South Brazil

INTRODUCTION

Based on a tour by Tyler Folsom and Fran Solomon in December 1998 - January 1999.

The south is the most prosperous region of Brazil. It was mostly settled in the 19th century by immigrants from Germany, Italy, and Eastern Europe. It does not lie in the tropics and the European influence sets it apart from the rest of the country. Curitiba is the most environmentally conscious city of Brazil. Its excellent bus system results in 25% less gasoline consumption than average even though per capita car ownership is above average. The beaches of this region are popular vacation destinations for Brazilians, Argentines and Uruguayans.

LOCATION

States of Parana and Santa Catarina, in the south of Brazil.

SEASON

The entire tour lies south of Capricorn and thus is technically not tropical. Curitiba lies at 900 meters and can get frost in the winter (July and August). However the entire region is subtropical; the coast especially can get quite hot in summer (December to March). January rain is common on Florianopolis island.

TRANSPORTATION

Air connections to Curitiba, Itajai, Florianopolis, Foz do Iguacu and other cities. Modern buses go everywhere and have large undercarriages that can carry unboxed bikes. There are also overnight sleeper bus connections to Sao Paulo, Rio de Janerio, Montivideo, Buenos Aires, etc. One of the few passenger railways is a spectacular line from Curitiba to Morretes and Paranagua; this does not appear to carry bikes.

ACCOMMODATION

Plenty of hotels and campgrounds. Expect to pay US$20 to 50 for a budget hotel room for two; US$9 for camping for two. Hotel prices usually include a large breakfast. These costs are prior to the devaluation of the Real in mid January 1999 and could have gone down.

TERRAIN & ROADS

On this route, there is a steep 900 meter drop from Curitiba to Morretes. Most of the rest is more or less level. The roads are not good. Brazil has either too many cars or not enough roads. The main routes are four-lane freeways. If you bike on the pavement, trucks will come uncomfortably close. Brazilians bike on the shoulders (in either direction). Some shoulders are well paved, some rough, some dirt. The secondary roads are often poorly paved and may have heavy traffic with no shoulder. As in Portugal, many roads are cobblestone (either rectangular bricks or hex pavers), which is rough going on a bike. On this route, about one-third of the distance is pleasant cycling on decent pavement with moderate to light traffic. Drivers are generally good and many gave us the thumbs up. Most Brazilians were impressed that we were travelling by bike.

COMMENTS

If you go to south Brazil, Iguacu Falls are a must-see. They are not included on this itinerary since we had gone there the previous year.

This is a fairly laid back route, covering 266 miles in two weeks. On day 6 we cut out about 100 miles by taking a bus so that we could spend more time on Florianopolis Island (officially Santa Catarina Island). This section could be biked by heading out of Curitiba on day 3. South Brazil was a great vacation destination, but the biking was more challenging than we had anticipated.

REFERENCES

Good maps are difficult to find. We used three 1:250,000 topographic maps published by the Brazilian government. These can be obsolete, not indicating major highways, and are expensive in the U.S. ($25 per sheet). At the Curitiba airport, the tourist desk has free maps showing the city and roads to the coast (Parana Litoral).

ITINERARY

Day 0: In the air

Flew United Airlines Seattle-Chicago, then Chicago-Sao Paulo. When we bought our tickets, United had assured us that there was no charge for bicycles on international routes. At check-in they charged us $60 per bike. They provided boxes.

Day 1: In Curitiba (11 miles)

Arrived in Sao Paulo, went through customs, including baggage inspection. Transferred to a Varig flight to Curitiba. The two and a half hour time between flights was needed for these tasks plus changing money and grabbing some lunch. The Curitiba city bus does not carry bicycles. It is a pleasant ride from the airport into town following the main route (BR 376, Av. das Torres). Alternatively, you could take Av. Mal. Floriano Peixoto, which lies to the west and parallels Av. das Torres)

Day 2, 3: In Curitiba

Day 4: Morretes (47 miles)

Biked out of town on local streets (bike path from Passeo Publico to Av. Joao Gualberto, becomes Av. Parana), then on the shoulder of the BR 116 freeway. There is a local road paralleling the freeway to Quatro Barras; we used this for a few miles but the pavement was not good. At mile 25, turned off onto Estrada da Graciosa (PR 410, 411), the old colonial road through the Serra do Mar that quickly drops to sea level. It is a scenic winding road through lush vegetation of the Atlantic forest, though about five miles is cobblestone. The last stretch from Porto de Cima into Morretes is very pleasant cycling and there is even a bike lane. Morretes is a charming colonial town on a river. We stayed in the Nhundiaquara Hotel on the river and had a great barreado dinner.

