10/11 March - Chui
– Santa Vitoria Do Palmar - 25km
Brazil must have
one of the easiest border crossings one can hope for, just a
quick stamp in the passport and we were on our way. (Again, it
helps to be S.African at times, like in most of Africa where we
didn’t need visa’s – here the Americans, Canadians, and
Australians receive retribution for their foreign policy and
have to pre-buy visa’s). Our first day of cycling in Brazil came
with bucketing rain and we pulled into Santa Vitoria Do Palmar
to get out of the weather. Amazingly enough it boasts a large
lighthouse at the entrance to the city, but this is really just
a welcome gate as the town is quite a few k’s from the coast.
The ATM spat out
some Brasilian Reals, and we booked into the nice “Hotel Brasil”
which came with an en-suite bathroom, nice breakfast and
Brazilian TV. Not that the TV helped us much as now the little
Spanish we picked up is of no use anymore and Portuguese will be
our next challenge! We did however pick up that it’s not just
here where it’s raining but that the whole area further north
has been flooded. We also learned about the earthquake and
tsunami in Japan - how sad is that and I’m complaining about a
bit of rain!
In the morning the
weather was no better and Ernest still wanted to do his blog
update so we stayed on for the rest of the day.
12 March Santa
Vitoria Do Palmar – Curral Alto - 90km
going in the morning is like preventing Uruguayans from drinking
mate! It was midday again before we got on the road and cycled
until around 18h00/19h00. That also meant that we got the full
brunt of the headwind and the heat, but as they say “as jy dom
is moet jy swaar kry”.
southern part of Brazil is flat, hot, humid and wet, perfect for
growing rice. Once again we cycled past pastures and rice
paddies and we could imagine ourselves in Vietnam. By the time
we reached the tiny settlement of Curral Alto it was time to
start looking for a camping spot. With Curral Alto being on the
shores of Lake Mirim the local fish factory was just the place.
They even offered us a room where we could sleep on the floor,
it was a bit smelly but then it was a fish factory after all!
At least we could close the door and keep the bugs out, which
grow to monstrous proportions here (and at least now I know the
Portuguese word for fish!).
13/14 March Curral Alto –
Pelotas - 157km
Ernest must have
read my thoughts (or it was the fishy smell that got him going)
and we were on the road before 10 am. We picked up a stiff
tailwind and sped down the road passing large areas of wetlands,
rich in birdlife. We spotted storks, herons, sacred Ibises,
raptors, and numerous other water birds. I did not particularly
care for the many snakes we encountered along the way and kept a
beady eye out for them.
We flew down the
road, past the turn-off for Rio Grande, but kept left (as that
was the most favorable wind direction) and onto Pelotas. What an
interesting city Pelotas turned out to be, with its old
buildings and cobblestone streets there were loads to explore.
morning I handed in the laundry which was by then way overdue,
and we took to the streets to explore the historic city center.
15 March - Pelotas
We had planned to
leave this morning, but found that our laundry was unwashed and
still sitting behind the reception counter where I’d handed it
in. I’m not sure what they thought, maybe they thought it’s old
clothes that we no longer wanted. We took the clothes to the
laundry ourselves and spent the rest of the day again wandering
around town and exploring the historic areas.
16 March - Pelotas
– Camaqua - 133km
We packed our
clean laundry and headed in the direction of Porto Allegre. We
expected a head wind but it was a good day on the road, the wind
was slight and the road gently undulating.
This is still very
much Gaucho country and one can spot farmers on horseback
rounding up cattle with the aid of their working dogs.
Commanding the dogs by whistling they make the task look so
We pedalled on
until we reached Camaqua turnoff where we camped at the petrol
station. It turned out to be a popular truck stop and it was a
rather noisy night, perhaps next time we will find something
17 March - Camaqua – Quaiba -
Even in Brazil the
drink of mate is still popular, which means hot water is readily
available, so we filled up our mugs from the hot water dispenser
and packed up earlier than usual (mostly due to the noise). It
was a hot and humid day and we sweated buckets. The road became
more hilly and forested with plenty of rivers. At Quaiba Ernest
spotted a bicycle shop and bought a much needed new back tyre.
