Medellin, Colombia

In Bogota the bike gets it’s overdue service at Sebastian’s, a very helpful and competent guy. Here I also get a new rim, my favorite choice of all, a Dirt Star 1.85. They just pull one off the shelf. Happy me, Wish I’d put one on from the very beginning . Time to leave. I take the windy Mountain road from Bogota to Medellin. I heard only good things about Medellin.

Lunch stop on the mountain road:

The road is packed with trucks and busses but still a beautiful ride. Half way through there is a traffic jam for many kilometers, no go. I ride past it and at the head of it I see the reason for the jam: Two trucks crashed into each other. Once I’m past it the road is empty of traffic and offers me turn after turn after turn of pure fun. Yezz! Late that day I arrive at the ‘Black Sheep’ hostel in Medellin exhausted. I love the climate here, t-shirt and shorts weather. Kelvin the owner is a Kiwi and runs his hostel perfect. Enough freedom to enjoy and enough rules to make it work for everyone. I still feel exhausted after a few days, feel a little pain in my chest and cough more than usual. A visit to the hospital gets me the diagnosis of exhaustion and a macka treatment for the next month to basically strengthen my immune system.  I did not connect the dots but my aunty Christa did via remote diagnosis: Lung infection. It takes me almost 3 weeks to recover and gather enough energy to move on. All the bike needs is a fresh rear tire, a Mefo Super Explorer and a new hub. Nico, the local KTM dealer orders one and offers me a complete wheel from one of his bikes so I can ride on in the meantime. Thank you Nico. I head north,  2 days riding in warm weather takes me to the northern caribbean coast of Colombia and a town called Riohacha. Not a nice place to stay but the gateway to the  Guajira desert that borders Venezuela. I leave early, hit the dirt soon after. It’s a 100 km dirt highway right through the middle of the desert with access roads to different areas branching off. I cruise at 130 km/h and enjoy the heat,  take the the turn off to Cabo de la Vela, a famous tourist spot. From here on it’s riding firm desert ground, no roads and the compass becomes my best friend. Just keep the needle pointed to north-west and we’ll hit the beach somewhere.

At the start of the dirt highway into the desert:

And further in:

I get to Cabo but am a little disappointed by it. Desert meets ocean kind of beach in an unspectacular way, a few huts and a kite surfing school. I really don’t get the hype about this place and ride on after a nice lunch, fried fish. Back to the main dirt road it is. Easy. Except I get totally lost for about an hour trying to go back the same way I came. i decide to just follow the needle east no matter what, come past a small community where a helpful woman points me in the opposite direction. More confusion. I go south for a little while and then head east again until I can see the power lines running along main dirt road. Sigh. Back on it and further north we go, the road turns into a deep sand trail but we make it to the tip of the desert, to the beach. Then it starts raining and the further I go the more slippery it gets until there is no going forward anymore, too deep a sand, too slippery. I turn around, work my way back to the main dirt road and head back to Riohacha. The next day I take the sealed road along the coast to Santa Maria but when it starts raining heavily I spend the afternoon and night at a hostel in Palimero, an hour away from Santa Marta.

In Santa Marta I meet those same riders I met in Manaus, feels a bit like a traveling circus. We have lunch and part. The road to Cartagena is a pretty boring one, straight and packed with trucks and cars. Here I stay for a few days, walk through the beautiful historic town, visit a museum and enjoy a real coffe from a proper espresso machine.

Coffe, here we go. Colombia produces one of the best beans in the world. One can get a cup of coffe everywhere, at the petrol station, at street merchants even at a pharmacy and everyone drinks coffe. But, no sorry, BUT this is filter coffe saturated with sugar kept in a thermos. That is the colombian coffe drinking culture I’m sorry to report so. I really have to look hard to find a cafe in Cartagena that operates a espresso machine. I found one in the historic town. There is one exception though, Juan Valdez has cafe chains in big cities and they make excellent coffe.

