Sunday, July 19, 2009

Back in Salvador... The Saga Continues - 7/19

I returned to Salvador Thursday morning from Morro Sao Paulo. We were supposed to take the 9 am catamaran (2 hours), but the seas were too rough so we had to take a combination of boats and busses that took about 3 ½ hours. Actually, not too bad and I’m sure a lot more comfortable than a boat trip would have been in the heavy winds.

I immediately went to the mechanic´s to see what was going on. I had gotten some reports, but it didn’t sound like things were progressing as they should. It turned out that I have a broken piston. This explains the problems, but after calling around Nen has not been able to locate a piston for my bike in Brazil.

So I spent Thursday afternoon on the internet and Skype (what DID we do before this) and found a supplier in San Diego who could get a piston off to me by Fedex the next day. With luck, I would have it by next Tuesday. All I had to do was get him payment by PayPal.

I HATE PAYPAL. Despite having three good credit cards, something in their system wouldn’t take my payment. I spent three hours on Friday morning trying to get this to go through. When I called PayPal there only comment was “we don’t know… it’s something in our system that rejects your payment. We can’t do a thing about it”. May PayPal and everyone who works for them rot in hell and may all their children grow up to be gerbils (or at the very least, may they be infested with gerbils). So there.!

Fotrunately, Rod, the supplier (Bless you Multi Surface Motorcycling), said he would get me the part anyway so I wouldn’t be stuck. My sister Tina put a check in the mail to him that day. Turns out Fedex wouldn’t take the package anyway since they didn’t have my passport number (go figure) and it was sent USPS. In theory, I should have the piston this week.

Keep all of your appendages crossed…. I’ll let you know.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Tale of Two Cities.. Salvador and Morro Sao Paulo - 7/12-15

Yes, dear readers, I'm still in Salvador. It's not a bad city, but I've had ENOUGH of it. More importantly, if I don't get out of here soon I won't get back to Panama in time to get to Korea, so the pressure is on... really on and I'm feeling it big time. I don't know what "Plan B" is.

To bring you up to date:

When last we left poor Pinguino it was Friday afternoon, July 10, and he was at Nen's (the mechanic) shop. Nen was to dismantle the motor on Monday to figure out what was wrong and so we could order parts. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men (and penguins).

Since I couldn't do much at the time I decided to take a few days and go to Morro Sao Paulo for some fun and sun. This is an island about two hours by boat from Salvador, and supposed to be a very nice tourist resort area.

On Sunday I caught the boat for the island. The "luxury yacht" reminded me in many ways of the old fishing boats that we used to take scuba diving in Malaysia. Hard benches, and if you went out back for some fresh air the shape of the stern just sucked the diesel fumes right into your lungs. But I met a young Brazilian couple on the boat who spoke a little English and we had a decent time... and all stayed inside, which was probably better given the rain.

We arrived at the island at about 2:00. The island does look quite idyllic as you approach. It's a bit of a throwback to a gentler time, since there are no motor vehicles on the island (Except for a tractor that does some maintenance).

There are burros and horses everywhere. The "taxis" are only to carry luggage, and consist of boys with wheelbarrows. Even the construction materials are unloaded by hand off the boats and carried by horse or burro.

The hotel itself, Pousada Farol de Morro Sao Paulo, was very nice. I got a room with a nice view of the ocean and a small terrace.

I met an interesting, and varied, group to hang out with for a few days. Shelly and Kimberley are teachers from the DC area. Shelly had a local boyfriend, Diego, and Kim was waiting for a friend to arrive. Nick, an Aussie, showed up and then Joy, a local, joined us along with Daniella, one of the owners of the pousada . It was a group that liked to party, although I (Gramps) wasn't up for going out to the disco at two am and staying until dawn. I left that part up to them.

Joy, the guy on the far right, decided I should adopt him as my grandson since we looked so much alike!

On Wednesday we decided to go to the "mud baths", a Morro Sao Paulo ritual. This first entailed a hike through the jungle, during which the girls decided to enjoy a local refreshment, frozen coconut milk in a small plastic bag. However, as it melted it began to resemble a dripping condom and the comments - and images - grew progressively more "R" rated. The final images can't be displayed here on a family oriented blog.

While the hike was arduous, Daniella provided us with scenery to encourage forward progress. This is another Brazilian tradition!

