As we head into Brasilia, we fall into the hands of the Carcarás motorcycle club. As everyone knows, motorcycle clubs are dangerous. They might even feed you or give you a place to stay. Riders beware!
Sunday, August 12 (cont.)
With new bearings in my front wheel, Guidini, Farelo and I rolled merrily along. They wanted to stop at Chapada dos Veadeiros to see some of the sights there. Continuing to follow them seemed like it was still my best course of action.
We were still firmly in the section of Brasil known as the Cerrado.
Though Brazil is more well known for its dense rainforest and tropical beaches, the Cerrado is an important ecoregion in the country. I was really unsure of how to describe the landscape, as I don’t believe there is anywhere similar in the US. “Savannah” appears to be the accepted term. It is characterized by lots of scrubby little bushes and spindly trees that appear to be on death’s doorstep.
Agriculture is difficult in this area, but researchers have found that treating the soil with phosphorous and lime can make it fit for crop production. Additionally, more than 70% of Brazil’s cattle production comes from this region.
(Pro tip: If you want to have a successful travel blog, it is important to begin each post with a discussion of agricultural technology. It’s what readers truly crave.)
One of the features that I liked most about this region were these yellow trees. They usually appeared just one at a time, but nearly every landscape had at least one.
We crossed into the state of Goias and I made a new friend named Vanderlay at the first gas station. I still don’t know what the “rules” are for having someone sign the bike. There are plenty of random people I don’t remember who have had the honor. Conversely, there are lots of people with whom I’ve connected that I’ve forgot to have sign. But when I can tell it will make someone’s day, I always ask them to add their name.
Crossing the 14th parralel:
Scenery at sunset:
We would make our home for the night in the town of São Jorge. It felt like I was back in the Chilean city of San Pedro de Atacama. There was tons of tourism, but none of that income had gone towards paving the dusty roads. It is undoubtedly the dreadlock capital of Brazil.
I left the task of finding a place to stay to the people that spoke Portuguese. We ended up in a place which was a little more expensive than I usually prefer and the internet was poor. I realized that although I was enjoying travelling with the guys, it was a little hard to give up having control over everything.
We walked to get some food and ended up taking a longer route back to our pousada. We passed by a restaurant and bumped into some familiar faces. First, I noticed Wesley and Gheyler, whom I had met at Poço Azul 3 days prior.
Sitting at the next table were a pair of Australians who were a couple months into their South American journey. Guidini had met them earlier in the day and was happy to introduce me to them. I think he knew how much I was missing speaking English.
I didn’t have much time to talk with Ciaran and Nathan, but it was a real pleasure to hear about their travels. They have a blog too, at http://ciaranandnathan.com/.
A few days later, I actually saw one of their stickers at a rural gas station.
We sat with Wesley and Gheyler for awhile, having some beers and talking about our travels. It was an enjoyable night.
Monday, August 13
A day for two feet rather than two wheels. Farelo had visited this area a year ago and was excited to take the same hike again. It was a really scenic adventure.
This is another area that was rich with the mining of precious stones and metal. At points, the ground was littered with little crystals.
We had come in the driest of dry seasons. In the picture below, Farelo sits in what is normally a pool with a waterfall.
At the end of the trail is the overlook point where one gets the iconic view of Chapada dos Veadeiros. Once again, the waterfalls were a bit less spectacular due to the dryness. It was still definitely worth the hike though.
Remember how I said there is always one yellow tree?
A pineapple plant:
There is a little hut at the entrance to the trail. I’m not sure who the guy is that lives there, perhaps he is the land owner. Whoever he was, he was really friendly. He had water and watermelon ready for us at the end of our trail.
I spent the rest of the day trying to get some work done. I succeeded in getting a post sent out through the inconsistent signal. Little did I know at the time, this spotty internet would be the best I would have access to for quite some time.
Tuesday, August 14
We continued south, aiming for the city of Formosa:
This city was home to a moto club with whom Guidini and Farelo were familiar.
As was our norm, we took lots of breaks to escape the heat.
It’s always hard to pass up a glass of caldo de cana on a hot day.
Above is one of my favorite pictures of these guys. There is no hint of “smile for the camera” on their faces. These guys were having the time of their life and it really showed.
Guidini was one of those guys with a real fatherly persona. He was so patient and helpful, especially when it came to Portuguese. He’d always take the time to help me understand things and was always eager to lend a hand when I had any sort of work to do. He had visited the US for some training years ago and had studied English at some point. Though he hadn’t retained any grammar or pronunciation, I was surprised numerous times by his vocabulary. He would sometimes be able to translate the most obscure words.
