Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Faceoff with a Cyclone in Uruguay

Having spent the whole day hanging around Cabo Polonio I left in the early evening as I found out the weather was going to be good for the next few days and I thought I would spend the weekend at Punta del Diablo, 80km up the road.  As I had the 4x4 to myself coming to Cabo the night before I was a bit shellshocked to share the 4x4 with a group of 40 school students on the way back to the visitor centre.  It was reminiscent of my school trips except I didn’t know any of the songs.  The kids asked lots of questions and wanted me to tell stories, which I was beyond rubbish at, but kids are forgiving and they were really interested in my trip.  Getting to the visitor centre I loaded up my bike and rode an hour to Punta del Diablo, arriving at Hostel Tranquilo as it got dark.  

Punta del Diablo is a small fishing town on the cusp of a tourism boom.  There are a lot of houses and small hotels being built, but no highrises thankfully.  Like the rest of Uruguay it is extremely busy for the 3 summer months and dead quiet the rest of the year.  But right now there are a lot of foreign speculators buying up land and many of the town folk are working all year in construction.  It will be interesting to see what will happen here, but at the moment it is cheap.  You can buy good beach view plots for only US$60,000, just saying mum.

Punta del Diablo
As soon as I arrived at the hostel a French guy ran out to say hi.  He said he knew me from Montevideo and we’d been hanging out together.  I’d definitely never seen him before, but as there were a group of people watching us and as he was so happy to see me I decided to go along with it.  The weather ironically was pretty bad, so much for the beach weekend…bastard weather reports.  Still, waiting for the rain to stop I had fun and ended up hanging around for 3 days with all the people getting up to all kinds of hostel stuff, which in summary is drinking beer.  The French guy was as crazy as they come and along with him a group of us did venture out on Saturday night to a local bar inland.  It’s a little vague but was a good night, I remember thinking it was a good idea to come back on the bonnet of a car.  Upon reflection it probably wasn’t the wisest.

Cheesy I made it to the beach on my bike and its not raining shot

Trying to see inside the fort in Santa Teresa only to find there's an entrance the other side.

By the 22nd the weather was actually getting worse and I decided to make a run for it to Brazil.  The weather had to get better there.  I planned to cross the border at Chuy and then ride onto Rio Grande but by lunchtime the rain was torrential.  I’d already packed so thought I would just ride 40km to Chuy and spend the night at the border, making my journey the next day a bit shorter.  The rain though was so bad that I missed the main part of the town and actually rode through the border control and into Brazil.  It was only when the signs changed to Portuguese that I realised so had to backtrack a few kms haha.  Chuy is a strange town, cross one side of the street and its Brazil, cross back and its Uruguay.  This is good as there was some kind of holiday on the Uruguay side and the shops were closed, so I just crossed the road and went to the supermarket in Brazil.

Chuy - Brazil on the left, Uruguay on the right
I was soaked through when I got to the hostel (I really need to get some better water gear).  I was the only guest too and the owner told me a Cyclone was on its way the next day.  I asked how bad and he said there was a “Red Alert” warning and all businesses and schools will be closed.  Not what you want to hear when you're riding a bike, Still the next morning it seemed quite windy, but no worse than I’d seen before so I decided to make a run for it.  This was perhaps not too intelligent, but I was sick of all the bad weather – and at least the roads would be clear of traffic.  Immediately, and I don’t know how, I rode off in the wrong direction and somehow again I think I crossed into Brazil.  This time there were no signs so it took me 20mins to work it out.  I’m so retarded sometimes.  

Brazilian Armed police clearly not interested in my bike
After turning back and finding the right border control and getting my documents checked it was after 9am – so much to my early start.  I still had to go 550km – my furthest in one day yet and through a cyclone at that.  A real full blown Cyclone it turns out.  I think I have blocked it all out now, but it was a terrible day riding.  The eye of the storm was luckily about 200km south, with winds reaching 185km/h.  In the north it was 120km/h, but this was still powerful and the rain was so strong it felt like stones were hitting me.  As I rode, the strength of the wind forced the bike to a 45 degree angle as the wind flew in from the side, but it was even worse when there were intermittent gaps in the trees as they acted as windbreaks and were so inconsistent I veered all over the place.  So difficult to control but I couldn’t stop let alone take photos because I would have been blown over as well.  I remember I kept screaming weak and pathetic swear words to no one in particular.  I wasn’t the only one affected though.  The few trucks I did see started to loose their loads with their canvass covers coming undone and flying like huge flags across the road.  Birds were laughably making no impact when they flew and just hovered in the sky.  Trees were really being hit, many loosing branches and there was a lot of debris in the road.

The cyclone in Montevideo, taken from news websites

I can’t even remember when I finally got past the worst of it, but it was well into the afternoon something like 4pm before I noticed blue sky and sun and I stopped and lay down for a while to recover.  It then hit that I’d made it to Brazil and out of a Cyclone, so I was feeling pretty good by then.  After this everything was easy and I happily kept going until I crossed the bridge into Porto Alegre at around 6pm, 8hrs after leaving the border.  A massive day covering 570km, and so so happy to be in Brazil and have nice weather for once.  

Sun - at fucking last!!!

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