Thursday, 6 September 2012

Breaking News !!!!

Well now that Alistair has informed his staff, I can break the news.

We are going back to the UK.

Three weeks ago, I got approached, totally out of the blue, by a big European Bank for a job offer, and I accepted it.

Some months ago, I got head hunted by a big American Bank, for a role either in London or NY. At the time I passed, as we were planning to stay until the world cup.

But after our holidays in the US and what was happening in Rio, for Alistair and myself, we were considering coming next year. The job offer, few weeks ago, came at the right time. It is a very interesting project that should keep me going for a year at least.

I am happy I can continue in my chosen career, and frankly, to get my life back. I am definitely not cut to be an expat house wife! And considering that the financial industry in Rio is pretty much non-existent, I was not prepared to give up entirely my career yet. So we are really happy to go back.

I leave soon and Alistair will join me back at the end of the year.

The dog will come with us after going through all the hoops to allow him to be imported to the UK.

I will miss few things of Rio: Acai, the sunshine, few friends, Agua de Coco.... but I won't miss the staggering boredom of being a housewife!

For those of you considering coming to live in Brazil, check out this post, I must admit I agree with the list:

Added to the fact that, unless you come as an expat, finding work will be extremely hard as a gringo, and you will earn in a month what you can earn in a day or 2 in the western world!

Anyhow, last week I sold my bike (at a huge discount!) to a shop. It had only 1,200 km on the clock. Oh well, I will get a nice Versys, once we are settled in London. And a little 125cc for green lane riding!

So, lots of things to look forward to. We are glad to go home and get closer to our friends and family and back into our comfort zone!

This blog will continue to report our motorcycle adventures. They will be many more to come. I have lots of plans on this: next summer riding to south East Europe, maybe into Turkey.

Then, I really want to do the Mongol Rally.

And sometime in the future, spend few months riding in Northern America.

And I still have not given up on my plan to ride from London to Sydney across northern Asia. I will definitely restart my Russian lessons in London!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Weekend in the mountains and our 1st Bikers' rally!

We took the opportunity to go to a Bikers' Rally in Penedo, while at the same time going to our favourite place outside of Rio: Maringa, 10 kms from Visconde de Maua, in the mountains.

The rally was supposed to be the 3rd International Bikers meeting in Penedo. The only thing international there were the bikes: lots of Harleys and BMWs. And us!

We got in touch with the organiser and he wanted to interview us in the evening, but we declined as we were staying in Maringa, which involves a 10kms ride on horrible unpaved surface... I did not fancy doing it at night!

We did not stay long at the meeting due to lots of loud music, very little shade and intense heat. Bikers there seemed to come with their motorcycle club mates and did not seem to mix much with other people. In this aspect it was very different from the Horizons Unlimited Travellers meetings, were everyone speaks with everyone else and there is definitely no loud music or concert. Just Motorcycle travellers interested in meeting other bikers with similar interests and exchange ideas and information.

Still, it was interesting!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Motorcycling in Rio...

We now both have our motorbikes sorted. After more crazy bureaucracy with Detran and 2 weeks trying to book my bike to get it fitted with a number plate, we are now ready to ride!

We had a few rides around Parque de Tijuca, and days excursions to Petropolis and Teresopolis, along with our 15 year old niece, visiting from France.

One word to describe riding in Rio: insane!

It seems that we are not to use lanes, an cars will bully us frequently out of our lane if we dare to use one. Apparently we are supposed to wizz dangerously bewteen cars, as fast as we can, going from one lane  to another, to yet another etc.... but not clogging a lane that belongs only to vehicles with 4 wheels or more.

So far, we managed to survive. I only relax once I am far from Rio and in small deserted country lanes!

Next weekend, there is a big bikers meeting in Penedo (about 200kms from Rio). We are planning to leave on Friday middday to avoid the insane Friday evening traffic, and we will spend the weekend in Visconde de Maua. Our first bikers rally in Brazil! Should be interesting!

Friday, 27 July 2012

The Mongol Rally

This Rally occurs every year and involve amateurs only, no professional rally drivers here.

The rules are few but interesting:
Bikes are 125cc max (so no big BMWs GS accepted!)
Cars are 1.2l max and 8 year old max. again, no big 4X4 allowed, too boring. It has to be interesting!
You ride by teams: for bikes that's 2 bikes.

Ah yes and where to? Get from London to Ulan Bator (in Mongolia) by any route you like. You're on your own! For 10,000 miles! 

Mongol rally official website

I'm interested! I know what bike I would ride. The Yamaha YBF125 would be ideal for that ...

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Our 1st bikers meeting coming soon...

