Cachoeira to Itaúnas – Northeast coast of Brazil

Stirred most of the night. Took my first malaria pill and it set my stomach funny, mind whirling and left me with a headache. So got off at a reasonable hour today. I stopped at the Policia Posto just outside of town to revisit my friend who turned me on to the Rinkaõ Hotel where I stayed last night. Another cop told me to avoid BR-101 and take the tranquil coastal route to Guarapari, which he said was the best beach in the state of Espiritu Santo. The little fishing villages got progressively larger as I made my way north. On this stretch of beaches, the friendly cop was right. Though with looming dark and grey clouds with the wind blowing up whitecaps, it didn’t reflect the romance of a pristine beach.

Riding over the bridge toward the city of Vitória unfolds the gorgeous capital city of this small state in Brasil. Sadly, I won’t spend any time here. I opt to move north toward the beaches and dunes. But the city with its river, small group of islands and towering skyscrapers fills me with curiosity. But I move on.

Flying through BR-101 North, competing for lane space from the insane auto drivers while doing my best to avoid sucking too much diesel fumes, the road winds through mile after mile of sugarcane plantations, while to the west the unique globular shapes of mountains contrast darkly against the grey sky.

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First turning toward Itaúnas, the logging road looks tame, albeit just a tad wet. No worries.

Toward the turn off to Barro do Concepcaõ which leads to the northeasterly tip of the state to Itaúnas, a sleepy town that sits on the crown jewel of Espirato Santo’s state parks – miles of spectacular sand dunes. The dirt track passes through farmed forest land of eucalyptus trees with logging trucks jutting out of the tall timbers while young trees begin their ascent towing just a foot or two above grass. It’s woodsy. I wonder what grew here before. The skies communicate a strong message: signs of rain. The road gets more slippery as I ride on. Mist beads the face-shield of my helmet. A detour takes me though another dirt track with tall trees towering above. I make a turn north toward tiny Itaúanas. Soon the mud is spitting on my face-shield while my steering takes over with a mind of its own. I’m tense. I broke my leg because of mud and since I’ve done the best I can to avoid it. But now I was literally ankle deep in the stuff.

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Oh. But what’s this? Doesn’t look so slippery or deep. But it is. Nasty, gnarly stuff.

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Let’s see just how deep this stuff is. I barely get traction, but manage to ride safely through it. My confidence grows.

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Toward the end of the mud. I need a rest. How much more can I take? I have a predisposed aversion to mud. My leg remembers it all to well! The tracks of cars who can’t keep straight give a hint to how slippery this stuff is!

Standing on the pegs and talking to myself to keep cool. The rear tire swings around, I’m nearly horizontal feeling like a speedway racer, the bike threatens to go down into the mud. I manage with slow smooth acceleration to keep upright. There’s really no steering in this stuff. It’s all throttle, balance and pegs. And while I desperately looked for some sense of dryness or shallower tracks, my efforts are hopeless. As I crested a hill I could see just a few hundred yards a tow truck and by the time I snaked down to the bottom, I find that a small compact car must have collided with another, though it was the only car in sight. I started climbing again. Sticking in first gear, my heart pounding, I climb the hill. That was easy. It’s the straight stretches where the mud is deeper and cars and trucks have rutted it that tax me. I stop and ask how much further. A couple boys on bicycles wearing state fútbol colors advise me I’ve got another 6km of this crap.

I move on and after another near fall, I’m exhausted – mentally – so I stop. Two guys in a similar compact car stop and ask me where I’m going. I said that’s a good question. The mist turns to a light rain. I finally roll into Itaúnas and meet Bixou, a rasta looking cat in his early thirties. He’s a local artist and owns a Pousada just a couple blocks from the center. Seven years ago he road his mountain bike through Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile. Several riders have stayed at his cozy little four room inn. Tonight, I’m the only one staying here. Happy I didn’t bite it in the mud, but I’m a mess. Muddy everywhere. My face, my clothes, and Doc. But the muddy mess.

Pousada Ponta De Areia

Bixou Itaunas

The animated, personable and legendary Bixou!

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A few days later I started cleaning Doc, but then figured WAIT. I gotta have a few shots of the dried mud.

So we chat and plan to have a cup of coffee after I take a well deserved shower. I get all my gear off and fire up the hot shower and the electricity goes out. Oh, yeah the water is heated electrically.

Later. Still no electricity. It goes on and off all night. And the rain falls and falls fiercely. There’s no pavement for 50 miles or more. Bixou tells me not to worry. The other road is “a little better.” Good god. Where am I going?

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