Category Archives: Bicycles

All sorts of bikes

A Warm shower and a bed

This article is not available in Portuguese and German animated GIF

Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic
Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic

I think I can safely say that, if you are here, reading this post, you are a cyclist or at least enjoy the sport. If I am wrong, however, don’t go away… 🙂
I value your time and attention. But have you ever done a long touring trip on a bike? One that lasted several  days and hundreds or perhaps even thousands of miles / kilometres?

That is exactly what Martin Zlámal from the Czech Republic is doing now. He is riding his bike from the village he was living near Manchester in the UK to his family home in the Czech Republic, a trip of over 1,000 miles / 1,600 Km.

Martin at the Frimley4 Business Park on his way to Guildford
Martin at the Frimley4 Business Park on his way to Guildford

I met Martin through Warmshowers.org, a free worldwide hospitality exchange for touring cyclists. I have been a member of Warmshowers.org for 3 years and 3 months and never had any touring cyclist requested to be hosted by me. I guess I am just not in any major touring route. As a guest I was only successful using it once, as well, in Pavia, Italy during my cycling pilgrimage on the Via Francigena to Rome. I sent dozens of requests over the years, but I guess, since the platform acts just as an interface between people, its practical success depends more of the willingness of their members to actually host and be hosted than the technology itself.

It is a great idea though and I wish we could learn to live and share our resources more often. Only those that have traveled long distances by bike fully understand the value of things we normally always take for granted. A nice warm shower to clean all the dirt and the sweat of a long day of cycling and a comfy bed. Of course, what each host can do for their guests vary with the resources they have available for themselves or are willing to share with them (a warm meal, laundry of the dirty clothes, etc).

This is where I said Good bye to Martin, half way between Bracknell and Guildford.
This is where I said Good bye to Martin, half way between Bracknell and Guildford.

The day we can make this idea work every single time, will be for me the day I will become completely certain that our civilization will not only survive, but strive, because that would be the day empathy will be common place and not fear, greed or selfishness.

Regardless of if you are a cyclist or not, I’d like to encourage you to become a member of Warmshowers.org and help those on the road, providing at least the basic comforts that every human being should have.

The link below opens the “Relive” video for the short ride I’ve done with Martin from Bracknell to Frimley Green which is 25 Km from Guildford, the first destination of his trip today. Martin plans to ride all the way down to the Ferry port of New Haven, take the ferry to Dieppe, in France, and then ride to Paris on the Avenue Verte, a disused railway line that was converted into a cycle way and leads right into Paris. The route he will then take to the Czech Republic is still open, so if you have suggestions or can help him further, please feel free to leave a comment, as I am sure he will be checking back on this.

Martin, be safe and enjoy your trip mate!

Relive ‘Short ride with Warmshowers guest’


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give). You may donate through my Patreon Page or through PayPal directly. Become a Patron

Royal Wedding Ride to Windsor Castle

This article is not available in Portuguese and German animated GIF

In two days (19th May) the UK is going to celebrate the Royal Wedding of Prince Henry of Wales (or Harry, as he is more popularly known); Princess Diana’s second Son. He is marrying actress Rachel Meghan Markle at the St George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle where the Queen and Prince Philip live for most of the year. I will not get into any details about their wedding as the media has been and will be covering the event extensively and in every minute detail. On the days prior to and on the wedding day, I expect the town of Windsor will be completely taken by government officials, security personal, diplomats, rich people, not so rich, but curious people and tourists, so for me in particular Windsor is a “no go” destination in the period.

Thankfully, the 7th of May was a bank holiday in the UK and it was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, the skies were clear and the temperature was ideal for a bike ride. So, as I mentioned the royal wedding at the end of the video, I decided to call this ride the “Royal Wedding Ride to Windsor Castle” and I took the opportunity to start it from Bracknell’s, new town centre, called “The Lexicon“, so I could show it to you all as well (the old town centre was demolished a few years ago to give way to the construction of The Lexicon, an investment estimated at approx. £750 million).

Windsor is a regular cycling destination for me. If you look through the blog you’ll see I have recorded several rides to Windsor over the last 3 years. Actually, let me do this job for you…

On the 19th of July 2015 I published a post containing a 9 min 37 sec time-lapse video starting from Bracknell’s train station, but using a different route which takes me by the entrance of the Legoland Park in Windsor and then through some private roads of a farm which I suspect belongs to the crown.

On the 20th of September 2015 I published a post containing a 1h long video in “normal mode” of my ride from my home in Bracknell to Windsor Castle. On this post I also published a 10 min video of my walking around the centre of Windsor starting from Windsor Castle where the video above stopped.

On the 18th October 2015 I again posted another post of a mid-autumn bike ride to Windsor containing the video of the ride from Bracknell to Windsor and the way back from Windsor to Bracknell . The first video is only 2 min and 31 sec long as it was a 5 second interval time-lapse recording. I did use the same route and rode from home to the old Bracknell Town Centre, but on my way back to Bracknell, I used the same Legoland Park route as on the post of the 19th of July one.

On the 8th of February 2016 I published a post containing 2 videos: An 8 min and 37 sec time-lapse video from Bracknell’s South Hill Park, using pretty much the same route as the one I used in this post, and also a video of the way back to Bracknell , using the same Legoland Park route as on the way back of the above post.

These post show only the rides to Windsor that I recorded. The distance between my home to Windsor is, for me, the perfect training length and I have often also used Windsor as a destination to do “full load” test rides in advance of long touring trips such as the one I did to Rome in 2016.

