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Checking Out São Paulo. BR


January 28th, 2020

We left Martinhos beach early this morning and began our trek to São Paulo.  As mentioned in our last posting, we have a few things to get done in the city.  We had reached out to a fellow traveler we met back in Cachi, Argentina who lives in São Paulo and he has invited us to his family’s beach house about three hours north of the city but we will meet him  first in the city to catch up and make plans.

We also reached out to another fellow who is on iOverlander, to help us find a place to park/camp and he found us a secure private garage on the north side of the city that has power, water and we believe bathrooms!  We plan to arrive tomorrow and get the ball rolling on a few fronts.

Today we began the drive inland by detouring slightly onto a scenic road over the mountains: the PR 410.

The road is partly paved and part is cobblestone.  It was a pretty drive taking us up nearly 1000 m  / 3280′ and then back down again.

As we approach the top the fog sets in.

We landed at a truck stop for lunch and decided to stay the night.  We’ve now done 334 km / 207 mi of the 476 km / 295 mi remaining drive to the big city.

Sidebar:  On Brazilian highways, there are THOUSANDS of trucks – at least three if not four for every car you see.  Many of them are double trailers measuring at times, in excess of 33 m / 108′!  Luckily, when there are hills, there is often a truck lane and for today’s drive, we had a dual carriageway highway for most of the way. 

Wednesday, we completed our drive to São Paulo. As we drive along the main freeways in the city, there are so many motorcycles that zoom up between the slow traffic and there are vendors right on the side of the highway:

There are several things we need to get one here in São Paulo:  a new tire, try to get visas for Venezuela from the consulate, get the gennie looked at (again!), purchase a few items we need and meet up with the fellow overlander who invited us to stop in and see him as well as perhaps visit his family’s beach house on the coast.

São Paulo – while not Brazil’s capital city, it is the largest city in the country (actually on the continent) with a population of over 21 million (including the greater SP area). It ranks in the top of five of the largest metropolitan areas in the world.  It has a large contrast between rich and poor but also containing Brazil’s largest and best educated middle class.  The city is extremely diverse with the largest community of Japanese outside of Japan and the largest openly gay community on the continent. 

The fortunes of the city began in the late 19th century with the plantations of coffee; when coffee prices plummeted 100 years late, the city became an industrial powerhouse.  It continues to thrive as the country’s banking, industrial and cultural capital.

But before driving to the parking spot, we stopped at a Cummins location to once again have the gennie looked at; it’s giving us starting issues or if we do get it started, it doesn’t like to stay running long – exactly the same issues we had in Paraguay and Uruguay!

Luckily, here we found someone who spoke English and found out that they do no work on generators at this location but gave us a contact at another Cummins location.  So Doug began a WhatsApp conversation with them.  In the meantime, this nice gentleman at Cummins, “Taco”, pointed us in the right direction regarding tires and Doug also began a WhatsApp conversation with that fellow in the hopes of sourcing our tire size (thank God for Google Translate!).

Marco, who’d found us this “camping spot” met us at the parking place after we got parked inside.  Here we have a bathroom with a hot shower, WiFi access and electricity at 110 V.  It will cost less than $10 a night.


there are steep streets in this city – this one is near our camp spot

Thursday morning we used our Cabify app (apparently Uber doesn’t work here) and got a taxi to the Venezuelan consulate.  It’s only 15 km away but it took an hour in morning traffic.  And that was good time as the taxis here are allowed in the bus lanes and we sped past a great deal of cars enroute.

We got there too early so we waited about a half hour for it to open.

Once it did, we asked about applying for visas for entry to the country by land (Canadians do not need a visa if they fly in).  We hope to either drive in or bus in from Brazil  in five or six months to the southeast corner of the country where Angel Falls is located and where it’s much safer than the rest of the country.   The woman at the counter spoke no English or Spanish and gave us a list of what was needed to get a visa – most of which we did not have – and then a gentleman came over who spoke a bit of English and some Spanish and explained to us that they could not in fact help us as they only help residents of Brazil to get visas – we had to apply in our home country.  Well that was not going to be possible as this year we are not planning a trip home before the end of our time in South America.

When we explained our mode of travel he then told us that would could “probably” apply for a visa closer to the Venezuelan border (in Manaus or Boa Vista) but he was not certain.  He gave us contact information for these offices but we assume they too will not speak English and hope that maybe our overlander friend can call for us.  Otherwise, it’s a crap shoot.

We reached out to Marcos, our overlanding friend, and tried to meet up with him today but that didn’t pan out with his schedule.

We then visited some of the few sites in São Paulo both on foot and using Cabify.  As mentioned above, this is not a tourist city but we did visit the main avenue: Avenida Paulista as well as the Historical downtown part:

We have to say we have seen a lot of Latin American cities with Graffiti, but SP takes the prize in the most buildings/walls covered:

By lunchtime, Doug had been having WhatsApp conversations with the generator fellow and the tire guy and the latter had found a tire for us it wasn’t exactly what we needed but he suggested we’d be unable to find the exact tire and we could purchase two, replace both back tires and then have a spare and an extra tire without a rim.  After considering this more, we felt it was probably the best option and the tires were a very fair price.  We took a Cabify over to the shop to put a deposit down as he had to order them and then returned to Tigger.

