Aracaju – Indiaroba
Staying in Aracaju was a good time. We went to the beach on the weekend, and then I hung out at Lourenço’s bike shop on both the Monday and Tuesday. There were a couple of small colonial-era towns a bus ride away, but neither Lourenço nor Fabiana, his cleaner, thought they were worth visiting, so I skipped that option. I also managed to meet up with Felippe, a Warmshowers member, who had done a year-long tour around Brazil and was planning on a future multiple-year, cross-continent adventure starting in 2015. He’s one of the few long-term travellers that I’ve met and was really interesting to talk to.

Both Felippe and Lourenço had told me that I should ride down the coast and take a boat to Mangue Seco so I could not only ride on the beach, but also avoid a fair number of hills. Riding on the beach is only doable a couple of hours before, and a couple of hours after, low tide meaning from 6am to 10am, or in the evening. As it was a new moon, night riding wasn’t an option so I had a relaxing ride aiming to get to the boat to the beach in late afternoon.

I rolled out of town, and met a local cyclist called Ramilson and rode with him for a while. He wants to go on his own tour, but both his wife and his mum are convinced it’s too dangerous for him to go by himself. He said he was going to show my blog to them and hopefully that’ll help them understand that it’s not that crazy a thing to do. I can understand the apprehension that people have, but I don’t think that the ratio of glorious experiences to negative ones that I have had is an exception.

I got to the boat dock to Mangue Seco around 4pm, and realised that my plan had a slight flaw. There were a rather shocking lack of boats. That could be because Lonely Planet talks about it as a day trip place, so turning up at the end of the day wasn’t such a great idea. I sat around for half an hour, and one guy turned up, but he wanted $70R (£18) when I’d heard it should be $5-10R. Ignoring that I’d forgotten to bank, and so didn’t even have that much money on me, there was no way I was paying that much. I could have waited until the next day, but then I’d miss low tide and might get to push my bike a good amount, which was definitely not happening, so it was on to the rollercoaster that is Linha Verde Estrada de Coco (Green Line, Road of Coconut).

I got to the town of Indiaroba by the time it got dark, and after hanging out in the main square for a while headed to a nearby petrol station where I was given permission to put my hammock up. A few drivers stopped to speak with me, including one who asked me a few questions, left, and then came back 20 minutes later having u-turned 10 minutes down the road because he had told his wife that I’d been on the road for 3 years and she thought I’d said 3 months.

Incredibly noisy lady giving a stump speech to 4 people

Indiaroba – Sítio Novo
Even though I could have spent this day and the next riding hard to get to Salvador on the Friday night, I preferred the idea of getting there on the Saturday and riding shorter distances. The day was rather unmemorable until the end. The short distance, which I’d been hoping would mean for an easy day, contained the best part of 80 short but steep climbs. It was overcast and drizzly, and the whole day felt more sluggish than it should have. I should have guessed what it was, but didn’t and just kept riding. By the end of the day I stopped at the first restaurant I’d seen all day. I leant my bike against some steps, raising my bike up, and found my front brake was lightly rubbing. Always makes for a fun time. It wasn’t quite as bad as in Arizona when I’d spent 40km climbing with the same issue. Considering my dislike of active avoidance of braking, I’ve probably used them just as much unintentionally as when I’ve wanted to.

I ordered a plate of food, my first meal in a restaurant on the road for a while, and spoke with the cook and her daughter. They were both thoroughly pleasant and asked all about my trip. They asked where I was going to sleep, and I said I wasn’t sure, I was just going to look for a place to put up my hammock. I guess it was a bit too subtle, because they didn’t mention the perfect covered area next to where I was eating that I’d been eyeing up. They had a shower in the bathroom, a lovely quite common thing here in Brazil, and I decided to get cleaned up before hitting the road as I assumed I’d be sleeping somewhere nearby.

When I got out of the shower, it was closing in on being dark, and I started to put my things back on my bike. There was a table with 3 guys drinking a beer by my bike, and they asked me a question but called me gringo. Brazilians use it the same as foreigner, but it has an etymology that’s not quite as positive so I told them that I’d prefer they called me anything else rather than that. Cyclist, Mr, you, foreigner, English guy, just anything other than gringo. They went quiet, as I’d probably not said it so nicely, and I went off to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anything.

