After 5 weeks in the saddle the Global Wheeling Americas expedition is bang on track. With an extremely tight schedule of 400 km’s per week required to reach Burning Man in Nevada in time for late August 2013. This 20 000 km pedal powered environmental pilgrimage across the Americas has left no room for error.
At the end of the 5th week the odometer reads 20 82 carbon free kilometers with a CO2 reading of 311. 17 kg’s and the humble bicycle and its carbon free qualities as a mode of transport continue to impress. The road thus far has not been without its challenges though and entering the state of Parana has seen the introduction of some serious mountainous terrain as I post this blog from 1000 meters above sea level.
My biggest challenge to date in Brazil has been staying alive on the infamous BR 101 freeway otherwise known by the locals as “death highway” here in Brazil. With a population of close to 200 000 000 people coupled with one of the largest emerging economies in the world and a virtually nonexistent railway network. Brazil is exceedingly over reliant on the truck and this major south north thoroughfare connecting the major cities of Porto Alegre and Curitiba in the south with Sao Paolo and Rio further north.
The BR 101 makes for extremely dangerous cycling and some rather stressful days in the saddle as the physically demanding schedule of 400 km’s per week is now compounded by the stress of dealing with these huge diesel trucks, racing past you at what seems like a hundred miles an hour as they shave closely by you. The wind tunnel shaking you to the core as all your muscles contract and clench up as you hear yet another colossal rumble approach from behind at staggering speeds. Navigating hundreds of these trucks on a daily basis leaves you mentally and physically drained by nightfall, I suppose the upside is I am now managing to sleep through the night from sheer exhaustion even though it is often on the side of the noisy BR 101 freeway nestled away hidden amongst some dense vegetation in my tent the “humble hilton”.
Bidding farewell to the Atlantic ocean would be a rather emotional affair as I start to tack north west through the towns of Joinville and on towards Curitiba, the capital of the state of Parana and the largest of the Brazilian cities I would endure with a population of 4 000 000 in the greater metropolitan area. From Curitiba I will start to head directly west towards the Iguaza falls and the Paraguayan border before tackling the Andes and the interior of the Latin American continent. The thought of thousands of miles and months in the saddle before I would encounter the ocean once again plays heavily on my mind.
My bad luck seems to continue as the last couple of weeks in the saddle have seen my inflatable mattress give up the ghost and succumb to 3 punctures as the debris and glass that litter this busy freeway wreak havoc on my tyres. My customised aluminum camera mount on the front of the bike would snap from the rigours of Latin American roads and the barrage of vibration it has endured over the last 2000 km’s coming up from Buenos Aires via Uruguay. It would take me 2 hours circling the industrial estate on the edge of Curitiba before I managed to source a spot that could weld it back together. On a brighter note, Brazilian hospitality continues to impress as I was hosted by a Fireman and fellow bike enthusiast in the town of Tijucas whilst en route to Curitiba and managed do get some much needed laundry out of the way.
With the mount fixed and the puncture repaired I plot my route west towards the interior of the continent, bidding farewell to the infamous BR 101 as I now rely on smaller roads heading inland. I try to focus on the positives not to get bogged down by the relentless bad luck that has plagued the start of the expedition thus far and continue to crank the pedals in the hope that my luck will turn sooner or later.
And our official CO2 reading for the journey thus far had it been done in an average sized American people carrying sedan….
Scary stats! Thinking twice about jumping in the car for the next quick jaunt to the shops?
Stay tuned as we watch the CO2 tally grow as the expedition unfolds.