20 days in Brazil – Summary

At the beginning of the trip I wanted to achieve two things during my time in Brazil. One: experience a challenge of cycling long distance, while seeing new places. Two: learn about the people, culture and other insights I may come across.  So my lessons will fall into two categories, cycling and culture.

Cycling:

  • Take nature into account (and SERIOUSLY): hills (inclines), wind direction and wind speed will greatly affect how many kilometers/miles you can ride on a given day. Given the constant eastern headwinds we were battling, I would go westward from Recife to Fortaleza, as oppose to going east from Fortaleza to Recife.
  • Mountain bike IS NOT THE SAME as road bike. For long distance trips it is best to use a road bike. In our case we needed a bicycle that could take both beach and road so mountain bike was an obvious choice. Consider this… road bike gives you speed and that results in greater mileage, but it doesn’t allow you to ride on a beach, which was a very memorable and interesting experience. However, in the future I think the trip should either be a “road” or “exploration”. Road = long distances using roads, highways and other established links to get from one place to another. Exploration: using a mountain bike to traverse various roads, dirt roads, beaches, etc, but  expect to spend more time than you plan. In such trip you will want to spend a day or two at each city/town that you find enjoyable so don’t plan to put a lot of distance every day.
  • 40km on a loaded mountain bike is probably equivalent in difficulty to 100km on a road bike if you pack light.
  • Problems will arise, so don’t get ticked off when something unexpected happens, such as a flat tire in the middle of nowhere right when the sun is beginning to set. Remember that how you react to the problem is more important than the problem itself.

Culture

  • People will keep telling you that you are crazy, and they may be right because we ended up doing about 350km of the expected 900. However, if you are not crazy enough and you don’t intend to do a lot – you will not do anything.
  • People will say that it is very dangerous, and indeed it is dangerous thus I am very grateful for safely arriving to the destination, but don’t let danger deter you. Be cautious, watch out for shady individuals, don’t sleep in random locations, arrive to daily destination before sundown to have time to find a hostel/hotel/pousada and most likely you will be safe. At one point we backed out of going to forro (a local pub/bar/dance) in a small village because the person taking us there seemed a bit shady and definitely drunk or high. I just had a bad feeling about it so we passed on that. Who knows if my alertness was reasonable, but I am a believer in using your intuition and instinct. Of course having a huge machete and a knife is a good idea, perhaps showing them off will deter somebody from doing something stupid.
  • In Brazil people are very friendly once you get to know them a little bit. Before you get to know them, they are more or less indifferent to you and I attribute this to the fact that these people do not rely on tourism as their main source of income. For a contrast, when traveling in Southeast Asia I found that many people were so (almost overly) nice, but looking back I think that partly (and only partly) it was because they indeed were relying in tourists like myself to earn for their living.
  • Be curious about people and they will be interested in you, as well as help you.
  • Be open-minded about other people and you will find that there are so many nice and humble people. When we were approached by the fisherman in a small village of Fontainha, at first it seemed kind of shady but after talking with him for a while we learned that he is a good man. He invited us to sleep in his brother’s home, his mother prepared an elaborate dinner and strong breakfast next morning AND he did not take any money from us. They shared with us a piece of their lives and that was very humbling.
  • Be flexible and have a flexible plan so that you can accommodate the uncertainty.

Some other things…

  • Having Acai na Tigela in the US would be awesome!
  • Coconut water is very popular around Brazil, as well as in SE Asian countries I traveled. This morning I heard on the radio that there are two companies (one is ZICO) now importing coconut water to the US and its appearing to be hugely successful.
  • Pao de Queijo is a very tasty bread that we don’t have here. In general, there are so many bakeries in Brazil, Europe and other countries, while in the US its pretty rare…. I am talking about having bakeries where you not only buy bread for your home, but you can also come in and enjoy a pastry with a coffee or tea. Wanna open one up? Let’s talk!

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