Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Uniao da Victoria, Parana/Porto Uniao, Santa Catarina, mile 160, Nov 18, 2010

Greetings again, today from the twin cities of Uniao da Victoria and Porto Uniao, which together sprawl across the Parana/Santa Catarina state line.  I rode in 54 miles from Sao Mateus do Sul, and it was absolutely no fun at all.  Three things combined to make today less than pleasant.  1.)  There were more hills, and they were steeper.  2.)  A strong headwind blew all day out of the west.  and, 3.) The shoulder on the side of the road is deteriorating the further west I go.  As a result of all this, it took me six and a half hours to go 54 miles today.

I headed out this morning at about 10:00; I had to wait for my clothes to get done being washed by the people at the hotel.  I rode a mile or so through town, and got onto BR 476 at Km Post 278.  Immediately I climbed up a couple hundred feet, but no big deal.  The first seven or eight miles passed by quickly.  Then, the paved shoulder deteriorated.  While it still remained paved, it looked like it had not been maintained in a couple of decades or so.  This is very bad, because when a truck is overtaking me, I have to get off the road, and, while this is no big deal if I am CLIMBING a hill, it kills all of my momentum if I am coming down the other side.  I did not ride the bike above 10mph on the shoulder today because I was worried about either a flat tire (bad) or a broken spoke (far worse).  Luckily, neither occurred, today.  Meanwhile, a headwind sprang up, which made things even more fun.

At about 20 miles out of S. Mateus, I came to a roadblock; they are repaving a segment of the highway, and have about a three mile stretch of only one lane.  I rode to the front of the line of cars, and the flagmen looked at me like I had just landed from Mars.  We spent a good ten minutes discussing my trip, and they were quite interested.  Once I got through the one lane section, there was a five mile or so stretch that had already been worked on and was in excellent shape.  Then the highway reverted to form.

About ten miles out from Uniao da Victoria, a MAJOR climb took me from 2,500 feet up to 2,950.  At the top of this, and five hours plus into my ride, I got into my camelback for my bottle of frozen water, and there was still a cylinder of ice floating in it.  That impressed me.  Unfortunately, I cannot drink ice, but there was a little store selling Cokes up there too, so I got one.  I should have then come roaring down the other side of the hill at 35 MPH, but instead, I coasted slowly down the shoulder.  The process then repeated itself, and back up to 2,800 feet I went, before finally descending to a gas station that marks the cut off for BR-163, which heads further west.

A mile or so after the cutoff, BR 476 ended, at a bridge over the Iguacu River.  I had no idea the river came this far east.  I then passed Km Post 363, which marks the end of BR 476, and rode into U. da Victoria, and, in looking for a hotel, apparently spent some time in Santa Catarina too.  I found a basic but cheap place for R$35, and will spend the night in Parana once again.  Once I paid off the hotel, I was down to R$50 or so, and I went out and found a Bradesco Bank, which accepts American ATM cards, and pulled out 500 more.  I am lugging around a thousand dollars or so in my money belt, but no one wants to exchange foreign currency in these out of the way towns in the interior. 

I now have a decision to make.  I am not happy with the state of the highways, and I am informed that BR 163 gets significantly worse past General Carneiro, 25 miles further west of here.  I could go straight south, but that is a Santa Catarina state highway, and who knows what shape it is in.  (I am going to ask.)  I went to the bus station, and there is a bus leaving tomorrow for Frederico Westphalen, Rio Grande do Sul, at 4 in the afternoon, but they acted like idiots when I mentioned that I have a bicycle.  Depending on the results of my investigations, I may ride south into Santa Catarina tomorrow (Calmon, SC, is about 40 miles south of here.) or I may just show up at the bus station with my bike and try to bluster my way on.  I have ridden busses in Brazil before with the bike, and never had a problem.  (The knucklehead at the counter insisted that I would need to box it.  Where am I going to get a bike box?)  From F. Westphalen, if I go there, I can continue south in Rio Grande do Sul, if the roads are good, and head for Uruguay, or, if the roads are not good, I could probably get a second bus to Livramento, on the Uruguayan border, and continue my journey in Uruguay, where the roads are wide, shoulders are good, and trucks are almost non existent.

I have no idea right now where I will be writing from tomorrow.

Uniao da Victoria and Porto Uniao are, by the way, very much larger than Lapa or S. Mateus, where I stayed previously.  There is quite a bit of movement in the downtown area.  Unfortunately, they are not big enough, apparently, to warrant NEXTEL coverage.  O well.  On the plus side, there is an old train station with a WOOD BURNING steam locomotive parked in it.  It does not look like it has moved anywhere in a while, sadly.

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