Back at my bike, one of the 3 men stood up and asked me where I was staying and that I could definitely stay in a room there. I wasn’t sure if it was an offer of a free room, or if they were a pousada as well as a restaurant, and so said that I would be just as happy if I could put my hammock up at the back because I do love sleeping in it. He assured me that it’d be OK, I’d just have to wait until closing, which was great with me.

I was told to put my bike at the back, and shown where I could hang my clothes up to air, and then invited to the front where there was a gathering of about 12 people who all started clapping. It turned out it was the wife of the owner’s (the guy who had offered me the room) birthday and there would be cake. I sang along to happy birthday, and was given a seat and, after the cake was cut, a large piece of chocolate cake to munch on. Randomly wonderful things still happening!

Sítio Novo – Outskirts of Salvador
I hung out at the restaurant in the morning and got introduced to a variety of pets by Mario and Ana, the children of the lady whose birthday it had been. Mario also brought some friends over to show me off and they were fascinated by my bike.

I continued on the endless ups and downs, on my way to Salvador. There were plenty of beaches, but most of them were 5-10km off the main road and I knew I’d be going to a beach in Salvador so I kept going. The most memorable experience from the ride was when I was stopped hiding from the rain at a petrol station. A car pulled up, and the passenger hopped out, bought a can of red bull and was drinking it standing by the car door. He finished the can, dropped it on the floor and got in his car. I asked him why he didn’t walk the few metres to the bin and he laughed telling me that if I cared I could do it. Anyway, there was someone there whose job it was to clean up so why should he do it. What an absolute moron. Several people have told me that this is an attitude that’s not uncommon in the north of Brazil where the gap between the haves and have-nots can be staggering. The gap means it’s more common to have maids in houses and a few of those (definitely not all) then basically become very spoilt and expect everyone else to clean up after them wherever it may be.

The hills stopped and I made good time rolling towards Salvador. I could probably have made it that evening, but I took it easy and stopped at a police station about 40km away. I had been warned about Salvador, and told how dangerous it is, especially during carnival, but the policemen there seemed to think that it had been exaggerated and I’d be fine. They told me I could stay, and pointed at a couple of trees where I could hang my hammock up. It looked like it was going to rain, and I was interested to see how my hammock would handle it. I attached the fly, staked the cords down and went to sleep knowing that if it failed there was always a covered area I could run to.

Entering Salvador

It did rain, but I stayed bone dry. Amusingly that’s better than usually happens with my tent where for whatever reason – maybe not throwing it up properly – I often find a bit of water coming in on the rare occasions that I’m not camping in a covered area when it’s raining.

I’d researched some bike routes into the city, and found an image with proposed bike routes for the world cup, so arrived in the city and made my way there. There were no bike paths. I guess with the world cup a good 100 days away they’ll go and make those routes sometime soon, right. Thankfully it was the most direct route, and because it was mid-morning on a Saturday there wasn’t too much traffic. I made my way to the place of Axl, my Couchsurfing host, and was welcomed in. Axl loves the UK, he seems to think it’s the greatest country in the world, which is definitely one viewpoint. Unfortunately he doesn’t share the same passion for Brazil, and especially not for Carnival. He only likes rock and roll, and so thinks Carnival is terrible… which is strange because there is also Alternate Carnival and that includes rock, punk and metal, right up his street.

Thankfully there was another Couchsurfer, from New Jersey, called Walter. He had been in town for a few days, knew his way around and even though he’d been out the night before was willing to go out to carnival with me that night. He has been on the road for 2 and a half years, and was full of stories. I was so glad that he was there!

I’ll make a post later about Salvador, including pictures from Carnival. I’m jumping on a plane in 8 hours and haven’t really done much packing yet so I should get round to that. Tonight, the evening of the 6th, I fly to Lisbon for a 45-day side trip to Europe because it’s my Granny’s birthday. I could have flown straight in and out of Manchester, but it seemed more fun to me to visit Portugal and Spain. It also means I’ll be able to get my bike re-painted, as it desperately needs, and a couple of other bits of work done.