Our path through Central Brazil continues to be smooth. We receive more excellent hospitality from a moto club, Annie gets a long-awaited upgrade and we even meet a new riding partner.
Saturday, August 18 (cont.)
I was a little late leaving Brasilia, but I still set a goal of reaching Barra do Graças.
As I’ve mentioned earlier, there was precious little information about this stretch. I was really unsure of what I would find west of Brasilia. This day of riding was pretty uneventful as I passed through more of the Cerrado terrain and little towns.
I took precious little media on the day, focusing on logging some miles. I knew my next day would be much easier if I reached Barra do Graças, so I pushed the sunset more than usual.
I’m proud of my discipline during this chapter as it relates to not riding at night. I’ve only been on the open road after dark a couple of times during the last eight months. On this day, I reached the city right when darkness fell.
I found a home at Hilton Hotel (no….not that kind of Hilton). It was $12 for the night. The internet was the best I’d had in some time. I tried to work as long as I could until I couldn’t stay awake anymore. I was still feeling the effects of a day of sickness the previous day, so I needed my rest.
Sunday, August 19
The hotel had a really good breakfast. I had to restrain myself to keep from over-doing it. I didn’t want to end up looking like these dogs.
Barra do Graças sits right at the border of two states as well as a time zone. I moved my clock back as I rolled into the state of Mato Grosso for the first time. My goal for the day was to reach the capital city of Cuiaba.
I enjoyed my ride as the scenery gradually changed from harsh savannah to plains of cropland. Corn, soybeans and cotton seemed to be the main crops.
Annie got her first bath in awhile:
I had a nice little symphony of sights as I rolled through Chapada dos Guimares, near to Cuiaba:
I reached Cuiaba, but was having some trouble getting connected to data. I rode around until I found a gas station that had wifi. I had a place for the night, which had been arranged by my new friends in Brasilia. I was heading to the sede (clubhouse) of the moto club “Lunaticos do Asfalto.” (I don’t need to translate that, do I?…OK, fine: “Lunatics of the Asphalt”).
I sent a message that I was there and decided it was best to wait where I had signal. I used the time to have a much needed conversation with my parents. Every kilobyte of my available bandwidth had been allocated to getting media uploaded, so it had been awhile since we talked. I realized just how little English I had been speaking lately. It sure is a language with a good taste, isn’t it? Like a mixture of liberty and mono sodium glutimate.
I ended our conversation with, “Love you. Gotta go. My motorcycle gang is here.” I have very understanding parents. After brief introductions, they informed me that we were going to the President’s house. Vamos!
Shortly thereafter, I found myself in the house of Marco, the President of the club. Picture from later on:
Shortly after that, I even found myself wearing a pair of his swimming trunks. He really knew how to make someone feel welcome. I was still proceeding with extreme caution, gastronomically speaking, so I refused beer and only ate a little bit of meat. It’s always a hard task to turn down churrasco.
I met lots of nice people and had a really enjoyable night.
I was initially planning on just being one night in Cuiaba, but both my Mother and Marco thought I should take the time to ride the Trans-Pantanal highway. Marco is one of those “here’s what you’re going to do” kind of guys. Whether you want to or not, you inevitably end up following their instructions. He wanted me to stick around until Tuesday night, when the club was having a party at the sede. With the $0 of lodging expense, it was an easy sell.
Monday, August 20
I had a rest/work day, mostly staying at the sede. Marco and his wife, who both work as lawyers, took me out for lunch and I ran some errands with Marco that afternoon. I didn’t get as much accomplished as I would have liked, but it was a good day of rest.
Tuesday, August 21st
This was my day for riding the Trans-Pantanal highway. That experience deserves its own post, so I’m just going to skip ahead to when I came back to Cuiaba. I guess this sort of reveals a spoiler that I didn’t get eaten by a jacaré.
LINK HERE when that post is complete
Wednesday, August 22
When I returned to the sede of the Lunaticos do Asfalto, there was a myriad of activity. In Nebraska, most people have some idiosyncratic method for discerning when a thunderstorm is coming. Some people can feel it in their hip, others smell it in the air while others note the behavior of animals.
I did not sense a thunderstorm arriving, but I could feel that a big party was about to happen. Perhaps it was the number of plastic tables or the bath tub sized vat of feijão (Brazilian pork and beans). It was obvious that this evening was going to be more than a casual get-together.
The night was a lot of fun. Though I was still being cautious about what I consumed, I was able to eat and drink without too much issue. I met a really nice guy on an Electra-Glide whose riding name was “Libizomen” (“werewolf”). He was Brazilian, but had lived 20 years in the UK. He works in the mining industry and was helping his company develop an operation in the region. We talked quite a bit, as it was really nice to be able to express myself in English.
To the right in the picture is “Pescador” (fisherman) from Minas Gerais. More on him later.
I met so many nice people and felt like an honored guest. A multitude of people crouched behind Annie to take a picture with the license plate. I was the subject of countless selfies.
There were a couple of other NC700X’s (Annie’s model) in attendance. While looking at one of them, I made the comment that my home made luggage system lacked a lateral support. This was always something I was going to add, but never got around to it.
In earshot of my comment was a guy named Piveta. He told me I could come by his shop the next day and he would make me one in “20 minutes…at the most!” Sounds good!
