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Old 04-08-2013, 05:52 AM   #451
Dracula
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Glad to see more chapters Just wondering if it wasn't more convenient to fly from Buenos Aires instead.
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Old 04-08-2013, 07:48 AM   #452
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Glad to see more chapters Just wondering if it wasn't more convenient to fly from Buenos Aires instead.
It would have been more conenient for sure :) Just that..we already had the return ticket from Sao Paolo bought 1 year ago. We had to buy a return ticket when we left for Canada, at the beginning of the trip in order to avoid the possible nonsense with "why do you have only 1 way ticket towards towards Canada, you te**ist?" that we've been reading that can happen. And 1 year ago, flying home from Brazil seamed a good idea. Eh... :)
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Old 04-12-2013, 12:53 AM   #453
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Old 04-13-2013, 11:59 AM   #454
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Guys, sorry for the slow updates. Getting back to "real life" is not always very cheerful or inspiring... :( But let's hope it will turn better and better :)

Until then, here is a new episode, I hope you'll enjoy the fall...s :)


The New World V.5 – Iguazu Falls


By: AlexMD On April 13, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





We awake being aware that we are in close proximity of two “landmarks”. Iguazu Falls, the second in the world based on water volume and Itaipu Dam, the world’s biggest electricity generating hydro plant. In other words, majesty of nature and greatness built by human race. The plan for today is to visit the natural wonder, leaving the dam for the next one. The waterfall is only a few miles away from where we are. But ’till we wake up, ’till we have some breakfast, here they are, rain drops singing on the roof. And by the sounds of it, I am quite sure that you don’t even have to move from the house to see a “waterfall”. It is enough to pull the window curtains aside. Ta daaaa!

Like a bad prophecy, the boat was “parked” next to our window. Uh, I do hope I won’t have to change my name to Noe and gather the animals….

As the situation in the backyard was not optimistic, I am thinking to go to the front entrance, maybe there there will be at least a hint of blue skies? No chance. One guy who wake up in the morning (when it was not raining) was having lots of fun now on a scooter driving down a flooded road. Myeah, seems there can be good aspects of sleeping in. Here’s today’s lesson, one that Andreea applied as often as she could during this trip: sleep late

We wait for the rain to stop, or at least to pretend to be stopped, based on principle: “at least when I get out of the house I want not to get wet. After that… not important anymore”. Around 11 AM things seem to be in a stand still with St Peter and we quickly go for Plan B. Plan B was big, sluggish and had many passengers. Plan B was of course, a bus! Which was our way to say that “today we are not motorcyclists, today we are tourists”
We arrive in the national park and everything goes smoothly. Give some money for the tickets (n times more expensive for foreigners than for locals, but it’s OK, we’re already used to that, we had “trainings” in Peru and Bolivia about that) and get in return a smile from the lady at the counter, a map of the park and good wishes. Good. Let’s go to the train station. Yes, the park has its own train that takes you between different main points where the trails start to the falls. The thing is serious, they have more than one platform, signs, and even a schedule and a “display” with the next departure time.

The colorful birds are found everywhere around, careful not to miss bread crumbs left by tourists.

The 2 o’clock (sharp) train leadsus through dense vegetation …

… among thousands of butterflies playing in the sun. I remember Mexico and “Mariposa road” there. Seems like yesterday. Hard to believe that 5 months have passed since then… For us it is still the same summer, the same… fun!

We are awaken from our Mexican dreams by the train brakes. I arrived. From here on, a one-kilometer metal walkway will take us to the edge. But at first, all is calm, all is normal.

Pressing on, there are signs explaining the “rules”. Humans on one trail, the snakes on the other. Hmm what about the humans who behave like snakes? But enough with that…

Waters beneath us continue to be lazy, giving no hint that soon it will be totally different. Even the birds seem bored in the drowsy summer heat.


After a while, a thick rumble is distinguishable. The eyes see only a vague steam, rising from what seems to look a calm river.

But appearances can be deceiving. That’s not steam and that’s NOT a calm river overthere. Before getting here, we red some stuff about Iguazu Falls. The name means “big water” in Guarani dialect, it is the second greatest water debit in the world, but because the river here has a very wide bend, the water falls are not a continuous curtain (as Victoria in Africa) but small islands divide the water in over 200 “smaller” waterfalls with heights between 60 and 80 meters.

