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Grim up north?

Posted by on 29/04/2014

Some comments I heard from Brazilians down south gave me the impression that the north would be a poverty-stricken wasteland (although I may have over-exaggerated my expectations, a la Blumenau). So how’s it been so far as I’ve headed up the coast?

Bahia was good, I really liked Sergipe, Alagoas was decent too, that is until I followed the highway inland and was no longer in coastal tourist destinations; then I saw what the southerners meant, and it only got worse as I crossed into Pernambuco.

For the last few days I’ve struggled to find anywhere to stay overnight, resulting in some strange accommodation choices, but frankly I’m now actively avoiding the ‘wild camping’ option since the months of being told that “Brazil is dangerous” have taken their toll on me and I’ve started to suffer from the paranoia myself, therefore at the end of each day’s cycling I just want a safe pousada/hotel room to lock myself inside before it gets dark!

Throughout my journey I’ve stopped in numerous rural and relatively poor towns, but they’ve always felt friendly enough and had a simple pousada/hotel to stay in with a self-service restaurant nearby to refuel at. But suddenly I’ve hit a string of towns where there’s no accommodation on the main road and from the look of these places I actually didn’t want to turn off into the back streets to search for what might exist, so instead I kept cycling to the next town along the highway which I told myself “must be better than this hole”. It wasn’t. That happened on both of the last two days. I’ll tell you about last night’s hotel in a separate post.

In one town called Novo Lino I stopped to ask two women if there was a hotel or pousada nearby and whilst I didn’t fully understand the answer they basically laughed at me as if to say “No of course not, why would anyone want to stay here?!”. I then found a pousada 100m up the road (classic local knowledge, thanks ladies) but it was full since all the highway construction workers were staying there. So having already cycled 25km further than planned from the previous town, I had to continue onwards with sunset looming. As I left town the police pulled me over – first time that’s happened – but they were friendly and just wondering why this crazy gringo was cycling through their crappy town.

Back in Alagoas, the cycle lane into Maceio didn't start well, but soon improved

Back on the coast in Alagoas, the cycle lane into Maceio didn’t start well, but soon improved

I stayed at Brazuka Hostel in this tiny 3 bed dorm

I stayed at Brazuka Hostel in this tiny 3 bed dorm (the door wouldn’t open any further than this!)

My room mate here was Jacob (from Sweden) who I’d met briefly at the previous hostel in Aracaju (coincidence that we both ended up here) and he knew a local girl who took us to a couple of cool street bars where we met lots of other lovely Maceio -ites over several beers – a top night out. But a 4.30am finish and only 3 hours sleep were not ideal preparation for my beach tour the next day…

I've been hungover/knackered in worse places

I’ve been hungover/knackered in worse places

Gunga Beach - tourist end

Gunga Beach – tourist end

Gunga Beach - tropical end

Gunga Beach – tropical end

Yes, I took another day off as I was really feeling the strain during Friday’s ride north into a headwind. A day of chillaxing by the beach was nice, and needed, although the whole tour group was Brazilian and the guide spoke no English, so I spent the day confused as to the itinerary and just followed the crowd so that I wouldn’t get left behind!

On Sunday I was back on the bike and some fairly uneventful cycling led to a short study of Brazilian road building technique:

"Ok let's construct this section of flyover and then... just leave it"

“Ok guys, let’s construct this section of flyover and then… just leave it”

And another one

And another one

Highway -> tree!

Highway -> tree!

OMG some guys working, and on a Sunday too!?

OMG some guys working, and on a Sunday too!?

Bridge and rows of new houses (I think that's what they were)

Bridge and rows of new houses (I assume)

I turned up just as the ref blew the final whistle, d'oh!

I turned up just as the ref blew the final whistle, d’oh!

Colourful favela town

Colourful favela town

They may have no games but Alagoas is up for the World Cup

They may have no games but Alagoas is up for the World Cup anyway

Trust me, the sight of this dodgy pousada at dusk the night before was a relief, but the owner blatantly overcharged me, don't blame her really!

Trust me, the sight of this dodgy pousada at dusk the night before was a relief, but the owner blatantly overcharged me, tho I don’t blame her really!

I did literally lock myself into the room here and so dinner was the bits of snack food from my handlebar bag plus crisps & chocolate from the room’s minibar/fridge – better than wandering around this latest crappy town (Xexeu) in the dark I reckon.

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