Hyeonjung, a Korean backpacker that had stayed at the same place in Salvador, had been talking for a good while about wanting to ride a bike in South America. She’s not exactly a cyclist, and didn’t have a bike, but we decided that we would try and ride from Curitiba to Florianópolis together. She’d accompanied me riding around São Paulo and had enjoyed it, so why not try it out?
I left São Paulo on the Saturday morning, and Hyeonjung (HJ from now on) stayed an extra day. Our host in Curitiba had said that he had a bike that she could borrow, although he’s 180cm tall and she’s under 160 so I was a little skeptical about the sizing. It was 400km to get to Curitiba, and I figured that if it went well it’d be 3 days, and so left after 9am in no rush. By the time I’d gone to the supermarket it was after 10, and I still had plenty of the largest-city-in-South-America to ride through to even get out on to the open road. Thankfully my route avoided the industrial parks that I’d ridden through on the way in as the air quality there had been pretty awful.
The road linking SP to Curitiba was apparently one of the most dangerous in Brazil, which can only be because of pressure on truck drivers. The road itself is fairly straight, with only one long descent and one long climb in the stretch. However, on the second morning I saw 3 trucks that had rolled over that day – two of them on perfectly straight sections – in a 50km stretch. Truckers are often given an amount of time that make sense at first, but then their departure is delayed and delayed but they still have to arrive at the same time otherwise their load won’t be accepted. That leads to people driving ridiculous hours without sleep, and them taking drugs to make it possible. As a one-off, that might be doable, but as it is common it leads to the tragic, and avoidable, accidents that I saw on the way.
With my hub having been replaced, and a seemingly endless amount of energy I rode and rode. Through fog, through rain, through the sun and through the dusk I kept going. I had some cheese and mortadella and, every 40-50km when I went through a toll booth, free coffee. By 9pm, I was starting to feel a bit peckish and stopped at a little shop which being in a small neighbourhood meant that it also doubled as a bar, so when I stopped to buy some biscuits I was invited to share a bottle of beer by a guy called Rodgerio, who was amazed that I’d come from São Paulo as he’d barely left the state.
By 11pm, and 206km, I decided to stop, mainly because if I’d kept going I’d have gone past the last couple of small towns for a while and this way I’d go to them in the morning. I stopped at a petrol station, where I needed to do nothing more than get out my sleeping pad and bag as I slept under a covered area until 6am.
Other than the 3 turned-over lorries and a 20km climb my most memorable part of the day was meeting Fernando, who worked in the privately-run ambulances along the toll road. I stopped at a toll booth to eat some biscuits and ended up chatting for almost half an hour with him. He was Brazilian, but with Japanese and, like is common in the south, European ancestry. He was a recently graduated medic, and so had only been working there for the last 3 months. He was full of a will to travel, and in the not-too-distant future will hopefully be off on a road trip to Machu Picchu with his girlfriend.
Having ridden so far on the first day, my goal of 3 days changed to maybe two days, and with 50km left to Curitiba I was very optimistic while I stopped for a break at a petrol station. My seat looked a little funnier than normal and I noticed that one of the rails of the frame had snapped. The welder at the petrol station had closed for the day, and while I’m not sure when it had snapped, and hadn’t had any discomfort riding like that, didn’t want to risk it any more by continuing to sit on it, and having the other rail crack. I noticed a truck about to leave, and spoke to Wanderley, the driver, who ended up being more than willing to give me a hand.
Wanderley works for an agricultural hardware company and was on the way back from making a delivery in central Brazil. He lived down in São Bento do Sul, about 100km south of Curitiba and instead of taking the ring-road, he hit the traffic of Curitiba to take me the whole way to the house of Dyego, where HJ and I would be Couchsurfing in the centre of Curitiba. I’d mentioned to him about our trip, and he’d told me that we could pass by his shop in São Bento and stay there and have a barbeque if we did. Great opportunity coming from problems!
HJ and Dyego were rather surprised to see me, a day early, and they were actually out when I got there going to fetch the bike that she’d be using from his friend’s place.
We had a few days off in Curitiba, watching the final games of the groups including Brazil v Cameroon where I learnt that there were two different TV feeds, the normal one and the HD satellite one. The HD one has a 3-4 second delay, and it meant that we could hear the celebrations start in another bar just before they started in ours with it’s fancy HD feed.
Curitiba isn’t particularly touristy, it’s most well-known for being well-organised and it’s botanical gardens, parks and Niemeyer museum. The Australian team played their final game there, so there were a good number of supporters in town, including Jonny who also stayed with Dyego for a couple of nights and reminded me just how much Australians like to swear! Outside of that, it was just getting things ready for the bike trip and a trip to a welder to fix my saddle’s frame (as well as getting in touch with Jon, its designer, back in the UK)