On arrival at the airport in Rio I took a taxi to the Wave
Hostel in Copacabana Beach and was lucky enough to find a bike
shop across the road where they put my bike together again. What
a bargain! The hostel was not too bad, as hostels go. It was
situated close to the beach, and with breakfast thrown in and
free WiFi, one could do worse…
28 August - 3 September - Rio de Janeiro
I spent most of my days in Rio shopping for a new sim card for
my phone, camping gas for my stove and a good map of Brazil that
shows the kilometres travelled and the road north/west of Rio.
The vague plan was to cycle along the coast towards French
Guiana, a small country bordering Brazil and Suriname.
I also had to wait for Amanda, who had
decided to join me in cycling South America for a while,
to arrive. I had a strong suspicion that this was going to be
loads of fun…!
In the meantime I cycled into the city centre so I could ‘recky’
the route so that it would not too stressful for Amanda getting
out of this large city by bike on her first day. I also got a
Brazilian sim card for her phone as it is much cheaper to use a
At the same time I enjoyed the good sunny weather in Rio.
Although it is considered winter, the beaches were packed with
tanga-clad sunbathers, deck chairs and umbrellas. I could easily
live in a place like this. It’s just a pity that things are so
Rio is very much a party town; you party all night and sleep in
the day!! Not something I’m too used to, but what the heck, as
they say, “when in Rome…….”!
Amanda arrived on the evening of the 31st, dead tired
after 22 hours in the air. We had loads to chat about and
besides her being very tired, we only went to bed quite late.
She must have been VERY tired as she did not utter a word about
the fact that the room was terribly small and we had to share a
bed!! Something I know (from childhood) she hates, seeing that
we always had to place pillows between us whenever we had to
share a bed!
The next morning we woke to a cold and overcast Brazilian day,
not good for our sightseeing plans. First things first though:
we took Amanda’s bike to the bike shop. Afterwards we took a
stroll to the famed Copacabana beach, the colourful local market
and backstreets where men were playing cards in the park. After
which Amanda had a quick nap. We soon set off again, this time
by bus to the very famous Sugarloaf Mountain. The price for
taking the cable car was a bit steep for us (on a cloudy day) so
we gave it a miss and hoped for better weather the following
The streets come alive after dark with literally thousands of
stalls selling touristy things and bites to eat. We had a beer
on the beachfront and then headed for the backstreets to find
some food. The cheapest meal we could find was two pizzas from
the bakery that we could cook in the microwave at the hostel. We
ate our pizzas accompanied by a cheap (and terrible) bottle of
wine. The wine, however, did what it was supposed to do and
Amanda nearly fell asleep with her head on the pizza.
The following day we headed up Corcovado, the 710m high mountain
with the statue of Christ the Redeemer at the top. A tram ride
up the steep slopes brought us to the 38m high statue, and
although very touristy, the views over the city were fantastic.
It was fairly cold and windy so we did not spend too much time
up there and soon headed down to the warmth of the city again.
With all the sightseeing done it was time to pack the panniers
and start cycling again.
Rio de Janeiro - Marica
It was Amanda’s first day on the bike and we were lucky in that
it was Sunday and the beach road was closed to traffic. We had
an easy ride to the ferry terminal where we could get a ferry to
take us across Guanabara bay, saving us from having to cycle all
the way around to Niteroi. Our luck did not end there as we
found out that on Sundays you can take bikes on the ferry free
of charge. It was really our lucky day as, while we were waiting
for the ferry, we met a local chap who lives along the coast,
close to Marica. He had bought himself a bike in town and was
planning to cycle home as he could not take the bike on the bus.
So he offered to show us a shortcut and lead us out of busy
Niteroi onto a much more traffic-free road. He stayed with us
all day until he had to turn off - what a nice guy! Not much
further along the road we spotted a sign for a campsite and
headed in that direction. It was just before Marica, about 3 or
4 km off the road along a dirt road. We were pleasantly
surprised when we arrived as it was a stunning place with lakes,
forests and a fantastic lawn. Although Amanda was tired, it was
a good day with all the good fortune we had had.
Once the tents were pitched, we cooked some noodles that we
fortunately still had in our bags and that was us done for the
5 September - Marica – Itauna Beach - 59km
After a cup of coffee we packed up and headed back to the main
road. It was day two for Amanda and she was looking for an
internet connection to put the bike and bags on e-bay - ha ha!
It was actually quite a nice ride, mostly along the Costa do
Sol, with densely-wooded hills on the inland side.
We stopped several times so Amanda could get her Coca-Cola fix,
or just rest under the trees. Once we reached Saquarema we
looked for a campsite but found none. We did some shopping at
supermarket and headed off again to Itauna beach, where we
eventually settled for a pousada (a
chain of luxury, traditional or historical hotels in Portugal).
We stayed in luxury for the night, right on the well-known
surfing beach of Itauna.
Itauna Beach – Arraial do Cabo - 65km
We had breakfast at our pousada and then headed north along the
coast. The road runs between the coast and a lake, which we
realised was obviously a salt lake as we passed many salt farms.
We picked up a strong tailwind, and I was happy for Amanda as
she seemed rather tired by that time. On arrival at Arraial do
Cabo she felt nauseous and had cold shivers.
We camped at the local campsite which was quite a disappointment
- although it was close to the beach, I thought it was
overpriced for what it offered. Amanda retreated to her tent,
never to be seen again. I cycled to the supermarket and bought
the necessary items for supper, as well as loads to drink for
Amanda (I suspected her problem was dehydration).
We stayed put the following day in order for Amanda to fully
recover before heading off again. We did however take a walk to
the colourful harbour and ate at one of the well-known
“self-service” restaurants. These restaurants are actually the
best value for money as one pays by weight. Amanda is also a
fussy eater so these are the best places for her to eat.
The wind picked up and was blowing at storm-strength - we even
had to move our tents around in the night in order for them not
to blow away. I was however not quick enough, and the wind broke
one of my tent poles, something which seriously peed me off!
8 September - Arraial do Cabo – Buzios - 35km
Amanda looked a lot better after a day’s rest and, although it
was still very windy, we packed up and cycled the short distance
to Buzios. Well done to Amanda for not complaining about the
wind, she only rolled her eyes a few times but continued on.
Once in Buzios we took a room at Buzios Hostel, where I could
fix my tent and we could use the internet. Amanda, no doubt, was
the first to spot a sign advertising a bus trip to Salvador
along the coast!!
We took a walk to the local supermarket to get some food for
supper which we could cook in the hostel’s kitchen. Amanda also
discovered that she was a victim of credit card fraud! What a
9 September - Buzios
Although we packed up and were ready to leave quite early,
contacting Amanda’s bank to report the credit card fraud took
some time. By the time we had completed the time-consuming job
of contacting the bank and cancelling the card it was after
midday so we stayed another day in pretty Buzios.
Buzios is known for its beaches and it did not disappoint. The
wind dropped and we took a walk along the beach and enjoyed a
stunning sunset. At least Amanda had a good rest and looked
ready to take on the road again.
10 September - Buzios – Macae - 81km
We were incredibly lucky and picked up a strong tailwind. We
hardly stopped along the way and flew down the road past Rio das
Ostras and onto Macae. Accommodation looked a bit a pricy, so we
continued on until just past Macae. The sun usually set quite
early so by 17h00 we needed to start looking out for a place to
stay. Just outside Macae we found a small pousada along the
road. The price was nearly the same as some of the campsites.
Needless to say, we were very happy. Although it was on a rather
busy and noisy road, we had a sea view, a fan and a bathroom.
We cooked some food in the room (it was more an experiment than
anything else) - not the most tasty of meals, I must admit, but
a meal nevertheless.
Macae – Campos dos Goytacazes
It was Amanda’s birthday and she had the best present the road
could possibly give us. A tailwind! It was also an overcast day,
which was a good thing as it turned out to be quite a long day
on the road. Although Amanda was tired and her backside quite
sore by then, she continued on. Not that there is much one can
do if there is no accommodation along the way, except for wild
camping. We stopped a few times along the way and I must admit,
there’s nothing quite like a cold sugarcane juice when cycling.
Amanda did not like the taste and stuck to her tried-and-tested
On reaching Campos we took a hotel room as I don’t think Amanda
was up to cycling around town looking for a cheap room. We found
the aptly named “Canaan Hotel”, and while she relaxed in the
room I went shopping for the few items we needed. She later
claimed that the only things she could move were her eyes so all
she could do was just lie there, staring at the ceiling. Later
we got a take-away pizza to eat in the room (seeing that Amanda
could not move). The pizza was so big that we could only eat
half so we packed the remaining half to eat along the way the
Campos dos Goytacazes – Quaxindiba -
After 16km of cycling we turned off the BR101 and headed for the
coast again. The coastal road gave more opportunities for
accommodation and seemed more interesting that the main road.
We cycled past large sugarcane fields, cattle ranches and
pineapple fields. Along the way were numerous stalls selling
pineapples at incredibly cheap prices. On reaching the coast at
Quaxindiba, Amanda spotted a decent looking pousada. I did not
argue as by then I had heard the phrase “this is not for me” a
hundred times. The room turned out to be far less glamorous than
the outside. It was the most smelly, dingy room one could
imagine, but we took it as it was very cheap.
13 September - Quaxindiba – Marataizes - 65km
We continued on along the coast, partly on a dirt road and past
many small villages. Sugarcane trucks abounded, all on their way
to the factory. We once again cycled past vast pineapple and
sugarcane fields. We were now in the state of Espirito Santo,
overlooked by tourists and truly stunning. It was also out of
season so it was just us and the locals!
Marataises was our first beach town along the coast. We took a
room as first priority was for Amanda to get to an internet
connection in order to arrange for a new bank card to be sent to
14 September - Marataizes – Piuma - 26km
With most of the internet stuff done we set off along the coast
past Itapemirim. We did not get very far as Amanda flopped down
on the nearest beach, claiming she could cycle no further. I did
not blame her as by then we had had four days of cycling, of
which two were fairly long days.
We splashed out and found a very nice place for the night. It
was more a flat than a room as it came with two bedrooms, a
lounge and a kitchen. We had plenty of time to do laundry and
the fact that they had washing machines and driers was an added
15 September Piuma – Guarapari - 55km
We unfortunately had to leave our lovely accommodation, and
after a hearty breakfast (jelly, cake, bread rolls, cheese, ham,
coffee etc) we packed our clean and nice smelling laundry and
set off again. We biked along the coast, past fantastic beaches
like Iriri, Anchieta and Ubu. Guarapari was a much larger city
than we expected. Just past Guarapari it started drizzling so we
opted for a room. The owners were ever-so friendly: I’m sure
they had never had two foreign cyclists staying at their pousada.
Amanda amazes me more and more every day - she now even swallows
down a beer or two, something I’ve never seen her do before!
Amazing what a few days on the bike can do.
16 September - Guarapari – Carapina Beach - 84km
Nothing came of the predicted rain. Although it was cloudy, it
was a good cycling day. Amanda set off at quite a speed and I
could not believe that she was getting stronger and stronger -
normally people get more and more tired as the days go by. At
Vitoria we had a frustrating time as the authorities did not
allow us to cycle across the main bridge (Ponte 3) so we had to
cycle all the way around the city to cross at Ponte Florentino
Avidos! With Amanda’s fear of water and heights, she was across
that bridge in record time. Vitoria turned out to be quite an
interesting town with both an old and modern section. Once we
reached the beach again, accommodation looked a bit pricy so we
It was easier said than done. The road led us through various
villages, jam-packed with traffic! I’m quite sure we took the
wrong road. Eventually we reached the coast again. By that time
Amanda was not a happy puppy anymore and threatened to stop
right there and then.
We managed to continue on until we reached Carapina Beach where
we found a very reasonably priced pousada right on the beach.