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form. Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.

Thank you for your time!


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give). You may donate through my Patreon Page or through PayPal directly. Become a Patron


Faith's Way (Caminho da Fé), Day 02: From Cravinhos to Santa Rosa de Viterbo

In this post…

    1. Introduction
    2. Measures and expenses for this day (Garmin Telemetry)
    3. Stage 03: From  Cravinhos to São Simão + Video
    4. Stage 04: From São Simão to Santa Rosa de Viterbo + Video
    5. Pictures taken on this day.

Introduction

If this is the first post you read on this series, I recommend you take a look at the introduction post published on the 28th of February 2018. That post explains what the Faith’s Way is, my reasons for doing it and provides information that might be useful to you, if you decide you want to do it too.

In this post I will cover the 2nd day of this 12 day, 600 Km, journey between the town of Cravinhos and the town of Santa Rosa de Viterbo, both in the federal state of São Paulo.

As explained in the introduction post, I broke the entire journey into 21 stages, as per the official map of the Caminho. There will be 1 video for each stage of the journey, so the blog post for this day contains two videos. One covering the journey between Cravinhos and São Simão and the other between São Simão and Santa Rosa de Viterbo.

You can download the official map of the Caminho from the website of the Friends of the Caminho Association. From there you can also download a list of credentialed accommodations for your journey. Most places in that list are simple family owned pilgrims’ hostels. Some in very rural locations (farms) others in more urban areas. Some establishments are hotels. Family owned Pilgrims’ hostels along the way have usually a set value that includes the meals as well, typically dinner and breakfast, but all hotels listed there will also offer a reduced pilgrim’s rate provided you present them your pilgrim’s credentials.

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Measures and expenses for this day (Garmin Telemetry)

  • Distance traveled from Cravinhos to Santa Rosa de Viterbo: 59.02 Km
  • Total duration of this journey: 6h 40m
  • Total moving time: 4h 57m
  • Overnight location at the end of the journey:
  • Total expenses on this day: R$ 92.50
    • Food: R$ 17.50 (dinner at a local restaurant)
    • Accommodation: R$ 75.00 (Breakfast incl)
  • Total Elevation Gain on this track: 658m
  • Average Speed: 8.9 Km/h
  • Max Speed achieved: 45.2 Km/h
  • Average Heart Rate: 132 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate: 158 bpm
  • Calories burned: 2,815 CAL
  • Click here to see the Garmin Connect page for this activity
Elevation, Speed and Heart Rate between Cravinhos and Santa Rosa de Viterbo
Elevation, Speed and Heart Rate between Cravinhos and Santa Rosa de Viterbo (Click to open full screen).

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Stage 03: From  Cravinhos to São Simão + Video.

A good night of sleep was all it took to recover from the exposure to sun, the dust and sand and the mistakes of the previous day. The breakfast table at the hotel had plenty of the most important things to sustain me for the entire day (among others ham, cheese, scrambled eggs, variety of jam and bread, fruit and cereal).

I had washed the clothes of the day before in the bathroom and they were all dry. The hotel has a backyard where I was able to also wash the bike with a hose and add some oil to the chain. Pilgrims in a hurry to get to their destination, perhaps would have to wake up very early in the morning to accomplish all these tasks before leaving, but fortunately that was not my case. I woke up around 8:00 am and only left the hotel at around 10:30am.

After leaving the hotel the challenge was to get back on track and I did not see any yellow arrows pointing the direction from the hotel. The plan was to ride back to town and continue from the point I had made my mistake the day before, but well before the town centre I rode by the other hotel in the official list of accommodations, the Girassol Hotel, right before the petrol station I stopped to ask for directions.

I never cease to be impressed by how easy it is to make friends in Brazil. At the petrol station I met fellow pilgrim João Candosim who pointed me to the yellow arrow some 100m after the petrol station and later became a Facebook friend.

If you watch the video of the prior stage and the one for this stage, you’ll see that from a certain point the images should become familiar as I followed the same route all the way to the “Frango Assado” petrol station at the edge of the Anhangüera Motorway (SP-330).

A note of advice, especially for pilgrims on bicycles, is to be aware of the stray dogs as you leave town. They all came running to me barking a lot, but I believe none of them had the intention of attacking me. They were just letting me know that this was their territory. I dismounted the bike and looked at them without fear and they soon calmed down.

I did a quick pit-stop to get some cold water at the same petrol station I asked for direction the day before and met a couple of “bicigrinos” (bicycle pilgrims) like me who were also planning to ride to Aparecida from that point. They had left from Ribeirão Preto that morning and were riding on the motorway (which in Brazil is allowed) despite being on full suspension mountain bikes, which would be ideal for the dirt tracks of the Caminho. There is no right or wrong. Each person’s pilgrimage is their own.

After the petrol station I continued on the dirt track and few kilometres later I got the a place with a small statue of our lady. Was a nice and well preserved place, ideal for some rest, water and a little prayer. I also replaced the gimbal batteries and to my bad luck forgot the spare batteries there. They were later found by fellow pilgrims, but sending them back to me was not economically viable.

I was replacing the gimbal batteries after each 90 min of use, which was enough time for the batteries to charge inside my handlebar bag were I was carrying a big 25,000 mAh power bank. Having lost the spare batteries meant that for the rest of the journey I would have to stop using the gimbal, while the only remaining batteries were charging (charge times varied from between 45 min to 1h). I continued recording the journey with the GoPro without the gimbal while the batteries were charging, but this meant a huge increase in the shakiness of the images, which you’ll probably notice in the video.