Just down the road there was a hotel (with air-con) and we
pulled in. What luxury we had, air-con, cable TV, and a shower.
18 March - Quaiba – Osorio -
We awoke to light
rain which continued throughout the day. Once on the road it was
not altogether unpleasant and as we were already wet we carried
on cycling – sometimes it is quite nice cycling in the rain.
(It’s just that the bikes suffer with all the grit that gets
into the moving parts). In Osorio we found a nice room - we were
soaked and covered in road muck, so it was rather pleasant to be
dry and out of the rain. We hung out our wet cloths as best we
could, hoping it would be dry in the morning.
19 March - Osorio
– Capao Da Canoa - 47km
A beautiful day,
the sun was out and the wind behind us as we cycled north along
the coast. The coast was dotted with small villages, all fairly
quiet as carnival was over, the kids were back at school after a
3-month summer holiday and there were just the odd holiday
makers on the beach.
At Capao Da Canoa
we found a small campsite and the owners offered us one of the
chalets in the camp for no extra charge, how nice of them.
20 March - Capao
Da Canoa – Torres - 62km
Both Ernest and I
felt rather lazy and we pedaled slowly along the coast. Along
the way we passed a vagrant “Gaucho-type” man and his dog on a
horse buggy with a flat tyre. At first we did not notice the
problem as he addressed us in Portuguese (quite normal around
here). As we passed he started shouting and waving like a
madman, so he got our attention – fortunately his wheel size was
the same as ours, and Ernest gave him one of his new tubes to
see him on his way.
Brazilians are amazed at the fact that we can’t speak
Portuguese. “Nao Portuguesa!!??” is normally uttered in total
astonishment. The fact that we are from South Africa is another
total surprise to them – “What ……Africa?” they repeat and look
at us as if we have just dropped from Mars. If we then still
continue to explain that the have been cycling for the past 4
years to get here, they just laugh and shake their heads.
21 March - Torres
– Ararangua - 60km
The campsite where
we’d spent the night was so peaceful and quiet that I felt
reluctant to pack up and it was rather late by the time we
The wind picked up
and the nice road that we have been cycling on deteriorated –
with road works and narrow sections in places. I was in no mood
to battle into the wind and by the time we reached Ararangua we
turned off into the town. It was a much bigger town than
indicated on my map and it even had a few hotels. We took a
hotel room for the night which was rather expensive but all I
wanted was go get out the wind. Hotel rooms in Brazil are all
quite expensive, but this one had cable TV, air-con, en-suite
bathroom and sparkling white linen and a great buffet
breakfast!! We’re living a life of luxury, and their breakfast
is definitely a lot better than that of their Spanish-speaking
neighbours to the south.
22 March -
Ararangua - Tubarao - 62km
Another day of
battling strong winds. It’s rice harvest time in the South of
Brazil and farmers are feverishly bringing in the crop. Flocks
of birds are hanging around waiting for an easy meal. It was
rather hilly and again we had only done half a day of cycling
before calling it a day. We turned off into Tubarao town (quite
a big place), and found a nice hotel room for a good price
(again, it had all we required). There was a big supermarket up
the road where we could buy the necessary goods, and that night
Ernest made a good potato salad in the room. Yummy!!
23/24 March - Tubarao – Imbituba - 55km
keep improving as we move north, and this was a good one.
However, on the road a strong headwind made us work hard up the
hills; at least the new road was completed along this stretch
and made life a bit easier. We had our heads down most of the
morning battling into the wind. The beach and harbour town of
Imbituba came as a welcome surprise. We even found a decent
sheltered campsite, which came with Wi-Fi and a nice lawn.
wind never abated, not even during the night, and we decided to
say another day. Perfect for doing laundry, restocking our
dwindling food supply, oiling bikes, and airing sleeping bags.
Imbituba – Tijuca - 129km
We packed up
just before the rain, picked up a tail wind and motored down the
road. What a stunning day it turned out to be, past small
villages with horse carts and lush green hillsides until we
reached the turn-off for Florianopolis. Florianopolis and Sao
Jose (both high-rise cities with Florianopolis on Isla de Catarina and Sao Jose on the mainland). There are sprawling
cities with skyscrapers as far as the eye can see, so we headed
straight along the coast with beautiful views of the ocean the
islands off the coast.
all day long but as we had a tail wind so we carried on until we
reached Tijucas, a smallish town with a supermarket and hotel
(which we could spot from the highway). Afterwards Ernest
cycled to the supermarket and came back with the necessary
supplies for a good pasta and so forth.
