Greetings from Torres, where I was treated to an illuminative lightening storm last night, and it has continued raining on and off all day today. Luckily, it is supposed to be sunny and in the 80s for the rest of the week. Today was relaxing, and it was nice to be off the bike for the day.
Here is an excellent map of Rio Grande do Sul, which will serve to explain what I am talking about below:
This morning, I got a piece of very good news. I wandered down town with my map to the tourist office, and talked to the very nice girl inside for a while. She informed me that, contrary to what my map shows, BR-101 is paved all the way to Sao Jose do Norte, AND there is ferry service from Sao Jose to Rio Grande, AND I should be able to find a bottom-end hotel in Mostardas or Tavares, halfway down the peninsula. It is about 225 miles from here to Sao Jose do Norte, and I should be able to do that in three days, if the wind is right. Assuming it stops raining, I will be on my way tomorrow.
On another happy note, since this is a major tourist spot, I actually found a money exchange place this morning, and was able to exchange $340 at R$1.70 to one. That should, with luck, be enough to get me out of Brazil, and means I am not carrying so much cash around with me.
Next to the money exchange place, I bought the local paper (for 75¢), and walked to the beach where I found a little place that sold me a Coke and a ¨pastelzinho¨, which is what the Brazilians call empanadas. Looking through the paper, I found a little one paragraph piece on a ¨truck accident¨ Sunday morning on BR-101 in Santa Catarina, near the municipio of Ararangua. The paper reported that one of the drivers died, which, considering the shape of the cab I saw, and the PRF cop´s reaction, surprised me not a bit. Too bad for him.
I then walked all the way to the end of the 3,200 meter boardwalk, and came to the Rio Mampituba, which is the border with Santa Catarina. On the other side was Paso de Torres. I then walked back to the hotel, got my book and read for a while, and, taking advantage of another break in the rain, got out my bike and rode around through town. To my immense disgust, I discovered a bridge over the Mampituba, which led into Paso de Torres. Had I known that such a bridge existed (it does NOT appear on my map), I would have ridden into Paso de Torres yesterday, and gotten off the BR-101 a few miles early. I then found another bridge, made of rope and for pedestrians only, and walked the bike back across it. I got back to the hotel shortly before the skies opened up again.
I also went to three pharmacies this morning, and stood on three different scales (In case one was wrong.) All of them showed me, dressed in shorts and tennis shoes, to weigh 90 kilos, which is 198 pounds. When I weighed myself at home, the morning before my last day at school, I weighed (sans shorts and shoes) 208 pounds. Take into account the clothes, and I have lost just about 12 pounds over the last two weeks. It is amazing what the combination of lots of exercise, eating right, and not drinking any beer can do to one´s weight.
The chaos in Rio, by the way, seems to have died down. The PMs and Army invaded and took control of a huge slum called the ¨Complexo do Alemao¨ on Saturday, and the paper had a picture of them planting a Brazilian flag on the very top of the slum, like it was the capture of Iwo Jima. Resistance was said to be ¨less than expected¨ which, this being Brazil, makes me suspect some kind of a deal was worked out with the traffickers. Who know...
More will follow...