A good portion of this dirt track was along the motorway and there were some interesting views along the way, including the view of burned fields which are unfortunately common this time of the year due to high temperatures, lack of rain and other less natural reasons.

Up to the point where I crossed under the motorway there were significant less sand and dust than the day before (firmer ground), but after that point the tracks become very sandy and dusty again, to the point that, if you are on a bike, you’ll probably have to dismount and push quite often. In this stage you’ll have to ride or walk on a state highway (SP-253) for a few kilometres before continuing on a dirt track along the paved road. I felt safe on that road as it has a nicely flat and wide hard shoulder to ride on and most drivers were opening a distance between me and their cars as they crossed.

Just before arriving in São Simão you’ll have to cross railway tracks and I waited so long taking pictures that by the time I was ready to cross them I had to with for the incoming cargo train to pass, which took several minutes as it was a very long train.

The town of São Simão is small and the yellow arrows were close to each other, practically eliminating the possibility of getting lost. Before arriving at the São Simão Hotel, the one option for accommodation on the official guide and the place where you can get your pilgrim’s credential stamped, I stopped to talk to a couple of gents that were washing some cars and asked if I could throw some water on the bike to get rid of the dust. They asked me where I was coming from and where I was going to. They had heard of the Caminho da Fé, but neither one of them knew that the yellow arrows were in their town were there to guide the pilgrims to Aparecida do Norte. Now they know 🙂

The São Simão Hotel was a welcoming place. Got my pilgrim’s credentials stamped and filled my water bottles with cold water. They also offered me some fruit, but I declined.

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Stage 04: From São Simão to Santa Rosa de Viterbo + Video

As I left the São Simão Hotel I did a small detour to visit the grandmother of a fellow pilgrim who I got to know through the Facebook group of the Friends of the Caminho Association. Once I explained who I was and why I was there, Mrs Vera Burin and her daughter Angelica welcomed me, a stranger, almost as if I was a member of the family. This is one of the most amazing aspect of the Brazilian culture. The ability to trust and welcome strangers. A bit like how the Irish view them, “a stranger is just a friend that you’ve never met before“. The difference between Brazil and Ireland, however, are the obvious dangers due to the high level of criminality, mainly in big cities. Yet, people still trust and help each other. I like to leave my sincere “thank you” not only to Mrs Ver and her daughter Angelica, but also to her grandson, André who told me about them and asked me to go say “Hi”. Unfortunately I was a bit of in a hurry at the time and had to decline their invitation for coffee, but it was wonderful to have met them.

As a pilgrim, however, I’ve been the receiver of other people’s generosity in other occasions too and every time this has happened it strengthen my belief that most people in the world are good and that the good in the world by far outweigh the bad. Perhaps it is because there is so much good that we have difficulty in eliminating the bad in our societies.

As the batteries of the gimbal were still charging in the handlebar bag I decided to place the camera in the waterproof casing and mount it on the handlebar. That increased the level of shakiness a lot, so in later recordings, when the use of the gimbal was not possible I started to mount the camera on the helmet as I believed the shaking would not bad as bad on my head as it was on the handlebar. The difference was not significant though. I also tried to use the gimbal more on rougher surfaces, so when I was riding on paved roads I’ve often stopped using the gimbal and put the batteries to charge instead.

Leaving the town of São Simão you will walk or ride for about 3 Km on the SP-253 highway. The hard shoulder on this road wasn’t as wide as before São Simão, but the drivers appeared to be respecting a healthy distance between them and my bike. Care is however advised.

After about 3 Km on the SP-253 you turn left crossing over the road to get back to dirt roads again and a considerable amount of sand and dust. By that time the gimbal batteries were fully charged and I was able to mount the camera on the chest mount again.

P1090289At some points the dirt road becomes quite narrow and some of these roads had a much higher level of traffic than the previous dirt roads I had to ride on. As cars and trucks passed me they lifted a lot of fine dust which made breathing harder than usual due to my asthma. A lot of coughing at some points on this road (some highlighted on the video). Also pushing the bike was necessary in quite a few portions of this track as the sand was simply too deep to even attempt to ride (no traction at all). In spite of this, there were also some beautiful portions of this track among pine trees and forest which offered some shade and helped protect from the sun a little.

As you approach Santa Rosa de Viterbo you’ll re-join the SP-253 again, which makes it worth noting that for those who don’t want to follow the “official” Caminho way, the journey will be a lot shorter and quicker if you stick to the road. It may be also more dangerous to cycle or walk on the road though, so that will be a decision you’ll often will have to make if you want to comfort of paved roads against the challenges of cycling off-road. As you arrive in the outskirts of Santa Rosa de Viterbo you’ll be happy to know that there is a 1.5 km segregated bike lane alongside the road right into the town which makes cycling a lot safer.

The Malim Hotel is the only place listed in the official accommodation guide. The guide indicates there are two options of accommodation in the hotel: A R$ 60.00 option and a R$ 85.00 option, but I believe the guide was a bit out-of-date, perhaps due to inflation or price rises. It is always a good option to call ahead and ask what the going rate is if you want to avoid any surprises. I paid R$ 75.00 for a small room with a private bathroom, but no air-con or TV. Fancier rooms will cost you about R$ 90.00.

