Testing our Brazilian bikes from Salvador to Praia do Forte

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May 14th 2014
Published: August 4th 2014
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Best bike saddle ever! Best bike saddle ever! Best bike saddle ever!

or The 1000 ways to use a coconut in Bahia
Praia do Forte is only 70km away from Salvador but it took us pretty much the whole day to cycle there ( 8 hours?) Not that we didn't enjoy it but it was definitely a necessary test-ride for our cheap new bikes… We started pedaling from Farol de Barra, the fort at the extreme south west of Salvador (2 minutes away from our hotel) and followed the littoral all the way to Praia do Forte. In Salvador there is a very nice bike lane along the beach that goes on all the way to Praia Itapua (about 15 km) but then it becomes a little tricky to ride right along the beach as there are many rivers along the shore that require long detours to the main expressway and the bridges farther inland. We tried our best to get off the highway and cycle back towards the beach where we could enjoy the ocean breeze and beautiful vistas of the golden sand beaches. There was hardly any traffic on the small streets along the seashore which made riding extremely enjoyable. We stopped a lot to take in the view and savor this experience. We were in Brazil! I think we still
happy cyclistshappy cyclistshappy cyclists

and careful ones too! Haha! Good thing nobody knows us in Salvador!
couldn’t believe it!

There were many dark clouds floating above inauspiciously… but bad luck didn’t come from the sky at first, it came from the saddle of my bike! I stopped to take a picture and in order to move the bike against a tree, I lifted it from under the saddle…Bad idea! The plastic seat popped out and I'm sure I looked pretty dumbfounded with my bike saddle in hands (We should have taken a picture but I was too tense to think of this!). In order to put it back we had to bend the hard plastic back into the 2 rods that hold it in place, and believe me, it wasn’t easy! We eventually got it back on but every time there was a bump my seat would tip backwards so that the long narrow edge would slam into my…well, you know what, front part! We tried to screw the bolt as tight as we could, we tried to move the saddle to the back… there was nothing to be done so I tried my best to put all my weight on the front of the saddle but it would tip again at the slightest bump on the road. Argh! A few kilometers farther my Dad experienced some problems with the chain and the gears. The chain fell off and got stuck between the wheel and the cassette. Fortunately the chain didn’t break but we had to take off his panniers and turn the bike over to fix it. This would have never happened with our own bikes… Why didn’t we bring them? We would have avoided so much stress! We told each other we should be extremely careful not to break anything because it didn’t look like we’d be able to find anyone or any shop to fix the bikes. We were still riding along the beach but on our left were nice condominiums (summer apartments?). We stopped and made sandwiches on the beach. There were very few people along the coast. Apparently May in Brazil is no beach time for the locals... it is winter after all! And some people in town were wearing boots and sweaters although temperatures were in the high 20s!

After the town of Abrantes we had no choice but to get on the main road (BA-099). It wasn’t what we had expected but there was no more road along the beach. The roads that go towards the ocean only run perpendicular to the beach but they don’t follow it, or only for a very short time. Only the expressway would take us to Praia do Forte. The road wasn’t flat at all and there were actually some pretty nice hills. We had agreed not to put too much stress on the bikes (pedals and gears) so we took on the climbs slowly. As we got closer to Praia do Forte there were a lot more forests and we even saw people riding horses on the main road. We cycled faster the last km as we wanted to get there before dark (5.30pm in May). The plan was to camp and it’s always a lot harder to find a good place to pitch a tent at night! And 5 minutes before we got to town (Praia do Forte is a village) we got rained on really hard and had to find refuge under some palm trees by the road...We just needed 5 more minutes!

Praia do Forte consists of one long pedestrian street for tourists with very nice boutiques and some fancy-looking restaurants. I’ve read that wealthy Brazilian
Right after the rain 3 minutes outside Praia do Forte!Right after the rain 3 minutes outside Praia do Forte!Right after the rain 3 minutes outside Praia do Forte!

my bike was too heavy on the rear, to my surprise and father's amusement
and Argentine tourists come here on holidays. In May the whole street was fairly quiet. There were tourists but very few… especially after the torrential rain that poured on all of us 5 minutes before we arrived! My Dad liked the atmosphere right away. He said he felt on holidays in places like these. I didn’t really like the tourist side of town and as I looked at the prices on the menus, I realized everything was overpriced so I asked my Dad to follow me farther into the dark little streets for us to find a restaurant where local people must eat. We were going to be traveling for 2 months so I wanted us to stick to a budget. Plus, after riding the whole day I knew we would be devouring our food more than savoring it. I asked a couple of people where we could eat and 1 guy pointed to a hole in the wall where we could have deliciosa food! The cook was super friendly and we got to chat with a local surfing instructor and a boat builder from the Isle of Man. They taught us a bit of Portuguese and I taught them a few Chinese phrases as they say they got a lot of Chinese in Praia do Forte in the summer time. When the food came, we couldn’t believe it: big dishes of spaghetti, rice, red beans, and a huge plate of chicken and pork filets! So tasty and it only cost us 15Reals a person compared to the 90 indicated on every menu on the touristy part of town. We enjoyed one last cold beer with our new friends and headed out of town to pitch our tent in a quiet place I had spotted on our way in. And we slept well! (I’ll get back to camping later or in another blog)

Praia do Forte is a peaceful village (at least in the winter) and it’s a charming little place to wander around as cars aren’t allowed in. The long pedestrian street leads directly to the harbor where an old church stands between the beach on one side and the refuge for sea turtles on the other. Our first move in the morning was to ride on the beach (very early) at low tide. What an amazing feeling this was! Is there any better place to cycle than on a beautiful beach under palm trees, with the breeze in our hair, the warm sun on our shoulders and the sound of waves crashing on the sand? My Dad jumped in the water and then lied down on the soft sand waiting to be sun-kissed! I got my gas stove out and made coffee. We truly loved the beach but our bikes hated it! Sand got everywhere in the gears; the salt started rusting our cheap bikes right away and some worrisome crackling sounds came from the chain, the cassette and the spokes… Still it was fun to cycle so close to the water.