Tijucas – Barra Velha -
the road north, over hills, down valleys, through tunnels, past
large resort cities with upmarket condos and humble timber homes
next to the rubbish dump. Along the road a local Brasilian
couple out for the weekend in a camper van stopped us at a sugar
cane juice-shop and literally “topped us up”. We could not speak
Portuguese and they could not speak English but we still managed
to understand one another.
Velha we found an unofficial campsite along the river (with some
directions from friendly locals). We hardly had our tents up
and the food prepared when it started raining. Soon a full
blown storm hit us with full force and I discovered that my tent
is not as waterproof as it used to be. It was like a small
swimming pool. Fortunately it quickly passed over and things
returned to normal.
27/28 March -
Barra Velha – Joinville -
We awoke to a
sunny peaceful Sunday morning, the storm forgotten, except for
large pools of water all around us. The birds came out drying
their feathers while we sat around waiting for our tents to
dry. It turned out to be a beautiful morning and people
arrived with boats and fishing gear to try their luck in the
river. Eventually our tents were dried out and bags repacked,
friendly locals waved us good-bye (after a photo session with
the estate agents across the road) and we were on our way.
We still had
a nice little tailwind as we got on the road, the road turned
away from the coast and headed inland, over wooded hills and the
smell of the forest was strong after the rain the night before. We came upon a turnoff for Joinville, so we decided to see what
was at a place in Brasil with such an English name.
turned out to be a rather interesting place. The land on which
JOINVILLE was settled was originally given as a dowry by Emperor
Dom Pedro to his sister, who had married the Prince of
Joinville, the son of Louis-Philippe of France. A deal with
Hamburg timber merchants meant that, in 1851, 191 Germans, Swiss
and Norwegians arrived to exploit the fifty square k’s of virgin
Joinville – Garuva -
We packed and
set off in a light drizzle, the road left the coast and headed
inland over the mountains. It continued to rain and by the time
we have cycled the short distance to Garuva the weather over the
forward pass to Curitiba looked even worse so we settled for a
room in this small village and hoped things would improve by
morning. Hotel Recanto-Eliza at the edge of town turned out to
be a very comfortable choice in a lush forest setting with a
river running right past it. We fed the fish stale bread and
they came out in their hoards to snatch it away. It rained hard
throughout the night and there seemed to be no end to this rainy
March - 1 April - Garuva – Curitiba -
hearty breakfast we set off in a drizzle with the mist hanging
low over the mountains. It was a long slow day as we climbed
over the mountains. It rained most of the day and we cycled up
about 25 km through the hills. After that it was up and down
and eventually we arrived in Curitiba, wet, cold and fairly
tired. We headed straight for the historic center, found a
hotel at the Formula 1 hotel at a reasonable price and could
have a hot shower and dry out.
day we took the tourist bus around the town and could (in one
foul swoop) see all there is to see in Curitiba. From the lovely
and peaceful botanical garden to the 110m high telephone tower
with a 360 degree view of the entire city.
morning we woke to an overcast and rainy morning and decided to
stay put for another day. We ate cake and drank Brazilian
coffee all in the warmth and safety of our hotel room. Not bad
for two down-and-out homeless people.
2 April - Curitiba
– Parana/Sao Paulo State Border - 111km
It was time to
leave our comfortable hotel in Curitiba city and get on the road
again. Fortunately the weather cleared and although it was
drizzling from time to time, at least it was not bucketing down
like the night before. Although it was still hilly it felt
mostly downhill. Ernest had two flats from truck tyre debris
(steel belt fragments) and also discovered that his rear rim was
cracked. Fortunately the road was good and we continued until
the light started fading. The overcast and rainy weather made
the day short and we camped in the wet grass on a hill behind a
petrol station. As soon as the tents were up it started raining
again, we still had some tinned food and we could buy bread at
the petrol station so there was no need for cooking.