Farelo (his nickname, as far as I understood, translates to “crumb”) behaves as if his goal in life is brighten the days of everyone around him. Many of his verbal jokes were beyond my comprehension so he relied more on physical humor when I was around. He was willing to throw himself to the dusty ground if he thought it would cause me the slightest of smirks. But beneath this carefree exterior was a big heart. He would excitedly give me a hug almost every morning and he referred to every stranger we met as “vezinho” (“neighbor”).
These guys were a great team and it was such a pleasure to be part of their train.
We reached Formosa and were soon recieved by their friend, Junior. Picture from the next day:
Junior is part of the Harley-Davidson club, Carcarás (CAR-cuh-ROSS). Over the course of the coming days, these guys would become another family to me.
We followed Junior into a big garage, with eight Harleys of different ages and types. I asked if this was the clubhouse for Carcaras. No, this was just Junior’s garage. (He’s a lawyer in case you were wondering.)
I never got any great pictures of his stable, as the evening kicked into full speed in an instant. Before I even knew what was happening, I’d consumed a handful of Heinekens, Tennessee whisky and local cachaça. The food never stopped either, as more members of the club arrived.
When one of the members rode off, Guidini informed me, “He’s going to get a guitar for you.” Soon, I was delivering a street corner performance of my theme song. It wasn’t my worst effort. 🙂
After a sufficient amount of schenanigans, we retired to the house of a guy named Claudy for the night. It was a good time.
Wednesday, August 15
Claudy was an interesting guy.
His family were fairly recent immigrants to Brazil, from Germany. His father grew up speaking German at home. He had a hard time remembering my name, so he usually just called me “gringo.” In Brazil, this term is used as a catchall phrase for foreigners. Still, it felt a little strange to be called such by someone who was the same shade as me and at least half a head taller. 🙂
He took us on a tour of his family farm, which was really interesting. It is an operation which has everything: Corn, peppers, tomatoes, chickens, a fish pond and these trees that have sweet berries that grow right on the bark:
In some ways in seemed familiar to me, but it was odd to see a cornfield bounded by banana trees.
I got to meet his parents and realized that my ability to speak German is almost non-existant at the moment.
He was eager to take us to see one of the natural spectacles in the area: A waterfall called Salto do Itiquira.
(there’s a person in the above photo if you look close)
I got to meet some other Americans at this site too. It’s always a pleasure to speak some English.
Claudy treated us all to lunch afterwards. When I thanked him, he responded by saying that I will be paying when they all come to the US. Fair enough.
Back in Formosa, it was time for signings and farewells.
The previous night, Junior had taken my dead cell phone since he knew someone who repaired them. He dissassembled it and verified that the board was fried. Bad news, of course, but it was so nice that he did this for me. Of course, I wasn’t allowed to pay anything. Don’t these people know how strong the dollar is right now!?
In case you didn’t know, bikers give the best hugs:
Though Formosa has quite a few members of the Carcarás club, it was founded in Brasilia. We took the short ride to the capital city of Brazil.
Here is where the “sede” (“clubhouse” or “headquarters”) of the club is located. This one has a special room, just to provide lodging to travelers.
It was another night of food and drink, as one of the members, Ronaldo (next to me in the picture below), was celebrating his birthday. I met some more great people and my money was no good there either.
As we got up to leave, an elderly lady looked at me with the saddest puppy-dog eyes I’ve ever seen and said, “…but you didn’t dance with me yet.” I was sure to correct this oversight.
Thursday, August 16
It was a sad morning, as we had to say goodbye to Farelo. Guidini was able to stay for a couple more days, but Farelo had to head back to Curritiba.
It was so nice to have him be part of my journey. I tried to plant in his mind the idea of a US trip, so we can travel together again.
Today was a business day for me, as I had lots of items to acquire. The road ahead was pretty sparse, so I knew it would be weeks before I was in a city this size again.
The city of Brasilia really fascinates me. Until about 50 years ago, it did not exist. The decision was made to move Brazil’s capital from Rio de Janiero to a more central location. There were no existing cities that could be used, so they decided to build a new one.
The operation was a major success, as Brasilia is now home to over 3 million people as well as being the seat of the government. It is also unique in that it was a completely planned out city, lacking the erratic layout of other Brazilian metro areas. Other than Canberra, the capital of Australia, I don’t know of any other capital cities that were as thoroughly planned out.
They could have budgeted a bit more towards traffic flow, though…
(please note, the above clip is NOT in real time)
The first item that I was hunting for was a new phone. Being able to access internet on the go is such an important feature for me. Traveling without it is definitely possible, but having ample access allows me to spend less time planning and more time procrastinating updating my blog.
I had been recommended to search for a phone at the wild market of Feria do Importados. I really wish I had taken more pictures here. It was really a spectacle. There are thousands of little booths all crammed together, selling everything from electronics to cosmetics to leather goods.