Although the room was large it had clearly not been cleaned
since the previous occupant and there was no bedding. Good thing
we had our own sleeping bags!
17 September - Carapina Beach
We stayed in Carapina for the day and did little else but sleep,
eat and drink. My Portuguese is obviously not improving. I try
in my best Portuguese to ask for directions, food and
accommodation, but people generally look at me as if I have just
landed there from another planet. When they eventually get it,
the remarks are always the same: ”aaaah pousada!” I don’t get it
- that was exactly what I said!! How many ways are there to say
18 September - Carapina beach – Barra do Sahy, Putirí Beach -
Refreshed after a day of doing nothing we headed up the coast
again. It was a beautiful day’s cycling. The road was scenic and
led us through many small fishing villages, past craft markets
and nature reserves. We soon spotted a campsite and although it
was still very early, it was such a good site, right on the
beach, that we camped for the night. It was a stunning spot, and
we took a walk along the beach looking for some food but
everything seemed deserted as it was Sunday. We cooked up some
pasta and washed it down with a beer or two. Food is harder to
find than beer in this country! Soon the rain came down and by
8pm we were in our tents hiding from the rain.
19 September - Barra do Sahy, Putirí Beach – Linhares - 80km
The coastal road came to an end so we headed inland to join the
BR101. We cycled past vast timber plantations. The road was
undulated and Amanda had to push her bike up a hill or two. The
best part of the day was a tailwind and cycling past ylang-ylang
plantations. The sweet and exotic fragrance of the flowers
filled the air. I can’t think of anything better than cycling
with the smell of ylang-ylang in your nostrils.
Although the BR101 was a busy road there was a nice wide
shoulder to cycle on. We stopped for cold drinks at a roadside
stall and looked at all the lovely crafty things for sale. We
could not buy anything but took a few photos and were on our way
On arrival at Linhares we cycled around the not-so glamorous
town to find a reasonably priced room. We also discovered that
the address that Amanda had given to the bank, (where they could
send her bank card) was not at all where we thought it was: the
inn she had found on the internet turned out to be along the
coast and not in Sao Matheus, where she thought it was!
20 September - Linhares – Barra Nova - 85km
The only option we had was to head to Barra Nova to see if her
credit card had arrived in the meantime. After we had cycled for
about 60km along the BR101 we saw a huge sign advertising the
inn that we were heading for. We consulted with locals at the
turn-off and concluded that, yes, it was the right turn-off.
23km the advertising board said. We cycled and we cycled but no
inn. The tarred road ended and became a dirt road but still no
inn! The sun started setting and Amanda was (as can be expected)
by this time claiming that she was going to catch a bus! We were
on a stunning but rather deserted road, so where she was going
to get the bus, I had no idea… We stopped a few people along the
way to ask for directions but they seemed rather perplexed that
we wanted to go to Barra Nova, which according to one man was
still very far away and across a river (with no bridge,
indicated by rowing of arms).
Eventually it started getting dark and we made the decision to
“wild camp” (a first for Amanda). We pitched our tents at the
entrance of what looked like an oil refinery (to great amusement
of the security staff). Amanda looked anxiously around for a
toilet and was mumbling something like: “I could have been
somewhere in a hotel room…”
The security guards at the gate were not only very friendly but
also quite curious as to what two women on bikes were doing in
that part of the world. Once again the directions to Barra Nova
varied between 10 and 28km.
21 September - Oil refinery – Barra Nova - 20km
After we had coffee we packed up and followed the gravel road in
the direction the oil refinery security guys had indicated.
After 20km we reached the river. This may not seem like a
problem to anyone else but for Amanda (who suffers from a fear
of water) it was a huge problem. After asking around we found a
guy to paddle us across the river for a reasonable fee. A much
bigger problem was getting Amanda onto the boat and across the
river. We managed to find a life jacket but that did not do much
to ease her fear at all. Although scared shitless, she
eventually got onto the tiny wooden boat loaded with bikes and
bags and arrived alive on the other side. I felt really sorry
for her, but what else was there to be done? We had to get
across the river and to the other side. Shaking and wide-eyed,
she reached the other side where we found the inn we were
looking for. Unfortunately no post had arrived for us and there
was no internet connection for us to find out what was going on.
Amanda swallowed a beer in about two seconds and looked a lot
more like her old self again.
Now if anyone ever wanted to disappear off the face of the
earth, this would be the place to do it. The inn was located on
the river, and had stunning rooms, a lovely restaurant and a
bar, all set in a lush garden with palm trees and humming birds.
There was nothing more to the village than the inn, a few houses
dotted along a dirt road and a pub or two. We were the only
people at the inn and the staff doted over us like we were the
Queens of England. After Amanda’s ordeal of the past two days,
it was well-deserved treatment for her.
22 September - Barra Nova
The following day we took a taxi (at quite a cost) along a sandy
track to a nearby village (which was not so nearby). Amanda
(again) had to hang onto the door frame for dear life, as we
sped along the bumpy, sandy track. All in search of an internet
connection and a bank (both of which we found). It appeared that
the bank had not even sent the card yet!! We retreated back
along the sandy track to the “AratuPousada” to make a new plan.
Information from the staff indicated that it was 25km, on a very
sandy track, back to the main road and on to the bigger town of
Sao Mateus. That evening Amanda was already stressing about the
sandy road and remarking that it was going to take her the whole
of the following day to do the 25km. She feared that she would
have to push her bike all the way (mumbling her by-now trademark
phrase “I’m never going to make it”).
23 - 24 September - Barra Nova – Sao Mateus - 40km
The following morning we waved the friendly staff goodbye and
set off along the sandy track. Every now and again I heard an
anxious “oh shit” behind me. We soon discovered that the “25km”
was only to the next village, but at least from there on we were
on tarmac again. We headed for Sao Mateus to find a hotel with
telephone and internet facilities. We were however unable to
reach the South African bank that Amanda wanted to phone. She
did, however, still have time to update the website.
The following day Amanda had more “work” to do so we stayed
another day in Sao Mateus so that we could (hopefully) sort out
most of the credit card requirements.
25 September - Sao Mateus – Itabata - 90km
We did all we could have possibly done to get a new bank card
sent to Amanda. Now we would just have to wait and see. We set
off on a breezy cloudy morning, heading north on the BR101. As
soon as we crossed into the state of Bahia the road
deteriorated. There was no more shoulder to the road and the
many trucks made it plain dangerous to be cycling. Fortunately
we soon spotted a roadside pousada where we could take a break
for the night, hoping that there would be a turn-off for the
coastal road soon. Well done to Amanda as she stuck it out, put
her head down and made it all the way.
26 September Itabata – Caravelas - 65km
It was another eventful day on the road. We turned off the busy
and narrow BR101 and headed for the coast, past cattle ranches
and tiny local villages. We stopped for a cold drink break when
Amanda spotted a man on a donkey and muttered something like
that would be a more suitable means of transport for her.
Soon we reached the tiny village of Mucuri where we stopped for
a quick snack, before continuing on.
After 65km and one flat tyre we reached the sleepy fishing
village of Nova Vicosa where the road came abruptly to an end at
We had no other option than to ask one of the fishermen to give
us a lift across the mangrove swamps to the next village, which
did not look too far away on the map.
We, once again, negotiated a price and loaded the bikes and bags
onto the boat. Amanda was still very apprehensive but a tiny bit
more comfortable. At least the boat was somewhat bigger than the
canoe of a few days ago. Amanda approached the boat rather
reluctantly and swore that I had picked the smallest one in the
We set off (literally) into the sunset and putt-putted across
the mangrove swamps. Amanda anxiously looked on while I gave the
skipper a break to work the bilge pump! There’s always something
intriguing about mangrove swamps and it was a lovely time to be
out on the water. The sun started setting and still we sailed
The birds started settling in the tree tops, the fire-flies came
out and phosphorescence started appearing in the wake of the
boat – and still we sailed on! It became pitch dark and the
stars shone brightly. Amanda was (understandably) very
uncomfortable (to put it mildly) by this time. Our boat seemed
to have no lights whatsoever. Eventually, 3 hours later, she
excitedly spotted the lights of Caravelas over the water. Well
done to both Amanda and our skipper for making it across the
dark waters of the mangrove swamps.
We were extremely lucky to find not only a very cheap but also
very comfortable pousada with even more friendly staff. A walk
down the road revealed a still open “self-service” restaurant
27 September - Caravelas – Prado - 50km
After a lovely breakfast at our Posada dos Navegantes, we
biked along the coast past Alcobacato Prado. After Amanda’s
stressful previous day, it was a good idea to make it a short
day and just relax at a beach. We studied the map and there
appeared to be no river crossings or anything of that kind for
at least another day or two.
People along the way were incredibly friendly. We got the idea
that they dearly wanted to talk with us but the language barrier
made it rather difficult. A couple in a car flagged us down and
told us that they saw us a few days ago in Vitoria. They looked
ever so disappointed when they realised that we could not speak
Portuguese. It will always remain my biggest regret that I’m not
fluent in the language of the country I cycle through.
Just before Prado we crossed a river via a rather rickety
bridge. Amanda, with her fear of heights and water, was across
that bridge faster than Lance Armstrong! I’m so proud of my
28 September - Prado – Cumuruxatiba - 35km
We left Prado on a stunning coastal road but the road soon
deteriorated. We headed over the hills on a rather sandy, rutted
and corrugated road. In fact, it was so corrugated that Amanda
lost one of her fillings! I thought it was a fantastic route but
Amanda had her own description of the road... It was as
off-the-beaten-track and remote as one could get - absolutely
glorious! Cycle touring at its best!
Amanda pushed her bike up the rutted hills and down the other
side. I must admit that the road resembled the Baviaanskloof at
times. Finally we reached Cumuruxatiba. We met a very friendly
couple along the way and they showed us to a local guesthouse,
which turned out to be one of the best places to stay. It was
set in a lush garden with a lovely sea view, all for a very
They later returned with instructions on how to cycle along the
beach instead of along the road. How nice of them.
29 September - Cumuruxatiba – Corumbau - 35km
We were told that we could cycle along the beach instead of the
bad road we had been on. So we did, and although it was
fantastic, it did not last very long. After about 2km we came to
some rocks and had to return to the road to get around them.
Once around the rocks, we headed back for the beach along a
sandy track. All to no avail. We soon reached some more rocks
and had to drag the bikes up the embankment and back onto the
road. A few
later, local knowledge told us to try the beach again. Which we
did. Soon, however, the sand became so soft that we had to drag
the bikes across the soft sand for quite a few
Exasperated, we gave up and dragged the bikes up the steep
embankment again and headed inland looking for a better road. It
was a rather isolated area and there wasn’t much of a road, just
a sandy jeep track. We dragged the bikes along this very sandy
and isolated track for what felt like quite a few kilometres,
with Amanda mumbling something to the effect of “we will most
likely die of thirst, never to be found again!” Even I started
thinking that we might never reach civilization again.
Eventually we reached our old sandy and rutted road from the
At last we spotted a guy on a motorbike and asked for
directions. It appeared that we were, in fact, on the right road
and had (in the process) cut out a long detour. We were a mere
12km from Corumbau, our destination for the day. On reaching
Corumbau we realised that we were running low on cash. We were
in a rather remote part of the world - there was no T.V.
reception, cell phone reception or banks. Cash seemed to be
something one could not find easily in this part of the world.
We eventually settled for a basic bungalow (which we could pay
for the following day) and decided to take the bus into a nearby
town the following day. We explained our situation in our
limited Portuguese and understood that there was only one bus a
day. The bus apparently left at 6h00 in the morning and returned
at 14h40. We dearly hoped that it was all going to work out!
