We jump in to South America’s largest city with the same enthusiasm as a pig rolling in the mud. We encounter honest mechanics, hear a seemly sermon and cross paths with Leebong one last time.
Thursday July 12th (cont.)
Having successfully completed my first radio interview in Portuguese, I was confident and ready for anything…even the traffic of São Paolo.
It’s important that you understand that São Paolo is a big city (….that’s not quite right)
São Paolo is a BIG CITY (….still missing something)
SÃO PAOLO is a BIG CITY(……almost there)
SÃO PAOLO IS A BIG CITY (…that’s more like it)
The metro area is home to some 21 million inhabitants. To put that in American terms: If you were to combine the metro areas of Chicago and Houston, you’d still be about 5 million shy of the size of São Paolo. You could throw in the Boston metro area and still not reach of the number of people in South America’s biggest city.
It’s not necessarily a tourist destination, but I still found plenty of reasons to visit. A major motivator was knowing I could find any part I needed for Annie here. As we gear up for the long ride across the sparsely populated heart of this continent, having Annie in tip-top shape is vital.
I’d just like to stop for a moment to acknowledge one of this quality publication’s finest followers, Wyoming George.
I met him way back in THIS POST, in song place 9 of 92, Glenrock, Wyoming. He is a mechanic by trade and has been a huge help in answering any questions I’ve had on my way. Thanks so much, George!
Fernando in Lençois had warned me of a few things: First of all that there were lots of tolls going into town. Thankfully, many of them allowed motorcycles through for free. All you have to do is complete a simple obstacle course around some cones. (I had a camera issue, so no videos)
Secondly, he had warned me to “drive like a car,” as the motorcyclists in São Paolo are extremely risky and aggressive. This was probably my worst mistake of the day:
The sprawl of this city was unbelievable. Even after entering the city, I had more than an hour long ride to get to my hostel. I found a home at Vila Rock hostel in the Paulista neighborhood. Parking cost a little extra, so it ended up being about $13/night. The staff there were wonderful and I really enjoyed my stay. Hostels with a theme are always fun and this one was decorated appropriately.
I didn’t treat myself to much of a birthday supper, instead gifting myself some frugality. That’s really what I wanted anyway.
Friday, July 13th
A day all about Annie. This quality publication could use more of these! First was the process of removing the luggage.
They let me store it all in a little closet.
Then it was time to go on the hunt. I’d made a document with everything I was looking for, including all of the translations in Portuguese. This tool would end up being extremely useful.
I went to a number of shops near to me and got quite a few estimates. They were all very helpful, but the price and selection were not quite what I was looking for.
Finally I made my way to a neighborhood known as “Boca da Motos” (“Mouth of the Motorcycles”) I knew I was home. I’d never seen anything like it. At first I just rode around. Street after street, block after block was completely saturated with motorcycle stores. Some were repair shops, others sold accessories; some were focused on a single brand, others were more diverse; some were neat and clean, others looked like they hadn’t taken inventory since the 1980s.
I began at a tire shop, as getting a new rear one was my top priority. Though there was still plenty of tread on the street tire that I miraculously found in Puerto Tejada, Colombia (THIS POST), it had developed a slow leak (about 2-4 psi per day) about two weeks prior. I’m pretty sure it was due to this gash.
I knew that one more rear tire will be enough to get me home, so I didn’t feel bad about jettisoning this one.
At the first shop that I entered, I was met by Roberto. He could tell I had no idea what was going on, so he spoke slowly and made sure I understood everything before continuing. I told him I was looking for a tire with some off-road capability, but the only one they had in my size was a pure street tire. Instead of trying to sell me on that one, Roberto shook his head and told me to follow him to the store next door. He introduced me to the owner there and told him what I was looking for. What a nice guy!
This shop had one of the better variety of tires that I’ve seen in Latin America. After a short time Geraldo, the owner, came out from the back with a perfect specimen. The price was right too, especially since they didn’t charge anything for installation. I asked about an oil change too, and they were happy to oblige. Once again, I would not need to pay for the labor. Even though I felt really comfortable with Geraldo, I asked for a list of the expenses before they started working.
Geraldo was really interested in my trip and seemed eager to hear more about it. He invited me out for coffee while Annie was being worked on. I had a little twinge of hesitation about having Annie out of my sight, but the situation seemed safe.
He walked me by his other store, which focuses more on adventure bike accessories. We walked into an indoor mall area which was, surprise-surprise, more motorcycle shops. I can’t even begin to fathom the number of them in this neighborhood.
We were joined by a mechanic friend of his who spoke some Spanish. We conversed in a mish-mash of three languages, but were able to communicate fairly effectively I really enjoyed these guys.
The walk back to the shop was only a couple blocks, but it took some time as Geraldo had to greet everybody he knew. This whole area has a real unique feeling to it, like its a small town dedicated solely to bikes.
Back at the shop Diego, the lucky mechanic chosen to work on this story’s heroine, already had the new tire mounted and balanced. We had some nice conversations as he changed the oil.
