I had hoped to run into Salvador Carlucci or Dale & Sandy while in Brazil. But Salvador is now in Belem and soon will be riding down the Amazon River — well on a boat. And Dale & Sandy have left Rio and are moving north. I was fortunate, however, to chat over Yahoo! with Salvador the other night. It’s amazing what technology, friendship and the motorcycle community are capable of.
Salvador gave me a veritable Portuguese lesson over chat and through the help of his host in Belem, Alex, he has put me in contact with a number of Brazilian motorcyclists. All of this comes to fruition due to an organization of Brasilieros called Brazil Riders. As such, I had been in contact with a number of riders from the São Paulo area and once there hoped to connect and find my way around the second largest city in the world.
Originally, I had reasonsed that I’d find a hotel outside São Paulo, contact one of the Brazil Riders and then get an escort into the city to a decent hotel near the action on the following day. But as I got closer to São Paulo I soon found myself entering the city. Riding through the place is never ending. Like Los Angeles, California, there seems to be no city of São Paulo. Rather, there are about seven. As I gazed over the landscape winding down into the valley where São Paulo sits I could see clusters of skylines dotted across the horizon. Like an organic urban archipelago, this string towering skylines rose like volcanic islands towering above the sea of a suburban ocean. More expansive than Los Angeles and more polluted than Denver or Ghounzhou in China, São Paulo serves up a laundry list of trivia”:
– the 2nd largest city of the world
– the 2nd largest population of Japanese, after Japan
– more helicopters than any other city
– the worst traffic
– one of the most dangerous cities in the world (whatever than means)
I’m sure I could dig up more, but these shall suffice, for now.
While there are very little good GPS maps for any city in South America, like Argentina there is a public domain/volunteer project that has put together two sets of Garmin GPS compatible maps available for download — free. I had the version that contained the city maps. Searching for hotels I targeted an Ibis, which I had heard were good value, safe and usually located in good areas. I had no information about São Paulo and now found myself heading into the city. I set my course on Ibis and the GPS. I was doing good until the maze of one-way thoroughfares and less than accurate turn-by-turn directions. I knew I was close to the hotel. But I just couldn’t find it. I finally landed in a gas station. “Papi Camps, not only the amiable owner of this station but, veritable fishing kinpin, running the “escola de pesca” a school for fishing, knew exactly where I wanted to go and provided me with easy turn by turn directions. Though only 4.3 miles from the hotel, I got there in 25 minutes. Chalk one up for SP traffic.
After I got settled into my hotel, I jotted out emails to the SP Brazil Riders contacts, got a haircut, a beer and a warm meal.
Pollution? After trying to find my way around São Paulo for a couple hours, mostly with my faceshield open, I had quite a suprise when I wiped my face clean after finally checking into my hotel room. An unedited/altered photo of my wash cloth after finally settling into the 2nd largest city in the world.