Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Buenos Aires

Written by Sebastian on August 20th, 2012. Posted in Allgemein

Martin: We follow an unlit dirt road and pass by some army check points until we finally reach a bilboard stating that we are in Paraguay. It´s already after 10 pm and besides two lit huts of the customs department of Bolivia and Paraguay  it´s completely dark.  After we finish the Bolivian customs, the officer takes us back to the residence of the Paraguayan colleague, waking him up with  „Manolo, get up,  I´ve got here some Austrian bikers for you“.  The situation is somewhat funny for us, everything is very informal, the Bolivian and Paraguayan Customs Officers live door by door, run around in Bermuda shorts and Flip Flops and one feels that they get along very well…and all this at a State Border 🙂 If all neighbours were getting along like this there would be no wars. As this border crossing has a customs office only, we have to go to immigration in the next town… 300km away. This is also the closest option of finding accommodation. After a short break and another very friendly military check point we head off on a pothole covered mix of tarmac, sand and gravel direction Mariscal Estigarribia, where we arrive completely exhausted after a 14 hour drive at 3 in the morning. Of course without a cent of Guanari, the local currency, and no cash machine in the city. …

Luckily we still have some Dollars and Pesos from other countries and find a hotel, where we can pay the next day. Official Exchange Bureau of this town is the gas station 🙂 After only a short sleep we take care of immigration and hit the road. As we want to make up some time we plan to reach the 800km far Ciudad del Este, the border town with Brazil. Nice plan, but as you might know by now, we usually have some issues with implementation 🙂 There is actually only one road that goes down south to Asuncion which appears to us more like a bicycle lane. The land is flat and farming land is spreading seemingly endlessly on both sides of the road. Seeing so much cattle grazing freely around, the both of us get hungry 🙂 After a couple of hours passing by one hacienda after the other, we finally make it to Asuncion, Paraguays´ capital. The only reason entering Asuncion is me 🙂 For the past 20 countries I have been writing a postcard to my girlfriend from every country we have been to . I am not sure if we will have time to search for one in Ciudad del Este, so I convince Sebas to quickly check out the centre, buy the postcard and continue our way.


As we are close to downtown and ask for directions a Mercedes suddenly overtrakes us, stops and a middle-aged guy looking like a member of the Hells Angels jumps out of the car and starts waving at us.  We get to know Horstl, a Viennese fella who fell in love with Paraguay and decided to move here for good. After a coffee with him and his friend he advises us not to continue to Ciudad del Este, as it‘s already quite late and the city is supposedly not safe at night. Instead he invites us to stay over at his place and have an asado (BBQ – what else :-)) in the evening.  Said and done 🙂 We spend a great evening with him and his friends and find out why we only understand half of what is spoken: Paraguay has two official languages, Spanish and Guarani, the language of the natives, which are widely mixed in daily language.  So not the perfect country to go to learn Spanish 🙂 What is also surprising for us is it´s history. Until the mid 19th century it had been one of the largest and most developed countries of South America. Then their dictator got the great idea to start a war with Argentina and Brazil, who united themselves with Uruguay against Paraguay. This war turned into a disaster, the country lost 60-70% of its‘ population and 50% of its‘ territory. Must have been an inspiration for the Austrian Empire 🙂

After a short sleep we thank Horstl for his great hospitality and head off direction Ciudad del Este, where we arrive a couple of hours later. When I had been there in 2004 it strongly had the atmosphere of a classical border town with dusty roads and heavy smuggling activity, now, 8 years later, it changed into a clean city with roads with tarmac and one shopping centre next to the other. We go straight to the border and shortly after we finally set foot into Brazil. Even though we had spent very little time in Paraguay, I was very impressed by the friendliness  of the people we met and the incredible variety of birds we had seen along the way. This country must be a paradise for bird lovers!

Immigration is once again done very fast, the only issue is, that the customs office is closed, which is actually not a problem as well, as you are allowed to drive up to 150kms into the country without the need of doing customs. Hence, we can enter and come back the next  day for the customs inspection. Foz de Iguazu is not only a laid back border town but also the jump off point to the world famous Iguazu Waterfalls, an impressive natural spectacle and border between Brazil and Argentina and one of the (few) fix points of our travel. Surrounded by jungle over 270 waterfalls with up to 82 meters hight, making them higher than the Niagara Falls. It´s an unforgettable experience standing in front of these mighty falls, watching a never ending stream of water moving from one cascade to the next.