As he was finishing up, his light-hearted tone turned serious as he really wanted me to understand what he said next. After a couple of failed attempts, I finally understood his message: “If you need any more work done on the bike while you are here, just bring it in and I will do it for free.” He made sure that I had his number in case I needed anything.
I mentioned that I needed to do a valve adjustment, but that usually just do that myself. I mentioned that I would need just a little bit of coolant to top off my radiator after doing this. Within minutes, he found a half-bottle that he let me have for free.
Geraldo and Diego signed the bike and I even let them add a company sticker. It was the least I could do.
“Pneu” (pronounced “puh-nay-oo”) is the Portuguese word for tire.
Total damages ended up being $155 for everything. Parts aside, even making these new friends was worth that price. Once again, I really hit the jackpot. I’m sure that at some of these shops, a gringo on a big bike would be treated like a rolling ATM machine. Instead I encountered some of the most benevolent mechanics in the city.
I had managed to linger until after dark, so the guys helped me choose the safest route back to the hostel.
Saturday, July 14th
A really chill day. The previous one had been all about Annie, this one was all about getting caught up in my story. I spent most of the day fighting phrases.
Paolo, one of the staff at the hostel, with his son.
Sunday, July 15th
Since I was in such a big city, I was able to find an English speaking church. I don’t think I’m ready for a Portuguese service yet. I rode about half an hour south to Sampa Church. I was greeted warmly by a number of people, including Martha, the wife of the pastor.
Bob, the regular pastor, was not preaching this Sunday, so the duties fell to Douglas. It was a message that felt like it was personally directed at me. I learned later that Douglas had woken up at 3am that morning and felt inspired to change his entire sermon. It was from Acts 27, as Paul is having his wild, ship-wrecked journey back to Rome as a prisoner. It was a great reminder to take heart and keep faith, even when one’s journey seems like a total disaster.
After the service a friendly couple, Gord and Raquel, struck up a conversation with me. They invited me to join their group for lunch at an Italian restaurant. Since the World Cup Final was at noon, we made sure it had a TV. 🙂
Just being with these people was such a blessing. I enjoyed everything about our time together. Afterwards, Douglas took the signing duties for the group:
What a great way to start a Sunday! It’s always great to meet more crazy Jesus people. I hope I get to visit Sampa Church again.
On the way back home, I visited Ibirapuera Park. It’s sort of like Central Park is to New York.
There are always cold coconuts for sale:
So how could this day get any better? How about with one final meeting with Leebong. This would be the last time that our paths would cross in South America. He was accompanied by his friend John. He and Leebong were formerly co-workers in Washington DC. John was using his vacation time to join Leebong for a couple weeks on his journey.
We met at a local diner and had some food that was so unhealthy that I almost felt like I was back in the states. As always, it was a real treat to see him again and to get to know John. We agreed to meet up the next day for a walking tour of the city.
Monday, July 16th
I hopped on the metro and headed downtown for the walking tour. Our guide, Denise, was full of energy and information.
I found it a little interesting that there was almost an apologetic tone at multiple points. (Sorry about all of the homeless people…Sorry that the center of town is kind of run-down…Sorry that there is a guy shouting and slapping a Bible over there….) As I think about it though, there’s no way a city grows to this size without some growing pains. A city of this scale is bound to have some challenges.
I’m not sure if it is my fault or São Paolo’s fault, but I don’t feel that I got that many good pictures.
After the tour, Leebong, John and I went to the central market with a couple of girls from Colombia, Valeria and Cristina. We had such a good time chatting and comparing the cultural differences represented among our eclectic group.
After a walk to the metro station, it was time to say goodbye to my good friend. Having our paths cross so many times has been a wonderful coincidence. I can only guess as to where we will meet next. Is there an “I’ve Been Everywhere” version for Korea?
Tuesday, July 17th
Annie was eager to get back on the road and break in her new tire. Getting everything repacked was at least a 90 minute process.
I’m not sure if marriage is in my future or not, but if so, I hope my future wife reacts with at least half as much enthusiasm when I ask her to marry me as Paolo did when I asked him to sign the bike. 🙂
I had one final stop to make before leaving town, at the Museo do Futebol (Soccer Museum). The museum is located beneath the bleachers of the Paolo Machado Stadium. This is an older complex which has been around since 1940. You can almost feel the history as you walk around.
The museum was interesting, interactive…..
….and full of future Brazilian soccer stars.
My days in São Paolo were full of so many blessings. From the people I met to the things that I saw to the connections that I rekindled. With its vast size, I think one could spend a whole lifetime exploring this metropolis. I really feel like I just scratched the surface.
Stay immense, everybody!
Realtime update: I’m just finishing up my time in Rio de Janiero. I’m a little bit behind here, so I’m hoping to catch up in the coming days. Either tomorrow or the next day, I will head inland towards the Belo Horizonte area. Near there lies my next song place, Diamantina. After multiple health issues I feel like I’m almost at 100% capacity. As always, thanks for accompanying me on my adventure.