Going through border of Brazilia was very easy. In fact it was really easy even though I didn’t have an exit visa from Uruguay. In 10 seconds passport was checked, got stamp, passing permision was given. After I passed, I met Capybaras, the world’s largest rodents, whom I had seen and admired for the first time in my life. The sheep-sized animals move very fast and also swim too fast. One of my friends had told me one day the animal somehow went into his apartment and suddenly showed up in front of him. ‘Gürkan, it was the scariest moment of my life’ he told me. I would be also surprised like ‘man what the hell is this?’ if I saw one of these in front of my apartment while trying to enter it in the dark of the night. Even though they seem like rats, they are not even remotely close. They are the biggest members of the gnawing mammals’ family. As I said before, since the animal is as big as a sheep, in some parts of South America people benefit from its meat. It is possible to see them around the rivers in delta mouths in the south.
As you know Brazil covers half of the continent. I’m just going to visit the state ‘Rio Grande do Sul’, and I will wonder around very little of the state Santa Catarina. As I checked at the map the area I’m going looks really small across the country, though the mileage is a little more than 2100 kilometers. So I’ll keep pedalling in an area slightly larger than the latitude of Turkey. 20-30 kilometers after crossing the border, I stopped in a small village. For the first time in my life I heard Portuguese in this village. I have never heard people speaking it among the public before. And Portugal was one of the counties I didn’t visit in Europe. So consequently I didn’t have an opportunity to hear this language before. For some reason it’s voicing and pronunciation reminded me of the Russian accent of Ukraine. To the househould that had me as a guest on the road and their an Italian friend told them the same thing, which really surprised them.
The first thing that caught my eye in the folowing days when I was proceeding in Brazil was that the towns and villages were pretty clean. I’ve also eaten the best dishes of them all in Brazil since I arrived to South America.Especially the gas stations that I came across on the roads had table d’hote meal thing. Stoping next to gas stations and setting up a tent was not a problem. Almost all gas stations have showers and wifi as well. You know that when it comes to Brazil, theft, kidnapping, rape is known as too many cases. We see this news about Brazil in the media. When I was a guest in his house, a Brazilian said the following; ‘Gürkan, draw a parallel line from the Iguazu waterfalls to the Atlantic coast, above that line is a different Brazil as is the below.’
And when I asked the reason, he said that most of the families in the south of Brazil were descendants of German immigrants. One way or another a German discipline is located in this region. It didn’t sound very convincing at first, but when I kept pedalling in the area I thought, ‘Man! That guy was right I suppose’. I really enjoy pedaling in farmland. What they have sown, how much they have sown, what seeds they have used, I observe them, talk to farmers if I can speak their languages.I saw a farmland there and it was the second longest agricultural field I have seen in my life.
First one was in China. When I travelled westward from the Atlantic coast, I saw farmlands incessantly followed the road for 720 kilometers. Now let me put it this way; From Ankara to İzmir, everywhere you could see was a farmland. When I told the villagers about it, they actually said that there were much larger farmlands than the area I saw. Then a question has occurred to me. There are more than 200 million people living in the country, and if they have much larger farmlands than I have seen, why are there still hungry and poor people here?
Because I have never seen such well organised farmlands and state railways that pass through these farmlands in any other country. I shared these thoughts with a farmer; and when he said‘This is your first time in this country, you say?’ we smiled. There are pictures of almost all of the lands in which field the seeds are planted. So I’ve also learned that all these seeds are GMO seeds. I saw tomatoes, apples, peach-like vegetables are not rotten even if you make them keep waiting in a bag or in someplace for a long tim e.Brazil is the country where I stopped eating apple and tomato.
Some other day I took the road early in the morning. I’ve decided to go a little faster since there’s not much to see in the field I’ve been going through for a long time. I covered 50 kilometers by 9:00 in the morning. I was just going to give a break to catch my breath for a while, I saw there were two bikes in front of me and the trailer behind the bike is fantabulous. There are two surfboards. I’ve been traveling all these years and I’ve never seen a wanderer with such a trailer. As I get closer, I see fruits and vegetables and so forth on the bottom of the surfboards. Have you seen the caravans decorated with surfboards in social media? Hah! That’s its bike version.
They set off from Argentina, Mora and Javier siblings. Following through the Atlantic coast and they were heading north to Rio de Jenerio. After I stopped on the road and chatted for a while, I continued on my way and I waited for them for lunch but they were able to arrive at night, I read a book until then.
I wanted to set up a tent and have a chat with this biker friends at that night.As they told me they were graduated from university, they couldn’t find a job for a while.They left the work they found a year later and they went on this journey. The reason why they left their work was they were not happy in the city they lived in. We talked about the reasons why they can’t find a job in the sector they want. At one point of the conversation;
– So it seems that a systematic change in certain issues is needed in the country.
