Oct. 3 – 19, 2005
Rio de Janeiro – Ilha Grande – Parati – Ubatuba
Air travel has never been easier. Our flight – Lisbon – Madrid – Rio – didn’t require removal of pedals, rearrangement of handlebars or even packaging of our bikes. It was just a case of deflating the tyres and rolling them on. What´s more, they arrived intact, on the same plane and awaited us as we retrieved our panniers to the sound of live jazz saxaphone music.
Rio de Janeiro – what a magnificent port of entry to South America. We couldn´t have dreamed it better. Where oranges are green, limes are yellow, birds fly backwards and butterflies resemble flying carpets in the city jungle. And we´re not talking concrete jungle here. Wedged between glorious, white-sand beaches, a national park full of rainforest, and huge granite monoliths, Rio stretches for about 60 km in easily digestible segments. Its population of 10 million enjoy its extensive jungle areas and leafy, shady gardens and parks, when not working out on the beach – jogging, surfing, cycling, or playing volleyball or football. They´re an active lot and strut their stuff up and down the proms of Ipanema and Copacabana at all hours of the day.
It´s a land of plenty when it comes to food. All you can eat BBQs cost a mere 5 Euros per person. Dickey-bowed waiters parade their mini-spits of sizzling beef, pork and chicken from table to table, while the guests stuff their gills till their arm pits bulge! (as Bill Bryson would say) And what´s more, you can have the same procedure with pizzas… the best being the banana, sugar and cinnamon, or the white chocolate and strawberry pizzas for dessert.
Considering even the favelas (slums) have internet access and satellite TV and that we spotted a homeless woman conversing cheerfully on her mobile phone from her cardboard box on the side of the street, Rio certainly has earned its title – the marvellous city..
Leaving Rio on a Sunday was perfect timing. All the major drags along the beaches were closed to traffic and we had a 60km spin between joggers, pedestrians and cyclists to our first campsite. Exiting such a big city couldn´t have been easier or more picturesque.
To date, cycling on the main coastal road south towards São Paulo has been safe and quite pleasant. The wide hard-shoulder is very welcome and most of the traffic seems to be on the motorway. This Costa Verde (Green Coast) is true to its name, with hundreds of beautiful, tropical islands dotting the coastline, and jungle covering the steep mountainsides of the Serra do Mar.
Since this is probably the only stretch of tropical coastline we will see for the next year, we decided to have a week´s holiday on the gorgeous, vehicle-free Ilha Grande, exploring some of its 100 beaches and numerous jungle hikes. The pictures say it all…
The trading harbour town of Parati retains a lot of its former charm in its colourful houses and cobblestone streets.
Ubatuba, situated on the Tropic of Capricorn, has got to be the friendliest town in Brazil. It´s no surprise that it was the venue for the first peace treaty on the American continent. Signed in 1563, it solved the dispute between the native Indians, the French and the Portuguese and paved the way for the unified Brazil we know today.
We´re not the only cyclists out here either…Jose, from Rio, is en route from Buenos Aires to Bahia in northern Brazil on his low tech bike with neither brakes nor gears…
… while Anne-Laure and Christophe, from France, are finalising their 18-month world trip on their articulated tandem.
Now, as we leave the Tropics and head into the Sub-Tropics, the state of São Paulo awaits exploration. The Costa Verde now becomes the Costa Azul (Blue Coast)… but just to make you feel a little bit better… due to persistent rain these past couple of days, it looks more like the Costa Cinza (Grey Coast)!