Thursday, December 27, 2012

Some notes about cycling and Rio. -Rio has a really great cycling corridor along the coast, from above Flamengo--Aterro do Flamengo, which is an excellent park for picnics, sports, and hanging out on the beach of the Bay--through Botafogo beach, past Urca, through the tunnel to Copacabana, over to Ipanema... Then you have to go by road to get to the next section--over the hill past Vidigal, and down the hill to São Conrado beach. And then there are a pair of tunnels, passable but unpleasant, to get to Barra da Tijuca beach. Here, the bike path continues for kilometers and kilometers, along long stretches of beach, and then past marshes, and back to beach, past a campground, to Recreio and beyond. The Zona Sul--the area around Copacabana and Ipanema--has some cycle paths crisscrossing the urban area. The rest of the vastness of Rio I think has limited bicycle-specific infrastructure. But along the beach, it is quite nice. On Sundays, Rio closes off the boulevard next to beach to car traffic (until 6pm, I think). Then, people fill the street walking, skateboarding, rollerblading, cycling, and any number of creative, human-powered wheeled transport--for exercise, culture, socializing, people- and scenery-watching. I want to find or build a tall bike, and bring it to Ipanema and Copacabana on Sundays. It will certainly be an eye-opener and mind-opener, and I can teach people to ride it. It will be highly interactive, and extremely visible. I am sure it will become famous, and probably even make the news. If you happen to know places in Rio that have or make tall bikes, weld and construct alternative bikes, please let me know!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Estou em (I am in) Santa Amaro do Maranhão, Lençóis Maranhenses.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ok, I am going to write about the last few days because I haven't yet. I think I left off at the fire station in Pinheiro. The next morning, I rolled out of there around noon. I was running late to catch the five oclock ferry, but with limited internet access it took me the morning to communicate with my couchsurfing hostess in São Luis, and identify on google maps how to get there once getting off the ferry. So, taking off, I headed out of town, passed the laked fields dotted with buffalo, horses, cows, snowy white herons and white cow birds. The grass was a brilliant green and the landscape fairly striking. A buffalo grazing by the side of the road startled as passed and bounded into the pond below. The wind pushed against me; I played some tunes on my ipod. Struggling past the wind, the rough road, and the slight incline, I finally, gradually, made it around a curve in the road and things became easier. About ten kilometers in, I reached a fork in the road. To the right led to points South, including a 360 km route around the bay to Sao Luis. To the left led to Alcântara, a historic town and site of a Quilombo (escaped slave rebel community), and current site of the most important satellite launch station in Brazil. And to the left also led to Cujupe, the port of the ferry across the São Marcos Bay to Sao Luis. 66 kilometers left and I hoped to reach the five o clock ferry, four hours away, a challenge when you are fully loaded. I ate some lunch at a restaurant there at the fork in the road and spoke with some folks eating there who became very excited about my trip, and appreciative of my Portuguese;) The owner blessed my trip, and comped my meal. I felt the sense of being boosted, carried--like crowdsurfing. From Belem to Sao Luis, in the end, people never failed to help me out. It is as though I was passed along from town to town by supportive individuals at each stop, helping my trip along. I actually crowdsurfed when I was sixteen at a the 1997 HFS´tival, when Third Eye Blind played Graduate. Passed above the crowd, each person I passed over lending a hand to keep me up, for ninety seconds that felt like an eternity. The 66 kilometers to Cujupe were stressful until I realized I would not make the five o´clock ferry, and instead I would catch the 7 o´clock. I stopped for some popsicles--coco, tapioca, and avocado--and then calmly I pedaled the last twenty kilometers. That is when I saw that large tarantula on the side of the road that I thought was dead, but then put up its dukes when I approached to take some photos. I crossed on the ferry, and chatted with an engineer of the satellite launch station who was on his way to São Paulo to teach a class. When I got to the port, it was late, and folks advised me that my hostess´s house was very far and it would not be advisable to bike there at that late hour--8:30pm. Plus, I had already biked 90kms and was exhausted. Instead, they suggested I stay at the port, and the restaurant owner would let me camp there. I called the hostess, let her know I would come the next day, I had dinner, then set up camp and went to sleep. The next morning, I headed into town. The way was long and somewhat complicated, so it was definitely good that I had saved the trip for the morning. I stopped for coffee, and macaxeira and tapioca cakes. I found my way to the house. Then started my stay in São Luis. My hostess, Andrea Paula, is a psychologist and mother of a nine-year-old son. We have cooked for each other, and are language-exchanging--English and Portuguese, and now learning French together. In São Luis, I have now seen both the historical center and the beach. I have a fairly good handle of the city from the seat of a bicycle. I played soccer on the beach last night. At some point I would like to make it to a forró club. That will come sooner or later. I am taking the opportunity now that I have internet, to upload some photos and clear some space from my hard drive. Recently my Kindle screen broke, and thankfully they are sending me a replacement under warrantee. In the meantime, I am going to use Kindle for PC, but my hard drive is so full that I can´t download more books until I clear some of it. If you go to my google plus page, you can see some of the photos I upload, which are from various stages in my trip. By the way, during this time of increased access to the internet, I have had the opportunity to realize that google plus has a bunch of really cool features and has become quite integrated, making it a solid social networking tool. Facebook is officially on notice. Serious and seriously threatening (or could it be complimentary?) competition in the ring of social networking.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

