Moving from Curitiba to Canela
Before we can set up on our land we have to move from our flat in Curitiba which was a slight problem since we're in a lease contract until March 2013. Our contract allows us to terminate early but would cost the remainder of the rent. Also we'd need to sell all our furniture and there's also an obligation to have the place fully painted, all this would total about R$3000 minus around R$700 we'd get for the furniture, oven and fridge. But luckily for us we saw some people looking at the place for rent next to us and we said to them that our place here is available if they wanted to sign over the contract - we said if they did this they could keep all the furniture, because if we can sign over the contract we don't need to pay the penalty or get the place painted!
We needed to get a lot of tools for building our new place and putting a fence around our vegetables.
We finally got the flat cleared out and cleaned up and got all our stuff into the trailer - which weighs around 1000Kg! (luckily we had some major help from our friend Jennifer and her partner André - thanks guys!) we had numerous problems with contract transfer delays, had to replace the tow-bar because our load was too heavy, and then when we went to pick up the car and trailer from the place that was fixing it, our battery was dead and needed replacing too!
It took over 4 hours to get 110Km because we couldn't get out of Curitiba due to road blocks for a soccer game, and then we were stuck in heavy traffic. Then the engine started over-heating and making bad noises, but we realised that using the low-range gears made things much easier on the engine since we were stopping and starting with a ton of load on very hilly roads.
Now we're at a hotel for the night and the car was sounding much better, so we'll hopefully make 300Km tomorrow.
Day two was off to an excellent start, we had a nice breakfast and got on the road early, crossing the border into Santa Catarina before 9am. The engine was getting a bit hot up the many steep and winding mountain roads so we had to stop every couple of hours to let the car cool off a bit, but there were many nice places to stop and take in the scenery and do a bit of stretching and meditation.
After we got about 250km into the journey disaster struck! the clutch stopped working and we had to roll into a gas station (luckily there was one nearby when this started!) after we stopped in the gas station we couldn't start again as there was no way to get it into gear. We looked under the car and saw that there was fluid leaking, and then we saw that the clutch fluid container was empty! There was a mechanic there, but he seemed really dodgy and was talking about there being many expensive things to take out and check so we thought it best to avoid him. The guys at the gas station said the only other option was to get the car towed to the next nearest mechanic about 10km away.
I decided to do some on-the-fly learning from our numerous Lada Niva manuals on the laptop, and soon found a potential solution which was to "bleed" the hydraulics of the clutch system by unscrewing the hose leading out of the master cylinder barrel and then pump the clutch pedal for a few minutes to clear all the air out of the system. Then when pushing the pedal responded with some pressure again, we put it all back together and topped up the fluid reservoir. We also needed to do a temporary solution on the leaking hose which was causing the problem, so we put some insulation tape around the leaky bit and fastened it in place with a twistie from a bag of seeds. This solution enabled us to get about 20km to a decent mechanic who's replacing the hose now (and also flushing out the system again because it turned out the guys at the gas station gave us the wrong fluid!). Here's a picture (taken from under the car looking upwards) of our first DIY repair job, called "gambiarra" in Portuguese - or in my "portenglaise" spelling, "gumbiaha" :-)
The mechanic had our clutch hose replaced by about 11am, and showed us the correct fluid to top up the clutch reservoir with. We then went to an auto-electrician he recommended as we'd noticed that the light was coming on that indicates the battery isn't charging. The auto-electrician told us that the alternator needed to be fixed or maybe even replaced and that it could take two or three days. We decided that since we weren't travelling at night and didn't need to have the lights on and we had a new battery that we'd get it fixed in Caxias which was still about 320km away.
This would have been no problem and we were making excellent progress, but then we entered a huge storm with practically zero visibility! we decided it was best to pull over and wait for slightly less heavy patches in the rain to carry on in since we couldn't use the lights.
We finally made it across the border into Rio Grande do Sul, the state of our final destination! but as we tried to start again after stopping at the road toll, the clutch failed to work again! we couldn't believe it, this problem was supposed to be completely fixed now and here it was happening again! luckily we'd read up the night before on how to get by without a clutch (as we couldn't understand how the mechanic had been able to start and change gears without it) so we were able to get it started with a little push from the team at the toll stop :-) but the problem happened a few more times and we had to start it ourselves in dangerously low visibility conditions with huge logging trucks speeding by!