I couldn’t help but be impressed with this club. It has only been around for four years, but has grown in leaps and bounds. A couple of non-members in attendance told me they thought it was one of the best clubs in Brazil. Marco has done a great job creating a group that is special in many ways.
I had a roommate for the night, “Pescador,” who was mentioned above. As we chatted, we realized that we were both headed in the same direction, aiming for Cusco, Peru. We weren’t sure if our schedules were going to align completely, but we decided to push on together the next day.
Thursday, August 23rd
Pescador and I loaded up and Marco came by in the morning. We had a couple of things on the agenda before leaving town. First was an oil change for Pescador. The sorts of motorcycles at the Honda dealer made me smile. Some had hitches:
Others had side cars larger than the bike itself:
Next up was a stop to Piveta’s shop. I pulled my cases and they got right to work. It became clear quite quickly that I didn’t need to help them with the engineering side of things.
I should maybe mention that the purpose of this bar is to keep my side cases from bending in. After they take a few hits, I have to unmount them and bend the brace back. Here’s the bend after my crash in Mexico:
They never measured anything, just sort of grinded, bent and hammered the bar until it was the right shape.
There was no sign of any safety equipment around. Piveta even executed a couple of “squint welds” to get it tacked into place.
In about 20 minutes, it was all set.
They really did a great job and, of course, didn’t want any money for it. This is one of the best gifts I have received in my trip. I can’t wait to crash to see how well it works! (….or maybe it’s better as a precautionary measure)
Marco rode with us (on a V-Strom 1000) all the way to the edge of town. He really took care of us in so many ways.
Although it was almost noon before we left town, we wanted to reach the city of Pontes e Lacerda. Pescador had a place to stay arranged there.
I should maybe mention that I had an arguably more scenic route available. It would pass through Bolivia, something like this:
I decided to take the “high road,” staying in Brazil for a couple of reasons. First, Bolivia has a $160 visa fee for Americans. With my budget getting tighter by the day, I couldn’t justify that expense. Second, I was eager to see some of the Amazon jungle. It didn’t feel right to leave the continent without getting at least a glimpse of it.
As I’ve mentioned before, it is always a mystery how riding with a partner is going to be. It can be a lot of fun or very frustrating depending on how riding styles match up. Thankfully, Pescador and I seemed to be on the same page. This day, we pushed pretty hard and made it to Pontes e Lacerda right as the sun set.
Pescador is from the state of Minas Gerais. This was the state where we had some wonderful experiences in visiting Ouro Preto and song place Diamantina. Most people I’ve met from MG display a real pride in their state. Pescador had a big MG flag on the back of his bike.
He rides for the moto club “Arraras de Aço” (“Parrots of Steel”)
Pescador rode a Honda Transalp, 2014 I think:
This model is actually pretty similar to Annie, but I don’t think the Transalp was ever sold in the US.
We met our hosts for the night at a gas station. I was sort of perpetually confused this evening, as there seem to be some disagreement about where the best place for us to stay would be. I just kept smiling and following Pescador. Our hosts made us some noodles and led us to an unused house for the night. Works for me.
Friday, August 24th
We were up at 5am and on the road at sunrise. We had a bit of a long day and wanted to get as much distance before the heat became unbearable. This little guy got an early start too:
I always feel a special connection to other creatures who carry around a big trunk.
Let’s get to Cacoal:
On this day, I would officially begin my time on highway BR-364, also known as the Interoceanic Highway. This is a road that stretches from São Paolo to the Pacific Ocean in Peru. The completion of this road is a project that had been planned for decades, but was only completed about five years ago. Building a road through the Amazon and over the Andes is no small feat.
As I’ve said before, there was not very much information about this stretch. That said, I did find an outstanding article in the New York Times (LINK HERE). This is absolutely fantastic travel writing and I encourage you to give it a read.
Brazil has hoped that completing this road will provide them with easier access to export goods to the Pacific Ocean. They even paid for the section that is in Peru. I was interested in seeing how this plan was working out.
Crossing into the state of Rondonia:
Our ride was an easy one and we reached Cacoal early. There was another one of the Havan department stores with the giant Statue of Liberty.
A couple of ladies at the gas station in Cacoal really wanted wanted to be the first Rondonians to sign the bike. How could I say no to those smiles?
I’m sort of in an awkward spot, but I’m going to end this update here. My next post will be about my trip down the Trans-Pantanal highway, then after that we’ll come back to Cacoal. I hope this is not too confusing.
Once again, my path on this journey was feeling as though it had been pre-planned. There’s no way I could have orchestrated more favorable circumstances myself. There have been points on this journey when the path felt very difficult, but on these days all I had to do was keep Annie between the lines and wait for good things to happen.
But seriously….use safety goggles, everybody
Realtime update: Still in Cusco. Rarely going outside. Working a lot. I’m starting to get just a bit frustrated with trying to figure out my way home. I have tried to contact at least a dozen different shipping companies but have only heard back from two. My best option is $1,800 air freight and that’s from Bogota,Colombia; not Lima. Bogota is probably a two week ride from where I am. I’ll keep working, because $1,800 is too steep.
The Huskers opener wasn’t great yesterday so let’s hope the Chiefs have some better luck today. As always, thank you for all of the support!