The end of the road
So here we are, quite literally at the end of the road for our cycle tour of South America. Not for the first time, we’re in a seedy, Brazilian hotel sat on a plastic mattress preparing to cook our tomato sauce and pasta supper. We’re one block back from the ferry terminal in Niteroi, the city on the opposite of the bay from Rio de Janeiro. Tomorrow morning we’ll take a boat across the water and then pedal 15km along cycle lanes to the point on Ipanema Beach where we started our adventure 14 months and 12 days ago.
My emotions are all over the place. I’d expected to be excited by the first sight of the city which holds such significance to us, but as we headed towards the coast this afternoon I held my breath at each curved mountain we saw, desperate for there not to be a recognisable monument perched on top. Of course, it finally appeared; a tiny, white figure, arms aloft in the city haze watching over the people below.
The problem is not that I don’t want to be back in Rio, but that I really don’t want this trip to end. Quite simply, I’m still having fun.
Since we left Vitoria ten days ago we’ve been enjoying ourselves just as much as at any other time. The coastline is stunning and we have been making the most of the fact that on the bikes if we pass a beautiful beach we can simply stop.
We’ve been able to stay off major roads and have enjoyed cycle lanes that follow sweeping beaches. Our route has taken us through sugar cane plantations and past rows of pineapples growing on the ground, mother-nature at her most confusing.
The people are still friendly, offering us food, drink and even a place to stay in pricey, tourist areas. We continue to meet cyclists out for leisurely rides, on training missions and even cycle tourists exploring Brazil by bike. There are Warmshower hosts to meet and interviews to give to local reporters intrigued by our journey.
There are more adventures to be had and a need to improve our map reading skills. A three hour push along a beach to cover just six kilometres proved that, especially as we ended up further away from the town of Macae than from where we started.
Paddy hasn’t yet learnt which bag the cake is kept in. There are lots of cats out there looking for a minute or two of love whilst we stop for an ice cream and we haven’t yet worked out how to light the firecrackers we bought to scare off chasing dogs.
Yet, our maps have run out.
What to do? Bypassing Rio de Janeiro wouldn’t work, because on the other side we’d find ourselves covering old ground. There’s no other road to take, which means that tonight is the last evening we’ll cook tomato and pasta on our stove and that I’ll hand wash my smelly clothes in the sink to put back on, damp, in the morning.
I suppose there’s a little “hurrah” to be had there, but still it’s hard to accept that this is the end of the road. So maybe I’ll conclude that this is the close of our time in South America and concentrate instead on where to pedal next. If you have any ideas let us know.