We leave the falls shortly before closing time and want to head off direction Blumenau, where we meet Cristiano, a friend of mine I got to know in a meditation retreat in a buddhist monastery in Nepal back in 2007. The only problem is, that Escargot shows no intentions of leaving the place. Whatever we try, she doesn´t want to start. Sebas had this issues for a couple of times so far, but after always waiting for some time, she in the end changed her mind and started. Not this time 🙂 With the GREAT help of the employees of the Iguazu Falls Management we contact KTM and find out that the closest office is in Curitiba, some 600kms from Foz. Already thinking how to let Escargot be town away to KTM we try it a last time… and she starts!

What happened afterwards is an „eastbound classic“ 🙂 Because we don´t want to risk that we end up at a gas station in the middle of nowhere, we decide to drive through until Curitiba. Challenge this time is – besides that it´s already 7pm – that Sebas can´t even switch her off at the gasoline stops and we´re not sure if the filling station attendant will allow that. Anyways, they do and after a curvy night race in fog and rain with crazy truck drivers who are seemingly trying to put on a speed world record, we arrive Curitiba at 4 am. There´s literally no one in the streets, which is actually also our luck, as we find out the next day at KTM that Curitiba is Brazil´s capital of homicides… The KTM technicians are awesome, like at our former stops at KTM we receive a warm welcome and Escargot is right away analyzed. It seems that her unwillingness to start is an aftereffect of Sebas‘ „rock parking“ experience in Chile. A cable at the ignition system broke and they were surprised that we even got that far 🙂 Replacing it would have ment ordering the whole unit plus new master key from Austria, considering our time left for this trip not an ideal solution. Even though very difficult, they manage to repair it and instead a bill we receive a „we are happy to be part of your trip guys, save travels“  🙂


With Escargot ready to roll we head off south, an area chosen by many German immigrants as their new home. Thus, it´s not surprising that we end up in Blumenau where we stay at Hotel Blumenhof and go for a beer into the micro-brewery „Eisenbahn“ 🙂 Blumenau is by the way famous for it´s yearly Octoberfest, where people, not only from all around Brazil, attend this week long binge. Meeting Cristiano here again is one of my special moments of the trip. When we parted back in 2007 we said: „one time, no idea when, we will for sure meet again“. Now, making it happen  is simply perfect!  We spend a great time with him and his family and he helps us a lot with gathering information for our transport… where we find out that this will not work out J The customs process in Brazil seems to be pretty complicated, only the preparation of the documents takes 3 weeks. Our frustration doesn´t last long though J After a superb lunch in a Churrascaria (all you can eat meat wonderland) we decide to ship them from Buenos Aires, leave the bikes here in Blumenau and head up north to Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro by bus…



Arrived in Sao Paolo we meet Ixan, a former colleague from Sebas who invited us to stay over at his place. As we stayed there only for a day, there´s not much I can say about the city, besides that it´s huge (11 Mio) with skyscrapers all over the place and seems to have a vibrant night life… which we can´t really judge because only the cover to get in would have blown our budget ($ 70-100!) 🙂 After yet another bus ride we finally arrive in Rio, juhuuu! Since I´ve been there a couple of years ago I fell in love with that city, with it´s great beaches Leblon, Ipanema and Copacabana, a very nice centre with colonial style buildings and an atmosphere that automatically makes you want to do something. Sebas seems a bit disappointed in the beginning, guess because he had heard so many good things about it, that his fantasy went through with him 🙂

But this impression changed 100% after our first night out and a beach day the following day. The party in this city is simply incredible, there´s something going on every night and for 5 days in a row our day consists of waking up at mid day, staying at the beach and explore the nightlife until some time in the morning… groundhog days :-)For the sake of our bodies and liver we decide to leave after almost a week in Rio. We head back to Blumenau to pick up our bikes and continue alongside the coast to Balnéario Camboriú where we want to meet Cristiano and his family to say goodbye and thank them for their incredible hospitality in Blumenau. Well, we don´t get very far 🙂

Sebas realizes that his back tire is pretty run down and that there´s no way that he’ll make it to Buenos Aires. If there´s one thing Cristiano can´t tell about us it´s that he gets bored with us 🙂 Instead of calling through potential transport companies he contacts all tire shops in the area and after a whole day search we don´t find the one we need, but at least one that fits… for € 320 (no, it´s not made of gold, just crazy import taxes :-)) in 60km far Brusque. At Fabios we not only change the tire, but meet the very kind and helpful owner, who  invites bikers of the region for a quick BBQ and organizes the local TV for an interview before some of our new friends escort us out of the city. This guy seriously earns the label „more than just a shop“ 🙂 After two nights in Balnéario Camboriú we REALLY say goodbye and head off direction south. Now we are a bit in a hurry, because we booked a ferry from Uruguay to Buenos Aires which departs in 2 days at 4:30am… some 1.800km from our current location 🙂


