Brazil: Monstrous Metropolis to Waterfall Wonder

Oct 11, 2019 View Comments by

Touring Brazil by motorcycle

Touring Brazil by motorcycle for nearly three months was an unforgettable experience. After visiting a variety of towns along the coast, it was time for a break in beach town Arraial do Cabo. Next on the agenda: Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Curitiba. My riding partner, Lia, and I left the dusty, sandy roads behind, exchanging them for six-lane highways. With exactly 6,000 miles on the counter, we rode in to Rio and found ourselves back in modern-day Brazil. Before leaving the country we rode Southern Brazil’s stunning mountain road Serra do Rio do Rastro and traveled to Foz do Iguazu to see the waterfall wonder Iguazu Falls.

RIO DE JANEIRO Aankomst Rio.

Rio My-Oh-Me-Oh
Rio has a lot to offer in sightseeing, culture, and nightlife. Of course, we visited the 124-foot-tall statue of Jesus, we attended a football match at the Maracanã Stadium (one of the largest in the world), and we walked across the famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema.

The disadvantage of Brazil is that the roads are generally too good. The asphalt is perfect and you pay a toll for it. A six-lane highway is not the best way to cover distances on the KTMs, but it is the fastest. The highway section from Rio to São Paulo is overwhelmingly beautiful. Like a line of ants, we rode over high bridges and through countless tunnels in the gigantic, forested mountains.

More Metropolises
Endless skyscrapers formed the new view as we rode into São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city with some 12 million people. It reminded us of New York. Our first stop was the KTM store, where our motorcycles got their 6,000-mile checkups. A mechanic asked if we already replaced our braking pads, because they looked hardly used. I told him, “No, we just never brake!” Actually, one pannier was full of spare parts, just in case, but so far we hadn’t needed to use anything at all. Our KTMs needed only an oil change. The next day we visited some museums and a city park that looked like the jungle version of Central Park.

Curitiba was a completely different story. It is also called “rock city” of Brazil, and after doing some people-watching, the reason for the name was clear: There are many tattoos, beards, piercings, and band shirts. If you ever visit Curitiba, go to the Oscar Niemeyer Museum, an incredible building with a varied, interesting art collection. In Curitiba there was something that drew my attention: poor people from the slums who collect high stacks of waste in large carts in the city center. Men and women, young and old. I see them not as trash collectors but as “heroes of the street,” because instead of stealing or robbing like some do, they work extremely hard for very little money.

Brazil motorcycle roads

The Road to Ride
Before crossing the border at Iguazu Falls, I was keen to go to Serra do Rio do Rastro, one of the world’s most beautiful mountain roads. The window of our hotel was fully packed with stickers from motorcycle clubs, revealing how beloved this mountain pass is. Once the bags were strapped on our KTMs, we began our ride. Fortunately, we started without rain, unlike the last few days. But suddenly the whole mountain crest disappeared in a dense fog, just when I was ready to photograph Lia at a nice bend in the road. After waiting for an hour, we decided to go on. As soon as we left the mountain pass, the sun on the other side was gently emerging and the veil of fog gradually opened up in some places. We turned around and went back. I wondered if I would ever get the opportunity to photograph the amazing road. We waited a little longer, and the fog disappeared completely. What luck!

Argentina motorcycle ridingUnexpected Adventure
Next, we headed to Foz do Iguazu to see Iguazu Falls, which span 1.7 miles along the border of Brazil and Argentina. The fastest way to get to the Brazilian section is via Argentina. As soon as we entered Argentina, the asphalt became significantly worse. There was hardly any other traffic on the road, and the vehicles that were there were rusty, rickety wrecks. At 5 p.m. we still had about 60 miles to go. Suddenly, the gray asphalt turned into red sand covered with pebbles and stones. My first thought was that this would be an awful place to get a flat tire. I passed an army post, relieved that the off-road part in Argentina was behind us. Then I noticed Lia wasn’t there. She hadn’t been that far behind me, had she? I waited a little longer, and then I turned around. Soon I saw her and discovered that she had a punctured front tire.

At the army post, four men helped us remove the bike’s front wheel and change the inner tube, but we couldn’t get the tire back on the wheel. We decided to go to a gomeria (tire center). In the pitch dark, after more than six hours, the tire was finally put back on the motorcycle and we left for the final 20 miles of the day’s ride. We arrived at the falls at half past midnight. The next morning we went to the Brazilian side of the falls. With 275 individual drops and reaching 269 feet at their highest point, the falls are a magnificent sight.

Border Crossings
Having admired the falls from the Brazilian side, we decided to view them from above during a helicopter flight. We saved the Argentinian side for the next day. But we did pay a visit to Parque das Aves, the biggest bird park in South America, where we saw the most amazingly colored hornbills and toucans.

Foz do IguazuThe Argentinian side of Iguazu Falls is also amazing, and we experienced it in a completely different way: seated in a rubber boat, with the water gushing over us and leaving us thoroughly soaked. We spent only a day in Argentina, and then we crossed the border to Uruguay. That’s where the fantastic part of this trip with Lia came to an end and the second part of the great adventure, with Carli, began!


Text and Photography: Irene Wouters




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