Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chuy, Uruguay, Mile 932, December, 7, 2010

Greetings from Chuy, Uruguay, which is across the street (literally) from Chui, Rio Grande do Sul. I rode a total of 53 miles today, and how I ended up HERE is interesting.

I woke up this morning in Pelotas about 9AM, having slept ten and a half hours; I was absolutely exhausted last night. After eating a slice of bread and some orange juice, and stealing a couple of apples for later, I went to the hotel`s garage to retrieve my bike. Being the non-trusting type that I am, I had chained the bike to an electrical cable the night before, figuring that anyone who tried to steal it would probably electrocute themselves. The chain I used I bought three years ago, and set the combination myself, using my birthday, so I would not forget it.

It would not open.

I tried again. No luck. I mixed up the numbers, and then tried again. Nada. Figuring that maybe I was seeing it wrong, I went and turned on all the lights, and tried again. Zilch. I started to get uptight, because it was getting on towards 10AM, and I was going nowhere fast. My plan was to ride to Rio Branco, Uruguay, which was 90 miles. I went and informed management of my little problem, and one of their minions spent half an hour or so looking for a pair of bolt cutters. When he finally found them, they would not cut. My bike chain was specially made of thin wires rolled into thicker cables, rolled into one very thick cable, especially to defeat bolt cutters.

It functioned as promised; everytime I would squeeze on the bolt cutters, the wires would all flatten out, but they would not cut. So, the minion went off and found a hacksaw blade, and spent a quarter hour cutting through the lock. I was VERY happy to have that problem solved, and gave him 20 Reais for his troubles. It was now past 11AM in the morning, and at this point I faced the very real threat of getting caught out on the highway after dark if I headed for Rio Branco. However, waiting a day was not an option, because the winds for tomorrow are supposed to turn around and blow out of the South South West (Exactly the direction I would have headed) at 20 MPH. I am not doing that for 90 miles.

So, I changed plans. Instead of heading southwest to Rio Branco, I headed east on BR 392 towards the town of Rio Grande, 35 miles away. Rio Grande is home of something called the Super Porto, a huge port and rail complex. I spent three and a half hours battling a head wind, and arrived dead tired at about 2:45. On a whim, I rode to the Rodoviaria (Bus Station). From Rio Grande, it would be a 130 mile ride to Santa Victoria do Palmar, with NOTHING in between. Obviously, at 2:45, I was not going to ride that distance. Equally obviously, if the wind performs as promised tomorrow, it wasn`t going to happen then either. So, to my pleasant surprise, I found a bus ticket to Santa Victoria leaving at 3:30. I bought it, and had no arguments from the bus driver about loading my bike into the baggage section below the bus.

Santa Victoria is about 15 miles north of the border at Chuy. I arrived at about 7PM, and, since it does not get dark in these parts until almost 9PM, grabbed the bike and headed south, on BR 471. I had the wind to my rear, and flew along, arriving 45 minutes later at the Brazilian immigration station a couple of miles north of town, where I stopped, turned in my I-94 equivalent, and had them stamp my passport. I then rode into Chui, Rio Grande do Sul.

The Brazilian/Uruguayan border is unlike anything you will ever see in the United States. It is completely open, with no impediments to crossing anywhere. This creates what amount to international cities, the biggest one being the conglamoration of Rivera Uruguay and Santana do Livramento, RS, about 200 miles west of here, which has a population of over 100,000. The two Chuys don`t come anywhere close to those numbers; there might be 5,000 people living here, but they are basically ONE city, albeit with two mayors, two police forces, and two different national phone services. The south side of the main street here is called "Avenida Brasil", and it is in Uruguay. If you get to the middle of the street, its name changes to "Avenida Uruguai", and it is in Brazil. All the good restuarants are on Ave. Brasil, because some years ago fundamentalist got elected Prefeito of Chui, RS, and made it very dificult to sell alcohol on that side of town. Ave Uruguai is populated with pharmacies and stores selling auto parts. As I was eating, on the outside terrace of a steak place on Ave. Brasil, I watched people parking RS plated vehicles in Uruguay, and then walk back into Chui. These are people who have "issues" with their registration, and do not want a Brazilian tow truck hauling their car off to the Brazilian impound lot while they sleep.

I rode into town, hunted up an Uruguayan ATM machine (The last thing I wanted was to accidentally get more Brazilian currency), and rode past a closed, since it was late, exchange house. I almost had a heart attack. The dollar is at U$19.50. Once upon a time, it was over U$30. Prices are still cheaper, although not much, than in Brazil, but this devaluation of the Dollar is killing me. Getting into my hotel, I took a much needed shower, and headed out. First stop was the pharmacies on the Brazilian side, to stand on the scales. I did my usual three scales (in case one is wrong), and found that I weigh 192.25 pounds, fully clothed. I am now off over 15 pounds, plus the weight of my clothes, from when I started. This weight loss manifested itself in a funny weigh in the bus station in Rio Grande; having bought my ticket wearing bike shorts, I went out to the bike and grabbed my normal shorts, and put them on over my bike shorts, then retrieved my belt from my long pants, and walked into the men`s room to put it on. My pants fell down on the way in, like I was one of those thug-life gangsters you see in North East.

My hotel is on the main Plaza of Chuy, and I discovered a (closed) tourist office, where I am going to try to get a free map of Uruguay tomorrow. (My excellent map of Uruguay is sitting at home, taped to my wall. That is a really useful place for it...) Depending on what the wind does, I may stay here a day, or I may move on.

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