Riding along Brazilian beaches: Iguape, Ilha Comprida, Cananeia to Paranagua

Lagoon and bike on beach near Superagui, Brazil

Guide

I went north south but either directions are possible, this route was suggested by friend Chris Parkin and based on the informative guide: Biking Beaches in Brazil by Sonya Spry & Aaldrik Mulder. Maps of the area can look rather empty but each crossing was at an established village or town.

As of March 2016

It’s possible to start further up at Barra do Una via Peruíbe but I’m not sure of the details. I rode the SP-55 to Pedro Barros (nice road), down the BR-16 past Miracatu (horrible road) then the SP-222 to Iguape (beautiful road).

Ilha Comprida

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Iguape has everything you need to stock up on and plenty of accommodation options. Cross the bridge to Ilha Comprida, finding the seafront ride down either the road or beach. The road goes for about 30km then joins the beach for the last 15km of the island. The beach surface is fine to ride on, smooth with the odd small stream to bump through. I rode 28 and 35 x700c tyres on a loaded bike and was surprised how easy it was.
Where the road joins the beach is a beach cafe for snacks. Busses pass on the sand. Flags and cafes mark the beach-road which takes you across the bottom of the island to the Cananeia.
The road has a few cafes, campsites and Posadas. Campsites nearer the beach probably have less mosquitos if windy.
Ferry at end of road runs half past every hour, it’s free and takes maybe 10 minutes.

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Cananeia

Cananeia is one of the older recorded towns in Brazil, predating Rio so worth a look around.
The regular Cananeia – Maruja ferry apparently runs at 7pm and takes three hours but that seems a little late. Along to the right of the ferry dock is a jetty where the water taxis operate.
Had a chat a with someone soon found someone to take me with some others to Maruja. I was charged R$ 70 which is a lot, but foreigners and bikes get a special rate. Boat took about 40min with great views and Guiana dolphins.

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Ilha do Cardoso

In Maruja cross a football field to the left and find a sand path crossing to the ocean side. Beach ride is about 12km until a purple house with a path that leads through a collection of houses, over a concrete bridge to the beach. I cut back and found someone in one of the house to take me over to Ararapira for R$10, 5 minutes.

Ararapira

Ararapira is a collection of houses along a sandy path. Camping and food is apparently available.

I joined the beach and road south but soon hit a deep river (high rainfall for the last week), the far side beach was obstructed with fallen trees and things looked impassable. Here I would recommend instead asking if the boat from
Ilha do Cardoso can take you up the coast a little as in March about 1km was blocked by storm damage. A fisherman stopped and took me round.

Superagui

Once on clear beach it’s about 20km to Superagui. Near the end is a path by some poles that cuts across the end with a few concrete bridges. The end is a sand bar lagoon, check tides but was beautiful to cycle around with a knee high river crossing at the end. Superagui seems to have plenty of campsites and a simple shop, probably the better place to stop.
Ask about but should be easy to find a boat on the beach to take you to the other side, R$ 20 (high forigner tax), 5 minutes.

Ilha Das Pecas

About 9km round to the village of the same name, beautiful stretch with a few larger streams, still easy to ride, some sand flats.
The village has one or two campsites but I didn’t find much food that night.
First boat to Paranagua 7:15am.

Notes on timing: March

Getting near the end of the tourism season so not so many places open or very quiet. Lots of rain so some rivers higher, lots of storms so beach after Ararapira was covered with fallen trees and cliff slides. Overcast which was good as sun would have been hard given no shelter.

Get used to the painful sound of sand in gears, it will take a chunk out of your bikes life span but add a load to yours.
Give it a good clean and oil once back on normal roads.

 


 

Personal Account

In Iguape I was lucky to be hosted by Silmara and her brilliant family via Couchsurfing. She runs a small law practice in town and was happy to show me about the sleepy town square with a beer. I was left for the afternoon with here enthusiastic and delightful mother keenly chatting away, testing my Portuguese and taking me for a little ride around the block to show me where she had seen jaguars roaming on the edge of town. We sat with a beer outside the local shop saying hello to passing neighbors and giggled with laughter while she helped me expand my Portuguese vocabulary; “Boquete” – Blow job, along with a few others which had daughter Silmara cringing with embarrassment, mothers can be the worst, yet very entertaining.
It would have been great to stay another night with the joyful family, especially for the food but the long beaches were calling.

