Day 1 April 16, 2014.
Rio – Saquarema 89km
I left home in Tijuca district of Rio de Janeiro at 10am for the 6km ride to the Ferry station in downtown Rio, and arrived ferry station at 10:30am. I took the 11am ferry to Niteroi. R$3.10 fare. R$3.40 snack
The boat arrived in Niteroi at 1125am and began pedaling within a few minutes of that. Passed through Icaraí, São Francisco and the usual route to Itacoatiara, over the mountain and into Itaipu. At 20km, about 1:10 hours of riding, I got to the road to Itaipuaçu, a massive, steep, paved mountain road. I was able to pedal only a little bit. I pushed the bike all the way up, about 1km. But at the top I was rewarded with a great view of the beach and flat coastal lands that I would be riding on for the trip. The way down is equally steep and I ended up walking down as well! I wasn’t sure of my brakes and didn’t want to risk a crash. A big advantage to this ride is the flatness, once past the two mountains in Niteroi.
From then on the route passes through some neighborhoods and is relatively easy. There is a mix of nice vacation homes and later on simpler buildings. The area is perhaps too far for residents to commute to Rio every day, and has plenty of room to grow. I had to stop to check google maps occasionally to find my way, but it made for good rest stops.
Navigation with Google maps on the iPhone of proved to be essential on this trip, because if you ask people how to get someplace, most will not answer with a bicycle in mind. In Brazil google maps does not offer cycling as a transport option, so i would check the car and walking routes and then make a decision based on that. I used the Endomondo (http://www.endomodo.com) app for tracking the ride. Both GPS apps use up quite a bit of phone battery, but I have a maxboost battery/case which held up well.
At this point a road follows the beach but it is dirt, so i follow the paved road, a few blocks back, parallel to the beach. Later on I would follow the dirt road on the beach, as the main highway turns inland and away from the ocean.
At 33km, about 2:07 hours of riding, I stopped for a “Prato Feito” lunch at a simple house/restaurante/pousada, already within the Maricá city limits. With a drink it cost R$14.50. Although this is not the most beautiful part of the route, it could be an overnight stopover if necessary. Or even a destination for a quick overnight getaway trip from Rio. At this point the distance is far enough from Rio that it has a lazy, slow paced “interior” feeling, a welcome change from frenetic Rio.
View of the road in Maricá
A few km after that I turned right toward the beach, then left onto the hard-packed dirt beach road in order to continue down the beach. The paved road turns inland again and going straight would save many km, have less traffic and be more interesting. It had rained overnight so there were some puddles and soft muddy parts. In fact it had been raining in Rio for a few days and I was debating even if I should take this trip. The weather was overcast, about 25C. Perfect for riding. The 27inch thin tires did ok off-road. I just took it slowly. Sometimes I had to walk though.
Dirt road along beach
About 2km on the neighborhood ends and the dirt road winds through a wind-swept area of dunes and scrubby beach plants. A wild place which I didn’t know was so close to Rio. I noticed many good-looking, happy and friendly “vira-lata” dogs around, and at one point I caught up to 3 of them which were running down the road in the same direction i was going, so we travelled together for a stretch. They stopped eventually and turned up a crossroad. After about 8km on the dirt road, I was back in “civilization” and paved roads in a beach neighborhood. It’s nice to travel a bit faster but it was also nice to be far away from people!
At a crossroads
This went on for another 14km (to 60km total trip kms) until the road crosses a river, a small delta where people fish from the bridge and some young boys were trying to sure the tidal bore wave there. I stopped to check out the view and rest.
From here the road goes back inland, away from the beach and around a hilly part. It’s a paved highway without too much traffic. Then at km 65 it splits, one way back toward the beach and the other straight on, where most of the traffic was heading. I went right, along the beach where it’s dirt again. I considered heading back to the main road but I decided the lack of traffic and fewer km was the better option. It didn’t last too long and eventually I was back in beach neighborhoods. I turned 1 block inland to the parallel road, which is cobblestone, to avoid the dirt road. At km 74 I went back to the beach road, now paved.
Bridge over the Maricá Lagoon
From here on to Saquarema it is the main highway again, paved, with more traffic and not much of a shoulder. I passed the Brazilian Volleyball Confederation complex, already part of Saquarema. From here it was a straight line into Saquarema. I tried to make a photo of the illuminated church on the hill as night was falling, but the phone battery gave out. The Endomondo tracking stopped at 82km, but I still had about another 1km to go.