I head south along the coast for the next 3 days to make my way back to Medellin. The sealed road gets rough, very rough with big pot holes and many unsealed sections. Coming out of a village in nice long left turn on good surface going ca. 80 km/h the bike starts shaking heavily, I bring her upright a bit til I run out of road, lean her back in a little, up again til she stops. The rear tire is flat. This happened so suddenly, no warning. I roll back to the village, stop at a tire fixing place and see what happened. She picked up a nail with the rear and this busted the tube into thousand pieces. That’s why the sudden loss of air and control.

I have a spare front tube with me which would work but those guys manage to get a proper fitting tube in a short time. Thank you guys. I get closer to the border with Panama now and contemplate riding a dirt road north into the Darien Gap, very close to Panama. I flag the idea and get to Medellin the next day only to learn that this is still an area of high FARK activity. Drugs and guns. Thank you intuition.

On the way back to Medellin, wild horses and later lush bush again:

 

I get back to the ‘Black Sheep’ and have a little break. Time to check out Medellin, it’s techno clubs, art and Pablo Escobar’s place. 

Through Venezuela to Bogota

Ok , Guillaume and I leave Manaus in a hurry since I feel a tad uneasy about ripping out the gate to get my bike back. North it is for 2 days, basically a straight highway through rain forest and indigenous reservoirs with big signs saying: ‘Please no stopping, photos, videos, rubbish, hunting.’ Damn, I so wanted to hunt a jaguar with my leatherman.  I see small groups of indians walking along the road with spears and bow and arrows, sorry no photos. Guillaume leads, sitting at around 120 km/h max. It’s driving me nuts, I need to get used to it though since we’ll be riding together for the next 9 days. This is a straight highway, good surface, no traffic, I’d be cruising at 150+ km/h. I get used to it though but still try to push him with questions like: At what speed is the old lady red lining? You got good wind protection? What’s her max speed? Fuel economy ok at higher speeds? This quality choice of questions adds another 5 km/h to our cruising speed. At our first lunch stop I notice I really enjoy his company, we talk about bikes, girls, past experiences and more bikes. Man stuff. Nice. 

Lunch stop:

Further north the landscape gets less bushy and some cattle farms appear:

We cross the border to Venezuela. Easy. Except Guillaume needs to come back the next morning and buy bike insurance to get the custom temporary import paper. I on the other hand present my health insurance paper that has the beautiful word ‘Worldwide’ printed on it and it gets accepted as my bike insurance, like at all the other border crossings before. We stay the night at the border town, buy fuel from the receptionist since border towns are not allowed to sell fuel to foreigners. Talking about fuel in Venezuela, this is heaven. The best quality fuel in the whole of south america at a price of 3 cents a liter. Yes, 3 cents. Practically we fill up 2 bikes and pay one dollar. This creates the perfect environment for big, old cars and trucks from the 60′s to keep running. Venezuela is known for it’s top mechanics because of that. One more thing, money. Venezuela’s Bolivar has an official exchange rate and a street exchange rate for american dollars which is more than twice as much. The key is to bring cash dollars into Venezuela, change them on the street or in shops and get twice as many Bolivars then from a cash machine or bank. Only problem is it’s illegal to bring cash into the country and police do search for it. I hide my dollars inside my helmet and can highly recommend that technique.

The roads are good and twisty, cutting through beautiful scenery over mountains and through valleys. Magic.

We stay the night in a small town along the road, have pizza from the local bakery and sit outside at the main square. Talking to a man, we’re back to spanish now, and being amongst the town life at this evening gives me the impression that the people here are the most ‘down to earth’ people I’ve met in the whole of South America. The man shares his views on politics with me and finishes our conversation with a sentence that sticks with me: ‘My heart for my country is broken in two halves: the one half loves this country and its people, loves the way we live our lives with passion and compassion for both. The other half hates to see where this country goes, with more and more criminals on the street and in power.’ He gives me the names of a few villages along the way where I under no circumstances should stop, not even at a red light. When we ride through those places I understand. It’s rough.

