Wednesday, 16 April 2014


... We have moved this blog to

... the reason, well, you will just have to go to the new site to read why!!!!

Mark and Carlie.

Friday, 7 March 2014

Dancing in the Streets and Going Home….

We had timed our visit to Brazil for three reasons. The first was our virgin ‘Overland Bikers Meeting’ just across the Iguazu Falls in Foz. I understand the interesting use of the two words ‘virgin’ and ‘bikers’ in the same sentence but this is not what you think. Rather than the hairy, leather clad debauched gathering seen in the movies, us overlanders are a considerably more staid mob. Our machines are geared for fuel economy and the precarious loads carried than for ear shattering noise and fear. Having said that our ride out to the nearby and largest dam in South America, Itaipu, was over 100 riders strong. As we passed through the streets with our very own police escort we were the subject of many an open-mouth stare and cell phone picture.

which one to choose?

this was only a fraction of the total bikes

That night we were treated to our very first Brazilian BBQ. For the past 8 hours two men had tended the flames surrounding 5 huge sides of beef. The result, meat that was held on to the ribs they came with almost by gravity alone. I could have traded in my knife for a spoon. I am told the salads were good also, I didn’t waste my time there!
eight hours well spent

apparently there are no vegetarians in Brazil

After a couple of nights in the campground it was time to leave. My self-appointed role as pool cleaner had earned me a free beer or two but I could tell my welcome was growing thin.

Next stop was Urubici to meet up with a new friend, Marcus. He couldn’t fit us in to his hotel (or we couldn’t fit the bill into our wallets) and we were led to a nearby locals place with a barn for us to pitch our tents in. A couple of days chillin’ and kickin’ Trevor’s butt at pool and a nice ride around the local curves it was time to move yet again.
barn + tent = as close to being inside as we have been for a long time

now this is a good road

Our second reason for the Brazilian timing was Carnivale. The Rio one was way out of our price range, talk about supply and demand, Dorm beds were going for US$1000/week. Yes, that’s $142 a night to share a hot, stinking room with a bunch of not so hot Germans and Israelis with bad manners and worse personal hygiene!

So we chose Florianopolis to see the festival. After wandering around the street party we found a ticket scalper to get some tickets for the ‘Samba-Dome’. Yes, that’s right, a specially designed and built stadium for the good people to shake their booty along. Unfortunately in true South American fashion it didn’t start until 1am and continued for the next 4 hours. Each of the 4 samba schools had an hour to make their way along the 500m passage, their twirling costumes, scantily clad lead dancers and trailing streams of members all dancing to the same song for one entire hour. I think it melted Carlies’ brain as even now, one week after the event she still cant rid herself of the droning tunes.
Brazilian party

one of the many intricate floats

Again we were treated to a typical example of Brazilian hospitality as we were taken under the wing of another group of motorbike riders for a day for visiting people, BBQs and beers! And the hospitality didn’t stop there as we were soon to meet George. After putting out the request for a place to leave the bike for a couple of months, I met him in a bikers forum online. Before we knew it we had a bed for as long as we needed it, place for Zora and a new friend.
fitting a kite string catcher

coastal road


But of course, the third reason for visiting Brazil was that we had a ticket home booked, paid for and anticipated. So here I sit, sleep deprived and typing over my fourth coffee, not knowing the actual time in some soulless mall in LA while Carlie skips around with handfuls of cash. But it will be great to be back, even if only for a short time. I wander what my dog looks like now, here’s a before shot….
see ya soon girl!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Leaving Argentina.....

After leaving Buenos Aires, we had about a week to get to Iguacu Falls for the Horizons Unlimited(a motorbike travellers forum) meeting.  The heavy industrial area stretched for a smoggy one hundred kilometres and then we were into the delta region which is where some of South Americas biggest rivers converge over flat plains to form a huge swampy estuary of sorts.

We decided to ‘pop into Uruguay’ for the night, mostly so we could replenish our stock of $US to change on the blue market. The little we saw of Uruguay was very green, but not particularly interesting. Still, we fulfilled our requirements for having ‘visited’ a country – at least one night sleep and at least one beer for Mark! Luckily we were only there for a few hundred kilometres – petrol was the most expensive we have come across in the world $2.30/L. Something has to be said for a country having its own oil supplies, which Uruguay does not.
After crossing back into Argentina, our next destination was the little known ‘Esteros del Ibera’, the second biggest wetlands in the whole continent – reputedly spectacular and brimming with wildlife, but quite difficult to get to. We made our first stop the tourist information centre in the nearby  mid-sized town of Mercedes to ask about road conditions, as we could find little recent and reliable information online. The very helpful staff there told us that as it had been raining recently, the dirt road was ‘today’ one metre under water, but ‘tomorrow’ would be dried out and fine to traverse. Hmm.. maybe for a 4WD, which as the name suggests has four wheels, but for us with only two wheels and a not so good track record staying upright in mud, eighty kilometres of the stuff was not at all appealing.

