Day off in João Pessoa

I just had a single day off, but there wasn’t that much to see in the city so it was enough. The main highlight downtown was the Church of Sao Francisco, which is definitely worth a visit. In the evening I met up with Paulo from Couchsurfing and we went to the Estaçao iCabo Branco, which as well as being designed by Oscar Niemeyer was full of interesting local art.

Roney & Dama are full of life and love to talk, Roney in particular loving to debate. We got to talking about traffic and the lack of respect between road users, and he told me about a law in Brazil where if something with two wheels hits something with more wheels, it’s automatically the fault of the car/truck/lorry. Having seen the way motorbikes weave through fast traffic (we cyclists generally only pass almost stationary traffic) that seems like it could be remarkably unfair. The law apparently says you must give 1.5m when you pass, but no-one seems to know about that as I’d guess less than 5% give that much space.

João Pessoa – Igarassu
There was no rush to leave João Pessoa, because I’d arranged to meet up with André – the cyclist I had met riding in to João Pessoa at his office which wa on the way out of town. It’d mean taking the main road, instead of the smaller beach road, but that was OK. Beaches are still nice, but I’m starting to get to the point of wanting to see things that aren’t beaches.

I hung out with André for about an hour at his work, talking about travelling and his plans to hit the road in April. He’ll be doing a 23 day trip from the west to the east of the state to raise money for children with blood cancer. He copied a few videos and pictures that he’d taken when we met on to my laptop so I could have them, a rare video of me riding along.

With persistent showers causing frequent breaks and my late start meant I wasn’t going to get to Recife that night. I had thought about stopping at the half-way mark, but pushed on. I got to the outskirts of the Recife metropolitan area and saw a bomberos, but they said they couldn’t help me. They only had beds and no place for a hammock or tent. They assured me that there was a police station just down the road which had a much bigger structure that I’d be allowed to use.

After stopping off at an all-you-can-eat that cost 7BRL ($3) I found the police station which was actually just a control point in the park. Officer Deivson was the only one there and told me that I had to wait for the commander to arrive in 40-50 minutes. I was a little tired, but didn’t have an alternative so we sat around talking. Deivson was full of questions, although they were frequently interrupted by a storm of calls and messages from his wife, unhappy about pictures that his co-worker had posted on his Facebook wall. It took the best part of two hours for the commander to arrive, and after a few phone calls I was told that I could stay there as long as I was up and out by 5am. We spoke for a few minutes, and then I was told that actually I could sleep in if I wanted.

Igarassu – Recife
At 6am there was a knock on the door from Deivson and within 15 minutes everything was packed and I was ready to go. It was only 25km to Recife and the house of Juliana, my WS host, so I set off slowly not wanting to arrive too early. Thankfully there was a separated area for buses between the two main roads which went nearly the whole way. I’d probably have been able to do the ride the night before, but had been a bit concerned to enter an unknown big city so late.

I got to Juliana’s place, where she lives with her mum, her sister Duda and her German brother-in-law Robbie, and was warmly welcomed. Barely had I got my things organised and had a shower, in probably the best shower I’ve used in my trip, had a second breakfast been organised and there was talk of going to the beach. Juliana is full of energy and especially in the time around Carnival is always on the go.

The beach was good, but the water was full of seaweed. As Duda said, it just meant we could have a tropical snowball fight! There were lots of signs about possible shark attacks meaning that we couldn’t go too far into the water, a shame.

In the evening Juliana took me out to Olinda, a UNESCO site, where we met up with some friends and hung around drinking in the street where everyone was just enjoying the night and good times.

Friday I went sightseeing in Olinda, a short bike ride from where I was staying. It’s widely considered the best colonial city in the country and is definitely very pretty. It’s also the home of one of the 3 main carnivals in Brazil – Rio, Salvador and Olinda. Rio is all-the-time Samba and apparently a blast, if you’re in a Samba school and take part. Salvador is the world’s biggest party as the whole city takes to the street. Olinda is more traditional with dances like frevo, which you should definitely check out on Youtube. The umbrellas and its colours in the pictures below are from frevo.

Me cycling #1

Me cycling #2

Me cycling #3

View of Olinda and Recife

Mural of the city

Looking out from Olinda