We follow the highway the next day and have a little break just before a huge bridge:

20 min later we stop for lunch, bbq chicken, ask the guy how far the next petrol station is since we’re both running low on fuel. ’2 hours your way or 45 min back.’ We’re not gonna make it to the next one, we have to go back. Man how I hate this. Coming back to the bridge I notice a small fuel truck parked on the side. I pull over and see Guillaume disappearing into the horizon. I ask  the guy for fuel and he helps me out, fills both tanks to the rim. Thanks mate.

I carry on and not far I see Guillaume parked, waiting for me. We never discussed this kind of situation and he instinctively did the right thing: waiting. We turn around, stop at the truck and fuel up Guillaume’s bike too. 

From here on we follow the highway west until we get to the border with Colombia. Last stop in Venezuela:

We cross the border into Colombia at Cucuta on a sunday. Bad. We never thought about it but the customs office is closed on weekends. When we leave the customs area a cop pulls me over after he missed Guillaume and insists that I go back to Venezuela and come back tomorrow to get the customs papers. ‘Ok, he wants money’ I think. ‘But you’d also be the first cop in south america that I actually give some, so no!’ 10 min of ‘no intendo, no habla espaniol’ and he lets me go to the nearest hotel where Guillaume waits, not without making sure I understand that there is police controls everywhere and I won’t get far without the papers. This is the worst place I ever spent a night in. The hotel is ok, very cheap, but the village is dirty and looks dangerous, only tumbling weed is missing from the scene. We go out for diner, leave phones, credit cards and camera behind, and witness a street fight right in front of our dining table. This is a place, no the mother of all places to get away from as fast as possible. Next morning we get our papers fast, thanks to Guillaume who also works at customs back in Canada.

At the customs building. I notice a big sign over the entrance saying: ‘Temporary import papers are free of charge. Do not pay any money to the officer.’ Good to know but also a sign that bribery might be quite common in Colombia. Not so as I learn later on my trip.

We get some money in Cucuta since Venezuela left us both stranded for cash and head west towards Bogota until we run out of daylight. Next morning after breakfast we start riding on what is going to be one of the best rides ever. 400 kms of twisty road with good surface following the foot of a mountain range. Then up the mountain to a height that asks for more clothes and hot soup. Like here:

Then down again it gets warmer and beautiful mountain jungle appears:

And up again and into Bogota we go. Cold, big city with noticeably less oxygen. It takes me a few days to adjust. Guillaume organizes the sale of his bike and his flight back home. Ciao my friend, I really enjoyed your company and who knows, maybe one day …

Boat trip up the Amazon

In Santarem I get us tickets for the 2 day boat trip up the Amazon to Manaus. The ticket for the bike is quite a bit more then mine but she get’s her own cabin down in the belly while I hang my hammock here with a few other guests:

The boat is packed with 500 passengers living very close together for the next 2 days and nights but everyone treats each other with respect and so makes the journey enjoyable. I’m a tad paranoid about my belongings, heard stories of thieves traveling up and down the river going after their business so I lock all my valuables in the panniers and store them with the bike down in the belly of the boat with all the other goods that need to go upstream like bananas, potatoes, onions, rice, etc. The bike goes down through a hole with the help of ropes and man power. I got myself a 1000 pager called ’2666′ from a south american author for this trip, a recommendation of Juan, a friend from the robbery in Salvador and a journalist. I never listen to you again Juan.

We leave Santarem early afternoon, it’s a relaxing 2 days and night and a joy to travel slow for a change. I let the photos document the trip:

Leaving Santarem.