Day 5: Matinhos (40 miles)

The first 8 miles (PR 408 for 4 miles, then left at sign for Paranagua) was good cycling with light traffic. Then we picked up the BR 277 freeway in hot and humid weather. At mile 19, PR 407 was two lanes with moderate traffic. At 3:00 we reached the ocean at Praia de Leste and took a swim, enjoying warm water and white sand. We continued in a constant stream of traffic on shoulderless PR 412 until reaching a campground.

Day 6: bike to Guaratuba (7 miles) and bus to Itajai

Our original plan had been to bike to the Germanic towns Joinville and Blumenau, but since the cycling was less enjoyable than expected, we decided to take the bus to Balneario Camboriu instead and spend more time on Santa Catarina Island. The cycling to Guaratuba and the ferry crossing was pleasant. There was no direct bus, so we had to change at Joinville. We called three cheap hotels in Camboriu and they were all full, so we made a reservation in nearby Itajai. The first three express buses were full, so we wound up getting into town at 10:00 PM. We took quick showers and then got a cab for Camboriu. The pedestrian Av. Central was full with people of all ages heading to the beach for New Year’s eve. We had dinner in a second floor restaurant overlooking the street, then at midnight went to the beach to watch fireworks. After that there was dancing in the streets to a live band, with some guys occasionally showering the crowd with beer or champagne.

Day 7: Praia do Pinho (18 miles)

We got up late and biked the short distance into Balneario Camboriu. The town is

  1. Overdeveloped with too many high-rises ruining a once beautiful beach.
  2. A small version of Rio / Copacabana without the crime and pollution

We had lunch on the beach and talked with friendly people before heading on to a remote beach. We took a ferry from the south part of town and then had to deal with dirt roads, very steep hills and lots of traffic.

Day 8, 9: in Praia do Pinho

We spent the next two days relaxing on this secluded beach, enjoying warm sun, surf, and good meals in the local restaurant.

Day 10: Florianopolis (48 miles)

Getting out of Pinho involved more hills and dirt roads. In Itapema we bought groceries and had lunch and a swim at the beach. We got started again at 2:30, having covered less than 10 miles. We tried a backroad toward Tijucas, but it turned to dirt so we got onto BR 101. It was not as bad as we had expected and we made good time using the shoulder or service roads. We wound up in a hotel at the SE corner of Florianopolis.

Day 11: Pedras Altas (20 miles)

We continued south on local roads and BR 101 to Enseada de Brito, where we had a dirt road for four miles. Pedras Altas is a small rustic resort on an isolated cove run by a family. The bay water is calm and warm.

Day 12: Florianopolis (20 miles)

We enjoyed the beach in the morning. Cost for camping and three meals for the two of us was $30. We arranged to be taken to the south end of Florianopolis Island by some fishermen. The first part of this route was pleasant cycling though picturesque villages. Traffic was heavy for the last 8 miles from Rio Tavares into the city.

Day 13: Praia dos Ingleses (24 miles)

We left town on local streets, joining SC 401 at mile 3. This main highway is four lanes with a good shoulder. We took a spur road to Santo Antonio de Lisboa for a picnic and swim.

Day 14: Florianopolis airport (27 miles) fly to Sao Paulo and USA

These roads on the east side of the island would be very pleasant if it hadn't rained all day. There is good pavement and light traffic. The terrain is more or less flat except for two steep hills south of Barra da Logoa. We got heavy traffic from Rio Tavares, but lost the traffic when we turned left to the airport.

Day 15: Arrive Seattle.

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