But we do! In this update we tackle the terrain on the way to our next song place, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. I would type more in this intro, but I just found some more dust in my teeth. Be right back….
It’s not my fault!
While I was still in Diamantina, I tried to plan out the optimal route for getting to our next song place, Salvador. I went to a tourist information office that was focused on the state of Minas Gerais, not just Diamantina. I was just a bit over halfways through the state, so I figured they would have ample information about the road to come.
In my broken Portuguese, I told the guy at the desk of my plans. Though he understood me just fine, his face was creased in confusion. Why would I want to go north? Nobody ever goes that way. I had just finished the famous Estrada Real (“Royal Road”) which connects Diamantina to the ports of Rio De Janiero and Paraty. Apparently, it was the end of the road for tourist information as well.
Still, I left the office having been welcomed warmly and possessing a pamphlet of all the nice things to the south. Thanks…I guess?
I was staring at three consecutive travel days, which in total would look something like this.
Honestly, I didn’t do the best in terms of planning. Yeah…it was my fault. 🙂
One other note: I probably would have been well within my rights to start heading home after Diamantina. It would have saved me at least two weeks. In my early planning stage, I actually had “El Salvador” (a country we’ve already visited) instead of “Salvador.” I changed this place late in the process after listening numerous times, even at reduced speed, to the original Hank Snow version. I could not discern an “El” so I decided it was just “Salvador.” Though there are plenty of cities in Latin America with this name, the one to which I was heading is absolutely the most notable.
Wednesday, August 1st
We were so full of great experiences as we rolled out of Diamantina that we had to take care not to spill.
Route of the day:
My day began splendidly with some more great riding. At this point, I was ready to crown the state of Minas Gerais as the best riding locale in Brazil.
There was still very little agriculture to be seen, other than some logging operations.
Though not all of them appeared to be going perfectly to plan:
I’d heard some clicking coming from my front sprocket, so I pulled the cover at my next gas stop. Normally in my trip, I only have to clean this out every couple months or so. But this red dirt is something else. It accumulates and congeals much more rapidly.
I did a few other little maintenance things before hitting the road. Unfortunately, every time you clean your chain, you can be sure that dusty roads await.
There was probably only about an hour without pavement before nice, smooth asphalt reappeared.
I’ve been really impressed with the cell coverage in Brazil. This was the first day where I basically had none. Signal finally returned at Itaboim, just in time for me to find a place for the night. I found what appeared to be a perfect campsite on the iOverlander app just a ways down a dirt road.
It was a very rural path and I began to doubt I would find anything at the end of it. Sure enough the coordinates were out in some pasture. This is why I always try to find a place early.
I had a nice wingman fly alongside me for awhile:
(Yes, I always talk to animals. You got a problem with that?)
Mama cow didn’t seem too happy about my presence, so I went really slow.
I returned to Itaboim, which had cellular data, and looked for a place. On the edge of town, I saw my first sign for Salvador, the next song place.
I didn’t find any appealing lodging options, so I headed to the edge of town to look for some woods.
I had to look up the word “silvestre,” which means “wild.” Sounds like the perfect place for me! No animal is more wild than I am. There was already someone camping there and he was a really good listener:
The ground was surprisingly hard, so the sun had set by the time I had my maroon cocoon popped up. I spent my evening doing some writing and Portuguese study.
Thursday, August 2nd
I realized that I didn’t have anything for breakfast, so I went and asked my camping neighbor if he could help me out. He was very gracious in giving of himself and I luckily still had the recipe for Colombian bone soup.
I didn’t really plan a route for the day. I just punched it into Google Maps and took off. If you are looking for adventure, here’s your route:
My day began with a nice ride to the city of Jequitinhonha, possibly the toughest place to pronounce in Brazil. There were a number of construction zones which had really tough terrain. One of them never seemed to end and I noticed that there was not actually any construction happening. “Oh…I guess this is the road now.”
I was just a bit dusty:
I don’t know what it was about this stretch that really got to me. Maybe it was the washboard bumpiness, maybe it was the lack of breakfast, maybe I’ve just lost too much muscle during the last 14 months. Whatever it was, after about two hours I did not have the strength in my back and arms to stay upright. I just had to lie down.
Oftentimes I take a picture with no intention of sharing it, just so I can remember the moment. This one I’ll share:
It wasn’t even noon and I was totally spent. Annie had collected dust in places that I didn’t know dust would stick.
