30 November, 2012

Day 142, 414km: This is it!

This is it! After 142 days, 40,000km+ today I'm heading to Rio de Janeiro. The final destination of my journey.

It has been an incredible adventure and getting on the bike was definitely emotional. I then tried to stay focused, that's definitely not the day you want to crash (if you ever want to).

My poor chain ... she'll get changed in Canada! Just hold on till Rio ok?
Back on the boat towards the mainland, and north towards Rio.

Ilhabela ever farther on the horizon
My chain was giving me a bit of trouble that day. I quickly learned in the morning that the engine's torque had to be kept to a minimum, or the chain would come off.

Well, lesson learned. I guess I'll change the sprockets in Canada too!
So I kept it a very smooth, steady drive to make sure I wouldn't break the chain and that it wouldn't come off again. Bertha was very nice and did a pretty good job.

I decided to take the coast road to Rio de Janeiro. First because it would be a beautiful drive from what I red and second because Brazilian drivers are definitely in my top 3 of the worst drivers of the continent, so the less of them, the better.

Nice views along the coast
And then somewhere along the coast, driving up a hill, I reached perhaps the most important milestone of my journey. 40,000km. That's almost exactly the circumference of the earth at the equator. So I clearly didn't take the shortest route from Vancouver to Rio de Janeiro ... actually for fun I looked on Google maps, the shortest route is 16,000km (Vancouver - Panama 8,000km then Bogota - Rio 8,000km).

So that's a 2.5 factor over the shortest road path. Interesting perhaps for people planning their own trips!

40,000km baby!!
1 finger for each 10,000km. I had to cut my thumb off for the pic.
The spot where I passed this milestone
I was pretty happy to pass the 40,000km mark on my last day. I don't know, it sounded nice!
On the way I was recommended by Christophe (my friend who lives in Rio de Janeiro) to stop in Paraty, a nice little colonial town by the sea.

Reminded me of Colonia, Uruguay! Pretty town indeed
Cool restaurants along the river going to the sea
And even a bit of dirt-road to leave town!
Back on the coast, beautiful landscapes
And then soon enough I reached Rio de Janeiro. The city is huge, and the continuously urbanized part started 70km before I reached my destination. My destination being roughly halfway in the city's center. So you can imagine how monstrously big the city is.

There are a few tunnels entering Rio from the coast. After one of them, I had in front of me Rio's famous Sugarloaf mountain (Pain de sucre). Wow. That hit me directly in the feelings, as strongly as I got hit when driving on the salaar de Uyuni. I had a lot of thoughts for a person who I wish could have seen this and been told the story of my trip. Perhaps from up there she knows.

My brain then went on a fast forward mode, remembering all the great people, places, events, roads, borders, food, troubles, little pleasures, big pleasures, big troubles that I had along the way. That was very intense and definitely great. One of these "fuck yes I did it" moments, certainly. Not that the journey was really difficult, but just the sudden realization that "this is it" I'm not on the road anymore. I made it, I reached Rio de Janeiro.

Felt great. I stopped alongside the road because I needed to take a break and gather my thoughts. I took this opportunity to plug-in the GoPro and you'll have below a quick view of Rio de Janeiro, driving along the coast and the famous beaches of Copacabana, Ipanema, up to Christophe's appartment in Flamengo.

Unfortunately there was some fog building-up in the camera's box so the last minutes of the video aren't very clear sorry for that.

The long way south: done
And this is it! I made it to Christophe's appartment, my face dirty with pollution, but so happy to be here. Thanks again Christophe for welcoming me at your place, it's great to see you again!
He had arranged everything and a parking spot was waiting for me + the keys to his apartment. Perfect :-)

Pretty awesome view as well
Oh and you can see the Corcovado too! (Cristo Redentor statue)
Getting some rest at Christophe's appartment (or should I say eagle's nest, up there on the hills with this awesome view?) I was hit by exhaustion. The fatigue of the entire journey, the feeling of having done it, that the trip is over, I was tired. Happy, but tired.

I'll go on to spent a few days in Rio de Janeiro, to figure out what to do with Bertha (send her to France? sell her in Canada? find a way to sell her here?) and make the necessary arrangements for shipping and my return to Thailand.

A happy, tired Guillaume wishes you a great weekend ahead.

Day 141, 223km: Ilhabela

Woke up in Sao Paulo, I would meet my colleagues for lunch, they continue onto Ilhabela, an island not far away from Sao Paulo.

Cute streets in the downtown
Was great meeting you, thanks for your warm welcome!
After lunch and some time spent again in professional capacity at the office (hey it never hurts, prevents me from getting rusty!) I left for Ilhabela. I would go down the hills onto the coast, probably a nice ride.