30 September - Corumbau
We were up early and ready for our 3 hour - 70km - bus trip. The
bus ride turned out to be quite an experience. It was Friday and
end of the month. The bus was full of locals heading into town
to do their monthly business. Everyone was dressed in their
Sunday best. Old men wore hats and the ladies were in heels and
floral dresses. Everyone seemed very jovial and greetings were
extended as people boarded the bus. They all seemed to know each
other, even us, as we spotted a lady from a guesthouse were we
had enquired the previous night.
In town our fellow passengers all disappeared off in their
individual directions. We did our banking business, which took
quite a while as the queue extended out the door and only half
the terminals were functioning. We wondered around the small
town, bumping into our fellow bus riders busy doing their
shopping. Soon it was time to catch the bus back. Most of the
morning’s passengers were on the bus again, and we were greeted
like locals. Our fellow travellers were loaded up with shopping
bags containing anything from chicken feed to groceries.
There appeared to be no rush as the bus stopped at a local store
where everyone got off and did their bakery shopping. Collective
‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were exclaimed as we rattled along the bumpy
gravel road back to Corumbau.
1 October - Corumbau – Trancoso - 50km (+12km by beach buggy)
We left our basic bungalow and waved our host Maria goodbye. We
continued down the sandy road for what only turned out to be 6km
before we reached mangrove swamps again. We pushed our bikes
along the sandy beach, all to the great delight of the locals.
No sooner had we started pushing our bikes than they all joined
in to help. We were ferried across the river by a 6 year old
girl (still seemingly sucking on a dummy) - not good for
Amanda’s nerves! All this they did without wanting any money –
it was just some fun on a Saturday afternoon!
We understood we could cycle along the beach to the small and
remote village of Caraiva. The sand was however so soft that it
was quite impossible. No wonder there was a beach buggy running
up and down the beach, ferrying people to and from Caraiva. We
loaded our bikes on the buggy and zooted across the loose sand.
threatened to get out and walk as she was
not comfortable in the buggy, which was
swaying across the loose sand, very close to the waves!
No sooner had we pulled off than our buggy ran out of fuel. We
waited patiently in the shade of a palm tree while our
barefooted driver ran off to some nearby houses to locate more
fuel. He eventually dropped us at Caraiva where we had to, yet
again, cross a river in order to get to a road of sorts.
Caraiva is a tiny remote village without any TV reception,
mobile phone connection or banks. The slow pace of life has
attracted some hippies, who live a quiet life along the coast.
As there is no bridge nearby (and therefore no cars), all goods
have to be ferried across the river (even the horses seem to
know this and swim across at leisure).
We were back on our bikes and the road turned out to be one of
the worst roads we had been on so far. It was sandy, rutted,
muddy and just plain hard to cycle on. Right in the middle of
nowhere we found a shop making lampshades out of candle wax! It
was so stunning that we lingered a while before setting off
again. We cycled past vast fields of papayas (I guess they’re
the only thing that can grow in these sandy fields) en route to
It was out of season and guesthouses were offering rooms at
hugely discounted prices. We found a luxury room for a fraction
of the price it would cost in high season. It came with a
hammock, air con, mosquito nets and a lovely breakfast! A just
reward for a day’s hard work.
2/3 October - Trancoso – Arraial d’Ajuda - 40km
Instead of following the dirt road along the coast, we opted for
the paved road. The paved road was a bit further but by then we
had had enough of dirt roads. As soon as we reached the road we
seriously doubted our decision as we encountered rather steep
hills along the way. Amanda was in no mood for hills and swore
she was going to take a bus. After one too many of these hills
she refused to get back on the bike and wanted to phone a taxi.
She plonked herself down by the side of the road and it took
some serious convincing to get her back on the bike, with my
promising that we would turn off for Arraial d’Ajuda to make it
a short day.
Arraial d’Ajuda is a small coastal village with paved roads and
a grassy central plaza. Reggae music blared from the tiny
colourful shops surrounding the square. Old time hippies lazed
around incense-filled bars. What a cool place to hang out in! We
found a hostel and Amanda fell asleep, exhausted.
We stayed on the following day, did a bit of laundry and Amanda
updated my website. By the time she pointed out the fact that we
had to close our bedroom window with a plank, I knew that she
was well rested and that it was time to move on again.
4 October - Arraial d’Ajuda – Belmonte - 80km
We were slow in packing up, but eventually headed the 4km
downhill to the ferry port. This time we crossed the river by
barge and although by then Amanda had tried many different kinds
of craft to cross the many rivers we had encountered, the sight
of the overloaded barge did not instill much confidence in her.
We did however reach the opposite side safely and continued
along the coast, past palm-filled beaches with bright yellow
As if one river crossing was not enough for Amanda, we soon
reached yet another river where we had to cross by means of a
barge. On the opposite side the road wound through dense forest
and past remote beaches. We did not see anything we liked along
the way so we continued on to Belmonte.
No sooner had we reached Belmonte than we were approached by a
local skipper offering a ride across the mangrove swamps to
Canavieiras the following morning. We negotiated a price and
arranged to meet him at 8h00 the next morning (and dearly hoped
his craft would be seaworthy).
Soon afterwards we found a basic pousada (guesthouse) at a very
cheap price. At that price we could not complain about the lack
of facilities. We cooked up some noodles, had a beer and then it
was off to bed.
5 October - Belmont - Una - 56km
We were up early and headed to the small port where we found our
skipper. He turned out be the local water taxi to Canavieiras.
We waited (together with the locals) at the port for the tide to
come in. The mangrove swamps can only be crossed at high-tide,
which gave Amanda the assurance that at least it was not that
deep! We once again loaded our bikes and bags onto the boat
(which even had a life jacket for Amanda) and headed off through
the watery jungle.
Against all odds (according to Amanda) we arrived safely at
Canavieiras. Our first priority was to locate a bike shop as we
noticed that Amanda’s back tyre was torn close to the rim. It
was an easy task as even the smallest village had a bike shop of
sorts. The guy from the bike shop was ever-so friendly, he gave
us a good discount and even fitted the new tyre for free.
We cycled the fairly short distance to Una on a good paved road,
past densely-wooded forests and plenty of small villages. Una
was slightly inland from the coast and therefore it was a fairly
hilly ride. In Una we found a very basic pousada right on the
main road. As usual, the locals were very curious about what we
doing there, where we were from and where we were going. The
friendly lady running the pousada told us to put our bicycles in
our room (which was huge). The on-lookers wasted no time in
carrying our bikes up the vertical stairs for us (something I
did not protest about). Soon the rain started coming down and it
was a good place to hide for the night. Later that evening we
took a walk to the bus station where one is always sure to find
some cheap nibbles. In Brazil people seem to eat a big lunch and
just nibble in the evening. We also bought some cake which we
had with our coffee later on that evening.
6 October - Una –
We woke to bucketing rain but by the time we left it had all
cleared and it turned out to be a hot and humid day. We cycled
towards the coast again past Ecoparque de Una where one can see
the golden-headed lion monkeys. Unfortunately, we learnt from
the sign board outside the park that one needs to arrange a
visit beforehand. There was no way I was going to drag Amanda up
a 7km dirt road to the park gate which may or may not have been
open. We flew downhill back to the ocean and enjoyed a flat
coastal ride to Olivenca and on to
where we hoped to find a new bank card waiting for Amanda.
We located the Hotel
at the address Amanda had given the bank, but sadly there was no
post waiting for us. What the hell is wrong with FNB??? The
Hotel turned out to be quite an interesting place. Centrally
located in the old part of town and built in the 1930’s, it came
with a vintage elevator and very few electrical points. At least
the showers were hot and it had good views of the river. The
hotel was built to accommodate rich cocoa traders of the time
and had a bank and cocoa deposit on the ground floor, as well as
a party saloon and casino. It must have been quite a fancy place
in its day, but it is now showing its age.
7/12 October -
With the help of friends back in South Africa, there was at last
some news about Amanda’s bank card. We decided to stay on in
until the card arrived, as having it sent forward again to an
address where we were not yet staying would be way too
is a pretty coastal town, with a fair amount of historic
buildings dating back to its cocoa heyday. Whether we were going
to be able to keep ourselves occupied for 7 days though, I was
not sure… When we enquired about a “disconto” in anticipation of
our long stay, the receptionist laughingly pointed out that
although we don’t speak any Portuguese, we sure knew the word “disconto”!!
Ilhéus is also the hometown of Jorge Amado, a well-known and
popular writer in Brazil. His novels, like Gabriela, Clove and
Cinnamon and Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands, portray the life
and customs of the north-eastern region of Brazil. I was looking
forward to reading one of his books, but could find no English
In the meantime, we inspected all the old buildings in town and
walked up the hill to The Church of Nossa Senhora da Piedade.
Situated high up on a hill overlooking
it looked more like a fairy castle than a church.
There is only so much sightseeing one can do, so we spent the
rest of our days on the beach eating ice cream, grilled cheese
and quail eggs (not considered a delicacy here). At night we
walked out to the beachfront stalls for cheap nibbles and thick
is a fairly small town, it’s quite lively and at night the
cobblestone alleys are alive with food vendors, bars and street
The history of
Ilhéus is the main city along what is known as Brazil’s “Cocoa
Coast.” The town dates back to the early 1500s when it thrived
due to the sugarcane trade. However, its true boom came in the
late 19th-century with the introduction of cacau (cocoa).
Plummeting world sugar prices and the abolition of slavery
caused the sugar plantations to go into decline.
Cocoa—which earned the nickname ouro branco (white gold)—drew
freed slaves and entrepreneurs to the lush hills surrounding
Ilhéus, all of them seized by the desire to strike it rich (or
at least earn a decent living). A handful of “cocoa barons”
(known as coronéis or “colonels”), with vast plantations, did
indeed become immensely wealthy and powerful.
They basically ruled over their workers, and the region as a
whole, until the 1980s, when a disease known as vassoura de
bruxa (“witch’s broom”) decimated the cocoa trees and left the
region’s economy in ruins, from which it has only recently begun
Today, traces of the legacy of the “colonels” can be seen by
wandering among the grandiose mansions and civic buildings of
Ilhéus’s historical center. One can read about their exploits in
the novels (particularly The Violent Land) of famous Brazilian
author Jorge Amado. Many of his books are set in his hometown of
(Source: Moon Travel Guides)
13/14 October -Ilheus
By far the cheapest meal is to be found in self-service
normally offer a large variety of food and even desserts, and
the food is delicious! You just dish up and weigh your plate.
These restaurants are however normally only open between 12h00
and 14h00. Brazilians tend to have a big lunch and then a snack
in the evening.
At night we went out
(like true South Africans)
looking for the espetinhos vendors. One can find these
vendors just about everywhere: standing at mobile charcoal
grills, selling their espetinhos (small kebabs). The
smell of the grilled meat normally tells you exactly where they
are! Espetinhos can be skewers of beef, sausage, chicken,
or even cheese. These skewers are normally served with a hot
sauce and a sandy flour-like concoction (which we normally
In the unlikely event that you can’t find an
there is always the acarajé stall. Acarajé is a
dish made from peeled black-eyed peas which are formed into a
ball and then deep-fried in palm oil (or so I’m told). It’s by
far the most popular street food around here. It’s served split
in half and stuffed with a tomato and onion salad, a very hot
sauce and pasta made from corn (I think). Often there are
shrimps somewhere in the dish as well.
Both these dishes are considered to be snacks and are very
popular as they are really cheap. Personally I preferred
the lady who ran the stall on the square because she did not
but rather cooked the ball (of whatever) in a banana leaf. Her
also had no shrimp in it and a more distinct coconut flavour.
And just to top it all off: there’s normally chocolate cake to
be found somewhere!