Approach to Saquarema
I made my way to the bus station to see about buses back to Rio, since a friend was making a dinner that night and I even thought about trying to make it back. There was a bus at 750pm but it would get me into Rio at 930pm. I would still have to bike from the bus station to his house and by that time it would be at least 10pm, and I probably wouldn’t have too much energy to enjoy myself. I decided to stay in Saquarema and look for a place to stay. I rode around the neighborhood near the bus station which has many pousadas, but nothing seemed to be open. A nice middlle class area, but almost everything was closed. I went back downtown, asked around and found a place for R$90.00 called Canto da Vila (http://www.pousadacantodavila.com.br/). Nothing super fancy, but clean with a warm shower, and its right on the ocean. I would have preferred to pay less though. I explained to the man at the counter that I had a bike and he showed a safe place to park it overnight. But my room was ground level and I simply put the bike in the room. I checked in, took a shower and left to find a meal. Just then it started raining! I was quite lucky to have no rain the entire time I was riding. Saquarema lives from weekend and holiday beach goers, and it was still the night before a major holiday, Holy Week. That means there were not many meal options, so I had a hamburger and a beer at a nearby square. Back to hotel and a good sleep.
I had left home in Rio at 10am and arrived in Saquarema at 630pm. An 8 hour day including stops and all, but riding time on Endomondo was only 5 hours and 20 minutes.
day 1 distance: 6km to ferry. 83km ferry to Saquarema. 89 total.
GPS tracking: http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/324343420/6711507
6.00 Water and Coke
Day 2, April 17, 2014
Saquarema – Arrial do Cabo 64.92km
View of Saquarema
Got up early at 6 but breakfast only started at 8am, so i went back to bed. It wasn’t raining anymore, but it was a bit foggy and grey, and a bit chilly. Nice for sleeping. I got up again and packed/prepared the bike, had breakfast and left around 9am. I stole an apple from the breakfast buffet for a road snack
I checked google maps and decided to take the “walking” route to Arrial. I set off on good neighborhood roads and following it around I ended up on the “car” route. I had missed a turn, so I turned back to find the correct route, which I did. It eventually turned to dirt, and since it had rained overnight, many big puddles and mud (again)
The route passes through some neighborhoods which are just popping up, then it became quite rural for a while, then more new neighborhoods.
Once again, google maps saved me here. I followed the “walking route” down these dirt roads and eventually made it back to the paved highway, which makes a big loop from Saquarema to this point. It runs along the Arauama lagoon, a massive salt water lagoon where which has some salt extraction areas. Very scenic.
At Km 26 I stopped to make photos of the windmills and salt flats. Holland in Brazil!
Windmills and salt extraction
the sun was now shining and getting hot, so I put on sun block at that stop too. Further on, at about 36km, the road is right next to the lagoon again, so I pulled over for a rest stop below some trees at a calm beach. Had a swim, then fixed my sandals which were becoming unglued, with plastic ties.
The road at this point the route a bit monotonous, but it is easy enough. I had a good pace so I plugged away until the crossroads for Arrail, at km 58. Passing through the city welcome gateway, the town is about another 7km from there, but now I had a headwind. The road enters town on a high bluff overlooking the “Prainha” beach, which required a stop for air, water and photos.
Gateway to Arraial do Cabo
Praia dos Anjos
It was about 130pm, so all in all it was about 4.5 hours. Again, I went straight to the bus station to inquire about busses to Rio. There were several, but none which would give me any time to enjoy anything, so I went searching for a hotel, which would determine if I needed the bus or not. Riding around I passed an international youth hostels sign and followed it to a hostel, which had no vacancies. They recommended another, Hostel Vilas Boas, which I found and which had a vacancy in a dorm room for R$40.00. (http://www.hostelvillasboas.com.br) No one else came so it was mine alone! Now that I had a room, the bus was no longer necessary. I unloaded all my gear, showered, then went to eat. I wanted to go to a beach place but figured it would be too costly. I ended up having a good buffet meal for R$25.00. Then I took a tour of the town on bike, a great way to see it, since it’s not very big anyway. Holiday traffic was starting to build, but I was able to slip past it easily.
Then I went to a beach-side restaurant which had a safe place for the bike and went on down to the beach to have beers and relax. I stayed there until sunset, taking several swims in the chilly, but remarkably clear, water. I ordered some pastel too, which were horrible, and ended up giving most of them to the beach dogs, who were grateful. Beers and pasteis were R$36.00! good thing I had lunch already.
Back to the hostel for a rest and shower. A nap, then back out for food. Had a horrible yakisoba and beer at the street fair, apparently set up for the holiday, another R$30.00. I went to bed around 11pm.
Sunset at Praia Grande
Day 2 distance: 64.92km
GPS tracking: http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/324767997/6711507
R$134.91 Total costs
Arraial do Cabo – Búzios – Rio das Ostras. Bus terminal to home. 88.67km
Slept late, until 730 or so then had Breakfast at the hostel. Basic, but good. People had arrived overnight for the Holy Week holiday, from places like Minas Gerais and Rio. Apparently someone knocked on my door to sleep there too but I didn’t hear anything.
I set off at 9 am. But just before, I decided to check out bus tickets from Rio das Ostras to Rio online. Turns out the bus company has an app and I bought a ticket for R$45.00 with my iPhone for 850pm, arriving in Rio at 1150pm. That would give me a good 12 hours ride the 85km to Rio das Ostras.