-No Gürkan let everyone do what they want, there is no need for a change.
-However, note how you failed to find a job that is related to your degree when everybody is allowed to do whatever they want. Then let’s not talk about couldn’t be able to find a job and not being happy. In this point everything seems to be okay for you. Pasta is almost done, let’s put our tuna fishes on top and watch the stars…
Yes everyone should do what they want, but ones shouldn’t cross the lines that will affect lives and the freedom of others. We want the change, but we are also afraid of the change? Are the stone walls erected in front of those who want to make this change or are people pretending not to understand it? Change is good, change should be, but refusing or not wanting change, cowardice. for instance when I say that I want to be Sports Minister, there are people who make fun of me, and for sure in the future there willl be also others if I don’t become one. It was taught to me that I should not be afraid of telling my dreams, sharing them, trying to implement them. At least I’m trying to achieve something good.
In the following days I happened to be stayed in one of the two cities on my way. As I told you before I stayed in churches and firefighters’ stations in South America. I decided to try this in Brazil too, we will see how the things going to turn out. When I arrived the city of Pelotas, I asked people about the location of the fire department and they showed it right away. I asked the guy at the door if I could stay there for one night through Google Dictionary (from English to Portuguese). First he checked me out, then he looked at my bike. He wrote something his phone with using dictionary and then he showed me. He asked where I came from and where I was going. When I told him about the situation, he told me to wait a minute and then he went inside, and some other firemen arrived.
At the end of the conversation I learned that the firefighters in Brazil were not volunteers, like the firefighters I used to stay, but the state workers who were all members of the state and even the state’s military units. Even if you wanted stay with firefighters here it’s out of the question. I can’t do it here, at least not like the others. Luckily they allowed me to stay at the end of a good chat and when I described them my detailed route, they had even written an official post and stamped it and signed it for me so that I could stay in all the fire brigades in Brazil. I asked a friend to translate this Portuguese script, from who knew English, and I found out briefly on the paper that all the firefighters in the country had an official letter written to help me. Sometimes they ask how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has supported me or why they did. As a result, I do not have a relative or a family member who is engaged in politics. I just went and talked, as in here, a good conversation sometimes leads to the opening of the doors for you.
After this point, I continued my progress towards northeast Brazil. When I came to Çaçapava, Namık Kemal Başbay caught me with his motorcycle. He even brought me the bottom bracket bearings of the bicycle given to him by Kron as he came from Turkey. So I can say that I used Namık as an interstate courier service. We met him in Buenos Aires, Argentina about a year ago. After a year break, he returned to the continent and began to travel again. He has assets both in Turkey and here. . Now that we are together; we said we should meet together in Iguaza Waterfalls with our friend Selcuk who is interested in poultry farming in Paraguay and with his family. Whichever way you look at it almost 7 days would take me to arrive there.
When I set out, making my way through the nooks and crannies, I arrived at a small town called Mondai, following the road R150 . Classical Brazilian environment. There is only one hotel in the village and it’s about to be dark. By the way I know I talked like the road was easy but there is a continuous climb between Iguazu and Brazil about 700 and 1000 meters per day. In short, with its bumpy roads this geography wore me out. Anyway I went to the hotel there was a young girl at the reception, I explained my problem and she told me to I could pay the room tomorrow and then showed the room where I will stay for a night. In the meantime, there were’nt anybody speaking English around. Anyhow, this young girl’s brother knew English, he stayed in the US for a few years as he told me. When she mentioned about me to his brother, he came right away.. It was 25th of December, so it was Christmas, and they called me for dinner.
I went to family’s house for dinner, the table was full of food. He introduces me to his family first and then he makes me sit in a corner and tells the whole family where I go and what I do. His father goes to put a glass of whiskey up to the brim and brings it to me. Hoot! I can’t drink much of that the whiskey, no possibility. If he put another drop into the glass, he would filled it to the top. He handed the glass to me while keep encouraging me to drink it. Meanwhile, the conversation continues. As I continued to trying to finish it, I’ve come halfway to the glass and everyone started to laughing. I asked the rason why:
-Gürkan when we are given whiskey in the cup, it’s normally shared around here, you are trying to finish it all that’s why we are laughing.
-Hahaha How can I know ? In our neighbourhood whoever wants to drink whiskey is given their individual glass with filled up to 5 – 10 cl. So if you hand me one glass, I will drink it little by little.
So I kind of figure out they also share whiskey like this, like they do with Mate.Nice chat, good food, and also asked me not to pay the hotel. But we were drinking alcohol so I reminded ‘ Now you are saying like this but what about you forget this tomorrow, I hope you don’t I will remind you again.’ And then we shared laughs.And of course, the classic question in every family environment is asked.‘Gürkan are you married?’ and me replying as no and no kids, and them surprising, as always. Hopefully I can end this world tour without getting married and having children. I am going through some hard times here in Latin America…
I mean in my Turkey team Mine Poge’s husband Melih Poge goes to bicycle repairer for a fault in his bicycle. (Nowadays, he makes sure that he rides everyday for 100 days.) They also chat while the bike is being repaired. The conversation comes to tour cycling at some point and the cyclist is starting to tell:
-There was a guy named Gürkan Genç. He is a really crazy man has been traveling the world for years.