Well, after all the trouble to register my bike in Barra, and spending 10 days non stop online (Detran website) to make another booking to do just  that, I got to Catete on a rainy day, with the Kwak.

it took 2 hours of waiting, but when I finally handed over all my docs, including the passport translation, the attendant gave it back to me saying it was not necessary. What a surprise!

Anyhow, the bike was finally registered! Perfect. We were able to go for a test ride to Petropolis, but most importantly, we can go to our 1st Brazilian bikers meeting, organised in Penedo:

3o Encontro Internacional de Motocyclistas, in Penedo:

It's at the end of next week. I can't wait.

And for those on the know, the best Motorcycle Museum is in Visconde de Maua: amazing collection of bikes!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012


One of the rare filmings I was able to do with my brand new helmet camera before it died! I sent it back :(

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Motorcycling round cowboy country!

Bikes rented: BMW F650GS (with low seat!) for me, V-Strom 650 for Alistair.
Company used: (Contact: Kevin Smith)

Very highly recommended. Very helpful, friendly,  and he has  few low seat bikes, ideal for short riders and/or women. And then you will get to ride the roads around Gunnison! An experience not to be missed!

It had been over 10 years since we last visited the USA. We were put off by the obnoxious immigration officers we dealt with last time, and the long hours queuing. But now that we are living in Brazil, we thought it could be a good opportunity.

Getting passed the Rottweilers that populate the immigration department, and after being pulled for “further questioning”, I was allowed in!

I mean, Come On! I have a French passport!  They asked me if I had ever been denied a visa into the US! French do not need a visa! Duhhh. Maybe I was not helped by my very Spanish maiden name (French passports show both maiden and married names for women).

Maybe I had a similar name than some dangerous Mexican girl on the run? Somehow I managed not to get deported to Guantanamo Bay, and after lots of checking in their computers, they let me go! Which was lucky, as I had planned a fantastic holiday!

We arrived at Gunnison, Colorado, after 3 flights and over 18h trip.
WE visited the town and the local shops. When we got to a big outdoor shop, we walked through the usual stuff: shoes, T-shirts, camping gear, fishing gear… until … our jaws dropped to the floor! A full wall full of riffles, guns, ammos, and archery stuff too in case you get bored of your gun! We truly were in America!

There were lots of bikers in town, mainly travellers, as they carried lots of luggage, sometimes even a trailer with them. First I thought there was some sort of Harley Davidson event in town, but after few days on the road it became evident that American riders have totally embraced motorcycle travelling! Most ride Harleys, but you can see lots of Japanese bikes too with the usual BMW GSs.

After a day rest, Kevin brought us the bikes as planned, to our hotel.

I had been nervous that the bike would be too tall for me. As I'm not tall, I have always had to modify my bikes in order to touch the ground with my feet! But when I sat on the 650GS with its custom low seat, it was perfect, I had comfortably both ball of my feet down.

The next day, we were off. Kevin recommended we rode the Black Canyon off Gunnison and he was right, it was an amazing road.

The bike felt strange. After having owned a Versys, and now an Er-6n, both Kawasaki twin engines, going back to a thumper was hard! I have been spoiled with my Kwaks!

 I used to have a 650GS. I was in love with it! Until the nasty bugger let me down so many times I came close to set fire to it! But this is another story. If you followed our adventures around south America, you know what I am talking about!

After a couple of days on the road, via places like Flaming Gorges (stunning) and Green River (one of the rare “crap” town we came across!) we reached Grand Teton national Park. Lots of french names in that area. I wonder if our American friends realise that Grand Teton in french means Big Nipple (or  big boobs in slang)!?

After 2 days in the very pleasant town of Alpine, we rode to West Yellowstone, where I had booked a motel for 2 nights. Finding accommodation in Yellowstone at this time of year can be tricky, so this was the only booking we had on our entire trip (with the exception of our Gunnison’s motel on arrival and departure).
We rode all around and explored the park, seeing lots of wildlife on the way, but although it was a nice place, it was not biker paradise. That was to come soon.

Leaving West Yellowstone, we crossed the huge park and exited by Cook City. From there we took the Bear Tooth highway! Now you’re talking. This was biker paradise. The sharp never ending climb, with tight turns, followed by a high plateau and a massive descent into Red Lodge…. It was breathtaking.
Unfortunately, by then, my helmet camera, specially bought for this trip, stopped recording. So no filming guys! Only photos.