In the afternoon we visited the turtle station (Projeto Tamar) and we got to see different species of marine turtle, and even some babies in different pools. If thousands of baby turtles hatch every year, only a few hundred reach adulthood. It was relaxing to sit by the pool and watch these giant turtles emerge from time to time to get a breath of air but I found it hard to imagine that these creatures could actually swim all the way to Africa every year…

We also rode our bikes (again!) to the Castelo do Garcia d’Avila, 7km outside town. It was built in 1552 and was the first great Portuguese edifice in Brazil. Desperate to colonize, the King of Portugal granted lands to merchants, soldiers and aristocrats. A farmer named Garcia d’Avila, endowed with a large piece of land chose this beautiful ocean view plot for his home. There is no roof on the building anymore except for the chapel that has been restored. If it hadn’t been for the guard, it would have been a nice place to camp…

In the morning I had gone for a long walk on the beach. At low tide the beach in Praia do Forte goes on forever. I had crossed a river that met the ocean and right after there were no more hotels or houses, it was all mangroves, coconut trees and jungle… This would be perfect for us to pitch our tent by the ocean on our 2nd night in Praia do Forte. So after a second wonderful dinner at the same little restaurant on the quiet side of town, we rode our bikes to the beach (at night) and carried them over the river (water to our knees). We rode a bit farther to make sure that we wouldn’t be bothered by anyone at all. We pitched the tent under a young coconut tree. The sea was calm; the sky was lit by a million stars and my Dad fell asleep very fast while I sat down and gazed at the stars and the moonlit ocean through the mosquito net. I fell asleep shortly after thinking this wasn’t far from paradise. But at 2am hell broke down on us! We were woken up by fierce wind and rain. We sat down on our mattresses holding the front of the tent from inside. The wind shook the hell out of us and we were very worried that the waterproof cover would tear or fly away, and that the light frame of our tent would break on us. We stayed there holding the inside corners for what seemed like a long time… (and we weren’t laughing!) then we suddenly decided we had to move. We got out and as fast as we could; we took the tent down, and carried it towards the tree line in the back of the beach. We set it up again under the rain. We didn’t even
cycling along the coastcycling along the coastcycling along the coast

football-tennis on the beach: great life!
find a flat spot and the tent was surrounded by cacti (we both stepped on!) but we felt relieved once sheltered from the brutal wind. We really did freak out that one night under the tent but we learned a good (and obvious!) lesson and we swore we wouldn’t camp so close to the beach ever again (or at least in this part of the world!). I really wish I had videotaped the whole scene because it was absolutely unreal, from such heavenly peace to hell! Live and learn!

In the morning the weather was all grey and it looked like it was going to rain again. So we packed, rode back on the beach, crossed the river again (water up to my belly button this time!) and begged farewell to Praia do Forte: “Tchau!” Bikes were squeaky; the pedals, the spokes and the back-rack looked rusty already (brown spots everywhere!) after only 3 days of riding. We found a place to rinse them off but after a few kilometers on the road, my gears stopped working and I was stuck on the 1st bracket… Dad had problems with a loose pedal… How far will we truly be able
suburbs north of Salvadorsuburbs north of Salvadorsuburbs north of Salvador

very close to the seashore
to get with these bikes?! We should have brought our own! Or bought more expensive ones! Or not have ridden in the sand! Haha! Oh well…

We made it back to Salvador around 5pm and stopped at the bike shop. The mechanics were all happy to see us again and they wanted to know everything about our journey to Praia do Forte. They were amazed that we had made it so far (and back!) on these bikes… Anyhow they fixed up our bikes nicely and we left the shop with smooth rides!... until the next beach! The adventure could go on!

One last night in Salvador, then we would cross Baia de Todos os Santos on a ferry and cycle south along the coast of Bahia… More coming soon!

Additional photos below
Photos: 115, Displayed: 30


Salvador de Bahia, view from the north coastSalvador de Bahia, view from the north coast
Salvador de Bahia, view from the north coast

I got sand in my camera on day 1 of our holiday... this explains the dark spots on the photo

4th August 2014
let's have lunch here!

Nice place
I hope i could visit a place such as this, if i will able to get a chance it will be so greatful. Anyway what a great place.....nice picture too.
6th August 2014

Nice beaches
Hi Jeremy, The pictures make me wanna go to the beach as well!! Reading your story about your tent, reminded me of the wind in Mongolia: I really thought that my tent will not be strong enough for such wind! But let's say it's part of the adventure and now you will always remember that night for the great sky full of stars but also the wind and rain. Looking forward to reading about the rest of your trip.
6th August 2014

camping in Brazil was absolutely epic!
I might make a whole blog entry on this part of the trip! Beaches in Bahia were very nice. Wait for my next blog on Boipeba or Itacare: splendid and pristine!

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