The first 1,000km
Looking at a map of South America our first 1,000km looks puny, considering the 24,000 left to do. But already, in just 13 days on the bike, we’ve seen and done so much.
We reached the mark in the middle of nowhere, lost and pushing the bikes up through a tiny village with locals pausing from their Saturday tasks to look on in bemusement.
To commit the moment to memory I fell off taking Paddy with me, the slow speed fortunately helping to avoid injury. Just one of the many memories from our first 1,000km.
To recap a little: after leaving Rio, we headed through the coastal forests of the Costa Verde and then onto the miles of beaches where we had great, childish fun cycling along to Peruibe. Then, heading inland past valleys of banana plantations, we started to put the legs to the serious work of Brazil’s hills, enjoying the sun in our faces as we made good progress on quick roads.
Last week we turned onto our first unpaved road and away from the roaring lorries, climbing up through the Atlantic Forest, where the rainforest meets the ocean. We were rewarded with views across the Alto Ribeira and fluffy, black monkeys hanging from the tree-tops. The signs that winter is approaching are all around and now at a higher altitude the coastal heat has disappeared, leaving us wearing our cold weather clothes, planned for the Andes.
Our Portuguese truly stinks and as hard as we try we can’t get our pronunciation understood. However, we have met some great people who have helped us out with directions, rooms in hotels and finding food. We’ve even been escorted into town by cars on a couple of occasions from people showing us to accommodation. “Obrigada!” – we have mastered the word for thanks at least.
To our surprise we have bumped into two cycle touring couples. Chris and Debs, a couple who live about 2 miles away from us in London, were heading to Rio after a year on the road. Whilst Brazilian, Rubem and friend were on a long tour of their own country.
The plans to camp as much as possible haven’t really come to fruition, we are still struggling to find good spots and have become accustomed to hot(ish) showers at the end of the day. We’ll have to toughen up and just get used to the camping as Brazil isn’t budget friendly. At cooking on the campstove, we are better and after a few early disasters of the ‘all smoke and no fire’ kind, we are now cooking up some tasty meals. The best so far? Probably the boiled potatoes, peas, cream cheese and fried egg combo – mmmmm.
As well as the cycling we’ve fitted in a few days sightseeing, including taking in the sights of colonial Portuguese Paraty where the streets are designed to let the sea water in at high tide to clean the streets. We had a nice break in Santos where we went to watch the football (Chelsea fans, if you can get Neymar you’ll enjoy!) and from there made a day trip to Sao Paulo. It’s an interesting city which we liked, with shades of New York about the architecture. There were also signs of the real poverty in Brazil though, as we walked around people sleeping across the pavements in the middle of the day.
Our route continues on now to Foz do Iguazu and a longed-for break, but there are still a few more kilometres to cover before then. The legs are tired, the bikes filthy and our clothes stink – a fact confirmed by the lady in the Santos laundrette who put on gloves to handle our clothes and then turned us away!.
But we are on track so far. We’re still speaking. We’ve lost a few extra pounds. We’re working out what music makes us cycle faster (Ricky Martin, ‘She Bangs’ for me)! Paddy’s beard is growing out of control day-by-day. And we’re having lots of fun exploring and looking forward to the next 1,000km.
Stick with us to find out what happens next!
There are more photos on our Flickr page.