The sands of Ilha Comprida are compact, almost concrete like and make for smooth progress, they stretch way off into the distance obscured by the sea spray. The overcast weather is a god send, without any shade it would have been hot work. The beaches are very quite, only only other people are the odd shore line fisherman, one of which laments a poor days catch.

There are however an abundance of birds, waders dart around and huge gangs of vultures pick over the remains of life given up by the sea. It make a nice, if macabre change from the usual roadkill; here jellyfish, dolphins, birds and fish pass by my wheel, with the same vultures tidying up this time joined by plucky yellow crabs.

As I approach one flock of vultures they all fly off revealing the sad sight of a Green Sea Turtle, the elegant beast lays quiet in a blood stained pool in the sand. Turtles rarely brave the beaches, only for egg laying and sometimes if they are sick. The vultures had removed its eyes which were still streaming fresh blood, the animal seemed in no other obvious way injured but did not respond to and touch. The poor creature can’t have been dead long. It was a sad sobering sight but one of pure nature.

For the last stretch of island the road traffic joins the beach, the odd car fly’s past and even the local bus, what a breath of fresh air for a commute.

The campsite at the end, it’s quite and has a strong hippy vibe along with a strong mosquito whine. I neglected to bring a tent on this trip (kind of stupid) so sling my hammock between some trees and bodge together the mosquito net designed for a normal bed, I just about work out a method as the heavens open, luckily there is a large empty teepee tent for shelter, poles strong enough for the hammock. The rain causes the little restaurant and shop to close early so I finally get a chance to play with my new petrol stove.

The small car ferry potters over to Cananeia, but it’s just a connection stop, for the next boat to Maraja I find a water taxi, a small aluminium speedboat and we load up the bike along with the bags of a few other people and zip out towards the hills to the west. The salt water channel cuts round the back of some of the green peaks lined with impenetrable mangrove and home to Guiana dolphins.

Maraja is a sleepy collection of houses along some sandy paths which lead over to the next long stretch of ocean shore. The wave rumble in along the shallow beach, white froth and turbid water, roaring as far as the eye can see. Despite tens on kilometers between the tiny villages and hundreds to the next towns there is a sad constant presence of trash, plastics which will last longer than any living creature mix in among the washed seaweed and branches. It causes a great deal of harm to the life along this coast as is dose through the world and leaves one feeling a shameful human.
The end us marked by another sandy path back across and similar village which leads to a small beach with fishing boats up on the shore. It’s however quite lifeless, I wander around but find no one till I venture back to the village and spy an old couple watching TV, I knock and say hello, he smiles as he wakes and it happy to zip me over to the other side. We get in a convenient boat which I get the idea can be used by any one and cross over the channel back to Ararapira on the mainland.

Winding past a few quiet houses I follow the path and west along the beach, the family I have met in Ararapira were right, the river was indeed high and the far beach covered in fallen trees. The river looked maybe passable but the dark black water gave no clue to the depth beyond a foot. I had promised them I would return if it looked risky but a fisherman pottered over in his boat and offered a lift around, what fine timing. I just hope the family didn’t worry.

The narrow boat rolls around in the choppy sea, the river is joining the ocean and makes for erratic high waves, the single cylinder engine putts away pushing us along the sand cliff coast torn apart by storms. Gray clouds are stacking up and the wind raising, we motor the kilometer of impassable beach to where it clears but by the this point the surf is too big to land in the small dugout canoe, nevermind while carrying a bike. He crack starts the little engine and we start to make our way back. He barely talks to me be seems keen to help and accepts no money, it’s a real treat to see him in his element navigating the small boat of his labor.