Found a small road after an hour in the traffic and another on the highway
Going down to the coast!
I made a short video going down the coast. You can catch glimpses of the great view that the road gave. Oh and for those who wonder why I drive slowly, I have 1,000km left on my trip and zero intention to crash now!

I made it to the pier just as the 6pm ferry was leaving to Ilhabela. So one more ferry in the end Bertha will have been on a boat 6 times! It bet she isn't after of water anymore. Good girl.

Off to Ilhabela
Beautiful .. views
Checked-in and ready to rest!
Nice sunset from the hotel on the hills
It was all in all an extremely short stay in Ilhabela as I would leave the next day. Doesn't matter, it was nice and relaxing being there!


Day 140, 402km: Back to work?

Today, a special day. Special destination. My company has an office in Sao Paulo, a short drive from Curutiba (now you can guess why I had a haircut the day before).

The road for most of the day
Contrary to what is pictured above, the traffic was actually pretty intense. A big highway, with lots of cars speeding, trucks and frequent slowdowns / jams on the road.

Luckily when you're on a motorcycle traffic jams aren't too bad
So I didn't really have much time to take some photos, break or thing about the day ahead. I stayed focused, all the time thinking "I'm not having a accident after all these days, no way!".

Soon enough, in Sao Paulo
So you actually pronounce it "San Paulo" here. The Brazilian accent is pretty fun, I have to say. Very pronounced, too. I wonder if it sounds for Portuguese as Quebec's french sounds to French.

Back to work!
I stopped at our office in the late afternoon after reaching Sao Paulo. It was great seeing friends again and meeting new colleagues. Plus it helps me to slowly get back in a "working" mindset.

I asked for a Kalimero haircut, got my money's worth
Then I went a bit in the old downtown and finally back to my hotel. Traffic here is absolutely horrible, and it being the end of the afternoon I got to enjoy it fully. It sucked. But the city isn't too bad, even rather nice (on a scale from terribly-shitty to I-want-to-live-there).

Sao Paulo business district
Enjoying the sunset with the automotive fumes ha ... magic moment
Sorry I'm writing all this a bit in a rush, you'll understand why in the next few posts!


20 November, 2012

Day 139, 326km: To Curitiba

Today Reiner and I parted ways. He would stay a week or so in Florianopolis, while I was to continue north towards Rio de Janeiro.

It was great meeting you Reiner, hope you enjoy your time at the beach and your new life in Rio de Janeiro! Take care.

Florianopolis, a big resort-island-city
I have to admit that I also didn't mind the idea of ending my journey as it started. Alone. Well, with Bertha and Garmin, but they don't talk much.

Another view of Florianopolis
My destination was actually Sao Paulo. It being 700km away, and since the last day was pretty exhausting, I decided to split it in half and head for Curutiba.

Beautiful road along the coast
Then up some hills, with nearby lakes
Relatively heavy traffic of trucks and people coming back from a long weekend
Curitiba's Batel district
I was in Curitiba's Batel district early in this afternoon and took this opportunity to get a few things done that were overdue. Laundry, accounting and even a haircut.

The haircut was actually pretty awesome. I walked randomly into a place in a shopping mall and upon entering realized "oh fuck this is going to be expensive". But I was already grappled by two very nice ladies who escorted me to a comfortable chair where I was served coffee and cookies. What could I do? Nothing!

So I went on with it, and that was probably the funniest haircut I had.
The salon was rather big, perhaps 20 seats, with new, minimalist style furniture and lots and lots of beautiful women always walking around. And there were a handful of "stylist". Exuberant guys, walking around looking busy.

I stayed there perhaps slightly over an hour. During all this time there was never fewer than 3 people working on my haircut, that was pretty fun.
The stylist was on full steam, frantically cutting my hair. He was probably averaging three cuts per second for the entire duration of his "performance". I have to admit I was fearing for my eyes and ears.
He was going at it so energetically that he kept dropping his scissors and other tools. Now that wasn't an unusual event apparently, as when it happened assistant number 1 would pick it up and the stylist would nonchalantly extend his arm towards assistant number 2 who handed a new pair of scissors. Assistant number 3 would then carry away the pair of scissors that fell. Meanwhile assistant number 4 was continuously removing any hair that fell on my clothes or face.

As I couldn't contain my laughter, in came assistant number 5, the only English-speaking person in the shop whose job was to do the translation.
So there was in total:
- The frantic stylist, cutting my hair like a maniac, dropping his tools every 5 seconds in his hair-cutting-frenzy
- Assistant 1, tasked with picking-up items that the stylist dropped
- Assistant 2, tasked with replaced items that the stylist dropped
- Assistant 3, tasked with sending to cleaning items that the stylist dropped
- Assistant 4, tasked with removing hair that fell on me
- Assistant 5, tasked with translation

And I'm not even kidding.
The best part? Once his job was done, the stylist walked away immediately without a word, like a mysterious genius walking on towards his next masterpiece. Impressive.