Largest such waterfall, where the water concentrates with high speeds is called by the Spanish “Garganta del Diablo I ” (Devil’s Throat) and there, on the edge of his ridge was our destination. So we knew a few dry things, read in advance, but nothing prepared us for what was waiting. Like Andreea seems to say, “Dear God, what’s here?”

We are at the point where the river waters flow impetuously, hit the rocks hard only to fall more than 80 meters below.

Thousands cubic meters of water, launching over the edge, drumming on the stubborn rocks with incredible strength. And the walkway takes you so close, you can feel the waters vibrate inside you. I never felt more “on the brink” of something than there.

And the name of the place seems appropriate as well. Water has a hellish howl and gray clouds in the sky accentuate the gloomy feeling. I remember the Niagara Falls, which we saw at the beginning of our trip. There the waters seemed more calm and beautiful summer sun and rainbow seemed to fill bohemian picture. Here, however, one is so close to the harsh and unforgiving waters that it is hard to compose in your mind a peaceful picture. At least not from this point of view.

And of course, everything gets wet almost instantly around.

The waters who take their fall here, continue their flow between a great procession, of white water and green vegetation, like in a huge Cathedral. Somewhere in that direction lies their “salvation”, somewhere there lies the blue Atlantic Ocean.

I realize that it is hard to leave that place. We linger more than other tourists and I note something strange. Beautiful, no doubt, but somehow (and it is hard to explain) the place is “heavy”, after a while seems like it sits on your shoulders? Eventually we move away slowly, in search of more peaceful places, which are not hard to find, down the metal paths invaded by vegetation (metal and green, what a strange combination).

And the waterfall is not the only attraction in Iguazu National Park. If you’re careful you can find many animals. Just be careful of what the green canopy might hide.

What could it be, what could it be? Yes! it is a Tucan bird! Ohoo like in the cartoons from the childhood!

If Tucan birds are quite shy and generally stay away from people, other animals are not afraid at all to look for food, aggressively if necessary, on your path. Mind your step!


All these movements of troops on the ground, are carefully kept under observation from high above, in the control tower.

And more playful than all, butterflies remain the “kids” of the house, flying all around and “landing” on everything and everyone. Even on travelers.


In our walk, the green canopy opens occasionally, like a curtain of a show, allowing a sneak peak to the show that unfolds beyond.


Other and other waterfalls, all from the same great concert.


Slowly the night is approaching and we have to head towards the exit of the park. I spent here not even a full day but somehow it seams like years. And the funny thing is, I feel I could spend years more. But, it is time to move on. We leave, but we take a part of Iguazu with us. Farewell!
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Old 04-13-2013, 01:41 PM   #455
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Guys, sorry for the slow updates. Getting back to "real life" is not always very cheerful or inspiring... :( But let's hope it will turn better and better :)

Until then, here is a new episode, I hope you'll enjoy the fall...s :)
Hi Alex,

Still following along and enjoying your posts. I hope your return to "normality" goes well. Think about blessing of you two having each other and make plans for the future. To ride in Romania is something I miss for so many years, know that there are many beautiful places to enjoy riding there. Or maybe you will have plans for another long trip...

Best,
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Old 04-13-2013, 04:31 PM   #456
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thanks for the photos of the falls, one of the places I really want to see in person!
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Old 04-14-2013, 08:15 AM   #457
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thanks for the photos of the falls, one of the places I really want to see in person!
Yeah, the Iguazu Falls are a very nice place.

@Vic: You are absolutely right about the places back home. One of our future projects is to re-discover the roads, landscapes and people in Romania. Hopefully, if it ever comes true, there will be a RR here showing of the results :)

But... for now... we are in the adjustment period and I don't think we've been hit yet by the big realization that it is over. For now, it seems just like a break from traveling. Once I will start working again, I am afraid it will be the low point :)
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Old 04-15-2013, 09:00 AM   #458
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Hi Alex & Andreea

One of the realities of life for most of us is that you must work to pay for travel. Enjoy it if you can.

