Across Americas - Discovering the New World on a motorcycle

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by AnjinSan, Jul 19, 2012.

  1. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

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    I just discovered this ride report a few days ago. I am only on page 14 where you crossed from Mexico to Guatamala. I have read many really great ride reports here on Adventure Rider. From what you have posted so far yours ranks among the best that I have read. I really enjoy your writing, your pictures and your unique perspective. I wish I wasn't so busy so I could just sit down and read all of you report to the present but it will probably take a few more days.

    Anjin San, you are a very lucky man to have a wife willing to take a motorcycle trip like this with you. I wish you both the best of luck and good riding for the rest of your trip.

    Thank you very much for taking the time and effort to post this outstanding report.

    :clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap:clap
  2. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    Thanks! And don't worry about your reading pace. I know we are taking our time to write it :)... so...slow is better anyway. (and in motorcycling for sure :p)

    I hope you will enjoy the rest as well.
  3. klaviator

    klaviator Long timer

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    I have now read all the way to the end. What a great report:clap I am jealous because I doubt I will ever make a trip of this magnitude but I am grateful that you have allowed me to at least partially experience your trip through your words and pictures. Your views and opinions where also very interesting to read.

    Now I have to wait along with everyone else to read the rest of your report:cry

    Thank you again for all the work you have put into posting this.

    Looking forward to the rest.
  4. jbcaddy

    jbcaddy Long timer

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    Alex, PM me your email address so I can send you some photos :D Jan
  5. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    The New World V.2 – Good bye, Patagonia!


    By: AlexMD On March 30, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





    Good bye, Patagonia: 21-22 February 2013
    It’s something about this road. Gunnar keeps rolling all this time, so many kilometers. And we still want to ride. Hm, I am not bored at all. Andreea… takes some naps in the back from time to time. Sometimes I agree with her. What else can you do when you are sitting in the back of a motorcycle and all you can see is this:
    [​IMG]
    There is something magic here, in this vast Patagonian land. Sky seems closer to the ground here. And it seems to be the stage for a magnificent movie. Sky is never the same, it’s always changing even when you stop. You need to be patient. An invisible hand keeps drawing, sometimes with a child’s innocence, sometimes angry as a grownup who seems to know nothing but frowning.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We left Rio Gallegos without any surprises or complications. We said goodbye to Oscar and remembered to give him back the spare key. We also said goodbye to Manolito, a guy we met just one day before who (also) impressed us with his optimism and desire to help people. And that was it. We are traveling for hours through pampas and clouds, “admiring” what you can see in the photos above.
    [​IMG]
    It’s cold outside, but that’s no surprise for us. We forgot how warm weather feels like. “The great outdoors” seem to never have changed since the creation of the world: cold, harsh and ever present wind. Everyone traveling on this road can only accept and adapt to these conditions.
    [​IMG]
    Time seem to have a different pace here. Settlements are scarce and far away from one another. We lost track of time and it didn’t seem to matter. When we decide to take a break we realize we are next to a place where time seems to be standing still. Our engine was the only source of noise so I turn it off to enjoy the silence. Over the fence there is a pond that’s apparently the main attraction of the area for all the animals.
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    Some bird decides to break the silence to call for one of its mates. Then some flamingoes agree to change the spot and as they set sails they wake up everyone.
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    It’s that moment and that place, that maybe I will never be able to find again, that made me realize something. I can feel the smell of autumn. And I can feel we are getting closer to the end of our journey. It’s a long way to home and I know it but it’s the first time I am aware that it’s almost over.​
    [​IMG]
    Surrounded by the solitude of our newly discovered place I got a bit sad. We took our time to bid farewell to the pink flamingoes, wild ducks, egret and all their neighbours.​
    [​IMG]
    We were still a few kilometers away from the Patagonia “border” but this was the time and place to say goodbye to this place, so harsh and still so beautiful. Not everyone would enjoy it but I would definitely come back for a visit.​
  6. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    Done :)
  7. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    The New World V.3 – Towards the Capital!


