Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Round Two -----FIGHT

I awoke early again to get a good start on the customs process. After a quick trip to the bathroom I realized it was entirely too early too start the day and went back to bed. I headed out again at 10am with a little more sleep under my belt to start the customs battle. After a quick stop at the customs office for some paperwork I was over to the warehouse where the crate was quickly retrieved by the fork lift and positioned out back by a dumpster. A fitting place to unpack I thought, have remember how things were hastily strapped and packed in Buenos Aires. Surprisingly enough when all the walls to the crate were pried off everything was still quite secure. I went to work meticulously dumping all the parts and pieces in a big pile. In a short time most of the pieces were strapped, duct taped, tied, and bolted back in place. The battery was connected and a 1/2 liter of gas was dumped and the tank. With much anticipation I pushed the start button and to no surprise grrrr.... grrrr ....grrrrr....grrrr....nothing. After a little more tinkering I was off to try to give it a start again and sure enough the battery was dead. After minimal success in rallying anyone with jumper cables to help my cause I parked the bike under a lamp post in front of the warehouse and locked it all up. With the battery in my backpack I made my way back into the city and found a motorcycle repair shop to charge my battery overnight. Tomorrow I will go back once again to the dreaded Barcelona dock with a fresh battery and a can of starting fluid and hope the bike is still there for me to tinker with.
Round Two -----FIGHT

I awoke early again to get a good start on the customs process. After a quick trip to the bathroom I realized it was entirely too early too start the day and went back to bed. I headed out again at 10am with a little more sleep under my belt to start the customs battle. After a quick stop at the customs office for some paperwork I was over to the warehouse where the crate was quickly retrieved by the fork lift and positioned out back by a dumpster. A fitting place to unpack I thought, have remember how things were hastily strapped and packed in Buenos Aires. Surprisingly enough when all the walls to the crate were pried off everything was still quite secure. I went to work meticulously dumping all the parts and pieces in a big pile. In a short time most of the pieces were strapped, duct taped, tied, and bolted back in place. The battery was connected and a 1/2 liter of gas was dumped and the tank. With much anticipation I pushed the start button and to no surprise grrrr.... grrrr ....grrrrr....grrrr....nothing. After a little more tinkering I was off to try to give it a start again and sure enough the battery was dead. After minimal success in rallying anyone with jumper cables to help my cause I parked the bike under a lamp post in front of the warehouse and locked it all up. With the battery in my backpack I made my way back into the city and found a motorcycle repair shop to charge my battery overnight. Tomorrow I will go back once again to the dreaded Barcelona dock with a fresh battery and a can of starting fluid and hope the bike is still there for me to tinker with.
After several enjoyable days wondering around the narrow streets of Barcelona and taking in some of the impressive architecture it was time to get down to the dirty business of freeing the green monster from its cage in the Barcelona port customs. After waiting out the obligatory national holiday that seems to rear its head every time official business needs to be conducted, I awoke early and went down to visit my friendly local customs agent. They had informed me that before any of the customs clearance could begin I would need to pay 300 euros in "customs broker fees" that included a hefty 20% VAT and sign over in blood slave rights to my first born child. I arrived to the office in the port at 9am and was quickly relieved of my 300 euros and was told to come back at 3pm once they had everything sorted out with customs and I could begin tearing into my crate and assessing the damage. Well at least things are heading in the right direction I thought to myself as I walked out of the office in search of the #38 bus line that would take me back into the city. I thought I would spend the morning and afternoon at the Picasso museum before returning at 3pm. As I walked off in search of the bus stop everyone one kept telling me it was too far to walk. Thinking I had nothing but time I kept pressing on. Eventually I realized it was too far too walk and by the time I caught the bus to the city I would need to turn around to be back at the customs office by 3pm. At this point I spied a nice shady patch of grass that was beckoning me to take a nice nap to kill some time. I sprawled out in the shade of a tree and quickly passed out.