Finding the hotel is easy. You just have to stick to the main street and the hotel will be on the left hand side.

The hotel has a bike rack on the back which is protected, but you need to be able to lock the bike in place as staff will not be looking out for your bike. It felt like a safe place to me, but I locked the bike and removed anything of value from it anyway. On the back there is also a hose and a place for you to wash your bike, if you need to.

After a good shower and some rest I left the hotel on foot and walked for about 10 min to a restaurant called Issagawa Neto & Cia that was recommended by the hotel’s reception. There weren’t many open places to eat at that time and the town is quite small. You’ll have to option of set 3 course meals for as little as R$ 17.50 with a soft drink and the food is tasty and plentiful. You will leave with your bellies full.

Went back to the hotel, browsed the web a little and checked email. The Hotel has free WiFi and the signal was good in the room I was in.

Although there were a few mosquitos in the room I was able to sleep very well. Always good if you can take a can of odourless repellent with you. In some places mosquitos may be an issue especially in hot nights and rural areas. That’s how my second day ended.

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Pictures taken on this day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form. Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also. Thank you all for your time and “Bom Caminho!”.


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give). You may donate through my Patreon Page or through PayPal directly. Become a Patron

Faith's Way (Caminho da Fé), Day 01: From Sertãozinho to Cravinhos

In this post…

    1. Introduction
    2. Measures and expenses for this day (Garmin Telemetry)
    3. From  Sertãozinho to Dumont + Video
    4. From Dumont to Cravinhos + Video
    5. Pictures taken on this day.

Introduction

If this is the first post you read on this series, I recommend you take a look at the introduction post published on the 28th of February 2018. That post explains what the Faith’s Way is, my reasons for doing it and provides information that might be useful to you, if you decide you want to do it too.

In this post I will cover the 1st day of this 12 day, 600 Km, journey between the town of Sertãozinho, were I started my pilgrimage, and the town of Cravinhos, both in the federal state of São Paulo.

As explained in the introduction post, I broke the entire journey into 21 stages, as per the official map of the Caminho. There will be 1 video for each stage of the journey, so the blog post for this day contains two videos. Once covering the journey between Sertãozinho and Dumont and another between Dumont and Cravinhos.

You can download the official map of the Caminho from the website of the Friends of the Caminho Association. From there you can also download a list of credentialed accommodations for your journey. Most places in that list are simple family owned pilgrims’ hostels. Some in very rural locations (farms) others in more urban areas. Some establishments are hotels. Family owned Pilgrims’ hostels along the way have usually a set value that includes the meals as well, typically dinner and breakfast, but all hotels listed there will also offer a reduced pilgrim’s rate provided you present them your pilgrim’s credentials.

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Measures and expenses for this day (Garmin Telemetry)

  • Distance traveled from Sertãozinho to Cravinhos71.54 Km
    • Please read item number 4 in this post, as this includes navigation errors on my part.
  • Total duration of this journey: 8h 25m
  • Overnight location at the end of the journey:
  • Total expenses on this day: R$ 120.90
    • Food: R$ 58.90 (pizza delivered to hotel, managed to eat only 1/2)
    • Accommodation: R$ 62.00 (Breakfast incl)
  • Total Elevation Gain on this track: 1,178m
  • Average Speed: 8.5 Km/h
  • Max Speed achieved: 46.5 Km/h
  • Average Heart Rate: 146 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate: 180 bpm
  • Calories burned: 4,286 CAL
  • Click here to see the Garmin Connect page for this activity
First day on the Faith's Way
First day on the Faith’s Way

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From  Sertãozinho to Dumont + Video.


Being interviewed by Glogo TV Network at the hotel's parking lot.As planned the night before I woke up early and went downstairs to have breakfast with the TV crew of Globo TV. They took a lot of shoots of the crew having breakfast and helped me with some pictures. Before leaving we shoot the interview outside at the hotel’s car park, which, for several reasons, such as external noise and mistakes, required many takes. For example, during the interview I mentioned that the recordings were going to be done in Time-lapse format with a GoPRO 4, and the mere mentioned of the brand invalidated the take (advertising).

From everything that was recorded during the interview in that morning, only a tiny portion was actually aired. In my 3 seconds of fame in national television I appear saying the Caminho was mostly done on dirt tracks, hence the reason it was going to be difficult. At first this sounds kind of obvious, but what was missing there was the fact that we were speaking about my previous pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela and Rome (Via Francigena) and how most of them were on paved roads, so, since the Faith’s Way is mostly on dirt tracks, I considered this pilgrimage would be a lot harder than the previous ones, even though the distance was shorter. That’s OK though. Glad to have had the exposure I did.


P1090200After the interview the drone operator followed me in their car and did some aerial shoots of me as well as instructed me to do certain things, which otherwise wouldn’t be in my nature to do, such as to raise my arms at the statue of our lady by the town’s gate. Due to these activities I actually left Sertãozinho quite late, at around 10:30am. About 1 Km after the small statue of our lady were the last aerial shot was taken by the drone operator (you’ll see it in the video), I crossed underneath the motorway and took a small road out of town which soon turned into a dirt road.

A guy on a motorbike rode parallel to me for a few meters and the biker asked me questions such as were I was going and if I was alone. I was honestly very reluctant to talk to him as many robbers use this method to steal. Thankfully that wasn’t the case and my ride to the small town of Dumont was uneventful, despite the very thin sand and dust on the roads as it hadn’t rained for over 2 months there.

