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Jumping Thru Hoops, BR


June 1st, 2020

We’re coming up on eleven weeks here in Salvador and hope to hear today about shipping from here to Houston.  The import fees into Mexico are pretty high and the situation there is worsening.  We had spent some time on the weekend putting things away from the front of the truck to ready the cab for shipping.

Doug returned first thing in the morning to the dentist he’d tried on Friday only to learn they were not open this week – this is despite being told on Friday to come back this week (?).  He found an Uber and had the driver find him a different dentist.   There he was told the dentist was not in that day but someone (?) looked at the issue and said he probably needed a root canal but first the infection had to be cured.  He was given a script for amoxicillin and pain relievers.

We heard from the local shipper late on Monday morning that there IS a boat on the 9th but the problem is the timing for customs – there is not enough of it.  So….. we reached back out to the shipper for RORO from Santos and the ship on the 26th will dock on July 15th in Houston (instead of the 18th in Mexico) and the cost is the same.  So we’ve decided to do that.  We await from him now that this is a firm date and that we have enough time to deal with customs.  He got back to us late in the afternoon on Tuesday and suggested we come as soon as possible so we’re leaving Itapuã tomorrow!  After sitting around, things now have to move fast with many “hoops” to jump through.

Shortly after receiving this news, a rainbow showed up in the sky: must be a sign!

So now we need flights out of the country.  United Airlines still flies about 10 times a week out out of São Paulo to the US (to Atlanta and Houston) and we managed to score frequent flyer mile tickets to get us to Houston – one direct (red eye – yuck!) flight on June 29th so we are happy about no connections.

Wednesday morning, we did as many more things in preparation as we could, got Tigger ready to move and had a final hot shower before saying goodbye to our gracious hostess, Juliana and Paulo.   We paid our bill (they were happy to receive USD which was great for us as the bank machines around here have hefty exchange fees and we’d rather not take out any more reals) , left a couple of Canadian “gifts” for them and made our way out of Salvador by 8:40 am.

We drove today on the main toll highway southwest to the other side of the city of Vitoria da Conquista (still in Bahia state) where we spent the night at a truck stop – we had driven 527 km / 327 mi with five tolls by sundown.  The highway was dual carriageway near Santos but that petered out and we were down to single lane with literally hundreds of tractor trailers trucks.  For the most part, on an uphill, there’d be an extra lane so we did a great deal of passing.

Thursday, we made mega mileage from Vitoria to this side of the large city of Belo Horizonte in the state of Minas Gerais to another truck stop – 755 km / 470 mi with one toll.  There was a good deal of highway construction, a few tunnels and many, many speed bumps.  A long day but again, we stopped by sundown.

Friday we were up early – bad sleep at this station and made our way to the outskirts of São Paulo crossing our final state line into the state of São Paulo (with no border limitations although we did see a few towns that seemed to be limiting access into their villages).  The road since this side of Belo Horizonte has been dual carriageway and in pretty good shape especially in comparison to what we drove on the first two days.  It sure helps with the tractor trailer trucks as on single lane highways, it can sure slow you down and can take some time to get around convoys of them.

We did 675 km / 419 mi today, with five tolls and stopped by the middle of the afternoon.  This gas station / truck stop is more upscale with fewer trucks and a huge “market” with buffet style restaurant (by the kilo) and a small grocery section.

There’s lots of parking and we were told there were electrical outlets.  Doug found some which he tested for whether they were 220 or 110 and we plugged in – we got smoke coming out of the power inverter!  (We think the microwave might be fried but everything else works – must have been 220 not 110 power – despite Doug’s tool saying otherwise.) We took a look around the power inverter, saw nothing wrong in what we could see, tried again and we got smoke again so we gave up on that – too bad as our solar has not reached 100% in two days now and the forecast is for clouds tomorrow.  The days are short now as Brazil heads into winter so the number of sunshine hours are down too.

