28 March 2004 - Vivir en Punta del Diablo
Well, I have pretty much been hanging out here in Punta del Diablo. Weather is beautiful, people are nice, and I don't feel like going anywhere. However, Robert and I have come up with a new plan, as of last night. We are now planning on meeting up next weekend in the northwest of Uruguay, at the Semana de la Cerveza.. which to you non Spanish speakers, is the Week of Beer. It is a big brewing festival in a small town on the Rio Uruguay, with lots of concerts, parties, and whatnot. So I think I am going to head down to Mondevideo this week, maybe Colonia, then meet up with Robert, and check out the beer festival, and go to a concert by Ruben Rada, probably the best known Uruguayan musician.
While I have been here, I have picked up several pets. Gimpy, my flea ridden dog, usually follows me wherever I go, the beach, the bar, wherever. And he doesn't allow other dogs, except for Jolie, the bar dog, to come near me.. He sets up a perimeter on the beach when I sit down, and guards it aggressively.. And Noisy, my cat, likes to sleep in the sun on my back porch.. and then goes to the front porch when he wants to beg for food. He is very vocal, and constantly meowing.. And Jolie now comes to my door on regular occasions throughout the day, either laying at the door, or sometimes scratching the door because she wants to come in. I've got my own little animal farm down here.
And for you music fans (meaning my brother, who keeps harassing me for more), here is Ruben Rada, who I plan to see next weekend.. with Malvin.
25 March 2004 - Asado en Punta del Diablo
So, Robert came out and hung out in my patio yesterday, so we decided to have our friends over for mid day asado today. Noelia, Pedro and Ximena came over this afternoon, and we spent the afternoon cooking up a ton of meat, drinking Robert's home made sangria, and watching the bar dog vomit on my patio.. Oops. Passed a great afternoon, then went off the beach for a little swimming and beach tennis. Unfortunately, the Uruguayan contingent had to go to work.. but they did manage to open the bar only about an hour late..
Last night at the bar I got to meet the legendary (in Punta del Diablo) Winston. Rumor is you do not know Punta del Diablo until you know Winston. He is, or appears to be, an old burnout.. beard, long greasy hair, tons of necklaces, slow, low, gravelly voice, and inch long fingernails. Essentially a total nutcase, but funny to hang around with for a little bit. He tried to tell Ximena's future with cards, but after an hour he hadn't gotten anywhere... but Noelia did read my fortune... and it goes like this: I will win the lottery for somewhere over $4 million, but less than $5 million.. and I will have children, but not until I am least 40 years old.
So I have sort of settled in here... and there might be a folk music fair in Uruguay in a couple of weeks.. so I might just hang out for that. It's very easy living here.
24 March 2004 - Mas Uruguay
So I left Punta del Diablo on Sunday, after hanging about at my local for three hours having lunch.. I had to head farther south than I wanted because I needed a bank machine. I had exhausted my US cash in Punta del Diablo, so I had to get to a bank. Anyway, I decided to stay on the coast in a little town called La Paloma.. Stayed at a nice little hotel there, and chatted with the hotelier. He loved my bike, and talked about a visit from another American on a bike just like mine that had passed through a few months back.. maybe Mason, as he had a white BMW, and the hotelier described him as taller than me with blond hair.
I had a great stay in Punta del Diablo, other than the fact that somehow on the third night by bed became infested by bedbugs, and my back and stomach are covered in bites. They itch like hell. My back also seems to have some allergic reaction to them, or the bed, because in addition to the big bites, I have tons of tiny little red dots.. Hopefully I will survive, although Noelia (one of the Uruguayans who works in Punta del Diablo) did tell me about a disease carried by mice and rats that involves a lot of vomiting and fevers. And apparently you can get it through contact with mouse and rat shit. Hopefully my bed didn't have any of that..
Rode a wee bit the next day.. just 30 miles up the coast to go to Cabo Palonio. Everyone I talked to said there was no way to get my bike here, as cars could not pass the road and only big lifted 4x4s with huge sand tires could make it. So I decided to leave my bike and take one of these 4x4s. Just as I was set to go, I met a Mexican guy and his girlfriend traveling on a KLR. Turns out Lois and Rachel both stayed at his house in Mexico on separate occasions. He is down here mucking about, and flew his girlfriend in for a few weeks. So they joined me on the ride in, but they were only planning to spend the afternoon. I should not have wasted the $3 on the truck. My bike definitely could have made it.. it wouldn't have been easy, and I am sure I would have fallen down a few times, but it would have made it.
But either way, once you get to Cabo Palonio it doesn't matter. Beautiful spot.. a rocky and sandy point in the Atlantic, with large beaches on either side of the point. Small little fishing village.. Power by generator, and only when needed, rustic, great. I spent the night, for eight whole dollars, in a room on the water, maybe thirty feet from the beach, with hammocks out front, a restaurant, and hot showers. Perfect. Hiked around the point all afternoon, then rested in a hammock as the sun set.
After spending the morning mucking about Cabo Palonio, I got a ride back to my bike.. After we waited in the truck for half an hour waiting for some other guys to show up so we had enough manpower to bump start the huge truck... His battery was cooked. Anyway, I cruised back to Punta del Diablo, and found a new house.. without bed bugs. And with a nice patio out back, bbq grill, full kitchen, and everything... this time for an outrageous $11 per night.
I spent last evening talking to an American couple who have been here for a few weeks.. My Uruguayan friends have been wanting me to meet them, and I finally did tonight.. Interesting couple from Manhattan, semi-retired from their music production company and bumming about. Plus, they bought me beers and dinner. Thanks Mark and Jean... They also introduced me to yet another American, Robert, who is down here traveling about.. but sort of stuck in Punta del Diablo.. as I well understand.
Anyway, I am back here for a few days, then heading south to Montevideo.
And, now, some odd thoughts:
I still have the original can of shaving foam I bought in Mexico, after I realized growing a full beard would drive me crazy. It's amazing how long a can of Gillette Foamy Proteccion Nueva Formula will last you.. course it's not like I'm shaving every day.
People throughout the South American leg of this trip have been very proud of their countries.. and it's perks. Throughout Argentina all the men were like, 'Hey, you like the women here, huh? Yes, they are very beautiful...' Wink wink. And the women echo the men, saying, 'Hey, have you tried the asado (bbq)? It is the best, no?' Of course, there are the odd crossovers, like a grandmother in northern Argentina who asked as I was not married, and the Argentinean women are the most beautiful, shouldn't I marry an Argentinean girl? She said this all as she stood next to her stunningly beautiful, and waaaay too young, granddaughter... They also, whenever I am in a nice spot, say constantly, 'You like it here? It is beautiful, no? So tranquil, so beautiful.'
That said, I think Uruguay is the only country that I have not heard one negative thing about from the people I meet.. I have only been here five or six days, but it has impressed me.. In every country some people, after bragging about their country, then say something about the corruption, or the crime, or whatever.. but not in Uruguay as yet... but then I have also not been to a big city yet either... usually a common place for trouble and disgruntled citizens.
And by request, some more music:
Another Jaime Roos song here... Adios Juventud. Seems so very Uruguayan.. makes me proud to be Uruguayan.. oh wait, uh, well, anyway, I'm proud of their country. And another few selections from Brazil. The first is world famous Joao Gilberto playing Eu Quero um Samba. The next is Zizi Possi singing Eu So Sei Amar Assim. She is apparently a bit of a nutter. Spent five years in a 'clinic' in Italy... I think the 'clinic' was one of those padded wall jobbies.. but she's got a hell of a voice..
20 March 2004 - Musica
So, I have been a bit lazy in posting local music this leg. It has been harder in the more advanced countries to connect my laptop, and without getting into details, that makes it harder to upload larger files. But, here in Punta del Diablo, I can connect my laptop at the bar.. making it much easier to sit and wait while the files upload. So, here's some music I have collected on this leg:
Atahualpa is the godfather of southern Argentinean folk music, and damn good. The second group is a traditional tango group I saw play in Buenos Aires.. very talented and amusing to watch, as many of the band members are counter-culture, tattoos, piercings, dreads, and whatnot, but still playing old school tango. The third and fourth are essentially popular music in their respective countries. Chico is mellow female singer, Jaime a more Latin sounding singer, reminiscent of the Gipsy Kings. Enjoy.