    By: AlexMD On April 2, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World

    [​IMG]


    I feel that this journey is not just a “cruise” through space, shifting from A to B and seeing places. Many times it´s about discovering (sometimes superficially and other times on a deeper lever) people. People you meet day by day. Always different personalities. Always different lives. You take with you, faces, gestures and words, small fragments that follow you in your journey and you pass them forward to the people you meet onwards. Some of them you might never meet again. But that´s the least important. There is a connection somewhere and you know there is no need for other words or explanations.
    [​IMG]
    Ehee… you see, riding the motorcycle gives you enough time, plenty of time for thoughts, lie above and many others. And I feel that is one of the best part about traveling on a motorcycle. Somehow the open road, the scenery, the sound of the engine, all of this invites you to use your brain, to search, to discover, in your “interior”, as much as you discover by traveling, in the “exterior”. W
    e were heading for Pico Truncado, where Daniel, our “old” friend, was waiting for us. He helped us alot the first time we were in the area and now he was waiting for us with a new transmission set for Gunnar. This time we get to meet his family, open and optimistic people just like him. We felt welcomed and it felt really good.
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    Ah and of course, we “had to” try the Argentinian stake (asado). Just like it´s traditional for the Finns to have a sauna in the house (or close to it), Argentinians must have their barbeque always ready for action.
    [​IMG]
    This time I’ll keep my promise and I won´t share any food pictures, although that stake deserved all the credits. Well or the cook did. The stake was incredible, not less than a culinary dream came true [​IMG]
    The next day we were planning to stop dreaming and get back on the road. Or so we thought.Well, it’s one thing what we want and another what the weather has in store. Daniel told us that it almost never rains in Pico Truncado. I mean, people can count the rainy days during the year. And even if it is raining it is never heavy. Usually. But not this time. This time they had to close some streets because of flooding.
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    Great! Actually, I don´t think we could have made a run for it and we would have been fine, but our hosts decided that there was no way we could get out of the house on this weather and on their watch, on this weather when not even dogs should not be kept outside.
    [​IMG]
    So, after we spent 2 extra days in Tierra del Fuego because of the wind, this time we are “stuck” here because of the rain. It´s not actually a problem, good talks, excellent asado and grandma-made empanadas make for a nice Sunday spent in house. And sun comes out fast in such company so the second day we are ready to hit the road, not before receiving another amazing gesture of good faith from Daniel: when talking about Buenos Aires and the traffic there, Danie knew that our GPS was broken for some time now, so he wants to make sure we don´t get lost in the big city. So, he wants to give us his GPS for the remaining of our trip in Argentina. “It´s OK, you can send it back with a bus before you leave Argentina.” We were speechless. What´s there to say other than a big thank you. With Daniel’s GPS with us it´s less likely we get lost (ya, right) so back in the saddle. Goodbye, lovely family!
    [​IMG]
    Buenos Aires is getting closer. We are less than 1500 kilometers closer to the capital city of Argentina.
    [​IMG]
    Before reaching Buenos Aires we spent two nights in random but interesting places. First one, a resort by the Atlantic Ocean (I always loved the resorts off season) with colored buildings and interesting messages.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    The other one was Azul, a small city 300 kilometers away from Buenos Aires, in a place called “La Posta de viajero“. People there own motorcycles and are passionate about motorcycle travel so they decided to offer a place to camp for the other travelers. And now it´s not just a place to camp in a yard full of rabbits. It is so much more.
    [​IMG]
    You find good advice, someone to listen, tools if you need to make any repairs and there is a big chance to meet other fellow travelers. There is no price list or bookings, everything is based on donations. There is a box where you leave as much as you want if you want and if you can. Jorge, the owner, convinced us to stay one more day, what was the hurry anyway? Why hurry to get to a big city when you can camp and get visitors like this:
    [​IMG]
    Jorge has a tradition: he puts up the flags of the visitors he has. One week ago he even had the Union Jack flag (England) up. That night, there were 3 flags up.
    [​IMG]
    It´s getting harder to leave this place and even harder to pack, we have a long debate on whether or not Gunnar should take an extra passenger. Jorge has nothing against it but it´s hard to convince Andreea that we cannot take our new friend: we don´t have a bunny helmet! [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We left our furry friend behind, we are curious if he misses us and more curious about what´s ahead. We get pretty close but the landscape refuses to give us any hints on how close the big city is. Same narrow road, only 2 lines going straight ahead, same endless fields and spectacular sky.​
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    And still we know that the autonomous city of Buenos Aires (there is an interesting story about that name) has over 3000000 inhabitants and the metropolitan area more than 12 millions. So sooner or later we will meet the obvious effects of a large urban area. The road gets “a little bit”… larger and we have to pay for it now (notice the small booths).​
    [​IMG]
    And buildings soon get taller, reaching for the sky, like jumping up in a desperate attempt to escape the crazy traffic below.​
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We were in a big city again and as we walked down the streets we felt like walking the streets of an European city. We get to an old neighborhood where we spot a huge tree making its way through tall buildings. Its branches were so big that they needed an improvised support to prevent them from crawling on the ground.​
    [​IMG]
    The old tree reminds us of our roots. We remember we are going back to Europe soon, back home. But not yet, we have a small “detour” planned. Stay tuned!​
  8. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    "People you meet day by day. Always different personalities. Always different lives. You take with you, faces, gestures and words, small fragments that follow you in your journey and you pass them forward to the people you meet onwards. Some of them you might never meet again. But that´s the least important. There is a connection somewhere and you know there is no need for other words or explanations."