I awoke several hours later with a small problem. I could not open my eyes. My eyes were burning and I could only keep them open for a few seconds before having to shut them again. I sat there for a few minutes thinking it would pass. It didn't. I got up and half stumbled my way along a wall toward a guarded checkpoint. I explained my predicament and the police were quickly summoned. I once again explained my situation and they called an ambulance. After 15 min they told me the ambulance was not coming and they would take me to the hospital. As I went to climb in their car they pulled me back and explained my shirt was too dirty from laying in the grass to get in the car. They told me I needed to take it off and shake it off. Fair enough. In a half blinded state I took it off and beat the dirt and dust off against the wall. I climbed in and threw my backpack on the back seat which insited another eruption of rapid fire Spanish as one of the cops went back and removed all of their remaining gear to the trunk. Now safely quarantined we struck out for the hospital.



We arrived at the hospital and I climbed out and collected my things and turned to thank the two police officers for the ride. The car was already shooting out of the parking lot. I wandered into the admissions area and explained I had a problem with my eyes and was told I needed to go to the next room and see the medic. Seems easy enough I thought to myself. I sat down on a bench which seemed to be the waiting line. After 15 minutes no one seemed the least bit interested in me. I talked to a security guard who told me I needed paper work from the same admissions people who had spent me here to begin with. I went back to the admissions desk that was now being manned by someone else. I explained I needed to see someone about my eyes and was promptly told that they had no doctors here that could look at eyes and was given the names of several other clinics. My eyes were slowly getting better and I think I must have had some sort of allergic reaction to something where I had taken my nap. I wandered back to the hostel where I was staying and flushed out my eyes with some eye drops. It was now after 6pm and the moto is still locked in its crate in the port. Ill get another early start tomorrow and see if I can have another productive day.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006




And in the blink of an eye, seven months had vanished like sand through our fingers. We could not tell you exactly how much money we spent or all the names of the people and places that we crossed in our journey, but the memorable moments were plentiful and the generosity of people was humbling (as I droned on about every time we entered a new country). We witnessed incredible beauty that cannot be captured in books, but that must be experienced first hand. It seems surreal that I am now back to my life just as it was before....and I find myself yearning for the open road again. I envy Tim continuing on, but anxiously await his new tales of his travels in Europe. We weathered the travels well together...I couldn't have asked for a better companion. Perhaps by our next trip together, I might do a little driving myself....

Out of curiousity, I would love to know who is still reading out there and what you think. You can find me at sapogordo@gmail.com if you have any thoughts you care to pass along.

So, without further adieu, I turn this blog back to its rightful owner. Tim will be taking over from here to chronicle his adventures through Europe. Things tend to be a bit more tame while I am around, but somehow Tim attracts the unthinkable. The adventure is just gettin' good.













In the meantime...

By day we were fixing the motorcycle and preparing to send her off, but in our free time we were enjoying the last week in Buenos Aires. Staying with a friend's family, there were many happy reunions to be had during the week. Kit, my brother flew across the Andes for one last visit. He joined us in several reunions and accompanied us exploring the city. His arrival was most eventful, a typical Argentine welcome. We arranged to meet at the most obvious landmark in the city: the obelisk situated in the middle of the immense highway 9 de Julio. Tim and I were startled by the sounds of explosions as we approached the obelisk. A protest had traffic stopped and the spirited group was setting off fireworks to draw yet more attention to their cause. With traffic backed up, Kit did not arrive for well over an hour after the arranged meeting time. As a budding photo journalist, we hardly got a hug before he ran off to capture the scene: a line of cops in full riot gear, protesters chanting and waving flags, traffic at a standstill. It is refreshing to see the freedom of expression not taken for granted. Just before Kit's arrival, Tim and I had watched the dramatic arrival of the Chilean president, Michelle Bachelet. There was much fanfare and further street closures, another coincidence where we happened to be in the right (?) place at the right time. We were welcomed like family and could not have asked for a better way to finish our travels. We could have stayed longer, but perhaps we just did not want to see the end to our amazing seven month journey through the americas.

In our short time in Buenos Aires though, Tim and I seemingly inspired some potential young motorcyclists that could perhaps follow in our footsteps one day. We were so gracious to my friends who took us in for the week. The pictures express the fun we had better than words.

Nunca Mas!

