Category Archives: Touring

Posts about touring bikes

Via Francigena Day 7/29: From Châlons-en-Champagne to Brienne-le-Château

"Teaching is only demonstrating that it is possible. Learning is making it possible to ourself.", Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrimage.

In this post…

  1. Introduction
  2. The statistics and metrics of this day
  3. The most memorable occurrences, moments and thoughts
  4. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 24, from Châlons-en-Champagne to La-Chaussée-sur-Marne
  5. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 25, from La-Chaussée-sur-Marne to Vitry-le-François
  6. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 26, from Vitry-le-François to Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont.
  7. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 27, from Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont to Lentilles.
  8. Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 28, from Lentilles to Brienne-le-Château.
  9. Video tour of the Municipal Pilgrims’ hostel of Brienne-le-Château.
  10. 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 5th of August 2016 while riding between Châlons-en-Champagne and Brienne-le-Château, 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:


P1010559This was a long day in the Via Francigena. I covered several stages of the Lightfoot guide and rode almost 90 Km. It wouldn’t be productive to write again about something I have already written in this blog post, therefore if you didn’t have a chance to read the previous post click on this link, read the post and jump back here as that post does not include any of the videos for this day.


I will however mentioned P1010560again that if you are cycling this route using Google Maps for navigation, it is possible that the cycling route Google Maps will propose is the same one it did for me, in other words, along side the railway tracks after the tiny village of Arrembécourt (see video of stage 27). If you are travelling light and on a mountain bike, then that should be no problem, but if that isn’t the case and like mine your bike weights 50 Kg and is a hybrid or touring bike with touring tyres, then I would recommend that you continue the journey on the D6 towards Chavanges and take the D2 to Lentilles (the same one I took after the train track adventure). It’s a longer route, but stone free.P1010578As you arrive in Lentilles be sure to factor in some time to visit the 16th Century church built of wood and clay; the Church of St Jacques et St Philippe. Personally that small church had a bigger impact on me than many of the ostentatious cathedrals I have seen along the Via Francigena.

Another thing I want to mention before I finalize this text is the municipal pilgrims’ hostel in Brienne-le-Château and also how nice the lady in the tourism information office was to me. First of all, to stay in the pilgrims’ hostel you need to arrive in town at a time that the tourist information office is open, as you have to pay the fee and collect the hostel’s keys from there (although the hostel itself is about 2 Km away in the perimeter of town). Second, before going on the P1010589pilgrimage, like most people I did a lot of research about the route and the places to stay. I read in some blogs that some pilgrims thought the house to be haunted. I must confess, being the only pilgrim sleeping there that night made me apprehensive. The house is indeed a little spooky, but if there were other spiritual entities sharing the house with me that night they did not bother me. The house is old and used to be a hunters’ cabin so my guess is that, if there were to be any ghosts there, they would have been those of the animals that were killed (incl. the two deers whose heads are at the front wall of the house, assuming they are real)

If you want to see more pictures from this day, please take a look at my picture gallery (down below) from Flickr.

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 24, from Châlons-en-Champagne to La-Chaussée-sur-Marne

Video Length: 5 min

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 25, from La-Chaussée-sur-Marne to Vitry-le-François.

Video Length: 4 min 21 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 26, from Vitry-le-François to Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont

Video Length: 3 min 43 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 27, from Saint-Remy-en-Bouzemont to Lentilles

Video Length: 5 min 7 sec

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Video of Lightfoot Guide Stage 28, from Lentilles to Brienne-le-Château

Video Length: 4 min 19 sec

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Video tour of the Municipal Pilgrims’ hostel of Brienne-le-Château

Video Length: 7 min 30 sec

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Pictures of the 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 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.

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Faith's Way (Caminho da Fé), Day 03: From Santa Rosa de Viterbo to Casa Branca

In this post…

    1. Introduction
    2. Measures and expenses for this day (Garmin Telemetry)
    3. Stage 05: From  Santa Rosa de Viterbo to Tambaú + Video
    4. Stage 06: From Tambaú to Casa Branca + 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 3rd day of this 12 day / 600 Km journey between the town of Santa Rosa de Viterbo and the town of Casa Branca via the town of Tambaú, all 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 Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Tambaú and the other covering the journey between Tambaú and Casa Branca.

