Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Lapa, Parana, Brazil, day 2, mile 50 November 15, 2010
My latest bike trip has begun. I did not write anything yesterday because it was a Sunday before a holiday, and nothing was open.
I flew out of LA on Saturday, and after a stop in Chicago, arrived in Sao Paulo yesterday about 11 in the morning. I was through customs very fast, the only question being ¨How old is your bike¨, to which I responded that it was very old indeed, and couldn´t possibly be worth enough to warrant any import tax payment. (I bought it in March.) I then had a 3:30 connection on TAM to Curitiba, and, when I got to the TAM counter, 12:45, I asked if, by chance, there were any earlier flights, and, if so, could I get on one. There were, and I could, and the girl shifted my ticket to a 1:40 flight. There was no charge for this, which contrasts nicely to the idiots at Southwest earlier this year who would not let me board an empty flight from San Francisco to San Diego that left an hour before my scheduled flight without paying $250 to change my ticket. I then ran to an ATM to withdraw some Brazilian currency, and went through security (and, no, I did not take my shoes off or get groped by any TSA agents.) Curitiba is only 250 miles from Sao Paulo, and I spent more time in the plane taxiing to and from take off and landing than I actually did in the air.
Upon landing in Curitiba, I spent half an hour or so in the terminal putting my bike back together, and then ran into the mens room and put my bike shorts on, at which point, about 3:30, I headed out onto the road.
I chose not to head into Curitiba proper (The airport is to the south of the city.), because it was a holiday weekend (Today is the ¨Day of the Republic¨, and I figured nothing interesting would be open. Instead, I headed south and west, and rode 15 miles or so to the start of highway BR-476, where I found a hotel and a restaurant, and stopped for the night. I slept very little, courtesy of crying babies, on the flight to Sao Paulo, so, upon eating, I ended up sleeping for almost 12 hours. This morning, I got up, goofed off for a while, and at about 10, set of heading west towards the town of Lapa. The first few miles, traffic was very heavy, as I was still in the (outer) Curitiba urban area. After an hour or so, things turned rural, the four lane divided highway narrowed down to two, and the highway headed through some beautiful scenery that reminded me of farmland in Pennsylvania. It also started going through some hills, which made for fast descents, and then slow, low gear, climbs back up the other side. As someone who has ridden the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive, I was not particularly impressed, but I did get in some good climbs today. I passed through the little towns of Araucuaria and Contenda, crossed the border into the ¨Municipio¨(county) of Lapa, rode through a toll plaza (They did not charge me.) and eventually hit the turn off for the town of Lapa. Lapa is home to the ¨15th Field Artillery Group (Self-Propelled)¨, and there is an enormous cannon, probably of World War II vintage, pointing down the road into town.
I got a reasonably priced hotel and took a shower. Taking a shower was interesting. There is no hot water heater, rather, there is an element attached to the nozzle of the shower. Three wires run from this element into the wall. If you turn it on, the water is scalding. If you turn it off, the water is freezing. If you or the water touches the wires, you will probably die. My shower was interesting. I then headed out and found this internet place in the bus station.
I have found a good page with a map of where I am going (at least for as long as I stay in the area of this particular private highway operator).
As you can see, Curitiba is in the bottom right, and I rode out BR-476 to Lapa today. Tomorrow I plan to continue on to Sao Mateus do Sul, which is in the bottom middle of the map and is 52 or 53 miles away from here.
I am getting absolutely slammed by the dollar exchange rate. Brazil is most definitely NOT in any kind of recession, and interest rates are very high. This has caused the Real to appreciate against the Dollar to the rate of R$1.7 to the dollar. Seven years ago, it was nearly R$4 to One. Brazilian inflation is low (As someone who lived here when it was in the tens of thousands of percent per year, I never thought I would say that.), but prices are somewhat higher than I remember them in 2007, the last time I was here. My goal is to spend no more than R$100 a day (about $60); we shall see if I can stick to that. Changes from 2007 also include the introduction of a new 100 Real note, and the withdrawal of the 1 Real bill, and its replacement with a coin. The one Centavo coin seems to have disappeared also; I have not seen one yet anyway.
That is all for today.