This was actually one of the more miserable moments on the road in my recent history. It must just have been a mix of things that made me feel so lethargic. Still, there wasn’t much else to do besides clean off my visor, pick out the most dust saturated boogers, saddle up and continue.
I tried to drink more water and take more frequent breaks as the rough roads continued.
Pavement finally returned right before I left the state of Minas Gerais. Other than the roads during the last day, our trip to this state was absolutely fantastic. I can’t wait to come back.
Exiting Minas Gerais meant that I was now in the state of Bahia (bye-EE-uh), home to Salvador, our final song place outside of the US. The countryside was noticeably greener here.
After an hour or so on pavement, we veered off of the beaten path again.
Though the road wasn’t great, there was at least some moisture in it which kept the dust down. But soon, it would have a little too much moisture:
In the clip above, it’s hard to see the difference in height between the wheel track and the surrounding mush. I had to lift my legs up high to walk through this stretch. I was really fearful of going down, since I don’t know if I would have had good enough footing to get Annie righted.
The road was interesting the whole way, but I lost the footage from my camera. I spent about half an hour following two flip-flop clad boys on a small moto. The driver seemed to know every hole in the road. 🙂
Once again I was aiming for a campsite I had seen on iOverlander. This one was right on the beach. Unfortunately, it too did not exist. I was a little shorter on daylight this time so I scrambled to find a place…after taking a picture of the white-sanded beach of course.
The first local I talked to gestured to me to follow them a couple of doors down to one of the beachside cabanas. The owner there told me I could set up my tent for free in their lot. I didn’t catch exactly what she said, but I’m pretty sure it was, “That’s just what we normally do when gringos show up.” I thanked them warmly, but I really wanted a place with wifi that night. They directed me to a pousada, back towards town.
The owner of that pousada was on vacation so I was unable to stay there. Some more locals helped me out and sent me five minutes down the road to see some more lodging options. None of those had good parking situations, so I decided to return to the first beach and camp there.
(Sorry…this is a long story)
In the time I had been away from the cabana, they had found a place for me that had wifi. Sometimes it takes a village to find a gringo a place to stay. It really felt like everyone was trying so hard to help me.
I met my host for the night, who went by Bruxo (“wizard” in Portuguese). He had a little beachside cabana as well. He welcomed me warmly and let me tuck Annie beneath a little overhang.
Furthermore, he told me that I could sleep inside rather than set up my tent. My accommodations were….rustic:
Seriously though, this was just great for me. Any place with a roof is always a treat. I asked him how much it would cost to stay there and he told me it was free. I tried to thank him as thoroughly as my limited vocabulary would allow.
But it gets better! After I got done showering, I found that Bruxo had been preparing supper for me. It was a real feast.
We chatted about a lot of things through the evening. Portuguese is still a struggle for me, but Bruxo was really patient and helpful. He moved up to this beach after he decided to leave the hustle and bustle of São Paolo. With the view that he wakes up to every morning, it was easy to see why. He hopes to expand his cabana and build some cabins. I hope to get to visit his place again.
Friday, August 3rd
I had a great night of sleep. I wasn’t crabby at all, but somebody else was:
Bruxo and I had some coffee together before I loaded up and hit the road.
I had him sign and took some photos before departing.
He was such a generous guy! I can’t say it enough times: The people of Brazil are amazing.
Salvador, here we come!
All day I was super excited.
74 of the places in the song are in the continental United States. I could easily visit all of them in about three months, I think. The true challenge of going “Everywhere,” is getting to the 18 places that are outside of the lower 48. Salvador was the final place on this list. I can’t yet claim to have gone “Everywhere,” but I can claim, with a great amount of confidence, that I am the first person to visit these 18 places:
Alaska (the state)
Schefferville, Quebec, Canada
La Paloma, Uruguay
I didn’t take too much media on the day, as I was having some camera issues. There was lots more great scenery with countless tropical beaches among rolling green hills.
I probably should have taken more time to see the sights on the coast, but when I have a song place in my cross hairs, my trigger finger gets itchy.
I did have my camera running for a golden moment of misunderstanding. In the video below, a guy on a bicycle waits for foreign looking people then gives them a rolling sales pitch. He’s selling safe parking in case you are going to the island tourist destination, Morro de São Paolo.