Hope all is going well.

B & B
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Old 04-15-2013, 06:40 PM   #459
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I thought about you two today as I returned home from a short 2 day ride in the mountains of north eastern Arizona. I had not been in the US since November, 5 months. I had a bit of culture shock. That's what got me thinking about the adjustment you two have being gone so long. I hope that writing the RRs helps ease you back into being home.

I hope you will write a book and fill it with your wonderful observations and sly witticisms. And photos of course.

Abrazos!
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Old 04-18-2013, 01:39 AM   #460
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The New World V.6 – Itaipu


By: AlexMD On April 18, 2013 in Blog, Part V, The New World





We are at the “crossroads” of 3 countries: top end of Argentina, buttom end of Brazil and a strip of Paraguay and 2 majestic rivers: Parana, the big river and Iguazu, the one giving birth to the waterfall we just visited a day before. We are in a good spot so we decide to take advantage of our position and visit Paraguay, mostly for Itaipu Dam, one of the largest in the world. To get to Iaipu we have to leave Puerto de Iguazu (Argentina), cross into Brazil through Foz do Iguazu and then cross the Parana river into Paraguay (Ciudad del Este).

The plan was to get back to Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) in the same day so we decided not to involve our motorcycle in this visit hence not worrying about temporary import papers for both Brazil and Paraguay. So here we are back to public transportation. We are starting to like riding the bus.
The bus we take from Puerto Iguazu (Argentina) stops at the border check point for everyone on the bus to get their exit stamp for Argentina. I am pretty nervous since, in theory, I entered Argentina on my motorcycle and now I was planning to leave it by bus (luckily nobody checked). Ok, so we have our exit stamp for Argentina, now where do we get the entry stamp for Brazil? I asked the lady at the border crossing and she smiles at me informing me that if I plan to stay a couple of days in Brazil and get back into Argentina using the same border there is no need for customs process. Seriously? Mmmm, fine… I find it hard to believe but if the official is saying it, it should be true. So everyone is back in the bus and we ride smoothly into Brazil without any other stops at customs.
We get off the bus at the final stop, very close to the “bridge of friendship” between Brazil and Paraguay. Before reaching the bridge we have to pass the border crossing office for exiting Brazil.

We are again nervous and confused, what if an official wants to put the exit stamp on our passport? He will be looking for the entry stamp… and it will take him forever. We take a break to think things over. This is very serious for us, others don´t seem to care about it and they are all passing us by carrying large bags, cardboards, cases, chests, handbags and many other items. They are all passing by the officials and none of them bother to stop.Well, if they are doing it I can´t see why we cannot. We don´t have anything to carry so we stick our hands in our pockets and walk like we own the place. The guards might not care about us but we still feel like we are part of a James Bond movie. Unlike 007 we don´t have an Aston Martin or other fancy vehicle so we cross the bridge by foot. Pretty crowded I would say.


Same thing happening on the Paraguayan side: people passing by the customs building without bothering to stop and get a stamp, not to mention to declare whatever they were carrying in all the big boxes. This time I insist on doing things “officially” so we venture into the building. In the beginning the people behind the desk don´t understand exactly why would we bother them but finally they get that we would like to hmmm, enter the country. They stamp our passports without asking any questions, probably (from the look on their faces) thinking we want the stamp as a souvenir. There is a tourist information office in the same building, they have maps and everything and a pretty lady who helps us find the right means to reach Itaipu. The fast and easy option was to take a cab. But for us that meant caging ourselves in a yellow cell and only get glimpses of the life here. We choose instead the classic (by now) method: local bus so that we could take in as much as possible of Paraguay in our short visit there. The bus station was not that close so we had to walk a few kilometers through Ciudad del Este. What can I tell you about this city… it´s all a big market place. One market stand after the other, small store, large store, tiny stores.

There´s not a single thing you cannot find here, from tires to plasma TVs, from shoes to dental equipment. Of course you receipts or other “papers” are only for newbes… and these guys are professionals. And it is hard to determine exactly the work of some people as we see a lot of them just sitting in their chairs by the side of the road. They don´t seem to be selling anything and if they are they are not very convincing. We were there at around 11 AM and they didn’t seem to have any pressing things to get done. Oh, the sweet relaxation!