The holiday that was complicating our schedule was a landmark one for Argentines asthey were observing the 30th anniversary of the military coup, bringing rise to a dictatorship that would lead to the disappearance of 30,000 of their countrymen and women. After visiting the city's cultural center and wandering in a haze through exhibit after exhibit from artists trying to come to terms with their past and still searching for answers. Their message was clear: Nunca Mas! Never Again! While trying to digest all that we had seen in the museums, we took to the streets. We planned our visit to the Plaza de Mayo (which lies in front of the presidential palace and is where a group of mothers who lost their children have marched every Thursday to continue their fight against social injustices) just as various marches were all converging along the streets that radiate out from the plaza. Thousands of people carried signs with pictures or names of family members and friends that disappeared during the Dirty War. The air was filled with energy and comradery and the masses joined together to acknowledge this atrocity and to ensure that history never repeats itself. I stood there with goosebumps covering my body on the warm summer night as we watched hundreds of people march past us.

Monday, May 01, 2006



Mission Impossible

Arriving to Buenos Aires, it seemed we had everything in place. We had spoken to a shipping company that agreed to ship the bike, we just needed to get the ball rolling. With a week to spare, it seemed like ample time to make all the final arrangements. When we called the company to let them know we were ready to begin the process, we discovered that they would not have a container ready to ship for more than a month....back to square one. Without too much hastle we came up with another shipper at a comparable rate, so we were back on track. Then we came to find out that Friday was a national holiday, and Tim and I had flights out the following Monday evening. This left us a day to do maintenance on the bike, a day to take care of paperwork-crate the bike-send her off, and a day to spare (the day we were flying out) if this timeline did not work out. The moto was taken apart, a very worn sprocket changed, the gas filter and tank were thoroughly cleaned, and she even got her first bath....well, sort of. Then moving onto the shipping, we underwent the obligatory run around, extra fees, and repeated trips back and forth between agencies. In the running around, we managed to run out of gas (again!), although this time we did not have spare gas along. Luckily we were in the city and a gas station was only a few blocks away. As the holiday weekend approached, we had not even gotten to crating the bike, which was to be left for Monday. No worries, we were told it should only take 3 hours, so we showed up as the dock warehouse opened, and somehow the crate was finished right at lunchtime. Another hour of waiting to get the stamp of approval from customs. Hoping it would be quick and easy, I was disheartened when the customs official claimed we had to open the finished crate to cross reference the VIN number. I can only imagine his chuckle came from my pale face and look of desperation...and he let it go. It was late in the afternoon by the time we parted from the Green Monster that had carried us so far. We are just crossing our fingers that she does not appear in shambles in Barcelona. (Tim will find out soon enough what state she is in). So, with a few hours to spare, we raced off to pack our bags for the trip home. Nothing is ever easy, but that is much of the adventure.



Turbulent Times

We caught the ferry across to Buenos Aires from Colonia. Unlike most of the ferries we had seen throughout this adventure, we cruised across the La Plata river in a boat more akin to a casino than a modest ferry (the cost also reflected this). The ferry rocked to and fro across the choppy river. It was impossible to walk a straight line, and it was even more likely for you to crash into a wall or railing while moving about. Our concern throughout the ride was not the choppy ride, but rather what we were going to do once we got to Buenos Aires. We would be arriving after dark, and we were having problems with our headlight. The fuse kept burning out and we had already used up all the fuses that we had on hand. For safety measures we strapped my headlamp to the front of the bike. Luckily the route was well lit and it was not a problem that we did not have a light....that must have been why so many of the other cars were driving without their headlights too!






Colonia

We wrapped up our trip in the picturesque colonial town of Colonia. Ironically enough, we ran out of gas as we were approaching the town. We had also run out of gas our very first tank, riding down through sparce Arizona. Somehow we felt we had come full circle (luckily both times we were carrying along just enough extra gas to coast into the next gas station). So, we spent two days exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of Colonia, dotted with old cars (bringing them out for effect) parked in front of antique shops and art galleries. It would have been a good opportunity to send some post cards and pick up some souveneirs for our friends and family supporting us this long while, but in our typical fashion...we just enjoyed the sights and basked in our last night on the road. Dining at a small restaurant operated out of a house, we sat near the river, listened to a local eclectic band, and feasted on juicy steaks. It was the calm before the storm. Once in Buenos Aires we had much to accomplish, but for the time being...we suppressed all of that and enjoyed a cool summer night, our last on the road.