    Beautifully expressed Alex.
  9. SS in Vzla.

    SS in Vzla. Totally Normal? I'm not!

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    Still :lurk
  10. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    The New World V.4 – A small detour


    By: AlexMD On April 7, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





    In Buenos Aires we had to face an important decision: how to send the motorcycle back home?
    We already had our plane tickets from Sao Paolo to Europe in two weeks. It would have been a good option to ship the motorcycle from Sao Paolo also, or maybe Rio, it was not that far. This would be around 3000 km, the last kilometers of our trip. We would get there, leave the motorcycle in cargo and prepare to fly home.
    [​IMG]
    But… it´s not as easy as it seems. I sent some emails to shipping agents (you can only arrange cargo shipping through them) but the ones in Brazil didn´t give me any good news: lots of bureaucracy at customs, complex shipping process and lots of “uncertainties”. Here´s how one of the conversations with a Brazilian agent went:
    “You will need to prepare <long list of documents>. And the process will take from 3 to 14 days.” “Well… I am in Buenos Aires now, and I have a plane from Sao Paolo to Munich in 14 days. It would help me alot to know how long it will take because it´s a pretty big difference from 3 to 14 days and we might not catch our plane under these circumstances.” “We are sorry but we cannot tell for sure. It´s all up to the authorities here.”
    I decide to contact Bogdan, who shipped my motorcycle from Otopeni to Montreal and his investigations lead to the same result. This is not good at all. So change of plans: we send the motorcycle from Buenos Aires (where things seemed to be a lot more easier) and then see how we can get to Sao Paolo to “catch” our flight to Munich.
    In this case what shall we do the next 2 weeks? There is no use to stay in Buenos Aires (especially since it is not a cheap town). Let´s go visit something. A 10 days “detour” that includes Iguazu falls, a little bit of Paraguay, South of Brazil and Uruguay. Not bad, ha? So, this is how it looks like on the map. Instead of 3000 km to Sao Paolo, we have more than 3500 to… well, basically back to starting point. [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We find the way out of Buenos Aires very easy using the GPS that Daniel borrowed us and we head North-West and so is the rain.​
    [​IMG]
    The route we were supposed to take, Ruta 14, had a bad reputation because of the corrupted police who have a passion for pulling over foreign motorcyclists. There is even a dedicated multiple pages thread on HUBB where people tell stories about km 341 where the is a “special” police station.​
    We were prepared for the worst. We even had a phone number of a local motorcyclist who offered to help if we were to be stopped. He even gave us useful advice on how to approach them and stuff like that. The rain and the prospected meeting didn´t make today´s ride very relaxing.​
    [​IMG]
    And here we are, reaching the famous kilometer and as we already read about it, a policeman comes out of the building walking towards the road, towards us. We were riding below the speed limit but we were pretty stressed about this check point as we knew it´s not up to us, we don´t have to do something wrong to get pulled over. He was heading towards us but we notice something in his right hand, oh, he was talking on the phone. His other hand remain down, didn´t signal us to stop. We are relieved and thank God to have kept the policeman busy, to have given him better things to do than stop us. Andreea takes a peak (with her camera) to the police station where probably we would have been invited. No, thank you!​
    [​IMG]
    We managed to get rid of the police but the rain kept following us. And we had no idea what it had prepared for us. Less than two minutes we found ourselves caught in a grey cloud. It gets really dark although it is only 2 pm. Emergency stop to put on the rain suit.​
    [​IMG]
    We stopped on time as shortly after we could barely see anything from the rain. We decide to stop at a gas station, the first sheltered place we could find. We were soaked so we decided to wait for the rain to stop before we start again. It didn´t stop for good but it wasn´t that bad we could still see the traces it left behind: flooded crops, sometimes even the road was full of red water (the color of the land in these parts).​
    [​IMG]
    It´s clear that we have nothing else to do but keep going hoping to get out of the cloud. We keep riding towards Iguazu and after a few hours the rain stops and we manage to see a vague blue hope in the distance.​
    [​IMG]
    As the sky gets clearer we get traffic partners. Same as in Chile, they all have helmets. Even the “extra passenger”.​
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Although there was plenty of rain, people were still thirsty. Some had to carry some “holy water” with them?!??​
    [​IMG]
    And since they had the “holy water” to take care of their head and mind they used the helmet as elbow protection. Oh well, at least everyone is happy! Some with their bottle, other with football and others with… maté plantations.​
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    We get closer to Iguazu and the sun gets ready for bed, good time to enjoy the peace and quiet of the forest.​
    [​IMG]
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    Hoping to catch the sunset over the waterfall we go straight to nation park but we discover that it is closed after 6 pm so we cannot get in today. Back to the city then, 18 km ride in the night and the traditional search of a place to sleep.​
    [​IMG]
    We go to bed thinking about what we are about to see the next day. Iguazu Falls, second largest (volumetric) waterfall in the world is so close that we can hear it from here. Actually Iguazu it is not that close and what we hear is the rain that caught us again and now was having a party on our roof. See you tomorrow!​
  11. Dracula