Almost the entire path is done among sugar cane plantations, so the views aren’t that great, but there are places worth a few pictures along this way.

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From Dumont to Cravinhos + Video

Coffee Plantation on the left and the small town of Dumont in the background
Coffee Plantation on the left and the small town of Dumont in the background

As I arrived in Dumont I stopped for some pictures and to determine were to stamp my pilgrim’s credential. I figured out that the pilgrims’ hostel in the list of accommodations was actually outside of town and moved on.

This hostel is maintained by the Veronezi family in their property outside of town. As I arrived at the Veronezi farm, I turned left and went to the meat shop (Casa Veronezi) were the lose stones at the car park caused me to fall off my bike for the 1st time. It was a really stupid fall due to the fact the front wheel skidded on the lose stones on the ground and my right foot got stuck in the pedal straps. Unfortunately I ended up tearing my Castelli leg warmer in the process, a little piece of cycling wear I was very fond of 🙁

Met with Alvaro at the meat house who directed me to the hostel were I met his mother Ms Helena Veronezi. Alvaro runs the meat house while Mrs Helena takes care of the pilgrims and runs the hostel. Very nice people. Ms Helena stamped my credentials and offered me water and fruit. As I left the Veronezi’s I was told there would be a locked gate by their fish pond, but that I should just ask their daughter to open the gate for me at the bar near the lake, so I did.

Zé Goleiro Bar
Zé Goleiro Bar

Continuing on dirt tracks among the sugar cane plantations I got to Zé Goleiro bar (José, the Goalkeeper’s bar), an establishment that has been there in the middle of nowhere since 1937 which is now run by Zé Goleiro´s son as Zé Goleiro died in 2009. Very interesting place with a lot of stuff hanging from the ceiling.

The map of the Caminho indicates the distance between Dumont and Cravinhos is of 37 Km, but the map doesn’t indicate the point in Cravinhos where those 37 Km end. The two establishments listed in the accommodation guide for Cravinhos are somewhat on the outskirts of the town, especially the one I decided to spend the night in, the Cravinhos Park Hotel, which out of the two appeared to be the better one and did accept credits cards also (although not highlighted in the guide).

As I got to Cravinhos, I made the mistake of assuming the yellow arrows would lead me to these establishments. Unless I’ve missed an arrow somewhere, they didn’t seem to. I honestly only saw yellow arrows pointing in the direction I went.

Red line is the path I took. Blue line is the path I should have taken.
Red line is the path I took. Blue line is the path I should have taken.

Unfortunately, as stubborn as I am, I continued blindly following the arrows out of town, only stopping at a petrol station some 7 to 8 Km out of town to ask for directions. To be honest, there wasn’t anyone available to ask for directions outside of town anyway, but I should have turned back earlier.

Once the staff at the petrol station told me how far back I would have to ride to get to the hotel I was faced with the decision of going back or moving forward. I decided to go back because it was already getting dark and according to the map the nearest town was 31 Km away, perhaps a little nearer since I had already done about 7 Km out of town, so I decided to go back. This led me to ride an additional 18.69 Km, in other words, I rode 55.69 Km in total between Dumont and Cravinhos that day. So take notice of that, if you plan to start your pilgrimage from Sertãozinho as I did.

I have arrived at the hotel in the dark of night, which wasn’t cool, but it all belongs to the adventure. In a pilgrimage you should always expect the unexpected.

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Pictures taken on this day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form. Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.

Thank you all for your time and “Bom Caminho!”.


Do you like these posts? Why, then, don’t you pay me a coffee to help with the blog hosting cost and as a caffeine incentive to keep me going through the long hours of the night? (Suggested amount: £2.00 or USD $3.00 or 2.50€ or whatever you want to give).
You may donate through my Patreon Page or through PayPal directly.

Become a Patron

Via Francigena, Day 6/29: From Reims to Châlons-en-Champagne


"I like to walk at my ease, and stop when I like. A wandering life is what I want. To walk through a beautiful country in fine weather, without being obliged to hurry, with a pleasant prospect at the end, is of all kinds of life, the one best suited to my taste.", Rousseau.

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of the day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 21, from Reims to Verzenay
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 22, from Verzenay to Condé-sur-Marne
  6. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 23, from Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne.
  7. Pictures of the day.

Introduction

Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016
Blog post about the 6th and 7th day published during the journey on the 23rd August 2016

This post complements the post I published on the 23rd of August 2016 in which I described the experiences I had on the 4th of August 2016 while riding between Reims and Châlons-en-Champagne in France. I am not going to repeat the content of that post in this one again, but I will try to add a few highlights for each one of the stages below. I encourage you to read the previous post before continuing on this one.

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Statistics and metrics of the day

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Most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts:

Champagne cork seats in Reims' Tourist Information Office
Champagne cork seats in Reims’ Tourist Information Office

As I mentioned on the earlier post, I left Reims quite late because I walked to a nearby MacDonalds to have breakfast and to the Tourism Information Office to get my pilgrim’s credential stamped. On the way back I decided to go have a chat with a couple that was sitting with their bikes on a café and, confirming my suspicions they were also Francigena Pilgrims who started in Canterbury and were heading to Rome by bike.

