June 30, 2004

Brazil: The only Bicycle Museum in South America

I was very fortunate to be given a Brazill guidebook when I was in Criciuma because it allowed me to know that there is a bicycle museum in Joinville.

Joinville is the largest city in the state of Santa Catarina. As I approached it from the south on the coast highway (BR 101) I noticed that traffic increased a little and there was more development on the side of the highway. But never enough let me know that I was about to enter a city of 500 000 people. Within minutes of turning off the highway I was near the center of the city. As I later figured out the city has an oblong shape which is a collection of fairly self sufficient neighbourhoods. It was two in the afternoon, so I decided to go straight to the main attraction before looking for a place to spend the night or even eating lunch.
The bicycle museum is housed in the old train station on the south end of the city. It is the only bicycle museum in South America and it is there because of the painstaking collecting over the last 25 years by Valter Busto. He has amassed a personal collection of over 10 000 artefacts related to cycling with almost no money spent and a flair for trading.
Valter is in his 50´s apprears much younger despite an wild and out of controll beard with loads of strays. Since 2001 the city of Joinville for its 150th anniversary has given him the space to display the best peices in his collection.

Within a few minutes of seeing me arrive on my overloaded touring bicycle a very excited Valter had already called his fellow bicycle enthusiast/journalist friend on visit from Sao Paolo. Together they carefully inspected my bicycle asking me a million questions. Then they barely gave me time for a quick visit to the museum before they asked me to leave my bike in the museum as a "temporary exibit" so that we could go to the internet cafe to show them the pictures of the bicycle in its tandem configuration. Valter was quick to try to make me promise that when the trip was over I would send him the bike to exibit in the museum. It was really nice to meet two people who really understood all the aspects of what it takes to undertake such an expedition.

We quickly became good friends, and I spent the weekend resting and relaxing
with them. One of the highlights was a visit to the excellent Brazilian National Maritime Museum in Sao Fransisco do Sul (Brazil´s second oldest port after Bahia). The other highlight was luch with Valter´s sister Walkiria in Barra Velha.

Posted by gwendal at 01:05 PM | Comments (0)

Brazil: Passion fruit Cake

Bolo de Maracuja

This is a new and exciting discovery on the trip. I am learning recepies that are truely exciting that I can forward to you to try out. This is plugged-in gastronomic geography!

Before I get into the nuts and bolts of how you can make it, I have to explain how I came accross this gem. I first tasted this cake when I was taken to the best confeteria in Joinville (the biggest city in the state of Santa Catarina). I was spellbound at first bite.
A few days later I was invited to lunch at Valter´s (bicicle museum curator: see next entry for details) sister´s house in Barra Velha. Lunch was very animated with a fun group of guests (all Valter´s friends) who like many brazilians enjoy to express themselves and talking a lot. The food was excellent, as I am writing I wish I had written down all the other dishes. But the one that struck a chord with me was dessert. A fantastic Passion fruit cake with a beautiful mix of the soft cake that is moistened by the strong sour flavour of the passion fruit.

Ok I know it is a challenge to get your hands of fresh passion fruit in Canada (not exactly a native fruit) But if you do come accross some remember this recepe.

You will need:
Mix the dry stuff
2 cups of flour
2 cups of sugar
1 soup spoon of yeast

Blend the wet stuff:
1 cup of fresh Passion fruit juice (make at least 1/2 cup extra and save all the seeds)
3 eggs
1 cup of Oil

Then in a bowl mix the dry stuff with the wet stuff untill you get a sticky dough.
Then pour into a well buttered cake pan (or use parchement paper to line the pan) Cook at cake cooking temperature (I think this is around 350) until the cake is done. Then take it out and let it cool a little before pouring on the remaining Passionfruit juice and sprinkleing the seeds on top for decoration.

Then to really enjoy this cake you must eat it with friends, close your eyes and imagine you are in Brazil.
Credit for this recette goes to Walkiria Fernandes who lives in Barra Velha. She made one of the best meals I have eaten on this trip so far.

I realize that Passion fruit is either expensive or difficult to obtain in canada. So I have devised a solution. If you can find ready made passionfruit juice, use this for the juice that gets baked. Then save the fresh passionfruit juice you extracted for the juice you pour on to the cake after it has been cooked. I think this will still have the sour zing that makes this cake so good to eat.

ps: I forgot to take a picture of the cake but when I get one I will post it.

Posted by gwendal at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2004

Brazil: Getting to Florianopolis

This is a little account of my approach to Florianopolis. The BR-101 road that more or less hugs the coast has a poor reputation
See comic
In reality the road is very busy with big trucks happier on the coast road with few hills rather than further inland where there are some very beautiful mountains. (last week it snowed in Sao Joaquim)
There is however a fairly large shoulder that I generally have all to myself.
Although there is the occasional horse drawn cart and other odd vehicles that use the shoulder.

The approach to Florianopolis is probably designed to kill cyclists. As I got closer to the city. It gradually got busier. However the only approach to Florianopolis (300,000 inhabitants) is on a highway that goes through Sao Jose (just as many inhabitants) on the mainland. There are a series of narrow shoulders, overpasses, on ramps and off ramps. The icing on the cake is that you have to cross the highway to get to the tourism office which is some sort of island sourrounded by highway roads. The reward for finding the tourism office is that I figured out how you cross the bridge. There is a neat hanging cyclist pathway under the bridge to town. Fortunately I learne of this un-marked pathway before I attempted to cross with the traffic on top.
Another odd note. The City has a beautiful coast walkway/bikeway that reminds me a little of the sea wall. However it fails terribly because between the walkway and the rest of the city is a 6 lane coast road. I had to ride 2.5km before I found a light that allowed me to cross over into the city.

The Island of Santa Catarina is amazing with a very varied geography. Huge sand dunes on the east coast and a series of large hills through the center of the island all covered in all sorts of subtropical plants like banana trees, papaya and citrus trees. In the center of the island there is also a large laguna that seems to increase the amount of coastline on this island twofold.

Before I go I want to talk about showers. Since I´ve been in Brazil there has been a change in the way water is heated. In Argentina a country blessed with lots of natural gas all the water heating was done with the kind of systems we know in Canada. Sometimes it was a heat as you go gas system. All of them however offered no risk of electrocution. As those of you who have travelled to countries within 30 degrees of the equator know. Brazil seems to favour the heat as you go showerhead heater. These things are an anathema to me.
The are designed to be easy to install, but offer no system to prevent the electrical wires from getting wet. It is sort of like having a very wet electric toaster above your head. More often than I would like if my head gets too close to the shower head I start to get the wonderful tingling sensation of electricity running through my body. Talk about the energising effects of a shower!

Fortunately all of these contraptions have so far produced hot water. I am anticipating arriving to a point where hot water just is no longer available.
This is probably still a little while away.

Posted by gwendal at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2004

Brazil: Voting from abroad

On June 5th I sent a fax to Elections Canada to request that I receive a voting package for the upcoming elections. Although I am far away I was in Uruguay where the local first cycle of presidential election campaign was taking place.
Their election date is on june 27th and the Canadian election is on june 28th. Seeing all the election posters and and people campaigning in the streets really made me think of our own elections in Canada. In Uruguay the Partido Colorado has almost continuously held power in the country except for a a few times where the Partido Nacional-Blancos have won. However in the last election in 1999 the Encuentro Progresista held the majority of the vote in the first cycle but not enough to win. So in the second cycle the Colorados and Blancos made a coalition to defeat the Encuentro Progresista. This time however the winds of change seem to be stronger and Uruguay may be have a new government.
While learning all of this I started to look into voting from abroad for the Canadian election. This is a privilege that Uruguayans do not have and many other countries also do not provide this service. Ironically in the last federal election I was also abroad and had to make use of this service in Australia. In Uruguay when you are in the country voting is mandatory for all who are elegible. If you do not vote you face a heavy fine.

This time however it is a little more complicated as I do not have a fixed address. At the time of requesting the package I did not know any addresses where I could have the voting package sent. So I checked the map and tried to calculate where I could be that would provide enough time for the package to arrive but also not to far as so it would be too late for me to vote. Elections Canada requires that votes sent in from abroad must be mailed by the tuesday before election day. This is already a very short election with barely a month of campaigning. With mail taking at least 10 days to arrive my margin of error is very tight. I chose to have the package sent to the Poste Restante in Criciuma. The Poste Restante is an international service for which local post offices will hold mail addressed to you for generally up to 30 days.
I have been in Criciuma now for three day, waiting for the mail to arrive. Fortunately I am staying with my friend Flavio´s Aunt and Uncle who are treating me as family. They were very efficient in organizing two newspaper interviews and getting me a tour of the local coal mine.

The article about the expedition made it to the Front and Back page of the local paper, in colour. They even used the expedition as the subject for the political editorial cartoon. Click on image to see full size.
Some things they kind of got a little mixed up because of my broken portuguese. According to the article I am finishing in Alaska. But it was so much fun to wake up and see yourself on the front page of the paper in Brazil.

I am now faced with a difficult decision. I really want to keep moving north and continue riding but at the same time I feel that being able to vote is very important. As far as I can gather this is a very tight election and every vote will be important. It is amazing to me that in such a short election period the voter packages for canadians abroad are not sent by express post.

...Funny Side note. After my very interesting visit of the coal mine with Flavio´s cousin Daniel. They gave me a "small" 1 pound bag of coal with which to remember them. To them this was a very small amount of coal but to the very weight concious cyclist this will be difficult to carry. I think I am going to keep one little pebble :) I was able to film the whole visit and learn a lot. This mine in Criciuma is apparently the first to fully treat its acidic waste water. With a process developed at the local university it is now manditory for all coal mines in Brazil to put such a waste water treatment system into place.

Posted by gwendal at 09:56 AM | Comments (0)

Brazil: Today on Radio-Canada at 1:30pm PST

Hi Everyone! A little note to tune into 97.7FM at 1:30pm PST as Gwendal will be doing a radio interview with Danielle Marcotte from Criciuma, Brazil. To find your frequency outside of Vancouver, please follow the link: http://www.radio-canada.ca/radio/

Posted by tania at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2004

Brazil: Pictures are back online

After a month of pleading with the company hosting the website we have the security glitch that prevented me from posting new pictures fixed.
I had not added any pictures since Bahia Blanca in Argentina.
Please check out the Argentina image gallery

And the Uruguay image Gallery

I am now in Capao de Canoa near the northern end of the worlds longest continuous beach which is at least 400km long and has already taken me 4 days to follow. Today is also one of the coldest i´ve had in a long time and ironically in Brazil where I really thought it was always warm. But apparently this preconception was because of what I knew about Rio de Janero. If I´d checked the lattitudes I would have realized that the southern border of Brazil is at 32 degrees south. Wich is the equivalent of just north of Newcastle in Australia. I´ve been there in June and It was cold. Anyway I am on my way north so hopefully it will eventually get warm.

Posted by gwendal at 04:29 PM | Comments (1)

June 07, 2004

Uruguay: World environment day

This is just a quick little entry. I was reminded on friday that saturday is ´el dia mundial del medio ambiente´ or world environment day.

see the United Nations Environment Programme website

I was reminded because in the smallish country town of north east Uruguay hundreds of school children with banners, and flags took to the streets in the morning with their teachers. They were well organized as a sort of mock-protest for the environment. I was eating breakfast and drinking mate in front of my little hotel getting ready to leave when they went by on their way to the town square. I could not resist and I delayed my departure to film them. It was really exciting because they were singing and shouting slogans of their creation.

As I was filming the local TV station guys were there also filming the students. When they saw my bike parked accross the street from the square they asked me for an interview. Later when I arrived in Chui on the brazilian border, another reporter asked me for an interview for his section of the local TV station. He then organized another interview with the local radio station the following morning. That was the ultimate challenge of my spanish, as on radio you really don´t have any help from gestures. Luckily my interviewer helped me prepare before we went live, so that I had sort of rehearsed my answers.

Now I am in Brazil, where I don´t understand anything... and I really hope nobody interviews me because I won´t know in which language to answer the questions I don´t really understand. All I can say is so far so good. I am going to attempt a remote 300km section on a peninsula to the east of Porto Allegre with a section of 4x4 track.

Posted by gwendal at 01:16 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2004

Uruguay: leaving Damien and Ryan

I should have done this a long time ago. But for some reason it is only when Damien and Ryan are about to leave that realize that it would be great to give them a voice on the website. It is definately not to late.
I had a really big knot in my throat when I saw them take the bus back to Montevideo from Cabo Polonio. All of a sudden I was left standing on the side of the road with not a soul in sight and the next town was 25km away.
There were a few times when the oblicatory compromises of travelling as a group had me fuming. But overwhelmingly I praised every day that Damien and Ryan continued to ride with me. We barely knew each other when we arrived in Ushuaia. Damien had only ask to join me a month before the departure. As for Ryan I had met him once for a very short drink when he was in Vancouver to see a Canucks hockey game. Now four and a half months sharing our lives later I am amazed and thankful to have them as friends.
Let me give them a voice.

Here is Damien's farwell:

Was it when we were being pelted by rocks and sand by the gale-force headwinds?
or maybe during our tenth spoke repair of the day. Maybe it was when I took
refuge from the cold wind and rain in a garbage bag or when Gwendal wouldn´t
quit till hours after I wanted to. I can't really pin down the hardest part of
our bike tour through South America´s Patagonia.

