HJ had been backpacking around the world for 10 months before deciding to ride a bike with me to Florianópolis (Floripa), but at the end of the 8 days she said it was her favourite part of the whole trip, and Brazil her favourite country. We had pedalled just over 400km, met so many fantastic people and with a route that came about talking to people on the way.
It all started on a slightly sour note, as the weld on my saddle failed after 3km, meaning that I had to stand up until it got fixed or replaced. Thankfully we weren’t going so fast, meaning that riding like that ended up being less of a problem than it could have been otherwise. I’d been in touch with Jon, the designer at Manta, and a replacement frame was winging it’s way to Floripa.
Our trip was all about going slowly and steadily. I don’t know exactly how far she had cycled before, but the bike that HJ was riding was not only too big, but cost less than $100 new a few years back and had gears that often didn’t seem to work (HJ had not used gears before either). In a way that was a fine testament to how bike touring really is open to all. I’d hoped to maybe go 50km a day, but the first day HJ kept going and we did 68km at what ended up being the trip average of 13km/h.
We got to Agudos do Sul just before the sun went down, and as I was riding past a roundabout I was greeted through the car window by the driver. I said hello back, and that lead to so many wonderful things. He pulled over to talk to us, and within 10 minutes he had found us a place to put up my tent (there at the accountants we were standing in front of), got us a shower (they have some apartments that they rent, all rented but one of the guys wasn’t home and we could use his shower if we did it quickly) and then he (Robinson) told us about the pizzeria that he owned 50m up the street.
HJ was a little surprised by this all, and was even more in shock as we walked into the pizzeria where we were shown to a table and told to order anything off the menu (food or drink) and it was on the house. I asked Robinson to decide, as I had no idea and he ended up bringing out a gigantic pizza along with some beers and then later wine for HJ. We chatted for a good while, and before the night was over he invited us to his place for breakfast the next day.
So it was, at 8am, we had packed up our things and found Robinson where we had met him the night before, but this time we followed his car to his house where we met his wife and were treated to breakfast, food for the road, and a couple of matching football shirts as parting gifts.
The ride to São Bento wasn’t quite as relaxed as the day before, as we had no shoulder and some idiotic drivers who thought it was fun to blast their horns as they were passing, but things ended up OK. HJ wasn’t a fan of traffic, but seemed pretty unfazed by it.
The south of Brazil is where most of the European immigrants stayed and there are large numbers of people with German, Polish, Ukrainian and Italian heritage. São Bento definitely had a touch of Germany about it, which we admired sat in the main park. While minding our own business, a guy came up to me and started asking me how things were and then came back a few minutes later with a tote bag filled with maps and tourist information about the town, including one about cicloturismo.
There had been some serious flooding in the whole state a few weeks earlier, and the road we were planning on taking the next day was apparently closed due to landslides. The dirt road alternative, mentioned in the leaflet about cicloturismo, was open, but it didn’t sound such an exciting option as I feared it’d involve a large amount of pushing. Thankfully the policeman that I spoke to confirmed that bicycles would have no problem on the closed road, all good.
Wanderley, who had given me a ride into Curitiba, had invited us to stay at his place in São Bento. I borrowed the phone in the tourist office and called, only to find out that he was out of town on an emergency delivery. He reassured me that it’d be no problem, and if I went to his shop they’d still look after us and even prepare us a barbecue as he had mentioned.
It was up and over a very foggy hill to get there, but we turned up at Mercadão da Terra and were welcomed in. They were just about to close for the night, but one of the workers lives there and we would be staying with him. I was glad to be offered a mattress, cos my sleeping pad seems to have developed a leak, making for less than fun sleeping as I have to blow it up every hour or two – not conducive for a good nights sleep. We had a churrasco, HJ’s first in Brazil, and enjoyed chatting away with our host. It was a shame that Wanderley wasn’t there, but we were still very well received.
After a long breakfast, our plan to leave early got scrapped and it was around 10am by the time we started pedalling. With Brazil playing at 1pm that didn’t give much time to get to the next town, thankfully we were in the Serra do Mar and Corupá, our destination, wasn’t, so it would be mainly downhill. With the road being closed, it was a fabulous ride, with very few vehicles – a couple of construction vehicles going to fix the road and some locals going home – which made it so tranquil. There was a stretch where a landslide had seriously damaged the road, and I had take my bags off my bike to get it over the pile of mud that was blocking the road.
We got to Corupá and found a bar about 5 minutes before Brazil v Chile started. It was the 3rd place that we stopped at, and being a small town there were only a few fans, but it was a fantastic game. Unfortunately Chile “played like never before, but lost like always” as I was later told by some Brazilians. Even with me cheering for Chile, we weren’t allowed to pay our bill as the owner asked nothing more than that we send him the photos we took while there.
It had been very wet during the game, and it kept raining after it stopped, so we did consider staying in town, but with the forecast for the next day not being so great it didn’t seem worth it. HJ was a trooper and also willing to get wet, so we pushed on to Jaraguá where we made it just across from the bombeiros before meeting Daniel.
Daniel was riding his bike home after meeting friends for a barbecue watching Brazil v Chile and, seeing me with lots of bags, decided to talk to us. As it was still raining, we stood under a covered area and within 5 minutes we had been invited in for coffee and a shower, and ended up staying the night, eating delicious barbecue, meeting the head of the cycling community in town, receiving bandanas from her and having a lovely time talking with our new host.
