From August 5 2008:

The Beauties of Brazil.

The short and sweet version since our last egroup is...we went to
Brazil. We met up with friends, slept on an island, were interviewed
on television, learned about Brazil's agriculture, were silent
observers of a beach party (just how silent were we???), ate way too
much sugar, went fishing, camped in a zoo, slept in a waterfall and
gave our bikes away.

Now for the details of our time in Brazil. We left the Alto Plano of
LaPaz, Bolivia and headed to San Mathias, Bolivia. This was the
border city into Brazil. We left an altitude of 12,500ft and dropped
down to an altitude of 500ft. The cold frosty nights were replaced
with the intense heat and humidity of the Pantanal. Things were going
to be different.

Our reason for going this route was to meet up with a Rotarian friend,
Wilson Dalto, in his city of Tangara de Serra, Mato Gross, Brazil.
Wilson had been to Decorah in 1992 as a Rotary Exchange person. He
stayed with me for about a week in April, 1992. Over the years we had
kept in touch. Now I was going to be able to see his very young city
of only 32 years. Getting to Tangara was a real challenge because the
distance between cities and villages was great (80 to 120 km
average). The road was deep powdery dirt and deep loose sand. The
temperatures were reaching 109 degrees during the day and the sun was
very, very intense. The red dust of the road was sticking to our
sweaty sunscreened bodies. The paved roads were narrow and had lots
of potholes. The poorly maintained roads were filled with grain

As we were approaching Tangara we stopped to check our email in a city
that was 30 miles away. It was at this time when a vehicle cut Jacky
off as she was crossing the street to the internet. On the back of
the vehicle it said, "Ward and Jacky, Welcome to Tangara." It was
Wilson. He was driving our route trying to find us. Little did we
know there were more surprises to come.

As we approached the city of Tangara a television camera crew pulled
up along side of us and started filming us as we were riding. Wow! A
television station filming our arrival. We were in awe! Just as we
were entering the city we were welcomed by Wilson's entire Rotary
Club. They were all standing at the side of the road with a huge
welcome banner for us. I almost started to cry. I felt like a
president or king, not a cyclist. Wilson rolled out the red carpet.
The newspaper was also there for photos and interviews. What a

A small bit of history and facts about the western state of Mato
Grosso. It is about the size of Texas. Its very diverse landscape
consists of jungle, mountains, endless agricultural land, and part of
the world's largest wetlands. It is basically the last frontier of
the developing Brazil. The government has had a few land grant
programs to establish settlements in this region. As mentioned
earlier, the city of Tangara is only 32 years old. It has grown to a
population of 60,000 people in less than 30 years.

Wilson had a barbecue in his home the first night and we were able to
meet some fellow Rotarians and some of his other friends. Our Spanish
was of little help as we now had to converse in portuguese. The next
day the red carpet was rolled out again. Wilson and his wife, Mariza,
and his friends, Geoconda and Cida, along with ourselves stayed in a
cabin in the middle of the Sepatuba River, just below the Nuvens
waterfalls. The falls were 90 feet high and 350 feet across. It was
incredible. We were able to fish there but did not have the luck of a
fellow fisherman who pulled out a 80 pound "Dorado".

The next day we were guests of Geoconda and Cida on their island, also
in the Sepatuba River. Geoconda and Wilson had each claimed islands
30 years ago. There was no purchase, just a lease from the
government. Geoconda had three very nice buildings on his island. We
had running water, electricity and satelite TV. Wilson had sold his
island in the recent past but still spends alot of his time on
Geoconda's island. On this river they feed the fish corn which
enables more fish to be caught. We even went and net fishing (I
believe this is illegal).

We travelled with Wilson north of Tangara where we saw the magnitude
of the agriculture in Brazil. Corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar cane and
sorghum are the primary crops. The fields are larger than anything I
have seen in the United States. They must have been at least three
miles long or larger. These are corporate farms where one sugar cane
farm was 250,000 acres (400 square miles). I was very impressed with
the agriculture but not with the transportation system. The highways
were just packed with grain semis. The roads were being destroyed by
this heavy traffic. I asked about the rail system or the absence of
it. We were informed that maps have the railway line on them and the
plan is ready to implement. One small glitch, the lobbyist from the
truck industry, the tire industry and the fuel industry have corrupted
the transportation department of Brazil.