Once we arrived at the clay cliffs, Diego and Joy prepared the magical mud treatment for us.

We then proceeded to slather each other from head to toe.. . to exfoliate, smooth, and just plain have a good time.

Joy looked like he had stepped out of a National Geographic magazine... on the warpath

After that, we dried until we caked up, walked further to a nice beach, and rinsed. Then we proceeded to drink far too many beers, have a good lunch, and finally return to the hotel after dark. It was certainly one of the better days.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Down for the Count (but not out) - July 9 - 11

Thursday 7/9 - Busted Flat in Baton Rouge

Somehow Janis Joplin's voice just keeps running through my mind. OK, I'm not in Baton Rouge,. And I'm not busted flat... at least not in the monetary sense (although with the prices here in Brazil that's not out of the question).

What I am is back in Salvador with a sick Pinguino. The bike, she's not feeling so good. Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, a sad tale but true:

I left Salvador this morning amid a nice sunny day. Getting out of Salvador was problematic, as this is about the worst driving city I've ever seen. As described elsewhere, no streets go where they should, and it's impossible to turn around to go the other direction. So after about an hour of meandering, asking questions of people with wildly different ideas as to where the road north was, and screaming obscenities into my helmet I finally found myself on the Litoral Norte... the coastal road to the north.

I figured it would take me three days to get to Fortaleza, taking it easy and stopping at a couple of beach towns on the way. All seemed to be progressing satisfactorily, and aside from a slight vibration at 5000 rpm the bike seemed to be running fine. There had been a few drops of oil on the floor this morning, but I thought that was just some residual in the system.

Then as I reached Praia de Porto and accelerated to pass a truck I noticed a huge plume of white smoke emitting from El Pinguino's rear end. I had discovered in Antarctica that penguin farts are nothing to be sneezed at (now there's an image), and the smoke emanating from my trusty steed did nothing to warm the cockles of my heart, wherever they might be. I pulled over and saw even more oil dripping from the overflow tube. This was definitely NOT a good sign.

So having a choice of returning 60 km to Salvador or continuing 1500 km north to Fortaleza, I decided that hanging a U was probably the wiser choice. So back it was, to get lost and try to find Nen's shop again. Having had faith that I would not be returning, I unwisely hadn't put the location of the shop into my GPS. After repeating my inability to navigate Salvador I finally stopped to ask a taxi driver the location of the shop, showing him Nen's card. As luck would have it, he was also a biker. He told me to wait a minute while he got his motorcycle and then led me right to the shop. Turns out he is also a customer of Nen's.

I've got to say, for all the trouble I've been having the Brazilian people have been absolutely wonderful. I am inviting the entire country to come spend Christmas with us in Panama! 200 million people in our guest room might be a bit cramped, but they deserve it. Maybe we'll put the overflow up in Cerro Azul.

After looking at the problem, Nen thinks that I might have a broken piston ring. This would explain the high pressure leaking into the bottom end of the motor and could have caused the initial problem of the broken gasket. Diagnosing and fixing this will involve completely opening up the motor... not a minor job. Unfortunately, because he had spent so much time on my bike over the last few days his other work has piled up and he can't even look at my bike until Monday. Then, if any parts are needed that can't be gotten locally we might have to get them from Sao Paulo.

So here I am... "Busted Flat in Baton Rouge", or at least stuck for a week in Salvador. I've run into three other bikers (an Australian couple and a Swiss woman) who are also awaiting parts, so I have some people to commiserate (and drink) with. I'll probably take a boat to Morrow Sao Paulo for a few days of beach relaxation, but otherwise here I am.

In "Jupiter's Travels", his telling of his round-the-world motorcycle trip in the seventies, Simon says something along the lines of "don't think of the obstacles as getting in the way of the journey... they are the journey". It's something that I've reminded myself of many times during this trip, and keeping that philosophy in mind has really helped. Guess I'll just enjoy the journey in Salvador for a while.

Stay tuned to this channel for more breaking news as it happens.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Monday 7/6 to Wednesday 7/8 - El Pinguino sees the `Vet `

El Pinguino (my trusty Kawasaki) was sorely in need of medical (mechanical) care, and Alberto came to the rescue. He came and picked me up on his trusty Yamaha and took me to see Ven, the moto mechanic. Ven arranged for a pickup taxi to take me back to my hotel and get my motorcycle. So once again, a truck trip back to the mechanic. Fortunately this one only cost me twenty bucks.

