Since leaving Olinda on October 12th I’ve been riding hard to make it to Belem where I’ll connect with Alex, a Brazil Rider that I’ve been in contact with since crossing the border of Brazil in May. As I’ve been plagued by rain and the ride north is taken more time than my best plan, I’m evaluating options. I’ve got to have my motorcycle out of Brazil by the 21st of October. If I fail to clear the bike from customs I risk the possibility of Doc’s confiscation by the Federal Police.
Leaving Olinda I start continue north toward Natal, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Norte and then begin heading west. The lush tropics disappears in my rear view as I ride through the desert, complete with cacti while following a pipeline. Passing a massive Petrobras (the national gas company) refinery I realize that this is one of many such locations where sugar cane is converted into alcohol (ethanol) and used for powering many of the small cars and is testament to much of Brazil’s self-dependency for fuel. Streching for more than 100km across the arid and scrubby desert is a pipeline that I’m sure carries ethanol through these communities. Though these alcohol-powered vehicles have very short engine lives, I’m told. As I pass through several small communities northeast of Olinda I find an increasing amount of abandoned publics works projects. A highway interchange sits naked in the middle of nowhere. Sidewalks are framed but just patches of sand and rebar. And pedestrian walkways designed to alleviate traffic and accidents by carrying people over the road sit vacant and graffiti stained.
The lush rain forested lands of northeast Brazil suddenly change to cactus filled and scrubby dry desert.
Unfinished public works projects like this walkway rot abandoned in the towns I passed through north of Olinda.
Wild goats dot the roadside next to the long stretch pipeline.
I set my sights for Canoa Quebrada, a tiny beach town famous for its sweeping sand dunes and powerful winds that lend perfect conditions for kite-surfing. The road is straight, flat and boring. The vast desert invites blowing and gusting winds, but I find temporary solace at a gas station in Morroso. The usual crowd gathers around me and Doc and the service station attendant looks with pity at my mud stained motorcycle and offers to clean the windshield and headlight. I learn later that evening that while cleaning my Ventura Light Guard he pushed a little too hard when reattaching it to its velcro. This pushed the headlight mounting clip through the plastic housing behind the headlight. There are two of this clips and it’s the poorest design I’ve ever seen. Every F650GS rider I’ve met on the road has experienced the same problem. The right clip/housing broke in Patagonia and I had fixed with a zip tie while at Dakar Motos in Buenos Aires. Now the left side was broken and I’d have to perform the same repair. I also noticed that my PIAA driving lights were now not functional. Perhaps in pushing the headlamp the wiring harness was stressed and a connection compromised. I’d have to address these issues later when I get to Belem.
The sand dunes of Canoa Quebrada famous for dune buggying and kite surfing.
Closer to the coast again and the evidence of tropics is revealed along colorful roadside stands.
In Canoa Quebrada I have a fine night at a lovely pousada with a pool, hammock and view overlooking the beach. But something happens to my computer here. I return to my room after dinner and try to wake it from sleep. Nothing. The screen is all but dead. If I restart I get about 10 seconds of backlight. Sadly, I have to postpone posting the blogs until I can get this fixed. I can’t stay in Canoa, though it seems fun. I’ve lost too much time south so I can’t stay more than the night, embarking early the next morning for a long ride to Teresina, the capital of Brazil’s Piauy state. Riding through Forteleza I feel that I should experience this northern city of Brazil, but once again, I’m running out of time. In the city while navigating the maze of streets, a motorist is persistent in getting my attention. Riding a Jeep Cherokee he pulls over to the side and motions me over. He’s a motorcyclist and eager to learn where ‘m from, going and if I need help. He helps me find the scenic coastal route north of Forteleza after exchanging hugs and business cards.
The winds blow fiercely along the northern part of the city. High-end luxury cars starkly contrast against the horse carts that carry scrap metal, firewood and coconuts and bananas as I make my way north. Dozens of kite-surfers exhibit brilliant acrobatics while at yet another fuel stop I’m surrounded by curious onlookers. Often at these stops my temporary fans, eager to share the story of meeting this motorcyclist, ask to take my picture. Many times I grab a photo, too.
Forteleza. Big City. Big Beaches.
The windswept dunes northwest drifted onto the pavement in several areas, though not too deep the do give me the quick rush of wallowing wheels and mind-of-its-own steering briefly. I move on. An hour or two later I notice this oddly shaped two wheeler on the horizon ahead of me. Thinking this must be one of the wacky overloaded scooters or 125-cc motorcyclists that so often are dangerously stacked with anything from chickens to eggs and nearly anything else you can think of. But no. Hammering the throttle I catch up and notice it’s a 1993 Yamaha 750 Super Teneré ridden my Porteño (Buenos Aires, Argentina resident) Exequiel Arias Odriozola. Speaking in Spanish and Portuguese we share each others stories. He’s at the beginning of what will be a tour year journey through South America and into Central America. An accomplished guitar player and singer, when he’s short on cash he throws open his guitar case on the street or arranges a performance at meetings and barbecues of local motorcycle clubs along his travel route. He tells me that he is heading to Belem and has been in contact with Alex. Though he will spend some time in Jericoacoara, a remote beach accessible only by crossing sand in dune buggies or for the motorcyclist looking to test his sand skills and to learn how many times one must pick up a fallen motorcycle until fatigue turns into frustration and anger. An adventure nonetheless. I had wanted to get to this haven on the beach along warm waters and swooping dunes, but I must return one day as Belem and the Amazon is calling me.
Heading west through desert and brush until crossing a small mountain range that separates the states of Ceara and Piauy. I notice something I hadn’t seen since climbing through the Andes in Colombia and Ecuador: young kids on bicycles hitching a free ride on the bumpers or stray rope ties of diesel trucks making the slow climb up the steep ascents.
My anonymous friends north of Forteleza who were excited to snap a picture with me. I responded in kind.
Windswept sand over the roads north of Forteleza. This was fairly mild but a few other spcycle trip of the Americas
It was a pleasure to take a break from riding to meet Exequiel from Buenos Aires who is funding his motorcycle trip around the Americas by singing and playing his guitar. Though I asked him about his protective outwear and he said that he wasn’t riding fast that day!
Crossing the lowlands west of Forteleza I climbed a small mountain pass that dropped me into one of the hottest regions of Brazil toward Teresina. Escaping the heat and the vertical ascent many bicyclists hitch a ride on the heavily loaded diesel trucks slowly climbing the pass.
It’s a scene that triggers memories of parts of Mexico, Colombia and Ecuador: fires burning and the smell of smoke as I cruise through cane fields burning as the first step toward the next planting and harvest. The smell of smoke is such a sense trigger plus the wafts of fog make riding through these places a bit other worldly — and smoky.
I keep missing the good shot of 5 or 6 people on a scooter or motorcycle. Outside Teresina I took this mediocre snap of 4 on a small bike. But look at the little child. This is so typical and very dangerous. But anything seems to go in Brazil. Who needs a helmet?
Along the ride toward Belem Doc and I hit an impressive milestone: 40,000 miles. The bike has given me very few problems other than the regular maintenance. Recommended for long trips like this.
I arrive in Terasina after a couple hours of night riding. Known as the hottest (in temperature) city in Brazil, I get a good nights sleep and rise before 6-am for what was likely the longest day of my trip since taking advantage of the everlasting daylight of Alaska back in August 2005. I arrive in the evening just as the sky opens and rains. Rather than intrude at the late hour, I find a hotel and relax my road warn bones and wind burned face.
The next day I’m happy to finally meet Alex, we park Doc at his house and wander through the rain to a local home cooking restaurant for lunch and a beer.
Ahhh. The Amazon.