South it is! (Brasil 2)

At a glance:

  • Blogreport from cycling from Ilhabela (Sao Paulo region) to Joinville (Santa Catarina region, close to Curitiba) in Brasil.
  • If your cycling south from Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, you possibly will pass Curitiba. Keep reading to find out how cycling from Sao Paolo to Curitiba can be a surprisingly quite, adventurous and relaxing ride. Curitiba seems to be a main hub to me, cause you decide if you go West to Foz de Iguace (find a blog with a route over quite roads here) or if you go South towards the regions of Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, passing beautiful mountains and beaches.
  • Where to stay in Sao Vicente (close to Santos, 100km from Sao Paulo). People flying to Sao Paulo might skip cycling out of the city and take a bus straight to this casa de ciclistas (add Rafael Rizzato Santos on Facebook, he’s the initiator of the project)


I have to admit: I wasn’t very organised yet. Everything used to have a fixed place, but now it was still a bit of a mess with the new setup (no handlebar bag and bigger panniers, both in the front and rear).

So I forgot quite some important stuff at Ilhabela, which my host Helga kindly send to Sao Vicente, 200 km away, where I could stay in the Casa de ciclistas from her friend Rafael.

The road along the coast from Sao Sebastiao (the port to take the ferry to Ilhabela) towards Bertioga was quite brutal. I seemed like Brazil doesn’t mind putting long 10 – 12 % slopes in their main roads.

But with hills come great views too, so I wasn’t complaining much. And when I finally reached the beach of Boraceia I was blessed with my first cycling km’s on the beach which is so hard it almost feels like a tar road.

So I cycled 5 km’s to the end of the beach, talked to some guys playing football and ended up camping in an ‘estacionamento’ (parking lot), next to the beach.

I had now 70 km left of somewhat boring road to Sao Vicenti. Luckily I got to chat with a road cyclist passing me, who was happy to let me get in his slipstream (out of the wind, behind his rear wheel). The few slopes were killing me, but fortunately he was a bit patient to wait a moment at the top before continuing to cruise at 30 km/h on the flats. We did that for 40 km so I got to Sao Vicente rather quick in the end…

I said goodbye to him at the beach of Santos, because it was too pretty to pass by:amerika_ilhabela-joinville-3

Then I went looking for the Casa de Ciclistas in nearby Sao Vicente. There I found Rafael (the owner and undertaker of the project) with three other cyclists putting the final touch to this ‘house of cyclists’. It’s quite amazing really! All the cyclists from the area work together and contribute to create this place where cyclists who are passing by can stay for free.

The parcel with the stuff I forgot in Ilhabela, was going to take some time to arrive and I knew my friends in Sao Paulo were throwing a party, so I went back by bus to the concrete jungle to surprise them. You should have seen the looks on their faces! Haha! It’s great to have no deadline and to be able to do stuff like this.


Partying till the sun comes up again in Sao Paulo

But I had also been planning my route in the meanwhile, so now I knew all the beautiful sights I was about to explore, and therefore the traveling bug started to itch and I felt it was time to hit the road.

The parcel got delayed though, so I had four more days in Sao Vicente. I helped a bit to paint the casa, but there was not much to do, so I felt a bit bored to be honest.

Later though, we went cycling to all the nearby beaches and met many cyclists in Santos. We also passed the Specialized concept store in Santos (I used to work as a bike mechanic in one of these stores in Bruges, Belgium) and I got the idea to give a photo presentation there about my African trip.

They were happy to have me, so I had about one day to learn enough Portuguese to explain the basics of my trip. This is a great motivation to learn a language! I think I’ll do this every time now when learning a language. Just plan a photo presentation for your host or whoever and look up (with google translate in my case) how to explain yourself. Then study this and go for it.

Luckily there were some English speaking people in the crowd though! And it was quite fancy: Rafael broadcasted the presentation live on Facebook so about 20 other people could follow and ask questions.

Rafael gave me a very nice souvenir also: a bright yellow cycling jersey which I like because I’m more visible and it has a larger zipper to open it up when it’s hot.

On the road again!

On the road again!

When I left (after checking every corner of the Casa three times so I wouldn’t forget anything), I was heading towards Peruibé where a friend of the bike shop owner in Santos would help me.

He was out of town when I arrived, but he sent me a message that he booked and paid a hotel room for me… Amazing guy! Knowing that nothing is cheap here, I was amazed by this gesture by a stranger.