Ven immediately started pulling the bike apart and confirmed what the Suzuki dealer in Sao Mateus had diagnosed? yes indeed a gasket had blown. The difference was that Ven actually knew what to do about it. For the next three days he worked on the bike, getting a new gasket made, and other maintenance like replacing the chain and sprockets. These guys get very clever here when necessity is the mother of invention. While I had a semi-used front sprocket in my parts kit, a rear sprocket for my bike was not available in Salvador. So we bought a sprocket with the right number of teeth and took it to a machine shop to have the right size center hole machined and the correct bolt holes drilled. Quite clever.

Wednesday morning I decided I had to actually see some of Salvador, so I arranged a tour of the historical area. Salvador was the first capital of Brazil, before Rio and then Brazilia. My guide, Armando, spoke Spanish and was very informative. In fact, just a little TOO informative. I finally had to tell him that while I found the history interesting I was getting just a little bit too much information. If I asked him about the government in the colonial times he would proceed to tell me where the term government came from, why there were colonies, and the color of the third Vicount de Fulano?s second daughter?s petticoats. Anyway, you get the idea.

There are, like in most colonial towns, some very impressive churches. This is how the Church used its money instead of helping the local populace. Also probably why the impressive churches have survived while the local populace died off. But interesting from a tourism perspective

The local population in Salvador is heavily Afro-Brazilian and there are a lot of reminders of the slavery of the past. The traditional dress of the Baianos (people from the state of Bahia) iis heavily influenced by the Carribean roots. Many of the women are simply heavily influenced.

That afternoon it was back to the mechanic`s. The bike was put back together and after a final wash to get the rest of the oil and grunge off, on Wednesday night I was out of the mechanic shop.

I went with Alberto to meet up with the group that gathers by the Farol de Barra (lighthouse). The lighthouse itself is quite impressive at night.

After a half hour of normal BS with the guys, we were off for a few beers. Other than a few drops of oil dripping from the air box, the bike seems to be running fine.

Then it was back to the hotel with my trusty steed, and tomorrow I am off to Fortaleza.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Sao Mateus, and the Shit Hits the Fan - July 3 - 4

Friday 7/3 - On the Road to Salvador

Today was a LONG drive. The road was good, but it is a major truck route and there are not many passing lanes. It was one of those days when you are just trying to put as many miles under your [very sore and tired] butt as you can. After about 8 hours on the road I arrived at Sao Mateus. I found a great hotel, with garage, cable tv, and wifi in the room (first time). I even thought I might stay an extra day.

Just as I was getting into the shower at about 4:30 the bellboy knocked on my door to tell me that my bike was leaking oil in the garage. Yep, a nice black puddle right there on the floor. So off I go driving around town to find a mechanic to take a look. First I tried the Honda dealer, who was very nice but said his mechanics don't know anything but Hondas. However, he led me in his car to the Suzuki dealer. This place was also very nice, and told me they would fix it in the morning, as well as putting on a new rear tire that I needed.

So off I went to a nice dinner, a couple of beers, and a cigar at an outdoor restaurant. Things were looking OK.

Saturday 7/4 - The PooPoo Hits the Ventilator

I slept late, still feeling a little queasy from my earlier stomach problems, and thought that I might stay in Sao Mateu for the day. Maybe sit around the pool or go to the beach. At 10:30 I went to the Suzuki dealer to get the bike.

Well, they had changed the tire, but said they couldn't fix the oil leak. It looked like a blown gasket and they didn't have the "special tool" to get the water pump off to get to it. Feelings of "oh, crap" were starting to pop up in my head. Kawasaki doesn't generally require any special tools (which is one reason why I chose this bike... it's simple to fix), so maybe they didn't know what they were talking about. I checked the manual that I carry, and indeed the water pump can be taken apart with regular tools. So somebody didn't know quite whereof they friggin` spoke. Then they told me that even if they could get the motor apart, they didn't have the gasket and would have to get it from Kawasaki in Sao Paulo. I asked about using liquid gasket sealer and they had never heard of it. And anyway, it was noon on Saturday and they were closing (as was everyone else). So as far as a fast fix in Sao Mateus I was in the crapper.