The first couple of hundred kilometers everything runs perfectly. Until it starts raining buckets, fog with 2-3 meter visibility comes up and my visor is filmed over… on a one lane road with heavy traffic. I honestly shit bricks as I don´t even see if I´m driving on my lane. Then there´s this moment where I have this feeling that I´ll be dead in any second and decide to stop at the emergency lane to calm down and try to get that film off my visor… shitty thing is that I don´t even see when that lane starts and ends  and because that lane is uneven, I drop the bike. Sebas is somewhere ahead and I´m with a 300 kilogram bike on the ground and besides having no idea how to lift it up, I pray to myself that hopefully no car or truck shoots me off the road. What to say.. one of the cars that pass by  sees me standing around there  (seemingly suicidal himslef)  turns around , turns again and stops a couple of meters behind me … and 4 guys get out and help me to lift it up J Yet another of these moments where I feel incredibly thankful for the kindness I am able to experience. This situation could have well ended in a disaster. Sebas is waiting a couple of km ahead and we decide not to risk any more and look for an accommodation, which we (luckily) find shortly after at a gas station.

The weather the next day is unfortunately not much better… challenge of  the day is an approx. 1000km drive including a border crossing and to arrive at the ferry the latest at 4:30am. Sounds like a fun day 🙂 We reach the border crossing where we need almost 3 hours for customs because we couldn´t find the Bazilian Customs Office and when we did, they were on lunch break 🙂 We head off to Uruguay, immigration is not an issue and even though we are told that we need an insurance for the bikes no one asks us for it. Due to the fact that we unfortunately have to cross this country within a day, we decide to take the risk. So off we go… until we realize that we are running out of gazoline and don´t have a cent in local currency 🙂 Luckily I somehow make it to a gas station that accepts credit cards, whereas Sebas decides to test the hospitality of the people after Escargot decides not to move any further without more liquids. As we experienced throughout the world, it didn´t take him even 5 minutes to find someone who gave him enough gasoline to make it to the station.

The rest of the ride is less spectacular, we are accompanied by ice-cold wind, rain and fog, so we don´t see much of the landscape, which seems pretty flat with farming land all over the place. This is not really surprising, Uruguay is one of the world top producers of beef. After a 15 hour ride (our new record :-)) we arrive at 11pm completely wet, shivering and tired as hell in Colonia del Sacramento , the colonial style port town where our ferry departs… and because we don´t find any hostel, we wait for the ferry departure in a 24/7 gas station. The moment we are allowed to enter the ferry  we find some free seats and the both of us fall asleep immediately.

We wake up at sunrise in Buenos Aires, customs is quickly done and luckily we are not asked for insurance, which is normally obligatory in Argentina. From the port we head right away to the airport to prepare the bikes for transport. Sebas had been in contact with Lufthansa Cargo, who not only made us a great offer, but have a customer service I have so far never experienced. Every question we had was replied promptly and the nice lady even gave us tips on what not to miss in Buenos Aires. Preparing the bikes for transport is straight forward, we fill out some papers and get one employee appointed who guides us through the whole process. Alltogether we pay 1.200 Euros per bike from Buenos Aires to Frankfurt incl. 3 days storage. Not a bad price for last minute air freight. After a couple of hours everything is set and we head downtown by public bus…. which takes about 2 hrs 🙂


The city is huge and the both of us are impressed by the architecture and atmosphere. Depending where you go you might easily think that you are in Paris, New York or Madrid. We are not the big shopping freaks, but being in BA I drag Sebas to Guido, a shoe store that sells hand made leather shoes for quite reasonable prices. Even though we don´t really fit into the usually quite exclusive clientele, we are treated very nice and the both of us walk out happily with a new pair of shoes. The next days we spend with Alex, a friend of Sebas brother Flo, who by chance happened to be in BA the same time and offered to meet us. Together with him and his friends we not only have a great time, they also show us around and even take us to the airport. Whereas Lufthansa Cargo`s service has been outstanding, the flight is another issue 🙂 Packed like sardines in a can we leave South America direction Frankfurt.

South America has been just incredible, not only because of simply unbelievable landscapes but also because of the many great people we were allowed to meet. Now sitting on the plane to Germany, I have to admit that we are a bit reluctant with euphoria. After about 12 months of enjoying an incredible openness and hospitality, what´s Europe, especially Germany, going to be like? More reserved? Let me tell you this: the both of us were more than surprised! Stay tuned 🙂