Hidden in the Shadows

Often forgot about, Uraguay lays smashed between Brazil and Argentina, two of South America's leading countries. Without the appeal of the Brazilian beaches or the dreamy Argentine culture, Uraguay is often forgotten about. We were anxious to enter Uraguay, fleeing the higher standard of living in Brazil (ie. $5/gal for gas) and get away from the developed beaches. We discovered quiet beach towns full of quaint cottages along the northern coast. Outside of the high season, it seemed we had everything to ourselves, strolling through empty sandy lanes and getting to know the locals. Lots of natural areas and beautiful dunes compose a more rugged coastline. It would be an ideal spot to rent a cottage to spend the summer.

One excursion led us to an old farmer's land who charges a modest fee to visit an unusual ombu forest that stretches across his property. These grand trees typically are solitary spreading their grand limbs over the vast pampas. However, this site is unique in having a forest that stretches for 20 km, but only grows several meters deep. After a ride out to the forest on his rickety old tractor, he accompanied us down a path in the shade of the mighty ombus, some of which are said to be more than 600 years old.

Sunday, April 30, 2006




Overnight Bus

Just as it was beginning to feel that our adventure was winding to a close, it became evident that we would be finding adventure, or rather, it would be finding us....right up until we crated the motorcycle and headed for home. Returning to the Brasilian coast, we opted to take a highway that followed a narrow spit of land for some 250 km or so before returning to the mainland. According to our trusty map, we would encounter a 50 km stretch of dirt road, but that hardly seemed to be a problem. It seemed as though we were one of few who had outsmarted the rest, getting off the highway and cruising quickly down this beautifully paved road. Another hot day in the sun, riding through the wide, open plains....this was reminiscent of many of our days spent on the bike. After at least 150 km, there were huge chunks of pavement missing where the sand had eroded away below. Before long, we were riding through 10-20m stretches of sand....and then the pavement disappeared for good. Our map indicated dirt, but we had not bargained for sand (and this was thick, loose sand). I hopped off the bike for Tim to test out the driving conditions with our laden down bike. As he slowly progressed, a local on a little 125cc motorbike came flying through, sending showers of sand in all direction. He was out of sight immediately, and we were left contemplating the challenge ahead. We decided to give it a go, and in retrospect it was a memorable experience. We fell 6-7 times, stopped periodically when the moto (and Tim) were overheating, I walked around the areas of loosest sand, and we still were not able to make it through this stretch of road before sunset. Considering where we should set up the tent for the night, we came upon a small town (ie. a few houses, a church, and a small store). It quickly became apparent that this was the reststop for the buses running this route. We had hardly climbed off the bike and a bus pulls through and we became the center of attention. We waited for the bus to ramble on before we wandered up to the storefront to find something to snack on. Verinha proved to be our savior this night, serving up some empanadas. The clients from the bus simply had the food quickly passed over the countertop, but we received special treatment. A lace tablecloth was pulled out and we were seranaded with Verinha's very own CD being pumped out of a little boom box on the countertop. The orange ball of a full moon rose steadily into the sky while our moods were coming around with full bellies. The round, middle-aged Verinha had a huge heart and a contagious smile that we passed back and forth while eagerly munching on some delicious empanadas. We inquired about pitching a tent, and wound up sleeping in an abandoned bus that had been converted. They brought out dusty old foam mattresses and hooked up a light for us. It was an ideal setting until the mosquitos appeared. First a faint buzzing and then we each seemed to have our own personal cloud of mosquitos flying around our heads with their incessant shrill buzzing. Hunkering down in our sleeping bags, we sweated like pigs. We even tried to don our helmets to keep them out....but that kept the air out too. We finally pitched the tent inside the bus and slept soundly protected from the noisy blood suckers. A light breeze ran through the bus, and we drifted off to sleep with the occasional interuption of a motorcyclist racing through the sandy lane, in the middle of the night.

