Excerpt from journey – Praia do Cassino (27-28.05.2013)

We arrived in Cassino (Brazil), where depending on the point of view, the longest beach in the world begins or ends. 220 kilometers (240 according to Wikipedia) of sand away from civilization, or so we were told. We decided to cross it with our bikes and in that way to say goodbye to Brazil, which southern border was inevitably coming closer every day.
Brazil did not want to let us out so easily and in order to make us stay longer I was blessed with a cold that needed to be treated with a help of warm bed and lots of duvets. The war with virus was fought at Rodrigo’s place who happened to be not only a beer expert when it comes to its taste but also an excellent brewer. The time of getting better was passing quickly and in joyful atmosphere. I did not know that one day I will meet in person with a beer alchemist who will show me that this beverage can be full of taste.
In search of some information about our route we turned to the locals. ‘Do not go there’ was unfortunately the only advice we heard from them. Luckily our host was more supportive and he reminded himself about some of his friends that cycled this route and shared their experience on their blog. According to the posted information the beach could surprise us with a strong head wind, soft sand and long distance to „civilization“. We decided to revise our optimistic plan of crossing this route in 2 days and we agreed to prepare for 4.
4 days of bread with ham and cheese, a bit more than 5 liters of water per head and 1kg of chocolate to make life a bit sweeter. Mandatory bananas and to add a pinch of variety: canned sardines and few hard-boiled eggs. We knew that with this menu we risk not to be able to eat this kind of food again however we decided unanimously that the beach is worth this challenge.

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On Monday, early in the morning, with good weather forecast and a little bit heavier than usually we headed towards the beach regretting only that we did not have any space left to take at least one bottle of an excellent beer of our host. We also did not offer anything to the lady guarding the beach entrance – the mysterious Iemana who takes care of fishermen and castaways and who is worshipped by the numerous believers of Umbanda. We did not have neither cigar nor wine, and our food was precisely calculated so we entered the beach without asking for protection at the same time hoping that our lack of good manners will not awake her anger.
After a few days long break from our bikes it was a nice sensation to feel them again under our buttocks, to be greeted by the wind and most of all to see how horizon unrolls its infinity in front of us. Again the weather was merciful with us, despite the arrival of autumn and significant drop of temperature (we swapped our sandals for full shoes long time ago) we were cycling in the sun still strong enough to warm up our bodies.
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After 15km we reached a wrecked ship – our first orientation point. So far everything was going according to the plan -  we were still on the right beach: with the ocean on the left and sand on the right – the South ahead of us. From the gathered information we knew that from this moment the beach should be more desolate because during low season not so many people decide to come to this area. Suddenly, out of nowhere, as if to confirm this fact, a stray horse turned up. It stopped not far away from us, we exchanged looks, and though it appeared curious about us it left us watching its back as it was galloping away along the sand.