Our time in Tangara was spent learning the city, having more
television interviews and practicing our portuguese. We also enjoyed
a couple more barbecues and of course, the ICE cold beer that Wilson
promised us. I liked the barbecues because of the amount of meat that
is grilled and eaten. We also learned that Brazilian coffee is very
strong and so sweet that it almost hurts your teeth. A comment we
frequently heard from the Brazilians was, "I love my sugar!"

Most cars in Brazil are designed to run on both gasoline and sugar
cane alcohol. Alcohol is half the price of gasoline. We found the
prices of food and meat were close to that of the U.S. Beer for them
is actually more expensive than in the U.S. Beer is served at a
temperature just above freezing. Brazilians like there cold beer and
most is cooled in chest freezers.

We left Tangara after 10 days of hospitality, Rotary meetings and
great cultural learning. We were now headed to Cocolihno, Mato
Grosso. We were going to meet Fabio and Larissa, friends that we had
originally met in Switzerland and visited with for a short visit in
February in San Carlos, Brazil. We had one goal, to fish.

Tangara to Cocolihno was about 1000 km and the landscape changed from
agriculture to mountain to pampa (for cattle) to jungle. We passed
through the cities of Campo Verde, Primavera de Oeste and Barra de
Garcas. We had another TV interview in Campo Verde. Primavera is a
huge grain city. Many U.S. companies have grain terminals there. Barra
de Garcas was a river city with lots of tourists. We enjoyed going to
the beach. Brazilians are not modest. Some swimsuits left nothing to
the imagination. My camera got its workout when the bikini contest
started. The beach was filled with music, dancing and volleyball.

We finally made it to Cocolihno and met up with Fabio and Larissa.
Our fishing spot was 40 km from Cocolihno. We had to go down
unimproved gravel roads, through a small stream and through numerous
gates and pastures. When we were planning this trip with Fabio, Jacky
asked if the campground had a store. Fabio must have laughed as we
were in the middle of NOWHERE. What campground?! We camped at the
river's edge. We caught Peacock Bass, Barrocuda, Tacunere, Jacuado,
Trieda, Pio and Pirana. Every day we had barbecued Tacunere.

The area had great fishing and also lots of wildlife. We saw monkeys,
arariranha, crocodiles, tucans, and many other exotic birds. We heard
gorillas across the river. We saw Jaguar tracks where the front paw
was larger than my hand with my fingers spread out. This was a zoo
and there were no cages. Our evening campfire was important to keep
the jaguars away. We always traveled in groups of two or more and we
always carried a big knife for safety. We saw no snakes but we were
told to never touch a tree while fishing because of the potential of a
snake being in it. Our only misfortune was that Larissa accidently
touched the trunk of a palm tree that was laying in the water. She
disturbed a Brazilian hornets nest. She got stung at least five times.

Fabio dove into the water to escape the swarm and retreive the thrown
paddle. (Something you don't want to do in the jungle because of all
the creatures that lurk beneath.) Jacky and I only had a few hornets
around us and escaped with no stings.

The family that owned the land where we were camping stopped by many
times. They had a very simple house with no electricity, no in-house
plumbing and water was fetched from a well. Jacky and the young
daughter formed a good relationship while they were cooking together,
while I bonded with the 16 year old boy. He and I went out together
in the boat and caught some fish. It makes for great memories.

The mother had been in Cocalihno and saw our TV interview. She was
very impressed to have "celebrities", as she termed us, in her home.
She kept saying, "I can't believe the people on TV are standing in my
home." We thought WE WERE THE LUCKY ONES to share time with her and
her family. They had a great family and life was simple.

While we were enjoying the hospitality of Wilson and fishing with
Larissa and Fabio, we received confirmation from Schwinn Bicycles
regarding sponsorship. Schwinn has agreed to provide us two bikes for
the balance of our adventure. We will be riding the "World" model.
This confirmation of sponsorship meant we needed to get rid of our
bikes. Our bikes were running great but sponsorship has its perks.

We decided to donate our bikes to Rotary. The Barra de Garcas Rotary
Club agreed to accept the bikes. They will sell them and use the
funds for their ongoing projects or they will give them to worthy
students as a gift for hard work. Many photos were taken at the
exchange. Then two TV stations showed up for interviews. In all, we
had five TV interviews in Brazil. That is way more than we expected
as we didn't expect any.

Our bikes are gone so we are on the bus heading to LaPaz and then to
Lima, Peru. We will spend about 4 days at an orphange there helping
out and then we will continue up to Ecuador where we will meet up with
our new bikes and Pastor Bryan from Decorah.

We hope you are all enjoying your summer. Until next time...

Jacky and Ward