We left Rio just as carnival was kicking off, too may people and increased accommodation prices convinced us we had made the right decision. North to Cabo Frio we were sure would be more to our taste. Turns out no matter where you go in Carnival it is busy; the picturesque beach towns we had been told about didn’t exist, accommodation was still over priced and we found ourselves constantly doing battle with crowds of tourists all in party spirit’s driving round with music blaring from over sized speakers.
We did have one day that tricked us into thinking we had found what we were looking for. Quiet dusty roads, long empty beaches and amazing scenery all around, we were finally getting somewhere. Everything fell into place from stopping for a Coca-Cola that was then paid for by the store owner, to being invited into the home of a local to escape the heat of the day while he filled our empty water bottles with cold water. We were even able to watch English TV, well American Idol, but it was nice to understand what was being said for a change. We finished the day on a high loving that we had finally found the quiet roads we had been searching for, to top this day off we were given a free night in a hotel, the lovely owner said it was her contribution to the adventure. It’s these kind of days that make us realise why we cycle, it’s for these interactions, these random acts of kindness that make our trip even more special.
The next day the quiet roads continued with somewhat more effort. First we had to unload and reload our bikes to fit through the fence that was designed to stop motorbikes and cars. Once through we realised that there was a warren of tracks to follow and no way of knowing just which one would hopefully take us where we needed to go. Through a combination of luck and wrong turns we found what we hoped was the path, what we didn’t know was that this path would have another 4 gates, the same design as the first one we had unloaded to get through. It’s ok though, at least we weren’t on the highway!
Unfortunately, after we had pushed our bike under the last fence, rather than unload once more, we were back to the main highway and the busy traffic that we had become accustomed to; at least on this road there wasn’t any fences I suppose! We were able to see more of the beaches but we decided that the real beaches we were looking for were still further north. It was time to take another bus.
We arrived in Salvador and had to negotiate the busy streets in the dark, not the start we were looking for but we were hopeful. Salvador is a quaint city and we spent the next day exploring the old part, Carnival was now over but evidence of the partying was everywhere.
Getting out of Salvador was just as problematic as getting in; busy roads and not a great cycle network meant we were thrust into the hustle and bustle of major city life. Salvador also seems to go on forever, we rode all day and never seemed to get out of this sprawling city. This meant our first day riding was a long one and we didn’t manage to get into a hotel until well after dark, Jess was not happy about this!
From here we realised that earlier starts are a must, the previous evenings ride had convinced Jess of this so it was now 6am that our alarm was ringing. The mornings meant riding was more pleasant, fresher and less traffic, we found ourselves finally enjoying the riding, still no deserted beaches but we definitely felt like we were heading in the right direction.
The next few days we were constantly looking for roads by the beach, all we found were dead ends and un-ridable roads. We were starting to lose heart and weren’t really sure why we were riding at all. Maybe we should just bus the rest of Brazil, maybe this country wasn’t suitable for the kind of riding we wanted to do. We came to terms with the fact that the endless beach riding with uncountable places to string a hammock and sleep for the night was not realistic. Brazil couldn’t offer us this, at least not where we currently were. Our expectations and hopes were not viable. After a particularly tough day where we had ridden down to dead end roads with hopes soaring only for them to be dashed when we had to turn around we came to terms with our unrealistic expectations. We slumped into a ‘pousada’, a sort of cheap hotel, and decided that we would stop chasing this seemingly unattainable, idealistic image and enjoy what Brazil was offering. We had been so wrapped up in finding this beach that we hadn’t realised that the road was no longer busy. It was smooth asphalt and it was, we realised, stunning. We were winding our way through coconut plantations and we were loving life on a bicycle again. We even found a campsite where we could hang our hammocks for the first time since we had bought them in Rio.
With our new found enthusiasm we realised just how good this stretch was, we were getting into small towns early as we weren’t chasing down every side road we thought may lead to a beach. We stayed in towns near to the beach and were able to swim in the afternoons, the 6am get ups were now 5.30am and we were fine with that, we set off early but we finished before the heat of the day baked us. We had found our rhythm for Brazil and just when we had given up on the deserted beaches we got our chance to ride one.
We spent what was supposed to be one night with a warm shower host but that turned into three. We were made once again to feel like part of the family, right down to playing Barbie with his youngest child, Jess was in her element, she pretended she didn’t like it but I could see the pure joy in her eyes as she played. Our host told us of a stretch of road that wasn’t a road, we cold get onto the beach and for 40km there would be no roads, finally, we were going to ride the beach.
We left Aracaju and made our way to Pitumbu hoping to make it in time for the tides, we would only be able to ride once the tide had gone out, the sand is too soft higher up the beach and as we found out even pushing is near impossible.
Once the tide was out far enough we pushed our bikes past the beach dwellers to some strange looks an off we went, we rode as the sun was setting and when we felt like we were far enough away form anyone and everyone we stopped and set up our tent. This was to be our first night wild camping in Brazil, it had only taken us 45 or so days to do it!
We awoke in the morning, packed and hit the beach once more, another 21 km of riding and we were at our exit point. Not even the head wind we rode into was enough to blow the smile of my face.
From here it was back to the quiet roads, these roads often turning into nothing more than tracks that led to small boats that took us across the many rivers that lead to the sea, a few times we even managed short stretches on the beach once more.
I also managed to get my own coconut and break it open, probably a highlight of the trip and something I’ve been wanting to do since we left Ushuaia, its not as easy as it looks though, if I was on a desert island I think I would burn more calories getting into the things than I would get from eating them!!!
The last few weeks have been exactly what we wanted from Brazil, ok so we have only ridden and camped on the beach once but the routes we have been on since then have often felt like beach riding. Very rarely do we have to venture to the highway but when we do we know it won’t be for long. I just hope it carries on this way until we reach Belem, from here we catch a boat into the heart of the Amazon!
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.