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 Santa Rosa de Viterbo to Casa Branca: 60.19 Km
  • Total duration of this journey: 6 h 15 min
  • Total moving time: 4h 14m
  • Overnight location at the end of the journey:
  • Total expenses on this day: R$ 70.00
    • Food: R$ 20.00 (dinner – delivery)
    • Accommodation: R$ 50.00 (Breakfast incl)
    • PS. Normally the care takers of the hostel offer dinner and breakfast together with the accommodation for R$ 70.00, but the day I was there was normal a normal day for them. Read the post below to understand why.
  • Total Elevation Gain on this track: 620m
  • Average Speed: 9.6 Km/h
  • Max Speed achieved: 57.8 Km/h
  • Average Heart Rate: 128 bpm
  • Max. Heart Rate: 163 bpm
  • Calories burned: 2,347 CAL
  • Click here to see the Garmin Connect page for this activity
Garmin Telemetry, Santa Rosa de Viterbo - Casa Branca
Elevation, Speed and Heart Rate between Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Casa Branca

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Stage 05: From  Santa Rosa de Viterbo to Tambaú + Video.

The night at the Malim Hotel was good. There was no TV in my room, but these days, who needs a TV when you have WiFi? Breakfast was good and plentiful too and I took my time enjoying it. Even spent almost 30 minutes that morning talking to the receptionist of the hotel, trying to understand if the town had any relation to the town of Viterbo in Italy, which is also along another pilgrimage route known as Via Francigena, that I completed in 2016 (it does, btw, but that was explained in the previous post).

The official map of the Caminho indicated that the distance between Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Tambaú was of 36 Km which is one of the longest stretches of the Caminho. To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to the same long stretches of fine sand and dust from the day before, but I decided to leave the hotel and follow the yellow arrows to see how the way was and decide later if I was going to stick on the original path or try to find an alternative route, if one was available.

Regional SP-332 Highway between Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Tambaú
Regional SP-332 Highway between Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Tambaú

So, I rode on the Caminho path for about 5.0 Km, following the yellow arrows on the dirt road. The terrain, however, was as sandy and difficult as those in the day before, and I was a tired and bored with the poor performance of the previous 2 days, so I decided to look for an alternative in Google Maps. I knew, from talking to the hotel staff in the morning, there was a paved road to Tambaú that followed in parallel to the Caminho path. At the little village of Nhumirim, 5 Km from Santa Rosa de Viterbo, instead of turning left at the yellow arrow indicating the Caminho path (see in the video), I followed on for another 2 Km to take the SP-332, a regional highway, to Tambaú. Therefore I obviously cannot show you the original caminho path from Nhumirim to Tambaú and I’ll leave it up to you to decide what to do if you find yourself in that position, but I can tell you that I do not regret having done the remaining 23 Km on the highway. I felt safe on that road due to the wide hard-shoulders and the fact that most of the drivers respected the 1.5 m distance. That route also did cut 6 Km of the distance between Santa Rosa de Viterbo and Tambaú and allowed me to cover these 23 remaining Km in 1h and 20 min, an average of 17 Km/h which was almost double the average of the day before. If you are on a bike I would recommend this route to you, but if you are walking, even though I don’t how the way is, it would be probably safer to stick to the Caminho path.

Tambaú Town Hall. It used to be Tambaú's old railway station.
Tambaú Town Hall. It used to be Tambaú’s old railway station.

Another downside of not following the original path is that you don’t have the yellow arrows to guide you anymore, so you will have to find your own method of navigation. I decided to ride the the town hall of Tambaú as typically this is one of the places you can get information about the path and also stamp your credential, but that was not the case. As I got to the town hall the staff told me that Caminho pilgrims are usually served at the town’s tourism information office / dept which was, however, not far from that location. Tambaú is not a village, but it is not a big town either, so everything is relatively close.

Tambaú's Tourism Department is where you can get your pilgrim's credential stamped.
Tambaú’s Tourism Department is where you can get your pilgrim’s credential stamped.

After having my pilgrim’s credential stamped at the tourism information office and, as I had gotten to Tambaú much quicker than I expected (had I followed the original Caminho path), I could afford a longer rest time there. The office has a cold water fountain available for the pilgrim’s at the lower level and I had a little snack I had brought with me. Even had time to do a quick chat with my children back in the UK. I had the feeling that Tambaú would have been a nice place to spend the night, but it was too early for me, so after 30 min or so, I resumed the journey following the yellow arrows towards Casa Branca, the next destination in the path. For those willing to stay in Tambaú the Eliana Hotel is right in front of the Tourism Information Office and is a credentialed hotel with special rates for pilgrims (requires the pilgrims’ credentials).