Giovanni and wife were also cycling from Canterbury to Rome
Giovanni and wife were also cycling from Canterbury to Rome

The gentleman’s name was Giovanni. Unfortunately  I forgot to write their names down and don’t remember the name of his wife anymore.  I believe she was German, but I could be mistaken. They were, at that time, the first cycling pilgrims I had seen on the journey, so I was very happy to meet them, even though I thought it was going to be the last time I see them as they were following a different route. They were riding Mountain Bikes and decided for a rougher track. I was, however, wrong. As I arrived in Châlons-en-Champagne at the end of the day, guess who I met at the Tourism Information Office? Exactly! Small world. We then got our pilgrims’ credentials stamped and the address of the local youth hostel and decided to spend the night there.

Myself in Yellow, David at my side. On the other side of the table, Fabio in blue and Giovanni and wife.
Myself in Yellow, David at my side. On the other side of the table, Fabio in blue and Giovanni and wife.

The Youth Hostel in Châlons-en-Champagne is very good. Typical hostel with rooms containing several bunk beds, but every thing was clean and tidy. There we meet other pilgrims and travelers, like David from Belgium, who wanted to walk all the way to Santiago de Compostela, and Fabio who was just cycling from Holland, were he lived with family, to his home town  of Brindisi in Italy. Fabio had already bought some food on the local market and invited us all for dinner. A delicious pasta, that he cooked in the Youth Hostel’s guest kitchen.

After dinner we all went out for a walk around town and for some beers. It was a great evening in the company of some really nice people.

The journey from Reims to Châlons-en-Champagne was really beautiful, despite the rain and the risk of falling due to the slippery tyre grooves on the ground of the canal towpath.

Champagne Vineyards on the way to Verzenay.
Champagne Vineyards on the way to Verzenay.

On the way to Verzenay I rode among the vineyards of champagne produces like Moet et Chandon, one of the most recognisable (and expensive) brands of Champagne. If was like being in the middle of a sea of grapes. I was tempted to eat a few off the trees, but they appeared to be too green. As in Verzenay, everything in Condé-sur-Marne was closed, so I couldn’t find any place to stamp my pilgrim’s credentials.

Those tyre grooves where my bike is standing were at times quite deep and with the rain quite muddy and slippery. Really beautiful ride though.
Those tyre grooves where my bike is standing were at times quite deep and with the rain quite muddy and slippery. Really beautiful ride though.
Felt almost like I was riding on a "Cycling Autobahn". Very smooth surface.
Felt almost like I was riding on a “Cycling Autobahn”. Very smooth surface.

From Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne was entirely done on canal towpaths as my bike was also heavy in the front (I had 2x 10 Kg panniers in the front) it wasn’t easy to steer quickly at times and the grooves were wet and narrow and had quite a bit of mud in them. The townpath eventually became a concrete paved cycle lane and I felt like I was riding on a “Cycling Autobahn”. It was one of the best cycle lanes I rode in life, completely smooth.

Although I covered less than 54 Km this day and despite the rain I had a great time cycling this track and would recommend it to everyone, pilgrim or not.

Please take a look at my picture album (down below) for this day in Flickr.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 21, from Reims to Verzenay

Video Length: 4 min and 19 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 22, From Verzenay to Condé-sur-Marne.

Video Length: 4 min 36 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 23, From Condé-sur-Marne to Châlons-en-Champagne

Video Length: 5 min 10 sec

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Pictures of the day.

Click on any picture for full detail

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Faith's Way (Caminho da Fé): Introduction and Day Zero

Introduction to the Faith’s Way (Path of Faith) and day Zero of my pilgrimage

In this post…

    1. Introduction
    2. Video Interview with Mr Almiro Grings, the creator of the Faith’s Way
    3. Statistics, Expenses and my daily log for the Faith’s Way (Download of Excel file)
    4. Day ZERO: My trip by bus from Jataí to Sertãozinho
    5. Pictures of day ZERO.

Introduction

I speak most of this introduction on the video below, so if reading is not your thing, feel free to watch the video and skip the words.

In September 2017 I completed by bicycle the 571 Km (357 miles) of the Faith’s Way, or Caminho da Fé in Portuguese, which for me turned out to be about 600 Km due to my choices and mistakes. The Caminho da Fe is sometimes also known as the Path of Faith.

My route along the Faith's Way from Sertãozinho to Aparecida do Norte.
My route along the Faith’s Way from Sertãozinho to Aparecida do Norte.

The Faith’s Way is a pilgrimage route in which the pilgrims may choose to start from different locations, depending on the distance they want to cover. I decided for the longest route starting in the small town of Sertãozinho in the State of São Paulo.

Regardless where pilgrims start, like in the pilgrimage of the Santiago de Compostela, the destination is always the same: In this case, the Catholic Basilica of the Sanctuary of our Lady in the town of Aparecida do Norte, also in the state of São Paulo.

I am posting this introduction mainly for those who have never heard of this pilgrimage route, but also for those who may already have heard of it, but have not attempted to do it yet.

The English version of this post will be rather different than the Portuguese one. Reason being is that there is already a great amount of information available in the web about the Faith’s Way, but mostly in Brazilian Portuguese.

So, while for Portuguese speakers I can just point them in the right direction and provide them with the web links, in English I think I need to provide a little more contextual information to improve understanding and be worth your time. If you can, however, read in Portuguese, a good point to start is the web site of the Friends of the Caminho Association on www.caminhodafe.com.br.  I’ve been told that the English version of their page is in the works though.

