After half an hour of cycling it feels like we didn't do anything else the last three months. Until we reach the first meters up hill. Unfortunate and painful we left our cycle condition at the jetty in Gran Canaria. Our legs look like soup and clearly need some exercise. The first twenty five kilometers feel like eighty and we arrive in the dark, after wandering in a favela, in the house of our Warmshower, the couchsurfing network for world cyclists. From the first day we are part of the Brazilian culture thanks to all the locals that we meet along the way. Wendell and Shara guide us around in Joao Pessoa and take us to Farrol Cabo Branco, the most Eastern point of South America. One month ago we were still at the most Western point of Africa. Two days later we sleep at Cris's house in Igarassu and in Recife we stay a week at Diego's place. He is delighted with our stay because next year his cycling dream will start. We are his answer to all the questions he has. One day we give a presentation at his office and in his appartement we take the time to catch up our work. The first idea we had about Brazil, isn’t the real. The media made us think Brazil is full of gangs waiting to assault us on every corner of the street. After two weeks we still have all our stuff and we didn't feel unsafe.
The first days on the bicycle isn't an advertisement for cycling in Brazil. Day one it rains all day long with a tropical intensity. On day two we have to cycle fifty kilometers on the shoulder of the highway where heavy trucks and busses closely race next to us , and push us of the road if we shortly cycle on their lane. Loudly pushing their horns and with wild gestures they make clear that you need at least for wheels in this country. The third day we cycle through Recife where all the cars drive like crazy, ignoring the existence of a bicycle. 'Is this why we sailed three months and took all the effort to get our bicycles here?' we ask ourselves. Tired and disappointed we arrive in Diego's house where Zoë needs a couple of days to regain her wanderlust. Homesickness it isn't, but the accumulations of all the emotions from the long sailing trip across the Atlantic block her mind. For four weeks she wasn't able to tell her story and feelings. Her diary was her only friend. The suppressed emotions need the right place and we take the time to find it, before we head on.
One week later we leave Diego's place and it feels like our world trip starts again. Packing our bags, preparing the bicycles, finding the route for the first days and a new goal brought back the joy of travelling with the bicycle. This time it is an advertisement for cycling Brazil. The green nature surrounded by endless palm tress and sugar cane fields changes slowly into more arid plains with small villages where life sparkles in one of the little bars. The roads are quiet, most of the time with a wide space next to the road which is very relaxing. The major part is flat which makes the tropical heat and burning sun bearable. At one of the scarce climbs, liters of sweat flows from our face. We cross the rivers with fragile ferries while we hope that we don't sink in the middle of the river with our bicycles. Most of the time we sleep inside a cheap pousada, the common name for a B&B, a hostel or a guesthouse, because sleeping in the tent isn't easy along our route. People aren't familiar with camping and sent us to the first gym where kids are still playing. Finding a safe spot or use somebodies garden is a hard job since we don’t speek enough Portugees to break the ice. And after a full day sweating on the bicycle it is very refreshing having a cold shower and sleep restless whit-out mosquito’s.
At first sight Brazil is characterised by a few things. There are lotteries, supermarkets, pet shops, pharmacies and beer stores. It is more developed than we expected, although the cities along the coast betray this image. A few kilometers inland there are no paved roads, the villages are very basic and some people, mostly Original Africans are still living in clay houses. The cliches are also true. Beaches, coconuts, half naked buts and samba music make the life in the streets. Loud music hurtles out of the houses, beer is consumed with liters and the churrascos (barbecues) make us salivating on the bicycle. While we are cycling, we are an interesting attraction. The people don't say 'hello' easily, but once we stop some curious Brazilians come closer to have a look at the bikes. They look astonished when we tell them that we come all the way from Holanda. We are crazy and very brave.
Quickly we notice that they find our bicycles very interesting, while in The Netherlands they cost second hand only hundred euro. Here they think we are riding on gold which makes us on our guard. Every Brazilian warns us that it is very unsafe, not only in their city, but everywhere in Brazil. So far it doesn't feel unsafe but we always cycle around with those words in mind, that makes it sometimes uncomfortable while originally feel comfortable.
Actually it is damn simple, we listen carefully to the advice of inhabitants. If they say it’s not safe, we just don’t sleep there. We bring more time in peoples houses than outside, cycling from Warmshower to Warmshower, and the uncomfortable feeling flows over in a conversant feeling. We are halfway our journey to Salvador, where Zoë's parents are waiting for us, and the wheels are rolling smoothly again.