Saturday, December 4, 2010

Porto Alegre, RS, Mile 716 December 4, 2010

Here I am in Porto Alegre, again. This morning, I was all ready to head out, and, when I went to re-attach my saddlebags (panniers), the left saddlebag fell apart. The two hooks that attach it to the luggage rack on the rear of my bike ripped out, and I was left holding them, some fabric, and looking at my saddlebag looking up at me from the floor, where it had fallen. In disgust, I went downstairs and told them to hold my room for me.

So, it was back to the bike store, where I bought a new pair of Brazilian made bags for 200 Reais, and then returned to the hotel where I spent literally several hours trying to make them compatible for my bike and luggage rack. They are not made for an American luggage rack, but, luckily, I had a number of bungees and about 30 feet of Parachue Cord with me, so I was able to improvise. Unfortunately, by the time I did all this, it was well past noon, so, here I am. Stuck in Porto Alegre. I cannot imagine anything else going wrong, so I assume I will be on my way tomorrow.

Once I got the bicycle sorted out, I went out and about on foot. My hotel is off a street called Rua dos Andradas, which, where I am, is a pedestrian shopping area, closed to vehicular traffic. This is great, because it means you can wander around looking at things without worrying about getting run over. I found out, once I got walking, that on Saturdays, the authorities close a number of other, surrounding, streets as well. I walked through all of them, was astonished at the prices being asked for TVs and electronic devices, and eventually came to a newspaper stand that was selling El Pais, the Montevideo newspaper. So, I bought a copy of it and a copy of Zero, then went and got a Coke and some French rolls, and went and sat in the park for an hour reading the papers. Reading the financial page of Zero was interesting; the Brazilian Central Bank is worried about the economy overheating, causing inflation and the development of a property bubble. (Sound familiar?) The simple way to fix this is to raise interest rates. However, real interest rates are already astronomical, and raising them higher would cause the Real to appreciate and the Dollar to fall, which would provoke a revolution amongst the Brazilian export sector. At the Real´s present value, they are having a hard time. So, the Central Bank is trying to avoid this by leaving rates alone, and raising reserve requirements, which will make it harder to GET credit. We shall see if this works. I have a feeling that the end result is that private sector interest rates are going to rise anyway.

Meanwhile, El Pais had an article claiming that the Uruguayan Central Bank has sold a boatload of Pesos, trying to keep the dollar above U$20 to one. There exporters will have the same problems Brazil has if the Peso appreciates more. I also discovered that renting a nice house this summer at the beach in Punta del Este could cost as much as $5,000 Dollars a day. Wow.

In my wanderings, I discovered several McDonalds. Each had a line at the counter 20 or more people long, none had tables available. I am not about to travel 5,000 miles to eat at McDonalds, but I poked my head in to see the prices. About 50% more expensive than the US. I also, riding to and from the bike store, found several Subways, and saw an ad for the Outback Steakhouse. Going to southern Brazil for Australian steak would be like, I guess, going to Australia for Brazilian Churrasco. What is the point?

Tomorrow I, hopefully, move on.

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