We were in Montana! At a fuel station we saw what it meant. We stopped for fuel. Inside, among the usual petrol station stuff, there was a massive selection of riffles, guns, ammos, even guns for kids, pink for girls etc… further along you would have a nice selection of alcohol to buy in case you got thirsty…. After few fuel stops it became evident that this was how it was in Montana. You can refuel, buy a gun and have a drink…. interesting combination! When you think that in the UK (or also Europe?) you cannot even buy toys that look like fire arms these days, thanks to the nanny state….

Another thing that struck me, since we got in the US, was that pretty much everyone had a massive, but I mean MASSIVE, SUV. The kind of car/truck that drinks gallons of fuel per mile, and would need the Place de la Concorde space to park! No way you would get that through the narrow streets of Paris or London!
At a petrol station we got talking to an old guy. He was still in the army, as he showed us his card, despite his age, and claimed he carried a gun everywhere, as well as his wife. He then proceeded to show us the said gun and made us hold it (thankfully after removing the ammo!).

We were riding toward Glacier National Park. After a very long boring and blazing hot day on the bikes we got to Great Falls. From there it was a short ride to Glacier. SO far the section we saw of Montana, since Red lodge, seemed flat and boring, but that was about to change as we continued to ride  North West.
From Great Falls we made it almost to Glacier by lunch time. But the weather had changed for the worst, it got very cold, with massive rain and hail further north. We stopped at Brownings, the heart of the Blackfeet Indian reservation, for some food and to wait. As several other bikers arrived from various directions, we all waited for the hail to calm down.

Initially we had planned to camp few days in Glacier National park and do some walks. The weather ruled that out. We decided to ride to the nearest entrance and find a motel. We would not be going anywhere much further that day. East Glacier was only 12 miles and we decided to get there. Any other entry point would mean a long ride, and we did not want to chance it with the weather.

After 12 miles of dreadful wind, fighting to get the bike on a straight line, we got a small place with few shops, a couple of motels and place to eat. More than enough considering the weather!
This was really bear country. A woman at the motel told me that just earlier in the week, one bear had to be put down, near the motel, as it was venturing into town!

I was concerned of what to do if we came across a bear on the bikes! I mean on a car, you are safe, but on a bike, you are very vulnerable! You are out there, with the bear! I must ask some of my friends who crossed Africa on bikes. There are big hungry cats in Africa. What do you do in that case?????

Anyhow, settled in our Motel, it was time for a beer. I wandered to the local shop, only to be told that it was Tribal Election day and no alcohol was allowed to be sold on that day! Damn! Lucky enough, there was a shop 2 miles down the road, conveniently located outside the Indian reservation, where you could buy booze. It was making a fantastic trade on that day, I can tell you that, despite its overinflated prices!

The next day, we decided to ride to the East entrance and see what was happening there. The weather was still very cold. When we got to the East entrance, we bumped into one of the bikers we spoke to, the day before.

He had planned to get into Canada, but was turned down at the border, because he had a criminal offence 30 years earlier. The only way to get into Canada was for him to go to Washington get some docs sorted. Anyway, he turned down and attempted to cross Glacier through the Going-to-the-Sun road, which is the only road that goes across the Park. But there was snow and the road was closed.

There was nothing much for us to do, considering the weather but find a motel and wait. The weather was supposed to get warmer the following day.

After checking in at a pleasant motel, overlooking the East Entrance, we rode to the Many Glacier entrance, few miles north of the East Entrance. There is a 12 miles road in teh park that ends in cul-de-sac. It was a great road. After that, we rode to the Canadian border to have a look. We did not dare to try get into Canada, as we had rented bikes and were too scared we would not be allowed to get back in the US…

The next day was cold but sunny! At last. We rode across the Park. It was stunning. It’s a shame we did not have much time to spend there. It would have been awesome to have few walks in the mountains and observe wildlife….

We then headed south to Missoula, through beautiful valleys and mountains. This part of Montana is amazing! We even took few gravel roads for fun...

The next day we were determined to make some progress as we had to get back to Gunnison.
Unfortunately, by mid-afternoon, as we were about to stop for some food, my engine light turned on. We checked the oil, it was a bit low so we added some. But the light was still stubbornly on. That was worrying. After testing for few miles, it seemed, checking the oil, that it was circulating, as it looked slightly foamy. The 
temperature was fine, nothing else. As we were in the middle of nowhere, we decided to continue slowly to Three Forks, the next town, and find accommodation before investigating.

The bike was running fine, just the oil light was on, although sometimes it was flickering. It was unlikely that it was serious but we called Kevin to discuss. No easy to find a workshop on a Friday evening though. After investigation, it appeared it was probably electric. Alistair found the cable, and indeed, when touching it, the light would switch off.
It was a relief.