3/4 April - State
Border - Registro - 110km
It was my
birthday, but we had the usual coffee and biscuits for breakfast
and packed up in a constant drizzle. The road had a spacious
shoulder and ran through a national park, which usually means
stunning scenery and hills. We were slowly creeping north, with
more tropical-type rivers and forests. The forest became dense
and overgrown with ferns, moss and creepers. There were very few
villages along the way, only the odd wooden home peeking out
through dense bushes. We finally reached a 20km downhill and
once at the bottom of the mountain it was a lot more humid with
large banana plantations. On reaching Registro we turned into
the town and found a very comfortable hotel. It had a large room
and we could dry our tents and wet clothes.
The next morning
Ernest washed our bikes at the car wash around the corner, and
as there was a bike shop in town I bought him a new rim (for his
birthday on the 8th) - he spent the rest of the day
spoking the wheel, a lengthy process which he should be good at
by now. The rim was deeper than his previous rim which required
shorter spokes (so it was back to the bike shop the next
morning, another day in Registro).
6/7 April -
Registro – Peruibe - 109km
I’m always more
than happy to get on the bike after a day or two in one place.
The day turned out all one can whish for on a bike. It was
mostly downhill, a slight tail wind helped as along and the
scenery was as stunning as usual. We stopped and ate fruit,
filled our water bottles from mountain streams and after about
60km we turned off the crazy trucking highway and headed
south-east towards the coast. It was up and over the mountains
and eventually we reached the coast at Peruibe. It was out of
season and we virtually had the place to ourselves. We camped at
the beach and fell asleep with the sound of the waves in our
needed to straighten his new wheel and fix some punctured tubes,
so we stayed and relaxed in our own private little paradise.
8 April -
Peruibe – Guaruja
The further north
we go the more lush the scenery seems to get (and more vicious
the mosquitos). The coastline was picture pretty with white
sandy beaches. We missed the shortcut to Guaruja and found
ourselves on a hilly (but stunning) section of the road running
around the port of Santos. On reaching Guaruja we found it to be
an island as the area is surrounded by water. It was also a
touristy / beach town with many lovely beaches, plenty hotels
but no camping. People strolled along the beachfront and sat at
sidewalk cafes, the balmy weather made it perfect for being
outside. We found a nice local hotel for the night.
9 April -
Guaruga – Bertioga
We cycled along
the coast with its white sandy beaches and palm trees until we
reached the ferry back to the mainland. Once off the ferry the
weather came in and soon it started thundering, we looked for a
room and found really cheap room just as it started bucketing
10 April -
Boicucanga Beach - 70km
There were scenic
beaches, el-fresco oyster bars, and lush forests along the road.
Ernest and I weren’t getting along very well, so I didn’t enjoy
the day. I saw a pousada opposite a beautiful beach, and we
booked into there for the rest of the day and night.
11 April -
Boicucanga Beach –
Sao Sebastiao - 41km
I felt mentally
tired and weak and I struggled up the hills - I pushed my bike
up the nasty steep hills which I had to confront early on. It
was however incredibly beautifully and I wish I was in a better
frame of mind to enjoy it all. We met up again during the day
and booked into a room overlooking the straight and Sao
Sabastiao island. That evening things got even worse as I
decided to get a pizza for supper and went to the expense of
buying a large Vegetarian pizza from the pizzeria across the
road (tuna!! - I guest around here fish is not considered to be
meat). After spending all that money (and it was not cheap) and
waiting forever for the pizza to be made, I was needless to say,
looking rather forward to my “feel good” meal!
12 April - Sao
Sebastiao – Maranduba - 52km
Woke up to a
bright sunny morning and sore knees from all the many steep
hills. I still felt incredibly fatigued but loaded up the bike
and once on the road things seemed much better. Gone were the
sore knees (how does that work) and it turned out another
stunning day. Past waterfalls and caves. We spotted a small
campsite right on the beach and I could not bring myself to
cycle past such a lovely spot with a little island off the coast
- it was like a true paradise.