The last few days have been good. I have progressed down the road each day, and am now just a day and a half away from São Luis. Every day has its story--each place I end up finding to stay, the people I meet. And the road, well it is relatively flat, a slight bit rolling, through primarily free range cattle ranches dotted with palm trees. Relatively low traffic; the roads with more traffic have ample shoulders, and the roads without much shoulder have little traffic, so the entire time, I just absorb myself in Pimsleur Portuguese and French lessons, and music. Yesterday and the day before, I think I completed about 12 Portuguese lessons, all review, so about six hours of Portuguese speaking practice, as I ride. I have been completing one French lesson each day; São Luis was once ruled by the French for one year, and is the center of the French presence in Brazil. Counting back from today, the places I stayed: Last night, in Santa Helena, I stayed at the multi-purpose complex of the Santa Helena Catholic Parish. It felt a bit like coming home to my roots, a familiar culture as I was brought up Catholic. The night before last, I stayed in Maracaçumé, in a classroom of the Adventist Church. I played barefoot soccer with my local counterparts, scoring a goal and they said I "earned a national contract"! ;) The night before that, I stayed in Cachoeira do Piriá in the Assamblea de Deus evangelical church, which actually took some persistence, being rejected at first, but then finally, the one in charge conceded, but not before asking if I had any vices, such as drinking or smoking. (You can't enter the Kingdom of God unless you are already pure/cured? I was also asked this question at the Adventist Church in Maracaçumé.) The day before that I stayed in Santa Luzia do Pará, at the resident house of the civil police. They gave me a private room, food, wi-fi, the works. And they were strikingly lax about the way they handled their guns, setting them down on the kitchen table, and invited me to examine one. And the day before that, I stayed in Capanema, at the firestation. Super inviting and accomodation. They are military firemen, so they had to examine my passport and take down my number. After I was set, they invited me for pizza. Everyone, I am sure you already are, but please be nice to foreigners present in the States. Our international image needs all the help it can get now, believe me, and given the way I am treated as I travel, I can only hope to be as accommodating and generous back home with foreigners passing through. As a side, at that fire station and at many other stops along this road, people talk about an English-American couple who passed through about four months ago. They were covered on national television, they are sponsored, they started in Rio and are doing a loop around South America. If you know any more about them, please send a link my way. There have been some things I wanted to note as I move along down the road. I am now officially in the Northeast, in Maranhão. I crossed into this State a couple days ago. The Northeast is the region I fell in love with back in 1999 the first time I came to this country. And it is different from the North. People are much more talkative and gregarious; there is a lot more street life. Of course, this region is connect by roads instead of rivers. It is much more populated throughout. I knew I had come back to a familiar region when I saw the billboard for a vaquejada, which is a party revolving around a horse and bull competition in which a team of two horseback riders must run along either side of a bull for about sixty meters before pulling the bull down to the ground by its tail within a touchdown zone of about ten meters. I attended one thirteen years ago when I was serving in Amigos das Americas; I find it more exciting and far more humane than a bullfight. It demonstrates courage, horse skills, strength, athleticism, and teamwork. Needless to say, I hope to attend one soon. The surrounding party usually includes live forró music and festive dancing. Another note: as expected, the region provides an abundance and variety of fruits, and the one I am currently enjoying is the jambo. They had these riverside in Perú, though I am rediscovering them here in abundance and they are very tasty. Here is a photo: Ok, well, those are my updates for now. Time to move on down the road towards São Luis, reggae capital of Brazil.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rolling in Brazil. Now on the island of Marajó. Interesting place--Lots of bicycles and buffalo. Pretty laid back. I will be heading to Belém, and then biking towards Sao Luis in Maranhao.

Monday, June 25, 2012

I am now in Manaus, Brasil. The plan is to head to the festival in Parintins in the next couple days. Manaus is huge. About two million people, and it has a 12 mile radius from the town center to the outskirts. We stayed with a family for a few days; my Portuguese is quickly strengthening. I want its level to become as strong as my Spanish, if not stronger. Some of my earlier impressions on arriving here were that Brasil has been hit with a massive wave of tourists in the last five to ten years, and this has changed their attitude and behavior towards tourists, including me. More Brazilians are learning English, and pretty much assume that a tourist does not speak Portuguese, and that they will not be able to communicate if they do not speak English. I surprise people with my Portuguese, or they just think I am Brazilian. My Portuguese is not perfect, but it is good, and I often get asked if I am a Brazilian. With the upcoming World Cup and Olympics, many people plan to learn English by the start of the Cup to be more effective in their jobs. I have been posting almost all my photos on facebook. Soon I will publish more photos and videos here, or make some more photos on Facebook public. I have uploaded many videos publicly on my youtube channel; see link above right.