Twenty minutes after being back at the Clan Hostel in Buenos Aires I was introduced to Patrick (22 - we're the same age) from England, who is fellow motorcyclist. He had shipped his bike from England to the Florida then drove to California and down the Baja in Mexico. From Panama he shipped his bike to Ecuador skipping Colombia. He also did southern Chile and Argentina. But for the most part our trip held the same route.
As I've noted in previous blog posts I had a finalized plan to head south to Ushuaia. I eliminated that route once I found out that Patrick was headed to Brazil. I hadn't been to Brazil yet, with or without the bike. I also reasoned this: would I rather ride alone through the middle of nowhere in the extreme cold with straight roads to reach the bottom of South America or would I rather ride with a new friend through Brazil where there's beautiful women in bikinis and warm weather?
I arrived at the hostel on a Thursday and we had planned on being out of there by Monday. In the meantime I had a few things to do. First, I had to pick up my bike from Dakar Motos. Javier, nice as always, offered me strong coffee and started her up. I smiled and revved the engine. I hadn't heard the engine purr since June. It brought back a flood of good memories and right then I seriously considered whether or not to sell her like I had planned - but it had to be done. Riding the bike back was a great feeling. It took three seconds to get back into the bad habit of lane splitting, running lights, and breaking other unenforced road laws.
When I got back to the hostel I listed the bike for sale on Craigslist, the HUBB, and ADV Rider. I got two responses from ADV, six or seven from the HUBB, and over twenty from Craigslist - certainly no lack of attention. On Saturday I showed the bike to a potential buyer. He seemed very interested but said he had to talk to his lawyer and make a few calls regarding the registration and import fees (he ended up writing back a week later saying it's possible to buy the bike). I tried showing the bike on Sunday morning (after just three hours of sleep) but the guy was a no-show. That really pissed me off. A few others wrote saying they would definitely buy the bike after I get back to Buenos Aires from Brazil - even a guy in Montevideo, Uruguay said he'd buy it if I took it to him. All this eased my mind quite a bit as I was stressed about the sale.
But I had a problem. I had lost the entry papers from the Bolivia and Argentina border - papers that I would need if I got stopped by the police or tried to exit Argentina. A pretty massive problem - but this same thing happened before when entering Bolivia from Peru when I didn't bother to stop at the border at all (I didn't feel like paying a hundred plus dollars for entry into Bolivia). As I recall I talked myself out of all the police stops in Bolivia and even managed to not pay a dime when exiting the country and entering Argentina. I felt confident enough about getting into Brazil without any problems - others, including Patrick and Javier, weren't so optimistic. If I didn't get out of Argentina then it would be impossible to sell the bike with faulty papers. I needed to re-enter Argentina to get new ones. Also, the maximum visa for my motorcycle to stay in Argentina was three months - it had been here three and a half.
While at the hostel I met up with Dan (a friend I met in July at the hostel) but didn't get around to doing much more than going to a Chinese restaurant and drinking beers back at the hostel (I had a rough hangover from the night before). I promised that when I got back from Brazil we'd make time for a proper night out at the clubs.
Patrick and I had intended on leaving on Monday. We didn't get around to it until Thursday. The border we wanted to cross was at Foz do Iguacu in Northern Argentina in the state of Missiones. Iguacu is known for its massive waterfalls that stretch into Brazil. It's also the only border that allows me to get a Brazilian Visa (Patrick is British so he didn't need to pay for a Visa). The bus, we heard, takes about 16-18 hours so we had planned on making it in two short daytrips seeing as we can go faster than a bus. The first day we got a late start and made it to Concordia, a city much less than half way to Iguacu. I also got caught by the police for lane splitting and bribed my way out of a ticket.
Next day we drove maybe two hours when Patrick's chain busted near a small town called Puerto Rico. I pulled up beside his bike and saw that his chain was in a knot and his sprocket was completely warped. Also, his license plate went missing - an even larger problem. I didn't see it fall off but made a small attempt at finding it by driving five miles back and looking along the side of the road. It was gone. When I got back to where Patrick was parked I saw that two guys in a truck stopped to give him a hand. One guy, Daniel was his name, helped link the chain for a temporary fix and offered for us to follow him to his house to work on it properly.
