Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Barra do Chui, RS, Barra do Chuy, Uruguay, Fortin de San Martin, Uruguay, mile 964, December 8, 2010

Greetings from Chuy, still. The wind arrived from the southwest as promised, and it was howling. Since I needed to wash clothes anyway, this seemed a good excuse to stay in Chuy for a day. I wandered out into the street this morning, and headed to the tourist office, where I got a couple of very useful maps, for free. From there, I headed up to the exchange house, and discovered that the Dollar had moved 10 Centesimos in my favor overnight, to U$19.60. I took five $100 bills from my belt, and turned them into U$9,800 Pesos, and then turned R$40 that I still had into an additional U$440. I then wandered across the street into Brazil and bought another mini-Coke using Real coins that were burning a hole in my pocket.

Returning to my hotel, I commenced whining to the owner about how the weak dollar was burning through my money, and could she please help out a poor tourist with a break on the price of a second night? To my surprise, she did, knocking 200 Pesos off the price. I then went up to my room, and laboriously folded five 1,000 Peso bills (Uruguayan currency is MUCH bigger than American currency; the things all stick half an inch above the top of my wallet.) and put them back into my belt. I am carrying, literally, a couple months salary at the minimum wage, and it would not do to keep it all in one place. I then handed over my dirty clothes, removed the saddlebags from my bike, and went out to take a ride.

Since the wind was blasting from SW to NE, I decided to go perpindicular to it. First I rode back into Rio Grande do Sul, and then headed southeast on RS 669 five miles to Barra do Chui, which is a little beach resort and is the absolutely southernmost spot in all of Brazil. On the way, I used the last of my Real coins for another Coke and a bottle of water. Arriving at the water, I took a few pictures, looked around at all the closed businesses (Nothing will open until Christmas.), and then rode south towards the "International Bridge", which sounds impressive, but is really a decrepit piece of concrete over a ditch full of trash. I rode past a very boring looking Uruguayan Navy base, and then got on a nameless Uruguayan road and rode the five miles or so back to Uruguay Route 9, where I turned right and got the full force of the wind in my back. With no saddlebags, I did 25 MPH for about three miles until I hit the immigration station, where I stopped and had them stamp my passport; I has spent the previous night as, officially, an unperson, since I was no longer legally in Brazil, but had not legally entered Uruguay either. As I was riding up Rt. 9, I was glad I was not heading in the other direction, that wind was impressive.

Having my passport stamped, I headed back into town, and decided to ride to the Fuerte San Miguel, which is an 18th century fortress standing to the west of town. I rode west through town on Ave Brasil, until it ended and became Uruguay 19, which headed straight west about ten feet south of the border. Something very curious that I noted is that, on the Brazilian side, were, from time to time, houses who`s driveways fronted onto Rt 19; they HAVE to go through Uruguay to get home. I wonder what they do if someone is breaking in and they call the Brigada Militar; can the BM people drive through Uruguay, armed, to get there? Would the Uruguayan police respond if they saw something bad going down? Who knows.

After about five miles, I came to the entrance to the fort, paid 15 Pesos to the very bored looking soldier at the entrance, and got him to promise to watch my bike, and went in. It is a generic 200 year old fort, and looks very much like Fort Washington on the Potomic below DC. Inside were interesting exhibits, but, once you have seen one of these forts, you have seen them all. I looked around for 15 minutes or so, and, since I was getting very thirsty (The water bottle was long gone, and nothing was for sale there.), headed back to Chuy.

Getting into Chuy, I stopped into a gas station on the Brazilian side for a Coke, which I paid for with Pesos. Boy did it taste good. I then went back to the hotel, took a nap and a shower, waking up just before 5PM in time to go running to the ANTEL (Uruguayan government owned-and-misrun phone company) store for a phone card. I was tempted to visit the slot machines in the Uruguayan casino in town, but decided I would be better off just flushing my money down the toilet.

Tomorrow, the wind is supposed to shift a bit in my favor, and I will move on, further into Uruguay.

For what it is worth, I was in Brazil for 24 days. During that time, I rode my bike 941 miles, broken down like this:

Parana: 160 Miles (This seems like a LONG time ago...)
Santa Catarina: 376 Miles (I thought this state would never end...)
Rio Grande do Sul: 405 Miles

In those 24 days, I managed to spend R$2,833, which is an average of R$118 a day, or just about US $69 a day. Factor out unexpected (and unwanted) bike maintence expenses, and I am under R$110 a day, which is not too far off my goal of 100 Reais a day. I have set a goal in Uruguay of a thousand Pesos a day, about 51 Dollars.

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