They suggested that I ride to Salvador, 1000 km away. This was my next destination anyway, and I figured that with more than 2 million people I could probably find a mechanic who knew something. The Suzuki mechanic said the problem didn't look that bad (the great mechanic that he was), and so long as I carried extra oil to keep replenishing the motor I should be OK. Then I could get it fixed in Salvador on Monday when things were open. So... back to the hotel, pack, and get out of town.

This is the ShitHitsTheFan part: I got a few miles out of Sao Mateu and the motor is smoking, and running rough. Oil is spewing all over. Then a there is big pop and it really sounds like shit. I am in what might be called Deep DooDoo.

Fortunately I am just about to a federal police roadblock, so I stop there.

I show my badge to Geraldo Marciano, the cop on duty, and ask for suggestions. Who knew that my eight years as a reserve cop would come in so handy 20 years later in South America!

Geraldo is an incredibly nice guy and has been helping me all afternoon. First we try to get a truck going to Salvador that can take me, but there is very little traffic on Saturday and we have no luck. Then he calls someone he knows with a pickup truck who offers to take me for US$700. This is a LOT of money, but it is1000 kilometers each way. Eventually I agree (not having a lot of choice) and we try to get the bike into his truck. Unfortunately (actually, it turns out to be fortunately), the truck is too short and El Pinguino is too big. Another idea shot to hell.

Gerarlo keeps calling around and finally finds someone who is hauling a pickup truck to Salvador and will take my bike for US$400. I'm all for it, but he is picking up the car in another city and will be a few hours.

So here I am. It's 6:40 pm on Saturday night and I'm sitting in the police post (as I have been since 2:00) hoping that this guy with the truck will show. Then we have at least a 12 hour ride to Salvador on Sunday. With any luck, I'll find someone who can fix the bike and it will run again. I'll keep you posted.

Oh yeah... this is why they call it an adventure. If you want secure go to Disneyland!


After a couple of hours I'm picked up by a flatbed truck, who takes me about an hour north to another town. There we find the pickup that has to go to Salvador. Unfortunately, there's not enough room on the flatbed for the bike, so up it goes into the bed of the pikup truck, on the back of the flatbed. I figure I might as well ride the bike to Salvador on the truck, just to keep in practice!

OK, so I didn't ride. What I did do was spend 23 hours in a tow truck getting to Salvador. Aside from a two hour stop at 6 am so that the driver could sleep and a few fuel and food stops we drove straight through. This actually worked better, since there was less traffic in the middle of the night. During the day the scenery in this part of Brazil was beautiful... lush and green.

Unfortunately, most of the time we were looking at this

Finally we came to a sign indicating a turnoff to Salvador. As we got further along I had to keep wondering how a city of more than two million people could have as a main access a two-lane rural road. The answer became clear when we got to the ferry terminal. This was the alternate (and faster) road. Unfortunately, Winsdan (the driver) didn't know this and was not prepared to pay the ferry charge of $42. Given what I was already paying for this trip I wasn't about to chip in anything else. And to go back the other way would have been an additional four hours. Either this kid was going to decide to take the ferry or I was going to kill him!

Winsdan spent just enough time trying to call his boss and pondering the situation that we missed the ferry. He finally decided that we would take the next ferry in an hour, which we did. His boss called him while we were on the ferry and said that Winsdan had screwed up and would have to pay for the ferry. Whether that was true or not, I wasn't about to pony up any more money. Sorry kid... no points for ignorance!

We finally -- after 23 hours on the road -- arrived in Salvador. At the ferry terminal I had called a hotel listed in the Lonely Planet guide (Pousada Hilmar) and confirmed that they had a room and a place for my leaking (I didn't tell them that part) bike, so I was set on that front.

Now the Horizons site kicked in to save my butt again. Artur, in Rio, had contacted some friends of friends in Salvador and Alberto would come pick me up in the morning and take me to a good mechanic. A shower, a couple of beers, and I was off to bed.

Things have to get better tomorrow.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Rio Days 2-3: From Harlistas to Favelas - July 1 - 2

Wednesday 7/1 - Harlistas Everywhere

One of the great resources for crazy-ass motorcycle riders is a web site called Horizons Unlimited. Aside from sharing information, a lot of us meet other bike travelers on this site. Information I've gotten here has saved my butt a number of times, and I've met some very cool (and a few not-so-cool) people through HU. That's how I had come in contact with Artur, a 56 year old retired Brazilian air force colonel living in Rio. Artur is a Harlista... a pseudo-Spanish word for those of us who are endowed with Harley Davidson`s. I`m riding my Kawasaki at the moment, but that doesn`t kick me out of the club.

