Getting lost in the state of Parana
Our expectations of Brazil before we arrived were like those of most people – caiprinhas, sunshine and stunning beaches. Since we left the coast behind and headed inland the scenery has changed dramatically and has become much more akin to the English countryside.
Continuing steadily towards our first border-crossing into Paraguay, we’ve been pedalling through the state of Parana, the agricultural heartland of Brazil. The banana plantations of the Costa Verde have been replaced by fields of corn, soya and Jersey cows.Whilst the terrain hasn’t flattened out, our legs have grown more accustomed to the daily distances required to keep us on track. Since getting lost on a dirt road linking two towns and ending up further away from our destination than from where we started, we have stuck to cycling on signposted asphalt roads. Test Match Special podcasts and Spanish lessons have kept us entertained on the long roads.
We’ve attracted a lot of interest from locals as we arrive in small towns and villages. Our ‘magic letter’ explaining our trip helps with our lack of Portuguese, but most men are interested in knowing how the Rohloff hub works which poses a problem as we struggle to explain it even in English. The same questions seem to pop up, such as: “How far do we cycle each day?”; “Where did we start and where do we finish?”; “How long will it take?”; and, “Why don’t we use a motorbike instead?”. The generosity of these people is something that has really touched us, from offers to stay with them, to meals being on the house.
We’ve had to dig out our warm weather gear from the bottom of our panniers much earlier than we expected. The early mornings have been particularly fresh but stunning at the same time, as the sun burns through the fog lingering in the valleys.
Accommodation has been varied too, from wild camps by the side of the road to small budget hotels. Hotels and Motels have a much more distinct separation than what we expected too.
After our first 100km day, we were looking for a place to stay and spotted a motel – “great”, we thought. We should have realised earlier we were checking into one of Brazil’s infamous ‘love motels’, what with the prison style gates, intercom system, the entrance to the room being through a car garage. But it was only on spotting the list of extras below the pizza and pasta on the menu that we realised it wasn’t your normal hotel. The selection of TV channels gave the game away too – no CNN news on that set! Certainly an interesting experience.
We’re looking forward now to arriving in Foz do Iguacu. Especially to clean our clothes and of course to see the wonderful waterfalls that we have heard so much about. It will also be a great opportunity to reflect on a successful first month pedalling around South America.