But not everybody has the luxury of relaxing. As it’s a very hot climate there, somebody has to make sure that all the ACs are working properly. And I do meen… ALL of them. Hmmm, I wonder if there is somewhere a diagram or something, to show which box is for whom and what. I doubt it.

We find the bus as well or better said it finds us. We were just arriving in what we were not so sure it is the bus station when an old blue thing stops with squeaking sounds near the side of the road and a guys speaking very fast is pushing us in. We barely have time to ask if this is indeed the bus to Itaipu and we get only a hasty “si si” before we are inside. Suddenly I feel transported in the 80s in one of the old buses that used to run in Romania. Suddelntly I have that warm feeling from childhood spent in the countryside, when we used to hitchhike a ride with the local bus to the town to get ice-cream or to see a movie.


After a while the bus stops and deposits us on the side of the road, at some crossing. From here the Hydro-plant is not far. Gracias amigos!

We look around, trying to determine the right way to walk and we discover more people doing hard work. Chairs all over the place, with nice music, some food and some drinks. Ah… the life!

We find the hydro complex and we head to the tourist building. The free tour will consist of a 30 minutes movie, followed by a live tour of the dam, in a bus. The movie was quite educative and then we hop in the bus, looking forward to be amazed. First we pass near big transformation stations.

… and then we reach a point from where you have a wide view of the hole complex, with the huge spillways in the foreground and the long dam in the background.

Itaipu is not the biggest dam in the world. Also it is not the tallest nor the widest. But it has the first place in a very important area: it holds the record of anual generated electricity with over 90 TWh. To put things into perspective Hoover dam generates annually 4.2 TWh.

The 20 installed turbines are divided equally, 10 to Brazil and 10 to Paraguay. But as Paraguay requires for internal use only 2 of the 10 turbines, the remaining 8 are “lend” to Brazil. So huge power-lines are crossing the river, transporting the current to Sao Paolo area.

With the output of the 2 turbines Paraguay covers around 90% of the TOTAL electricity needs. On the other hand, even with the extra help of the 8 turbines (so 18 in total), Brazil gets only 15% of the needed electicity from Itaipu. Speaking of David and Goliath…

The guide gives us more interesting information about the construction of the dam. For example, the project was a joint venture between Paraguay and Brazil, involving bi-national teams that handled the project. There were no external companies, no big corporations from outside and multinational organizations (with the usual over-pricing, passed deadlines and such). While this might have caused some doubts regarding the quality or the speed of constructions, it turned out that the local guys did quite a good job and very fast as well. At it’s peak rate of raising the dam, the pace was equivalent with finishing a 20 stories tall concrete building…every 55 minutes!
There were though also controversial aspects (cleverly overlooked by our guide) mainly related to the destruction of the ecosystems in the area where the artificial lake was created. For example the Guaira waterfalls, one of the biggest in the world before 1982, disappeared entirely in the artificial lake. With an height of over 110 meters (Iguazu is 82) and with a flow rate of over 13000 cubic meters per second (Iguazu has 1700), Guaiara must have been an impressive sight. But, for us, the ones that did not get to see it, we have only the pictures remaining.
Our visit ends soon, maybe too soon. We would have loved to get the chance to enter inside one of the turbines. But it is time to go and our general conclusion was that, despite the controversy, Itaipu remains a successful and useful project.
For us, it is time to get back in Argentina and reunite with Gunnar. Starting tomorrow we will enter again Brazil, this time doing it properly: riding our on bike and doing all the paperwork. We promise!
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:04 AM   #461
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Hi Alex & Andreea

One of the realities of life for most of us is that you must work to pay for travel. Enjoy it if you can.

Hope all is going well.

B & B
Yeah, and we will try to have as much fun as possible at work. I am not worried with the working part, I am more worried regarding the environment... the office job. But we will adapt as necessary and we will continue to have fun :)

Hope everything is good in Canada and you have some good weather to enjoy your rides there :) Say hi to the girls from us!
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Old 04-18-2013, 02:10 AM   #462
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I thought about you two today as I returned home from a short 2 day ride in the mountains of north eastern Arizona. I had not been in the US since November, 5 months. I had a bit of culture shock. That's what got me thinking about the adjustment you two have being gone so long. I hope that writing the RRs helps ease you back into being home.