We’ve been in contact with our shipper and the plan is to meet his agent in downtown Santos on Monday morning.

Saturday we awoke to the predicted cloudy skies with some fog thrown in.  We had a 97 km / 60 mi to Bertioga on the coast where we’d parked back in January on our way north.  There is a beach parking lot that worked out well then and we just had to hope the town is open to outsiders.  It was and we got parked for two nights.  There were a few people on the beach despite signs that indicate access is only Monday to Thursday from 6 to 6 (Fran saw this AFTER she went for a walk and on her way back was told to leave the beach.)

Sunday we spend the day packing and getting Tigger ready for its shipping – namely taking the rest of everything that was not permanently affixed in the cab of the truck out, putting up the “wall” between the cab of the truck and the living area – we’d saved this piece of plywood from our shipping in June 2017 from Panama to Colombia – it fit under Doug’s mattress quite nicely.

Doug walked to the shops and got some ice so we could empty the fridge and defrost it and by turning if off hoped the solar panels would top up as the batteries wouldn’t have to work so hard.  Still haven’t been at 100% since Wednesday as the weather has not been very sunny.

We also scoured the AirBNB listings to find a place to stay while we await the departure of Tigger’s ship.  The pickings were slim and some said “only for health care workers” but we reached out to five in total; one was actually not available during COVID (okay so why is the listing still up?), one was not available until the 14th, one was having bathroom repairs, one didn’t get back to us very fast and the one we chose is a kind of apartment/hotel.  The price was reasonable and the location was one block from the malecon and beach and it looked pretty modern with a large balcony so we’d have an outside space.  After chatting with them we booked it.  We also asked if they by chance could recommend a dentist that was actually open next week which they kindly did.

Neither night here at Bertioga beach was a great night’s sleep due to a few people visiting to hang out after dark but it was free and next to the beach.  Monday morning the panels were at 97% and we hoped today before dropping off the rig, they’d hit 100 so we could turn them off for the voyage.  The sun was cooperating today as well.

We were up by 7, did the morning usual including making a “cuppa” and hit the road to do the final 68 km / 42 mi to Santos.  We were at our AirBNB shortly after nine o’clock, dropped off our bags, some beer and some food items and reached out to the local shipping guy to meet us downtown to begin the paperwork.

Total mileage from Salvador to Santos:  2122 km / 1318 mi!

Phew! It was sure nice to have had Sunday off driving.  After eleven weeks of no driving, we both got “saddle sore” quickly.

Luciano, the rep from B&M Logistics, met us around 10:10 am at the designated meeting place and he had the power of attorney paperwork ready.  He walked us over to a notary public place – this is kinda like a bank with lots of counters.  You take a number and then tell them what you need.

Turns out that because our tourist visa had expired they would not do the certification!  We showed them the federal police website that indicated that all visas were on hold since March 16th but they were having none of it.  Luciano took us to another notary “shop” – no help either here.  So we went to the downtown Policia Federale office where he was given  a hard copy of the “announcement” and returned to the first place – still weren’t going to do it.

Luciano knew of another place on the other side of downtown. Enroute we walked by the famous “coffee exchange building” – Santos used to the be THE port in the world for shipping coffee beans.  At this location, the world coffee price were negotiated.

We arrived at the other offices, Luciano explained the situation, a supervisor came down and approved the procedure and it was all done.  Man, if that had been the hurdle we couldn’t overcome, that would have been SO frustrating!  We returned to Tigger and expressed and thanks and said “tchau” to Luciano.   (We shudder to think how hard this would have been to deal with ourselves without an agent and extremely limited Portuguese!)

We made our way to the shipping company’s warehouse in Guaruja to drop off Tigger.  Now we’d been told by a guy at Bertioga, that the road to Guaruja was only open to locals so we asked Luciano about this – he gave us a note on a scrap of paperwork explaining in Portuguese why we needed to enter the town.  Here’s hoping!