His house was amazing. It was a large, nicely furnished, one story house that had a large yard with a chicken run and five dogs. In his garage he was already working on another bike for a friend, a nice sports bike with custom paint and stickers. Before we started working on the bike he introduced us to his girlfriend (his girlfriend for eleven years or something). She's well fit. She is a brilliant cook and offered us to eat lunch with them and we sat around the table trying our hardest to speak the only language we all knew - Spanglish.
Daniel was a pretty accomplished mechanic and his cousin just happened to be a sign maker who could replace Patrick's license plate. Luckily Patrick had taken many photos of his bike so we could see exactly how the plate looked. We spent a few hours with the cousin while he designed it in on the computer at his office/chill out pad. He said he would drop it by Danni's place tomorrow morning.
After feeding us lunch and dinner and driving us around to different stores around town to find a certain sprocket and chain links and doing other favors he offered for us to stay at his house for the night. He's quite an amazing guy. The next day the license plate arrived and it looked very original with reflective material. For breakfast we went into town and got something to eat. During the day we worked on the bike a bit more and mostly sat outside chilling out with Danni and Vanesa and their friends passing around Mate and beer. Danni was interested in purchasing my bike so he called his lawyer and asked if it was possible to buy it. It is. I offered him a much better price than what I'd been advertising. I'll have the original title sent to his place from the States (since I'm still using the forged copy for the bike).
In the evening they took us out to a club. Get this... The club had an electronic Bull! Not quite what we expected. I told Patrick I would take a turn if he did. He went on and lasted about five seconds but people still cheered. I didn't think he would actually do it so I didn't take a turn (which got me a much deserved punch to the shoulder). We were introduced to at least twenty people at the club and danced and drank with them until the wee hours of the morning.
Needless to say we got a late start to the day and getting everything together. So, after saying our goodbyes and thankyou's we left around five o'clock. Danni had picked out an alternate route for us to get to Florianopolis faster. We would still go to Iguacu to check out the falls but we wouldn't cross there. From Iguacu we would head southeast to a small border crossing into Brazil.
In Iguacu we stayed at a nice hotel in the central part of town. We went out and ate dinner at a pretty cool restaurant outside. Weather was perfect. We had a few beers and went to bed early. The next morning we loaded up our bikes and went over to Iguacu Falls which is about two kilometers outside of town. We parked and bought our entry tickets. We didn't realize that we had to walk another mile or so to actually reach the falls. It was blisteringly hot in all my riding gear and sweat was pouring from my face. But it was worth it because the falls were so spectacular they were almost beyond imagining. While watching the falls Patrick commented with a big grin on his face, "It's just a bunch of water falling down; it's not really that amazing". He got a few strange looks because some nearby tourists didn't know if he was joking.
We only spent about an hour at the falls because we had to get back on the road to get across the border down south. We had to go 200km and cross a 40km stretch of dirt road but it was pretty well maintained so we stuck it around 60mph until I nearly killed myself on a turn and told Patrick to slow down the pace a bit. My bike wasn't meant for this kind of stuff.
We reached the border around two o'clock and I was hassled for not having my papers. The main manager of the border talked with me for a bit and asked to see my passport. He flipped through the pages and said something about a having a beautiful life as he checked out every stamp I had. He basically handed back my passport and said I was free to cross the border into Brazil. Along the way to Iguacu we got stopped three or four times by the police at checkpoints and none asked for the entry papers. Now here at the border I only had to spend a half hour to get across. How easy was that?
Then shit hit the fan. I forgot I wasn't able to get my Visa for Brazil at any other border except for up north in Iguacu. I pleaded with them to let me cross but they weren't having any of it. I would have to backtrack to Iguacu and cross tomorrow after acquiring a visa. Patrick and I split ways and made plans on meeting back up in Florianopolis in Brazil. The good news is that I had to re-enter Argentina so I got proper entery papers.
