Our final month in Brazil has continued to be as impressive as our second month. The quiet roads continued and a few more boat rides thrown in for good measure.
We left Tamandare hoping that we would somehow find a way across Rio Formoso without having to do the 60km added extra that our map was showing us. So far we have been able to catch countless boats of varying size and craftsmanship in order to stay as close to the sea as possible. We set of early hoping to catch the fishermen before the headed out to sea but all too soon we realised this was not a fishing type area. We slowly followed the road round thinking we had missed our chance to hop over the 5 or so km it would be to the other side and had resigned ourselves to a long day in the saddle that would see us make very little forward progress. This was until we crossed a bridge where we saw a number of small boats moored up. Jess showing great enthusiasm persuaded me to try and negotiate a lift. A few confused looks and some laughs later and we had a man who was willing to take us for a small fee.
15 minutes later with some shocked faces when the boat driver attempted to lift our bikes singlehandedly on to his vessel we were off. He dropped us at an old pier and helped us navigate the more run down sections before leaving us to continue our trip.
We witnessed our first day of rain for over a month and learnt just how different this last month could have been if it wasn’t for the amazing weather we have become accustomed to. The dusty back roads we have been seeking out and enjoying so much turned out to be rather less entertaining when lightly damp. The surface became hungry to suck our wheels in and more often than not we were riding threw small lake size puddles. By the end of the day our legs and bikes were putting up some pretty strong complaints so we opted to give it up as a bad day and get in a cheap posada (Brazilain Hotel).
The next day the sun returned but our bikes were not in a great shape. A quick roadside clean and we were off again, this time thankfully on drier roads that were once more fun to ride. It’s days like this that make me wonder how people do this day after day. How do their bikes keep turning, ours were in such a bad state after just one day of wet muddy riding, if the conditions hadn’t changed I don’t know how we would have kept the bikes in working order!
We enjoyed some good stretches of road from here out but the adventure gods were keen to make us earn our Km this week as no sooner had the roads dried out than we began to hit stretches of sand that forced us to get off and push. Our road became more of a single track with a few boat crossing thrown in and eventually we found our way into a small town where we decided again to call it a day and rest. Luckily we found a perfect place right on the beach were we could watch the local surfers rip it up while we lazed around in the many hammocks.
Thinking we had met every challenge the adventure gods had thrown at us, and not wanting to cycle 10km to a main road we thought we would try beach riding once again, low tide was at 8 am which gave us a perfect opportunity to be well on our way down the beach straight from our hotel room. Again we were punished and although the scenery was stunning the riding became impossible, 12km of pushing we made it back to compact dirt. With a horrible climb out of the town we had arrived in and feeling thoroughly deflated after a long days push we decided that we should get a hotel and recuperate. Two tough days and our bikes were in need of more than the quick road side clean we had given them, luckily our chosen hotel had an outdoor shower so our bikes got a bit of a treat in the form of a full wash down. The next day we were able to make decent progress once more with bikes that no longer screamed at us with each pedal stroke.
With better roads came increase in traffic, still the odd 4x4 was bearable even if they did make us wait for the ever entertaining boat crossings, at least it was easier for us to get our bikes on and off these ones!
We continued seeking out quiet roads and beaches as we slowly got closer to Fortaleza, we managed to camp on another beach, missing a nesting turtle by no more than 50m while we slept, getting to the beach involved some waiting around as we misjudged the tides and arrived too early to ride! Our route led us past sea cliffs and wind farms, past small villages that left us wondering what it is the locals do every day and even past a cycle touring club who were visiting from Brasilia.
Unfortunately I had another spate of stomach related problems which left us stranded in the middle of nowhere in a woman’s hotel. This wasn’t the worst thing in the world as breakfast was amazing (for Jess, I wasn’t eating) and she even owned a parrot. The icing on the cake came when she even provided us with dinner and drugs for myself. What a woman. Shame our laptop was broken at the time as this would have been a perfect opportunity to get some serious film watching done!
We finally arrived in Fortaleza and went in search of a computer repair shop, turns out the rough roads and beach riding had taken their toll on my Mac and it had decided it needed a break. Some time later and after paying for repairs I’m sure weren’t necessary the Mac is once again up and running. From the computer shop it was a quick dash to the bus station where once again we loaded our bikes with ease and settled in for the journey ahead. We arrived in Belem a hot sweaty mess as the air-con broke half way through our 28-hour bus ride, maybe the adventure gods were punishing us for not cycling this stretch! From Belem we would be catching a ferry boat to the heart of the Amazon, all we had to do was find where said ferry boat left from. Easier said than done. Turns out there are two ports in Belem and one of them is in a part of town that isn’t too friendly. We ended us purchasing our tickets from a travel agent to save us the hassle of having to spend too much time aimlessly wandering around the ghetto of Belem. With directions given and warning taken head of we decided to save a nights accommodation and sleep on the boat the night before it left, we were assured that once on the boat we would be perfectly safe…
We made it to the boat after a nervous final km and set up our hammocks ensuring we had prime real estate for our 5 days on the boat. We spent the first night with maybe 15 other eager beavers and spent the next day watching as slowly but surely more and more hammocks were strung up surround our own. At 4 pm we left port and our mini cruise had begun; the next 5 days were spent doing not much. Reading, taking pictures, reading, sleeping, eating, reading… you get the picture. We awoke for sunrise and usually turned in for the night just after sunset. Occasionally we would be boarded by small, ninja like pirates. Luckily all they wanted was to sell us fruits and other goods! It was amazing to see children of no more than 9 or 10 driving boats alongside our ferry while another child pirate attached a grappling hook to the lower decks to secure the boat before the all nimbly hoped aboard; just as impressive was seeing them depart when they had grown tired of us!
5 days and we were in Manaus, the heart of the Amazon and we were ready to head into the jungle. We spent yet more time on boats, this time much smaller and slower mind; and even another night in a hammock! We enjoyed our time in the jungle but we soon realised that we would rather be in the mountains than sweating and being eaten alive in the trees. We saw an array of animals from sloths to river dolphins but the continuous onslaught of mosquitoes meant we were happy when we were able to get back to a hotel room.
From Manaus it was onto another bus that would take us to our fourth country of the trip, Venezuela. Another overnight trip and we were at the border, we passed through border control with little fuss, we had made it with a day to spare on our Brazilian visa, and we entered Venezuela slightly apprehensive of what lies ahead. Venezuela has mixed reviews at the moment and the talk of every backpacker we have met is whether or not they are going to this country. We will see what lies ahead once we get our feet on the ground, all we know is that we will be staying away from the north of the country and will be visiting very few major cities!
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.