Next to our room was a retired couple on a Gold Wing. They had just done 600 miles that day! We discussed with them for a while. Everywhere we went, all motels would have few shiny Harleys or Gold Wings parked outside. So many bikers travelling! Although it seemed most were in their 40 or 50s at least!

The next day we had a lot of ground to cover. We got back toward Red Lodge and rode the Bear Tooth highway from Montana to Wyoming. Once again, I was very impressed by how beautiful this road is. The views, the tight corners, the lights, the sky…. It has to be done!

We were leaving Montana and we were very sad. We loved the state. The people we met had been exceptionally friendly, but then, almost everywhere we went during this trip it was the case. On top of that the landscape was stunning: open spaces, big mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes…. We could spend a lot of time exploring Montana. We will have to come back!

At the end of the Bear Tooth Highway we turned left, away from Yellowstone Park, toward Cody: Buffalo Bill city. This was truly the Far West as we see in Cowboys movies, no mistake there!

We visited the Buffalo Bill Museum, which holds 5 big exhibits: one on Buffalo Bill, one on Yellowstone wildlife, one about the Plains’ Indians, one on Western Art, and obviously one on guns and riffles.
To visit the museum you are asked to leave your firearms outside though! Not sure why:

The exhibit on fire arms had lots of stuffed bears and other wildlife so we got some got photos there!

In the evening we assisted to a Rodeo. Kevin had advised us to do so if we had the opportunity. It was certainly great fun.
The start of the rodeo was an interesting insight into American culture.

The compere, on his horseback, asked first that anyone serving the country to get up, and we applauded them.
Then it followed a prayer, for the people performing in the rodeo but also for the troops abroad. This was then followed by a little blind girl singing the national anthem.
American are so nationalists, so proud of who they are, it give them such a sense of belonging, of identity. We have lost that in Europe.

 Through the great European Union Experiment, and in order to stop Germany from starting a 3rd World War, European technocrats, for the last 50 years, have tried hard to root out nationalism in Europe.
To be nationalist in Europe these days, is almost synonymous of being a racist. It brings with it the image of Nazis, walking down the Champs Elysees, of ethnic cleansing… The Front national in France, or the British National Party in the UK, extreme far right and racist political parties, claim to be nationalists.  So by association, if someone claims to be nationalist…

By contrast, the US attitude was so refreshing, they have such strong sense of identity. 

The rodeo was everything you can see on TV, but it was awesome to see if for real!

The following day we left early and made it to Rock Springs. This was really crap town! Dreadfully ugly place. The only redeeming feature was that we had one of our best meals of the trip in a local restaurant. If you really have to stop overnight at Rock Springs, make sure to get to the Shopstix and get the California Paradise (with crab, scallops, shrimps, salmon, and a sauce to die for!). Fantastic!

We only had 2 days to get to Gunnison from there. We decided to have a long day and make it to Aspen, and from there it would be a shorter ride to Gunnison.

As usual, our day did not go to plan. About 10 miles before Aspen, we got stuck in awful traffic. It seemsed the whole world and its mum wanted to get to Aspen after all! By 3:30 / 4pm, we got finally into town. The place was mobbed. It was awful. We decided to get the hell out of there. Unfortunately, riding south, there would be not much in term of accommodation on the road.

We managed to get out of town, and suddenly, on this little mountain road, there was hardly any traffic. Most cars we saw were going toward Aspen. However it was slow going and it took us a long time to get to Leadville, a nice ski resort. We made almost 400 miles that day, we were exhausted.

The following morning was 4th of July, and we were fairly close to Gunnison. We decided to take a shortcut through the mountains and over the Cottonwood Pass, using a well surfaced dirt road. We even met a biker on a Harley going the other way!  It had stunning views. Which shows that Colorado has nothing to envy to Montana.

We got to Gunnison early afternoon and had a rest before going for dinner and see the fireworks. After all, it was 4th of July! Independence Day!

We still had the bikes for the next day and Kevin advised us, by email, of a nice ride for our last day. We rode up to Crested Butte and then over the Kebler Pass, toward Somerset through a fantastic dirt road, and down south through the Black Canyon.

It was a stunning ride.

The dirt road was twisty, sometimes narrow,  and going through beautiful wooden area, with deer running around, cows and sheep…and then back to mountain views. It was fantastic.

The Black Canyon was even more impressive riding toward Gunnison as we were on the outside lane, the one next to the precipice. And boy was that a big precipice. With the wet surface (due to an incoming storm)  and often no rail or safety feature on the edge of the road, next to the precipice, every narrow turn was exciting and terrifying at the same time.