-Come on, are you serious? How come?
-Of course, look on the internet, you’il find, he is a known man.I will.The guy divorced his wife, he had a shop, sold it, then he walked off in 2012.
-He have had it up to here or something, don’t know for sure.Maaaan what ?
I mean I was hearing that people talk behind me as if I had a kid, but again, what?When did I get married and get divorced? And since he was so sure about it, Melih said he didn’t bother to explain everything. Anyway it was good to know latest updates about me. People tell some things about me for years now, even I had some people got offended by those things. Do I care though? No, not a all.
I was a guests in one more house in Brazil. In South America, very rare people stopped and offered something to me or asked me if there was a place that I could stay for night. Most of these events happened in Brazil. There were people who gave water or paid my food at the restourants. Again one day I was on my way and a vehicle immediately stopped at the side of the road. And a young couple who knows English come to me;
– Hello We are staying in the following big city, in Santa Maria. If you are going to be there, we will be happy to welcome you in our home.
-Yes I will. I would appreciate indeed thank you very much.
-We want to help you if you want something until you arrive. My name is Lucas and this is my fiancee Carolina.
And I’m Gurkan.I arrived Santa Maria in three days. During that time, I also met with Lucas’ friends in the region. In Santa Maria I stayed with them in his apartment, where he designed and planned its architecture. His parents were also living in the same apartment. Santa maria is a city where neither too big nor too small. It is seen as the capital of the southern region, it has a Brazil’s well-known university. There is no bike path in the city however, as in all of Brazil, the number of cycling fans in this city and the number of people who use it in their daily lives are quite high. I told Lucas that there were two problems with the bike. He took me to the bike company right next to their house.
Middle of the crankset needed to be changed. The ones Kron Bike sent me with Namık was with me. We went to the bicycle repairer together. While I was there, I made him check the rear wheel hub, and there was also a problem. Actually I knew there were some wearings but I always keep waiting till the end. While you have opportunity you should change it right? But noo I always wait till the end. Anyways, in the upcoming years when I am in the USA or Canada, I can easily access the pieces I need through the internetWhen Carolina and Lucas said they met at the architecture faculty of their university, I asked how is education in general. They both looked at each other and laughed and said that it is shitty. In general, I did not meet with someone who liked the education system of their countrys’ in my journey. The education system of others always sounds better for others. He said that the state now supports rich families in Brazil, rich families are getting richer, poverty is increasing. The farmlands I saw along the way was actually owned by a few families. At that time I already pointed out. If there is poverty in a country with such large farmland, the state or someone is doing corruption. They showed me the Catholic churche where they are going to marry.What do you think about religion?We believe in God, but we are not radical catholics. No strong bond against religion in the south of the country. You’ll see more when you get to the north, if you get though.
You said there was poverty in the north, so can we say that in the region where poverty increases, there is a growing commitment to religion in Brazil?
I haven’t seen much of the poverty mentioned before while I was pedaling in the south of the country. I even remember to say to my friend there is no beggar in the country. The long and the short of it even though Lucas and Carolina invited me to their wedding, I have never seen them again but we are still in contact.
While I was pedaling in Brazil I noticed something on the Google. A bicycle icon was showing. When you choose the option, take me from one point to another but on the bike, it shows the mileage between the two points and how many kilometers climbing and how many kilometers are landing. I mean I have not seen it in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. I think it’s a pretty useful detail. Then again, there werent not much bike paths in the countries in general but it seems Google can do this on demand. In another day I arrived in Sao Miguel. I decided to go through the city and then set the camp outside of it just about the night. It was the plan but I caught up with a biker on the road. We were just going downhill and he was pretty tired.
As I get closer to him I yelled:
Then he was also got carried away and we met top of the hill. It was rare for me to come across an English speaker in Brazil. But when he directly came to me and asked where I came from, we immediately started chatting.
My name is Roberto Carlos, I live in this city. If you don’t have a place to stay at night, I’d be happy to have you in my house.
Nice to meet you too, I’m Gürkan Genç. I am on the roads with my bike starting from Turkey and it has been almost 6 years now. I’m pleased for sure. Roberto Carlos is also very popular in our country.
Yeah he has nice songs.
No I’m talking about the one who plays football.
I don’t know him.