We have also been looking for a an electric kettle to boil water faster than the microwave and here in São Paulo, we can find 110V appliances but so far the kettles are way larger than we’d like so we’ll keep looking during the rest of our stay here in this city.

By the time we got back to Tigger, Doug had a new contact regarding the gennie, and before dinner had arranged for us to go there first thing tomorrow.  We’re supposed to get the tires mounted tomorrow but that can wait as Cummins is usually not open on Saturdays and the tire shops are.

We spent another night in the indoor parking place and left around 6:30 am to navigate 28 km / 17 mi through the city to the Cummins HQ.  We figured it would take about an hour and it did.  We were lucky to arrive just as the gates opened but the office doesn’t actually open until 8 am.

Immediately, Gabriel (who speaks great English, thank God!) showed us where to park and had three technicians come over to check out the problem.

They diagnosed that the fuel pump was faulty as no gas was getting through – this is very frustrating because this the part we had replaced in Asuncion last August (albeit with a non-Cummins part) and then we brought back one when we went home for Christmas and it was replaced in Montevideo about three weeks ago.

They cannot, of course, get this part here, so alternatives were suggested and after actually removing the gennie, they discovered the pump is fine, but there appears to be an electrical issue.

They break for lunch and Gabriel offers to take us for lunch; we took him up on the offer and he drove us to a buffet place and we picked up the tab.  Here at the buffets, they give you a “ticket” that you scan each time you take some from the buffet.  You hand in the ticket when you leave and pay.

By mid-afternoon they had the thing running and were satisfied that the electrical issue was sorted so now that had to reinstall it, modify the fuel intake line and make the electrical harness longer so it would be easier to deal with in the future.  As the office closes as six, Doug went in to pay the hefty bill (we’ve sunk a fair bit into this darn gennie and suspect the last two services could have been the same issue so if it had been diagnosed property back in Asuncion, we may not have gone through all this hassle) and the techs reinstalled the gennie into its home, helped to the skid plate back on, reinstalled our back storage bin then assisted in getting the taillight hooked back up as well as the hot water heater (it’s no small feat to access our generator!).  We really hope that this is it now – we’ll try it out over the weekend so that we feel better about it before leaving the city.

By the time it was all said and done, it was around 7 pm (remember, we got here at 7:30 am), shared a few beers with the techs and Gabriel and made our way in the dark back to our parking garage.

Sidebar:  After spending so much time in Spanish speaking countries and continuing to learn that beautiful language, we have been reluctant to learn yet another language.  However, we have begun daily Portuguese lessons with Duo Lingo in the hopes of at least being able to communicate simply and show that we are trying. 

Saturday we reached out to Taco, whom we’d met at the first Cummins location and inquired of him where we might go shopping to get a couple of things we’d need.  He suggested a specific shopping centre and we took at Cabify to get there.  (There is a bus / metro system here but we understand it’s very complicated and we are so far out of the main part of town it could take three hours (if we’re lucky) to get there.)  We tested the gennie twice today and so far so good…..

At Shopping Vila Mariana, we found a 110 V kettle and new headphones for Doug.  The third thing we wanted was a new Mylar shade for the windshield but that was not to be found there.  We’d actually stopped a couple of days ago at, get this, an AutoZone, where they had some but they were for cars not trucks so too narrow.

While shopping, we heard from our overlanding friend, Marcos, and he met us for a chat in the mall.  The plan is stay in touch and so we can sort out when we’ll be near his beach house.  He said we can easily stay for a week and just chill – so after this hectic time here in São Paulo, we are looking forward to that – we have three weeks now to get to Rio for our AirBNB reservation and it’s only  500 km / 300 mi so we can spare a week.

Sunday we wandered in the neighbourhood we are parked in checking out a sort of “garage sale” market and a veggie market.  We picked up fresh produce, stopped at a grocery store to get other stuff and the plan is to head out of the city tomorrow after getting our new tires.  We spent the afternoon indoors as it pretty much rained the rest of the day and at least inside we were dry and had AC to combat the heat! We again tested the gennie and it starts first try and seems to be good…..

Monday morning we awoke to sprinkling rain and made our way to the tire shop, parked outside as the doors were not tall enough for Tigger and the two new tires were mounted on the rear.

It had stopped raining just before we arrived and then began as we were attaching our “spare” spare tire to the back of Tigger.  As we purchased two tires we now have two spares:  one we mounted up front as usual and the other is unmounted and we’ve attached to one of the back storage bins (like we had to do in Argentina).  Here’s hoping these are the last tires we have to buy in South America!

So we finally leave the biggest city in South America under overcast skies and make our way back to the Atlantic Coast.  The forecast is calling for rain at least some part of every day for the next ten days but we still hope for some beach time.  We will keep in touch with Marcos and arrange to meet him in Ubatuba at his house in several days.

Tchau, São Paulo!