Friday, June 26, 2009

Iguasu (Brazil) to Iguape - June 22 to 26

Monday, 3/22

I spent the morning trying to get the bike running right. I'm not sure if it was just crappy gas fouling up the carburetor, but I took off the tank and cleaned it, took out the carb and cleaned it as best as I could, replaced a throttle cable that was about to break, put it all together, and prayed. Miracle... the damned thing started! So I was off to Brasil.

It's only a few miles from the Argentina side of the falls to the Brazil side, but when you throw in immigration and customs for the bike it's still a 2 hour process. The day was compensating for yesterday's sun by being miserable and raining. I found a dingy hotel to camp in for the night, didn't want to watch one of the two Portuguese stations on the TV, so had a few glasses of wine and watched a movie on my computer. I love this little Acer netbook that I bought just before the trip3

Tuesday 3/23

I spent the morning at the Itaipu dam. This is on the border between Brazil and Paraguay and is a joint project between the two countries. It is the largest hydroelectric project in the world. It even puts out more juice than the Three Gorges dam in China will. The total output is a maximum of 14 megawatts per hour, which provides 20% of the electricity for Brazil and more than 90% of the electricity for Paraguay.

To put that in identifiable terms, that is the equivalent of 187 gazillion, 712 trillion, and sixteen double A batteries... or enough electricity to run 242 quintillion personal vibrators for 151 light years.

Eat your heart out, EverReady Bunny!

There are 20 separate generators in the plant. The actual production area stretches more than a kilometer, and the workers travel around inside the dam on bicycles or electric carts. As you can see, the shafts of each generator are huge.

One advantage of going on the "special tour" (which included all the areas inside the dam and power generating station instead of just the overlooks) was that we were actually on both sides of the river... Brazil and Paraguay. I had decided not to go to Paraguay since the only reason I wanted to go was that it's the only major South American country that I haven't visited (not counting those little French things in the upper right corner). But Paraguay doesn't like the US's visa requirements, so they charge us a hefty $130 visa fee (I can't blame them... it's the same as we charge them). It wasn't worth it to me to pay, but this got me around it. One more country down, but not in my passport!

Here I am straddling the border between Brazil and Paraguay.

In the afternoon I visited the Brazil side of Iguasu Falls. It is great view, but not as interesting as the Argentina side where you get up close and personal. Also, there are not nearly as many hiking trails. But still, the falls are spectacular.

Wednesday, 3/24

I'm off again, and having more bike problems. It kept dying on me every time I slowed down or stopped. Where the hell is that great mechanic that was supposed to come along with me? After trying to get it started again at a police check point (for half an hour), one of the many bystanders -- everyone has an opinion -- told me that there was a good mechanic in Cascavel, about 50km down the road. I got the bike started and kept hoping I would make it that far. It did, and fortunately the problem showed itself when the mechanic looked at it (it usually acts fine when a mechanic is looking, just like at the doctor's office). He immediately told me that it wasn't a carb problem, but was electrical. Turns out it was a short in the connector to the spark plug, and the wet weather made it worse. A $17 repair and I was on my way.

I raced the sun to get somewhere before dark, fortunately had no more bike problems, and arrive in Guarapuave just as night fell. Another day down!

Thursday, 3/25

A LONG travel day. Actually, I did longer days during the first part of the trip, but it's now winter and this has cut my potential travel time down by about 4 hours a day. Before I could travel from about 6:30 am until almost 9 pm. Now it's from 8 am to 5:30 pm. At least this will get better as I get further north.

Today's trip was an "all day in the saddle and my sore but is even sorer" type of day. I left Guarapuava at 9:30 and hit rain and fog all morning. This is also a very heavy truck route, so there was no fun there! They have double trailer trucks in Brazil, which seem to stretch for about 300 feet. Passing has to be very carefully planned.

After only two stops for gas, at 4:30 I finally got onto a secondary road and FINALLY felt like I was enjoying my riding. Although I was still racing the sun, it was a nice rural road... narrow and curvy just the way I like it. I was heading towards Iguape, on the coast of Brazil about 200 km south of Sao Paulo, and arrived (again) just as I was losing the light.

Iguape is an old colonial town that was founded by the Spanish, then given to the Portuguese by some pope in the 16th century. It sounded interesting and I was ready for some small town culture.

I pulled into the main square and found the tourist office. Ah... information! Well not quite.

First, nobody at the tourist office spoke English or Spanish. Why on earth would you expect that at a tourist office? Second, they thought that my inquiry about an economical hotel was quite amusing.. they had no idea! Finally someone suggested "the red building across the plaza" which was supposed to be a commercial hotel. Well, it used to be but it now a private house. As I was told as I was wandering around in someone's living room! But the people were very friendly and eventually Elizabeth (the owner) told me about a friend of hers who had some apartments for rent.

So here I am in Iguape, ensconced in a cute little bungalow (with an outdoor kitchen) for about 3 days for the princely sum of $15 a night. The owner, Cristina, also includes breakfast at her house a block away in the morning. A nice place to camp for a few days. It's raining, but hopefully the weather will improve and I'll get to explore some of the area. If not, I'll catch up on the blog!

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