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I was mentally preparing myself for no-man’s land, never-ending horizon and the monotony of landscape. It seemed that my preparation was a bit premature, the civilization was still calling us. At first a military car stopped. It belonged to a navy base located on the beach some 100km away from us. It was the only place on our route with guaranteed human presence and potable water. The guys were interested in our plans and hearing that we want to get to the other side of the beach they offered us a lift (“carona”). We refused without any hesitation. They seemed to be one of those people we met before who found it hard to believe that someone would want to cross the beach on bicycles out of their own will. They didn’t hide their surprise as they were going back to their car.  We said our farewells to the soldiers at the same time thinking that we might meet again when we visit their base asking to refill our water resources.
On the way we were greeted by many fishermen that looked at us with curiosity. Again we realized that the overloaded bicycles with flags flapping on the wind are not a common view in this area. Usually because of almost no traffic cycling on a beach is much more enjoyable than moving on a road. Surrounded by ocean and sand it is possible to relax and, if you wish, you can enter a dream-like state without danger of crushing into a mechanical vehicle. So I got really surprised when all of a sudden I noticed few buses in the side mirror. I could not believe my eyes, but there they were, full of people and rushing towards us. It was definitely better for us to give them way. We started to wonder about this phenomenon. It was odd for us to see buses in such a place. Why were they there? Why weren’t they using the national road? Our imagination started to act and we came to the conclusion that we must be witnessing an illegal transport of immigrants to Uruguay. We still didn’t solve the mystery but our conclusions are unlikely to be true since there is a free movement within Mercosul – the union of few South American countries.
Imagination can play tricks on you, however it is a great companion when monotony sneaks into your reality. Well, after many kilometres of cycling on the beach a view of another heap of sand, the waves crushing on the shore and the whisper of the ocean does not enchant you anymore. The boredom arrived with the impatience on its side – my thoughts were wandering off to the moment of leaving this place and this was just our first day.
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Nothing improves our morale better than a well deserved rest and well deserved meal and so we got off our bikes close to a lighthouse and we started our feast. Suddenly a motorbike with two passengers stopped next to us. We were used to this kind of situations as it had already happened many times during this trip. This time though I had an impression that it was not only curiosity. Even though the guys were asking questions about our cycling tour they were not waiting for our answers. Instead they were nervously looking around and thoroughly scanning our belongings. After our first experience with robbery I felt alarmed. In addition one of the guys kept his hands in his pockets all the time. I was repeating to myself: no, it is not possible, we cannot be robbed for the second time, please take your hands out of your pockets and show me your intentions. I would like to know whether I should or should not fear you. We were away from people, without mobile phone signal and the possibility of being mugged again made me scared. The guys kept looking nervously around and finally … they left. We felt relieved. Till now we do not know what they were planning to do. Maybe because there was two of us and we had a knife at hand as we were preparing our lunch or maybe the presence of the fishermen in the relatively near distance was the reason that the guys went away without doing anything. We will never find out. However the fact is that for the next few kilometers I was cycling with fear of them jumping out of somewhere, in a more desolate place. Fortunately they did not appear again and we could keep on cycling merrily. I decided not to complain about monotony of the landscape anymore. I prefer that to the situations like the previous one.  As far as I am concerned it can be a little bit boring. I do not need to be an action hero.
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Never-ending ocean, never-ending beach and never-ending dunes were our trip companions until we pitched our tent. For me, sleeping under the sky is always a perfect end to our cycling day. It is the time to relax (only when mosquitoes are not too cheeky). it is the time to be proud of the distance travelled and it is the time to contemplate the surrounding nature. For this night we booked a forest clearing behind the dunes range and when it got dark we marched to the shore to admire the stars. While living in the city we forget how the sky might look like, we forget how many stars it can fit…
The second day greeted us with a lof of sun but also with a quite  strong wind. Luckily it was on our side and it was pushing us so we were rushing ahead effortlessly. So far everything was as planned, there was also a chance that we could leave Praia do Cassino the same day (cycling 120km with the tail wind seemed to be possible without pushing ourselves too much).
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The second half of the route was different in that there was not a single soul we met. The fishermen were gone and so were the buses. No sign of potential robbers and even the forest stayed behind. The wind mercilessly chased grains of sand along the beach. Only when we stopped to catch the breath did we realize the sheer force of the blows. This day the wind was the master of this land and it didn’t even allow us to peacfully have our lunch break as it was seasoning our sandwiches with sand. We had no choice but move forward. I had an impression that the wind was politely excusing us from this desert  land. After few hours of pedalling we recognized first fishermen houses on the horizon. We were reaching the end of Praia do Cassino and at the same time the end of Brazil.
It was getting dark and we were still cycling towards Chuí (Chuy), a town located on the boarder between Brazil and Uruguay. In the distance we could see the first lightnings of an oncoming thunder storm. We arrived at the hostel with the first drops of rain. We were lucky. It is more pleasant to watch a storm with a roof over your head.
We managed to cross Praia do Cassino in two days. We didn’t encounter any of the difficulties that were mentioned by the other cyclists. Even the 20km strip of uncyclable soft sand was not a problem to us. Honestly we don’t quite know where it is. The force was on our side… the only question left was what to do with the remaining bread and eggs…. I was not too worried about the chocolate.

9 Responses to Excerpt from journey – Praia do Cassino (27-28.05.2013)

  1. Miriam says:

    My dear friends I was blessed to know you, your trip is fantastic, when I read your historys I realy travel with you.
    Of course you are a lucky persons.
    A few people can live those experiences.
    I am realy happy to know you are ok and I desire you trip be happy.
    The pictures are wonderful!
    Hugs
    Miriam

  2. Miriam says:

    Oh, I forgot to tell about the horse, it is wonderful!
    Hugs
    Miriam

  3. Lulis says:

    Lets call it a day? Two days, maybe.
    Weel, i really think that you can say it everiday ;)
    Keep on road (or on sand) polksafriends!
    Niemuviepopolsku!

    • Wojtek says:

      Hahaha, we got lazy in Uruguay, going slow… 3 stationary days for each cycling day….. the winter is coming!

  4. João Paulo says:

    Nice to see you’re riding well!
    Good luck my friends!

  5. Federico says:

    Happy to know you’re well and still on the road!! Keep going… enjoy Uruguay!! Hope my spanish lessons will help! :P

    • Wojtek says:

      ¡Hola! Claro, estamos donde???? Argentina! Y comemos que? Dulce de leche… casero!!!! Estupendo! Greets!

  6. Lucas says:

    Nice account of your ride !
    I remember cycling on that beach when was a child…
    certainly not as much as you two :-)

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