20 March 2004 - Uruguay
Aaah, the sweet sounds of Spanish. I crossed the border into Uruguay the day before yesterday, and have been hanging about in Punta del Diablo, a small fishing village on the Atlantic. Beautiful spot.. great beaches, rock formations, little sandy main street with a few restaurants and bars. Great. And, I can once again talk to the local people! Spent last night celebrating my brothers birthday with three Uruguayans who run the local bar/resto.. which is quite nice. Sand floor, very mellow, and nice folks. I hooked them up with a little Fela, as they needed some good music, and Fela was just the thing for a lazy little bar in a lazy little town. The two girls and guy who are running the bar are all from Montevideo, the capital, but are up here working for the summer.. they head back to school in another few weeks.
Anyway, all is good again, after a somewhat disappointing trip to Brazil. It rained every day I was in Brazil, and they talk funny. One thing I did find out on the border, when I was exiting Brazil, is that, as I suspected, I did need the usual paperwork for my bike which the border patrol when I entered insisted I did not. Luckily, I was never pulled over by the police, as that would have been a problem. When I exited, the border guard was very nice, and spoke English, and just badmouthed his fellow border people in Iguazu who did not give me the paper, but didn't hassle me about it.
Tonight will be my third night here in Punta del Diablo, and I think I will leave tomorrow. Gots to keep moving, or I will end up living here. I have my own house on the beach for the princely sum of $10 a night. Rough life.
17 March 2004
It's been a bit quiet. Turns out nobody, and I mean nobody, goes to the southern beaches of Brazil after Carnival. I was riding down the coast the other day, pulling into every town, trying to find a pulse. Nada. One town had a mile or two of 8-10 story hotels lined up on the beach. I rode down the entire stretch, and literally did not see a single person. It was kind of surreal.
However, my hotel that night, in yet another dead town, did have a huge group of Brazilian women staying there as well. Problem was, they were all about 60. Oh well. Not every night you can complain about getting kept up by a bunch of 60 year old women dancing poolside.
As those of you who look at the maps can see, I am now heading south towards Uruguay. Sad to say, but my trip is starting to come to an end. I am a bit tired and my bike is very very tired. I will spend some time traveling through Uruguay, then it is back to Buenos Aires to figure out how to get this bucket of bolts home. To give you an idea, as I was riding today I was thinking about what is currently wrong with my bike. None of it is major major stuff, but it all starts to add up:
So, anyway, I am crossing into Uruguay most likely tomorrow. And I probably be back in the States within about three weeks or so, but don't hold me to it.
15 March 2004
Yesterday I asked the hotel proprietor where there was internet, and he sent me down the street.. I found the place, but as it turns out they didn't feel like opening. So I started to walk back to the hotel when a SUV stopped, and it was my hotel guy. He told me to jump in, then drove off to a friend's house who had internet. So I set up shop there, uploading my site and checking my email. The guy whose house it was spoke passable English, so we got to talking, and he asked if I liked Brazilian music. Well, never one to say no to music, I ended up getting my computer and passing a few hours ripping cds and watching truck (as in big eighteen wheel tractors) racing. Interesting guy, does creative advertising, but got pancreatic cancer so his doctor told him to change his life. So he moved from the city to here, and does much less work.
At my hotel yesterday evening, a couple from Argentina showed up on vacation, so I was able to speak with them. I chatted with the guy and his 17 month old daughter while the missus prepared dinner. It was good to speak Spanish again.. and be able to communicate with someone who didn't speak English.
Also, several people have asked for a new section in this site. Since the most recent person to ask donated some money to my cause and I had a rainy afternoon with nothing to do, I decided to add it. Packing List is a comprehensive list of everything I have with me. My belongings do fluctuate from time to time as the trip continues, so this is a complete list of what I have right now.
14 March 2004 - Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day (like next month).
So, I left Iguazu under cloudy skies. It was nice at first as it was not nearly so damn hot! I crossed the border into Brazil (where supposedly I do not need paperwork for my bike.. which would be the first country without such a paper.. I guess I will find out when stopped by the police..). The grouchy woman at the Brazil side forgot to stamp my passport, and so I pointed it out to her. She pointed to my exit stamp from Rio, and I pointed out that it was just that, an exit stamp. At this point her boss got involved, and it was decided then that there was in fact no entry stamp in my passport. So she stamped it, and then, being pissed at me, gave me ten freakin' days in Brazil. I complained about that, and she got more pissed off, so I said screw it, and left. I had planned to spend a few weeks here, but I guess I will shorten that a few days. Not too much of a hardship.