For our last ride in the US, it was a fantastic one.

That was it. It was time to get back and wait for Kevin to come pick up the bikes. And share few beers and stories with him.

We had a fantastic time in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana and loved every minute of it. As usual on our motorcycle trips, what makes our view of a country is not the landscape (Bolivia is out of this world stunning!) but it is the attitude of the locals toward us. I won’t rush back to Bolivia, as I described in my website, when I got there, but I will definitely go back to the US for a ride. With the Colombians, the American must be the friendliest people we have met, of all the countries we have visited. I also love their positive attitude and optimism. We tend to be so blasé and cynical in good old Europe these days. 

We were sad to leave. There are so many stunning roads still to ride, trail to follow... we will come back.

In any case, if you fancy renting bikes, get a couple of V-strom from Kevin. I tried the V-Strom fitted with the lowering link, and I was actually fine with it. Next time I will get that one as it makes sense for both of us to have the same bike: same performance, same fuel tank size... :)

I hope you enjoyed the read!!!! 

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Fed up of Brazil!!!!!!

This country is beyond insane.

This week, and last week, has been all about Detran (the organism dealing with driving licences, vehicle registrations etc…).
We went through all the hoops for our licences.

Then I had to deal with my new bike. When I went to pick it up at the shop it had no number plate! I was told to pay some tax and get an appointment with Detran.

I paid the tax on Monday in a bank. I then called Detran and I was told that it takes 48h for the payment to be processed. So I called again on Wednesday morning. I could book my appointment  online but the appointments are only starting next Monday and I flying off on Friday for 3 weeks.

So after spending all morning trying to speak to someone, and being hang on, or redirected to nowhere, I manage to speak to someone for more than 2 minutes before being cut! I am told at Detran that I only have 2 weeks from the date I picked the bike at the shop (showing in the bill) to get the registration done. Otherwise the police will take my bike away (where????).

Over the phone I manage to get an appointment for Thursday 14th morning in Barra. We get there early with Alistair. I was told to bring an Id, CPF number and proof of address. Anything else? No just that!
After being given a piece of paper at the triage I am sent to a shabby building. I take my number and wait.
The girls working there know to take their time while people wait. 3 of them get their clients off and start showing each other their mobile phones and chatting for a long time while people wait. This seems rather usual in Brazil and I have seen it even in shops, while you wait to pay in a big queue!

 I grind my teeth.

After a very long time, my number is called.  

I give all my docs and everything else I could think to bring. I know Brazil by now and brought originals and copies of all the docs that I have and could possibly be asked.

Then the girl takes the copy of my passport and goes away. She comes back and tells me that I need a translation of my passport! What for? Translate the passport number and name?

I’ve never heard of passport’s  translation, but there you go. I ask to speak with her boss who backs her up. I know she is inventing and it is a lie, because Alistair went to Detran for his bike, in another location, and he was not asked for that!

I am livid. There is nothing to do but go home and deal with the bike when I come back from holidays.
I am so furious I tell them “Fuck you” ! Childish? Maybe, but there is only so much anger and frustration you can take. Especially as you notice how much they enjoy this situation!

Unfortunately, although there are many very nice Brazilians, there are also many Brazilians who really don’t like foreigners and resent them. They see foreigners as stealing a job from a Brazilian. They forget to notice that a multinational would not pay expat expenses if they could employ someone locally. The fact is there are just not enough people at a level of education and professional experience to fill the gap!

It is the same issue if you try to look for a job. If you are a foreigner, don’t even bother. No company will give you a job. The foreigners I came across, who came here without an expat deal, seem to be teaching English, usually. Or having the sort of jobs where you can work for yourself like psychologist, physio, etc….
Ok, this is a bad day, and I just want to go home to a civilised country where rules are clear (and not invented on the spot!) and you are not made to go back 3 or 4 times to the same place for a piece of paper and people treat you like a human being!

As many expats have said before me: “ Brazil is not for the beginner” !

Alistair had to go 3 times to Detran in the end, for the registration of his bike. The 1st time because he turned up with original docs and no copies. The 2d one, I can’t remember!

Ha yes, and the best part is that once I come back and book an appointment with Detran again (and have a copy of my passport translated and certified!) I also have to pay a fine, because I will be over the 2 weeks limit. The fact it is entirely Detran’s fault is totally irrelevant of course!

I am going to forget about this now and go pack my stuff. Tomorrow, I am off to the States for 3 weeks. I can’t wait!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

My new Beauty!!!!!!!!!!


Isn't she a beauty? And Fast! Faster than the Versys and more responsive!

Friday, 8 June 2012

I'm not mad! I've been tested....

