Up in the mountains! And switching my bike for a horse!

I had been following mostly the coast going down from Ilhabela to Joinville, so I really needed to get into the mountains and travel on some quieter roads.

First I headed to Corupa, where I walked for three hours to visit 14 (!) waterfalls. I couldn’t see the last and most impressive one (120m) though because of the clouds, but it was still very impressive. Because it was as if an airplane was taking off, but I couldn’t see anything. It was so close and so loud, yet I couldn’t see ten meter away from me. It was even a bit scary maybe.


I was now also in the “European Valley” where many people speak German. Very interesting! I stayed in Timbo with a friend of a friend I met when cycling around Joinville. Nice how cyclists help me along the way and get me in touch with their friends along my route.

But most importantly, I was now cycling though green valleys full of rainforest or banana trees over quiet dirt roads. I really had a good time!


Then, I headed to the island of Florianopolis. Continuing over dirt roads to avoid the tar road and its traffic meant working hard to get over the mountains, but it was definitely worth it. I find main roads to be very impersonal and boring. And if you have no deadline, it’s fine to be making slow progress.

When I crossed the bridge to Florianopolis, I got a strange message though… The guy that was going to host me, suddenly wrote me that he couldn’t after all. “Really? You are telling me this now?” If he had told me earlier, at least I would have had the time to find another place to stay.

But it was now 6pm, and I was in a big city I didn’t knew. The guy send me an address though in the centre where people commuting to work by bike can park their bicycles and take a shower. So I went there, explained my situation and luckily the mechanic at this place offered to host me in his house.

Next morning, I woke up with a fever… Just perfect!! Haha. So I slept most of the day at this bike parking and spend another night at the mechanic’s house. I also met many cyclists there, and one of them, Daniel, offered to host me longer on the island.

First, I recovered a bit more from the fever and then I went cycling around the island for two days. It’s a beautiful place, but also home to about 400.000 people. Therefore there is a lot of traffic and Brazilians are not very patient with cyclists…

But Daniel’s family was truly adorable so It was hard to leave…

Magical km's on Joaquina beach, Floripa

Magical km’s on Joaquina beach, Floripa


I planned my route over some more secondary roads towards Sao Bonifacio and Braco de Norte. In both places, Daniel had given me addresses to stay. First one being a beer brewer! Just perfect J Avoiding the main road, meant some more climbing again, this time to about 800 m (coming from see level).

I descended again, this time over dirt road towards Braco de Norte where I stayed with Daniel’s nephew, Pedro. At one point I got very lucky (see picture), this made me laugh so hard!

Then a big challenge awaited: the Corvo Branco pass (over rocky dirt road towards 1239m). Climbing went gradually, but the last 3 km were brutal! Straight up over bad road. But the whole ‘serra’ is very beautiful, making it all worth it.

When I took a break 20 km after the pass in a restaurant, I met Marcos who invited me to come stay with him. He breeds horses, so it was interesting to help him a bit.

Next morning, I left my panniers at his place and climbed to the Morro da Igreja at about 1800 m. Truly incredible!!!


This whole region is amazing actually…

I was now on the ‘altoplano’ (high flats), but it sure wasn’t flat! After about 100 km on the plateau I made it to the famous road ‘serra do rio do rastro’. It sure is spectacular!


I stayed with Daniel’s parents at Urussanga, close to Criciuma. There, I went shopping for some stuff. I for example needed new shoe laces, which was very nice to look for, because it seemed that all the pretty girls from town are working in the shoe stores 🙂

I cycled out of town and camped at a rice farm. Then I headed to another challenge: Serra do Rochina over dirt road back to the altoplano.


I had now cycled a long way since my last break in Florianopolis and I was getting a bit tired. Climbing to this pass therefore took half a day. I also learned an important lesson: a dirt road under construction is much worse than a normal dirt road! It’s very rocky instead of hard sand for example.

I stopped at the first farm I passed after the pass to ask to pitch the tent. It was a ‘fazenda’ with about 300 cows and around 350 hectares of land. The people in this region are called ‘gauchos’, which could be translated to Brazilian cowboys (although they also live in Uruguay and Argentina).

The owner was getting older and his children came to help because all the cows had to get vaccinated. They told me it was quite a lot of work and asked me to help the next day. I couldn’t wait! Always great to get some experience, besides the cycling.

Next morning, I first saw how they milk the cows by hand and gave it a try myself. It took some time to get the technique, but I had a patient teacher. Then the mother came to make ‘camargue’, which is basically half a cup of coffee filled with fresh milk straight from the cow.


We then went to collect the cows to vaccinate them and give them some medicine. The one year olds were also branded/ burnt with the owners label. I was forced to improve my Portuguese. “No, not this one, we need to get the black one and her calf!”


Then the cattle had to be moved eight km to another field. In the morning, I had sat on a horse for five minutes and now they asked me if I wanted to ride the horse to guide the cows. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I knew I was going to learn a lot If I accepted.

So there we went, Gabriel and I, behind about 100 cows on the public road.

I did some horseback riding when I was 7 and later I made some laps once with my sister’s horse when I was 17, so it’s not an understatement to say my experience was rather limited. And now I had to ride 8 km and I was also responsible for not losing any cows. They gave me a whip to scare the cows so they would move and we headed out. Luckily the road was quiet, my horse was very easy to control and the road was fenced, so the cows can’t really escape. But still, I didn’t knew the route and open gates along it and it was difficult to understand the rare directions that I was given. There were also some slippery wooden bridges with holes in them which kinda scared me.

Using the whip was rather difficult, so I had to scream my voice out to keep the cows moving. It got really interesting when we got to the field and had to keep two herds apart. We had to speed up, I was now galloping fast and I got the hang of the whip.

So there I was. On a horse. Racing across a field to avoid the herds to mix, slamming my whip and shouting ‘yihaa’!!! If you would have told me the day before I would be doing this stuff, I would never have believed you.


We got all the cows safely to the field and I returned with a big grin on my face. The rain didn’t bother me, I loved the factthat  I was learning things by just doing them.


This was for sure the best experience of the trip so far. It made me realize cycling is not important. It’s just an opportunity to meet new people and do new things.

Next morning, milking the cows went a lot better already and I also learned some knots to tie the cows to the wall. Then I fixed the roof of the barn by reinforcing the wood that had rotten and replacing some roof tiles.

In the afternoon (after another great lunch!) I left to reach Cambara do Sul, where I had a warmshowers host.

I think I could have stayed much longer at the farm because there were still many things to learn. But I should get to Patagonia in summer, so I kinda have to keep cycling a bit for now. Still I’m traveling a lot slower than before. I’ve now cycled 2300 km in Brazil in 7 weeks, but Sao Paulo is only about 1300 km from here. Talking about some detours… But going slow is the only way that interests me these days, to get different experiences like I had at the farm.


Cambara do Sul is a small town in a beautiful region where one can admire many waterfalls and canyons. I’ll write more about this in Montevideo, Uruguay, which I hope to reach in about two weeks.


photoalbum here!!!





2 thoughts on “Up in the mountains! And switching my bike for a horse!

  1. Man, what a great read. Seeing you in a cowboy hat really makes me laugh. You’re so right, its not about the cycling. The bike is just a vehicle to carry to carry you to the next experience ?

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