Finally we got into Vacaria, the first city in Rio Grande do Sul, after checking out 3 hotels in the pouring rain we found a nice one called Hotel Ponto 1 that wasn't too expensive and had a good closed parking area spacious enough for our car and trailer, which is where we are now.
Overall we made good progress today with only about 120km left to go, but we'll need to find a mechanic and call the one who did the work yesterday to see what he thinks may be happening. We think it's probably air in the clutch hydraulic system and we'll buy some tools tomorrow so we can do the clutch system "bleeding" procedure ourselves on the road if we need to :-)
We had a really nice breakfast at Hotel Ponto 1, they had a huge range of fruit, cakes and biscuits, breads, jams and cheeses and even toasted sandwich makers ready to go! We then went and bought some more tools - a set of fixed spanners, an adjustable spanner, file, hacksaw, needle-nose pliers and side-cutters, and then called our Lada Niva mechanic, Bibe (pronounced "beebee"), in Curitiba to explain all the things that had happened and ask if he had any advice regarding the clutch. He said that it probably was just some air in the system after the repairs and that pumping the clutch pedal to build up the hydraulic pressure should do the trick, but if not there could be a problem with the cylinder. We did that and sure enough the pressure did build up a bit, so we're going to try for the remaining 120km and get these final issues looked at in Caxias :-)
We finally made it to Caxias (pronounced Carsheeas) at 15:22!
There were no major dramas today apart from the usual stressful clutch problems, but since we now knew how to pump the pressure back into the clutch hydraulic system and how to start and change gear without the clutch, and we now had tools in case we needed to do a clutch system bleed process as a last resort these dramas didn't seem quite so daunting as they had on previous days.
We checked a few mechanics and auto-electricians, but decided to call Candido (pronounced Carnjido) who we bought the land off to see if he had any good contacts. He was awesome and came straight out to the gas station we were calling from to meet us and take us to a good mechanic, and he also showed us numerous places where we could get free discarded pallets and other materials for building! The car and trailer are now at the mechanics place and we're staying with Candido and his family for the night before heading to the land tomorrow :-)
The car was fixed (again), the mechanic was really good so we're very happy to have access to someone reliable nearby. He had replaced the clutch cylinder barrel and the alternator brushes for R$340 which we thought was very reasonable. We left Caxias about 2pm following Candido in his little Fiat to the land. It was about an hour and a half with the last hour on very rough dirt road. Unfortunately my phone went flat so I couldn't take any pictures of our arrival. Candido had to stop before the last 20 minutes as it's not possible to traverse without a raised 4x4 with large wheels and low-range gears due to extremely uneven and steep places in the road. The Niva was really coming into its own on this terrain and we finally started to feel like we had got the right car! it pulled the 1 ton trailer up really steep rocky and gravelly road without even complaining, and it didn't heat up at all, it seems like it loves this terrain and hates highways :-)
We were not able to get onto our part of Candido's land that we want to build and grow on as there's a river that has a steep drop of about a meter that we can't drive over. A bridge has been started by someone at some point, so we'll finish it off soon and then do a bit of machete work to get the car and trailer the rest of the way. For now we've stopped and set up our tents just prior to the river.
We took the car to Canela where I did a full day at a net cafe to get some urgent work done and Beth went on the bus to pick up our friend Joe from Porto Alegre who'll be staying with us and helping us set up on the land. When they arrived we went to the car to head back to the land, and guess what! it wouldn't start - absolutely nothing! the only way we can start it is by pushing it, and we didn't want to risk going to the land at night with it in that condition. We managed to find a place that had a room that had just been painted and the women let all three of us stay in it for only R$50 so we're in there now with the windows open. Tomorrow we'll call Candido and ask if he knows any good mechanics here in Canela and take the car yet again to be fixed :-(
Moving on to our land - I put this in a separate article as it was getting too long!