I started pedaling slowly to warm up. Sun was out so it was a bit warmer and at the city gate I put on sun block. I also tried to arrange the panniers, which kept moving forward on the rack until my feet were hitting them. I found a solution by passing a strap around a bar in the rack to hold the position. But later down the road the panniers, actually motorcycle panniers I had bought years ago, were rubbing the tire. A hole was beginning to develop. I had to find something to keep the panniers apart and I started looking for roadside garbage which might do the job. Closer to Cabo Frio where there are houses on the roadside I found a garbage pile with a broken-up wardrobe. I found a piece of wood to use as a brace, and just as I was pulling out, I saw garbage on the other side of the road with a junk bike rack in it! I pried it apart, and kept a “U” shaped piece of metal. I tied it to my rack about halfway between the hub and the top of the rack, parallel to the ground using the plastic ties. Perfect. I put the panniers back on and it works great!
Riding through Cabo Frio was easy, and I used Google Maps to find side streets to stay away from the main road. I found it to be clean and pleasant, and continued across the river, which connects the Arauama Lagoon to the Ocean, and where I stopped at the top of the Bridge for photos. On the way to Búzios I had to stop for map checks, then realized I was on my last drops of Water. Fortunately Búzios was only 19km away and I was sure there would be something soon. And there was. Just another km or so there was a small stand, where I had a coke and bought a 1.5 liter water to fill my bottles. I normally avoid Coke and similar drinks, but find it to be quite refreshing while riding. The sugar also gives a good energy boost. The paved road here is good, but quite narrow with no shoulder, so riding was not so pleasant. Further on it connects to the main Búzios – Cabo Frio road and it is wider, with a decent shoulder. This continues until the crossroads at km 32, to enter Búzios or go north towards Rio das Ostras. I choose to go into Búzios for lunch, and to say I had been there. It was about 1130am. Traffic entering Búzios was quite heavy but I think I passed everyone in the traffic jam, and made my way to the “Rua das Pedras” picturesque shopping district where I hope to find some food. That’s when I noticed my front tire was flat! My tire would still be flat even if I ate first, so I decided to do that, to relax a bit and cool off. Lunch was good and I was able to change the tube right there at the restaurant, which had tables on the sidewalk.
Beach in Buzios
Tire changed and full of food, I moved on towards Rio das Ostras. Stopped at a gas station just to make sure tire pressure was ok. On the way out of town the road passes very close to the Raza beach and there are some public access points, so I stopped for a swim. Very nice. Moving on, the road veers left, but I went straight, following the beach and meet up with the road again farther ahead. But only for a little bit. Google maps indicated that the shortest route was another, so i followed it. It led me through some poorer neighborhoods, and dirt roads, but back to the highway again. After 8km I came to Tamoios, a district of Casimiro de Abreu. It’s a long stretch of highway parallel to the ocean, with residential areas on both sides. I was a bit hot and I was tiring of the busy road so I stopped for an Ice cream and to rest. The shop owner couldn’t understand how I got there by bike from Rio, but was nice and said the beach front road is paved and quiet, so i went there. It was great. very quiet, families at the beach, etc. This went on for a good 6km until it reaches a river delta, where the Rio São João meets the sea. There is a small beach on that point and it was PACKED with beach-goers, etc. I stopped to watch then moved on to check out the other side of the river which has a historic Portuguese church built on a hill. he surrounding neighborhood has historic buildings with Portuguese tile. Quite charming. I was tempted to stay a while to enjoy the beach, but I still had 10km to go to Rio das Ostras and wasn’t sure about road conditions, or if something unexpected might come up, or if there would be some problem with my bus ticket. You never know. I’d rather arrive early and spend some time near the bus ride home!
So once again I pressed on, arriving in Rio das Ostras around sunset, still about 4 hours before my bus. I stopped at a ocean side kiosk for a beer and to ask about the bus station, which I learned was only about 1 km ahead. I made my way to the bus station, which is merely a roadside stop with an office and waiting room. There was a long line for tickets, but I noticed that there was a special window for elderly, handicapped and internet purchases! I went there and simply showed the confirmation email on my iPhone and within minutes I had my ticket! I was impressed how simple and easy it was. In Brazil I find that things one would consider easy are difficult and things that one might consider difficult end up being easy. I have no idea why.
I still had a few hours before my bus so I walked the bike around an oceanside park with kiosks, games, etc. As far as I could tell they did not serve food, just beer, So I wandered away from the beach and discovered a brick oven, flat crust pizza which turned out quite good. I stayed there until about 45 minutes before my bus.
Bus station in Rio das Ostras
At the bus station checking the bike was no problem at all, although I took off the panniers and other gear. Otherwise it went in the hold entirely intact. There was no other luggage in there. Since it was Good Friday, most people had done their holiday travel the day before. I boarded the bus and I was 1 of 10 or so passengers. The bus left on time at 850pm and arrived at the Rio terminal at precisely at 1150pm. I put the bike back together and rode home, about 3km away. I was home at 1230am.
Day 3 distance 88.67km
8.00 Ice cream
44.52 Bus Ticket