North East Brazil is an area of different Brazilian states bigger the size of countries like Germany, France and Spain combined. It is regarded as the poorest area of Brazil. It is also considered to be the ‘warmest’ area of Brazil. And although it can be insinerating hot, I’m not talking about temperature here. I’m talking people and their kindness and humility.
I’ve met many special people cycling along the coast of North East Brazil. People I will never forget. Many times people feed me, many times there is room to put my hammock and sleep some place safe. Wether inside a house with a family or outside on their seaside porch. Sometimes I hang my hammock in a restaurant while there are still people eating, sometimes they are gone and I’m alone at night in the restaurant. Ones I spent the night with my hammock hanging over a bed. The couple slept in the bed, they fed me, washed my clothes and gave me a knife that was in their family for a few decades. And the other day I was having breakfast at a counter in a food and supplience store. I was doing bread, butter and coffee while customers were paying and talking to me about the cycling trip.
These are examples, things that happen when cycling here. It’s beautiful, it shows things about man that we don’t read in our daily news. It’s also good because I need the energy it gives me to keep on cycling. Cycling this route can absorb all energy so people are actually refuelling me. Whether it’s a mind thing or crystal clear – not proven – physics, it really keeps me going. And it’s good I’m aware of the beauty of it, not only keeps me going but also keeps me and the bike in balance.
Along the coast
From Belém I’ve been cycling along the coast. Rio will be the final destination. It’s about 5.500 km but with these people along the journey I know I’ll be fine. And hey, this is not Disneyland. There defenitely is a dark side in Brazil. I deliberately don’t write about too much but there is poverty, corruption and violence. Believe me things happen. It’s the reason why I jump out of my hammock at night because I sleep with one eye half open.
A country the size of a continent also has its (mild) extremes. Hot, very hot and wind, loooots of wind. Should have known cycling through kite surfing paradise but didn’t expect it would kick in that bad. These winds are killing if you’re cycling on a daily basis. The fact that sometimes you’ll see the same nothingness on the horizon for let’s say 600 km doesn’t really help. Five days of long straight roads and sugar cane fields really numbs your senses. In that respect I’d rather have those hardly any oxygen Andes cycling days again. Having that said you already know where I get the energy from. The people get me through this. And that’s in spite the fact that Brazilians on the road tend to think they are competing in a Formula 1 race.
In a country where highway roads carry the name of this Formula 1 legend, Brazilians behave like they the world’s best racer. Difference is though that many don’t know how to properly use the steering wheel. It’s a weird contradicton between the way they treat me on the road and off the road. It’s also a weird contradiction how I can curse them and love them within a timeframe of a couple of hours. Obviously it’s primary defense mechanism and adrenaline talking when I tell them to go to hell in their own language. I won’t get into traffic details since it doesn’t contribute to my family’s state of mind but it breaks down like this: cycling in Brazil can be dangerous. So I’d better stay in hyperfocuss or else it’s game over and I’m not cycling but flying to stars.
Time to go easy on Brazil again and therefore have to state that besides the goodness of the people it’s a true delight to end your sweaty and dirty cycling day at the beach. Wash it all down by having a beer. Beer isn’t that strong in Brazil so I compensate not drinking the warm water I carry with me with ice cold Brazilian beers. Cycling estilo Brasileiro..
Combining their kindness and beers adds up to a thing called saidera. Saidera boils down to: “just one more beer, the last one!”. Consequence is that the saidera is ordered over and over again. I’ve had many saideras in my time in Brazil and it’s almost never the last. Before you know it you had 3 liters of beer and you can’t seem to remember where your bike and hammock are. Fortunately my metabolism is working like a mad man so at 06:00 in the morning I’m all fresh and ready to go after drinking my coffee brew.
I’m writing from Salvador. Actually I’m sitting here having my 3rd hour of marvelous breakfast in this fancy hotel. They will know a cyclist visited their hotel. A friend of mine made a deal with her work and she made it possible for me to have a decent bed, proper food and good shower (showers are easy to get practically anywhere in Brazil). I’m so enjoying this gift. Really had some rough rides and nights that were cold, wet and dirty. Aside from that, my back and arms could use the rest I’m taking now before moving on to Rio. It’s just another 18,00 km. Can’t believe how fast things go.
Next stop will be Rio. Hope my bike can handle to last miles, she’s feeling the ride over the last year and she’s not doing too well. We’ll see. Next update from Rio de Janeiro. With all its contrasts, a spectacular city.