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Stage 06: From Tambaú to Casa Branca + Video

The 30 min rest I had in Tambaú helped a lot in terms of motivation for the next stage of the path. I left with the decision that I would return to the original caminho path and follow the yellow arrows all the way to Casa Branca, regardless of how bad it was. I also don’t regret that decision, but I could, again, have saved 3.87 Km of the journey and, perhaps, prevented one of the 3 tumbles I had during the pilgrimage, had I taken the paved road between Tambaú and Casa Branca. One of my goals was to be able to show the Caminho da Fé to others as it is. I did, however, highlight that point in the video where you can take the decision of staying on the shorter paved road or taking the longer dirt tracks to Casa Branca,

P1090306
Interior of the church in Tambaú

As I was making my way out of Tambaú I rode by the town’s main church, the so called Sanctuary of our Lady Aparecida (not to be confused with the Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady of Aparecida in Aparecida do Norte) a church built by father Donizetti Tavares de Lima who was noted for his extensive work in the region and famed for his reported miracles and other wonders.

As I mentioned above, it was in this part of the journey which I took the 2nd of the 3 tumbles I had throughout my journey to Aparecida. Some of the dirt roads and tracks of the original caminho are farm tracks with a lot of fine sand and the sand banks are sometimes difficult to spot in the distance. All it takes is a moment of distraction for you to kiss the ground. In my case I was going down a little hill, picked up some speed and when the front wheel hit a sand bank it skidded to the right. Thankfully there were no injures or damage on this little accident. I also highlighted this incident in the video.

P1090319
Pilgrims on foot, about 10 Km before Casa Branca

About 10 Km before Casa Branca I met 3 female pilgrims on foot who started their journey in Tambaú earlier that day. They wanted to walk all the way to Aparecida, but were considering of doing it over several different moments i.e. walking a portion of the pilgrimage, going home, then coming back a few days later to the point they stopped, walking another portion and repeating this until they got to Aparecida. This is also a valid pilgrimage option for those who don’t have the time to do it all in one go. I met one of these 3 ladies as I arrived at the pilgrims’ hostel later that evening as she wasn’t feeling well and took the rural bus to town. Her 2 friends decided to walk the rest of the caminho to Casa Branca and only arrived late that night.

Right after arriving in Casa Branca the gimbal’s batteries died, so a small portion of the video at the end was recorded with the camera mounted on the handlebar, hence the increased shakiness of the image.

P1090326
Catholic Church of our lady of the exile in Casa Branca

As I arrived at the Catholic Church of our lady of the exile in Casa Branca, where the pilgrim’s hostel is,  I was told to go talk to Mr José or Mrs Maria, his wife. They are the care takers of the pilgrims’ hostel and for a flat rate of R$ 70.00 they usually offer dinner and breakfast to the pilgrims, in addition to the accommodation. This night in particular, Mr José told me that his wife would not be able to cook dinner as their son had been kidnapped by criminals that day, who stole his motorcycle and spanked beat him causing him to be admitted into the local hospital. Mrs Maria was understandably very nervous and stressed about that all situation. Their son later appeared and despite the beating he was OK. Because of the lack of dinner Mr José charged us with only R$ 50.00 for the accommodation and breakfast the next day.

P1090334
Night view of the Catholic Church of our lady of the exile in Casa Branca

After getting settled and having a shower, Mr José show me to the laundry area and I placed all my dirty clothes in the simple washing machine available there. Soap was also provided as well as indoor hanging lines.

The 3 pilgrim ladies and I ordered food to be delivered from a supplier recommended by Mr José, which cost exactly the R$ 20.00 we would have to paid him for dinner. Food arrived quickly, was plentiful, warm and delicious. A big plastic cup of delicious freshly squeezed orange juice came with it, as per my order. Although the room I was in had 3 beds I was the only pilgrim to sleep in it that night, The other 3 pilgrim ladies shared another room and I believe we were the only pilgrims in the hostel that night. My room had a private bathroom/toilet (suite) as well as a small separate living area with a table and a TV and although reception was not excellent it allowed me to watch the evening news while I was having dinner.

The weather that night was excellent. Not very warm, but not cold either, perfect for a little walk around the church grounds and for some night pictures.

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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





A Warm shower and a bed

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