There are also numerous online groups (Facebook, WhatsApp, etc) where thousands of pilgrims and pilgrims to be can exchange information and provide virtual help and support. Again, I am unaware of the existence of such groups in English Language. Please leave a comment below if you would like me to create one.

The Faith’s Way, or the “Caminho” was the brain child of 3 Brazilian Compostela pilgrims, who, after having completed the pilgrimage in Spain a few times had the idea of creating a similar pilgrimage route in Brazil, linking their home town of Águas da Prata (which translates to Silver Waters in Portuguese) in the State of São Paulo to the Sanctuary in Aparecida.

The Sanctuary in Aparecida had been a pilgrim destination for generations already, but there wasn’t up to that point an organized pilgrims’ path with hostels and support along the route, as there is on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.

By sharing my experiences on the “Caminho” my goal is to help spread the word of this pilgrimage route outside of Brazil and, perhaps, help those who may be interested in walking or cycling the route, by showing them what to expect along the way, at least if they chose to do the same route and in the same weather conditions I did mine.

Please help me achieve my goal by clicking the “Like” or the Thumbs-up button in YouTube, leaving your questions and comments and sharing this post with others who might be interested in these types of adventure or alternative forms of traveling. Together with this post I have also published a short interview with Mr Almiro Grings, the creator of the Caminho. I recorded the interview during my passage at the Friends of the Caminho Association, which also doubles as a pilgrims’ hostel, in the town of Águas da Prata, when I got there during my pilgrimage. The video is in Portuguese with English subtitles.

Well, those that follow this blog will know that the Caminho is not my first long distance cycling pilgrimage. It is in fact the 3rd one.

In 2015 I cycled the 820 Km of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela from the French town of Saint Jean Pied de Port (known as the French way) and in 2016 I cycled 2,048 Km from the English town of Canterbury in Kent to the Vatican City in Italy in a pilgrimage route known as Via Francigena.

It is honestly not that easy to explain in detail why, in the past 3 years, I have been doing this because everyone was different, but the most simple and concise answer would be: I like the Physical and mental challenges and also the opportunities of introspection that such long bike rides allow, which are actually quite similar to those walking the way, but obviously not as time consuming.

I chose to do the Caminho from the town of Sertãozinho mainly for two reasons:

  1. Because there was a certain logistical advantage for me personally to start the pilgrimage from there. There is a direct bus connection between the small town I was living, at that time, in Brazil and the city of Ribeirão Preto in the state of São Paulo. Ribeirão Preto is situated just 20 Km (13 miles) away from Sertãozinho and therefore I would not need to change buses (which I ended up doing anyway, but it was beneficial and not as complicated as I thought it would be). A plus if you are carrying your luggage plus a dismantled bike with you in the bus.
  2. Because the route starting from Sertãozinho was, at the time I did it, the longest path to the sanctuary of Aparecida and I was keen to spend more time on the road.
Official Map of the Faith's Way (Caminho da Fé)
Official Map of the Faith’s Way (Caminho da Fé)

If you look at the map of the Caminho, available for download from the web page of the Friends of the Caminho Association, you’ll see that you may start your pilgrimage in in many of the so called “branches” of the route or in most towns / places along the way.

The key to starting your pilgrimage and officially becoming a pilgrim is the pilgrim’s credential which you’ll find in many (but not all) places along the way.

All branches combine in Águas da Prata, which was where the Caminho was first created and from there the route to Aparecida follows the original path.

I already published all my experiences on the Camino de Santiago in 2015 in the EyeCycled blog and in the YouTube channel, but I am still working on the posts and videos of the 2016 Via Francigena pilgrimage to Rome.

With this post I am starting the pilgrimage posts and videos of the Caminho da Fé which will follow the same basic principles of previous pilgrimage posts. As my goal is to show how my pilgrimage developed, I typically turned the camera on at the start of the day’s journey and turned it off when I reached my destination for that day.

By reading or watching my experiences, future pilgrims can perhaps use them as a guide and decide to follow the same route I did, or not.

As no one in their right mind would watch several hours of cycling videos, I recorded the entire journey using a type of video recording called “Time-Lapse“. In this type of recording the camera takes a high resolution picture (4k) every 0.5 seconds and internally builds a video with them at the end of the recording.

This makes the video look very accelerated in time. In fact, each 10 minutes or so in real life represent about 10 seconds of video footage, so it is possible to watch an entire day in the journey in just a few minutes without missing a single meter of the track.

The disadvantage of these types of recordings are, obviously, the speed in which everything is shown and the vibration of the camera which in an accelerated speed is much more pronounced and notable.

This can be reduced with a device called a Gimbal, whose function I already explained in a previous blog post and videos in the channel. The Caminho was the 1st time I used this device in a consistent manner and for long distances and periods of time.

Although the gimbal helps reduce the effects of the vibration it does not eliminate them completely, due to the potholes, stones, gravel and uneven surfaces of the path, mostly on dirt roads and footpaths.

My intention is to publish posts and videos about the Caminho da Fé every two weeks, but I already know this may be just wishful thinking due to upcoming periods of intense travel and work. If you look at the map of the Caminho again, you’ll see that between Sertãozinho and Aparecida there are 21 major tracks. My intention is to publish a time lapse video for each one. I also want them to be bilingual, so current expectations are that I need to produce at least 42 videos, not counting this introduction video and other, shorter videos I recorded along the way.

This also added to the fact I will publish 1 blog post for each day of my journey in English and Portuguese as well, containing pictures, tips and highlights, so I am not making promises I won’t be able to keep. It will be done when it’s done, regardless of how long it takes.