On Wednesday Artur invited me to go for a ride and lunch. We were a bit delayed because his Harley (no comments... I have one too!) had a dead battery that we had to deal with. But eventually we got to a beautiful beach where his friend Walter joined us for nice lunch and a ride back through the crappy Rio rush-hour traffic.

Although they suggested I meet another group of their friends at a bar that night, I was still fighting the feijoada-ala-Montezuma's Revenge, so I called it an early night.

Thursday, 7/2 - To The Slums

Although I couldn't spend nearly the amount of time I would have liked in Rio, there was one other area that I wanted to see. This was the famous "favelas" of Rio. These are the slums, or shantytowns that have grown up on the hillsides around the city. One of them was made famous in the book and movie "City of God".

Some of the favelas are huge. We visited Rocinha, with an estimated population of 200,000.

Fortunately - because it would not be safe to just wander around here - there are a few organized tours. We had 11 people on ours, all from various hostels.

The first challenge after arriving in the van was to get to the top of the hill. Somehow it doesn't make sense to walk up and ride down. So one gets to the top is by "taxi", a motorcycle where the passenger rides on the back. Now realize, I've now ridden 30 thousand miles on a bike through South America, but this was the scariest part so far. I haven't had this much of a thrill since the moto-taxis in Cambodia, but those were on fairly level ground, not 89 degree grades!. At least the girls could grab the driver around the waste... the guy were told this is a no-no!

Arriving at the top we were told not to take any pictures in this part of the favela because there are too many guys with walkie-talkies and machine guns who are drug dealers and they are not kindly disposed to pictures. I can't imagine why! Actually, we didn't see anyone with either a machine gun or a walkie-talkie, but maybe it was some kind of drug-dealer holiday that we weren't aware of.

We went wandering off through the small streets that comprise the favela (staying close with our guide), until we were finally told that we had left "Drugolandia" and were allowed to take photos.

One interesting, but not surprising, phenomenon in the favela (as I've found in many poor neighborhoods) is the bootlegging of electricity and other services. Having just wired my new bathroom in Cerro Azul for electricity, I have some appreciation for a neat wiring job. It was interesting to see the many, many connections that people had made to the electrical, phone, and tv cables, and it would be interesting to know what percentage of services are actually paid for. Talk about your "octopus" connection!

Surprisingly, the people did not seem hostile towards a group of gringos doing a "slum tour". Not that anyone invited us in for tea, but neither did they wave machetes or small arms at us. People were generally polite, and there wasn't an undue amount of begging.

Rodrigo, our guide, has been doing this tour for years and has tried to keep the children from asking for too much. Also, he made sure to take us to several local businesses so that we could support the favela economy.

At one point we stopped at a day care center run by a charity. Cute kids, whose parents either have jobs or are trying to find work.

Out of Rio -

After the tour it was time to pack up the bike and head out of Rio. I left at 1:30, and spent the night in Campos de Goytacazes. Nothing special, but a place to sleep.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

It`s RIO ! The Highlights - June 30

Tuesday 6/30 - A tour of Rio`s top spots

Today I did the "Top Tour" of Rio with a couple of the "kids" from the hostel. It turned out to be a great way to see the top sights, and we had a great group.

Of course, I had to take the obligatory picture with a bevy (how many IS a bevy, anyway?) of beautiful women. In this case, it was Natalie (French) and Emily (French Canadian). Why do they always seem to look at me like a grandfather figure? Oh well, given no choice I can live with that.

Just so you won't think I'm JUST a dirty old man (not that I'm denying it), I also had Ronin (Irish) and Ignace (Belgian) for company. A truly international tour.

First it was up to the top of the hill to see the Christo Redemtor (Christ the Redeemer). This is an impressive statue, and the view is spectacular (you'll hear that phrase a lot in Rio).

Then we drove through Santa Teresa to Lapa. Lapa is at night a very hip area, but during the day it is just very interesting.

I was particularly impressed by the quality of some of the graffiti artwork. These artists have some real talent, and have documented some of the more famous (and infamous) residents of the neighborhood.

We also stumbled across a charcoal processing factory in a small shop. Even our guide didn't know that it was there. Imagine working in this dark, hot, dirty place for a living.