The next morning, we bid farewell to Verinha with many thanks and one of her CDs in tow. It was a mere 12 km until we reached paved road again. Of course, this took a couple of hours....but we were grateful to be on firm ground again.

Saturday, April 29, 2006




Canyonlands

With a slight detour inland, we gained decent elevation and made our way to a region known for its several vast canyons. With our negligible portuguese, we had trouble getting information on how to access the various canyons, but we did figure out that the one national park we were heading for would be closed for the following three days. We discovered a hostel, that we had all to ourselves since we arrived just as the high season was ending. It seemed that the thing to do in the area was take an organized tour to explore some of the canyons, but Tim and I opted to put our two wheels to use. Winding up into the mountains, we were taking in the beautiful windswept grassy hillsides when we realized the rear tire was flat. Our exploratory ride came to a hault and (sure enough) we pulled a nail out of the rear tire. We go through the hastle of pulling the rear tire off, only to discover that we cannot break the bead to remove the tire. Instead, we reinflated the tire by hand and we were able to make it back to the nearest town, where a mechanic quickly removed the tire with his hydraulic press. With the proper tools, one can do anything.



Golden Bodies and Turquoise Waters

We beelined over to the coast, and made several stops along the famed Brasilian coastline. Discovering lots of overly developed beaches lined with hotels and restaurants. However, with a little searching we discovered some quintessential white sand beaches with caribbeanesque turquoise waters. A few days were lost strolling on the beaches, sticking out like sore thumbs amid the sea of beautifully bronzed bodies. Our SPF 50 sunscreen had apparently been toted along a bit too long. Our sunscreen failed us and the intense Brasilian sun left us with lobster skin after the first day on the beach. Being in a touristy town, a small $20 bottle of sunscreen was our only hope if we wanted to return to the beaches.

We somehow chose the ugliest day to go scuba diving. The intense wind prevented us from going out to a marine reserve, so the decision was made to take us to a reef near the shore, where we dove in turbid water. While it was a fun outing, the visibility was quite low and the day ended when Tim and I were called in because the winds were picking up further.

We endured a few storms along the Brasilian coast, weathered in our less-than-waterproof tent. So, we slept as close to the center of the tent as possible and kept mostly dry. Our fellow 'campers' were completely outfitted with their RVs and satellite dishes. We could see them peering out at us from their dry seats sitting down to dinner.

The sun was also plentiful though, which our sensitive skin (accustomed to being hidden under our hefty riding gear) could attest to. This was seemingly our vacation from our vacation along the coast of Brazil, however, Tim and I both agreed that we would tire quickly of the beach bum lifestyle.



In the Splendid Mist of Iguazu

A generous two days were dedicated to exploring Iguazu falls, once from the Brasilian side and then getting another view from the Argentine. The Iguazu River that creates the falls forms the border between these two countries. Visiting from both sides, gives two distinct views of this monstrous waterfall that is composed of more than 200 individual falls, any one of which would be spectacular standing alone against the backdrop of lush green jungle. Together they create a complex system of falls cascading over a basalt table top, plunging more than 30m, before reuniting and calmly winding through a lush canyon below. From the Brazilian side, it is a more shock and awe approach, taking a short trail to a lookout soaking you in the mist from the Garganta del Diablo (Devil's Throat). The thunderous water allows you to block out the sounds of the other tourists being herded around with their tour groups. The platform, built over several other less impressive waterfalls, places you smack dab in the middle of the action, in a vibrant ecosystem that thrives on the constant mist of the falls, highlighted by hints of rainbows everywhere you turn. In contrast, the Argentine side has various catwalks affording you ample opportunities to avoid the other tourists and visit many of the individual falls. We did our best to avoid the throngs of tourists, which was reminiscent of Machu Picchu...which proved to be challenging. We finally got away from the falls taking this small dirt trail to another waterfall in a different part of the park. Finding a handful of people enjoying the cool waters of the pool below the waterfall, Tim was swimming around as soon as we arrived. Originating from a tiny stream, this waterfall had created a beautiful bowl that provided the perfect place to retreat from the masses and relax.