The next day, I met Allesandro (a triathlon trainer) and his lovely family who spoiled me with delicious juices and homemade cake. We strolled around the market, tried new things like sugarcane juice and went to a nearby village where there was a surfing competition going on.

In the afternoon, I cycled 40 km until I reached the dirt road going from Pedro de Toledo towards Iguapé. In a small village I asked for a place to camp and one of the guys told me his bar was closed at the moment and I could camp there.

I had now about 45 km of dirt road ahead of me. It had rained quite a lot in the night, so there was some mud, but nothing too challenging. But then it started. BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!

Black flies seemed to like the sweat in my hair and were following and bothering me furiously. I tried to stay calm, because there was no way to lose them, but sometimes, when there were 100 or 200 of them, they drove me close to insanity. In the meanwhile I had to stay focused to pass the mud and the rocks in the steep climbs. I was crossing a national park, and saw my first snake (a small green one, who anxiously fled away) and about five big lizards. The BZZZZZ continued for about 20 km in the end so I was kinda happy to reach the tar road again and to be out of the forest.


When I got to Ilha (island) do Comprida, I was planning to camp on the beach, but the village was very stretched out with many holiday houses, so there was no place out of sight to camp anytime soon. I passed a guy who seemed friendly, so I asked if I could camp in his garden. I couldn’t. Because he had two empty rooms and insisted I ‘took advantage of it’, like they say here. He sure was friendly! I could shower (which was great, because it was quite a hot day (30°C) and I wanted to wash my hair after the flies took advantage of that as well…) and he cooked me a meal (which was very simple, men are not supposed to cook here).

When I woke up at midnight my legs and knees were like a braille book though. I spend one hour chasing down the mosquitos, but the first thing I heard when I went back to sleep was: BZZZZZZ! So I put up my tent in the room…


I now had a nice adventure ahead of me: roughly 100 km cycling on the beach, crossing the rivers by ferries, speedboats or with the help of fishermen.

The 40 km to the end of Ilha do Comprida were going to take me four hours because of a fierce headwind. Luckily I passed a great camping halfway where I could get a cold drink and do some slacklining! And with the free lunch the owners offered me I was strong enough to continue! The beach is the main road here btw, quite special!

Amazing people

Amazing people

Then I took a free ferry to Cananéia where I had to find a place on a speedboat going to Maruja, 50 min away. This costed 70 reais (20 euro) which is a lot of money for me knowing my daily budget is about 45 reais a day (Brazil is an expensive country. In Europe you wouldn’t need this much just for food).

The trip was worth it though. First there is the thrill of a speedboat cruising down the mangrove forest. Then there are the many birds, and I even saw some dolphins.

The president of the association of nature preservation understood my trip and my situation well and helped me to find a free place to camp in Maruja, the only village on the island of Cardoso.

I then had 50 km of beach left which was more remote, cause there are no cars on these islands. Very nice!!!


Beach of Ilha de Comprida

15 km from Maruja, I had to find a fisherman to help me getting across the river. This costed 40 reais, which seemed kinda fair, because you are more chartering the boat, than buying a seat on a ferry for example. Speaking some Portuguese sure does come in handy in these kind of situations.


Although it’s not so complicated. High tide, for example only comes when the sun is setting, so you have plenty of time to get across the beach to Superagui from where you can take the 2 hour ferry to Paranagua (30 reais).


I quickly cycled out of Paranagua to find a place to camp out of the city. After 15 km I tried my luck at a random house to ask to camp in the garden. The place was more remote, so there is less police around and therefore the people are more suspicious to let strangers in. So again, my basic Portuguese came in handy to explain my trip, myself, what I needed… Again, I wasn’t allowed to camp, but got offered a small house instead, where I could shower, cook and sleep. But with my lesson learned a couple of nights before, I pitched my beloved tent again.

From there it was a boring 100 km to Joinville, where I could stay with a friend of someone who came to my photo presentation in Santos.

I ended up staying three days there. I gave another photo presentation, went cycling 80 km around the island of Sao Francisco do Sul with a group of cyclists (nice to be flying over dirt roads without the panniers!), took some rest and prepared my gear for the next part of my trip. Gilberto, my host, loves bikes as much as I do and it was a pleasure to take care of my baby together.


I have now also decided to cycle south instead of visiting the Iguacu waterfalls. Although these are very impressive, the road from Iguacu to Montevideo, Uruguay seems somewhat boring. And all the cyclists I meet, tell me to go south to see the canyons, waterfalls,… So let’s go! Next stop: Florianopolis.


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