15 October - Ilheus – Itacare - 74 km
After waiting 8 full days for Amanda’s bank card to arrive,
there was still no post for us. We decided to continue down the
coast and take a bus back to Ilheus, if and when the bank card
arrived. Whether that was going to work out or not, we would
have to wait and see. Shortly after leaving Ilheus, we spotted a
chocolate factory so we just had to go inside! This is, after
all, Brazil’s “Cacao Coast” and one is bound to find some
chocolatey things around.
We followed the road through a thick and lush coastal forest and
soon saw an artist’s house hidden in the woods. We explored and
found some rather wacky art. The road was quite hilly and Amanda
did not feel well. We waved down a bus and she bussed herself to
Itacare, while I continued down the road. The hills also created
opportunity for some stunning views. Miles of snow white,
half-deserted beaches stretched as far as the eye could see. I
soon reached Itacare and found Amanda already booked into a
hostel. Fortunately she came walking down the road just as I
cycled into town. I would have
found the hostel otherwise, as it was hidden away in one of the
We spent the following day in Itacare - a surfing/hippie coastal
village. There was a rather large amount of tattooed, pierced
and dreadlocked people around. Everyone seemed laidback and
without a care in the world. They must be smoking the good
stuff. A good place to hang out for the day.
17 October - Itacare – Camamu - 58 km
As we are now moving more into central Brazil, it’s becoming
increasingly hazy, hot, humid and watery. Villages are also
becoming more remote, rural and traditional. It’s also becoming
a lot more hilly. Amanda completely threw her toys out of the
cot today. After 15km we came across a bus stop and there she
stayed. We arranged to meet in the next village and I left her
in the good care of some school children. I set off down the
road over countless hills. About 5km before Camamu I stopped at
a view point and saw Amanda going past in the bus. I felt better
knowing that she was all right.
Camamu is a small fishing village surrounded by mangrove swamps,
and it was easy to find both the centre and Amanda. We cycled
around the small village looking for a place to stay, and in the
end opted for a cheap (windowless) room in the centre of town.
18 October - Camamu – Valenca - 71 km
Amanda decided to take the bus again and we arranged to meet in
Valenca, the next biggest town. I had a fantastic day’s riding.
The road ran through some dense forests with tiny villages
hidden behind palm trees and banana plants. The day offered all
the images one conjures up when thinking of central Brazil.
Jungle-clad hillsides, mangrove swamps, remote villages, where
women did washing in the streams and carried their wares in
baskets on their heads.
As I cycled past small villages, people instantly stopped what
they were doing. They spun around to watch me, staring,
motionless with mouths open, at this crazy women on a bike. Dogs
barked nervously and small kids ran for the safety of their
homes. I reached Valenca around midday. There was plenty of time
for us to wander around this small, but busy, fishing village.
It had a lively riverfront lined with food-stalls and juice
Walking back to our room after a bite to eat, we got absolutely
soaked in a sudden downpour. It rains almost every night but at
least it’s never cold.
19/24 October - Valenca
After breakfast we were ready to leave when Amanda discovered
that the card delivery company was looking for her. It appeared
that they had not delivered it to the hotel in Ilheus (as
arranged) as we were not physically there. So much for all our
careful planning! At least the fraudulent transactions seem to
have been refunded.
We immediately contacted the relevant people with our new
address and all the telephone numbers we could lay our hands on!
At least we then had a telephone number for a person in Brazil.
It appeared that the card was somewhere in Brazil and would take
72 hours to arrive - but they don’t deliver over weekends! Which
made the expected delivery date the following Monday. We settled
in for another long and boring wait.
Although there were beautiful islands close by, we could not
afford to leave the hotel just in case the card arrived before
the weekend. In the meantime, we watched in amazement as
boatloads of islanders arrived in Valence to do their shopping
at the local market. The market was packed with all kinds of
exotic fruit and vegetables, some of which I’ve never seen
before. After a short walk along the river, we also found the
local boat builders, which Valence is famous for. Under palm
trees and amidst sawdust and large pieces of wood, they were
hammering and sawing away at half-constructed boats. Apparently
they still maintain 15th Century techniques.
Over the weekend we ran head on into the “The Church of Our Lady
of Perpetual Help” festival. Thousands of people, all dressed in
white, headed up the hill towards the church. The festival came
with all the trimmings: an amusement park, toffee apples, food
stalls and music. Afterwards there was a kind of mini-carnival
with a multitude of beer stalls, music blaring from car boots
and people dancing in the street - all very festive! A huge
open-top truck carrying a band moved slowly through the streets,
with people following behind, swaying to the beat and generally
just having a good time.
No one in their right minds would believe me if I told them that
the saga with Amanda’s bank card has been going on since 7
September. The incompetence of some people boggles the mind! We
waited and we waited!! Every day we were told that it would
arrive the following day. The straw that broke the camel’s back
was when we were told that a special delivery could be made.
Wait for this…at a cost of US$500 and that the card will be
delivered the following morning! To cut a long story short, the
deal was accepted and guess what?? No card arrived the next
morning!!! What is a person to do??
27/28 October - Valenca – Nazare - 47km
We very optimistically waited until 13h00 but no delivery was
made. We finally came to a decision to continue on. Of the
nearly two months that Amanda has been in Brazil, we have only
managed to cycle for one month. We left a note at the hotel for
the staff to phone us when the parcel arrived. It was another
hot and humid day and Amanda took a lot of strain along the way.
She felt faint and shaky so decided to take a bus. We waited
twice for a bus to pick her up but none wanted to take the
bicycle so we slowly continued on to Nazare.
On reaching Nazare we were surprised to find such an interesting
town in the middle of nowhere. It has a central square with a
lovely old church and loads of narrow cobblestone alleys.
Colourful houses, packed tightly together, lined the hillside.
We found a pousada in one of the back alleys with a large
balcony overlooking the town.
The next morning we had a pleasant surprise when we learned that
the parcel had actually arrived in Valence. We hopped on a
mini-bus taxi back to Valence and could hardly believe it that
the bank card was actually inside! On arrival back in Nazare it
was already too late to continue so we explored the town with
all its old colonial buildings and interesting alleys.
29 October - Nazare – Mar Grande - 61 km
With the new bank card safely in Amanda’s panniers, we set off
in the direction of Salvador. Again it was hot and humid but
Amanda was strong and cycled well. I still, however, had to
convince her of the fact that perspiration is very normal under
these circumstances! And that she was not coming down with a
We reached Mar Grande around midday and, going by the expression
on Amanda’s face, we decided to stay there for the night instead
of crossing the bay straight away. Crossing the bay by public
ferry was, of course, another concern for her and we had to
first take a walk down to the port to check it out. The fact
that the sea was rough did not ease her fear at all. We found a
rather unusual pousada for the night. Although it was
extremely basic it was an interesting place with a huge garden,
plenty of arty things and a swimming pool. We were in that pool
straight away, both to cool off and to get away from the
30 October - Mar Grande – Praia Stella Maris - 31 km
First thing in the morning we boarded the ferry across the bay
to Salvador. Salvador (once again) turned out to be quite a nice
place. We cycled along the coast with its endless beaches until
we reached Praia Stella Maris. We stopped at a petrol station to
use their toilets and we were approached by a local pousada
owner. We decided to check out his
and it turned out to be quite nice accommodation, so we stayed
for the night.
31 October - Praia Stella Maris – Praia do Forte - 64 km
At breakfast we met some interesting people from Poland. They
were in Brazil for the “Brazil ride” and it turned out that they
had been to South Africa earlier this year for the “Cape Epic”.
Being cyclists themselves, they were intrigued by our adventure
and we chatted for quite some time.
The road was kind to Amanda and we reached Praia do Forte
without any incidents. We were however quite surprised to find
such a touristy village. Praia do Forte is a tiny village but
well known for its turtle conservation farm. The streets were
lined with curio stalls. Guesthouses jacked their prices up to
nearly unaffordable (for us). After riding around for a while,
we settled for the least expensive one, which was still quite
1 November Praia do Forte – Baixio - 78 km
Soon after breakfast we left and, although the road was fairly
easy, it was too hot for Amanda. She soon started feeling faint
and shaky again. We stopped quite often so she could lie down in
the shade to recover.
The people along the way were incredibly friendly. At a petrol
station, where we filled up with water, we chatted to a guy who
presented us with a lovely pair of earrings just before he
boarded the bus again. How cool is that! He also gave us his
card and it turned out that he was a jeweler.
We had very little option but to carry on, and eventually we saw
a turnoff for Baixio. Not knowing what to expect, we set off
down the road and 8km further we found the tiny fishing village
of Baixio. It was obviously also a beach place in season as
there was more than one guesthouse. We settled for a ground
floor room down a sandy path from where we could access both
hammocks and a pizzeria. We ordered a pizza and it was
surprisingly good. Thin-based with loads of toppings, my very
Amanda literally passed out under the (not so effective) fan and
stayed there for the rest of the night.
2/3 November - Baixio – Sitio do Conde - 51 km
In the morning Amanda still did not feel well and decided to
take the bus to Conde (the next village). She soon got a bus and
I continued by bike to Conde. The road was fairly hilly and it
was maybe a good thing that Amanda took the bus as it bucketed
down, nearly all the way. I found Amanda at the bus stop in
Conde, which turned out to be not as big as we thought.
We decided to cycle the 6 km down the road to Sitio do Conde,
which was a nice laidback beach village. There was hardly anyone
around and we were spoilt for choice when it came to picking a
guesthouse. We found a reasonably priced one
on the beach, from where we could watch the pounding waves, just
a few metres away.
I felt lazy the following day and we stayed on. We walked along
the beach and just hung around in the hammocks for the rest of
4 November - Sitio do Conde – Estancia - 89 km
A prober tropical storm came up in the night and by morning we
had serious doubts as to whether to continue on. Amanda (very
cleverly) decided to take the bus and we arranged to meet in
Estancia. I set off down the ever-so hilly road but encountered
a nice tailwind along the way. Taking the bus seems to be quite
a lengthy affair. If it was not for me having a flat tyre along
the road, I most likely would have arrived in Estancia at about
the same time as Amanda.
After crossing the border into the tiny state of Sergipe and
with 25km to go, I had a flat tyre. While fixing it, Amanda’s
bus came past and I just saw a little white hand waving out of
the bus window. By the time I arrived in Estancia she had
already found us a room (as well as some cold beers). I could
get used to this, and was getting ideas about putting her back
on the bus again the following morning!
5 November - Estancia – Aracaju - 78 km
The weather was somewhat better but we still had a good
tailwind. Just outside Estancia we turned off the BR101 again
and headed for the smaller road along the coast. My back tyre
must have been wearing a bit thin as I had not one, but two,
flat tyres along the way. At least there is always a whole bunch
of helpers when it happens. Must say though, I was getting
pretty good at fixing them! Fixing a flat is always a lengthy
and interesting process. First one needs to explain where you
are from and where you are going and just what the heck you are
doing in that neck of the woods, and all that on a bicycle!
When we reached the outskirts of Aracaju we found a pousada
for the night instead of heading into the city centre.
We settled in and cycled off to the supermarket to get our usual
quota of beer and snacks. The cooler weather is much more
agreeable for Amanda as she cycled well and did not even mind
cycling to the supermarket.
6 November Aracaju – Pirambu - 53 km
First thing in the morning I fixed all the punctured tubes, just
in case I got more flat tyres along the way. The weather was not
much better than the previous day. We cycled through the city of
Aracaju, which was fairly quiet on a Sunday morning. We followed
the coastal road for some time until we reached the tiny fishing
village of Pirambu.