A Country Apart

With a huge land mass that dominates the South American continent, Brazil is a gem that stands apart from its neighbors. We immediately encountered a warm, more ethnically diverse population than we had found in the neighboring countries. It was helpful that Brasilians are a patient, curious people. With no background in portuguese, we had to rely on our spanish to get us through. Most Brasilians that we met were more than willing to roll with the punches and piece together a conversation with us. They spoke to us in slow portuguese and we responded in spanish. With the addition of hand motions and facial expressions, we were befriended by our neighbors at our campsites, random people at restaurants, and helpful people along the route. They never seemed deterred when we shrugged our shoulders and told them we did not understand. They just pressed on until they got a glimmer of recognition in our eyes and returned a friendly smile. With limited time (we know....we know....most people don't consider 2-3 weeks a limited time), we opted to forego Rio de Janeiro and cut across southern Brazil to the coast and work our way down the coast. Most Brasilians let us know that we missed the most beautiful parts of their country by taking this route, but we simply vowed to return.
Parting Ways

With Tim now awaiting the arrival of the motorcycle in Barcelona, I have two weeks of work under my belt and am slowly readjusting to the traditional workday. In typical fashion, Tim arrived just in time for Spanish holidays, meaning that the customs offices will be closed creating a four day weekend. The motorcycle awaits patiently, still crated in a port warehouse....and Tim is off exploring Barcelona. Now, I am resigned to living vicariously through Tim's adventures. So, after a few posts to round out our trip in South America (which I do apologize for my delinquency), I will be turning the blog over to Tim. He might need a bit of encouragement from everyone, but I think with enough encounragement perhaps we can convince him to keep us posted on his adventures, which started during his first hours navegating Barcelona.

Monday, March 20, 2006

*News Flash*

I hope you all have not come to the assumption that the trip ended early and we were disappearing without another word. We have still been on the road all this time, but as the remaining time slipped through our fingers, blogging was placed on the back burner while enjoying the coast of Brazil down into Uraguay. There is still much to tell from the past several weeks and will trickle in slowly. As of today, we have one week left that will be spent in Buenos Aires doing some maintenance on the moto and shipping her off to....Europe. While my travels are mostly finished for now, Tim will continue on without his co-pilot. His plan (as it stands now) is to ship the moto to Germany, where he will start his tour of Europe sometime in May. He reports back to work in August, so this will give him ample time to explore heading south to Turkey and (time willing) north to the Scandanavian countries. A tentative route is awaiting his arrival. I, on the other hand, will be returning to my field biology job in southern Utah. But, before we get into all of that, there are still many tales to tell...

Saturday, March 04, 2006



Ciudad del Este

We traveled through lots of small towns along the highway, mostly composed of red dirt roads and small houses. In the interior of the country, it is a slow pace of life, and people are hardly seen without a big thermos and their Terere. Instead of mate, the addiction in Argentina, Terere is the common way to drink tea in Paraguay. A thermos of ice water is poured over loose tea leaves in a hollowed out horn and drunk through a metal straw with a sieve at the end. (I´m sure that you are having no problem getting a clear picture of this, right?!) Right at the end of this highway that cuts east-west across the country, we rolled into Ciudad del Este. Despite the warnings from Patricio that we should not attempt to cross the border on a Saturday, we went for it. Ciudad del Este is a shopping mecca for people from surrounding areas, that come to get their electronics, tires, bed linens, you-name-it, at low prices without taxes. Apparently Wednesday and Saturday are the big shopping days. To cross from Paraguay to Brazil, you cross a the Friendship Bridge. We could not even see the bridge yet when we were caught in complete gridlock. Most motorcycles snake right on through, but our wide load does not enjoy that luxury. Some guys came out in the street and started directing cars to move up or back to open up a space for us to get through. They sent us back in the direction we had come to take a side road down through stalls and markets (along with much other motorcycle traffic) that would bypass all the traffic at a standstill. Before we knew it, we were in the midst of a sea of motorcyclists, all the wee bikes humming and pushing their way towards this closed gate. A police officer opened the gate and it was a day at the races as we defied physics and forced our way through the gate. We successfully made it out of Paraguay without a stamp or even seeing customs and immigrations. We could have easily done the same on the Brazilian side, but we knew that a legal entry was a bit more necessary to avoid future problems. While people streamed past us with bags of newly purchased posessions and cars, trucks and motorcycles whizzed through the border in either direction, we went through the formalities of importing the motorcycle. Although a bit hectic and confusing in the moment, it was a worthwhile experience witnessing the insantiy of this corner of the world.