The hospitality continued the next morning, a Sunday, when after an early breakfast we met 5 more cyclist friends of Daniel, who wanted to ride with us on our slow way out of town. Being with the local riders was fabulous because, as well as the conversation, they knew the best route towards Pomerode and Blumenau our next destinations. They took us on a dirt road that paralleled the main, shoulderless, one but was just far enough away that it seemed a completely different place riding through quiet fields.
Pomerode is known as the most German-Brazilian city in the country and with the place to buy delicious kuche you could definitely see resemblances of that. We would go to Blumenau that day, and, although we hadn’t arranged anywhere, Daniel had got in touch with a friend to organise that we could stay with him. Meet a guy on the street, get treated so well and passed onto the next person, wonderful right?
Luimar, Daniel’s friend, met us and welcomed into his house where we met his wife Giselle (who HJ thought was his daughter) and his two actual daughters Amanda and Bruna. They were a lovely family and so warm and receiving.
Dancing after Brazil beat Chile
Everyone associates carnival with Brazil, but I reckon few people would know the second biggest party in Brazil – Oktoberfest in Blumenau. Luimar and his family live near the Vila Germanica, where it takes place so it seemed a great opportunity for a day off, especially as HJ had slightly sore legs too. She and Amanda went sightseeing in the centre of the city, a good chance for Amanda to practice her English as HJ doesn’t speak Portugese, in what ended up being the start of a lovely friendship. While they were doing that Luimar, who works with cars, took me under his wing and got my saddle welded properly for me. Fingers crossed this one works better.
In the evening Luimar invited us to his gym where he practices WyjngTjun – a martial art – so we tagged along just to watch. Of course the group didn’t think that was the best usage of our time and invited us to take part. We got to do some circuit training and basic training involving the “Chinese Egg”. It was a fun ending to a good day off, where I got to watch France v Nigeria and Germany v Algeria.
With my saddle repaired, I could actually sit down while I pedalled, a novelty after standing up for all of the previous 230km. We had a light tailwind as the road winded along a river and through my favourite town in a while, Ilhota. It describes itself as ‘Santa Catarinan capital of lingerie and beachwear’ and we went past more lingerie shops in the 2km ride through town than I remember going past in the previous 8000km in Brazil. I asked some people for an explanation, but the best they had was that it just kind of happened.
Luimar had put us in contact with another friend of his, and we were going to stay there, but after the rest day HJ wanted to pedal more than the 50km we would do to get there. I’d been in touch with Andressa from Warmshowers, and so we ended up staying there, but not before another fabulous bit of Brazilian friendliness.
About 12km before Andressa’s place we stopped for a rest. It was in front of a restaurant, that we had no plans to eat in, but that’s not how life worked out. The owner, a man who would do a great job as Santa, Fritz came over to us and started chatting. On hearing our story, we were invited in for a coffee and after being shown around that extended to something to eat too. He had a collection of some mouthwatering looking cakes, and I ended up choosing Apfelstrudel (not as good as my mum’s!) although I possibly should have gone with the savoury option of German cheeses and meats. He spoke with us for a while longer, but then had to attend customers, and it was easy to hear him proudly sharing our story with every customer he spoke with.
Andressa lives in Itapema, and her mum Maria was staying there having just had surgery for cataracts. They were incredibly welcoming, and showed another angle of Brazilian hospitality when she mentioned that her brother, who lives near Argentina and has been on Warmshowers much longer than she has, is jealous that she has had 4 sets of guests passing in the 2 months that she has been signed up and he hasn’t had anyone. It reminded me of Wilson up in Macapá who lamented not living on the PanAmerican because he wants to meet, and host, more cyclists.
Our plan had been to get to Floripa the following day, but Andressa really wanted to cook lunch for us so we went to the nearby beaches in the morning. Being winter here, there was no swimming involved, but they were pretty – just a shame that there wasn’t any sun to make them even prettier. A scrumptious lunch was eaten, and then we rode a total of 15km to our next place, the house of André – a fireman on Warmshowers!
Being a fireman, André was of course a very warm person but he also turned out to be a good sushi chef. He works 24 hours, and then has 48 hours off so during his free time he runs his own sushi delivery business. He’s been making sushi for quite a while, but he only started selling recently, and HJ, who lived in Japan for 2 years thought it was pretty damn delicious – as well as being very well presented.
We had to leave André’s place a little early, although with hangovers from the night before that got pushed back a bit, and so we didn’t have time for breakfast. Even still André gave us bombeiros t-shirts to remember him by and wished us all the best. I forgot to take his picture, that shows you how much of a rush we were in. The rush was because our host in Floripa, was free from 12-1:30, but then wouldn’t be free until 8pm. Not wanting to sit around until 8pm, or enter the city during rush hour, we pushed and rode fast to make sure we got there by 1pm. Even with a bit of getting split up and lost we managed to get there on time, thanks to a typically great effort from HJ who had gone from not being sporty, and barely cycling, to riding over 400km in a week with the seeming endurance of a Duracell bunny.
Our time in Floripa was lovely, although other than the first day it was overcast the whole time so there was less exploring than could have been done. We watched Brazil v Colombia, a game spoilt by the constant snide tackling, went running on the dunes, watched samba, and hung around having picnics. With my visa expiring on the 20th, I couldn’t hang around and ride slowly after Floripa (and the way south looks like I’ll just be on the main road doing lots of miles without stopping too much) so HJ went back to Curitiba on the Monday, while I stayed and saw Brazil self-implode spectacularly against Germany at the house of a co-worker of Aline’s.
Pics and videos in this blog are mainly thanks to HJ. She’s a typical photographer who loves to take pics but hates being in them!
National anthem before Brazil v Colombia