13 April -
Ubatumirim - 61km
There’s just no
rushing along this stretch of coastline. We literally ambled
along from one beach to the next. In the process we crossed the
tropic of Capricorn (the 3rd time I’ve crossed it on
the bike). It is quite ironic that between Brazil’s two largest
cities is a coastline so beautiful and varied and with some of
(I’m sure) Brazil’s best beaches. It seems that some areas are
practically unknown to foreign tourists. The beaches also seem
to get prettier the closer we get to Rio. The ocean is a clear
blue-green and at least 25*C, very comfortable to say the least.
We turned off the road along a sandy path to a rather rustic
beach with basic facilities, just a long stretch of beach. We
camped on a small grassy patch and could just sit and look at
the small waves rolling in.
14/15 April -
– Paraty - 49km
Another short day,
at the turnoff for Paraty we nearly went past but decided to
turn off and have a look. What a surprise it turned out to be. A
lovely beach with an old historic town, still with cobble stone
roads so rough I had to push my bike along. Just across the
river we found a campsite across the road from the, beach.
Little food and drink stalls were right on the water’s edge and
one could just sit and watch the ocean or drift in the calm warm
water of the Atlantic.
The following day
we did some laundry and lazed around on the beach, it was so
nice we nearly stayed for 2 days.
16 April -
Paraty – Tarituba
We slowly packed
up while waiting for our clothes to dry out a bit and eventually
pedaled down the road to the next beach. We spotted a turn off
and turned down to see what’s down the road but after seeing the
lovely beach and a cottage right on the water in a jungle
setting we off loaded the bikes and I promised myself that the
following day I’ll go a bit further. We sat on the beach and ate
patelini (a fried pastry with a filling). When night fell a
sweet aroma filled the air, crickets chirped and the moon shone
brightly, unfortunately the mosquitos also came out and we
retreated in doors.
17 April -
Tarituba – Angra Dos Reis - 66km
We ate breakfast
under the trees, while the waves rolled in. A full spread of
bread rolls, ham, cheese, salami, coffee, juice, fruit and
biscuits, we felt like the royal family. All good things come to
an end and we waved the owner good-bye and set off along the
The road continued
to be rather hilly but offered unparalleled scenery. Even the
nuclear power plant looked good amongst the lush forests. The
town of Angra Dos Reis turned out to be quite a surprise as it
was quite different to the rest of the coast. Houses clung to
the mountainside overlooking the picturesque bay and narrow
cobble stone streets weaved through the old part of the city.
18 April -
Angra Dos Reis –
Mangaratiba - 66km
Although the coast
is scenic it is everything but flat, we churned our way up hill
after hill and sweated buckets as it was hot and humid. Huge oil
tankers were anchored in the sheltered bay waiting their turn at
the off-shore oil rigs.
At the turnoff to
Mangaratiba I saw that the road went up a big hill, so we
decided to go into the town and look for a place to stay. After
a few k’s we got to the small picturesque town along a steep
peninsula, but there wasn’t any decent cheap accommodation or
camping (this is one of the jumping-off points to the touristy
Isla Grande). After heading back towards the main road we found
an OK room, although a bit expensive without even a breakfast.
19 April -
Barra Do Tijuca - 93km
We continued along
the road towards Rio and although the road was still hilly it
flattened out later. At Santa Cruz we turned off the high way to
in order to follow the coastal road into Rio. For some time the
road was in poor condition, there were road works, and it was
very busy. After one last big hill we found the coast again, and
suddenly it was very built up but we found a campsite for the
night (probably the last one this side of the city).
20 April -
Barra Do Tijuca –
Rio De Janeiro - 55km
We’d camped on the
SW outskirts of Rio, and for 20 km there was a cycle path along
the beach in the direction of the city. Then we got to a
spectacular bluff a Jao, where we illegally (no bicycles
allowed) went onto a bridge and 2 tunnels separated by a
spectacular elevated highway over the rocks and waves, before
getting to the famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches where we
could cycle on the bicycle path again. We took some photo’s and
started looking for accommodation – then we discovered that it
was the start of Easter Weekend (in one of the world’s biggest
holiday destinations!). All the budget accommodation was full,
and eventually we found a nice room/flatlet a few blocks from
the beach in Copacabana, but it came at quite a cost. Anyway,
the condition was that we take the place for the whole weekend,
so we’ll have time to see the city.