    Dracula Deus ex machina

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    Glad to see more chapters :lurk Just wondering if it wasn't more convenient to fly from Buenos Aires instead.
  12. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    It would have been more conenient for sure :) Just that..we already had the return ticket from Sao Paolo bought 1 year ago. We had to buy a return ticket when we left for Canada, at the beginning of the trip in order to avoid the possible nonsense with "why do you have only 1 way ticket towards towards Canada, you te**ist?" that we've been reading that can happen. And 1 year ago, flying home from Brazil seamed a good idea. Eh... :)
  13. BergieZA

    BergieZA Adventurer

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    :lurk
    To-do list!
  14. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    Guys, sorry for the slow updates. Getting back to "real life" is not always very cheerful or inspiring... :( But let's hope it will turn better and better :)

    Until then, here is a new episode, I hope you'll enjoy the fall...s :)


    The New World V.5 – Iguazu Falls


    By: AlexMD On April 13, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





    We awake being aware that we are in close proximity of two “landmarks”. Iguazu Falls, the second in the world based on water volume and Itaipu Dam, the world’s biggest electricity generating hydro plant. In other words, majesty of nature and greatness built by human race. The plan for today is to visit the natural wonder, leaving the dam for the next one. The waterfall is only a few miles away from where we are. But ’till we wake up, ’till we have some breakfast, here they are, rain drops singing on the roof. And by the sounds of it, I am quite sure that you don’t even have to move from the house to see a “waterfall”. It is enough to pull the window curtains aside. Ta daaaa!
    [​IMG]
    Like a bad prophecy, the boat was “parked” next to our window. Uh, I do hope I won’t have to change my name to Noe and gather the animals….
    [​IMG]
    As the situation in the backyard was not optimistic, I am thinking to go to the front entrance, maybe there there will be at least a hint of blue skies? No chance. One guy who wake up in the morning (when it was not raining) was having lots of fun now on a scooter driving down a flooded road. Myeah, seems there can be good aspects of sleeping in. Here’s today’s lesson, one that Andreea applied as often as she could during this trip: sleep late [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    We wait for the rain to stop, or at least to pretend to be stopped, based on principle: “at least when I get out of the house I want not to get wet. After that… not important anymore”. Around 11 AM things seem to be in a stand still with St Peter and we quickly go for Plan B. Plan B was big, sluggish and had many passengers. Plan B was of course, a bus! Which was our way to say that “today we are not motorcyclists, today we are tourists” [​IMG]
    We arrive in the national park and everything goes smoothly. Give some money for the tickets (n times more expensive for foreigners than for locals, but it’s OK, we’re already used to that, we had “trainings” in Peru and Bolivia about that) and get in return a smile from the lady at the counter, a map of the park and good wishes. Good. Let’s go to the train station. Yes, the park has its own train that takes you between different main points where the trails start to the falls. The thing is serious, they have more than one platform, signs, and even a schedule and a “display” with the next departure time.
    [​IMG]
    The colorful birds are found everywhere around, careful not to miss bread crumbs left by tourists.
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    The 2 o’clock (sharp) train leadsus through dense vegetation …
    [​IMG]
    … among thousands of butterflies playing in the sun. I remember Mexico and “Mariposa road” there. Seems like yesterday. Hard to believe that 5 months have passed since then… For us it is still the same summer, the same… fun!
    [​IMG]
    We are awaken from our Mexican dreams by the train brakes. I arrived. From here on, a one-kilometer metal walkway will take us to the edge. But at first, all is calm, all is normal.
    [​IMG]
    Pressing on, there are signs explaining the “rules”. Humans on one trail, the snakes on the other. Hmm what about the humans who behave like snakes? But enough with that…
    [​IMG]
    Waters beneath us continue to be lazy, giving no hint that soon it will be totally different. Even the birds seem bored in the drowsy summer heat.
