Biking Brazil: Explore Brazil’s Rich Culture and Scenic Routes

Biking Brazil

Biking Brazil: Explore Brazil's Rich Culture and Scenic Routes by @SRobbinsAuthor

As we started our bike trip in the rainforest area outside São Paulo, the guide asked us if there was anything in particular that we wanted to see while we were in Brazil. Being of a “certain age group,” I quickly responded that I wanted to meet The Girl From Ipanema.

Our twenty-something guide had no idea what I was talking about…that hurt!

There are many places in the world that have been described as a “land of stark contrasts,” but none fit the description more than Brazil. Flying into São Paulo to start the trip, we were amazed at the size and sophistication of the city.

São Paulo, Brazil

As the largest city in South America and one of the largest cities in the world, São Paulo looks and feels a lot like New York City on steroids. There are skyscrapers everywhere, and because of the booming economy in Brazil over the last couple of decades, and as the financial hub of the country, São Paulo’s architecture (especially compared to NYC) is edgy, new, and beautiful.

The city is not a great place for bikes, however. Cycling and hiking through the rainforest let one experience the raw beauty of so much of South America. We even had the unique opportunity to hike a trail paved with huge boulders that were used by mule caravans nearly four-hundred years ago to bring gold out of the jungle.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Then there’s Rio! It’s every bit as crazy as its reputation. I got my wish in Ipanema and saw the girls from Ipanema and the beach that led to Rio’s reputation as one of the world’s great vacation spots. One of the more amazing sights on the beach was the people.

There were beach volleyball games all over, with the twist that it is played like soccer in Rio: no hands!

Biking Brazil: Explore Brazil's Rich Culture and Scenic Routes by @SRobbinsAuthor #brazil #biking #travel #wellness

The Favelas Versus The Mega Rich

Contrast all that, however, with the favelas, or slum sections of the cities. The urban poor in the major cities of Brazil have been concentrated into tight slum areas that are typically built into hillsides. The houses are small, shack-like buildings about the size of a single-car garage but resembling more of a shoe box.

They are built into tight adjacencies with no rhyme or reason, with stairways that twist and wind up the mountains. When we walked through these areas (they offer tours for tourists through them), they reminded us of a chase scene from an old James Bond movie.

Often, the favelas are right next to areas where the mega-rich live. For example, in Rio De Janeiro, we toured a favela that abutted an area where apartment prices started in the millions of dollars, and the Olympic venues were close by.

Biking Brazil: Explore Brazil's Rich Culture and Scenic Routes by @SRobbinsAuthor #brazil #biking #travel #wellness

To put a good face on for the Olympic games, the government erected a façade to hide the entrance to the favela from visiting tourists.

What remained behind the huge sign was (and is still) misery.


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