It was only midday but it was raining and we found such a good
place (a cottage with 2 bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen) at a
reasonable price that we off loaded our bags and stayed put for
the rest of the day. Good thing too, as it soon came bucketing
down and we were fairly pleased with ourselves for deciding to
stay. The rainy weather also brought out the biggest frogs I
have ever seen. At least the wind kept the mosquitos at bay for
a wee while, but as soon as the wind dropped they were back with
7 November - Pirambu – Brejo Grande - 70 km
It continued to rain throughout the night but in the morning it
cleared somewhat. A decision was made to take the shortcut along
the coast instead of the paved road to the main road and back to
the coast again. I did not expect the day to be quite as
difficult as it turned out. The rain of the previous two days
made the road muddy and slippery. We pushed our bikes up muddy
and rutted hills and struggled through wet and soft sand. We
slowly bumped along a corrugated road past tiny villages where
people on bikes were obviously not seen very often.
It felt like the road had no end. All covered in mud, we finally
reached the River Sao Francisco at tiny Brejo Grande.
8 November - Brejo Grande – Portal do Coruripe - 55 km
While having a breakfast of mashed cassava with milk, and a good
cup of Brazilian coffee, I watched the world go by in this tiny
village. Rickety busses and horse carts came clattering past.
Ladies came walking back from the river with their freshly
laundered washing, mothers walked their kids to school and
farmers were helping each other getting tractors started. Two
youngsters were trying to herd a calf but the calf wanted
nothing of it. The pushed and they shoved but the calf had other
On leaving, the owner of the pousada wanted no money from
us, neither for the room nor the breakfast! How nice of him. We
thanked him profusely and headed down to the river to find a
boat to take us to the other side. Amanda was shocked to find
that once again she had to board a tiny wooden water taxi in
order to reach the other side. The River Sao Francisco is quite
a large river and one of many myths. We however never saw the
legendary water beast, which is half human and half animal and
walks on the bottom of the river and snores!
Safely on the opposite side (and in the state of Algoas) we
continued down the road, thankfully on a paved road. The road
ran close to the coast, past vast palm tree plantations and one
could just catch glimpses of the ocean as we cycled past.
We were well off the beaten track again. The villages were small
and the horse and cart still seemed to be in every day use.
In the village of Coruripe we stopped and had our bikes washed
at a local car wash. They seemed to take special care as they
washed and scrubbed and eventually they came out sparkling
clean. We followed the road for a further 5-7 km until we
reached the sleepy fishing village of Pontal do Coruripe. With
its narrow cobblestone lanes and small central square, it’s a
quaint little place. Ladies sat outside their homes weaving
baskets or just chatting to neighbours.
Seeing that we did not pay for our accommodation the previous
night we splashed out and got a nice room with a sea view.
9/10 November - Pontal Coruripe – Sao Migual - 60 km
It was a fairly hot and hilly day of riding into the wind.
Although the going was slow into the wind, Amanda cycled like a
pro! The best part of the day was reaching Sao Migual and
finding a bungalow which came with a swimming pool, loads of
palm trees and a hammock! Amanda wasted no time in cooling off
in the pool.
That evening I left my shoes outside on the veranda and woke to
find that my only pair of footwear had been eaten by the local
dogs. I had to borrow a pair of shoes from Amanda to walk down
to the local store to buy a new pair of sandals! We spent the
rest of the day doing laundry and trying to get Amanda’s bank
Sao Migual – Barra de Santo Antonio -
We left in the spitting rain, and every now and again we had to
hide, waiting for the worst of it to pass over. We reached
Maceio, the capital of the state of Alagoas, fairly early in the
day. We stopped only for cold drinks and then continued on
again. Soon after we left the city, we were stopped by a
friendly Brazilian who wanted to make conversation. I could
clearly see the disappointment on his face when we told him that
we could not speak Portugese. We did, however, somehow manage to
tell him where we were from and what we were up to. He must have
been very impressed as he put his hand into his pocket and
presented us with some very-much-needed cash! Just how fantastic
is that? Not much further along the way another guy pulled us
off and wanted to chat with us. He spoke a bit of English and we
established that he also likes to travel by bike. After a few
photos were taken, we were on our way again. The Brazilians are
At Barra de Santo Antonio we found no accommodation, just one
very expensive eco-resort. They must have felt sorry for us as
they reduced the price of the accommodation by half, making it
just about affordable for us. Needless to say, we stayed in a
top-of-the-range chalet with crisp white linen, T.V., air-con
and excellent showers. The eco thing is big in Brazil, but I did
not see any difference, except that they supplied no toilet
paper - just an “ass-gun”, maybe that’s all part of the
Barra de Santo Antonio – Maragogi
After a hearty breakfast at our top-of-the-range digs we saddled
up, but Amanda had a flat tyre
before we even reached the gate. We followed the dirt road along
the coast, not always knowing whether we were on the right road
or not. The road was rather muddy and rutted in places but we
continued on until we saw a kind of a security booth. The guys
assured us that we were on the right road and that we could
follow the path over, what appeared to be, private land. We did
so and soon ran out of road altogether. We pushed our bikes
along a sandy path through palm trees until we reached a river
where we, once again, had to cross by a small ferry. Once on the
other side of the river we found a paved road and some fantastic
beaches and small villages.
Once we reached the small village of Porto de Pedras we had to
cross by ferry again. At least this was a proper barge, which
made Amanda feel a bit more secure. We followed the cobblestoned
road along the coast past numerous small villages.
It was weekend, and with the following Tuesday being a public
holiday, many people seemed to have made it a long weekend. The
well-off city slickers were out with their big toys and fancy
cars, in stark contrast with the villagers on horseback.
13 November -
– Ipojuca - 90 km
We must have found one of the cheapest (and best)
as most of the truck drivers were overnighting there as well,
always a sign that it’s a good deal! We had a local breakfast of
cassava and what appeared to be “krummel pap”. Good carbos for
the road! It was an interesting road past loads of sugarcane
fields. Amanda’s gear cable broke and she struggled on in her
“granny” gear until we found a local bike shop where they
kind-of fixed it for the time being. The friendly owners wanted
no money for their effort. We picked up a nice little tailwind
and made good time.
The road, however, deteriorated somewhat and the shoulder became
rather rutted and full of potholes. At one stage a bus came
careening down on Amanda and, in the process of avoiding it, she
hit a pothole and went flying. She was ever-so brave and with
blood dripping from her arms and legs she wiped the dust off her
and got back on the bike. We still had about 10 km to go before
finding a pousada where she could wash herself off and
clean her wounds. We had a good laugh as all I could find to
bandage her arm was the headscarf that I had in my bag. At least
it was colourful
with little frills!
14/15 November - Ipojuca – Recife - 46 km
We finally arrived in Recife. It was a bit of a shock after such
a long time in the countryside. Recife is a rather large town
and very touristy. It was Republic Day in Brazil and therefore a
public holiday. All accommodation was fully booked so we had to
settle for a rather expensive hotel. It was very hot and humid
and the beaches were packed with holidaymakers.
16 November - Recife – Olinda - 20 km
As we cycled out of Recife we spotted a bike shop and had
Amanda’s gear cable fixed. I bought a new back tyre
for my bike as the old one was wearing a bit thin. Shortly after
leaving the busy city of Recife, we arrived in Olinda. The
former capital of this state has now been declared a world
heritage site, and rightly so! It is a fascinating place with
candy-coloured houses along steep slopes. Churches are situated
on top of high hills and narrow cobblestoned streets run at odd
17 November - Olinda – Goina - 69 km
We left Olinda along the coastal road and took the ferry boat
from Maria Farinha across the river to Nova Cruz. A good paved
road took us back to the BR101. The BR101 was much better than
expected and came with a good wide shoulder to cycle on. En
route to Goina we cycled through Igarassu with its historic
centre which had some nice old buildings and churches.
In Goina we settled for the first accommodation we saw, which
turned out to be reasonably priced and the room even had an icy
18 November - Goiana – Joao Pessoa - 55 km
The day turned out to be a rather frustrating one. Amanda’s
chain broke and we had to push the bikes along for about a kilometre
to a little tyre-fixing
stall where they could fix it. They hammered and banged and
eventually the chain was back on and could at least do the job
of getting us to Joao Pessoa.
We battled on at snail’s pace but eventually arrived in Joao
Pessoa, a rather miserable looking town. The traffic was heavy
and the roads narrow, and I feared for Amanda as she nervously
dodged trucks and busses. I know that cycling into a busy city,
at peak hour, can be an unnerving affair. There’s very little,
however, that one can do but push on until you reach the centre
or some kind of accommodation. We pushed on as we wanted to be
in the centre in order to find a bike shop. The first place we
tried turned out to be a house of ill-repute and the second
seemingly full. Our third try was way overpriced but we took it
anyway as we had had enough of the day and just wanted to settle
Once settled in, I took a walk to the supermercado as
Amanda was fed-up with the whole affair. She did not want to
walk, cycle or talk. She just flopped down on the bed and I
didn’t hear a word from her for the rest of the evening.
19/20 November - Joao Pessoa – Cabo Branco Beach - 9 km
We left our hotel and cycled down to the beach, where we planned
to stay for two days. Amanda needed a break from cycling so we
found a nice place on the beach and settled in.
The beach volleyball circuit is big in Brazil. They had just
arrived in town with their trucks and scaffolding. Stands and
courts were being put up in a hurry. Food stalls lined the
streets and the band was going ten to a dozen! We were getting
caught up in all the festivities and loving it! People were
enjoying the beach and flying kites; another brilliant day in
We enjoyed our stay, walking on the beach or just sitting
outside our pousada (which was right on the beach), and
watching all the action going on.
21 November - Carbo Branco Beach – Mamanguape - 83 km
It turned out to be a day of mixed emotions. We left Carbo
Branco along the coastal road, with the intention of cycling to
Natal along the coast. After 20 km we reached a river which had
a barge to ferry us across. We followed a rather cobblestoned
road for about 10 km until the road came to an abrupt halt.
There was no sign of the road indicated on our map.
We had little option but to head back to the main road. The road
was at least scenic, past large palm tree plantations. Along the
way we stopped at a tiny roadside stall where the owner fixed
fishing nets and sold coconut juice. It was boiling hot and I
finished my juice in no time. On leaving, the owner wanted no
money! He pointed us to a shortcut, which turned out to be a
rather sandy road. The shortcut, however, took 30 km off our
route and although slow going, it was still better than cycling
the 30 km around. The road ran through sugarcane fields and the
flies were out in force, enough to annoy the best natured
person. Eventually, I hauled out and donned my mosquito/fly
head-net, which made life a bit more bearable.
Back on the main road, we found a good road with a wide
shoulder, and we regretted not taking it in the first place. We
were 10 km from our destination (and thinking that we were
making good time) when Amanda had a flat tyre. In the process of
fixing it, I discovered that her derailleur was bent and that it
was no wonder that she was having difficulty changing gears. In
fact, the whole derailleur was loose as it appeared that the
screw holding it to the frame was missing. Too many problems for
me to fix (in fact, I know very little about the mechanics of a
bike). At least now I know (or think I know, which are
two totally different things) why the chain broke in the first
place. It must have slipped off the derailleur wheel, and it was
bound to happen again. At least we made it to our destination,
still in daylight!
22/24 November - Mamanguape – Natal
We decided to take the bus to Natal where we would be sure to
find a place to fix Amanda’s bike. This is not something I like
to do, but we had little option. Once we arrived in Natal we
still had to limp along to a bike shop. Amanda pushed her bike
nearly all the way as she also had no brakes. We fortunately
found a very decent bike shop in the centre of town. They fixed
the bike as best they could, and we continued on to the beach
area where we found reasonable accommodation.
Amanda once again tried to contact her bank in South Africa as
she still had no pin number for her new bank card. They assured
us they would phone us back in the morning, but nothing happened
and we waited another day.
In the meantime, we had our visas extended and now have until 8
January 2012 to get out of the country.
25 November - Natal – Touros - 93 km
Natal is a big and busy town and, in the process of trying to
find a smaller road, I think we took a wrong turn somewhere. We
landed up (once again) on a dirt road that seemed to go nowhere.
