On the way to taking HJ to the bus terminal on the Monday I had dropped my cycling trousers off at a little shop to get them sewed up. Being a couple of years old, the material was pretty worn out, and the knees in particular were beyond repair, but that didn’t matter. The problem was that there was also a hole appearing on the bum, and flashing people didn’t seem the best idea. She had told me to pick them up on the Tuesday before the Brazil v Germany game, but it was closed. I went back on the Wednesday, before leaving, and she was closed again. A sad way to lose some very comfy legwear, and the new version that Chrome make are a pretty ridiculous $160!
Anyway, I digress. As normal, I didn’t have much of a plan. I was heading south on the way to Chui and Uruguay, because my visa was going to expire. There was one big city, Porto Alegre, on the way but I hadn’t even tried to find a host there so when I sat on the side of the road and found WiFi outside a restuarant and spoke to Duda, my host from Ubatuba, who suggested making it to Rio Grande for the World Cup final I thought why not. It would mean doing 600km over the next 4 days, but it seemed doable, even if it would be a bit ridiculous.
I looked at the map, and found 4 corpos do bombeiros that would work as places to spend the 4 nights on my way to Rio Grande. The first was in Imbituba, where I arrived just in time to watch the Holland v Argentina semi-final with the bombeiros in their TV room. We shared popcorn and chatted during the game, with most of them being in favour of Holland, or more importantly, against Argentina – the rival. When I got there I’d been shown to a place that I could camp, but after showering, watching the game, having dinner and chatting some more my offer was upgraded to that of staying in the room with them, which I of course didn’t turn down.
The next day, after being given breakfast and food for the road, I took the beach for a fun hour or so avoiding the main road. It was raining, but the fishermen were out anyway as well as a few people walking. The rain continued for most of the day, getting pretty horrific at stages, but there was nothing to do but keep calm and keep pedalling. Honestly, when you’re soaked it doesn’t really matter if it keeps raining. It was however the first time in a good while that the rain was actually cold (excluding my Europe cycling sidetrip) and it will keep being like that for most of the rest of my time in the Americas.
By the time I made it to Araranguá I was drenched through, and warmly received by the bombeiros who had just had new hot showers installed that day and I was the first to use them. It was a night of light joking, as one of the firemen seemed to keep asking me about my girlfriends and so I jokingly told him that I wasn’t interested in him. The rest of them made thought it a moment of great comedy, and a fine reply! Obviously this is a good reason to learn the language, to joke around and hold my own in discussions like this. There were no females working in that shift, so I got the females quarters to myself, as well of course as dinner and the normal good conversation.
When I left Araranguá it was piddling it down, and I wanted to do anything but pedal, but that wasn’t an option, so onwards it was. The rain lasted most of 3-4 hours, until I left the state of Santa Catarina and entered my 18th, and final, Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul. The area was mainly flat, other than one range of hills that we cut through but being the main highway there was a tunnel. It not only had a huge, and perfectly paved, shoulder, but I also got an escort vehicle that sat behind me all the way through the tunnel to protect me too. What lovely people.
I made it to Osório at about 6pm, and after a visit to the supermarket to get supplies for the next couple of days went to the bombeiros. I explained myself as normal and was surprised to be told that I had to return at 8pm (although this was later changed to 7:30) because I was just looking to sleep and it was too early to do that. I thought it a bit strange, and that maybe the Rio Grande do Sul bombeiros were a bit different, but it gave me a chance to visit the city. Being in the south, out of the tropics, and in winter, it was about 10c that night and everyone around town had coats on. Less than a month earlier I’d been sleeping in my hammock and swimming in the ocean, and now cold. How quickly seasons come on, especially when you ride into them. I passed a bike shop, and popped in for a bit of a chat and was treated to a chain cleaning from the owner.
By the time I got back to the bombeiros it was about 8pm, and I was still a bit confused about the way I’d been treated, but that became clear. They were lovely people, but told me the rules were that I had to stay in a room downstairs where they’d set-up a mattress for me to sleep on. I wouldn’t be able to take a shower, no problem, because that was upstairs and that was restricted access. I was OK with all of these rules, although they seemed strange considering how the previous two stations had both literally told me ‘make yourself at home’.
After getting changed, I decided to fill up my water bottle before going to sleep, and so went to the kitchen. A fireman was there and asked me if I’d had dinner, I told him what I’d had (some peanuts) and so he immediately split the box of food that he was heating up into two so I had something to eat too. We chatted for a while, and I explained about how I think bombeiros are fantastic. He told me about his pre-bombeiros career in the army and his time helping in Haiti, and also as part of the ‘pacification’ of the favellas in Rio – watch Tropa del Elite for an idea of how that went. Other firemen came in and I chatted with them, and they ended up being just as wonderful as the other bombeiros. I exlpained how I’d stayed with others and that every place seemed to have different rules. Apparently their rules were strongly influenced by a Brazilian cyclist who had passed through there and massively overstayed his welcome, staying for SIX days. Their rules all then made perfect sense.
I’d been thinking of leaving early, to get to Mostardas before the Brazil v Holland game kicked off, but ended up leaving around 7:30. Two of the bombeiros I’d been chatting with the night before, including the ex-army guy were waiting to chat with me and present me with a t-shirt of the Rio Grande do Sul bombeiros as I’d spoken with pride of the two bombeiros tshirts and one baseball cap I already had. My opinion of them had changed so much from my initial confusion about being told to come back later, to that warm farewell.
It was a long lonely stretch from Osório to Mostardas, about 160km passing through very little other than some wind farms. Amazingly it turned out that I actually had a tailwind, well a side-tailwind, most of the way that definitely didn’t hinder and because of it I made it in time for the 3rd-4th place playoff where Brazil failed to regain much face as they limply lost 3-0 to Holland. Sure, the first goal wasn’t a penalty, but Thiago Silva should have got a red card for it instead of the yellow he did and that would have broken the Brazil team more than conceding the early goal did.
The captain seemed more interested in making a fishing net than watching the football, so I was mainly watching with a volunteer who was working there, but even he didn’t seem to care. The 3rd-4th place playoff really seems like a kind of punishment that doesn’t need to exist and mainly does to make it so that there are 64 games and not 63. I was again given a bed, and shown the kitchen where I could cook. I prepared my dinner, and leftover pasta for the next day before hitting the sack pretty early.
At 4:30am I stirred and by 5:30 I was on the road. I had until 15:00 to make it to the ferry that was 155km away. It was all going swimmingly, until about 75k out when the weld that had been done in Blumenau failed. It had done 900km, instead of the 3km that the other one managed, and in a way it was good it broke before I got to Rio Grande, I just wished it had been a bit closer. I got to stand up a lot of the way to Rio Grande, with short, seated rests to relax as opposed to stopping. It slowed the pace down, and also made my legs hurt because it messed with my form a lot and so different pressures on my legs lead to sore knees, but slowly and surely I made it and got to the ferry with 30 minutes to spare. I then got to sit around waiting for the ferry, and made it to the house of Duda’s aunt and uncle, Silvia and Eduardo, at 3:50, giving me just enough time to have a shower before I sat down with them, their two sons, Frederico and Guilherme, and of course Duda. It was a good final, and we were mainly all happy that Germany won. Having said that, the people in Rio Grande do Sul, who I didn’t get to know that well, seemed to be very close to Uruguay and Argentina and much less anti-Argentinian football than the people from further north.