Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Sept 18, 2002.-- Brazil -- After 3 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days....

Credit to de Janeiro

-- Story by Erin --

Saturday, August 31st: Memorial Day weekend in the States, and we are thinking about how our family and friends are spending the 3-day weekend. We left Cuiaba and the Pantanal.   The weather has finally cooled a bit. We take a few days to get to Riberao Preto, where Dagny is (our contact with the BMW Clube do Brasil). The road is paved but turns ugly with potholes and broken pavement for much of the 1,000 kms. The small towns we stay in are nice and friendly. One of them, Sao Simao in Goias State, is along the banks of a beautiful lake. It’s a very nice, clean town. Obviously the locals are very proud of their city and take great care to keep it nice.

Arrive in Riberao Preto in Sao Paulo state 4 days later.   This is formerly a big coffee producing area but now taken over by sugar cane plantations, partly to feed the need for alcohol for the cars of Brasil. We go immediately to the BMW dealer there, Eurobike. A great group of guys who drop everything to help us do our oil change and various other small bits. We find a curious, cheap, clean hostel in the city center. The whole place is decorated like a Chinese restaurant.

Next day we meet Dagny, our contact through the BMW Club do Brasil, who has given us so much great information via email. She treats us to lunch with some friends of hers. Her friends later take us to a big book fair where we scour the place looking for a good Portuguese/English dictionary. That night, Dagny and her husband pick us up for dinner and take us to the famous restaurant/pub called Penguim (Penguin in Portuguese). A great art deco style place that specializes in ice-cold draught beer made in-house and lots of good deli meats and cheeses to munch on. Several other local members of the club arrive with their families to welcome us as well. We spend a pleasant night chatting about bikes and good routes to take in the north of the country.

Friday, September 6th: Leave RP early as we have a long drive ahead of us. We aim for a small seaside village called Paraty. The ride is fine, all superhighway until we get to the coast. It’s a nice ride along the coast for about 150 kms, weaving between jungle mountains and pristine beaches. We reach Paraty about sunset and the view rounding the mountain and down into this bay is gorgeous. Paraty is a popular weekend retreat for Cariocas (locals) from Rio. The town center is fairly large and the old Portuguese architecture is still intact. The whole town is declared a national historic monument. This weekend there was a big festival with lots of music, food vendors and handicraft sellers. We decided to stay an extra day and enjoy it some more before pushing on to Rio.

Get on the road early to do the 200 km ride to Rio. Wanted to arrive early to give ourselves time to hunt down cheap accommodation. Find the city center with no trouble and it all seems so deserted, like many city centers on a Sunday. The weather is overcast and gloomy with a damp chill in the air. We check out several hotels recommended either by friends or from our guidebook. All are expensive and some don’t even have parking. A few curious and kind locals (including Elcino and Karla who we later become friends with) stop to chat with us and help us search, taking us to some other neighborhoods as well. We finally find one place for $20US/night with parking. That’s still expensive but we take it and decide to look more the next day.

Monday, we call a guy who is advertising apartments for rent. He lives very near our hotel and shows us 3 of his apartments. They are decent, clean and near the metro station and other amenities. It’s not Copacabana or Ipanema beaches but we assume that’s out of our price range. We take one of his apartments that’s under his house, for $12/day. We have a kitchen so can prepare our own meals and save some money. But, we have to park one of the bikes in a nearby parking garage for $3 extra per day while the other bike is parked 20 or so kilometers away at the local BMW dealer, waiting for a few parts.

We organize Portuguese lessons with a teacher named Guto. He’s a nice guy who teaches privately. Chris and Elcino ride around town in the morning to get parts for my bike. In the afternoon we ride out to the BMW dealer and change the chain, sprockets and put a new battery in the bike.

Wednesday, Sept. 11th: Everywhere there are memorials to the 9/11 attack last year. We can’t find a TV that has CNN or BBC so we have to watch the images on the local stations and read about the memorial services on the internet.

That night, we have dinner in the trendy neighborhood of Santa Theresa at a hip little restaurant with Carlos, a local m/c rider referred to us by the folks in Riberao Preto and his friend Tico. They are very nice and talk to us about places we should visit and introduce us to some very good food and special Samba music, which is played live in the restaurant by some friends of theirs. Elcino and Karla join us there as well and bring photos with them of the northern part of Brazil, to show us the lovely beaches and quaint villages.