I didn’t realize this was a place, so when he asked if I was going there, I instead heard, “Morou en São Paolo?” (Which means “You lived in São Paolo?).
So in English the text would be:
“Are you going to Morro de São Paolo?”
“No, I’m from the United States!”
After I had thoroughly convinced him that I was heading to Salvador, he told me how far it was and wished me a nice trip.
The motorcycle below was probably carrying the largest amount of beer I’ve ever seen on two wheels:
I decided to take the ferry across the Bay to reach Salvador. In a way, I kind of felt like this was an anticlimactic way to reach our last foreign song destination. But eventually I felt like Annie and I both deserved to be carried the last few miles. We’ve expended a lot to reach this.
The ferry was only about $5. They instructed me to go right to the front of the line.
Once on board, Annie was tucked away under one of the ramps.
The ride across the bay was about two hours. As the skyscrapers of Salvador grew on the horizon, I became very introspective. I reflected on all of the hardships that I’d been through since leaving my home country, trying to re-live each emotion:
-The complete confusion during the initial border crossing in Mexico
-The despair and hopelessness that came in the days following my crash, as well as the physical pain which still lingers
-The frustration at the inefficiency of Central American borders
-The anger and helplessness that came with all of the shipping delays between Panama and Colombia
-The fear that gripped me when I was stranded in southern Colombia
-The annoyance at the policeman in Peru who was looking for a bribe
-The bone-chilling frigidness from our first, suffocating night in Argentina
Even processing all of these emotions again made me feel weary. I eventually was overcome with an enormous feeling of thanksgiving. It surely has not been by my own strength or wisdom that I’ve met each of these challenges. Though we still have a lot to do to finish up our Latin America chapter, the sun was truly setting on this monumental challenge.
Nice to meet you, Salvador.
That’s where I’m going to leave this post! I’ll detail our time in Salvador next time. Thanks for everyone’s support in so many ways to help me reach this point in my journey. I definitely couldn’t do it on my own.
Stay red and sticky, everybody!
Realtime update: (copied from my facebook page earlier today) Our trip west has had a bit of drama.
Full of my normal enthusiasm, I jumped into an underground lake with my international phone in my pocket. After 5 days in a bag of rice, I’m ready to declare it dead. I have another one, but it only works with wifi which has been really spotty lately. I’ll probably go shopping for another one in Brasilia. I’m pretty disciplined with backing up my data, so I only lost about half a day of photos.
I had a front wheel bearing break down two days ago, in a rural locale. The story of how that got repaired is one that I’m looking forward to telling. I’ve been travelling with a couple of Brazilian bikers who have been a huge help.
I have some posts pretty much ready to be published, but I don’t know if I quite have sufficient internet to get one published today. I’ll try. If not, I should have one out when I reach Brasilia tomorrow.
Ah….the joys of the road 🙂
8 thoughts on “North? Nobody Ever Goes North.”
Reading your adventures just reminds me of how bad I would be at this type of trip. I plan things to an insane level and then execute said plan exactly. All the while I talk to as few people as possible along the way because I’m a very strange type of introvert. (I’m fine with meeting new people as long as it’s planned ahead and on my terms, otherwise I’m happier alone). My report would go something like this:
“Today I had to detour two blocks from my planned route and then I had to speak to someone to buy gas. I’m going to bed now, enjoy these three pictures:”
Hmmm….yeah, I’d still read that. 🙂 I have my days where I feel like that too. Sometimes at gas stations I will almost “hide” Annie so I don’t have to talk to anyone.
As far as planning, one of the best things about a trip of this magnitude is that it is impossible to plan out all of the details. There is simply too much. For this reason, it’s been a good exercise in releasing control for me.
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Hey Wyominggeorge you have company! I feel the same way, with the one exception of planning, which I tend not to do. Brett, kudos to you for your patience and efforts in providing all of us these well written and photographed journals. Cabana do Bruxo was awesome.
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My pleasure! It’s absolutely worth the effort.
Surely one of these canine companions is going to have to join you for good right?! Just love seeing them appreciate you 🙂 So happy about your progress at this point, and your feelings of thankfulness. Love you! -B&E
It’s a good thing I don’t have a sidecar!
Can practically taste that road dust! Your videos make us feel like we are there with you. Thankful for the “trail angels” you meet along the way! Love you, son!
….and there are many, many more to come!