Paraguay--Giving Color to the Black Hole

Tim and I agreed, as we were approaching Paraguay, that neither of us knew anything about this small South American country. Tim contributed that it was one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to some statistics he had come across. We arrived in Asuncion, the capital city, in the midday steamy heat. After crossing the flat chaco region of Argentina, we were greeted by a lush, green, beautiful city. Modern, yet maintaining its old, cultural flair in its architecture, Asuncion was a fusion of history and technology. This is common with many of the Latin American cities, however, I was struck by this phenomenon in Asuncion.

While visiting the city, we stayed with the family of another motorcycle traveler that we had met in Peru. Patricio, after only having spent an hour or so chatting with us in a small bar in Peru, took us straight to his parent´s house where we were warmly welcomed. Over two days and one night, we ate many a fine meal and got lots of history and geography lessons about Paraguay. Patricio was our tour guide around Asuncion, making sure that we had visited all the key buildings and landmarks.

From Asuncion, we drove across Paraguay to the Brazilian border. Expecting to make it through the border in one afternoon, we were met by an onslaught of rain that kept our speed slow and kept us in Paraguay another day in a small town. It was getting late in the day as we were splashing through the puddles of rain on the highway. The sun broke through the thick clouds behind us sending a golden glow across the thick vegetation surrounding us. A full rainbow grew brighter and brighter in front of us with a faint shadow of a second behind it. While we enjoyed the breathtaking views of the rainbow against the golden vegetation against a dark blue sky, threatening mazes of lightening bolts reminded us that the storm was still lurking overhead and was far from finished. With rain continuing to fall on us, stinging our hands and filling out already soggy boots, we had the most magnificent moment on the road.
From One Consulate to the Next

We arrived, despite many a moto mishap, at the Paraguay border late in the day. We quickly checked us and the bike out of Argentina and then slipped over to Paraguay immigration. Little did we know that we (as americans) needed a visa to get into Paraguay. This is not something that you can quickly take care of at the border. We had to return to Clorinda, the last town before the border to visit the Paraguayan Consulate. In order to do this, we had to get stamped back into Argentina....and redo the paperwork on the bike too. The Argentine folks were friendly and shook their heads at the Paraguayans for asking for money. We knew though that we had no room to complain since we have slipped in and out of every country that we have visited so far. If our country asks so much of everyone trying to visit it, it was about time we had to jump through a few hoops too. Of course, the office was already closed, so our only option was to pay a visit the next morning. A bit of waiting and filling out forms and we were back at the border with an official visa in our passports and our wallets slightly thinner.

A day later, we got to repeat the whole process again, while visiting Asuncion. This time we were thinking ahead and getting our visas for Brazil. It was a bit more red tape and waiting, but in the end we had paid our fees and had yet another visa in the passport.
Checkpoint