We spoke to Luciano about the customs inspections and about how we had a “wall” in Tigger to deny access from the front.  We advised we’d like to be there for the inspection and he advised it was not possible or actually probably not even necessary to leave a key to the back of the camper as the inspection is a electronic scanner so no need for anyone to enter.  Mmmmhhhh.

We had to take a short ferry to get there and we think we missed the tool booths to pay because we didn’t quite go the correct way to reach the terminal and no one asked for money onboard – we did see the toll booths on the other side for going the opposite direction, so we think we missed them.  No one ever asked for money or a ticket.  We did show the guard at the start of the line Luciano’s note and he waved us through.

We arrived at the warehouse, had to check in at the gate and then Doug went inside with all the paperwork necessary.  The solar panels did reach 100 today and we turned off the switch – it was a good feeling to know the batteries were topped up before shutting down the system.

They confirmed Luciano’s advice that they didn’t need a key to the coach of Tigger.  They walked around the rig taking photos and then sent them to Ramiro in São Paulo as a “report”, a copy of which we’ve received.  Ramiro had given us the name of an agent to use in the US and he apparently has sent them what is needed to “re-import” Tigger to the US and we await their response and quote.  The most important thing is a document called an “Import Security Form” which he advises that will prepare on our behalf.

So now it’s out of our hands.  Our main agent here, Ramiro, will keep us informed about when the inspection and loading will take place and hopefully the ship leaves as scheduled on June 26th.  We returned to our little apartment via Uber.  Enroute in the Uber back to the apartment, Fran reached out and asked the reception at the front desk to arrange a dentist appointment for Doug ASAP (all this was done in WhatsApp) and he has one for 6:30 this afternoon.

we’re on the 22nd floor with no neighbours

Our apartment is a one bedroom with a huge balcony and as you can see in the last photo above, we have a partial view of the beach.  The balcony also contains a good size counter with a sink and stored underneath that is a washer/dryer 2-in-1 machine!  There are two chairs and a small coffee table out there as well.  The kitchen has a full sized fridge, two burner stove, oven and a few cupboards.  There is a sofa, chair and TV in the living area as well as a table and two chairs.  The bathroom has a separate shower and the hot water and pressure are great.  The bedroom has a huge closet and a queen sized bed as well as a wall mounted TV.  We seem to be able to get 3 English channels, one being CNN International.

We had a quick pasta dinner with some of the food we’d brought from Tigger that night when Doug returned from the dentist.  The diagnosis was confirmed that he needs a root canal and he has an appointment for tomorrow to begin that process.  Doug was not happy with the price quoted but got teeth cleanings for both of us thrown in.

A little bit about Santos:

The Port of Santos is located in the city of Santos (founded in 1546), state of São Paulo.  As of 2006 it  is the busiest container port in all of Latin America.  Its structure is considered Brazil’s most modern.

It was once considered the “port of death” in the 19th century due to yellow fever, and ships often avoided docking at the wood plank port. The floods in the city’s area provoked illness.   In the early 20th century, major overhauling and urbanization created the port’s modern structure seen today, eliminating the risk of diseases and providing the port with modern, industrial-age infrastructure.

The location of the city of Santos was chosen at a convenient point for crossing the Serra do Mar mountain range, which is the main obstacle to access the interior. The first railway link from the port to the state capital São Paulo, 79 km away, was completed in 1864. This allowed for an easier transportation of the vast masses of migrant workers who headed to São Paulo and the state’s numerous coffee farms. The main product exported by Santos until  WWII was São Paulo state’s huge coffee production, Brazil’s largest. Today, coffee has become a smaller component of Brazil’s exports and cars, machinery, sugar, orange juice, soybeans, are now some of the port’s main exports.

The city’s beachfront garden measures 5,335 m (5,834 yd) in length, and figures in the  Guinness World Book of Record as the largest beachfront garden in the world.