Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Driving on BR-040

To get to our destination last weekend, we had to travel on BR-040. This is a major highway, and the only one connecting Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, and Brasilia (the nation's capital). These three cities are among Brasil's largest.

Some parts of BR-040 are beautiful. It is smooth 4-6 lane divided highway, and we were able to cruise along at a lovely 130 kph ( 80 mph).

But anything lovely disappeared quickly after we were a little over an hour North of BH. The next thing we knew, we were driving on the shoulder (which luckily was nice and wide) because the actual road was covered in pot holes!

Which was okay. Occasionally, we'd have to swerve back onto the road to miss a pot hole on the shoulder, but we were managing. Then we found ourselves in the left lane because both the right lane and shoulder were pretty crummy. And then, before we knew it, we were driving on the left shoulder! (Nope, we didn't take a trip to Europe this weekend.)

And then a truck came around the curve, also trying to use the left shoulder.

But later, we returned to our happy place...the left shoulder.

And then, just for kicks, we tried driving right down the center line. Thank goodness we were in a narrow car!

Sometimes, we just weren't sure where the government of Brasil intended for us to drive.

And sometimes, like when a pot hole is as wide as the entire right lane, it is very obvious you are supposed to travel on the shoulder.

But then occasionally, a pot hole covers part of the right lane and shoulder, but we aren't able to get over to the left lane.

So then we just all drive half on the shoulder, half in the weeds.

It took some fancy zigzagging around pot holes from time to time to get over into that left shoulder!

And sometimes the guy driving a really big truck in the opposite direction thought our shoulder looked nicer (the grass is always greener on the other side!) At that moment, we were unsure if we should hold our current right shoulder position or move over into the left shoulder. It all worked out though.

The scary part was when the shoulders ended for a bridge, and then we had to drive in our lane...and that just felt so unnatural!

Towards the end of the 60 km stretch of road that I have just presented to you, the government was nice enough to post a warning sign. (This is much cheaper than fixing the road...although maybe somewhere in the beginning of the pot holes would have been more helpful.) It basically reads Slow, Road With Defects. Reeeaaaaally? We hadn't noticed.

The government is doing a great job of growing the local economy though. Do you have any idea how many tire shops we saw along this stretch of road? (I really like how there is a blown out tire on the ground next to this one's sign!)

But, for the life of me, I can't figure out what may be causing the roads to get this way! I mean, this truck (despite a nasty lean to the right that I couldn't quite capture in a photo) was able to maintain a speed of 15 kph (9.3 mph) on this slight uphill climb. He couldn't possibly be overloaded or anything.

Special props to my Hunny for some sweet driver skills and fancy moves on that road. We managed to only hit 1 pot hole and came away with all 4 tires (and undercarriage) still intact. Which is more than I can say for the 11 or so cars (driven by natives, no doubt!) we saw pulled off the road!


wondering ego said...

Ok... the "brasileiro" should be the first to comment this, and here comes the shame... shame on this country! ...how can we possibly think that we are going to achieve any global economic (and political) importance with roads like these? For sure that this will not come only with smiles and saying "tudo bem!" #@#&*#*&%$#@

side note: heavy traffic, tropical summer heat and tropical rainfall are, indeed, big challenges, to keep roads in good conditions; and this is the end of rainy season. BUT, no excuses intended.

Elizabeth said...

Well, you can be certain that Brazillian drivers don't have issues falling asleep at the wheel...with all those potholes they wouldn't be asleep long and I'm sure it takes a lot of work to keep your car intact through the drive. :)

Karl said...

Those pictures seem to be in line with what I have seen here in the Northeast of Brazil, though our roads like that are often not even paved.

I have seen a line of trucks stuck in the mud outside of Teresina on the news many times—and I don't even watch the news that often!

Thelma said...

What a shame! I'm with wondering ego: how can a country develop if it can't even cover the basics?!? Welcome to Brazil!

wondering ego said...