From now on, anyone who tells me: “Are you insane?” I will be able to answer, proudly: “No, I am not mad, I’ve been tested!”. J

Well, today I spent 4 ½ hours at a DETRAN’s “clinic” (equivalent to the DVLA in  the UK) to assess if I am fit  to drive.

Along with the usual eye test, and medical test (close your eyes, touch the tip of your nose with your left then right index) and in addition to being finger printed again and again, I had to do a psycho test for about 2h.

Everyone has to do it to be fair, not only me (in case you wonder!!!!!). The Brazilians have to do it every 5 years. For foreigners, we need to do that to get our foreign licence replaced by a local one, and be allowed to drive in Brazil.

Well, what can I say! “What a load of crap!”. I suppose this is a way to create non-jobs and keep people employed who otherwise would be unemployed. The Brazilian govt is good at that! Which explains the massive amount of taxes and VAT we pay here.

The 1st test,  we had to draw a continuous line passing along black obstacles. You are not supposed to touch the black obstacles. Okeeeeeeeeeeeeeeey……………

Then, there was a string of little triangles in a full A4 sheet. We were supposed to draw a tiny dot inside each, without touching the edges. Hmmm…….

Then memorise 3 little triangles (one black pointing right, one white pointing left, one white with a spot inside pointing down). You have a full page of triangles and 2minutes. Cross the ones that are similar to the 3 I described. Dohhhhhhhhh……..

Then memorise 16 faces with their names. You have 2 minutes. Turn the page and you have 32 faces to recognise from the list, selecting the correct name. Hmmm… my memory is not that great, combined with Brazilian names….. I got 50%.

Next draw little sticks, as many as you can in line, as straight as you can. Somehow this is supposed to say a lot about your personality! Yep! I can draw sticks!

Last but not least: 20 minutes “intelligence” test. 40 questions.

You have a horse drawing in a page. The tail is missing. Multiple choice answers with various horse's body parts. What should you tick? Hint: not the head!

You have 3 ducks and a 4th empty box. Multiple choice. What should you tick? The dog? Wrong answer. You have to select the duck!

You have 2 triangles, then under it you have one circle, next? What is the missing one? A circle, triangle, square….? Hu… let me think!

About 30 of those questions were so obvious that I suspect even my dog would score 30/30! (Mind you he can be smart, especially when food is involved!).

The last 10 required, ohhh, about 2 seconds to think about it. 2 left me totally puzzled.

So there you go. If you had any doubts, don’t anymore! I was declared sane and fit to drive :). Which is lucky, as I just paid in full for my bike and will go down to Barra to pick it up tomorrow morning! I am ecstatic!
And no, I did not buy the little Honda in the end. You will have to wait to see my new beauty. I give you a clue though! It is a 650cc parallel twin! Guessed yet? 

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Taking a psycho test!

We went  to DETRAN this morning (a bit like the DVLA in the UK), to do the paper work so we can exchange our UK driving licences for brazilian ones. That's the law, we have 6 months from the date of our permanent visa to swap them.

Now, the next step is a medical (eye test) and psycho test! Apparently  the locals have to do the psycho test every 5 years.
No sh*t Sherlock! Of course they have to. You have to be a complete psychopath to drive in Rio by the look of it!

Anyway, I am booked at a Detran's clinic for Friday 8am. I have been told I may be there until 12:30! Oh dear, that is going to be interesting!
Oh yes and the test will be in Portuguese, no translation... hmm....

I keep you posted!

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

My dog is on Prozac!

Well, something had to change. The dog is over a year old now, but so incredibly clingy that he cannot bear to stay alone at home. His behaviour was starting  to get destructive, we had to do something.
Either find someone who can help fix this issue, or we would not be able to keep him.

Scruffy had to go the vet after cutting his foot on something last Thursday. so, once at INPA (in Copacabana- rua Santa Clara- warmly recommended!), I discussed with Cesar, Scruffy's regular vet, about his behaviour. Cesar recommended a vet who visits INPA on Fridays mornings, Joao is a dog behaviorist. So I booked the dog in and next morning, with Alistair, we were at INPA again.

We had a long chat with Joao. It seems the dog still behaves like a puppy. When they are adults, they should be able to mind their own business and stay on their own, not follow us everywhere. This behaviour is common with adopted dogs. So we need to start some training, but also deal with his separation anxieties crisis when left alone. Medication helps a lot.

