Sleeping in a hammock, I generally get a very restful sleep, so wake up early and refreshed. That’s why at just after 5:15am I was up and packing things away, even though I’d stayed up until 10pm editing photos. The first hour of riding, I averaged an easy 18km/h, but by 7am the wind had picked up and my speed dropped quickly, as I would ride into a headwind all day long. Over the day, my average ended up at 11km/h for 115km on an ostensibly flat road. There were a couple of interesting moments, like the town of Chaval, which had huge rocks lying around. Outside of that, it was huge amounts of scrub and a quote from my current Terry Pratchett book Lords and Ladies seems appropriate.
“Travel broadens the mind. This landscape broadened the mind because the mind just flowed out from the ears like porridge. It was the kind of landscape where, if you saw a distant figure cutting cabbages, you’d watch him until he was out of sight because there was simply nothing else for the eye to do.”
I was going to stop in the town of Camocim, and exhaustedly pulled in to a petrol station at the entrance. The actual town was a few kilometres further north , but I saw a bicycle with a bunch of bags on, so of course I went to investigate.
I was met by a very confusing man. He said he was Dutch, but also later claimed to be Brazilian. I was tired, hungry and also trying to check my emails, as my Kindle worked for the first time, but he didn’t really make much sense most of the time he was talking. You can hear a clip of audio from him talking to me at the bottom of the page. I might come across as rude, but this was after about 10-15 minutes of him rambling earlier. He didn’t seem happy at me saying that I was going to leave and especially didn’t like it when when I spoke to him in Portuguese at the times I couldn’t understand his English.
Even though I was tired and hungry, meeting that cyclist made me not want to stay in town, so even though it was patch black and the next town was 20km away, I headed off towards it. I got as far as about 5km before finding a place to throw up my hammock next to a shop that was closing for the night.
I was about 75km away from Jijoca, the next place of interest on the way to Fortaleza. It was a small town and the entrance to the beach and national park of Jericoacoara. To get there I had more slow progress, which was broken up for a short time riding with a cyclist out for a training ride, one of very few that I’ve seen since arriving in Brazil.
I fought the wind all morning long and got to Jijoca hungry. In line with the frustrating trend since arriving in the state of Ceará the day before, I foudn that the streets of the town were cobbled. Some people seem to think that cobbled or sandy streets are quaint. Those people don’t ride fully-loaded-touring bikes on them. They’re horrible. Even in a place like Guanajuato it was a frustration, although it was such a lovely town I nearly forgave it. I bounced along a street that was a mix of cobbles and sand until I saw an open shop – a rare thing on a Sunday. I bought some cheese and chomped away at it with a pack of crackers.
Many people go to Jeri, but it’s 20km of sand and so another truck ride to the beach to see the sunrise and be surrounded by a lot of foreign tourists. I wasn’t too thrilled by that idea, so went to the place in town that Aramis had mentioned to me, Lagoa de Paraiso, which is a relaxing place where they have hammocks hanging in the water. I swam for a while and took a nap in a hammock – not quite that relaxing, as I felt like a big fish trapped in a net – before leaving town.
There was about an hour until it got dark and my GPS said that there was a petrol station in 10km, so that was my goal. A few km before arriving, my stomach was feeling a bit funny, which at first I thought was from a lack of food, but I suddenly realised that it was more than that. Thankfully, although the petrol station was closed, the bathroom wasn’t. I rode a few km more looking for something else, but as my mind was preoccupied with the onset of feeling sick, I missed some good places to sleep and started to feel even worse, with a need to use a toilet again. I got to a bus stop at the bottom of a hill, and very soon was doubled over watching the cheese and a litre of icy-cold water I’d been given just before leaving Jijoca flying out of my mouth. I was sick enough at times that I was dry-heaving and the really-bad-tasting stomach acid (as opposed to the nicer version?) was coming up. I didn’t want to keep riding, so lay down at the bus stop, hoping that having been sick I’d start to feel better again.
I laid around for about half an hour, but the pain in my body didn’t go away. I needed to push on to find someone to ask for a place to stay. 15 minutes of painful riding later, with a couple of brief pauses to empty my already-vacant stomach some more, I saw a house on the left hand side. I pulled over and while keeling over my bike spoke to the people in the house, asking if I could stay mentioning my recent illness. They said no. I was horrified and pushed my bike on further.