Thursday, Sept 12th: Chris’ cousin Peter is supposed to arrive first thing that morning but when Chris gets to the airport he finds out that Peter’s plane was cancelled and he will arrive in the evening. Around noon we get a call from Peter who is at the Rio airport and giving us some bad news. The immigration authorities won’t let him in the country because he doesn’t have a visa! They want to send him home on the next plane to Miami. Our landlord finds out that we might have company and immediately tells us we will have to pay more. By now, Chris is fed up with our landlord’s greedy tactics on this and some other things and goes out to look for another apartment, which he finds, and we tell our landlord we are leaving tomorrow. Peter's cousin Aldo, from Uruguay, arrives at our apartment around 2pm and he and Chris scramble to send emails and make phone calls to see if Peter can fly to Montevideo or Buenos Aires instead and get his visa there. By that evening Peter is on a flight to BA, and we take Aldo out for a few beers and a walk on the beach.

Friday, Sept 13th: Significant date! It is Day 1212, as well as marking 3-years, 3-months, 3-weeks, and 3-days of the trip!

We move out of our apartment and into the new one in Copacabana. It is a nice little one-bedroom place on the 12th floor of a building just one block from the beach. If you stick your head out the bedroom window and look left, you can see the beach! We feel quite lucky indeed. We get an email from Peter which indicates he was successful in getting his visa and he will arrive tonight----more good luck. That afternoon, Aldo wants to go for a city tour with a taxi and he invites me along. Chris in the mean time finds parking for our bikes and heads out to the airport to get Peter. The city tour is nice and we see more beaches and the beautiful inland forest of Floresta da Tijuca. We arrive back to the apartment about 6pm and Chris and Peter arrive shortly after. There is much excitement, as we want to know the whole story from Peter. We go to the beach for drinks and snacks and get very buzzed on numerous caipirinhas (the local drink made with cachasa –their whiskey made from sugar cane- crushed ice, limes and sugar. It’s like a very spiked lemonade!  "Friday the 13th" becomes a lucky day for us!

Next morning Aldo and Peter leave early to catch their next flight to Salvador to meet up with some of Aldo’s school-mates. Chris then rides out to the airport yet again to pick up our friend Helo who is arriving from Porto Alegre. Helo has been a good friend to us this past year, helping with shipping and flight information (she works for Lufthansa airlines), contact info and various other little favors. We are happy to be seeing her again in Brasil. That afternoon we take a long walk along the beaches of Copa and Ipanema and drink more caipirinhas on the beach to catch up on all the news from Porto Alegre. That night we find a typical boteca (like a local bar/restaurant) and have beers and some interesting local specialties like black beans with crispy bacon and spicy crabmeat balls.

Sunday, Sept 15th: Elcino meets us and we four take the bikes for a ride along the beaches and way out to the end of the beach in Barra de Tijuca. We stop for lunch at a great little seaside spot with outdoor tables, and eat a huge fish with lots of side dishes. Our view is of hundreds of surfers below us and the skyline of Rio off in the distance. Later Elcino takes us up into the mountains behind Rio, near where the big statue of Christ is, and the forests are beautiful, as are the views. The forest was replanted in the 1950’s when it was discovered that the deforestation, caused by coffee plantation owners, was changing the weather patterns and depriving the area of much needed rainfall. The whole area was replanted with native vegetation and today it is a great sanctuary for both the wild animals and stressed Carioca’s (term used to refer to local Rio inhabitants). That night, Elcino’s wife Karla joined us in Copa for a picnic dinner on the beach. We drank the wonderful wine made by relatives of Helo and have snacks of meats and cheeses. Elcino and Karla laugh because they have lived their whole lives in Rio and never had a picnic on the beach before.

Monday, we go with Helo to the Center and wonder around a bit. She has to stop in at her Rio office to check in with them on some things and Chris and I use the internet. Later we all catch the trolley up to Santa Theresa for an interesting daytime view of this old neighborhood. We get off in the middle of ST and find a local boteca to have a cold beer and some fried yucca, which is served with a warm, spicy oil as a condiment. Before Helo has to leave for the airport we have one final caipirinha on the beach. Because by now we’ve had a lot of alcohol to drink we catch a taxi to the airport with Helo to say goodbye. It’s a teary, goodbye to say the least as we try to convince her to come visit us again in the north, in Salvador.



The great guys at EuroBike,  Riberao Preto

Celebrating Peter's arrival with a few caipirinhas on the beach.

L to R: Aldo, Chris, me and Peter

Sunday fish lunch while watching the surfers.

Elcino, Chris, me and Helo


The view of Rio around sunset from the mountains behind it.


Laughing it up with a few drinks in a boteca with Helo


An impromptu beach dinner.

The beach gang, including Karla resting against Elcino.

View of the famous Copacabana Palace Hotel from the beach in front.

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