So the vet prescribed anti-depressions tablets and some beta blockers that seem to slow down the heart beat.
I never took beta blockers but in my 15 years in Investment banking I have been through 2 phases of such high stress that I had terrible panic attacks, non stop weeping, shaking, not able to sleep etc... I just got to a  stage where I could not cope with the job. And on those 2 occasions, I took anti-depressions tablets. I must admit it did the job of reducing and dealing with the panic attacks and gave me the time I needed to continue working while looking for another job. Eventually, on both occasions, I left the bank. There is only so much sh*t you can take!

So I can see how these tablets can help the dog cope with his crisis. When he loses sight of us in the park, we can see him almost panicking until he see us again....

Since he has been taking his tablets he seems much quieter and seems able to sleep on his bed while I am in another room. that is progress. Usually he follows me everywhere all the time, including the toilets or even when I take a shower!

We will see how it goes. We have tablets for 2 months. In 2 1/2 weeks we are off 3 weeks to the USA, where we have arranged to book 2 motorbikes. We plan to ride in North Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. it should be awesome! Fantastic mountains rides in the area.

So the dog will go the his usual kennel but will continue his treatment. When we are back we will see the vet again.

I hope he will get fixed. We cannot keep a destructive dog in a rented flat otherwise!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Back from Europe.. and ready to ride!

Nice bike! Alistair could not resist and got himself a V-Strom few weeks ago, despite having no MC gear at all. He had to rush to buy a helmet!

For me, I was desperate to get a bike....
Well, I went to Europe and when I came back, our container had finally arrived! With all our motorcycle gear!
So off we went with Alistair's bike to Barra, investigate the local dealers! And I found the One! I emailed all the docs required and pay a reserve fee yesterday. I should get my brand new bike early June!

Just need to wait now and keep patient by riding pillion!

To keep me sane there are 2 bikes event coming.

The first one is an "International"  gathering on 3rd, 4th and 5th of August in Penedo, organised by the Penedo Motorcycle Club ( ).

I sent an email asking if we need to register to assist. I wrote in English as it is an "international" meeting!  I explained our motorcycle background and many travels. They answered using Google translate telling me we would be welcome and to let them know where we would be staying as they want to interview us for the local newspaper! It seems our travels have impressed someone! Hehehe!

The second event is organised by myself. I am setting up the 1st "Horizon Unlimited" Meeting in Saquarema (RJ) on 14th, 15th and 16th of September. If you are passionate about Motorcycle travelling, be it in your backyard or around the world, come and join us. Details in the HUBB:

Let me know if you are joining us as I need to have an idea of numbers!

That's all for now!

I leave you with a couple of pictures of Scruffy in his new rain coat! See the little hood!

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The art of war!

Well this is war, as simple as that!

3 weeks after I treated the dog with Frontline, the dog was still full of fleas. I treated again with the same remedy, only to find that 2 days later they were all happily partying on his belly. I was horrified.

I could not blame Frontline as I brought it with me from the UK, last January. So it is not a fake copy.

I thought maybe fleas in this country have some sort of superpowers? After all when you see the size of the cockroaches (almost big enough to have a mouse for breakfast!) you can understand my doubts!
Always the proactive one, I got into the Gringoes’ forum to explain my predicament and ask if this is normal. (And yes there is such a thing as a Gringo forum:

After various answers I realised that, no, fleas here don’t have superpowers and that I most certainly have an infestation. I then proceeded to go my local “petshop” where they sell all sort of products and pet food and explain my problem. I was explained that I needed to disinfect the flat and floor boards as well as treat the dog.

Back home with a product called Fortis, I dilute it in a bucket and I disinfect the whole flat: mop the floors, spray the sofa and carpet and wash all the pet beddings with an anti-fleas shampoo. I also bath the dog in the same anti fleas shampoo.

I believe if you are going to strike, you have to strike so strongly that whatever you strike at won’t come back to bite you. Ever. That is my take on “the art of War”. Hit once, and hit VERY hard! So there. I’ve been hitting pretty hard, surely the dog won’t have any fleas left?

2 days later a close inspection shows fleas still partying on the dog belly (he has very little fur there so easy to spot them!). Argh! I go back to the petshop and explain my predicament again. The shop  hasn’t got any solution of Fortis so she gives me a bottle of Triatox.

Back home I look at it but the leaflet is written with such small letters that I can’t read it. Even with glasses! I manage to decipher that I need to dilute 10ml into 5 litres of water and proceed to do just that in a bucket. Without gloves. Or goggles. Or any protective stuff. I pour a liquid into a measuring cup and put in a bucket, pouring a vast quantity into my hands.  After dilution I put some of it into a spray bottle. I spray all the sofa and carpet again and wash the floors.

The dog has another bath with that solution (diluted as 10ml in 10 litres) and I wash again all his bedding with some of this solution.

