Thursday, September 25, 2008

Montevideo, Uruguay and New Years

(Sao Paulo Skyline at X-mas eve)

(X-mas Dinner)

Christmas in Sao Paulo was great, we had a wonderful dinner on the 24th with Dom and his family as well as the few guests who were in the Pousada. Dinner consisted of pretty much everything. Turkey, ham, roast, salad , so no-one went hungry. All in all it was really great, the next best thing to being at home. The following day we got a sneak peak at the new property that Dom is building in Guaraja, a beach city across the bay from Santos on the coast. The house is being totally renovated and expanded. When it is finished it should be great, and it is only a few blocks from the beach. We had a look at the beach, and it was packed, lots of activity, a real difference from the last time we drove through here with Claudio and Claudia, when it was cold, dark and totally empty, did I already mention cold?

(The whole gang having x-mas dinner.)

(Dom studying the plans of the Hostel)

Once I got my passport on Thursday it was finally time to get moving. The plan was to get to Montevideo by New Year, so early Friday morning we were on our way again. Unfortunately, so was half of Brazil. Everyone was leaving and although the road was great for the first 20km or so, once outside Sao Paulo it turned into a two lane road with lots and lots of trucks in addition to the holiday travelers. The result was km's, and km's of traffic jams. Luckily nothing like the 172km traffic jam coming into Sao Paulo a couple of days before Christmas that we had heard about. Nevertheless it was pretty hard traveling, which is really too bad as the scenery was excellent, up and down lots of hills and valleys in the direction of Curitiba. It would be a great biking road if there had been no traffic. With the bike I was able to keep moving and get through the worst of it, but it was still not a lot of fun. We passed through a lot of some great places heading south, but as we were on a mission, we didn't get a chance to enjoy much of it. In some places the road went along the coast and you had some really nice vistas, but due to the traffic, you really couldn't enjoy it. Oh, well, next time.

(The results of a car hitting the back of the box.)

The next major event was on Saturday, where we got into an accident with the bike. Luckily it was a minor scrape. We were coming off the main road about to take a break, and as we took the exit ramp at the bottom there was an intersection. We had right of way, and the traffic to right and left stopped. Well, not quite. A car approaching the intersection to my right was slowing down and had come to a rolling stop, as I passed he accelerated and hit the bike at the very rear of the box frame. He then continued on his marry way and left us to deal with the broken box frame. To boot, it had started to rain! It looked like Brazil, didn't want to let us go. Luckily the accident happen just a few meters from a gas station and a Borracheria (workshop). So we rolled in and explained the problem. The mechanic came out and had a look, I explained what was needed, and got started with the work. In short order we had everything more or less back in shape. With a bit of cutting, welding and hammering not to mention a crowbar. It is amazing what you can do with metal! Katheryna still had weak knees by the time we were back on the road, but the shock quickly wore off as the kilometers rolled on. By the time we stopped for the night we were hundreds of kilometers away, and the accident was just another experience in Brazil.

(It's not too difficult to fix a BMW)

The following day we went across the boarder into Uruguay at a place called Chuy. If you were to look at a map you would see that the road to Chuy runs along a long long stretch of wetlands, with the coast on the one side and various lagoons on the inside. The whole area is a protected nature area, and as such has a lot of birds and other animals (many dead on the road unfortunately), and few houses. It was a really nice ride through here, we saw turtles and lots and lots of birds of course, but also plenty of Nutria, both alive and dead, despite the many signs warning of their crossing. If you don't know what a Nutria is, it is something like a large beaver without a tail and a flatter face.
Crossing the boarder was a breeze, specially considering that it took 3 weeks to get my bike into Brazil. On leaving I just had to give them a copy of the paperwork, they gave me a receipt, stamped my passport and we were on our way.

(Katheryna in central Montevideo)

Uruguay was about the same, an entry form or two, get the carnet filled out and 20 minutes later we were in Uruguay. Hurray.
First looks was great, good roads, and little traffic so we made good progress. By the time we got to Montevideo we had crossed a good third of the country! What a difference from Brazil. The people here are much more European, both in looks and mannerisms. Driving through the outskirts of Montevideo you could be coming into any "smallish" city in Europe, or North America for that matter. No slums or shacks to be seen as in every city in Brazil. (There are slums of course, they just weren't readily visible coming into town..) Montevideo as the rest of Uruguay so far, turns out to be completely charming. Smallish, clean, orderly and easily maneuvered (ok, lots of small one way streets..), with a little help we made it to our destination pretty easily. As we had said that we would make it on Tuesday or so (after New Years), showing up on Sunday made for a great surprise. Katheryna's grandmother and aunt and uncle who happen to be visiting were overjoyed to see us.

(The new years lamb roast)

(It was excellent)

The following day, New Years, was spent with the whole family in a ruckus Uruguayan New Year celebration at Walter Luis's (a cousin) house, featuring fireworks, kids running around, a huge barbeque and plenty of drink. Sounds pretty much like New Years everywhere. Walter Luis's house happens to be near a park which has a great vantage point over the city, where you had a great panoramic view of the city around you. As midnight neared I had a look around, and it was spectacular. There is no single, central fireworks display, rather everyone in the city was setting their own off, having the effect of a huge fireworks celebration which lasted a good hour and a half. The whole city was lit with explosions coming from every corner and the noise echoing and reverberating from the buildings. Definitely one of the most impressive fireworks display that I have ever seen.

(Some fireworks in the street at New Years)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

No comments: