Sunday, July 14, 2013

Final leg..Hamburg to Roscoff, Plymouth to London. Tears and happiness

It is rather odd writing this from London at the same desk I started the blog, 2 and a bit years ago.

The last few days on the ship into Hamburg really began to test one. The anticipation of getting off and with bits of Europe appearing on the horizon teasing us...first Portugal, then Spain, France, Brighton in the UK fleetingly on the port side, through into the North Sea which seems to be covered in wind farms nowadays, the low countries, and then finally the mouth of the River Elbe connecting us to Hamburg. Here there was lifting of spirits, as many of the ship's crew were getting off  to go home for a few weeks before their next spell aboard. The passengers could not wait to get off, so coming into Hamburg was very exciting...particularly when the ship practically goes through the center of the city. It was after 10 in the evening by the time we docked so it was the next day that we disembarked. Sniffer dogs did their best, and friendly customs did their jobs with a smile.
Thomas, Steve, Angie and Hubert in the engine room. Yes at long last, after hundreds of requests, we managed to see the engine room. Alas the bridge was asking too much for our Italian masters, but we were thankful to have been granted an audience in the bowls of the ship.

Awful snap....but it was amazing coming into central Hamburg in a 220 meter cargo ship
As usual farewells only heightened the emotions at the excitement of the next part of the trip, and hugs and waves saw us all going on our respective ways. Thomas's wife had come all the way over from Switzerland to surprise him at the dock side, welcoming him home after 2 years on the road.

Thus started a rather amazing 3 week ride back to London.

My immediate problem was no GPS CD with the European map had got scratched, and nothing was going to make it work. I knew Hamburg a bit and managed to find Gunterstrasse, the home of very good friends and colleagues of some 20 years standing.
Jochen, Corinna, Alex and Jessine at dinner. Dining with the Heins is always a fun and sumptuous affair, and this time we went to a fabulous place which was easily the snazziest restaurant I had been to in 2 years....a wonderful nearly welcome home.
 A late start the next day, after some business chats etc, and a ruthless abuse of their wifi to download the European can get great maps for all the world to put in your garmin GPS from here and it is a free / donate site.

All I had to do was a hundred miles to Julia's house. I had met her and her then b/f Christian in the Galapagos, and we had stayed loosely in touch, and it was perfect that it was on my way to Roscoff.

Julia kindly warming up the saddle before a 8 hour ride to Mons

I had left from Plymouth 2 years before, and it sort of made sense to try and return to the land of my fathers at the same port Batty and I had left from, which meant about a 800 mile ride across Germany, Belgium, Holland and to Roscoff in France. I was fully in home mode and just wanted to see this thing through. This rather focused mood had Batty bypassing the battlegrounds of Waterloo and Somme, which would have normally been a place to stop and pay respects at, keeping to the motorways for as much efficiency as possible. Funnily enough the great fears that had plagued the beginning of the trip,  French lorries blowing me around as they over took, no longer worried me....either they all read about my fears and gave more room, or 2 years on the road has de-sensitised me. To hell with expense and not a campsite was troubled, Ibis and F1 hotel chains were called upon.
The last night on foreign soil and I had a celebratory dinner for 1. A glass of Champagne, a plate of Fruits de Mare, and a bottle of Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie in beautiful Roscoff

With France and the world behind me....I am told that 'selfies' are all the rage and vanity has nothing to do with it... the last 5 hours on a ship.

As we came into Plymouth and approached the dock, the amazing sight of one's family behind the bars of the visitor center at the port, placards welcoming Batty home. I did not say at the time but tears were flowing shamelessly as I saw a much missed family for the first time. Probably the most emotional moments of the whole trip.
with Belinda and Kate

 Elspeth with her proud uncle
 There was quite a carry on at the port...and then after at my sister Kate's home where great foods and fizz were conjured for many hours of catch up. 

A week passed of beautiful Devon sunshine, staying with everyone in the family and then with friends as the re-integration process started. It was the softest of landings and a joyful one.

Goddaughter Romilly and her brother Tom
Goddaughter Sophie
 On the way between my sister's and brother's house, about 20 miles, I so nearly came a cropper. Pulling out of a Dartmoor high hedged lane onto a main road, the road was clear to turn left with a couple of cars coming on the other side. I started pulling out and flash, there was a car in front of my wheel, going full tilt as it over took the other. Soooooo close. That had me all of a jitter for the rest of the day. The thought of having a very serious, if not fatal accident at this stage of the trip was too ironic.

One of the qwerks of UK motoring law after a trip like vegibike, is the crime of riding on the road with no MOT....let alone tax disk. Insurance was easy to arrange over the net, so at least that was covered. So the best I could do was book an MOT with Henry, Batty's creator. It was about 100 + miles away, and there is a sort of 'grey' area that allows you to drive a vehicle to a testing station. This was just a scenic route.

For 2 days Henry laboured on Batty and out came a bike that went better than ever. A very fine mechanic and a great friend to me.

Batty with 2 younger models from Henry's workshop.
 Here is Henry's report that he wrote up on the excellent British Bulleteers Forum:

Repairs required and carried out,

Rear brake non existent, new brake shoes back plate springs,
Rear wheel bearings loose in hub, new hub fitted.
Front disc brakes not working, strip clean and replace.
New front tyre and tube. The tube in tyre must have come from a lorry as it was huge and as thick as the outer tyre, Harry says this was a South American special.
Steering head bearings replaced, as there was only a quarter of a turn of the handle bars before it all locked up
Engine removed for repairs to throttle linkage which had all worn away so only allowing half engine speed, So he had travelled the last 5000 miles at 43mph or less.
Gearbox removed as there was a hole worn in the outer case where a bolt had come loose and worn through. Case was welded up . On stripping down the gearbox, all internals were in 1st class condition with only slight wear on the main shaft bearing (both bearings replaced) New seals and gaskets, new gearchange springs , refill with grease and back into frame.
Engine replaced, alignment checked, primary drive rebuilt , run and checked ok,
Engine revs checked and found to be able to rev to 3800 rpm with a final adjustment to 3550 rpm.
Reweld rear mudguard carrier which had broken next to a previous repair.
Repairs to wiring as there was a broken earth wire to rear lights,
Then off for an MOT 1/2 later a glum faced Harry returned with a failure ticket, Headlight pattern was not correct. not sure if this was the lens or some South American headlight bulb which was fitted in the darkest Brazilian jungle, so a new lens and bulb, back for retest, on return a smiling gleefull Harry came in with a thumbs up,

I cannot recommend a bike from Henry enough...amazing commuter bikes with a lot of style, weekend pottering about...or for just  popping around the world. PricePart Motorcycles.

For last 120 miles back to London, Batty went better than at any time in the last 49,000 miles, and she was even more of a joy to ride than ever. It was raining, and the M4 was heavy with trucks and commuters. London seemed hardly to have changed, and it was only crossing Battersea Bridge where the Dyson Building for the Royal Collage of Art had lost all the scaffolding etc, that anything new struck me. 

Turning up in front of the house was a bit weird. It was 7.30 in the evening, Sally my flatmate, was out. It was wet and dull, and it felt as if I had just popped around the corner for a pint of milk. The house was pretty much exactly the same as I left it thanks to Paddy and then Sally's care.
This is a bit of a cheat reenactment of the returning moment, done the next day and taken by Jacqui my wonderful neighbour, who had done so much to keep the house in order and go through my mail, keeping things straight...a very special lady

Squeezing Batty in. Home after 2 great years. This was not reenacted.
Unpacking the bike, took a couple of minutes as usual, and then there was this sort of silence, both actual and in my head that lasted and hour or so. I guess it is a sort of shock, disbelief, and wonder at being back in one piece etc. Unlocking the small bedroom that I had decamped to a couple of months before leaving, so the other rooms could be let, was perhaps the strangest of all. It had been the room that so much of the trip had played out in my imagination, the excitement and fears. Sometimes I remembered sleeplessly thinking that I would meet my end on this trip, and what a fool I was to be even thinking about it. Other times thinking I would fall in love somewhere and not come home for that reason. Nothing like that was to happen, and all the wonderful discovery and fun that other sleepless nights conjured is how the 2 years played out.

A London pub gathering was organised by Alex a week or so after the return, and more kissing of much missed girl pals and man-hugging of dear friends happened that special night.

This blog needs to come to an end soon.  On the ship crossing the Atlantic, I mentioned writing a whole lot of thoughts and feelings, which will be posted in due course. The home coming few months seem to be as critical a part of the trip as any other. I am loving it...seeing everyone of course, but also the pleasure in returning to a life much enjoyed, but perhaps just knocked a degree or 2 in the happy, relaxed and enriched direction.
The blog has been a mostly liked discipline and occasionally disliked, but I am glad it has been kept fairly up to date, and recorded some of the highlights of the trip. In a few years from now it will remind me that such a journey did happen, and I was lucky enough to have been on it.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Last few days in Uruguay and South America, and life aboard Grande Cameroon crossing the Atlantic.

Our ship, the Grand Cameroon, was five days behind schedule. This could have been a boring delay but as it turned out it gave me an excellent opportunity to catch up with Marcus, who I had first met in Nicaragua and then again in Chile. He had made his way over to Uruguay and was converting a delightful property in the countryside near Colonia from a high quality bed-and-breakfast in to equally charming apartments. The property was owned by the Andrew and Isabel who have lived out here for many years. In fact Andrew set up his travel company 25 years ago taking Swiss and German clients on a similar trail that I have been on throughout South America. In those days there was very little tourist infrastructure and the roads were nearly all gravel. He has stopped now as the adventure of exciting and largely undiscovered lands has largely disappeared as paved roads, hotel chains and fast food outlets have spread across the continent. They settled in Uruguay, as for them it offers the best of South America in terms of everyday living security and standards.
Home gown and bottled Tannat
Between the three of them, I was treated very very well, with some fine dinners, many comforts of home and engagement in all that they were up to. The most dangerous being their own wine. Made from the local Tennat grape, which came originally from France but is now rarely used outside Uruguay. It is 16% proof and becomes more and more delicious as evening goes on. They have enough vines to harvest 250 bottles, which keeps them and their friends happy throughout the year.

One day we went to a barbecue, held on a beach nearby. It was a public holiday and this was a community gathering which involved the roasting of a whole cow. This was fun, but not as much fun as a ride in the back of Andy's 1926 Model T Ford pick up for the 5kms down to the said BBQ. Restoring old cars is a national habit and one Andy enjoys a great deal… Fantasising about driving his Ford back to Detroit where it was made one day.… Boys and their dreams!

Andy in his Ford

Markus, Isabel, Andy & H
After three very happy days I went back to Montevideo, a four hour ride. There the news was that the ship was another day delayed. Sean, of fame, and Taka were in town for a few days. Not only did they want to visit the town but like thousands of other people in Buenos Aires, they took  the three hour ferry across the River Plate to Montevideo to get out lots of US dollars. Dollars can be converted on the black market in Argentina to go twice as far as the official rate. In the two months that I've been in the vicinity, the black market rate has changed from seven Argentinian pesos, to 10, the official rate is five. Apologies, a slight diversion onto a subject that is the hot topic of the region, prompting speculation about the outcome of the current Argentinian government.

Ever the enthusiasts, Sean suggested going to a football match. Something I've never done before and happily signed up for. The match was the finale of the local derby between two arch rivals; Nacional and Penarol. This annual match was in the same grounds that the first ever World Cup was held back in 1930 called the Centenario. It was probably like going to a Manchester United vs Man City game. The guys who organised the trip were National fans, so we wore blue, not yellow, and were funnelled to one end of the stadium. Tens of thousands of people hugely excited about the game converged, revved up by cheerleaders and an insane amount of fireworks. Unfortunately our team, who were said to be the favourites, were squarely beaten four - zero. Possibly the sun shining directly into their eyes may have hindered them, but what the experience lacked in footballing prowess, was more than made up by frenzied and electric atmosphere generated by the fans.
Some fans being frisked by the police

Taka, H and Sean fine dining.
2 days later we eventually got on board. There are two other bikers, Steve and Wayne, from Switzerland and Rhodesia(he left when it became Zimbabwe), Thomas from Switzerland in a four-wheel-drive, Hubbert and Anji from Germany in their Land Rover, and Evi and Jean Carlos from Italy in their camper van.

Nervous excitement was how I felt coming on board, for the beginning of a 3 week voyage to Hamburg, Germany. I had been anticipating this near final leg of the journey a great deal. Alas this feeling dissipated rather rapidly as there was little sense of welcome or engagement from the crew. Whilst polite it was quickly apparent that this was a working ship and passengers were there as a very minor part of the ship's purpose. We were shown our windowless cabins, perfectly comfortable in a utilitarian way, told that breakfast was between seven and nine, lunch at 12, and dinner at six. And that was about it. We were left to find our own way around. This did irk us all, feeling like unwanted guests was not what I had understood from others who had raved about these trips, who had had been given quite a free rein in terms of visiting the bridge, seeing the engines and generally interacting with the crew etc. However after a couple of days it was clear that this was not going to be the case, so we just had to accept it. Language was probably the main reason, as the crew is largely Italian, and their English pretty basic. Apart from Wayne, the other passenger's English was pretty limited, making conversations fairly basic and general. That said we seem to get along alright in the main and have enjoyed quite a few laughs.
The wide angle did not capture the 220m length of this monster

Batty strapped down for the voyage
For several months, knowing that there was going to be a prolonged period at sea of about 3 weeks, I had conjuring that it would be a perfect time to pull together the blog with some additional writing efforts and produce some sort of printable account. The first few days at sea had me reading through two years of blog. Respect for friends and family who laboured  through the shocking English and muddled stories has grown all the more, whilst utterly understanding any who have found more interesting things to occupy their time, I know I would have.

As a result of this re-reading, for the moment I think that it is not a particularly extraordinary story, nor one I have the skill or wit to make into one. There are many very well told accounts of great journeys around the world on motorcycles, and if anyone is particularly interested in Batty's journey, they have the blog to wade through.

That all said, I have been writing a fair amount as a sort of summary/conclusion of the last two years, and in fact I'm grateful for the near prison like isolation the ship has given to do that. In the fullness of time I suppose I will put them on the site, but may wait till the perspective of a few months at home before doing so.
The cell

Ship's graveyard outside Montevideo

The top deck that took about 3 minutes to walk around...depending on the route
 Life on board has a routine that starts at 7:30 AM when my alarm clock goes off, no windows making this a necessity. Some press ups (40..just, and not very low ones), then breakfast after a shower, followed by an hour and a half walking round the deck listening to an audiobook, which is currently the "The First American", a biography of Benjamin Franklin, what an accomplished man in so many areas. Then a couple of hours either writing, reading, listening or talking before lunch, which always include a lot of pasta. Then maybe a siesta, a matinee film to watch, some work bits and pieces, or more reading and writing. Then another hour or two walking around the deck to combat the pasta. I have played ping-pong a bit with Thomas as a alternative time filling fun.  Dinner is another 4-5 course Italian belt challenging spread..very tasty by and large….prepared by the larger than life character of Guiseppe, and served by the friendly and hard working steward called Dominico, who also makes our beds and cleans all the living quarters. There are some card games played, but the evenings have mostly been reading or watching films.
The Captain said that they would do something to celebrate crossing the equator...he did not, but the passengers managed a glass of wine

One evening there was a BBQ for the ships company, but not a party to write home about...
So far, after 2 and a half weeks,  the sea has been very flat, and we do about 20 knots, covering about 450 miles in 24 hrs. However we are approaching the Bay of Biscay and the seas are mounting…we have not been told how high it will get, but when one is a huge 220 metre long machine, carrying thousands of tons of cargo, I am sure it helps to flatten the worst of it. We have had three celebrations so far, 2 birthdays and crossing the equator. All involved one bottle of wine between the eight passengers. A rather dry ship.

Amazingly after 2 and a half weeks we have still had no safety drill whatsoever...

We have been able to get off the ship twice, once in Brazil for about four hours at a port called Vitoria, and then seven days later at Dakar in Senegal. Good to touch land, but not long enough to do much other than grab something to eat and connect to the Internet for email etc. A few flying fish and one family of Dolphins have been spotted on the whole trip, along with a few companionable gulls, but no albatross sadly. It has been a fascinating exposure to commercial shipping, and one I would have loved to have had the opportunity to find out more from the crew, but it was not to be. Sometimes we see loads of other ships, as far as the eye can see, mainly near the ports we are heading to. In mid Atlantic several days pasted without anything on the huge 360 degree horizon.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Rio, Sao Paulo, Uruguay

The ride to Rio de Janeiro was the best part of a 1000 miles, and all but the last 200 were pan flat. The road was lined by hundreds and hundreds of miles of sugarcane, in fields stretching beyond the horizon. I had witnessed what I thought to be large-scale sugarcane farming in Queensland, Australia, but by comparison it was like a small holding. Ethanol is on sale everywhere in the fuel stations as a petrol alternative and I believe up to 20% of normal petrol sold here has ethanol in it. So it represents an important part of the economy.
I rather forgot to take photos of the flat lands, but remembered to start again up in the hills...I found this chap enjoying the view and had a bit of a chat.

A friendly gang of bikers on their way to a bike gathering outside Rio...they kindly asked me along, but my plans were in place

The rights and wrongs of this are complex. On one hand the use of largely carbon neutral fuel is a huge positive, which combined with a near 90% of all electrical generation being provided by hydro and great efforts to recycle makes it probably one of the world's more environmental practitioners in terms of energy pollution, it is counter balanced by ferocious deforestation. Although on the decline through tightening enforcement, it is still destroying hundreds of thousands of acres per year with the potentially frightening global climate changing consequences.

The anticipation of visiting Rio has been long acute. I guess it conjured up a heady blend of excitement and romance. True enough, riding into town one quickly notices the extraordinary natural setting of bays, sheer mountains and extraordinary beaches. It was the capital for a long time so there are many historical buildings going back to the foundations of the country, contrasted by sharp new office towers.

In side the City Library...for some reason I hardly took any snaps of the older parts of town...probably too engrossed in the story of the city

War memorials

These stairs have had tiles sent to the creator from all over the world. Typical of much of the colour and energy of the place.
My purpose, beyond seeing the city, was to meet one of our artists, Michel Cox. He had joined us since I'd been away, so it was good to meet him and his team. We had a very enjoyable and fascinating lunch together. His success as an artist in Brazil and our hopes for expanding that around the world was part of our chat, the other being the possibilities of setting up a branch of the agency in São Paulo. This was an idea he had a great deal of useful thoughts on, so it will be interesting to see how it develops. I was due to go to São Paulo the following week, so I was all the more prepared.

This was about the first city I had been to in South America that did not have various "free" walking tours available, so I got in touch with a fee-based one. I turned out to be the only client and had the delights of Luciana all to myself. Great in terms of undiluted and undisturbed immersion in the tour, but the bonus of meeting other travellers denied.

Being alone in a city, for me, is not the greatest fun, particularly of an evening. I was offered cocaine and hash as soon as I set foot outside the rather rundown hotel I was in, and although in a party central area, it did not entice me to find any. Language, shyness and age being the main reasons.

Copacabana Beach. I know it should be of lots of Bikini clad beauties...but there where disappointingly few...mid week and out of season I guess

I made two attempts to go up to the mighty "Christ the Redeemer", that famous statue of Christ, arms held wide, looking down over the city. The first time the train was not running so I went back to the hotel and jumped on Batty, programming the GPS to get me there. It was a great journey climbing up through cooling and finer ancient streets of the city. As I approached the summit it became all too apparent that the threatening clouds had got to the top of the mountain before me, and the ticket clerk for the final ascent more than fairly refused to take my money. Hope on the next two mornings of finally getting there were dashed for the same reason. Though a disappointment, I still saw some amazing views from the trip up.

Christ the Redeemer looking down over the city. I was in the park fronting the beach
When I've remembered, I have tried to get a film to watch pertinent to a place I'm in. For Rio, it was a favourite Michael Caine film called "Blame it on Rio", Acapulco was "Buster" with Phil Collins, and now that I am in Uruguay "Battle of the River Plate" awaits viewing.

São Paulo was a two day ride and about half way is the seaside resort of Ubatuba, I was probably the only tourist in place, now that it was 3 months passed the season, even the camping sites were closed. The only reason really for mentioning the place was that the next day, on the ride out of town I came across a large crowd of people around a stationary lorry, practically blocking the road. As I edged past I saw a mangled up motorbike under one of the axles and I'm afraid a pair of feet poking out from a bloody tarpaulin. The police had arrived by the time I passed, but the dismay and horror of the crowd was very infectious. I imagine it was a local girl somehow caught up in a careless manoeuvre on either her part or the lorry drivers. This was the second death that I had witnessed on the road, the previous one being in Honduras.

 São Paulo is home to between 18 and 40 million people, depending on who you talk to and what area they designate the city by. Either way it is one of the world's largest and tower blocks stretch beyond all horizons, making New York almost village like. I was only there for a couple of days of sightseeing and it took nearly another getting in and out. I had wanted to feel the place from a commercial point of view, which left no illusion as to it's wealth and sophistication. Alas there is a sizable number of homeless who scatter themselves underneath many of the cities' road bridges in houses of cardboard and salvaged materials, not making trouble, but in search of dreams by and large. A place of huge contrasts. The subway/underground system is very modern and efficient, and being added to all the time in preparation for the Olympics and the World Cup.

It rained a lot when I was there...a quick snap of some of the others on the tour...
Rawdon, my brother-in-law, had been in contact with a couple of fanatical windsurfers in their successful combined international pressure to retain windsurfing as an Olympic sport. He had introduced them via Facebook and very generously Kasuo blindly invited me over for dinner with his family along with fellow windsurfers, Raul and Fernando.  Apparently Kasuo's wife had asked him if he knew me, and was I a Hell's Angel?  He did not have an answer, but maybe it was relief mixed in with the big welcome that I saw in their faces when I walked out of the lift. They live in a smart part of town, and 22 storeys up in a very new apartment block….the warm welcome and fabulous views overcame my wobbly height-fearing legs and we had a great evening, ending with Raul insisting on driving me the 30 minutes back to my dodgy hotel, before he headed home, an hour and half away.

Raul, Filipe, H, and Fernando

The view from Kasuo's apartment

Kasuo, making a photo shoot of Batty the next day infront of the Pioneers sculpture

The next week was largely taken up with work things, and housed myself in the pretty seaside village of Praia do Rosa. Again I was alone in the hotel for much of the time, and had excellent wifi connections for our 5 hour video conference call. We worked through all that had happened over the last quarter, and the plans for the next. As ever the energy and enthusiasm of the business goes on unabated, and my return all the more excites…for me that is.
In the office
 You may have noticed no comment had been made about Batty so far on this post. All the way across the country and down into Rio de Janeiro all had been going fine and apart from the odd adjustment to a cable or some such, it had been a very smooth run. I had noticed it and had rather optimistically thought that she knew she was on her way home, and did not want to cause any trouble. By and large this remains the case, however since I had put on a cheap rear tyre early on in Brazil, punctures had started being a regular occurrence. These gave cause for greater interaction with my host population than practically anything else. Two occurred on the trip between Rio and São Paulo and both were readily and easily solved either by being bang next to a Gomaria, the tyre fixers, or by my old friends the road rescue crews that patrol the main roads (tolled).
Not the best example, but the whole of South America honor their dead most elaborately. In Brazil there are often what I first took to be beautifully kept cottages, housing their forebears.

I got bored of the flat coast road and found some beautiful gravel roads up into the hills

Only trouble was that I got a puncture, the policeman pictured with this family, found me and asked the family if they could look after the bike, whilst he took me a couple of miles down the road to get it fixed. When we got back, they had lunch prepared and insisted that I join them...a puncture well worth having.


A beautiful camp spot, but pretty cool after dark

Such had the daily disintegration of the kevlar bike trousers, that I found some material in Sao Paulo and did a perfectly awful job of patching them...but it works.

2 more punctures complicated the next couple of days. The last one, on the final leg to Uruguay was 70 miles from a town, in a National Park region. The rear tyre had disintegrated and there was no way to fix it…off came the wheel (now only taking a minute or 2) and I locked up the bike as best I could and raised my thumb for a ride.
The end of the road for this tyre.

Batty all locked up. taken from across the road as I started trying to hitch.
A local farmer stopped and called the police for help. He advised me to stay with the bike and the police would be along in and hour…'mas o minus'. Having taken the opportunity to fix a few niggles on the bike, oiled the chain, topped up the gearbox oil etc, the  2 and a half hours until they came seemed to go quite quickly. After the obligatory documents check, they set about helping me. They called up a local park warden to come along with his trailer so that they could safely store the bike, whilst they loaded me and the wheel in the back of the car and took me the 70 miles to town. It was a journey that was to take me 2 hours later that evening, but they did it in 50 minutes. It was a unique experience to be above the law, with the law, as they drove at 90-100 miles an hour along 40-60 mile an hour restricted roads. The local Honda dealer fitted a new Pirelli tyre, pointing out that the old one was a poorly done retread….I had thought £30 was a bargain at the time.
My Police best friends. Isnar is on the left and I think Juan. International relations at it's finest.
 The 2 police officers had by this time become very friendly and conversing with a bit of school room English and Spanish, we had a great old time of it. They flagged down a lorry and instructed the somewhat bemused driver, Marcello, to take this luckless English man back to the park rangers, which he kindly did. This whole experience was very much in tune with how the people of Brazil have treated me…with generosity and kindness, and my appreciation of the country is very high.

Despite Brazil being the last country to ban slavery in the 1890s, there is hardly any racism and people from the world over happily mingle and prosper (by and large) harmoniously together as any society I have witnessed. That is not to say they don't have issues that flair up from time to time, and corruption within government selfishly rotting away the opportunities of many.  Nevertheless Brazil's rapidly rising wealth and influence in the world should benefit the whole region, whilst bringing flare and colour to the world's high table.

Reimon and I had met in Buenos Aires, by introduction of Fabiana, and he had kindly said we should meet at the Brazil/Uruguay border town of Chuy. Sure enough there he was on his new Royal Enfield at the appointed hour and place. South we drove for a couple of hours or so to his summer house on the coast at Jose Ignacio. I write from there, enjoying homely comfort and good company before heading onto Montevideo.
With Reimon, a man who makes his 61 years seem many decades in the future
Outside a local RE dealership, that only opens for the summer time trade
At Punte del Este on our way to lunch with a pal of his called Sergio. They are both in the paper business as sort of friendly rivals, both now single, and both having a ball.
Why can't their be more fun bridges in the world. These are such fun, and give the place an extra dimension. I am sure it puts a smile on the face of everyone crossing it...everytime.
The good ship Grande Cameroon is the vessel assigned to ferry Batty and self to Europe. The times and options for disembarkation ports are changing by the day, with the options shrinking to Antwerp or Hamburg, at the last count. I guess it will continue to evolve over the voyage, so have adopted a relaxed and philosophical attitude…whatever the route, it is all part of the trip and will be fun and fascinating.