Approaching Manaus:

Unloading the bike:

Hello Manaus, here I am. I put the panniers on and ride off the docks to the market square of Manaus. I look for a cafe but all I can find is a ice-cream shop so ice-cream it is instead. Sitting there and watching the locals walking past I notice a guy waving at out of his car window. He hops out, comes over to me while his car blocks the traffic on the main road. ‘I’ll be back on my motorcycle in 20 min, just need to drop off my girl friend’ he says. ‘Ok, see you in 20′ I reply. Sure enough 20 min later he shows up on a v-strom 1000 and takes me to a good hostel that’s famous in the rider crowd. ‘Tonight we go out for a beer’ and he leaves. There’s a green KLR 650 parked outside the hostel and her owner Guillaume from Montreal cleans the chain. I check in, later talk to him and it turns out we wanna do the same road north and then cross into Venezuela. We both share the opinion that Venezuela is a pretty unsafe place and we decide to travel together, leaving in a few days. This will be the first time I ride with someone else. Then I bump into 4 other bike travelers walking down the road and we all go and have a great diner at a street-side bbq plus a few beers. We share stories of our travels and I learn how we all have different ways of traveling and different bikes and how it all fits with each one of us. A couple of days later Guillaume and I leave Manaus. Actually want to leave since my bike is still in the secure parking area on this monday morning. 8.30am  and no one there to unlock the gate. I ask around for half an hour and all I get is that the parking lot opens again on tuesday. I try to get the phone number of the manager without success. Muscles it is I decide and carefully rip the gate out of its concrete hold while people walking past are watching. I get the bike out, ride to the hostel, mount the panniers and my bag and tell Guillaume to hurry up. We’re leaving Manaus, heading north towards Venezuela a thousand km away but I’m leaving with a feeling of unease and guilt. This is not the impression I wanted to leave in Manaus. I’m sorry gate owner. Ok, two more days riding in Brazil it is before Guillaume and I will enter Venezuela.

Alter do Chao

I park the bike at the market square of Alter do Chao and have a coffee. I start chatting with a guy who moved from the States to Ecuador, set up an organic farm there and holidays now here. He came all the way from Ecuador by boat along the Amazon, took him 2 weeks. Pedro the young owner of the cafe sits with us and offers his home as a stay for me. I’d need a hammock though he says, I buy one from across the road and follow him home.

The view from the market square over the Amazon, the flooded beach and huts indicate a little rain further upstream:

The sleeping house holds 8 hammocks and some nights the place is full with Pedro’s friends or people he helps out a little.

We talk about the state of the world and the local problems between the authorities and the natives and when I leave in 2 weeks I know, after getting to know Pedro, that the world is in good hands. Here is Pedro with his step mom:

After giving the bike a good clean and some maintenance I take the dirt road to the national park. An area of rain forest along the Amazon where only natives live. Here’s the entrance to the national park:

At first there are a few small villages along the road but the further I get into the park the less populated it gets. I ride over a rough hill section with some washouts and stop at the bottom by a bridge to take some shots:

A couple of young guys are out hunting and proudly show me what they shot. Don’t ask me what it is:

And further in we go. It starts to rain, I stop at a little hut and sit under a tree by the river:

A guy in a close by hut waves me over and offer his roof. We have a chat, as good as it goes with my limited portuguese. He lived here all his life, catches fish with a net, grows corn and some root that he dries and he collects rubber of rubber trees:

He offers me a cup of coffe and shows me around his place, I spot a new motorcycle in his shed and ask him if he rides a lot. He says he’s never ridden it, he never left the park, the bike he bought if someone here needs to use it. Wow, talk about the strenght of a small community. I thank him for his hospitality and leave. The rain hasn’t stopped so I turn around to get out. That washed out hill by the bridge sits in my mind, clay and water and uphill is an unhealthy combination but when I get there I just keep up the momentum and throttle easy over it. As usual the problem was bigger in my head than in reality.

Heading back to Alter do Chao in the rain:

Time to chill in the hammock:

This one I took on the iPhone.

Time for my last adventure in Alter do Chao, participating in an Ayahuasca ceremony. Those who followed the blog from the beginning, kudos to your stamina, know I’ve done a few back in Peru. This one is held by Karin, a mastress(?) of ceremony. We prepare the sacred space, clean it, get some firewood and hang our hammocks.

