Thursday, December 20, 2007

Stuck in Casimiro de Abreu and stories from the Litoral

Merry x-mas

Ten days after leaving Cumbuco and our kite surfing career behind we find ourselves in Casimiro de Abreu, a bump in the road in the state of Rio Janeiro. After three or four days of making "strange" vibrations the final drive on Strider finally died, almost leaving us stranded on the side of the road. Luckily even after having lost all the oil in the final drive due to a blown seal, the bike made it 10km back to the last town we passed, namely Casimiro de Abreu.

This is how a bad day can start...

Here we were directed to the only bike mechanic in town, where I took the bike and waited while Katheryna checked the hotel situation. After checking all 3 hotels in town we ended up taking a reasonable pousada right across from the mechanic, so we unloaded everything and I got started dismantling the bike.

Rodrigo and I hard at work, and finally the offending part..

With the help of Rodrigo, the friendly mechanic we got the final drive apart, and after having a look at the parts, he seemed certain that we would be able to get the bearing and seal in Macae, the next larger town, 60km away. Unfortunately it was now Saturday afternoon so everything would have to wait until Monday, when he would drive me and the parts to Macae to see if we could find what we needed. In the meanwhile I got to do some other minor work on the bike (re-soldered the brushes I had to install in Canoa Quebrada for example), and spent much of my time answering questions about the trip and the bike from all the customers who had heard that a couple of travelers were in town, and had found an excuse to come by and have a look. As always the bike is a real people magnet.

Marcos Szerman

One of the customers Marcos, who was having some work done on his bike invited us to a beer later which we took him up on. Turns out he has a ranch nearby and he had been to Switzerland 8 times to buy cattle for cross breeding. This turned out to be just the tip of the iceberg. Over a few beers and a pizza in a local restaurant, we talked about his career as a financial lawyer which he gave up in order to do some ranching. He also spent some time in the U.S. as an exchange student, and later buying cattle for his breeding operation, so we also got to talk about places we both know. In return Katheryna and I regaled him and his girlfriend Allessandra about traveling abroad and in Brazil.

Waterfall on the Sana

The following day Marcos and Allessadra invited us to take a ride to the nearby town of Sana, where there are some great waterfalls and pools on the Sana river. The area is a former hippy hangout, which still has a collection of people leading an "alternative" lifestyle, i.e. neo-hippies. The area was really beautiful, with hills and the river running through everything. There was even a house which had two streams of water running through it, to a pool with a fountain in the middle.

Katheryna enjoying the cool waters of the Sana river.

We spent a wonderful afternoon, walking along a path along the river having a look at various small falls and pools along the river. Marcos regaled me with more stories of his fascinating life, which included, among other things running a real estate business, looking for breeding cattle all over the world, running a construction company, managing a number of properties and of course his first career as a financial lawyer, which he abandoned in order to concentrate on his real passion, his farm. The farm on which he now mainly produces feed for horses, and fattens up beef cattle for other people is his great joy as he doesn't enjoy living in a large city anymore. As he is sure that we won't be leaving too soon, he has promised to take us to have a look at it on Monday or Tuesday and give Katheryna a chance to do some horse riding.

Canoa Quebrada

Getting to Casimiro de Abreau has taken us along some of the nicest and most interesting part of Brazil, mainly the Littoral or beach road(s). The highlights being places like Canoa Quebrada, south of Fortaleza. With sand dunes, red sandstone cliffs, some nice beaches and a distinct hippie "vibe", is definitely a place where one could spend quite a bit of time. Unfortunately, like many other similar places along the coast, it is also relatively expensive and upscale for us, mainly due to the fact that a lot of foreigners and locals have discovered that these places are a "must see" on the coast tour. Other similar places, Praia da Pipa, Porto da Galhina, the beaches south of Ilheus, Arraial d' Ajuda, and Caraiva are all similar in the clientel if not necessarily in scenery. Praia da Pipa, has some cliffs, coves and nice beaches. Porto da Galhina, has a protected lagoon, wide beaches and plenty of barracas. Ilheus has lots of very nice looking accommodations south along a very long stretch of wild beach, and also has a nice lagoon in the middle of the city. Arraial d' Ajuda, has a narrow beach and lots of beach side accommodations. Caraiva has no cars, dark water and empty beaches (oh, and a pretty nasty 30km dirt road to get there, where in the end you have to park your car, and take a small boat over to the village). More to our tastes were for example Praia Tabuba, where we found one of the nicest accomodations we have had anywhere, the Pousada Arco Iris, build and run by Heinz Widmer a swiss, who has been here since the mid 90's. In all of Brazil, this is the best value for money accommodations we have seen, and although a bit dear for us, was definitely worth the visit. The beach is a wide bay, which during the week is deserted, and on the weekend (as everywhere else on the beaches in Brazil) full of locals.

Port da Galinhas

In addition to these "highlights" there were plenty of other places which we would have liked to spend more (sometimes less) time in. Natal had plenty of beaches which looked pretty nice, but we would definitely have skipped Ponta Negra, which turned out to be a spot packed with tourist and locals along a narrow strip of sand, if we had known what we were getting into. But of course Ponta Negra is an "in" spot. The beaches of Joao Pessoa, looked pretty nice, but we had no time, we only came here to have a look at the western most spot on the contient. We also went through Olinda and Recife. Olinda was pretty interesting with some very nice architecture, but no real beach. For that you needed to go further south to Recife, which we just drove through.


On this quick journey we met some interesting people a couple of which I would like to share with you. Besides Heinz, who I mentioned above, we have met a couple of other interesting Swiss on the road, for example a gentleman from Geneva who came over to us in Cumbuco at the gas station, and after a few questions and comments he was so impressed with our trip that he pulled a 50B$ bill out of his wallet, and put it in my hand and said he was sponsoring us a tank full of gas, and then drove off. In Arraial d' Ajuda we met Pedro, or Peter from Biel, who has been here for around 20 years. He flagged us down as we were riding by and invited us to a beer in his little seaside workshop. Turns out he has travelled all over the world in various modified buses. He showed us the bus he was working on now, which if he finished it would be taking off in October for a few months of South America touring with room for around 8 to 13 people ( Turns out that besides the workshop where the bus was, has three houses and a restaurant on his piece of land. During the hour or two we spent talking I had a look at his travel maps on the wall of his shop and was duly impressed with his travels. The map of South America had so many routes marked that they looked like rivers running all over the continent, very impressive.

So now it is just a matter of waiting for Monday to see how the story continues, stay tuned...

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1 comment:

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