I was still determined that we were going to get out to these wetlands. So often we give up too easily because of weather, road conditions, cost or time restraints. But, after a wild goose chase around town looking for the bus company that ran a daily bus out to the small village of Carlos Peligrini in the heart of the wetlands, tensions were running high, tears were closing in, so we headed to the campground, with plans to tackle this problem in the morning.

The campground was run by a super sweet family who let us store Zorra in their carport for a couple of days, while we ventured out to C.P. They suggested we try our luck ‘a dedo’ (by thumb), so off to the crossroads we went and gave it a shot. About every second car stopped (this was a rural area and this was a common way to travel here), but none of them were going where we needed to go. Finally, a big, old-school, red car pulled up with two little old guys in the front seat. They convinced us that we would have better luck getting a ride from the police check point ten kilometres down the road. These two guys were real characters, as was the policeman at the check point where we waited for the next hour, when finally the daily bus we originally wanted to catch came by and picked us up!
Our ride!

After about fifty kilometres the tar road ran out and the mud started. Although it was dry, there were deep tyre tracks, which showed how deep and thick the mud would have been if it was a little wetter. I was amazed by the amount of wildlife that could be seen just from the bus window. First I spotted a caiman (crocodile) basking in the sun next to a big puddle on the side of the road. Then I started to notice these amazing creatures that looked like a cross between a wombat and a guinea pig, although I saw them swimming and wallowing in the muddy swamps. These guys are called Capybaras, and they are the biggest rodents in South America. They were super common out there, but I never tired of looking at them – such curious looking creatures! I also spotted some marsh deer that were a beautiful orange colour with big velvety ears – one even had a huge rack of antlers!
Oversized guinea pig

Poor Mark was stuck in the middle seat at the back of the bus, so saw none of these wonders, but luckily the campsite was right on the lake and there was heaps of wildlife literally crawling up to the tent. We watched caimans lazily float by and the capybaras graze on grass greener than I have seen in a long time. The sunsets were spectacular, the village was divinely sleepy. It was a true piece of paradise not yet on the gringo trail.

just lying around

"Jesus birds" cause they walk on water!
We went out on a night time wildlife spotting boat ride as the full moon rose. We saw a few birds and lots of caimans, which were easy to spot with their red eyes shining in the spotlight. Our guide, Adam, encouraged Mark to pick up a baby one and it bit him on the hand! Not very good eco-tourism practice, but it makes for a good story!
he's lookin' at me thinking "dinner?"

Looks cute, but trust me, he has very sharp teeth!

sunset from our 'house'

one hunk of meat, one fire, dinner for two Argentinian style
One of the downsides of travelling without Zorra was having to adhere to the bus schedule. The only way back to civilisation was the 4am daily bus, which, when it rolled up was full, having trolled around town picking up locals before arriving at the designated bus stop. So it was three bumpy hours sitting in the aisle before we were again reunited with Zorra for a full days ride further north.

San Ignacio, a small tropical town near the border of Paraguay was our base for the next few days. Nearby were the World Heritage listed ruins of a Jesuit mission from the 1600s. The Jesuit priests set up these missions to protect the local indigenous ‘Guarani’ from the Portuguese and Spanish slave traders. The architecture (or what remained of it) was a mix of European baroque interweaved with the Guarani naturalistic styles.

old mission walls

We caught up with Trevor again in San Ignacio and made our way together the final 250km north to Puerto Iguazu. 
Trevor was always riding faster than us!

The world famous Iguazu Falls sits right on the border of Brazil and Argentina, with Paraguay also only a stones throw away. We had to spend a few days on the Argentinian side to sort out our visas for Brazil (only Australians, Americans and a handful of other nationalities need a visa for Brazil.
ticket to ride - Brazilian style

First thing in the drizzly morning we arrived at the consulate, passports in hand. We were given a list of requirements – a completed, printed online application form, bank statements, return tickets, bike registration and of course the fee of 385 pesos (about $40). We traipsed back to the hotel to use the internet for the application and download bank statements, then wandered town looking for a place to print said documents. Back to the consulate with our completed checklist, where the guy said he needed the phone number of our hotel, so I trekked back to get that. Meanwhile, Trevor needed a copy of his drivers license, so it was back to the print shop for him. And THEN the guy decided he wanted a photo of the bikes too, but the looks Mark and Trevor gave him put an end to that idea. I, personally, think he was making up the requirements as he went along! We were told to come back at 11.30am the following day. Arriving at the stated time, we all expected more delays and beauracracy, but Mark walked out the consulate door with a smile and 3 passports in hand!