So naturally I ended up paying more than for the room I was staying in. Totally worth it.

A freshly groomed Guillaume wishes you a good day!

Day 138, 580km: Brasil offroad!

Today, a very exciting day. Since I left San Carlos de Bariloche, I have driven solely on flat roads. 4,000km of flat roads. That was quite painful, on a motorcycle, and borderline boring.

But today, the map showed mountains! Elevation! Hills! Going up and down! Curves! I was really excited after two weeks of flatness.

The name of the hotel was just ... great
We met another motorcycle driver, the hotel's manager. He was from Greece, and moved to Porto Alegre with his family to start a new life with his wife. Economical refugee from Europe. I'm feeling this is the kind of trend that will only grow.

The day started on the highway
 But soon enough we turned into Brazil's southern countryside, headed for the Parque Nacional de Aparados da Serra.

Dirt roads!
Mountain dirt roads!
Mom, a massif de Rhododendron? (Francky this is dedicated to you too)
Enjoying the dirt road!
We met Felipe along the way, a Brazilian driver on his Super Tenere
Felipe didn't speak a word of English, nor Spanish. That made communication very difficult. Still, lots of greetings, hand shaking and a good atmosphere. I understood he was from Rio de Janeiro, but that's about it. Safe drive Felipe!

Enjoying the views on the canyons below from the mountain top
And then dirt road downhill
 Going down the "mountain" (we weren't high but still a 700m descent) on street tires in a mostly gravel road was challenging. Fun, but challenging!

As you will see in this short video. Hope you guys enjoy it!

Oh yeah, right, X'mas is coming
Seeing this decoration suddenly reminded me that X'mas is coming soon. In a month. I left in July and have been travelling mostly in warm countries so that really was a shock. A kind of "oh right it's time I start thinking about gifts for my family!" moment.

The day ended with rain
 As we came back on the highway for the last stretch of the day into Florianopolis, we were greeted by rain. Well let's say it helped clean the bike, my jacket and pants. Plus I got to show my beautiful boots-covered-by-plastic-bags technique to Reiner, visibly too impressed to express his admiration. That or too wet to give a fuck! (I realize this sentence is weird)

We finally made it to the beach on Florianopolis island
That was a late check-in in a small hostel in the north of Florianopolis island (reminded me of Phuket) and we went to bed exhausted but happy after a great day.

Cheers everyone,

Day 137, 396km: Wir nahr Porto Alegre gehen

Reiner and I were going in the same direction, to Florianopolis, a beach resort two days north of where we stayed. So for the second day, we set-off together and started driving along Brazil's coast.

A bit of maintenance to start the day
Bertha's chain has been giving me a lot of trouble the past few weeks. She now requires constant care and will surely be changed when I reach Rio de Janeiro and do the 40,000km service.

Our idea for the day was to avoid the main road to the north and take another route, along the coast. Which meant taking a ferry to go across the mouth of the 200km long Laguna dos Patos. The day before we found the ferry's pier while driving around the city and naturally headed there, only to be told that the next ferry was leaving in 4H.

We got lucky though
Flavio, pictured on the left here, happened to drive by on his bike. Himself a motorcycle driver (he did Brazil-Canada 20 years ago!) he told us that there was another ferry, supposedly for passengers only (no vehicles) but that we should be able to fit our bikes on it.

Well he was right!
It required a bit of squeezing to fit the boat's narrow entrance but with patience and precision we eventually made it and were on our way to the coast road! It's the fourth time Bertha has been on a boat. Mexico, Guatemala, Bolivia and now Brazil. That'll probably be the last time too. She enjoyed it, I'm sure.

The coast road was pretty "meh"
It wasn't really a short drive to Porto Alegre but surely an uneventful one. Flat road across the swamps. Surely better than the main road though, as they was virtually no-one on the road. Reaching Porto Alegre, however, we found ourselves in bad traffic. The weather got hotter too! About 30 degrees C here. I doubt it will get cooler as I drive further north!

Porto Alegre's cathedral
A nice and cool park

Pretty hostel unfortunately full
After a little bit of circling around, we found a good deal to stay, a nice room in a hotel under construction, which meant good price, and a nice breakfast the next day!

Always nice to have some comfort
Walked around downtown, had dinner in the "bar" street, enjoyed the "view" from the terasse and off to bed we go.