The sacred tea and utensils for the ritual:

After it gets dark Karin lights the candles, puts on some gentle sounds on the stereo and gathers us in a circle. Us is two young men and women from the village and me. We sit quietly for a while, I focus on my breath to stop my thinking mind and when we’re ready Karin offers us the tea. I go first, yes all those who know me please hold back your comments. I sit for quite a while, meditate, nothing happens. I ask for another cup of tea, drink it. It tastes just as bad as the first one, muddy. Again I wait, the others are fully into the experience, they leave the circle to throw up, a cleansing quality of the tea. Physically, emotionally, mind and spirit connection cleansing quality. After a 3rd cup and some more time I can feel some little effects, a lightness in my body and a slight shift in visual perception but nothing like the one in Peru. A little while later I have to get up and purge. Heavily. Repeatedly. We close the circle, I get in my hammock and fall asleep. The next morning I feel refreshed, calm and energetic. We all share our experience and for 3 of the other 4 it was the strongest one they ever had. And they are very experienced in Ayahuasca ceremonies. For one girl it was her initiation into the ceremony. To me this was a very different experience to my first ones and I trust the spirit of the plant gave me exactly what I needed. Thank you Karin for making this ceremony available to me.

I’m ready to move on, pack my stuff and want to pay Pedro the amount we agreed on for accomodation. He refuses to take my money, offers me a gift from the region instead. Wow, what can I say. This is a very special place and it attracts very special people. Thank you Pedro and Alter do Chao for your generous hospitality, your gifts and for showing me your treasures.

I’m off to Santarem now to catch a boat up the Amazon to Manaus. It’ll be her first boat trip and she’s getting excited I can tell.

The famous Transamazonica road

A guy I met a few weeks ago at a motorcycle festival grew up in a village along the Transamazonica. He laughed at me when I told him I want to ride it. ‘No way’ I remember him saying, ‘there is fuel alright but the natives gonna eat you, seriously.’ After I stopped laughing he was still rubbing his belly to underline the seriousness of his statement. Yet 1000 km of dirt through the Amazon rain forest is truly irresistible. But first things first. Sao Luis presents itself as a lovely historic city that could easily be Brazil’s Cartagena, high tourist turn over, if they could only get around to do some renovations. Here some impressions from Sao Luis:  

From here its 2 days west to Maraba, the starting point of the Transamazonica. She played up a bit on this 2 day ride, at times she wouldn’t shift past neutral and I was either stuck in first gear or in the 2-6 gear range. The diagnosis was clear after I consulted the KTM forum on advrider.com: a loose pin on the shifter wheel. I had to open her up, open heart surgery, for the first time. I’m so glad I brought a spare clutch cover gasket cause that one’s gonna get damaged for sure. With the help of a local mechanic I found the faulty bit, hammered it back in place and secured all 6 pins with a punch to the aluminum wheel.

The clutch cage needs to come off too to access the shifter wheel.

Here’s the loose pin working it’s way out of the wheel. Nothing a hammer couldn’t fix. All done, all good. Oil change and a set of motocross tires and we’re ready to bite the dust.

About 20 km west of Maraba the sealed road ends and the Transamazonica begins. There’s quite a bit of traffic on the road, mainly trucks throwing up lots of dust. Time for the goggles. The road is rough, deep potholes and many of them. This wouldn’t worry me too much, at a speed over 90 km/h she just flies over those. The real danger is overtaking trucks, without a warning they virtually jump left and right to avoid those potholes, the driver won’t notice me in the dust cloud behind him despite the high beam light on, the horn honking, and I can’t see much either, throttle is the only solution here. After a few hours riding there’s less and less of those trucks and I start enjoying the scenery. Red clay road and green bush, just what the doctor ordered. What he didn’t order was those wrong sized motocross tires. The rear is way to narrow for the 4″ rim and the front is wrong too. The bike feels like it rides on marbles with a very loose front. I come through a village, pick up a nail with the front tire and come to a still stand right at a tire changing place. Lucky me! I change back to the Sahara 3 and pay for the service with an almost new front motocross tire.