Few days later another inspection of his bedding show tale tell signs of flea’s dropping. I grab the dog and check him again. There, dirt flea in his bottom and one flea wandering around!  Damn it! Scruffy fleas definitely have super powers, no way!
I use a cloth dipped into diluted Triatox to rub the dog with it. Flea dead. Once again all bedding is being disinfected. And flat.

I will win this war. I hope the dog can make it though!

(Polite notice: no pet was not harmed in the process ok? Don’t send me complaints emails! Find your sense of humour! )

As for me I’m not so sure! Not using gloves when pouring the concentrated solution into a bucket was not a good idea. AS not wearing a surgical mask to spread. It happens that Triatox is highly toxic and used on cattle and pigs! I’m pretty sure this would not be sold over the counter in Europe!
On the plus side, there is not risk of me of getting any fleas any  time soon, that must have treated me for life!

On a totally different topic: our container.

If you remember, the packers came, at end of June, last year, to take away all our stuff. Then the container was stuck in the UK, waiting for our “permanent “ visa to be granted. At the end of January this was done. By mid-February, the container left the UK and arrived at Santos on 3rd of March. After a month it went through Santos custom, only  to be told by the shipping agent  that the container would need clearance from Rio customs too! Why? No clue!

Anyhow, on the 2d of April the container arrived in Rio and we continued waiting.
And finally, at last, some good news! Rio’s customs has put us on a fast track (!) as we had already be cleared in Santos, and they only took  2 weeks to inspect our stuff. We had confirmation yesterday that we are allowed to get it! Not that the stuff is on its way just yet! But at least we can hope to get it by end of this month? Please? Maybe?

So in total, 10 months to London/Rio. One year and 1 month after Alistair arrived. Don’t we love Brazilian bureaucracy? ;-)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

What sort of business is that?

Things have turned a bit surreal with the neighbour upstairs.

Few weeks ago he did lots of “home improvement” or work by the sound of it! Since then we have not heard the “printing press noise”. What we hear now is from  the bathroom: constant water running down a big fat toilet pipe coming from the upstairs’ flat, and running through our en-suite bathroom (Brazilian plumbing!!!!) . Sometimes it stops but most of the time the water is running pretty much all the time.

So there it is, the guy upstairs is not printing false money anymore (or whatever his dodgy business was!) he has changed his business model!
I mentioned it to my friend Nayla (one of my neighbour) and she reported back to me after the “condominio” meeting.
Apparently there is a massive increase in the water bill. It went up from 5,000 reais monthly to over 9,000 and climbing! Nayla mentioned at the meeting about the water running nonstop. Now we do not have individual water metres so the bill is shared by all.

I could have predicted what would happen next.

First the lady in charge of the “condominio” put a notice about this but no one reported a leak. Then they decided to inspect the 2 flats above mine. Obviously dodgy neighbour refused to let anyone in. After putting pressure from the owner of the building he agreed. By then the water running stopped. After checking his flat the building’s taff said the noise I heard was from a washing machine. Yeah right! 24h, 7 day a week nonstop full blast water running!

And predictably as well, soon after the flat inspection, the water running noise started again.

Now I ask the question: what sort of business uses so much water?  I am wondering if it could be related to drugs. After all, now that the local favela Rocinha has been cleaned and local super villain Nem recently put in jail (he got caught fleeing Rocinha hiding in the boot of an Angolan diplomatic car – you could not make it up!!) there must be a gap in the market for supply of drugs!?

I vaguely remember a documentary  about the Amazon forest and the cocaine production. Did it use lots of water? Anyone specialised in Cocaine production please kindly let me know. We could be onto something here J.
I am afraid I am rather ignorant of that stuff! I am old school, my only drug is booze!

On another totally unrelated subject I am pleased to report that Alistair bought a V-Strom! (That’s a bike for those not on the know!).

For me, we went to BMW dealer in Barra yesterday , and stuffed our face with free cakes, sandwiches and coffee (hehehhe!!) , but came out empty handed. I had my eyes on the G650GS because they offer a very low seat for vertically challenged people like me! Bad news is that despite what it says in the Brazil website, BMW do not offer that choice in Brazil and when I sat on the bike it was too high for me. Can’t be bothered to lower it. So BMW is out!

I will make my way to the local Honda dealer and I think I will get the much cheaper and smaller CB300 with a full tank of 18.4l! Cool baby!


Now I just need to get my container (still detained by custom) and get my riding gear so we can actually pick up our bikes!
Soon we will start our road adventures!  The Franglais-riders are back J! Well almost, depend on Custom! L