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    After a while, a thick rumble is distinguishable. The eyes see only a vague steam, rising from what seems to look a calm river.
    [​IMG]
    But appearances can be deceiving. That’s not steam and that’s NOT a calm river overthere. Before getting here, we red some stuff about Iguazu Falls. The name means “big water” in Guarani dialect, it is the second greatest water debit in the world, but because the river here has a very wide bend, the water falls are not a continuous curtain (as Victoria in Africa) but small islands divide the water in over 200 “smaller” waterfalls with heights between 60 and 80 meters.
    [​IMG]
    Largest such waterfall, where the water concentrates with high speeds is called by the Spanish “Garganta del Diablo I ” (Devil’s Throat) and there, on the edge of his ridge was our destination. So we knew a few dry things, read in advance, but nothing prepared us for what was waiting. Like Andreea seems to say, “Dear God, what’s here?”
    [​IMG]
    We are at the point where the river waters flow impetuously, hit the rocks hard only to fall more than 80 meters below.
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    Thousands cubic meters of water, launching over the edge, drumming on the stubborn rocks with incredible strength. And the walkway takes you so close, you can feel the waters vibrate inside you. I never felt more “on the brink” of something than there.
    [​IMG]
    And the name of the place seems appropriate as well. Water has a hellish howl and gray clouds in the sky accentuate the gloomy feeling. I remember the Niagara Falls, which we saw at the beginning of our trip. There the waters seemed more calm and beautiful summer sun and rainbow seemed to fill bohemian picture. Here, however, one is so close to the harsh and unforgiving waters that it is hard to compose in your mind a peaceful picture. At least not from this point of view.
    [​IMG]
    And of course, everything gets wet almost instantly around.
    [​IMG]
    The waters who take their fall here, continue their flow between a great procession, of white water and green vegetation, like in a huge Cathedral. Somewhere in that direction lies their “salvation”, somewhere there lies the blue Atlantic Ocean.
    [​IMG]
    I realize that it is hard to leave that place. We linger more than other tourists and I note something strange. Beautiful, no doubt, but somehow (and it is hard to explain) the place is “heavy”, after a while seems like it sits on your shoulders? Eventually we move away slowly, in search of more peaceful places, which are not hard to find, down the metal paths invaded by vegetation (metal and green, what a strange combination).
    [​IMG]
    And the waterfall is not the only attraction in Iguazu National Park. If you’re careful you can find many animals. Just be careful of what the green canopy might hide.
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    What could it be, what could it be? Yes! it is a Tucan bird! Ohoo like in the cartoons from the childhood!
    [​IMG]
    If Tucan birds are quite shy and generally stay away from people, other animals are not afraid at all to look for food, aggressively if necessary, on your path. Mind your step!
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    All these movements of troops on the ground, are carefully kept under observation from high above, in the control tower.
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    And more playful than all, butterflies remain the “kids” of the house, flying all around and “landing” on everything and everyone. Even on travelers.
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    In our walk, the green canopy opens occasionally, like a curtain of a show, allowing a sneak peak to the show that unfolds beyond.
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    Other and other waterfalls, all from the same great concert.
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    Slowly the night is approaching and we have to head towards the exit of the park. I spent here not even a full day but somehow it seams like years. And the funny thing is, I feel I could spend years more. But, it is time to move on. We leave, but we take a part of Iguazu with us. Farewell!
    [​IMG]
  15. Dracula

    Dracula Deus ex machina

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    Hi Alex,

    Still following along and enjoying your posts. I hope your return to "normality" goes well. Think about blessing of you two having each other and make plans for the future. To ride in Romania is something I miss for so many years, know that there are many beautiful places to enjoy riding there. Or maybe you will have plans for another long trip...