A bit pissed off at myself for not remembering this important bit of information I returned in bad temper to the same hotel in Iguacu 200km away. That evening I got a haircut and went back to the same restaurant. In the morning I got up early and went to the place down the street to fill out some paperwork for the visa. The friendly guy behind the counter told me I could pickup my passport and 30 day visa at 1pm. I had lunch and arrived a back a little before 1pm. There were other Americans there and a few Mexicans waiting for their visas. At 2pm I was set to leave. I easily got across the Argentina border and drove 1km to the Brazilian side and that was also an easy process. Once on the road to Florianopolis I did a little dance on my bike and shouted happily, "Brazil!"
The drive was mostly uneventful but I made it to the city of Guarapuava, about a hundred fifty miles into Brazil. In Guarapuava it was already dark and I was having trouble finding the center to get a hotel. I drove past a group of teenagers having beers at a restaurant on a small side street. They smiled and waved as I drove past. So I drove back and asked for directions. They told me the way and asked if I would like to join them for a beer. Conversation was very difficult as I knew no Portuguese and they knew no English and little Spanish. Once we finished up with the beers they offered to show me the way to a hotel in central. They each had Honda 250ccs all jacked up to be extremely loud. They were popping wheelies and riding on their front tires with the rear tire lifted at an extreme angle. They were very good at showing off. I popped my own first wheelie on accident. I didn't see a car coming at me from a side street and gunned first gear. The front tire lifted quite high and let down slowly. I was quite impressed with myself but shocked that I almost got smashed by a car. Whoops.
We drove around to five or six different hotels. All were booked and just one hand only one room left, a master suite with Jacuzzi and all - I took it. Before checking in I shook hands with my new Brazilian friends and said goodbye. The room was on the top floor and was pretty sweet. The shower had three water heads pouring down from different directions. Sadly I didn't make use of the Jacuzzi. I walked around town for a bit and settled for a filet mignon and beer at a restaurant near the hotel. For my first day and night out in Brazil I'm very much impressed. Everybody has been extremely friendly.
In the morning I made the most of my suite and slept in until ten or so. At checkout I asked for directions for the highway. The first part of the day was beautiful with sunny skies. Much of the road was twisty and not at all boring and I had a few close calls with lane splitting - not at my entire fault. I didn't know Brazil uses huge yellow brick blocks atop the yellow lines to make sure nobody passes where they're not supposed to. I hit a few of those passing a truck and nearly hit a VW bug coming the other way. Ok, so maybe it was my fault. But I really wasn't expecting the big block things.
Later in the day it started to pour down rain. I put on my rain gear (first time ever, I usually settle for getting soaked) and drove at 60mph trying to avoid the puddles of water for hydroplaning. I got into Florianopolis and drove around for a bit getting myself lost and settled for a hotel near the center. I was checking into the Ibis Hotel when I heard my name being called from behind me. I turned around and who should be there but Patrick. He saw my bike parked outside - he was staying at a hostel around the corner. Florianopolis is quite a huge city. It's the capital of it's state here in Brazil. So believe me when I say that it's a pretty enormous coincidence that he should notice my bike - quite unbelievable really. I cancelled the checkout process and went over to the Youth Hostel Pat was staying at.
It was still raining so we were quite concerned that it would continue to be like this. What's a beach town without being able to go to the beach? That evening we went to a famous pub called John Bull Pub. It was completely ridiculous to say the least. They had an Elvis impersonator on all night. We ordered more beer to make it bearable but he actually wasn't at all bad. It was entertaining but still ridiculous. At the end of the night we were proper drunk. After getting our picture taken with Elvis we took a taxi to a McDonald's and ordered cheeseburgers.
Today was cloudy and rainy again. The weather isn't supposed to improve so we're going to ditch this place day after tomorrow and head north. Patrick took his bike to the Yamaha shop and found out that he has a broken frame - and he didn't even realize it. Earlier he was making fun of me when Javier told him that I was riding around with a missing bold from my frame. Pat's was completely severed. Right now it's being welded back together. This evening we went to a steak place that serves meat on swords and sushi on plates. Expensive but worth it.