I hope you will write a book and fill it with your wonderful observations and sly witticisms. And photos of course.

Abrazos!
Haha, hearing you Tom saying that you had a culture shock when you went back to the US is a little funny. I am starting to believe that you are becoming more Mexican and more "latino"

It reminds me of a similar story with our friends in Mexico City. They are German but they told us that they wouldn't want to go back in live in Germany. :)

As for us, yeah... we are still enjoying writing the RR (sadly only 2 or 3 more episodes are left). As for the book...we are learning quickly that things move rather slow if you are not famous or don't know anybody in the publishing world :) But it is a very interesting process and we are learning from it as well.
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Old 04-30-2013, 08:12 AM   #463
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I'm back. Sorry for the long wait guys. But I am back to "9to6 + overtime" working schedule and at least during this period not much time for anything else.

But let's not get sad. Here we go, episode V.7, and 2 more to go until the end.

The New World V.7 – Sol e chuva em Brasil


By: AlexMD On April 30, 2013 in Part V, The New World



“If only I could understand what she is saying…” this lady that keeps trying to teach me Portuguese but has to fight all this outside noise to get to my ears. We were getting closer to the Brazilian border, by motorcycle this time and we were trying to speed up the process of learning Portuguese. The audiobooks we have with us don´t really help. We need more time and a quiet place, the saddle of a motorcycle is not the most comfortable place to learn, especially when the wind blows heavily and you can barely hear the voice in the helmet.

But we still want to be prepared for Brazil. We will be riding the South of Brazil and people also speak Spanish in the South, we now speak Spanish pretty well but it doesn´t make us feel any better. We really want to speak Portuguese and do it correctly. Out of respect for Brazilians and for this beautiful language we don´t just want to rely on Spanish and not even give a chance to Portuguese.
It was time to close the circle and get back to Buenos Aires where we were supposed to board Gunnar on a plane to Munchen. It would have been easier to get back on the same route we took to Iguazu…. but we still had a few days left to wander so we decided to take a “detour” through South of Brazil and Uruguay.
We don´t have any problems crossing the border, the little Portuguese we learned along the ways comes in handy so I head for the customs building while Andreea stays with the motorcycle. The customs officers are friendly and funny. I get easy treatment for answering slow to their questions but still in Portuguese. Meanwhile Andreea is luckier and gets a note in her wallet without even noticing (she founded later, in the plane to Europe): “Jose 3414___ 23″ Oh well, be patient and wait for our call! But don´t hold your breath on it.

We are wandering for 3 days through the Brazilian pampas following unfamiliar roads sneaking through endless hills.
We weren´t very efficient the first 2 days. The sky was heavy and we felt the same way.
Each time we were stopping to ask for directions, search for a place to eat or sleep we had the chance to listen the sublime Portuguese language. I honestly love the sound of it. It would be better if we were also able to understand something… But we have to get along with sign language and the few words we were able to learn. And it´s working. And when it doesn´t… we improvise and not from Spanish. Andreea reaches to a simple conclusion that any word we don´t know in Portuguese (and that´s almost all of them) can be learned “on the spot” by using the Romanian version of it plus the ending “ao”. You don´t think it will work? Check this out: Atencao, Intersecao! Ro: Atentie! Intersectie!
Of course this attempt is far from being true and applicable but the idea helps us to kill some time while each of us comes up with “Portuguese” words using the above mentioned method. And we could use killing some time since most of it was raining.
Rain in the sky, rain on the ground. Rain all over the place and water reaches the most hidden places. Small threads are slowly sneaking into the boots so every evening we have a new ritual to dry out…. everything we had on that day and humidity doesn´t help.
The next morning… we start all over again.
But no reason to feel sad. The weather is not so good with us but the people are. We couldn´t speak their language so well but we did manage to understand each other. For instance, the owners of the hotel above, in Cruz Alta- Rio Grande do Sul, allowed us to stay longer in their hotel (after check-out time), even insisted to stay one more day when they saw that rain doesn´t stop. They invited us to a warm maté and while we were waiting for the rain to stop the boy went and cleaned Gunnar´s windshield (“you have to be able to see the roads, there are some wholes in them around here). Also, when he saw that we have a lot of flags on our paniers he ran to the store to get us one with Brazil. Thank you!
Eheee, since the rain didn´t seem to stop we decide to leave Cruz Alta hoping to get out of this persistent cloud.
We would get out of it but after one more very wet day. But as we are heading South- East things change for the better, finally. We get to see blue skies again!
We almost forgot it´s March! Which means that it´s autumn here, it´s harvest time! The wheat fields do their ritual dance in the wind to welcome the lazy reapers who will cut the burden of their ears.
All of a sudden we are surrounded by the late Baragan summer. We forgot about the rainy days. We forgot about cold an humidity. It´s warm now, it´s quiet and peaceful. Just that there is no time for melancholy. The crickets we here are not the Romanian ones, we are not home yet so we need to keep riding. We are so close now.
We are heading South but I have to do something else before leaving Brazil. Some time ago, while still freezing in Patagonia, I promised something to Andreea.
While the wind was blowing us off our… wheels I promised Andreea to stop one day at the beach, a warm beach, before going back home. So here we are trying to find such a place. To do this we need to get closer to the ocean (that´s where the beaches are, right?). Before that we found ourselves crossing Pontal dos Latinos and Pontal dos Santiagos two protected areas of outstanding ecological interest. There are all kinds of birds and animals all around us… and butterflies.