After 30 km, eventually, we were on the road we wanted to be on.
The rest of the way was perfect: on a good road with a tail
All would have remained perfect if it was not for Amanda getting
a flat tyre 4 km from Touros. Not that it’s really a big
problem, but more that she always seems to think it’s a major
disaster. Touros is a nice little fishing village with a nice
square where everyone gathers in the evening to watch the
communal TV. Kids were playing ball on the beach while others
were nibbling on street food.
26 November - Touros – Joao Camara - 63 km
Before leaving Touros we tried to draw some money, but the bank
did not want to spit out any cash. I was rather concerned about
it as Amanda still had no bank card. There was nothing we could
do but set off down the road and try another bank somewhere
We headed inland as the coastal road comes to an end at Touros.
It was a terribly hot day, but at least we had a tailwind again.
On reaching Joao Camara, we headed for Banco do Brazil. Still,
it did not want to give us any money. I was getting increasingly
worried. Eventually, we tried one of the other banks and,
thankfully, it accepted the card. With a sigh of relief we
headed for a pousada as it was already too late to
We found a bargain of a room and even had supper - all at a very
27 November - Joao Camara – Macau - 104 km
We knew it was going to be a long day as I could see nothing on
the map between Joao Camara and Macau. We set off with a nice
tailwind and things went well - except for Amanda having two
flat tyres along the way!
As the sun beat down relentlessly, we cycled past poor and
drought-stricken villages. Most inhabitants seemed to have moved
away, and I could not believe that I was still in Brazil.
We arrived in Macau: surely the windiest place to date! The wind
was howling and sea foam blew across the road like snow. We
found a room, took a walk to the busy central square for a bite
to eat, and then it was bed time after a long day on the road.
28 November - Macau – Porto do Mangue - 75 km
First thing in the morning we found a bike shop, where they
could fix all our punctured tubes (easier than doing it
yourself). We had a quick breakfast, and then set off into the
wind again. There was no way of getting across the river and we
had to cycle 40 km inland and 40 km back to the coast again!
What a pain!
I didn’t expect the day to be quite so hard. While the sun baked
down on us, we battled on into a strong headwind, pedaling hard
but getting nowhere. The drought-stricken area continued as we
cycled past dry, barren fields. The wind whipped up dust and old
plastic bags, and we saw little except for a few dried out and
sun-bleached skeletons along the way. It felt as if the road
just went on and on and on! Eventually Amanda gave up: she sat
down and was determined to take a bus. There was, however, no
such thing, and after a while she got back onto the bike and
headed into the wind again.
We finally reached Porto do Mangue and we couldn’t have been
happier to be out of the wind and off the bikes. Hats off to
Amanda who, despite feeling weak and nauseous, made it all the
28 November - Porto do Mangue – Grossos - 54 km
It was another hard and unforgiving day on the road. Conditions
were harsh and the sun and wind relentless as we battled on past
stark and desert-like scenery. Amanda did not feel well again so
we made it a short day. Once we had crossed the river by barge,
we arrived in the tiny village of Grossos where we found a
pousada and relaxed for the rest of the day.
30 November/1 December - Grossos – Icapui - 46 km
We made the mistake of skipping breakfast and Amanda soon felt
tired and was in no mood for going a long distance. Fortunately
we had a tailwind and reached Icapui early in the day. Just down
the road from the main centre, we found a nice beach with
bungalows overlooking the beach. Not a bad place to hang out and
recuperate. In fact, it was so nice that we stayed the following
day as well. We lazed around and did as little as possible, not
even the laundry.
2 December - Icapui – Canto Verde - 65 km (plus 27 km by car)
After a day’s rest and a good breakfast, we were on our bikes
again. We tried to get away a bit earlier as, by now, we knew
that Amanda does not handle the heat very well. Just a mere 20
km into the ride Amanda’s front hub packed up and we had to flag
down a vehicle to give us a lift to the next village. A very
friendly, but rather large, guy gave us a lift so there was only
space for one of us in the front. Amanda, together with the
bikes and bags, got onto the back and had a bit of a windy ride
to Aracai. Our driver was kind enough to take us all the way
into town, and dropped us right in front of a bike shop.
I couldn’t believe our luck! The bike shop was quite a
professional outfit and had no problem fixing Amanda’s bike. We
did, however, have to wait in line, as the shop was quite busy.
I watched in amazement as villagers arrived with their rusty old
bikes in serious need of some TLC, which they got at this
friendly bike shop. Each person’s bike was treated with due
care. Cleaned and oiled, they were soon off on a much less
squeaky bike. Eventually it was our turn and we received the
Although it was already quite late, there was still enough time
for us to reach Canto Verde. We were pleasantly surprised to
find a tiny fishing village amongst the sand dunes and palm
trees. A room on the beach completed the picture and, had it not
been for the wind, it would have been paradise.
3 December - Canto Verde – Prainha - 92 km
We woke early but by 08h00 it was already boiling hot. To our
delight, we had a strong tailwind again which helped us along.
We stopped nearly every 10 km for water but it still felt that
we were not drinking enough. Due to the tailwind, we reached our
destination fairly early and found ourselves a nice pousada
with a swimming pool, where we could relax before heading into
the city the following day.
Judging by the number of kitesurfing schools and wind farms,
this is obviously a notoriously windy area. For once in my life,
I seemed to be heading in the right direction.
4 - 6 December - Prainha – Fortaleza -34 km
We were slow in packing up as we knew it was not far to the city
of Fortaleza. We cycled past more sand dunes and wind farms and
the area reminded me of the Red Sea coast in Egypt. Fortaleza is
a large and busy city with a lovely beachfront. We found a real
‘cheapie’ of a room, close to the beach, which suited us just
fine. That evening we walked along the beachfront (which
stretches for miles) and nibbled on street food from the
multitude of stalls along the way. The beachfront was packed
with people rollerblading, skateboarding, running, cycling, you
name it! They were out there enjoying the cooler evening air: at
10pm that evening it was a cool 24°C - just perfect!
I found a fantastic bike shop just down the road, bought a new
front tyre and had the bike washed and oiled. I hardly
recognised my bike when I saw it! We lazed around and did little
else but stroll along the beachfront. We handed in our laundry,
but as we could only collect it the following day, it gave us
another day of rest in Fortaleza.
Soon, however, it was time to leave the concrete jungle and get
back on the bikes.
7 December - Fortaleza – Paraipaba - 94 km
The wind can be friend or foe, and today, it was a friend so we
sped down the road with an excellent tailwind. The state of
Ceara has been very kind to us: mostly flat with a favourable
wind – there’s not much more a cyclist can ask for! All along
the road we saw signs for a hotel in Paraipaba, as we got closer
the signs became more regular, like every km! After seeing so
many signs we could not ignore the place and headed straight for
the hotel which was situated behind the gas station and next to
the bus terminus. The room was cheap, clean and the price
included breakfast so no complaints there.
We took a walk to the supermarket and the central square which
was beautifully lit up with Christmas decorations. A few street
food stalls were sprinkled around the square and people were
sitting around having a beer and chatting to their neighbors,
which seems to be the thing to do around here.
8 December - Paraipaba – Itarema - 129km
It turned out a long and hot day on the road. We found nothing
along the way but roadside stalls and dirt road turn-offs to the
beaches. All these place were too far just to turn off and come
back again. So we continued on until we reached Itarema.
Amanda was very tired and in no mood for looking around so we
took the first room we found. It was not the best of places,
above a restaurant and via a steep and rickety staircase. The
room was, however, large and came with a window we could open
for fresh air. Not that we needed that much fresh air as there
was no ceiling, just the roof tiles and we could watch the night
sky through the cracks. The ceiling fan made an almighty noise
but we could hardly switch it off, as if we survived the heat,
the mosquitos would carry us away.
9 December - Itarema – Acarau - 26 km
Once we were on the road, Amanda claimed that
her legs were too lame to cycle after the previous day’s long
ride. We found a nice room in Acarau and spent the day lazing
around. Amanda still had energy to update the website, as that
did not require any leg work.
10-11 December -
Acarau – Jijoca de Jericoacoara -
Jericoacoara - 49 km (+24 km by jeep)
Had a most unexpected and awesome day. After
cycling about 50 km, we arrived in Jijoca de Jericoacoara, where
we found jeeps and beach buggies lined up to take people to the
nearby nature reserve and the small village of Jericoacoara. Not
wanting to miss out, we jumped on a jeep (bikes and all) and
headed over the dunes to the coast. Jericoacoara, or just “Jeri”
as it’s known, is a rather hard-to-reach place. The only way in
and out is by jeep or buggy. The village itself is very much
“island-style”, situated in the dunes with sandy streets lined
with bars and guesthouses. The area is rather windy and is
therefore a famous spot for kite surfing. It’s also one of the
few places in Brazil where one can see the sun set over the
At night the mobile cocktail stands came out,
and we sat on the beach watching the sunset, sipping our drinks.
The dunes around the village are quite amazing at sunset and,
needless to say, I had fun with the camera.
The jeep taking people out to the next
village did not run on Sundays (what a great excuse for staying
another day). We chilled on the beach and did not complain about
12 December - Jeri – Chaval - 57 km (+40 km
We were ready early morning for our ride out
of the park. We were told that the jeep would pick us up at 6h30
but it was 8h00 by the time we left. We had quite an eventful
ride as the jeep was packed with people (we counted 20), our
bikes, surf boards, luggage and even a huge teddy bear taking up
most of the space. We sped along the beach, over dunes and
through rivers. Two ferry crossings later, we arrived in Camocim,
with Amanda breathing a sigh of relief.
It was still early in the day so we continued
on to Chaval, where we found a remote pousada on the
banks of a mangrove-lined river.
13 December - Chaval – Parnaiba - 86 km
The scenery changed completely as the dunes
disappeared and large rocks appeared next to the road. On
leaving for Parnaiba, Amanda spotted a small café where we could
have breakfast, seeing that breakfast was not included where we
stayed. We had some bread and coffee and set off again with a
good tailwind. We reached Parnaiba in good time and found a much
larger place than expected. We also found that we had reached
the edge of a huge delta. We had a few options, of which cycling
around the delta to Sao Luis was one. It was, however, very far,
about 600 km, whereas if we could find a boat to the small town
of Barreirinhas, it would only be about 250 km to Sao Luis.
We found a nice pousada in Parnaiba
and went looking for a boat. Boat trips appeared to be more
popular than we expected as there were loads of agents offering
delta trips. We organised a boat for the following day to the
small and remote village of Tutoia. Once in Tutoia, we would
decide what to do next: I did not see any roads on the map but
figured that if there are people living there, there surely must
be a way out.
14 December - Parnaiba – Tutoia - By
We slept late as our boat only left at 13h00
and it was only 10 km away. It was a flat and easy ride to the
harbour, where we stocked up with some beers, water and snacks
for the trip. The ride was fascinating and we saw more wildlife
than expected. The delta was teeming with birds, crabs and even
(what looked like) a small crocodile! The most amazing
sight was the fish that appear to run on water! We cruised
through the mangrove swamps, past small islets, and even spotted
a monkey way up in the trees. Eventually we came to some huge
dunes where we just had to stop and take some pictures. What a
fascinating area. The delta is a huge 2700 sq-km expanse of
islands, beaches, lagoons, sand dunes and mangrove swamps and I
think we have seen it all.
A few hours later we arrived in Tutoia, where
our skipper even walked us to a pousada, not a bad place
as it was right on the river. It appeared that we were on a
small island but we understood from the locals that we could
cycle to the next village and get an aptly named “Toyota” there
to take us over the dunes to Barreirinhas.