I had a list of all the compatible phones which work with my international sim card. I showed it to store after store, stopping into at least a dozen of them. I got pretty good at telling my story. I was really hoping to find a shop which sold used phones. I would have gladly purchased one with a cracked screen as long as it was compatible and had a good camera. In all of the shops, there was only one phone that would work. The price was consistent, ranging from $450-$500. Though it would have solved all my problems, I couldn’t stomach that expense.
I bought some candied peanuts (who needs heroin when these are available?), sat down amongst the chaos and tried to clear my thoughts. I was ready to admit defeat and began walking towards the door.
Thankfully, I decided to stop by one more shop on the way. The guy behind the desk had more of a “I don’t know, let’s try” attitude. He pulled out a Chinese phone that he said worked on pretty much every network. We tried my sim card and it seemed to work. I was really wary, not wanting to get scammed. So I tried to make sure that it was functioning on data and not wifi. I probably played with it for around half an hour before finally deciding to make the purchase.
The phone isn’t the best, the camera is worse than my old phone, but at least I will have a connection for the rest of my time outside of the country. Total damage was $160.
I also made a stop at a bearing store to pick up some spares for the rest of my trip. I don’t think Guidini would have let me leave town without them.
That evening was the weekly gathering at the sede. I got to meet Uncle Leo, who is the President of the club. He had traveled through the US multiple times and spoke English well.
He, along with another member named Torres, showed me some of their treasures in the adjacent garage. The “knucklehead,” a really rare version of Harley. This was a 1946, I believe:
They had a couple 1928 models too.
These old motorcycles were maintained by a fallen brother of theirs named Helmut. He was an Austrian who had moved to Brazil. I heard him referred to multiple times as “the best Harley mechanic in Brazil.” Sadly, he passed away due to cancer just a couple of months prior. I could tell that everyone in the club was still grieving his loss.
The gathering was a warm, and relatively calm affair. A guy named Murundum took me on a nice tour through the rest of the building.
We had found out the previous night that he had a cousin in the US who is going to be relocating to Omaha. He might very well be the first Brazilian in Nebraska.
Once again, I felt so welcomed at this gathering. Though I was quite a peculiar sight, I never really felt like I was some sort of novelty. Time and again, Brazilians seemed to be more interested in who I was rather than what I was doing.
Friday, August 17
I was up at 5am and knew right away that I was going to have a rough day. Once again, my stomach issues had returned with a vengance. I wasn’t sure if I had eaten something bad, or if it was just three nights of beer and meat catching up with me. Either way, I was a hurting unit.
Between my frequent trips to the bathroom, trying to see if I could actually turn my stomach inside out, I received no fewer than six visitors. Guys from the club, even the neighbors at the body shop, all came to check on me and bring me liquids and medicine. I was really well cared for.
I actually said goodbye to Guidini unknowingly. In my diminished state, I understood Portuguese even more poorly I guess. I thought he was just heading out for lunch, but he was actually going with many of the other Caracas to a lake to spread the ashes of Helmut. I was sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye to him.
My vomiting was complete by mid-afternoon and I began to perk up in the evening. This was not a fun day, but I’ve definitely had worse.
Saturday, August 18
I kept some food down in the morning and decided that I was well enough for a day of riding. I wanted to acquire some rear brake pads before heading out of town and Murundum rode over to accompany me. He made a few calls and we found a set at a really good price.
He said that I really should drop by to see the Harley dealership before heading out of town. I’m not sure if it was a special morning, or if this was just a normal Saturday, but the place was jumping.
I met some more Carcaras members and had a great time chatting with people. It was a wonderful way to wrap up my time in Brasilia. I do wish I would have had more time to soak in this city. That said, I feel like I had my share of experiences.
The further I got into Brazil, the more I became impressed with the motorcycle culture. In some ways, it didn’t seem like it was really about motorcycles. It was more about friendship and care for one another. A common interest in two-wheeled machines was just a medium through which these sentiments passed. Little did I know, this was just the tip of the iceberg. I was now thoroughly tangled in their web of hospitality. Trying to escape was futile.
Stay initiated, everybody
Realtime update: Still in Cusco. I’ve working hard on getting updated here, as well as finding a shipping company to get home. I haven’t made much progress on that yet. My first few quotes are around $1,800 and those are from Bogota. I’ll keep searching.
In other fun news, I was just contacted by a lady named Lois Pryce who is a true adventure rider (her website HERE). She is also the editor for the travel section of BIKE magazine, the largest selling motorcycle magazine in the UK. They are interested in featuring me in their monthly column of travelers. I need to pick my 12-15 best photos of the trip and answer a few questions. This is probably the biggest exposure that our humble story has received so I’m going to need everyone to just stay calm and aCT LIKE THIS SORT OF THING HAPPENS ALL THE TIME OH MY GOSH WHY IS EVERYONE YELLING!!!!!!!!!!!