Maybe it didn’t get better but I got more. Eyefuls more of some of the best coastal riding of my life. Simply put, the coast from Ihlabela in Sáo Paulo state to Angra dos Reis is beach, surf and sand lovers paradise. Save a small part of Angra that is industrial and features a nuclear plant, it’s quick to forget these exist while cruising amongst the hundreds of islands that dot the waters off the coast of Angra, the king of which is Ihla Grande, an island with no vehicular traffic.
Once again I was taken in like family by members of the Brazil Riders community. Eduardo and Edna had been contacted by my friends in Såo Paulo and were eagerly awaiting my arrival. With the sole intent to satisfy my needs I simply asked if there was a hotel with an internet connection so I could catch up on the blog and e-mail. Eduardo took me to a hotel that other members of his motorcycle club had used before. But at nearly $100 it was too much to spend. Apparently due to a hugely popular music festival held on Ihla Grande (Big Island) the hotel had jacked up its prices. Poor Eduardo cruised around his 250cc motorcycle for an hour visiting hotels while I spent time having a glass of wine and discussing my trip with Edna.
Whenever Eduardo showed up on his bike he’d have a cigarette hanging out of his mouth the through the face shield opening of his helmet. His angular face highlighted by a short salt and pepper beard and mustache he sported the sophistication of a doctor or lawyer yet wrapped in a leather vest and always with his ubiquitous cigarette.
At an asado (BBQ) with one of the local motorcycle clubs, Eduardo continued to work the crowd looking for a place with an internet connection. At this point I told him not to worry, I just need a simple place to stay. Marcia, one of the club members agreed to let me stay at her place — complete with an internet connection. The next day she invited me to go with her partner Fernanda and her nephew for a boat ride out to Ihla Grande. The photos tell all. But for lack of words at this time, I resort to the lazy adjective so well spoke in español: espectacuLAR.
I coulda stayed for days here and while the group was very persuasive in trying to convince me, I had to move on. Get to Rio – the infamous city of sensuality and the carnival party atmosphere. I had contacted Carlos and Faffão, other Brazil Riders who could help me navigate the madness of getting into the city. Eduardo escorted me to 30 miles outside of Angra where Carlos waited for me. I spent my first night in a barro just outside of Rio called Nihlopolis in a spare apartment owned by Faffão. Legendary for his massive size and his equally massive 1300cc Suzuki motorcycle, Faffão is known by motorcyclists throughout Brazil. Not only because he’s hard to miss, but he’s ridden virtually every road in this country that’s almost as big as the United States.
Carlos, a former military officer had visited and trained with US troops in the US at Camp Pendleton and elsewhere. As such, he spoke good English. This was a breath of fresh air as it had been quite awhile since I had the benefit of a translator for those many words I simply had to guess meanings.
It was Carlos who finally shed light on the antenna like protrusions I had noticed throughout Brazil on the handlebars of motorcyclists. These metal rods typically mounted the the handlebars rise about 18-24″ from the handle bars. With a slight hook at the top, it became a usual conversation I had with riders. The way I understood with my little understanding of Portuguese that these were safety devices to prevent, literally, decapitation of motorcycle riders. I understood that kids would run string laced with tiny glass particles, usually by breaking a fluorescent light bulb, applying glue to the string and then the tiny bits of glass would stick the the string created a lethal weapon should a motorcycle riding 50-mph run into it, catch the string with his/her neck and thereby cutting the rider’s head off. There are many stories and photos on the internet of this happening – to other appendages too.
I was mortified to think that kids with much malicious intent knowing the potential outcome of a casual rider. So a market is born and at the motorcycle supermarket in São Paulo and every other city and town in Brazil, one can purchase this simple device that’s designed to catch the thread/string in the hook which contains a sharpened edge and therefore cuts the string.
While everyone told me the same thing that this device was to keep riders from losing their heads, I had thought that this was a game for kids to play. Carlos filled in the missing pieces, and riding into Rio I saw the real story in action. The strings are used to fly small kites. Kids play a game with kits where the goal is to cut the string of other kids by flying toward the kites until the strings cross. Then the kid tugs on the string and literally saws the other string until it breaks and sends the other kite flying away free. The sad result of this kids game, which is played on the sides of roads all over Brazil, is the string that remains from dead kites sometimes is draped over the highway. And its these orphaned strings that have caused mortal and serious injuries to motorcyclists. In reality, there’s no malicious intent. But then again, there seems to be no diligent effort to retrieve the broken string.
The word for kite: Pipa. And that’s what has been explained to me for weeks when I inquired about the antenna looking rod protruding from handlebars of bikes everywhere — some riders even sporting two , one on each side.
While in Nihlopolis I again spent time with other motorcyclists at a bar I’d probably never walk into without friends. But my friends here in Nihlopolis again reinforced that Brazilian hospitality. A tranquil town full of smiling faces and inquisitive people, it was hard to imagine I was in Rio. One rider, the boyfriend of Carlos’ daughter (standing to the right in the photo above), eager to bear gifts gave me a linea do pipa protector for my bike and a throttle rest for those long days in the saddle to ease wrist strain. I tried not to accept such gifts but was refused. Thank you Brazil. I love you!
The next morning and afternoon, Faffão’s family cooked Carlos and I breakfast and lunch. The best meal I had while in Rio. Above: Me, Faffão’s daughter, Carlos and Faffão at Faffão’s home in the Rio suburb of Nihlopolis.
Carlos found me a decent hotel in the heart of Copacabana. After a few nights here my bill added up as the internet connection charged by the minute. I found another hotel, more costly but included the internet connection and more secure parking in a garage. This is Rio and Copacabana beach, it’s difficult to find a good deal if you want to be in the heart of the action.