15 December - Tutoia – Paulino Neves -
Barreirinhas - 35 km (+55 km by truck)
We found a good paved road and cycled the 35
km to Paulino Neves. The road comes to an end in Paulino Neves,
and converted Toyota trucks ferry people to and from the village
along sandy roads. We managed to find a truck to take us and our
bikes to Barreirinhas, where we hoped to find a road of sorts
It was a rather bumpy ride along a rough
track, over sand dunes and past some stunning scenery. My dear
sister made such a racket that one would have thought that she
had reached her final days. No sooner had we left than she hit
the deck, yelling and screaming like a child throwing a tantrum.
I stared in utter astonishment at the spectacle. I did not know
what to do. Reassuring her that we would be fine, and reminding
her that the driver drove this route twice a day, had no impact.
Terrified, she clawed onto the seats yelling “Oh nooooooo!” with
every sway of the truck! What a performance she gave!
Finally we arrived (alive) in Barreirinhas,
looked for a pousada (of which there were plenty as it is
the gateway to the national park) and then had some beers to
calm Amanda’s nerves. At least it looked like we had passed the
rough bits and could continue on by bike to Sao Luis.
What an adventure we have had in the past two
16 December - Barreirinhas – Humberto de
Campos - 118 km
It was a straight, flat road and there was a
tailwind, so we made best use of it and cycled as far as we
could. Not that we had many other options as there was nothing
between the two towns. Fortunately there were plenty of tiny
stalls along the way where we could fill up with water.
We found a nice pousada at the
entrance of the town, at a dirt cheap price. The lady running
the pousada looked rather stunned that two foreigners
wanted to book into her pousada. She swept and dusted for
hours before we could occupy the room. Then it was into the
village to look for food, amidst many stares and giggles. We
managed to find something to eat which we took back to our room
so we could eat without being stared at.
17 December -
Humberto de Campos – Rosario - 116
We ate a small breakfast of coffee and bread
rolls and set off again in the direction of Sao Luis. It was
another long day on the road as there was nothing but bushes
along the way. Not only was it far, but it was boiling hot as
On reaching about 95 km, Amanda claimed that
she had had enough and soon found a lift for the last few
kilometres. She did not have to feel bad about it as, no sooner
was I on the road again, a big truck stopped and offered me a
lift. In the back were four French cyclists, who were also
finding the weather a bit extreme. I politely declined the offer
and cycled on to Rosario, where I found Amanda waiting for me.
18-19 December - Rosario - Sao Luis - 74 km
We arrived in the island city of Sao Luis,
dead-tired after a long and hot ride into the wind. The road was
in terribly bad shape and extremely busy. I hate days like this
as they are way too stressful: the shoulder was non-existant
and busses, trucks and cars careened down on us like bats out of
hell. Amanda found the heat too much for her and took a bus into
the city centre. We arranged to meet at Pousada Vitoria
which turned out to be a good option. The pousada was
well-situated in the historic centre and was also a family home
with a nice courtyard and homely knick-knacks scattered around.
We spent the following day doing a whole lot
of nothing. We did, however, manage to do our laundry. We also
took a walk down to the port to find out what time the boat left
for the trip across the bay to Alcantara. The bay is tidal so
boats only cross to Alcantara at high tide.
20 December - Sao Luis – Alcantara - By boat
We were told that the boat leaves at 9h00,
but when we got to the port the boats were still sitting high
and dry. We were told to catch the boat at another port. We
jumped on our bikes and raced through the traffic to find the
port that we were pointed to. Eventually, and still in time, we
found the boat, pushed our bikes across the sand and boarded.
The boat eventually left at 10h00 and was still struggling to
get through the narrow canal.
The sea was rather rough and my dear sister
again gave an award-winning performance! All the crew
gathered around to try and calm her down. If you have a fear of
water there is just nothing anyone can do or say to ease your
fear. To cut a long story short, we eventually arrived safely at
the other side.
The small town of Alcantara is quite
interesting: built by slaves for the rich, it is now mostly in
ruins, but interesting nevertheless. By the time we were done
looking around, it was a bit too late to set off again, so we
found accommodation on the outskirts of the town.
21 December - Alcantara – Bequimao - 84 km
We left Alcantara on our last and final
stretch to Belem. The road cut slightly inland so we were
leaving the coast until we reached Belem. The road was fairly
hilly but at least the tailwind was still with us. The scenery
became more lush and green, and we even had some rain along the
way. The cloud cover we had for most of the day was more to
Amanda’s liking and she cycled strong all day.
We reached Bequimo in good time, found a
“hotel” for a fraction of the price we had paid the previous
night; we even had our own separate rooms! That night we
ate at our hotel and the food was surprisingly good, considering
it was dirt cheap.
22 December - Bequimao – Santa Helena - 94 km
I slept well and Amanda had to wake me up in
the morning for breakfast. We were soon on our way again and
fortunately there was still some cloud cover. The little
villages along the way were becoming more and more “wild-west”
in style, and the countryside more and more watery. We even
spotted some water buffalo along the way.
The road was not fantastic, but we managed
all right. The traffic seemed more careful of cyclists, which
was good as from time to time the shoulder disappeared
23 December - Santa Helena – Gov. Nunes
Freire - 74 km
It was a windy day on the road and I was off
like a rocket, partly due to a strong tailwind and partly due to
our staple of rice and beans. The road was fairly flat,
providing for easy riding, but poorly-maintained with potholes
the size of small craters! It did however act as a very
effective speed control as cars and truck snaked along the road
to try and avoid the worst of it.
Amanda decided to take a bus as she was not
feeling well. On arriving at Gov. Nunes Freire, I looked around
but could not find her anywhere. I became increasingly worried
as there continued to be no sign of her. I booked into a visible
hotel and hoped that she would spot it on her way in.
Amanda soon arrived on the back of a pick-up
truck. Apparently she had not been able to find a bus in Santa
Helena, so she set off by herself for about 40 km until she
flagged down a lift along the road. She looked chuffed with
herself, despite still not feeling 100%.
24 December - Gov. Nunes Freire – Boa Vista
do Gurupi - 72 km
Amanda was feeling really ill and decided to
take the bus. We could not figure out what was wrong with her
but it was clear that she could not cycle. We asked around and
found a little bus stop where she could wait. I set off down the
road, which was dead quiet and a pleasure to cycle.
I soon reached the small village of Boa Vista
do Gurupi, where I saw Amanda waiting at a little restaurant.
The restaurant also had some rooms at the back and we took one
so she could lie down and sleep. I was really worried about her
as I had no idea what was wrong with her. We discussed the
situation and decided to take the bus to Belem the following day
so she could see a doctor and where we, hopefully, could find a
more comfortable place for her to rest.
25 December - Boa Vista do Gurupi – Belem -
I had my doubts about getting a bus on
Christmas day, but we only waited an hour or so. We loaded our
bikes and bags onto the bus and no sooner found ourselves in
Belem. It was a bit of an anti-climax to reach Belem by bus, but
there was not much else to be done. On offloading our bikes from
the bus, we found Amanda’s derailleur had been completely bent,
and we had to push our bikes to a nearby hostel.
The hostel was full so we treated ourselves
and booked into a very fancy hotel just behind the hostel. I
must also mention that the hotel had a special on for the
following two days, with the result that it ended up not costing
much more than the hostel.
26-27 December - Belem
The Amazon has two seasons: rainy and dry.
This is the rainy season so we can expect daily rain. This is
also the end of Amanda’s cycle journey as from here we will take
a boat to Manaus, from where she will fly back to SA. Belem
turned out to be not as “wild-west” as we had expected, in fact,
it’s quite a modern city with lovely parks and a population of
1,5 million. The Amazon River is rather unimpressive: just a
wide, wide muddy river.
I headed straight for the busy port and the
local market to find out if there was anything interesting to
see there, and I found more than enough herbs to cure just about
any ailment one could imagine.
After our two day stay in the fancy hotel, we
relocated to the hostel. The hostel was an old Rubber-Baron
mansion: a stunning place with lovely wooden floors, 4-m high
ceilings and crystal chandeliers (but still totally over priced
for a hostel).
We looked for a bike shop to fix Amanda’s
bike but could not find any. We did however book ourselves on a
boat to Manaus. Although we could have found a boat for half the
price, we decided on the more expensive boat as we hoped that
Amanda (with her fear of water) would feel safer on a “smarter
type” of boat. On checking the boat out on the internet, Amanda
did not find the boat to her liking. The following day we headed
back to the boat office and upgraded our tickets to a much
28 December - Belem to Manaus - By boat
We loaded our bikes and headed to the port
where we found a rather large boat waiting. I was somewhat
nervous as I did not know how Amanda would do on the boat. She
did however appear quite at ease on the larger boat, which felt
more stable. We (like rich people) booked a cabin instead of a
hammock, as Amanda claimed that she could not get in and out of
a hammock, let alone sleep in one for five nights. I did not
mind at all, as sleeping in a hammock sounds very romantic, but
five nights may just be a bit too much.
We settled into our cabins and headed for the
canteen, where we could sit and enjoy a beer. We watched our
first sunset as we sailed away, leaving Belem in the distance.
Ha ha! So much for a “cabin” - it was actually very noisy
in the cabin, and far quieter out on the deck!
We woke to find ourselves in a narrow channel
with thick and lush vegetation on both sides of the river. It
was truly a jungle out there. Villagers rowed out to the boat en
masse to catch whatever people threw overboard. Fellow
passengers seemed to have brought large bags of clothing for
this very purpose. Each item got tightly wrapped up in a plastic
bag and then thrown overboard for the villagers to collect. I’m
not entirely sure that I agree with the custom but who am I to
We sailed very close to the side of the river
all day long. Villagers continued to row out to the boat; some
latched their canoes onto the boat, got on, sold their wares
(mostly cooked shrimps) and then departed again. Just about
everyone on the boat supported them and the shrimps were shared
around all day long. At one stage the boat slowed down, a canoe
latched on and offloaded a large amount of homemade juice onto
the boat. The Brazilians are such an accommodating bunch.
It was not long before thick clouds gathered
and soon it poured down, then, just as quickly, it stopped and
the sun came out to give us a spectacular sunset over the Amazon
jungle. At 20h00 our boat arrived at Gurupa, where more
passengers were waiting to board. The quayside resembled the
boarding of the Ark and we could not believe that, in the middle
of the jungle, people could possibly have so much stuff.
It is quite impossible to capture the density
of the forest and the vastness of the Amazon on camera. I tried,
but to no avail; well done to those who have managed it!
It is an incredible area, almost impossible to describe!
This day was slightly different as we left
the narrow channels and headed out to the open waters. The
riverbanks were still densely-wooded but from time to time they
opened up onto flat grassy land. We stopped every now and then
at small villages to offload goods, mostly rice and beans, for
these small settlements. The quaysides were always a hive of
activity - these drop-offs were most likely the highlight of the
week. Vendors climbed onboard selling snacks and fruit, and just
about everyone bought something and shared it around.
It’s a big watery
world and (like in Borneo) kids seem to be able to row a boat
before they can walk. On our boat, kids ran around and it
appeared that everyone on the boat kept an eye on them. The
people were extremely friendly, sharing whatever snacks they
had; the boat was like a big family. The bar-fridge in our cabin
was soon overflowing with juice, milk, water and whatever else
people wanted us to keep cool for them. I was amazed to notice
that not once did anyone throw anything overboard, but always
carefully placed their rubbish in the bins provided. That
evening, the sun set like thunder over the Amazon, birds flew
home and people settled into their hammocks for the night.
The Amazon is a
vast area, the numbers are quite mind-boggling. The river is
huge and the forest thick and dense. Although small Caboclo
(mixed indigenous and European) communities populate the
riverbanks, there was no sign of the indigenous tribes.