One could say, there is a reason it is called this pilgrimage is called “The Faith’s Way”… having faith in yourself in generally a requirement. I have faith I’ll complete this work and count with your support in doing so.

I don’t do this work expecting a financial benefit in return, but I have costs to maintain the blog, such as hosting and domain reservation, and this work demands a lot of my time. In fact, it takes me a lot longer to do this as it did take me to ride the entire way, so if you are feeling generous, please go to me Patreon page through which you can contribute with a small donation to help maintain the blog running with coffee to keep me going late nights.

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Video Interview with Mr Almiro Grings, the creator of the Faith’s Way

The following video interview was recorded at the Friends of the Caminho Association in Águas da Prata in September 2017.

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Statistics, expenses and my daily log on the Faith’s Way

The Excel file below contains the statistics of the journey (as collected by my Garmin Edge 810), such as distances, Elevation, Speeds, Average Heart Beat, etc, as well as the expenses, accommodation and the notes I recorded along the way.

Elevation vs Speed along the route
Elevation vs Speed along the route

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Day ZERO: My trip by bus from Jataí to Sertãozinho

Route from Jataí to Ribeirão PretoI decided to write a little about how I got to the starting point of the pilgrimage, not because it may help you direclty, but because it may get you to understand the logistics of getting to the starting point. As previously mentioned, I had to find a way to get to starting point of the pilgrimage, which I chose to be the town of Sertãozinho in the federal state of São Paulo. I was living in a small town called Jataí, in the state of Góias at the time. If you live outside of Brazil you will probably start your journey from a much bigger city, likely a capital and will have to find your own way to get to the starting point. There are buses from the city of São Paulo directly to Sertãozinho and flights to Ribeirão Preto, which is just 20 Km away from Sertãozinho.

I tried in vain to find somewhere who had a car and wanted to share this adventure with me, but it is hard to find someone with the willingness to do it and, most importantly with the time, which is a significant length of time away from work, family, etc.

Our bus was stopped by the Federal Highway Police at the station near the city of Uberaba in the state of Minas Gerais.
Our bus was stopped by the Federal Highway Police at the station near the city of Uberaba in the state of Minas Gerais.

As I couldn’t find anyone, I started to look at the options of getting to Sertãozinho from Jataí. Jataí is a small town and doesn’t have an airport the offers regular flights. Sertãozinho is also a small town, but quite near from a bigger city called Ribeirão Preto. Ribeirão has a regional airport with flights to/from a number of destinations, including the capital of the state of Goias, Goiânia. The problem is that a trip to Goiânia is 320 Km and would have to be made by bus anyway, so as there was a directly bus connection from Jataí to Ribeirão Preto, I decided on this option. It would be a longer and less comfortable journey, but it would be direct and cheaper also. I spent R$ 135.00 on the bus ticket. The distance between Jatai and Ribeirão Preto was 715 Km, but the journey, which should have taken about 12h, was delayed for more than 2h at the station of the Federal Highway police in Uberaba, state of Minas Gerais, as they stopped and searched to bus due to an apparently anonymous tip-off they received that someone in that bus would be smuggling drugs to Sâo Paulo and the tip-off proved to be right. They found the smuggler together with 10 Kg of Cocaine Paste. Expect the unexpected!

Urban bus from Sertâozinho to Ribeirão Preto in the background
Urban bus from Sertâozinho to Ribeirão Preto in the background

In Ribeirão Preto I had to option of assembling the bike and riding the 20 Km to Sertãozinho, which I was advised against due to some areas of high incidence of crime I had to go through, or take an urban bus from Ribeirão Preto to Sertãozinho. As I arrived at Ribeirão Preto’s bus station, I asked around and found out from which platform the bus to Sertãozinho was departing. I had to take the lift downstairs, turn left, walk a few meters and take another lift upstairs to the platform where the local buses departed. The bus to Sertãozinho was already there and was about 3/4 full.

Me, in the bus from Ribeirão to Sertãozinho, seating in the seat usally reserved for disabled passengers and holding the bike upright.
Me, in the bus from Ribeirão to Sertãozinho, seating in the seat usally reserved for disabled passengers and holding the bike upright.

The problem was that that bus was a urban type and had no boot or facilities to carry bikes, so the driver told me to seat in the seat reserved for disabled people and hold the bike upright.

The journey to Sertãozinho was short, about 30 min. Upon arriving at Sertãozinho’s bus station, I assembled the bike and rode to the hotel (about 1.5 Km away). Did the check-in in the Agapito Hotel, the only hotel in the official list of  accommodation of the Friends of the Caminho Association, and got my pilgrim’s credential. In the evening I met with a TV crew from Globo TV, Brazil’s largest TV network.I knew they were coming as I was told by the hotel receptionist when I called to make my reservation a few days before. We went out for a meal that evening, talked about a lot of things, incl. my previous pilgrimages and agreed on an interview in the morning the next day.

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Pictures of day ZERO.

Click on any picture for full detail

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If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to comment or send me a message through the contact form. Please subscribe to my Blog and/or to my YouTube channel if you don’t want to miss the next one and help me spread the word by liking and sharing my Facebook Page and Tweeter feed also.

Thank you all for your time and “Bom Caminho!”. (more…)

Via Francigena, Day 5/29: From Tergnier (Auberge de Villequier) to Reims