Anyway, since I had a shortened stay, I decided to bail on staying in Foz do Iguacu, the Brazilian side of the falls. So I took to the highway, just as it started to downpour. I missed the turn I wanted, as the side roads were not marked very well, and it was pouring. I pushed on, and made the next turn, which hooked back to my intended route. My goal for the day was just to get as far towards Florianopolis as I could. The rain continued, off and on, more on than off, for the rest of the day. Towards the end of the day, I stopped and looked at a map, and found I could probably reach a town called Palmas as dark settled in. So I kept on trucking, still in the rain. As I got close to Palmas, I started to see signs for a Hotel Ecologique.. usually cool places to stay, as they are out in nature somewhat. I caught the turn off for the hotel as it became dark, and headed down the road for 20 minutes. Found the hotel, got a room with a view (see photos), parked my bike in the entryway, and had a nice plate of spaghetti carbonara. They even lent me a DVD to watch. I wonder why I ever worry on this trip, whenever I have a crappy day (many miles in the rain), it always turns out well and I find some nice people or a nice hotel or both.
Couple things about Brazil. One, they have vegetables.. unlike Argentina. In my first 24 hours in Brazil I had tomatoes, cucumber, beets, onions, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and green beans. More veggies into my system than in all of Argentina.
The other thing is the language. I guess I have forgotten what it was like my first few weeks or months into Spanish speaking countries.. but it is weird not being able to communicate. At one rest stop I was standing in front of a store having a coke, and boy, about ten years old, came out with a box of rice and other groceries. He was trying to attach it to his bike, but had no stand on his bike. So I held his bike while he bungeed the box on.. He politely said 'obrigado'. I said mutter mutter. I don't even know what the response for thanks is. 'Obrigado', 'sim' and 'nao' are the only words I know at this point. I forgot how many people I talk to on the road, just to say hi, talk about my trip, tell them where I've been or whatever. It seems weird not to be able to do that in this country..
Anyway, the next day I woke up and hit the road early. I had close to 400 miles to do.. and as it turned out the highest speed limit I hit was 50mph. I, of course, didn't go 50 the whole way, but I don't like to disregard the speed limit completely (at least not often). The ride was rather boring, and it was raining off and on again, but not as hard as the day before. Finally, after about 275 miles, the road started getting good. The pavement, seemingly like all pavement in Brazil, sucked. But it was good and twisty, and going up and over small mountains, getting towards the coast. I chased a VW Santana for a while, dude was on the gas.. He finally pulled over, probably to clean out his undies after a few high speed bumpy corners, and I then caught up to two local bikers. Most popular around these parts are these little 175cc standards. Yamaha, Honda, whatever. Anyway, they are small, have little narrow bicycle type tires, and don't have much motor. But these two guys, all decked out in their raingear, where hauling ass downhill through the twisties in the rain. I hung around behind them for a while, marveling at the corner speeds they were doing with crappy little tires (these guys were seriously hauling, there are only a handful of people I know that could have kept up in the conditions). It was great though, I haven't had a good run with other motorcycles in a long time.. Anyway, after a while we got to the bottom of the hill (where they lost their momentum) and I passed them and took off, finally making it into Florianopolis late in the afternoon. I checked into a hotel, got some food, and went to sleep early. The long day in the rain had completely tuckered me out.
I got up the next day and rode around the entire island of Ilha de Santa Catarina. I expected it to be a little less developed. The whole northern end of the island reminded me of Cape Cod, in it's amazing amount of development. I was looking for something a little more quiet. After 60 some odd miles I finally ventured into the southern end. Much nicer. Still developed, but more of a small beach town feel. Luckily, the rain held out until after I checked into a cool hotel. But then it started. A bit of a boring afternoon and evening, as when it is raining in a beach town, there is nothing to do, and everybody just hides in their hotel rooms, apartments, and houses. Oh well.
This morning I woke up and surprise! It was raining. So I won't do the island trip I had intended, and I won't go anywhere. It is one thing to get caught in the rain while riding, but to pack up and leave in the rain is a whole other issue. I can't do it. Hopefully the rain will clear, and then I can enjoy the beach a bit before heading onward.
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