    Best,
    Vic
  16. jbcaddy

    jbcaddy Long timer

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    thanks for the photos of the falls, one of the places I really want to see in person! :clap
  17. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

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    Yeah, the Iguazu Falls are a very nice place.

    @Vic: You are absolutely right about the places back home. One of our future projects is to re-discover the roads, landscapes and people in Romania. Hopefully, if it ever comes true, there will be a RR here showing of the results :)

    But... for now... we are in the adjustment period and I don't think we've been hit yet by the big realization that it is over. For now, it seems just like a break from traveling. Once I will start working again, I am afraid it will be the low point :)
  18. Truenorth2005

    Truenorth2005 Been here awhile

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    Hi Alex & Andreea

    One of the realities of life for most of us is that you must work to pay for travel. Enjoy it if you can.

    Hope all is going well.

    B & B
  19. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Banámichi, Sonora, Mexico
    I thought about you two today as I returned home from a short 2 day ride in the mountains of north eastern Arizona. I had not been in the US since November, 5 months. I had a bit of culture shock. That's what got me thinking about the adjustment you two have being gone so long. I hope that writing the RRs helps ease you back into being home.

    I hope you will write a book and fill it with your wonderful observations and sly witticisms. And photos of course.

    Abrazos!
  20. AnjinSan

    AnjinSan Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2009
    Oddometer:
    232
    Location:
    Bucharest
    The New World V.6 – Itaipu


