At a glance:
- Visiting the amazing canyons and waterfalls of Fortaleza and Itaimbezinho, close to Cambara do Sul, in Rio Grande do Sul region, South of Brazil
- Avoiding the big city of Porto Alegre
- Cycling the longest beach in the world! (Cassino beach, 240 km long)
The region around Cambara do Sul had been one of the reasons to travel South in Brazil instead of going to the waterfalls of Foz de Iguacu in the South-West. I was lucky enough to have a warmshowers address to stay. This was the perfect base to explore the waterfalls and canyons of the area. Ricardo is organising bike rides in the region too, so it wasn’t too hard to know where to go.
The Fortaleza canyon was already impressive, but Itaimbezhino left me speechless!
After visisting Itaimbezhino, I continued on the dirt road East, descending for the last time into the Santa Catarina region. The road was so bad that I had to be braking all the time to dodge the big rocks. It would have been very complicated to cycle up this pass.
At the end of the downhill, I met another cyclist who showed me around the small city of Praia Grande. Jackson then invited me to come camp next to his house. I had no idea about this area. Turned out you can access the canyons here! After a big camp fire and a quiet night, we hiked into the canyon in the morning.
Jackson and Gisele live a simple life with a small income, but at least they have time to enjoy life! I really liked staying with them.
After 40 km on a beautiful and quiet road, I was forced to pick up the busy BR 101 again. This is the main road from Sao Paulo to the South, and I have been avoiding this monster as much as possible.
I had to follow it for only 25 km, but I had such a strong tailwind that it was a lot of fun! I cruised at 35/40 km/h down the road and did 75 km on it in no time.
From Osorio, I took the road towards Mostardes and Sao José do Norte. This road looked really boring, but the alternative was another busy monster, the BR 116, from Porto Alegre towards Rio Grande.
But with this kind of tailwind, the 400 km till the end of the peninsula at Sao Jose do Norte would be a piece of cake!
Again, a wonderful family hosted and fed me. I could sleep in their old house.
I wasn’t sure why, but I didn’t sleep well. My whole body was itching. I had borrowed some pillows from them and figured that maybe they had some bugs in them.
Of course, the wind turned changing my pace dramatically. The 400 km suddenly seemed really long. I still managed to do more than 100 km a day, but it wasn’t so easy.
The itching continued a bit during the day, although when I was cycling, I didn’t bother me much. But my saddle was also killing me. I had a couple of wounds on my bottom, forcing me to get up once in a while.
The owner of a pine three plantation let me camp in a new house, but again I couldn’t sleep well. My whole body was itching again. Especially my hands and insides of my feet were really burning. I seriously wanted to rip my skin off. But I tried to stay calm and managed to get some rest.
The next day, it rained hard from the early morning till 2 pm. The headwind would continue a couple more days too.
I just had the music on the Ipod to get me in ‘the zone’, hoping time would pass quickly and I would be able to make some progress anyway.
By 6 pm, the sun finally reappeared and all was good again.
I could camp next to people who harvest the resin of the pine threes. They didn’t have much confidence though and for the first time my hosts didn’t ask me if I wanted to take a shower (bad timing after the rain).
One more day of headwind and I got to Sao Jose do Norte where I took the ferry to Rio Grande, a city with about 200.000 people.
I cycled to the Cassino beach, 20 km further, where I was planning to go to the camping. I met some students in the park though who were slacklining. I joined them for a while and ended up staying with one of them, Luan.
My plan was to stay for one or two days and continue my way to Uruguay, but I ended up staying six days!
It was very nice to have some “student time” again, to hang out with people of my age, to party and to make new friends. Luan especially became like a brother to me.
Thinking that I had bed bugs, I brought my clothes to a company to get them washed. I put my other stuff in plastic bags and let them burn under the hot sun. Some people said I didn’t have bed bugs, but I did see a couple of wants in my tent. So I thought it was better to wash all my stuff anyway.
It was only the morning I left, that I made up my mind about which route to take. Cassino beach is with its 240 km the longest beach In the world. The sand of the beaches is hard normally, so I should be possible to cycle all the way on it. But many people told me it was too risky. They told there were sections with soft sand where I wouldn’t be able to cycle and that there were big river crossings. And that there is rarely any car passing, so if I would have a problem it wouldn’t be easy to hitch a ride. After the skin problem, I wasn’t sure if I was up for this adventure.
But the alternative road seemed very boring and I had watched ‘Into the wild’ with Luan the day before, so my spirit for adventure was fuelled again.
So I loaded about nine liters of water on the bike and popped by the supermarket to get enough food for three days. Luan had also showed me a great website: www.windytv.com. This shows the wind directions! I had waited around the town of Cassino until I was sure to have a tailwind.
So off I went. Hoping for no soft sand sections.
In the beginning there were still some people on the beach, but after about 30 km, I had it all to myself. I really couldn’t believe this beach was going to continue for another 210 km! I mean, that’s almost from one side of Belgium to the other. Without seeing anyone! With just cycling on a beach!
I had only started around 11 am, but with nothing to stop for, I made good progress. I didn’t even stop to eat, just had some food while riding. With the tailwind I managed an average of 21 km/h. After 150 km, I pitched my tent in the middle of nowhere on the beach.
The second day, the wind still helped me. Early in the morning, I met Mr. Vanderlei who was walking (!) the length of the beach! He didn’t even had a backpack, just a small water bottle. To my question ‘How do you manage to carry enough food and water’, he simply replied: “I just economize what I have. My body gets used to work with very little food”. Fair play!
After another 40 km or so on that second day, I started getting back into civilisation. There were some fishermen living, although many of the houses seemed abandoned too.
I met a couple on the beach fishing. Mr. Cardoso and Marlise invited me to come have lunch with them. I could take a siesta there too, but I continued, because I planned to cross the border with Uruguay. Exciting!!!