We spot a calmer bit of water and cut for the shore, he jumps over the side to hold the boat in the surf while I make runs with bags and bikes, chucking them into the tangle of trees above the surf. I wonder if the phone case in my pocket is a waterproof as advertised and I wade chest high. It was! It’s a frantic moment getting knocked about by the waves. He yells to be “Bolsa”, I think for a second and smile, my Portuguese is working – I know that, it means “Bag”. BAG! I turn around and see one of my bags floating out on the backwash, I run and grab it, and shot-put it further up the beach, as it fly’s through the air there is a Schrodinger moment of thought – is that the one with my laptop in? Oh well, we will see.
With everything out of the boat we wave a quick goodbye and he makes a brake from the angry coast.

The land is dense trees and shrubs, no path, the beach covered in felled trees which meant walking in the sea. There wasn’t a soul for miles, so best to think things through and be cautious, the gray clouds were now crashing lightning which helped being the sense of absurdity to the point of laughter.

First trip I slung two bags around by neck and carried the bike above my head, it was probably not the wisest start. Around a large fallen tree the depth went from wait high to chests, a wave caught the bags and I was pulled under clutching onto the bike above which kept tangling with some of the branches. I regained my footing and managed to get my head above water while freeing the bike. For the next 400 meters or so I kept a good distance form the trees.

The sandy beach opened up, free of trees and ride-able to much relief. I made the trip two more times for the other bags and reassembled my kit and my thoughts. I had expected some challenges but had not considered nearly drowning on a remote battered coast, it was sobering yet exhilarating, we had made it through.

The next length of beach was back to the same flat ways as before, with dramatic clouds swirling around. Suddenly a horrible ripping sound and I was nearly sent over the bars, a strap on a front bag had got caught in the front wheel, wound in deep around the disk. Of all the places! Luckily after fifteen minutes I had the front of the bike disassembled and wrestled the strap freed, all while the sea washed in and out around us. The mechanic in me was at this point apathetic, the bike had survived the most bizarre day.

A the end of the headland is a huge lagoon with the sandy beach stretching far out and round the headland. There is a path to cut across but I stuck withe sea, following it out and back. When you get to the tip you are surrounded on three sides by a horizon of great surf, is a strange site. Following the beach round it joins the lagoon channel which was a nice knee high crossing of dark murky black water.

Superagui has a bit more life to it with a few campsites and a little shop, I stumble in, looking a little dazed and ate two ice creams and two packets of biscuits which could have been any flavor but for all I cared were the finest on earth.

The shop keeper leaves me in charge of the shop (I think he was joking..), returning with his younger brother who takes me over to the last island of the day Ilha Das Pecas, another long sandy shore with a small town at the end.

Alexandre and his friendly young family were sharing host at the little campsite, although the garden being an inch deep in water meant I just slept among the tables, this I think made the grand mother a little sad and she refused to accept any money the next morning, I hope she didn’t think herself a bad host as it seems sleeping on the floor is maybe frowned upon in Brazil, (on reflection it kind of is everywhere but I think culturally has more bad luck here, people wont even put a bag on the floor, understandable give the animals and insects about).

An early morning ferry landed me in Paranagua, the port town of the huge agricultural state of Parana. It’s an ugly road for anyone, thousands of lorries lumber past. These great oil beasts of burden form the backbone of Brazil, a country which never developed much of a rail network, the roads bear the brunt of the nations massive output. The roads remind me of old summer jobs back home digging out moldy grain, spillage from the trucks going rank in the damp heat.

The road out to Curitiba is a 1000 meter climb among the trucks up into Brazil’s southern interior, a more temperate high plateau and a long grizzly day of a ride with no downhill reward.

Spotting an ice cream fridge in a shop I slam on the brakes, gravel and tarmac are a bastard mix when not paying attention, the front wheel skids out and I’m on the ground in the dust. I stagger up and wander over to the three shop witness shopkeepers. I ask for an ice cream after a little laugh fetch me one along with some cream and some paper, these blood all down one leg but was totally worth the feast. I may have an addiction issue.

To cap of the day I make it to Curitiba with and the lovely Expresso Curitiba Cafe & Hostel. Fellow tourer Jim Moser is still in town and invites me to a gig at a bar, what better way to round of a very strange few days that with a few beers while watching ex KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick do a tribute show.

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Viva Brazil.

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