Iguazu Falls was a magical place.  We chose to visit from the Argentina side, which gives you a closer view from a variety of viewpoints, as apposed to the Brazil side, which gives you the bigger picture view of the whole falls. Some people choose to visit both sides. Maybe next time…

We decided to try out the jet boat ride at the base of the falls. It was only a 12 minute ride, but it was truly exhilarating. Initially the boat stayed back a short distance from the falls, and we felt a little disappointed as we expected some thrills. Suddenly the engine roared and in we went. The power of the water was amazing, and although I’m sure we barely went under at all, the water was all around – the air was full of water and it was hard to breathe – all I could do was laugh. It felt like we were under there forever, but soon we were out again, and the whole boatload of people were chanting ‘otra vez, otra vez’ (another time, another time), so in we went again. We were absolutely drenched by the time we got out!

nice lunch time view
After perching on a rock with a view of the falls and eating a lunch of cold empanadas, we made our way towards the part train station to catch the shuttle to the Garganta del Diablo (devils throat). The boardwalk out to these falls was amazing. It stretched out over 1km of river, occasionally connecting little islads. The G. del D. was amazing –  horseshoe shaped falls, with a huge amount of water plummeting over all sides. Impossible to see the bottom because masses of misty, aerated water  floated all the way up again.
I left Mark and Trevor out there with the gaggles of package tourists so I could take my time going back across the boardwalk a little more slowly, to take in the natural surrounds of this beautiful place. There was so much to see and experience there within the park, that I felt like we had been rushing around the whole time – I needed to bond with nature. I saw a beautiful black waterbird with bright blue eyes perched on a stick drying his wings. In the middle distance a toucan flew by, instantly recognisable by his giant beak.

Back on the train, we decide to try to squeeze in a walk on the passeo superior (upper trail) to get a view of the top part of the falls that gave us a drenching earlier in the day. Late in the afternoon meant that monkeys were out to play – I was happy – the first monkeys of the whole trip, and they were cute little guys too. One last view of the falls and we called it a day.

one does not need encouragement to NOT climb this fence

is he piggybacking the sign?
The next day – Brazil – country number 7 of this epic adventure!

Sunday, 23 February 2014


It is said to be "Sex with your clothes on" .... the Tango

Buenos Aires …. A city with style, edge and contrasts. Around 40% of Argentinians live in greater BA. There are no suburbs on entering the city, it goes from agricultural farmland growing the huge quantities of beef required to sustain this nation’s meat devouring habit to light industry. Then it’s directly into high density housing in an almost never-ending monotony of grid streets lined with dirty apartment buildings decorated with clean laundry.

Plaza de Mayo
Highway flyovers conduct traffic past the barrios with toll-charging ease. Exits drawing off and adding to the fast moving masses of metal, their pilot’s masters of aggression and arrogance.

selling bongs in front of a copper!!

The streets of the city are filled with every walk of life. Down and out bums litter the occasional doorway shouting a litany of hard edged banter to their neighbour, their well-fed dogs sleeping through the alcohol fuelled exchange. Walls and shutters strung with random graffiti, brickwork and masonry almost impossible to be seen. Some, the simple inelegant tagging known the world over, tarnish on any surface its ‘artists’ touch. Contrasted with this are sides of buildings that are themselves works of art. Occasionally religious, often political but undoubtedly thought out and visually provocative.

All this bordering streets sporting litter and evidence of the cities canine population. But this city also appreciates the beauty and monotony-breaking natural outline of nature as trees, wide boulevards and parks dominate the inner city streetscape.
It’s the people that give this city a feel. Hipsters haunt the marketplaces. Their abstract art just as much confusion as their haircuts, their zippered and tied clothing as intriguing as their stares. Browsing the art and antiques is a collection of tourists and well-to-do locals. Vendors sharp eyes cataloguing each browser with practiced discern. Simple rubber-necked tourists or potential buyers, their judgements reflected in their attentiveness.

On the streets a myriad of humanity. Always on show, the Latin passion as a young couple trade harsh words and flailing limbs. Around the corner a community playground filled with screaming kids over-looked by over-weight mothers, their attention more dominated by the local gossip than the shenanigans inside the fenced municipal area.

Meanwhile well-dressed folk walk furry companions, chatting on cell phones and adjusting expensive sunglasses, their canine mates getting some out-of-apartment exercise while giving the street sweepers something to do.

It is a city that feels both beautifully European with its architecture and fashion conscious shoppers as well as edgy, its riot barricades in place around the parliament, not having been removed for 12 years, covered in un-selfconscious slogans. Where else can you have the sensual tango next to a cocaine addicted national football hero?