Ever since I arrived in Brazil in January 2009, I had been curious about the world-famous Iguaçu falls, so when a friend told me that there was going to be a Motorcycle meeting at Foz do Iguaçu, organized by Brazil Riders, I didn’t think twice about going there and make an 11 day motorcycle trip out of it.
Nov. 10, 2010
From my home town Volta Redonda to Iguaçu Falls is about 1.800 km, depending of the route you choose. I don´t like the big highways and that means I would take a slightly longer route, using smaller back roads as much as possible. When I left Volta Redonda early in the morning, a couple of friends on motorcycles and my Colleague Maryel in the Land Rover were joining me for the first 30km.
Just a few kms north of Volta Redonda, the landscape already changes to a dominant color of green. This is the road to Santa Isabel and Santa Rita de Jacutinga, one of my favorite roads in the region. 50km of great asphalt and curves.
My escort on the point of their return. In the background, the highest point of the serra da Mutucá.
To Rodrigo´s place in Guarapuava is 1.300 km and I wanted to arrive there on thursday, nov 11. I didn´t intend to do the trip to Guarapuava in one day, but I wanted to get as far as possible on the first day, so I let Volta Redonda at 7 am, driving north to Santa Rita de Jacutinga an Bom Jardim de Minas. The roads were in good condition and the weather was sunny and dry. Perfect for a day´s riding.
Since I wanted to get as far as possible, I stayed on asphalt roads and made good progress, only stopping to eat and buy gas. One of the minor downsides of the XT660 is, that it has a limited range of about 300 km on a full tank, and after 200 km the “low gasolina” indicator lights up. The only setback of the day was getting lost in the city of Limeira. A part of the road that I was supposed to follow, was blocked by road works and since there was no signalization for an alternative route, I ended up in a part of the city that was a grey spot on my GPS. I spent almost 2 hours to get back on track.
Later in the day the weather started to change for the worse. Big storm clouds started building up and I decided it was a good time to put on my rain gear, but somehow I was able to stay out of reach of the storm and only got a few drops of rain. The whole time the wind was blowing fiercely and only when it started to get dark, things began to return to normal. Usually, people will tell you it’s not a good idea to be on the road after dark, but I was on a good road (in São Paulo state, most roads are good…) so I decided to go on for another 250 km. When I got to the city of Itapeva, about 30km from the state border with Paraná, I finally checked in to a hotel.
To my pleasant surprise, there seem to be several toll booths in the state of São Paulo that are free of charge for motorcycles.
Nov 11, 2010
I wanted to get to Guarapuava and according to my GPS it would only be only 377 km. I rode 930km the day before, so this would be a piece of cake. I sent a message to Rodrigo that I would arrive sometime around 2 pm.
After hitting the road around 8.30 am, I immediately felt it was a lot colder than the day before, and the wind was blowing even harder. Not my kind of weather . November is springtime – almost summer – here in Brazil, so it should be sunny and warm, but this was more like Belgium in the fall, except that it didn’t rain (yet) and the scenery was a lot more beautiful.
After about 20 km, I was pulled over by the police and I had to show my documents and those of the bike. I was kind of nervous, because the São Paulo police has a fierce image, but everything was ok and I was “liberado” after a 10 minute hold up.
Once across the Parana border, the road started to become more twisty and the scenery became more mountainous, which is a lot nicer to ride. I was on the PR-151, heading for Ponta Grossa, and noticed some signs, saying this is one of the best roads in the south of Brazil. Since this was my first serious trip into the south, I wouldn’t know if that information was correct, but I’ll let you know later on.
In Ponta Grossa I needed to take the BR-277 heading west toward Guarapuava. Up until this point it was still very cold and windy, and I was even forced to stop a few times to allow my body to warm up again. I decided that next time I would take a trip south, I would bring my winter gear. Looking further to the west I could see the clouds getting thinner though, and that is a good sign. After all, when I checked the weather channel earlier this week, it showed sunny and warm weather in Guarapuava, and why on earth would a weather channel be wrong, right?
50 km before reaching Guarapuava, I felt my bike starting to act weird… It had all the symptoms of a flat rear tire, I stopped to check it out and sure enough, I found a nail in my back tire. YAY… My first flat tire in Brazil… Champagne!!
First flat of the trip… Actually, my first flat in Brazil.
I tried to continue riding on the shoulder (very slowly), hoping to get to a service station, but after 5-6 km, it started to become impossible to ride on without doing real damage to the tire. I noticed a guy who appeared to be in some kind of uniform waiting on the side of the road and stopped to ask him if he knew a borracharia nearby. He said that he works at the next toll station and he´s about to be picked up by a van to take him to work. The toll station has a towing service and he promised to send the tow-truck to pick me up.
Small detail… yes of course I had tried to call the towing service, but like in many parts of Brazil, I didn’t have any signal on my mobile phone.
The towing service came indeed… and was very efficient… and free of charge. I guess this is why you pay toll…
After I waited there for about half an hour, the tow truck came and dropped me off at the next borracharia. I had to take the wheel out myself because the guy wasn´t used to work with bikes, and when he took out the tube, it was damaged beyond repair. I didn´t have a spare tube (another lesson learned: always carry a spare tube ), and neither did the guy, so he had to take his car and go find a tube. He came back with a used tube that I had to pay 30 R$ for. It didn´t look 100% ok, but I didn´t seem to have another choice, so I agreed.
After fixing the tire, a little further there was the first real treat of this trip. A “mirante” with a nice view of the Serra da Esperança.