And above all, Andreea notices a turtle in the middle of the road. I hit the breaks and turn around.
It´s still there, of course. Pretty shy and not in a mood for talking.
We carefully try to figure out the direction she wanted to take to cross the street and we move her out of the road. And there it is, somewhere in Brazil, we found the answer to the serious question we were asked so many times on this journey: “Why did you go?”. “Well…. to help a turtle cross the street in Brazil.” Does this answer your question?

As the sun behind us gets ready to set we turn left on a road that goes to a small village by the side of the Atlantic Ocean. It is time to keep my promise!
Hermenegildo or Balneario do Hermenegildo. We are again lucky to meet extraordinary people. We got there looking for a place to stay and we found friends again. Gunnar is safe in the parking, our dusty clothes are off, it´s time to spend one last day (on this journey) on a beach by the Atlantic Ocean. It´s just the two of us here. And it feels so good!
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Old 04-30-2013, 07:18 PM   #464
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Hi Alex,

Such nice update, I really enjoyed it as all others... but every time you bring something new it is so interestingly peppered with your remarks!

I dream of the day I will leave my day job and do some long adventures like this. I started working towards that and hope soon to follow your tracks. I'll be sure to post a ride report here when that happens.

It's true Portuguese sounds beautiful, some words are similar (but not enough to be same) Example: blusa in Poruguese is bluza in Romanian.

Keep your spirits up and plan your next trip, that should help the woes of being now stationary. It doesn't have to be across the globe, even some local adventures are enough to enjoy life!

Cheers!
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Old 05-01-2013, 03:28 AM   #465
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Hi Alex,

Such nice update, I really enjoyed it as all others... but every time you bring something new it is so interestingly peppered with your remarks!

I dream of the day I will leave my day job and do some long adventures like this. I started working towards that and hope soon to follow your tracks. I'll be sure to post a ride report here when that happens.

It's true Portuguese sounds beautiful, some words are similar (but not enough to be same) Example: blusa in Poruguese is bluza in Romanian.

Keep your spirits up and plan your next trip, that should help the woes of being now stationary. It doesn't have to be across the globe, even some local adventures are enough to enjoy life!

Cheers!
Vic
Hey Vic,

yeah, making our way through Brazil was very interesting from the language perspective. It is funny if you think how much of a phrase we can "presume" if we only understand some words. And then... even more funny, when you realize that your presumptions were "a little off" :))

And that's part of the joy of traveling.

Regarding our follow up... I was considering if after this ride report (only 2 stories left from it) it it would be a good idea to start a series of smaller motorcycling stories from trips in Romania. Thinking that maybe it would be interesting for the guys from the other "side of the pond" :)

Hmm...
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