Again, no excuses intended, but i found other driving experiences in Brazil: "We arrived on a Friday night and stayed in SP until Tuesday. Tuesday we drove to Londrina. Some people had told us the roads were unsafe and that we should fly or ride the bus. Actually we found roads equal to or better than the roads in Europe. Some equal the German Autobahn or Italy's AutoStrass. The others were similar to the secondary roads in Europe or the US for that matter. The signs of course mostly are the international road signs with the words written in Portuguese. The speed limits are about the same as most of Europe. Remember to have a lot of small bills to pay tolls as there are lot of them. The most common thing about the roads are what Americans call speed bumps, placed in the middle of the highway.". In: http://www.gringoes.com/articles.asp?ID_Noticia=2094
He also said: "Happy motoring! Leave the cities of Rio and SP and enjoy one of the friendliest and prettiest countries in the world."

Jeremy Sarber said...

It looks like the roads here in Indiana after winter.

Emily said...

wandering ago,
I'll be quick to admit that some of the roads are great. Other times, we are on a road connecting Belo Horizonte to Brasilia and a 60 km stretch of road is absolutely terrible. It's like everything else in Brasil (in my opinion based on my limited experience), there is the best of the best and the worst of the worst here. Brasil has marvelously modern cities full of high-rises alongside some of the poorest living conditions I've ever seen. In my opinion at this point, I just feel like the country lacks "middle ground."

We are totally loving our time here thoguh and are so glad we took advantage of the opportunity to move to Brasil for a while.

wondering ego said...

I totally agree with you points of view. Its just too hard and shameful for (some of) us to have such a wonderful homeland (and like 6th or 7th economy of the world in volume), AND, as a society, failing so much to improve living conditions for our poor ... or even providing a decent infrastructure due to corruption or plain government (and civil) incompetence! :(
I think you have quite a "brazilian sentiment" regretting these things with us.

Beth Olmstead said...

Emily, sadly enough, our roads in Peoria IL are starting to look like that. I swear half the city is down to one lane for resurfacing!

Anonymous said...

that was the worst road I ever saw in Brazil. But then, I rarely get out of Rio Grande do Sul or Santa Catarina. Our worst roads are much better than these.

Anyway, the blame is REALLY on the trucks. We have too many trucks. Most overloaded. Why? Because we dont have railways to move cargo around. The railways were DISMANTLED some decades ago... after some good lobbying from the automotive industry, who wanted to sell more trucks...

Antonio said...

Hello Eric and Emily,
I'm Brazilian Citizen, I lived in USA massachusetts for 7 years, was great, my visa got expired, so I moved out of USA, I love Brazil, every thing there is magic, some thing in Brazil is never like other coutries, People make their own way to survive, to explain some diference Between Rich countries and poor countries such as Brazil, need to feel in the skin what the common citizen feels maybe every thing started 500 hundred years ago whem Brazil was colonized for exploration exclusively from Portugal, in the History US was colonized to be settlement, there are two diferents features of colonization, exploitation and colonization of settlement, in the actual days Brazil still been explored, the government make trade with rich countries aways without think about the ordinary people, corrupition does not depend only the passive part, but depend also of active too.
Do you know hou much is the minimum wages in Brazil?
R$380,00 reais for 160 hours worked , it means in Dollars US$190.00 per month, that is why they ask you if u will pay in two times, in Massachusetts the minimum wages is $8 per hour X 160 h = $1,280.00 minimum, or R$2,560.00 of course in Brasil there are some people that have their own plane and eat file mignon every day, but it is the minority, 80% of population only survive, is much better been rich or make a good salary in Brazil, that have good salary or been rich in rich countries, the tax in Brazil is not equivalent as US. I mean much more money you make in US u pay more taxes, in Brasil is not the same. I'm living in London UK, as you know the money in here is strong than dollars £1=$2, but the tax here is too high.
Back to Brazil, I love my country, I will come Back I aw your pictures and I missing my country, but first I'm making some savings, and when I come back I will be the must happy Brazilian in the world because I will unite the Useful to the pleasant.
I wish you two much success and Happiness in Brazil.

Antonio said...

If I have a job and same salary in Brazil, like I make in London or R4,000,00 reais, or $2,000.00 dollars I realy come back, but there is impossible a man 38 years old to find some good job, for my country I'm too old :(
Emily please coment @