Travel letter no. 8, 16th July 1995
Uxbridge Massachusetts

As you might remember my last travel-letter was written in Sucre Bolivia where we were waiting to get Mathias's generator fixed, it took a few days first we had to wait to get the guy who was making it out of the hospital but he finally got the job finished, he wanted 200 US $ for the job which

net. took about a day, I guess he came up with that price because he had to pay the hospital.


Picture We had decided to take a back-road from Bolivia to Paraguay (well there is only one road) so we headed east and slowly made our way down from the Altiplano, we had been up there almost a month but I still was not completely comfortable up here in the thin air (between 3.500 m and 5.000 m) so it was nice getting down at the lower altitudes, recovering full strength not only for me but also my red "caballero", the road had mostly been gravel roads with the surface of a wash-board, and this had been pretty hard on the bikes, there were almost something broken everyday, mostly the luggage racks but Mathias also had to weld his frame, have the mounting for the rear shock remade, and new wheel bearings - They can fix everything down here I guess, not in the original way but somehow they will get everything back on the road again.


Picture We had heard and read that the road into Paraguay was pretty bad and a guy from Finland with a Honda 500 off roader who was living in the area said that he would not do it, but we though it couldn't be that bad, we had been on bad roads before and we were 2 so we could help each other. There is 134 km of lonely sand road on the Bolivian site of the border, on the Paraguayan side the distance to the first civilization is about the same, so we filled our spare Jerry-can with gasoline, and bought water, food, fruit, biscuits and box of beer and a stick of cigarrets for the border-posts, which we had heard lived a rather lonely life. After getting the necessary stamps and permissions form the customs, the police, and the military we set out on our journey. The road was not too bad although pretty deserted, the only one we met was a guy from Sweden in a wheel-chair, he had bought a horse and a carriage and hired a local man with a gun and now he was taking the same route as us into Paraguay (nothing seems to be impossible in this world)


Picture In the afternoon we arrived at the Bolivian border post, there were 7 soldiers there and a General (a goat dressed out as such) and we had the paper-work done in no time, since there was no queues, according to soldiers there was only 12 km. to the border so we decided to make it to the Paraguayan border- post and spend the night there. The next 12 km was a little bit tougher but it was still not too bad, but then the road made a turn and the bush narrowed in on the road and the road turned into loose sand, so we were sure that we were in Paraguay now and we went on looking for the Paraguayan border-post.


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In the meantime it was getting dark and the loose sand got more and more difficult, and there was still no border post in sight. It was almost impossible to drive through the loose sand, we were falling for every few 100 meters, our engines were over-heating and I was getting more tired than I ever imagined possible of picking up the bike after each fall, but we were just hopping to see the light from the border post, and so we did after 20 km and 3 hours of falling.

At the border-post we were greeted by the commander, he gave us a bed and invited us for dinner. And it was great, we had cattle ribs cooked over an open fire, it was almost as if we had arrived in heaven. We had a good nights sleep and the next morning we continued into Paraguay, we were told that the road were bad but we hoped it would be better than what we had experienced the evening before - well it was not - but at least it was day light.


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Picture We had a very hard day driving through the loose sand, getting so stuck in mud-holes that we had to unload the bikes and with one driving and one pushing getting the bike out of the mess, I can tell you: you don't look very nice after you have been pushing a bike with a spinning rear-wheel out of a mud hole. It was a very tough day we made 100 km in 11 hours and I must have fallen a 100 times, I broke my wind-screen, and wore-out my clutch, but we made it.



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Picture The part we were in and had been driving through is called the Chaco it is quite flat, pretty dry and about 300-600 meters above sea-level so it is hot even during the winter (when we was there) there grows a variety of trees and cactus and people are raising cattle there very extensively. Almost no one is living in the high-end where the bad road is, and the traffic through is very limited, although there is a bus 3 times a week, we actually met it it was a high-clearance bus followed by a very big tractor, which could get it out of trouble.

We visited a new Swiss colony (Mathias is Swiss) there were only 5 families there. This colony was set up by a Swiss business man who had bought a very large piece of land cheap. He had build a guest-house very nice in Swiss-style. whenever he found a victim in Switzerland they were invited to the colony, staying in the guest-house, and after that they had to decide if they wanted to buy or not, and of course the people already there would like more people in the colony so they can get a school etc. And therefore the people might get a very good impression on a first short visit, but they won't know about the long dry season, and the rainy-season when all the roads are closed. The first person we met there didn't seem to know why he was there or what he wanted to do, but the rest of we people seemed content, except that they felt betrayed by the business man who sold them their piece.

In the middle of the Chaco there is a few German settlements with about 20.000 people, they speak high- and plat-German (ost-frisish) most of the people came from Russia in the beginning of the century driven out by the bolzewicks, they had moved to Russia from the northwest of Germany in the last century so that they live in peace with their Mennonite religion. I find it amazing that they have been able to keep a dialect alive for more than a hundred years away from their origin - it is even more amazing when you think about how we will all speak Spanish in the next century.