All I really know is that I have had one heck of an adventure! And all the bad
parts seem to drift back into the foggy reccesses of my brain while the best of
the best present themselves between each tip of my smile. Eating soggy, cold,
uncooked pasta is replace with my drool at Fitz Roy, soaking in hot tubs, and
finding all-you-can-eat restaurants at exactly lunchtime. All these make the
hard times turn into laughable brags.

My ´two and a half months´ cycling with Gwendal turned into three, then four,
and now four and a half. Each new experience bred the desire to see just a
little more of the countryside, to meet just a few more people, to laugh just a
few more times with these two crazy cats. I will all ways remember the silly
antics and inumeralbe funny things that happened to us (the ones that no one
else will ever understand).

Now, after so much time together (every waking and sleeping moment) it is
difficult to believe that we are all going to be seperated. It probably won´t
be till week or so from now, after riding for a few days, that I realize that
there is no one to talk to, no one to recount old ´´Simpson´s´´ with, and no one
to pick me up when I am feeling down.

I wish Gwendal and Ryan all the luck in the world (except the bits that I need)
and I am sure they will have a stellar trip!

Ryan's last words:

We´d known all along that at some point Gwendal, Damien and I would split up, but I´d tried to either ignore it or underplay its significance. But when I saw Gwendal cycling all alone the other day, it really hit home.

More than four months ago were together for the first time in a restaurant in Ushuaia, and we´ve been together more or less around the clock ever since. Together we battled the relentless winds of Tierra del Fuego, cowered from the torrential rains of the Carretera Austral and dealt with myriad bike problems in some of the most inconvenient places. But we also shared several magical moments, such as a sunrise in front of the magestic Torres del Paine, beautiful waves in Chapadmalal, and several cold beers after a long day of cycling.

We´ve been through so much together that it´s now hard to imagine cycling alone, even though that was my original plan. Back in Ushuaia I´d expected to cycle with Gwendal and Damien for perhaps a month at most, but I´m thankful that we were able to ride together for so long. Today Damien is heading out on his own toward Iguazu Falls, and soon I´ll be heading solo down the same trail that Gwendal is currently blazing for me.

I know that some day we´ll get together back in Canada to talk and laugh about the times we shared in the wilds of Patagonia, and to swap stories about our solo journeys, but for now all we can do wish each other the best of luck on the road ahead and part ways.

Gwendal and Damien, all the best on the road ahead. May all the hills be down and all the winds be at your back.

Posted by gwendal at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

Country within a Country within a city

On Monday our hosts in Montevideo, took us to a very unusual event.
It is a tradition down here that when you are 'received' as a gratuate in your faculty you must have a very big party. This seemed fair enough and I was not too suprised when we were invited to come along to the party of one of their cousins who had just graduated as an accountant.
My interest was peaked when I realized that the place where the party was held is a mens only club. It had gone bankrupt a few years ago (it pays to include women) and it now rented its ballroom to help pay the bills. This club however is a little different... since 1878 it claims to be a sovereign nation. Each section of the grounds of this large mantion is either a small street a couple meters long with its own name or a plaza. The plaque on the entrance of the building reads Welcome to La Republica de la Boca "Gloria a la famosa ostentas majestuosa mansion de la alegria un cetro refulgente grandioso fue aquel dia tu faz habla sonriente que impusiste la igualidadde placer y de amistad."

The walls of the entrance hall are lined with the parties thrown for visiting ambassadors from all over the world. All the dignitaries however don't seem to be taking themselves too seriously based on their outlandish costumes and decorations.

The evening was even more interesting when we were urged to eat and drink as much as we liked. I really felt like I was crashing a party. Soon after we all had eaten the three people who had graduated were lead up on stage and the music started to play. One by one their class mates came up to the stage and cut off a lock of hair. Some were even more ambitious and started to shave their legs and chest hair. By the end of the ceremony the graduates had only a few odd tufts left and one of them was a woman!

It all ended as a fabulous evening of dancing. I still can''t beleive that there is a country inside Montevideo which is inside Republica Oriental de Uruguay that has not been officially recognised by the UN or any other county for that matter.
And yet continues to exist only a stone's throw away from the Urugayan Government house.

Aside: Canada is famous in Uruguay it seems for only one reason... its ham.
One of the most popular meals in the restorants here is the Chivito Canadiense.
A steak sandwich with a slice of ham, a fried egg, lettuce tomato and cheese. It is not much but everybody in Uruguay is much more aware of where Canada is when I tell them where I live. Geography Lessons through food really work. We should have Uruguayan sandwiches in Canada to return the favour.

Posted by gwendal at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)