We woke at 5h00 to
find a big commotion on the boat; people were getting ready to
disembark at Santarem. Our early rise also resulted in our first
sighting of a sunrise over the Amazon. We pulled into the rather
large town (for the Amazon) of Santarem and only left again at
12h00. We did not venture into town as Amanda, once again, did
not feel well. Santarem is located at the confluence of the
brown Amazon River and the dark Rio Tapajos. The most amazing
thing is that the two rivers flow side by side without mixing.
The remainder of
the day slipped away as we putt-putted up river past varying
scenery. Sometimes flat grassy islands, sometimes thick jungle
and sometimes small wooden houses would pop out of the forest,
just to remind us that there are actually people living in this
remote part of the world. The river is massive and hides its
treasures well. One has to look closely and carefully to spot
Seeing that it was
the last day of 2011, we had a few beers with friendly fellow
passengers but retired before midnight. Just a few hours later,
we woke again as our boat pulled into another little harbour to
offload cargo. After all the excitement of anchoring and casting
off again, it was back to bed again.
1 January 2012
The first day of
2012 dawned with thick, dark clouds in the distance. It was
still pretty dark at 7h00 and I was unsure if it was due to the
cloud cover or due to the fact that we had moved pretty far
west. We did, however, find breakfast ready (5 Real each),
consisting of fruit, coffee, juice, bread, ham and cheese – a
typical Brazilian breakfast.
I felt a little
disappointed, not because I hadn’t yet seen any spear-toting
tribes or man-eating piranhas, but because I had failed to get
any decent photos. They all came out a bit hazy or blurry. I
tried almost everything, but to no avail, they stayed blurry and
hazy. My second disappointment was our very expensive bottle of
‘champagne’ - specially bought to be drunk on New Year’s day, it
turned out to be nothing more than a slightly fizzy
The weather got
more humid as we headed deeper into the Amazon. It was mostly
overcast and windless as we sailed slowly and smoothly up river.
Tiny birds settled on the railing of the deck without as much as
a feather moving in the breeze.
I was looking
forward to sunset as not once did the Amazon produce the same
display. Every night it was completely different. This evening
the sun did not set with a bang like the other evenings, but
came with a very soft and subtle display of pinkish colours.
Again we woke to
overcast conditions, and I went for breakfast which Amanda
skipped, as she did not feel like (by this time) stale bread and
We had settled
nicely in to the rhythm of doing nothing. Our days mostly
consisted of eating, drinking, sleeping and sitting staring at
the river and forest as we sailed past. Five days is a long time
to do nothing and I, for one, was ready to get off that boat. We
knew that this would be our final day but when exactly we would
arrive in Manaus, no one could tell us. The staff’s best
estimate was something like between 3pm and 7pm!
As we were getting
closer to Manaus, more settlements started to appear along the
river bank, making it a little more interesting.
And so came to an
end our life on the Rondondin, and I had thought I would have
had nothing to say other than that we were on a boat for five
days! We arrived in Manaus around 5pm and in bucketing rain. We
pushed our bikes along until we found a cheap hotel and settled
in for the next few days, to get Amanda’s bike boxed and ready
to fly home.
3 January - Manaus
During the night I
became violently ill - no need to go into any details! The
food available on the boats is notorious for giving you the
runs, and I guess I tried my luck just one too many times. I
managed to take a walk to the laundry to hand in our clothes (a
risky business in my condition) and returned without any
The world is
obviously not as big a place as I thought! A certain Mr
Markwood arrived at our hotel looking a bit worse for wear. Life
without money is obviously not highly recommended.
4-8 January - Manaus
I felt slightly
better in the morning and tried a bit of breakfast. Ernest had
no problem with breakfast; he just about ate the entire spread
they put out for the whole hotel!
Manaus is strange
in the way that it is a big city in the middle of the jungle,
and there was quite a bit to see.
I did not however
expect to find an opera theatre in the middle of the jungle, but
there it is! Manaus’ famous Teatro Amazonas: completed in
1896 and constructed by engineers from Lisbon, it symbolises the
opulence of the rubber era. Constructed in the neoclassical
style, most of the materials were imported from Europe i.e.
Italian marble and glass, and Scottish cast iron. To top it all
off, they rubberised the road outside to reduce the noise from
At Manaus the
black water of the Rio Negro and the white water of the Rio
Solimoes meet but don’t mix and flow side by side for quite a
few kilometres. The reason (from what I understand) is due to a
difference in temperature, velocity and the fact that the
Solimoes carries nearly eight times as much sediment, per litre,
than the Negro.
5-8 January - Manaus
Amanda was also
sick and the two of us hardly had the energy to do anything but
sleep. I didn’t expect the stomach bug to last quite so long. In
the meantime, Ernest raided Amanda’s bike of all working parts
to fix his own ageing bike. He also boxed her bike for her,
ready for her flight back to South Africa.
In the meantime,
Amanda and I conjured up some energy to go to a nearby park, not
that there was much to see, but it was a relaxing walk through
It was time to get ready to move
on; my visa had expired on 6 January and it was still 1000 km to
the border. I’ll just have to take my chances with the Brazilian
authorities and hope they treat me kindly.
9 January - Manaus – roadside restaurant -
It was time to
head for the border. I said goodbye to Amanda (who was catching
her flight the following day) and Ernest and I headed out of
Manaus. We had a rather slow start as, 4 km out of town,
Ernest’s chain broke. Not much later heavy storm clouds came
over, and I must admit I did not like the lightning hitting the
overhead wires. Way too close for comfort! Soon it started to
bucket down, so we took shelter for about 10 minutes till it was
We continued north
through a forest on a rather hilly road - at least it was
scenic, albeit a bit hot! When the rain set in again we found a
roadside restaurant with an old chicken shed next to it, and
thought it a good place to camp. The owners didn’t mind and even
showed us to the shower and toilets. Ernest quickly swept out
the chicken shed and we were set for the night. Seeing that we
were next to a restaurant, we also ate there as they had a
buffet for a reasonable price.
10 January - Roadside restaurant - Presidente
Fiqueiredo - 67 km
After some coffee,
we left our chicken shed and what a stunning road it was! We
were in the company of macaws, parrots, love birds and bright
blue butterflies as we climbed hill after hill. We cycled past
dense forests and across countless rivers. The rivers and ponds
along the way seemed as if they had been undisturbed for
centuries. We were lucky to have cloud cover and a slight
drizzle all day long. Around Presidente Fiqueiredo, there were
quite a few waterfalls with lovely picnic areas, a little too
organised for wild camping. In Presidente Figueiredo we found a
room for the night.
11 January - Presidente Figueiredo – Da Tia
Restaurant (128 km) - 23 km
We cycled the
short but hilly section to Da Tia Restaurant, where Ernest had
camped on his way to Manaus. The owner (Antonio) was very
friendly and had no problem with us camping next to the
restaurant under the gazebo again. We got there quite early so
Ernest had time to service his bike and fix all the odd bits
that needed fixing. It was a fantastic spot and a short walk
through his garden revealed loads to eat, including mangoes,
avocado pears and bananas.
We had a few beers
and ate at the restaurant before retiring. The following morning
we woke to the sound of birds and were offered free breakfast by
12 January - Roadside restaurant – petrol
station - 76 km
It was another
hilly section of road but again we had some cloud cover, which
made it more bearable. The road was incredibly scenic and I was
happy that I had made the decision to cycle to the border
instead of taking the bus. I’ll deal with the visa problem at a
We continued on
until we reached a petrol station that Ernest had spotted on his
way to Manuas. It was another good camping place as they had a
gazebo, showers and toilets. Ernest cooked a mean pasta, in
anticipation of our long ride the following day.
13 January - Petrol station – Vila Jundia -
After about 6 km
we entered a reserve for the Waimiri indigenous people. The
reserved stretches for 120 km and it is prohibited to even stop
or take photos in the reserve, let alone camp. It was a stunning
road through virgin forest. It was also a rather long day on the
road with no villages or roadside restaurants where we could
fill up with water.
So I was happy to
reach the end of the reserve and see a road sign indicating 10
km to Vila Jundia. It had been a long, hilly and hot day on the
road and we made it out the park just as the sun started
setting. In our process of looking for a camping spot we spotted
a pousada with tiny colourful bungalows. Man, was I
happy! It was not only cheap, but came with hot water and an air
Ernest went off to
the supermarket and I could not wait to drag my body into the
shower! Ernest once again conjured up a pasta dish to die for,
and by 22h00 I was in bed.
14 January -
Vila Jundia – Nova Colina - 98 km
For breakfast we
ate our leftover pasta on nice fresh rolls from the bakery. Both
the road and the forest flattened out a bit, but we found
ourselves cycling into a head wind. The road also deteriorated
and became rather muddy and potholely. They were busy building a
new road so at least we had sections of nice smooth paved road.
Shortly after we
left, we crossed the equator and had to stop for some photos; it
wasn’t the first time we had crossed this line and I’m sure it
won’t be the last.
On reaching Nova
Colina, we found a bigger village than expected. We found a
“hotel”, two supermercados and two bakeries! Ernest
nevertheless wanted to camp behind the church where there is a
shelter, but I headed straight for the “hotel”!
15 January - Nova Colina – Rorainopolis -
It was a short
ride on a rather poor road to Rorainopolis. It was very dusty,
hilly and into the wind so I was happy to reach the end of the
ride. We found a room, did some laundry and I tried to do some
internet, but the connection was so poor that it was too
frustrating so I gave up.
16 January - Rorainopolis – Nova Paraiso - 36
From Rorainopolis we cycled 36 km to the tiny
settlement of Nova Paraiso. There is really nothing there but
neither Ernest nor I were feeling very well, so we made it a
short day. We probably would not have stayed there if we hadn’t
seen a small pousada hidden behind the petrol station. It
was hardly a “new paradise” but we chilled out for the rest of
17 January - Nova Paraiso – Caracarai - 127
It was a long day of cycling to Caracarai;
fortunately it was a fairly easy road. There was hardly anything
along the road, just some road works and a few roadside stalls
where we could fill up with water. We pushed on to Caracarai
where we found a room for the night. Ernest (as usual) went to
and got ingredients for a potato salad.
18 January - Caracarai – Mucajai - 87 km
The thick forest slowly made way for cattle
ranches and there were plenty of cattle along the way.
Fortunately we had cloud cover again, which made life a lot more
bearable. Mucajai is a small village but we found a nice room
and I even picked up a cellphone connection. I spent most of the
evening uploading photos and playing on the internet.
19-21 January - Mucajai – Boa Vista - 63 km
I was looking forward to getting to Boa Vista
and enjoying a day of leisure. It was going to be a short day so
we were slow in packing up. Since the forest had disappeared, it
became more windy and we cycled into the wind all day. Once we
reached Boa Vista we cycled around looking for a cheap room,
which we found around the bus station. It is a bit of a strange
town as the centre was quite dead and the action seemed to be
happening more around the bus station and outlying areas.
I thought I would be able to sort out my
expired visa in Boa Vista, but after taking a taxi all over town
we were still unable to find the right office. I gave up and did
some laundry instead.
22 January - Boa Vista – Rosa de Saron - 106
It was not a bad day on the road at all. It
was cloudy with a slight drizzle and the wind was coming at us
diagonally from behind. We stopped a few times to fill up with
water or have a cold drink.
Late afternoon we spotted a good campsite,
next to a restaurant and under cover. The spot was in a
half-completed building, which made a perfect campsite for the
night. It was a busy little spot with busses and taxis stopping
for a snack break, before continuing on their journey.
23 January -
Rosa de Saron – Indiu Village - 92 km
It was a difficult
day on the road. It was not only boiling hot but the road also
became quite mountainous. We climbed hill after hill in stifling
heat; at one stage I thought I was going to pass out as I was
starting to see black and yellow spots! The road was very
exposed and there was nowhere to hide, so we just continued on
until we saw a small indigenous village next to the road. It had
a good enough covered area where we could set up camp.