At the Swiss colony we had met some of the local "Germans" who had invited us down to their colony Neuland, people in this colony have a more relaxed view on their religion, here you drink beer and play cards (skat of course). so we had some nice days there, while relaxing and getting the mud of our bikes and fix the broken bags etc, which we were quite used to now by now.

Mathias and I split in Asuncion, he had to go to Sao Paulo to pick-up a girl-friend with whom we would travel on with. I went to visit the Itaipu dam the largest power station in the world. It was pretty impressive I have forgot most of the numbers by now, but I think that I can remember that the weight of one of axel in a generator was about 2.000 tons, and there was 18 of these generating a total of 12.600 Megawatt. 40 km away on a different river on the border between Argentina and Brazil are the Iguazu falls, the world largest waterfalls I think, at least much bigger than Niagra Falls, the Iguazu falls are spread over quite a large area and many of the falls are in 2 stories, although the falls are very large the water could only feed 2 of the generators at the Itaipu dam.

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Picture I was now in Brazil and once again I could not understand a word of what people was saying, which made me realize that I had learned some Spanish after all, but the coffee and the food in Brazil was good although more expensive. I went out to the east coast and followed it all the way down to Uruguay, in Florianapolis I met with a motorcycle club of big sports bikes mostly Kawasaki ZX11, but no BMW, this was the first time I had seen big bikes on this trip since I left the states and there were many, the club had 86 members, I though that my BMW was quite a powerful bike, but I had a hard time keeping up with them, but I guess it would do them good to have a MSF course down here, since the guy I met first dropped his bike when I was there, luckily he wasn't injured so time and a credit-card will bring him back on the road again.

I was driving down to Montevideo in Uruguay because I had heard that this would be a good place to ship the bike home from, on the way down (in Porto Allegre) I inquired what it would costs to send the bike to Europe, so I was quite surprised about the prices I found in Montevideo, it was twice as expensive, so I decided to ride back to Rio Grande in Brazil and send the bike home from there, and it went very smooth with the help of Danish consulates in Porto Allegre and Rio Grande, the only thing which annoyed me was that I had to pay 100 $ to get the customs paper done, although I should know by now that customs people and thieves are in the same category (so says the bible). Unfortunately it turned out that the airplane tickets out of Brazil was twice as expensive as in Uruguay, so I went back to Montevideo and bought a plane ticket to New York via Buenos Aires, so now I that road very well.


Picture It was pretty cold down there so I was walking around Buenos Aires with my coat on, when somebody tried the bird-shit-robbery-attempt on me, the way it goes is this: a couple passes you on the walk-way and say that there is some dirt on the back of your coat, then when you takes the coat of to clean it, they help you and are all around you, I got suspicious that something was wrong when the guy started cleaning my shirt (which of course had been covered by the coat), and the shit on my back smelled more like cocoa-milk but I guess what saved me was a woman passing by, she just stopped in front of us and looked at what was going on and suddenly the nice couple was busy getting away. They didn't manage to steal anything, but I felt very stupid that I had not figured out what going on from the start.


Picture When I flew to New York I was going from mid-winter to mid-summer in one night - that was nice. I stayed in NY for almost a fortnight and I liked it I found New York very safe, at least where I was (all over Manhattan). The food, coffee and the draft-beer is really good, it is like New York just has discovered real coffee, there are coffee shops popping up on every street corner. and with the great variety of restaurant there is really no reason at all to waste any money in a burger-shop. One of the first evenings when I was walking in the area around Greenwich Village and East Village I happened to pop into the oldest bar in N.Y. 141 years old. It is an Irish bar and they are still brewing their own beer, 2 mugs for 3 $, so I spend a few bucks there. It is a great little place and as a surprise to me not too crowded, the bar is called Mc Sorleys and you can find it on 7th street near Cooper square.

I went of course around town and visited the places you are supposed to visit I even went down to have a look at the long queue for the boat which goes out to the girl of liberty, but I am really not into queues. What probably surprised me most was that there is so many pretty buildings in N.Y. with a lot of details.

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Now I am back in Uxbridge Massachusetts, with the family where I started my trip and not a lot has happened here, well Joe has got a home-page on the World Wide Web for his motorcycle education it is on http://www.xensei.com:80/users/scarp/ironstone. end of the commercials. I will go back to Europe very soon now but I will first go to work again in September, in the meantime I have to go down to Rotterdam and pickup my red horse and find a slight detour home, if I experience anything at all I will send out a last travel-letter in September, and after that you are welcome to come and visit me.
 
Peter Lorenzen Petersen  (peter@lorenzen.us)
DK-9000 Aalborg
DINAMARCA