The adventure begins
Our well-planned escape from Rio was dealt a blow just 3km in, at the end of Ipanema Beach, where the coastal road we’d recced to leave on had become one way for the morning, in the wrong direction. So we pushed our bikes the next 5km against the traffic – not quite the exit we had envisaged.
We’re four days in now and there’s been no more pushing, we’ve pedalled 300km south down the Costa Verde, past magnificent islands, pretty coves, fishing villages and over some impressive rainforest hills. It’s a rest day today, in the pretty Portuguese colonial town of Paraty, to spare our saddle sore bums (progress report on the saddles – some dimples appearing, but remain rock hard).
It’s been days of firsts. The first hill that we faced – big, lush, green hills that climb steady and slowly. We high-fived on that first one, unaware that from day two onwards we’d be climbing and descending constantly.
Our first invite to stay with people, on our very first day. Manfred, a German who’d cycled around Europe in the 1980s, spotted us heading into Santa Cruz and offered to host us for the evening. A brilliant stroke of luck as it was getting late and there was little in the way of accommodation or camping spots that we could find. As well as a generous host, he was a fountain of knowledge on Brazil, and we learnt a lot from him about the economic and development situation here.
This explained a lot why everything is so expensive here. Food, water, fuel and accommodation are not cheap, on par with UK prices. Our second night the cheapest accommodation we could find was £50 for a sparse room with a shared bathroom. A shock to our budget for sure, and an added incentive to find places to wild camp.
However, finding places to put up a tent is easier said than done. The roads we are pedalling on are steep and cut into lush forests and swamps. Any spot that is flattened and dried out is lived on or fenced off. We did have a stroke of luck on day three, finding an abandoned football pitch close to the road, where we could pitch the tent up against the bank, out of view. It was a perfect spot, but we haven’t seen anything suitable since. Hopefully we will have more luck when we head inland.
Yesterday we had our first person stop their car, take a photo of us, wish us good luck and wave us on, which we found quite amusing. We also cycled past a first ever for us both, a Father Christmas land, abandoned, with Santa’s and reindeer falling apart, a sad sight.
We’re adapting slowly to the weather. Either hot and humid – about 28C – where we’re dreaming of cold water, and in Paddy’s case succumbing to the calls of a roadside waterfall, boggy floor and all. Or it’s bucketing down and we’re cycling in full waterproofs and hiding in bus shelters for cover. It’s better wet in the morning and hot in the afternoon we find, at least that way we dry off.
The language is problematic, the pronunciation is so different to Spanish and even with the phrase book we are struggling to be understood. So far pointing, hand gestures and a few words we have mastered seem to be doing the trick, but there is room for improvement.
So that’s a brief account of the start of our trip. It still seems a bit surreal, as if we are on two week holiday, and we think it will take a bit yet to realise it’s not. Until then we’ll just keep cycling and breaking those legs in. It’s to Santos next and then inland towards Iguazu Falls, we’ll see what that road holds.