Hooray sexy readers! Finally we're back on the road to sore our butts to death on a bicycle saddle.
After spending the months after my return from Europe being a hibernating Badger, whose only motivation was to go from my room to the kitchen and back to the studies, I finally decided to move my carcass out of the cave for some fresh air and, why not, dive into one of those insane adventures.
Since many moons ago, when my bum was still not married to a bicycle's seat, I used to hear stories about a certain road in my state, where winds were so strong and conditions so terrible that one would be lucky to travel without having the car stuck in the soft sand, let alone by bicycle; stories of a hard working people that until 20 years ago lived without electric energy; stories of a wild area, that 'till this day invites people to contemplate the beauties of nature. The peculiar name: Estrada do Inferno (Hell's Road), near the southern tip of Brazil.
On this post I'll bring you along on this little 380 km bicycle trip in between a lagoon and the sea. A four days journey full of wind, good deeds, camping in weird places and filled with contemplative moments. Enjoy!
Obs: This first post lacks the sexy imagery as some of them were lost, but be patient, things will improve on the continuation posts. Just focus on the message on this one ^~
Estrada do Inferno: Prelude to Awesomeness
The trip followed a simple plan. I'd pedal 380 km between the towns of Rio Grande and the capital Porto Alegre, on a road called the BR-101. This brazilian road cuts Brazil from north to south across 12 states, but I'd be exploring a tiny southern part of it over a strech of land formed between the Lagoa dos Patos - the biggest lagoon in Brazil - and the Atlantic ocean. On the way I'd pass the cities of São José do Norte, Bojuru, Tavares, Mostardas and Capivari do Sul, where, after a hard left, it's possible to contour the north side of the lagoon.
The name Estrada do Inferno (Hell's Road) comes from times when the road was merely a sandy path full of potholes and mud patches used by cowboys to transport cattle. Progress came with a layer of pavement after decades of desolation. The towns were later connected to the well deserved electricity and what once took three days to cross now takes a few hours by car. The sandy road is now an alternative for those travelling the state of Rio Grande do Sul, not to mention it has became a great destination among cyclo tourers.
January 27th, 2020. I had been spending the days on my mom's beach house, where it's quieter and the air fresher than the busy street I live in the city. There, I also had some space to sort my equipment and give the bicycle some well deserved maintenance. Everything was set for the next adventure. Even the weather and the winds seemed to be willing to cooperate that week.
The peacefullness of being in a silent neighborhood, and having our dog around to funnily snore like a human being, didn't prevent me from being bombarded by the negative news coming from the TV though, that noisy machine of disgrace perpetuation in which my mom insisted on watching.
Planning a trip alone to a somewhat remote area in a country known to be violent is never an easy task for the mind. Even the most experienced travelers might feel the pressure of some fears here and there trying to make us give up and go back to safety; what diferentiate us is the ability to deal with it and continue with the plans anyway.
On that morning I departured late, at around 0930 hours. I was fighting my own thoughts, the negativeness from the media news and the fears of a mom whose son seems to have uneasy legs - what a combo!
"You better be careful! Make sure you call, you know how those small cities can be violent! I heard on the news..." - She said.
Not without a bit of arguing, I jumped on my loaded bicycle and, focusing on the positive side of such a journey, headed north to the first leg of a multi-day adventure.
Day 1 - Rio Grande to Bojuru
relief - tailwind - ferry crossing - strangers - free lunch - camping on a church - the world is great
The relief of being on the bicycle again felt so amazing that I could not help but smile. With a strong tailwind, the first 20 km were luckly completed as fast as I could pedal; there was nothing to see but urban edifications that presented neither beauty nor safety really.
By 1100 hour I embarked the ferry that connects the cities of Rio Grande and São José do Norte; the winds were wild out there and water splashed against the steel platform and the tugboat, forcing me to keep the camera safely stored, unfortunatelly. However no picture can describe what happened during that thirty minute crossing.
A loaded bicycle with bags strapped everywhere is always a mistery machine that attracts curious people everywhere. I was there standing near the bike when this middle aged stranger approached. "A bicycle traveller?" - He said. I took my eyes off the phone. "Yeah, doing the 101" - I quickly answeared. From there a conversation started.
Turns out Arlindo lived in São José do Norte, a religious man who spent the rest of that crossing curiously asking me about my travels and talking about the Bible. "Do you know about Nebuchadnezzar?" - He asked. Then he'd continue with the story, which according to him co-related to the travel subject. I quietly nodded and listened in respect.
Due to the winds the tugboat missed the port entry, delaying the continuation of my trip in which I stilll had 80 km to cover. Even though it was 1130 hour and the sun was radiant and hot, I didn't want to goof around a small town. But plans can always change for better.
"Are you going to eat before going?" - Arlindo asked.
"Yah, a quick snack will do it..." - I said.
"Well, you can eat in my house... it's simple, but.." - He said.
Whenever I tell this story around, people think it's the wierdest thing ever. Eating in a stranger's house? No way! However, this is the greatest gift traveling has to offer. You'll learn how to thrust and slowly you'll realise that the world can not be as bad as it's printed.
From experience I knew that nothing bad would happen, there wouldn't be a gang of robbers waiting to rob me, instead, there would be a simple family offering a homemade meal to a fellow cyclist.
Without hesitation I accepted the offer and ended up making my frist two friends on that journey. Arlindo and his wife openned their house and served the most amazing brazilian meal - rice, beans, chicken and greens. What else could I have expected? What a great start!
Apart from a strategic stop to relief my belly on a bush by the road, completing the next 80 kilometers was easy. Now I knew that everything would be fine. With green fields on both sides and strong tailwinds pushing me north, I quickly left behind the urban area and entered the vastness of an unknown region.
Before sunset I reached the quiet town of Bojuru where the streets didn't have pavement and the bicycle danced left and right as I pedaled over the thin sand. The locals greeted me in the classic and warm brazilian way, by waving a hand and just saying a quick "Opa!". It didn't take long for me to know half the village as I asked around for a place to camp.
"The church is where everyone goes." - Said the young lady with her kids looking at me behind her.
"Really? Is it safe?!" - I asked.
"Ohhh of course! Here nothing happens! Just ask the lady in front and she'll give you permission." - She said.
I've slept in all sorts of places all over the world, but there's always somewhere new to try. Well... a church yard should at least be protected by the Almighty. I received permission to put my tent on the green yard and also given 5L of water for general use. Sometimes locals would pass by for a quick chat while I was preparing my pasta with tuna fish; they seemed friendly, which gave me confidence to sleep like a rock all night.
The next day would challenge me with another 90+ km of adventure where even greater things happened. But I'll have to leave that for another post, or else this diary will become massive.
From the first day I would like to reinforce the fact that the world is amazing if we are open hearted. All you gotta do is to go out and talk to people, especially in more remote places. Leaving our big cities and the 'forests of concrete' we live in can open a whole different universe that we wouldn't discover otherwise. That's why I travel and give my best to inspired people to do the same. Untill the next post, tchau!