So it means that there are Brazilian people who are not interested in football, in Brazil. Roberto is an electrician, he owns an electrical company. He has a team who eliminates power outages or problems related to electricity in the industrial areas of the region. So naturally he is a well-known person around the city. As he told me, the road I used, doesn’t used by any other tour biker. I asked him how does he know that. He said he was a member of Warmshowers, but only one person conctacted him through the years. In fact, I’m a member too, but I decided to camp out of the town because the environment was so convenient. There is this kind of safe environment that you can set your camp and could nobody see you. When I told about it to Roberto, he said right away ‘Draw a parallel line from the Iguazu waterfalls to the Atlantic coast, above that line is a different Brazil as is the below. His wife and daughter were speaking English quite well. I learnt she was a pharmacist so I asked her one of the questions I was curious about. As far as I’m concerned, all pharmacies are open on weekends. Besides, all the workplaces stand side by side on the same street. Why doesn’t one of you open one week and the other one in another week? Because there is nothing in the name of the pharmacy union in Brazil, everyone acts individually. Since there is no unity and everyone wants to make money, you will always see all pharmacies open.How is the health sector in general?The city hospital is quite well done, it is new and has good doctors and equipment. We are delighted here.Your firefighters are also well coordinated and it is kind of good that they have goverment’s support.Actully you can also work as a volunteer. But firefighters receive salaries from the state. Outcomers dont, they get training from fireman. On the road I’ve also seen that there are no fire brigades in some small in Brazil. Yes there are volunteer firefighting, but in some towns, although the settlement is high, the state has not opened a fire station. Since people cannot create these units alone, they were left without fire brigades. I came across with such a few towns like this on the road. Maybe in general there might be a shortage about this in Brazil. Roberto and his family were truly excellent hosts. It was just as our ways. They didn’t let me pay anything, always fighting over the bill, reminding me I was their guest.It is very rare to come across with those who is stubborn in foreign cultures. I was going to pass through the Iguazu Falls within Brazil but Roberto suggested a more beautiful earth road. Of course, when I found out that it was a earth road, I said okay. For our route we were going, they call it Argentina’s Amazon. They told me to go together with the car but I explained t that if I don’t have any health problem or if my bike has no problems, I never put the it on a car, truck or train, and I have been traveling with this principle for years. One of Roberto’s friends said, “Yes, I read your webpage, you’ve pedaled in incredibly cold and hot weather.” This is a nice side to having my English website; people from all over the world can read my adventures.I reached the city on the way to our destination one day in advance and they came to the place where I stayed the next day early in the morning. We prepared the bikes and set off before sunrise. Route 101 and after pedalling in iguazu national park, we rode together through brazil until Iguazu fall. We covered 160 kilometers in 7 and a half hours. I haven’t cycled in the Amazon jungle in South America yet but I read the memories of many bikers who had cycled in that area and looked at their photos and videos. The area I pedaled in the Iguazu National Park in Argentina was exactly the same as the images there. Hundreds, or maybe thousands of butterflies accompanying me and my bike in certain areas made some moments really beautiful.. Along the way, we saw one vehicle full of tourists, so they asked:Is this area safe and where does the road go?Considering we went there with our bikes, don’t worry you are safer than us, road is going to Iguazu Falls.After the information, they left us.When we arrived in Foz de Iguaçu, Roberto and his friends put their bikes to their friends car who were following us and returned to their cities. I started to wait in city’s camp area to celebrate New Year, with Namık, Selçuk and his family. I paid 25 Brazilian Real to this campground which is in the city center. It was one of the most filthy campsites I’ve ever seen, but the place I set up the tent was very good. There were armed clashes in the city of Fos de Iguacu until 3-4 years ago. however, it is said that the state has given more importance to this region which is a tourism area and reduced the crime rate.There were times that I walked alone at nights during the one week I have been there. While walking on the streets without the good lighting, I started to check my left and right, and I started to look carefully at the vehicles passing by. Namık’s motorcyle had a battery problem for a while so they placed the engine behind the vehicles of Selçuk and his family on the road and came to the city. There were a few good mechanics in the city, and it was much easier to find and fix the problem.During our time together we went to the waterfalls and bird park. The view of Iguazu Falls is truly incredible. Along with the waterfalls on the Brazilian side, a lot of animal diversity in the region is not overlooked. I can’t go on without saying that I admired the bird park.We decided to spend the night at the hostel where we stayed with Namık because the streets were very crowded and everywhere was booked. Later in the night, we entered the new year while we were doing karaoke to the song Kuzu Kuzu from Tarkan on the stage. Last but not least .. These guys are giving such an advertisement that they say the only river where you can see 3 countries in the world is the river Parana. From the Parana River you can see Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. But you can see Zambia, Zimbave, Namibia and Botswana at the same time on the African continent when you go from Kazungula pier in the Zambezi river. It is the only place that I can see 4 countries from one point at a time. So it is meaningless to be proud thinking that we are the only ones to have it… Getting back on the road with the first country of the year to continue, Paraguay..