Note: A “Mirante” is the Portuguese word for a place where you park your bike (or car) for a while to enjoy a great scenery… On my trips, there’s a lot of these places (usually not indicated like this one) and that is the origin of the name of my motorcycle travel company: Mirantes Mototravel Brasil
Guarapuava was about 40km further and I got there around 4 pm with no further problems. Rodrigo showed up at the meeting place on his Suzuki Intruder 125cc, the bike he uses for getting around the city, and we drove up to his place. I was going to spend the night there, but was really surprised that he had a separate guest room for me. One more example of the incredible Brazilian hospitality amongst motorcyclists…
Rodrigo told me that there would be another “gringo” riding with us to Iguassu falls. An US ex-patriot called Mike. Rodrigo and Mike had already done a few trips together. When Mike arrived, Rodrigo told us that we were all invited to a BBQ at the house of his friend Roberto. Roberto turned out to be a fanatic motorcyclist as well. He showed us a video of the trip to Machu Picchu in Peru he made in 2005 with 4 other friends, which seems to have been a pretty awesome adventure.
We couldn’t stay too late at Roberto´s house, because we had to wake up at a decent hour the next morning, and went to bed around midnight.
Nov 12, 2010>
From Guarapuava to Foz do Iguaçu is about 400 Km, and we left around 9 am. The plan for the day was, to have lunch in Cascavel and then get to Foz do Iguaçu… pretty simple.
There were four of us, on 3 motorcycles. Rodrigo and his girlfriend Suzanna on a Honda Sahara 350, Mike with a Suzuki V-strom 650 and me on the Yamaha XT660R. Since Rodrigo was riding the smallest bike, and two up, he would ride in the lead most of the way. Especially in situations where we had to overtake a truck, Rodrigo would be a bit slower as Mike or myself, but it still surprised me how fast the old 350cc was going.
We pulled up at a motorcycle friendly BBQ place in Cascavel for lunch, and I was happy to see that there also was a vegetable buffet, so even me, the vegetarian of the bunch, had no problem filling my stomach.
After leaving Cascavel, we noticed heavy clouds started forming and everybody put on some rain gear. Luckily, we managed to stay away from the worst and only got some minor rain. After a last tank stop, we were on the final stretch into Foz do Iguaçu and made it safely to Hotel Suiça, where the Brazil Riders event wold take place. When we arrived, the place was already packed with hundreds of motorcyclists from all corners of Brazil, but despite the large number of people, the organization was excellent.
We registered and while I went to set up my tent, Rodrigo and Mike headed to their hotel…
Next stop: The falls.
Nov 13 and 14, 2010: Visit to the falls and Itaipu dam.
On Saturday (nov 13) we went to see the Argentinian side of the great Iguaçu waterfallsand on Sunday (Nov 14) we visited the Itaipu electrical Dam. Both days were pretty awesome. The weather couldn´t have been better and this made the weekend even more unforgettable.
It was as if Foz do Iguaçu had an extra attraction for a weekend because of all the motorcycles passing by in a long convoy, which apparently made some people pull over their cars and getting out to take pictures. I even saw a local TV crew filming and interviewing people several times.
Closing event on Sunday was a dinner in a huge BBQ house, where we also got to see a performance of local music and dances, some of which were pretty spicy.
Our group at the border with Argentina… At this point, patience was a good virtue
Also across the border, in Argentina, the road to the park continued to be of excellent quality.
Another waiting line.. this time to get into the park. The guy standing on the left of the picture is Rodrigo…
Once inside the park I realized I should have brought a pair of shorts… I spent the whole day walking around in my riding pants and at the end of the day I could literally pour the water out of my boots note: The bird in the park logo is the Great Dusky Swift. see more about this further down…
The park has a lot more than just the falls… This park (created at the end of the 1930’s) is a preserved part of the original Atlantic Rainforest and lots of animals can be seen here too.
Colorful Birds… there are about 350-400 species of birds around here
A coati… make no mistake… these guys look cute but they are carnivorous… and are known to bite people…
And then we saw the falls… in one word WOW!!!
The word Iguaçú means “big water” in the Tupi-Guarani etymology. The Iguaçú river, which forms the Falls eighteen km before the river meets the Paraná river, overcomes a ground unevenness and plunges 65m with a width of 2,780m. Its geological formation dates back to approximately 150 million years.
getting closer to the falls, the sound is already impressive…
Garganta do diabo (or in Spanish: Garganta del Diablo)
The sheer size of these falls, and the noise of the water are overwhelming… In the mist, you constantly see birds (Great Dusky Swift) which make their nests in the cliffs behind the falls and can be seen feeding on insects trapped in the maelstrom of the falls. Watching these birds navigate the chaotic vortex of water and wind swirling about is simply astonishing. They never seem to stop, capturing prey, carrying nesting material, and even mating in this absurdly dynamic environment.
Walking around in the Argentinian side of the park, you can admire the falls from many different angles…
and another angle… they just seem to go on and on…
You can get into one of the boats down there and take a ride right up to the waterfalls. (and probably get soaked in the process)
Next day : ITAIPU DAM (one of the modern wonders of the world…)
Sunday: Visit to Itaipu Dam
this is the “production side” of the dam (where the water comes out…) This is not one of my favorite pics, because I look a little too much like a regular tourist. I would NEVER wear socks in sandals, but this time I had to, otherwise I wouldn’t have made it into the plant…in Paraguay apparently you cannot ride a motorcycle on sandals, so I put the socks on to make it look like I was wearing shoes… and it worked 🙂
Next stop… Back to Rodrigo’s place in Guarapuava and then on to… well… another place