21/24 April - Easter Weekend - Rio De
Rio was a
spectacular place, with lots of natural beauty and loads of
interesting people. I walked along the beach, swam in the ocean
and took a local bus to all the interesting places. The beaches
were absolutely packed. One could hardly move. What a beautiful
city Rio is.
Soon it was however time to move on. Personal problems between Ernest and myself forced me to make a
rather quick and unexpected decision to return home for a while.
It was not an easy decision as I was enjoying myself in South
25 April - Rio
Ernest and I left our hotel in which we
stayed for the past 4 days, Ernest carried on towards Bolivia
and I moved to a cheaper hostel while deciding what to do next. I found a travel agent and booked a flight back to South Africa
on the 27th. I needed to pay for the flight in cash and could
only draw half the money and had to wait for the following day
to draw the rest of the money in order to pay for the ticket.
Fortunately I spotted a bike shop just round
the corner from the hostel and planned to get a bike box there
the following day. The rest of the day was spent chatting to
people at the hostel. What an interesting place a hostel can
be, people from all over the world gather there and all have
interesting stories to tell about their travels.
I felt rather sad that my travels had come to
an end for the time being, but that’s the way it is and I will
just have to deal with it for now. Hopefully something good will
come from it.
26 April - Rio
I was just not meant to go back, as all sorts
of difficulties arised as I tried to organize my flight.
Firstly I discovered that one of my fellow
travellers had dipped into my wallet and helped themselves to my
money. How and when that happened I’m not sure. It all is
quite weird as they did not take all the money but about half of
what was in my wallet. So it was off to the bank to draw the
necessary funds to pay for my ticket.
The travel agent booked the flights and told
me to come back later to pick it up. Later I however discovered
that they could not book an Air Malaysia flight in Brazil and
gave me my money back.
The flight from Rio to Buenos Ayres was
booked but to the wrong airport and the booking had to be
cancelled and a new ticket issued!!
The Air Malaysia ticket (from Buenos Ayres to
Cape Town) had to be bought on the internet. I did not think
this to be a big problem but soon discovered that my visa cards
has a security setting that does not allow me to buy on-line. I
decided to go out on a limb and try and buy a ticket at the
airport in Buenos Ayres.
In the meantime the bike shop boxed my bike
and on my way to the bike shop I bumped into Cedric, whom I met
at the hostel, and he helped me carry the bike back.
27 April - Rio
I woke at 5.00am and got going, had a shower,
a cup of coffee and waited for the taxi to take me to the
airport. Always a great hassle, me, bike, bags etc. etc. On
arrival at the airport I had my bags wrapped so I only had 2
pieces of luggage and the bike box; it makes life a lot easier.
The flight to Buenos Ayres was uneventful and
soon I was back where I left exactly two months ago. I settled
in for the long wait. The check-in counter only opened much
later that evening and I had to wait for them to open before I
could buy a ticket, at last I was on my way.
At last I arrived back in Cape Town, South
Africa with no plans for my future. What could only be
described as a very low point in my life, I sat down and
reevaluated my plans. My best option was to use the time to try
and secure a visa for Europe, as the Schengen Visa must surely
be the worlds most elusive visa!!
After going back and forth it seemed that my
best option was to book some sort of tour and with proof of the
itinerary and payment I could apply for the darn visa (and
hopefully get 3/6 months, although the tour is for a much
shorter period of time). This all seemed a rather expensive way
of doing things, but it appeared the easiest way. Strange that
the truth is unacceptable but that some sort of cooked up story
is what it takes to get the visa??!!
19 May 2011
Eventually I had:
1. Flight ticket
2. Schengen travel insurance
3. Booked and paid for a tour
4. Full itinerary
5. Proof of enough money to keep me going
while in Europe.
The list goes on and on!
Then it was off to the embassy with my fat
I was starting to look forward to the cycle
tour as it would be much different from what I have been doing
the past 4 years. I’ll have the luxury of my bags being
transported from campsite to campsite and food will be provided.
I’ll be doing things a bit arse about face,
heading in the wrong direction at first. It would have been
much easier if I could start in Budapest (where I left off last
time) and head for Lisbon. The tour is however between Paris to