    By: AlexMD On April 18, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





    We are at the “crossroads” of 3 countries: top end of Argentina, buttom end of Brazil and a strip of Paraguay and 2 majestic rivers: Parana, the big river and Iguazu, the one giving birth to the waterfall we just visited a day before. We are in a good spot so we decide to take advantage of our position and visit Paraguay, mostly for Itaipu Dam, one of the largest in the world. To get to Iaipu we have to leave Puerto de Iguazu (Argentina), cross into Brazil through Foz do Iguazu and then cross the Parana river into Paraguay (Ciudad del Este).
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    The plan was to get back to Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) in the same day so we decided not to involve our motorcycle in this visit hence not worrying about temporary import papers for both Brazil and Paraguay. So here we are back to public transportation. We are starting to like riding the bus.
    The bus we take from Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) stops at the border check point for everyone on the bus to get their exit stamp for Argentina. I am pretty nervous since, in theory, I entered Argentina on my motorcycle and now I was planning to leave it by bus (luckily nobody checked). Ok, so we have our exit stamp for Argentina, now where do we get the entry stamp for Brazil? I asked the lady at the border crossing and she smiles at me informing me that if I plan to stay a couple of days in Brazil and get back into Argentina using the same border there is no need for customs process. Seriously? Mmmm, fine… I find it hard to believe but if the official is saying it, it should be true. So everyone is back in the bus and we ride smoothly into Brazil without any other stops at customs.
    We get off the bus at the final stop, very close to the “bridge of friendship” between Brazil and Paraguay. Before reaching the bridge we have to pass the border crossing office for exiting Brazil.
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    We are again nervous and confused, what if an official wants to put the exit stamp on our passport? He will be looking for the entry stamp… and it will take him forever. We take a break to think things over. This is very serious for us, others don´t seem to care about it and they are all passing us by carrying large bags, cardboards, cases, chests, handbags and many other items. They are all passing by the officials and none of them bother to stop.Well, if they are doing it I can´t see why we cannot. We don´t have anything to carry so we stick our hands in our pockets and walk like we own the place. The guards might not care about us but we still feel like we are part of a James Bond movie. Unlike 007 we don´t have an Aston Martin or other fancy vehicle so we cross the bridge by foot. Pretty crowded I would say.
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    Same thing happening on the Paraguayan side: people passing by the customs building without bothering to stop and get a stamp, not to mention to declare whatever they were carrying in all the big boxes. This time I insist on doing things “officially” so we venture into the building. In the beginning the people behind the desk don´t understand exactly why would we bother them but finally they get that we would like to hmmm, enter the country. They stamp our passports without asking any questions, probably (from the look on their faces) thinking we want the stamp as a souvenir. There is a tourist information office in the same building, they have maps and everything and a pretty lady who helps us find the right means to reach Itaipu. The fast and easy option was to take a cab. But for us that meant caging ourselves in a yellow cell and only get glimpses of the life here. We choose instead the classic (by now) method: local bus so that we could take in as much as possible of Paraguay in our short visit there. The bus station was not that close so we had to walk a few kilometers through Ciudad del Este. What can I tell you about this city… it´s all a big market place. One market stand after the other, small store, large store, tiny stores.
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    There´s not a single thing you cannot find here, from tires to plasma TVs, from shoes to dental equipment. Of course you receipts or other “papers” are only for newbes… and these guys are professionals. And it is hard to determine exactly the work of some people as we see a lot of them just sitting in their chairs by the side of the road. They don´t seem to be selling anything and if they are they are not very convincing. We were there at around 11 AM and they didn’t seem to have any pressing things to get done. Oh, the sweet relaxation!
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    But not everybody has the luxury of relaxing. As it’s a very hot climate there, somebody has to make sure that all the ACs are working properly. And I do meen… ALL of them. Hmmm, I wonder if there is somewhere a diagram or something, to show which box is for whom and what. I doubt it.
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    We find the bus as well or better said it finds us. We were just arriving in what we were not so sure it is the bus station when an old blue thing stops with squeaking sounds near the side of the road and a guys speaking very fast is pushing us in. We barely have time to ask if this is indeed the bus to Itaipu and we get only a hasty “si si” before we are inside. Suddenly I feel transported in the 80s in one of the old buses that used to run in Romania. Suddelntly I have that warm feeling from childhood spent in the countryside, when we used to hitchhike a ride with the local bus to the town to get ice-cream or to see a movie.
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    After a while the bus stops and deposits us on the side of the road, at some crossing. From here the Hydro-plant is not far. Gracias amigos!
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    We look around, trying to determine the right way to walk and we discover more people doing hard work. Chairs all over the place, with nice music, some food and some drinks. Ah… the life!
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    We find the hydro complex and we head to the tourist building. The free tour will consist of a 30 minutes movie, followed by a live tour of the dam, in a bus. The movie was quite educative and then we hop in the bus, looking forward to be amazed. First we pass near big transformation stations.
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    … and then we reach a point from where you have a wide view of the hole complex, with the huge spillways in the foreground and the long dam in the background.
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    Itaipu is not the biggest dam in the world. Also it is not the tallest nor the widest. But it has the first place in a very important area: it holds the record of anual generated electricity with over 90 TWh. To put things into perspective Hoover dam generates annually 4.2 TWh.
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    The 20 installed turbines are divided equally, 10 to Brazil and 10 to Paraguay. But as Paraguay requires for internal use only 2 of the 10 turbines, the remaining 8 are “lend” to Brazil. So huge power-lines are crossing the river, transporting the current to Sao Paolo area.
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    With the output of the 2 turbines Paraguay covers around 90% of the TOTAL electricity needs. On the other hand, even with the extra help of the 8 turbines (so 18 in total), Brazil gets only 15% of the needed electicity from Itaipu. Speaking of David and Goliath…
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    The guide gives us more interesting information about the construction of the dam. For example, the project was a joint venture between Paraguay and Brazil, involving bi-national teams that handled the project. There were no external companies, no big corporations from outside and multinational organizations (with the usual over-pricing, passed deadlines and such). While this might have caused some doubts regarding the quality or the speed of constructions, it turned out that the local guys did quite a good job and very fast as well. At it’s peak rate of raising the dam, the pace was equivalent with finishing a 20 stories tall concrete building…every 55 minutes!
    There were though also controversial aspects (cleverly overlooked by our guide) mainly related to the destruction of the ecosystems in the area where the artificial lake was created. For example the Guaira waterfalls, one of the biggest in the world before 1982, disappeared entirely in the artificial lake. With an height of over 110 meters (Iguazu is 82) and with a flow rate of over 13000 cubic meters per second (Iguazu has 1700), Guaiara must have been an impressive sight. But, for us, the ones that did not get to see it, we have only the pictures remaining.
    Our visit ends soon, maybe too soon. We would have loved to get the chance to enter inside one of the turbines. But it is time to go and our general conclusion was that, despite the controversy, Itaipu remains a successful and useful project.
    For us, it is time to get back in Argentina and reunite with Gunnar. Starting tomorrow we will enter again Brazil, this time doing it properly: riding our on bike and doing all the paperwork. We promise!