed friends up a dirt road to Andy's house. The road is hard, said Dorthe. I had no idea and soon made the mistake of stopping part way up the ever so steep hill. My front tire couldn't provide any traction and the back tire, try as it might, couldn't find purchase on the dirt and gravel. The motorcycle started sliding backwards with increasing speed, until I finally dropped it on its side. The luggage was taken off and transferred to the car that had returned to investigate my absence. How embarrassing, to have ridden thousands of miles, only to drop the bike on a strong incline...

Shortly I was installed in Andy's amazing hillside house. With beer and moonlight, the only thing to do was to take a swim.

The next day, the first order of business was to go to town the long way and return via the beast of a hill up back up to Andy’s house. I couldn’t let dropping the bike the night before stand without a rematch. The next time, without luggage and plenty of throttle, I bested the incline.

 Over the next few days I found an Irish bar/restaurant that poured my first gin & tonic in a long time. I eat an amazing veggie burger with mango chutney, went to the beach, found an Internet café that would let me use my own laptop. The first service I found had a policy barring customers from using their own…go figure.

Down the coast I watched guys tightrope walk.

My last full day in Itacaré I found one of Andy’s friends, Silvia. She owns a hotel and dates another friend, Alex, who owns a bar. He was in New York the first few days I was in Itacaré. That night Silvia threw a dinner party and I was invited. Dorthe and Barbara joined us for dinner and a few more locals. One of the guests I had met years ago in Jersey City, at his loft party. Now he runs a restaurant and restores buildings to their original state. The restoration is complete and different from a renovation, which might ignore the original character.  His name escapes me now…

Packed up and ready to head south, I stopped to get advice from Alex on what town to stop on my way to Rio de Janeiro. He told me about a little beach town south of Porto Seguro, called Arraial D'Ajuda. Take the ferry and I’ll find a tranquilo town. Traveling further south he said I would run into more mangrove swamps than beaches. Thanks  for the advice! I headed out to ride ~236 miles. It would take about eight hours to arrive in Porto Seguro, where I was taken in by professional clown.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Itacaré and the Monster Hill

Andy is an old friend from New York. His company makes custom wooden interiors, kitchen cabinets and more. His clientele include the rich and famous, a few movies stars and a platinum record recording star or two. He bough a piece of land in the hills above Itacaré, then designed and had a house built to his specification.

Before leaving on the trip, Andy and I talked about riding various parts of South America together; Venezuela deep into the Amazon and meeting at the Dakar Rally were two ideas. It wasn’t possible for him to schedule a motorcycle adventure with me during my trip. He would be going to Brazil a few months after I was gone, so I would stay in this tropical paradise alone…well I did have the company of Andy’s cat.

Andy instructed me to contact Dorothe, the lady who manages Andy’s property for him. Her friend Barbara was back for another visit. I arrived at 10:30 PM, later than expected, after traveling a winding and bumpy road for four hours from Salvador. The ladies met me and encouraged me pick up incidental provisions before going to the house. I was confused. Couldn’t I just go back out later and pick up a few things? I have gotten to the point in my life and I push back a little, then listen to the local advice and go with it. There some some communications gaps with these two lovely German speaking ladies.

I picked up beers, milk and the like and we headed off to Andy’s place.
Dorothe mentioned that the road was rough going up the hill to the house. How bad could it be? She was driving a simple car that didn’t have a lot of clearance. I brushed the warning off as a piece of over concern. We coursed through the beach town street, turn down more and more obscure roads, then up a narrow single track behind a house that looked like the lane would end at any moment. If I was following an absolute stranger, I would be nervous that this was a back woods road, just right to rob a hapless traveler. Dorothe hit the gas and I lost sight of her around as she went around an uphill turn. I should have gunned it as well. And I definitely shouldn’t have stopped midway up the steep hill. Ok, in my defense the ruts in the road were daunting and I didn’t feel like I was in control, so I slowed down…and that turned into stopping.

Coming to a stop was not a good idea. I soon discovered the front wheel had zero traction due to the angle and the weight of the luggage on the  rear of the motorcycle. The back wheel simply slid on the packed dirt and gravel. I went backward for 10 - 15 feet before losing control, and the bike toppled over. No damage, other than a slight bruise to my ego.
Shortly Dorothe came back down the hill with her car to find me off loading the panniers and spare tires that are lashed to the back seat. At one point the spare front tire went rolling down the hill and I had to chase  after it into the jungle. Soon enough I had the bike upright and gunned it up the hill.
Dorothe and Barbara presented a nearly endless chorus of apologies and condolences,  that my assurances could not reduce. The dropped bike story only adds to my adventure. I will try the hill in the morning, without the weight of the panniers and using more gas! Apparently many visitors drop their bike the first time going up this beast of a hill.

I met Ademi, the house keeper, then settled in. Dorothe provisioned the house with bananas, drinking and coconut water, sheets, t.p., towels and fresh cut flowers. I won’t have to leave the house for days if I choose. I had beer, a can of black beans, some chorizo sausage, powered milk, bran cereal and a few pink mangos from Veronica’s yard in Salvador.

Before turning in for the night I took a moonlit swim in the pool, the first of many. Later I would write Andy that I planned to never leaving his house. On second thought, I had better depart in a day or two or I will turn into a smiling bowl of tranquil goo… Yeah, it was that good.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Quick Stop in Salvador

With navigation tips from a group of Brazilian Sunday riders that I met at a rest stop I was closing in on the southern tip of Salvador. The mission was to met a friend of my sister for lunch. Frederica only had time for lunch, then she would have to leave for a birthday party, so I was on a schedule. I managed to find  her neighborhood and with some back tracking found her waiting for me. Parking the motorcycle along a cliff road, security positioned across from the parking attendants station, we went immediately to the beach. In short order her boyfriend Joao and his best friend Bruno joined us. We bought more beer…and switched beaches. Brazilians are particular about their beaches.

1-Salvador beach

The boys went for a swim out to a raft anchored not far from the beach. Back on shore I broke out one of my coveted mangos for everyone to enjoy. Time was short, so we didn’t hang out too long in any one place. We walked down to the light house and had coconut water.


Frederica had pushed back when she would leave for a birthday party, so we all went back to their apartment for a bite to eat. Bruno lives in Florianópolis and was visiting for the weekend. Joao gave him a ride to airport and Frederica and I hung around long enough to take a photo together.


Frederica left for a birthday party and I went in search of the ferry to the mainland. Signage just isn’t what it could be, so there where several loops around the area until I located the ticket plaza and secured passage. One of the big advantages to riding a motorcycle in South America is that you are expected to go the the front of the line, or at least one car from the front of the line. There is always room for one more motorcycle, so there is no problem jumping the line of cars. Salvador lays on a bit of a peninsula. Taking the ferry to Vera Cruz saves hours of travel around the bay, Baía de Todos Os Santos. As the sunset the ferry crossed the bay to the mainland.

Salvador ferry 01From the top deck of the ferry

DSCN6840 (2)

Next stop, Andy’s beach house in Itacaré!