I stay the night at the village and leave early the next morning. What a beautiful road through the bush.

I stop for lunch at this bush pub, a couple of guys playing pool over a beer return my smile. The pub owner also runs a fish farm so fish it is in the typical brazilian way, deep fried. Tastes fantastic and my trans-fat reservoir is full again. Not that it ever got to low levels here in Brazil.

I stop to take a photo and this guy stops too to secure his load. We have a little chat, me mainly listening and nodding due to my very little  knowledge of portuguese and then he carries on. Here’s the shot I stopped for:

I make it to Uruara, find a cheap hotel with secure parking for the bike: the hotel lobby/bar/breakfast room.

More awesome dirt road the next day, I was very lucky with the weather, no rain. As the dirt experienced reader will notice, this kind of clay will turn into high quality soap after only a few drops of water but not on this trip, thank god. The change back to the Safari 3 front tire makes the bike a bit more stable and gives me more confidence that I immediately abuse. I let her fly a bit on the straight road where the shadows of the trees seemed the only obstacle. Yet hidden in those shadows sits a rock the size of a soccer ball that I only notice because I hit it front on. Never saw it. I know straight away it was bad and hope, while coming to a stop, for the front rim to be at least rideable.

Lucky me, the damage wasn’t too bad on this 3rd rim, it holds up well til Bogota. The rear has a different problem though:

A cracked spoke housing on the hub and two hairline cracks in the neighboring housings. Well, it’ll be ok with one loose spoke, lets see how long those other two will hold. I definitely need to take it a bit easier from here on until I get that fixed, Manaus hopefully. I’m thinking of getting the hub welded there. Not far and I take the turn off north to Santarem which turns into a good sealed road for the next 200 km. That’s so strange, 200 km of tar sealed road from dead end Santarem to the dusty Transamazonica. I can’t get my head around this one. I arrive in Santarem, a hot and busy port town and leave after a coffe towards Alter do Chao, a cute quiet village someone recommended to me, only 35 km away. Here I stay for a little while, meet some nice and interesting people, visit the close by national park  and take part in another Ayahuasce ceremony. More about that later.

Jericoacoara, riding the beach

Access to the small fishing village of Jericoacoara is via a good dirt road plus public 4WD transport only. Except for dirt bikes, they can opt for a 20 km dirt road to another village and then ride the 5 km long beach to Jeri. You guessed right, option two it is. Mostly fun, just the few deep sand bits need some support from the feet. Jeri is surrounded by dunes in the south and the Atlantic ocean in the north. Some of those dunes come right up to the waters edge.

Like this one.

Without the luggage, just map, water, tools and the good advise from a local biker to deflate my tires to 12 psi at the front and 15 at the rear I head west for a 100 km day trip along the beach and through the dunes.

The early morning beach at low tide. A good time to start the ride, as soon as the sun comes up it’s getting hot and I sweat a lot in my riding gear. 

A dune right on the beach front, two extremes meet, desert and ocean. 

The low tide provides a wide and firm track. I get a feeling for the ground and push the bike past the 100 km/h mark. She’s solid as a rock. I look for changes in the color and structure of the sand to stay on the firmer path, it’s a bit like skiing. Then I hit a bog hole at about 100 km/h, the bike sinks in a foot and slows down, I throttle up but she keeps slowing down and lucky after ca 100 m the ground becomes firm again. If I would’ve gone any slower I would’ve been stuck there. 

I stop at at hut and get a fresh, cold drinking coconut. The bike is the center of attention there, tourists check it out and even the donkey gets excited looking at it. I understand.

Even at the end of its life the Mitas grip pretty good in sand. Much better than a new Pirelli MT90 as I find out later.