After 6 months of traveling, we had not had a single incident in whichcops tried to bribe us, or even pulled over for speeding. We hadheard many a tale of situations that other travelers had run into, butnever experienced the situation ourselves until northern Argentina.We had met a group of Brazilian motorcyclists traveling in theopposite direction that had warned us about this stop. The warningwas in the distant past when a cop motioned us to stop at a typicalcheckpoint. We have fallen into particular roles during the trip: Ispeak to people and Tim drives the bike. Although Tim also does do abit of talking, I do not drive the bike. So, as we rolled to a stop,I flipped up my helmet and greeted the cop. He was a 55 or more andthose years must not have treated him well because he seemed to beseeking some revenge or needing to exert his power....or perhaps justneeding some extra money to support his family. It is hard to say atthis point. I responded to his gruff question of where we weretraveling from. ´Gonzalez´, I told him. He did not want to deal withme, so he repeated the question to Tim. Tim gave the same response.At this point, the guy starts barking at us that he needs to see our´Guia de las rutas provinciales´. I inquire as to what this supposeddocument is and all he can do is repeat this name incessantly withoutexplantion. He orders us to park the moto on the shoulder of the roadand follow him into his wee hut. Armed with no more than a modestchair and table with a few papers scattered on it, he takes a seat athis throne. With the motorcycle documents and Tim´s drivers licensein his hands, we could not just take off. He proceeds to inform us ofthe fine for not getting this documentation. The price rose and fell. His final offer was 20 pesos (about 7 bucks)....but had risen to asmuch as 300 pesos. I continued to insist on an explanation and hehands me two tattered old booklets outlining regulation and laws. Hewas unable to show me where in the book this information was, so I wasleft to read it all myself if I wanted to find this requirement. At some point after much banter back and forth, the fellow got fed up with me. He decided he would only deal with Tim since the motorcycle belongs to him. I was told that too many words had already been wasted on me. Perhaps he was thinking he could get Tim to cooperate with him if I was out of the way. Tim asked where we needed to get this documentation and the cop claimed that we needed to buy it in the Salta, 200km behind us. Tim said we would have to drive back there then. Deflated and frustrated, the old sap made one final attempt asking for a mere 20 pesos. Tim replied that we would go back to Salta. Knowing that we were not going to budge, he waved us through.


A Second Wind

Much of the last week was spent on the side of the road. It seems that several small issues all arose at the same time, or so we are believing. We would fix one problem and then the next would arise. We were really becoming quite comfortable and handy at pulling the seat and tank off to start tackling the potential problem. Perhaps I should fully clarify these situations. I am always quite eager to pull the seat and tank off because those are the procedures that I can readily handle. Then I turn things over to Tim and he consults the KLR manual and goes to work. I stand by, ready to lend a hand whenever my hand might be needed. Seeing as though my hands are smaller than Tim´s, sometimes they are just the right size to squeeze into a small space.

The latest issue left us stranded in the middle of nowhere in the middle of a rainstorm. We watched the dark clouds approaching, as we rolled to a stop time and time again as the motor cut out on us. We were traveling in 2-3 km increments and the storm overtook us in no time. Sitting beside the bike, with our full gear and helmets on, we waited out the storm and with the ensuing humid, thick air, we slowly continued down the road.

Another episode left us stranded in the city of Corrientes, that we were just going to visit for an hour or two. A friendly chap noticed us stopped (and the looks of frustration on our faces) and offered us a hand. We accepted and had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. Old Pablo hauled us to (seeminly) every motorcycle shop in the city. He was proud and glad to help us, but we lost more time that could have been used tinkering around on the bike driving circles around the city. It´s the thought that counts though, right?

Amazingly, the spirits have been kept up everytime the bike has gone sour on us. The gas filters have been cleaned several times. The spark plug has been changed. The carburetor had been taken out and inspected on two occasions. Even when we are stranded in the middle of nowhere....it is a ´new´ somewhere and we hardly have room to complain.






Carnaval--Humahuaca Style

Along with throngs of others, we set up camp in a big plot that was already surpassing its capacity and many more would show up after us. With our tent set up...and a place to call home for the night, we set off to explore the dusty roads of this normally quiet, sleepy town. A carnaval tradition in this region was to douse all participants in flour or baby powder....along with foam (from aerosol spray cans) and confetti. Tim and I steered clear of the mayhem for a short while, but it was not long before we began to stand out of the crowds and became the target. For the remainder of the day and on into the night, we looked like we had aged several decades due to our white hair and pale skin. The streets were abuzz with drunken people wondering around and traditional music and dancing was to be found in several spots around the town. As the sun set, the streets became more crowded with people as several parades of people with their own music began to converge in the center of town. The festivities brought in people from all around the region, but we saw very few foreigners and it seemed as if everyone knew each other. It was a festive, happy occasion that carried on into the wee hours of the morning. The next morning, when we rolled out of the tent, there were still people sitting around the bulging campground sipping on wine and chattering away.