Biking in Brazil
Soon it will be all about football, but in search of other goals, Peter Murtagh put on his leathers and set out on a 2,800km round trip from Rio de Janeiro
Step into the Pousada Ana Doce, a guest house in the Brazilian city of Sao Sebastião , and you step into a cool, laid-back world of sub-tropical enchantment. Inviting French doors on the pretty, single storey stucco building peer on to the street and, walking inside, one is transported immediately to another place, a place of luxuriant tropical plants and flowers; of pastel painted walls and doors in lilac, pink and canary yellow.
The entrance floor of the Ana Doce is made of highly-polished dark wood and there are little nooks and crannies everywhere, with sofas and low tables. Indigenous artefacts are dotted about.
Boisterous plants are everywhere – palms and ferns of course, some in small beds, others in pots. There’s a pink bougainvillea in flower and a rude red hibiscus brightening this little jungle world of glossy green leaves and variegated fronds.
It’s a fair bet that few, if any, World Cup fans will see the inside of the Ana Doce. A shame really, as no doubt this delightful San Sebastian pousade (the Brazilian word for independent B&B, guest house or boutique hotel) could do with some off-season business; and any fans staying there would experience a side of Brazilian life and culture as different from football as, well, the style of the game played here as compared to some other places.
I came across the Ana Doce late last month while exploring a little of Brazil with Belfast motorbike and travel writer Geoff Hill. Our journey began in Rio de Janeiro when Nicolay Figueroa of Rio Triumph lent us a bike each, a Tiger Explorer 1200 for Geoff and a Tiger 800 for me, and off we went.
The Costa Verde is around 300kms of coastline south and west of Rio, stretching all the way to Santos, a major port that serves the needs of Sao Paulo, a little further inland, and the 30 million or so people who live in that city and its hinterland.
And what a highway, what a coastline.
The road weaves its way through a blanket of jungle that tumbles down the slopes of the Serra do Mar coastal range. There are tropical ferns seven metres tall and clumps of giant bamboo reach up for perhaps 50 metres before draping their stems over the road. The coast is very irregular, peninsulas sticking out into the sea alternating with fingers of ocean protruding into the landscape so that vistas of green are replaced, turn by turn, by panoramas of turquoise sea, islands and beaches.
The road is broad and well maintained for the most part. The sort of long, sweeping curves that bikers love just keep coming and by the time we stop for our first night, at the old colonial seaside town of Paraty, we are exhilarated. Paraty itself raises spirits further.
The town emerged in the late 17th century as the gold exporting port for Portuguese colonialists and has changed little since (apart from an absence of gold). Terraces of whitewashed, single or two-storey buildings line a grid pattern of cobbled streets where shops, bars and restaurants cater for tourists and residents alike.
The Eclipse is our first pousada. It’s an attractive stucco and stone house, with a pool, on the edge of town, where twin bed room and breakfast comes in at €25 a head. (The Ana Doce was about €35.)
The Eclipse breakfast is a typical Brazilian mix: scrambled eggs and sausage and pepper stew; various types of melon, cereals and yoghurt, bread and sweet cakes, including two types of tapioca cake, coffee and fresh orange juice.