Thankfully, there were a few more lights a few minutes down the road. Arriving there, I hit loose sand, so just dropped my bike on the floor and walked, doubled-over, to the nearby house to ask. Mid-way through asking, I felt it in my stomach again and moved away from them to kneel over and be sick again. It hurt so much there were almost tears in my eyes. I just laid there on the floor for a few minutes, as not moving was easier than anything else. I’d also half expected the family that I’d started to ask for help from to come over, but they kept chatting.
After probably the best part of five minutes, though really my sense of time was not that good, I went back to the house and was on my hands and knees asking if I could stay. They accepted and told me to sit on the chair that was there. I did, but was doubled-over because sitting up straight hurt a lot more. They had had a couple of hammocks hanging up in that area, which was the covered area in front of the house, but took them down and hung up a different one that they said I could sleep in. I thanked them and after moving my bike inside laid on the hammock.
I tried for a few minutes, but couldn’t get comfortable. It was too small or I was too tall. That area was behind a gate, so, making the assumption that they’d want to lock it, made the excuse that I’d be better in my tent in front of the house so I could throw up. I did so again while putting my tent up, to some concern of the lady who seemed to be the grandmother and mentioned about rain. I just wanted to lie down and stop doing anything, so didn’t pay much attention. Before I could do that, she brought out a cup of some flowery tea that I sipped down. I got in my tent and tried to sleep.
I woke up many times, partly because I’d forgotten my eye-mask and I had a street light right above me, and partly because I was over-heating. Also, of course my stomach didn’t like the tea and so that came up along with some water that I’d been sipping. At one point, it started to rain. I’d been of sound-enough mind to leave my tent fly in a bag by the side of my tent, so I came out, feeling a bit better by this time, and attached it. The rain of course stopped by the time I was done.
I got 3 or 4 more short bursts of sleep before it started to bucket it down. I was glad that I’d got the fly on. That is until the rain started coming into my tent. I’d not staked it out and so the water was dripping through. It was a lot less than the rain, but it was less than enjoyable. I waited for the rain to slow down before I got out, figuring that going out in heavy rain would get me wetter than I’d save by having a properly staked-out tent, and there was nothing in the tent with me other than my sleeping pad, pillow and coat – nothing that mattered if it got wet.
When I went to stake my tent out, I tried the gate, and it turned out it hadn’t been locked. I took my pad and pillow out of my tent and took them under the covered area that was a lot less leaky than my tent and passed out.
My slow sipping of water and the night of very-interrupted sleep had helped and I was feeling better by 6:30, when I stirred. I had only up-chucked once after my tent was up. Having nothing in my stomach to get rid of probably helped with that. The family was up and about and weren’t too talkative, but offered me some coffee, biscuits and the local delicacy – tapioca pancakes, which were all so bland that I hoped my stomach could handle them. I thanked them profusely for their help, and set off, to see how I felt.
The rain had briefly stopped and the first few kilometres were OK. There wasn’t any wind, but the sky was very dark and the rain looked like it’d start again any moment. It did, and I took cover in a local house, where they welcomed me in warmly. I’d recovered enough that we spoke for a good while, even until after it stopped raining, before I left and kept going. The rain had gone, but the wind had come back. I had no energy and fighting the wind for the next 5km into town was horrible. I was 240km to Fortaleza and there was no way I wanted to ride into that strong wind feeling that lethargic.
I got to Cruz, the next town, and emailed Auridebson, my Warmshowers host in Fortaleza. I’d expected to arrive on the Wednesday, and I asked if it would be possible to arrive a couple of days early. He said no problem, but he wouldn’t be home until after 6pm. I was OK with relaxing in Cruz and being 240km,figured it’d take 3 hours. I’d got to town by 9am, so there was no need to ask about buses… or so I thought.
By the time I enquired about buses, at 11:30, I was told the next one with space wasn’t until 3pm and it would take 5 hours. Ridiculous. I could have hitched a lift towards Fortaleza and covered a good chunk of it faster than that – my alternative/cheapskate option. I figured the bus would be more comfortable, but now having ridden the bus, I’m not sure that’s true. They do look very nice from the outside, but when you’re tall, sat at the back, feeling crappy and bouncing along the cobbled streets of Ceará, it’s really not that pleasant.
I got to the terminal by 8pm and met Auridebson at the nearby airport. He lived not too far away and so would show me the best way to his place, a nice offer, as it definitely involved some small streets that would have been confusing. I cleaned up and met his family, some wonderfully kind people, and William, an 18-year-old exchange student from New York state who is staying with them for a year as he learns Portuguese. I’m not sure of the plan, but I’ll be here for a few days, and feel much better for what I hope to be the last few days of ridiculous wind until I get to the end of Brazil in Natal, 550km from here.