There is also a set of famous steps in Lapa. Evidently this was an ugly, dangerous neighborhood until a local artist decided that he wanted to improve it. He built a series of planters and steps up the hill, and then began putting in tiles.

Visitors began to contribute tiles from all over the world, and the "sculpture" grew. Two tiles of particular significance to me were from Panama and the Pacific Northwest Indians.

I also could particularly identify with one tile that I call "Words to Live By".
Translation: He who drinks gets drunk. He who gets drunk sleeps. He who sleeps cannot sin. He who doesn't sin will go to heaven. So... to get to heaven, drink!

I`m not sure that this is the official Church position, but given the lack of inventory control in the local sacristy I wouldn`t be surprised.

Then it was to a traditional Portuguese restaurant for lunch. Several of us had feijoada, a traditional Brazilian. Very heavy, and very good.
I later found out that feijoada is a Brazilian word that means `all the left over crap that we threw in with some old beans and rice`, but that didn`t change the tast.

Unfortunately, after that we were to visit the Pao de Azucar (Sugar Loaf) Mountain. I say unfortunately because we were to hike up the first half... a seriously steep and difficult hike. A full stomach was definitely not an asset on this portion of the tour. Rodrigo, our guide, is a botanist and gave us full description of all the plants and animals that could inflict permanent harm on us if we should touch, approach, or just think about them.

We then took the cable car to the top. Remember, yours truly has a "wee bit" of a problem with heights, but fortunately the anticipation was the worst part. The cable car itself was fine, although I made Natalie (the French blonde) hold my hand the whole time so that I wouldn't cry. Hey... it worked! I hardly cried at all :)

We arrived at the top just at sunset, and it was (here we go again) SPECTACULAR. It really is the best word to describe Rio.

As it got darker, the lights of Rio came on below us, and I won't even tell you the word to describe the view.

Arriving back at the hostel at about 8, I discovered that the feijoada didn't like me as much as I had liked it. So I split the night between my lower bunk and the porcelain throne, hoping for better in the morning. Oh well, that's the price of adventure!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Road to Rio - June 28 - 29

Sunday 6/28 - The road to Rio

This is it... I'm officially in the same league with Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Dorothy Lamour!
That is: I'm on the Road to Rio. (for you young`uns out there this might not make sense. Go study history!)

OK, maybe I can't sing, dance, or act, but I never saw any of them on a motorcycle either.
It was more rain and drizzle today. I'm getting sick of this weather! I tried to get all the way to Rio today, but it had been recommended that I take the scenic route. It would have been more scenic had I been able to see it through the weather, but at least there were less trucks. However, there were many more beach towns, and each one seems to try to outdo the others in the number of speed bumps it can put down. So it was very slow going.

After checking the Lonely Planet (an occasionally good resource, and sometimes even accurate... except for the prices which stem from the early 50s) I decided to stop in Parati for the night. This was described as an old colonial town with quaint cobblestone streets.

For the most part that is accurate. The buildings in the central district have been restored, and no motor vehicles are allowed. It is pretty much a tourist town, with tourist prices. I found a nice "pousada" ($30) just outside the historic center and went exploring.

Every once in a while you hit Kismet. In this case, it was a rehearsal for a street play that was to be put on the following week during an important literary festival. There were singers, dancers, musicians, and anyone else who wanted to join in. The play was about a famous Brazilian writer, Euclides, and his experiences during the war for Bahia earlier in the 20th century.

It was a real happening, and a lot of fun. I'm sorry that I won't be here for the actual performance.

Monday 6/29 - Into Rio de Janeiro

I left Parati with 29,875 miles showing on the odometer and continued up the coast. The weather was (Wait... you won't believe this) BEAUTIFUL. Sunny, warm, white puffy clouds. The kind of day that was made for riding. Aside from the overabundance of speed bumps, the drive was along a beautiful coastline.

Then I hit Rio de Janeiro, and the normal big city traffic. I finally found a hostel in Ipanema, a block from the beach. The hostel itself was nice, with a good common area, bar, and swimming pool. However, the prices here are unbelievable! US$23 for a bed in a nine bed dorm!

A double room (there are no singles) was $70... a definite budget killer. And this was for a plain room with no bathroom. I decided I could sleep with eight of my closest friends for a few nights, but was not too thrilled. Actually, everything was very high priced in Rio. It's a beautiful city, but next time I want to be on someone else's expense account.