Through the dunes I get more deep sand practice and this time I throttle up a bit, stand up and bring my weight back. In the deep sand without any ruts the bike feels under control and stable at around 70 km/h, a bit like skiing fresh, deep snow. Only on the track where the buggies drive it wants to follow the ruts. I’m getting a bit more confident in the sand now. Fun in deep sand except for the ruts.

A barge takes me across a river.

Through a mangrove forest with deep sand and ruts.

At the end of the 50 km beach and dunes ride awaits a ferry to connect to another village but for me it’s time to turn around and do it all backwards. I drank 3 liters of water and did not have to pee once, I sweat it all.

Leaving Jeri I left the tires down at 12/15 psi until I hit the firm dirt road.

Back to 25/25 psi for this kind of road.

I head west towards Sao Luis. The dirt road shown on the map turns out to be impassable in one spot with my heavy bike and luggage, a 50 km stretch of deep sand even the locals on light bikes don’t ride makes me take a 100 km detour on dirt and ridable sand.

This is a pretty remote road, only a few houses along the way. I make it to my next stop in Barroquinha with the last light.

After 11,500 km the tires are at their end. I change them to the Pirelli MT90 rear and a Metzeler Sahara 3 front, the only choice I have here in the north of brazil, and take the sand road to the dunes of Barroquinha. 500 meters into the deep sand I give up and turn around. There’s hardly any grip on the rear and I need to push the bike under throttle out of the sand where I easily rode through only a day ago on the dead Mitas. Lesson learned.

Good news though, I meet a guy who just took a bus from Santarem, halfway up the amazon, to Belem at the mouth of the amazon. There is a road on the map from Belem to Manaus in the middle of the amazon called the Transamazonica but all my research showed its undrivable even in the dry season. The good news is that at least half the road is drivable, from Belem to Santarem. Over 1000 km of dirt and as long as the rain holds out and there’s some fuel along the way this part I will ride. Then take the boat to Manaus. I got myself some proper motocross tires here in Sao Luis for that stretch. It’ll be a while before I have internet access again I guess. Boa noite amigos.

Lencoise and the Chapada Diamantina National Park

The 400 km ride to Lencoise is uneventful, a highway packed with trucks going both directions. Lencoise itself, the gateway to the national park, is a beautiful historic village, cobblestone roads, old and colorful one storey buildings and alive with locals and tourists. The map shows a 30 km dirt road as the beginning part of nice loop for a day trip. With the luggage left at the hostel the bike feels so much more responsive. The dirt road is a bit more challenging then I expected, steep rock sections are good fun but the deep sand on both sides of the river crossings are hard work. I wish I had some sand riding training cause the key is speed, standing up and weight back. It’s just that the bike goes all over the place in the deep sand and it goes against my sense of safety to speed up when the bike is out of control. I air the tires down to 22 front and 25 rear and that helps a little but am exhausted at the end of the dirt/sand road.

      Steep, rocky uphill section.

A little waterfall at one of the river crossings.

There’s a grotto I like to visit, 20 km of hard packed dirt, yes that’s the kind of dirt I love. A guide takes me to the grotto and I get to swim in it. The sun hits the water at around 1 pm and lights up the grotto but I was a bit to late to see that.   The grotto.

The next day I take the bike up a valley past a small village and hike up a mountain to the famous Fumaca Falls.

At the end of the high mountain plateau awaits a stunning view over the canyon and the falls that get their name, smoke falls from the fact that the water never reaches the ground some 300 meters below, it just evaporates.    The canyon.

Fumaca Falls.

A curious guy follows me around.

A beautiful flower on a small bush.

This high plateau creek is the source of the waterfall.

Time to move on. North. To Recife. I do need new tires, the Mitas have almost 10,000 km on them, twice as much as I usually get out of the rear one.    Riding through a bamboo forest on the way to Recife.

The vegetation gets more lush as I move north along the coast. Spot the dragon!

Next planned stop is Jericoacoara on the north coast of Brazil. A magical place where I get to practice more sand riding.

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