Driving 'The Beast' through South-America


By Isabelle Demaeght, July 15, 2019

In Alta Paraisio, north of Brasilia, we were looking for a working ATM when Ann stopped behind the car. Originating from Brussels, she had noticed our white/red Belgian license plate. She had moved into her newly-built villa a week before and invited us in. Ann's house is at an altitude of 1400 meters, the climate is pleasant. She has many plans for the future: starting a B&B and attracting travelers is one of them.

Ann's house

Adriaan working on the house A waterfall after a warm walk One night became six. We had a relaxing time together. Hiking to waterfalls (one in the 'backyard', others with a guide or alone), visiting markets, cooking together, eating and chatting. Thank you Ann, for your hospitality and friendship. In the meantime, Adriaan, who was busy doing odd jobs, gave the house a finishing touch here and there.

Hammock with a view

Fantastic view

Isabelle (and Ann)

Through Ann we finally found a solution for the (essential) brake linings for The Beast, which cannot be found in this country. A visiting acquaintance of Ann took them with her from Switzerland to Brasilia (through customs) and Ann sent them on to the home address of someone from our indirect network of acquaintances in Fortaleza (even further north, where we will be a few weeks from now).

And thus we drove further north. Jalapão is a natural park with immense golden dunes in the middle of Brazil. The road to it was long and tiring because of the 250 kilometers of washboard (ridges in an earthen road that rattled The Beast and us). The last few kilometers were made of loose sand and we had to struggle a bit with that too. The dunes and our sleeping place nearby were impressive and made us partly forget the suffering of the previous days. Unfortunately, the road (the next 400 kilometers) further north did not improve....

Lots of red sand

Even more red sand

Photomodel Isabelle

But so we ended up closer and closer to the Equator, and thus in the heat. We spent about a week driving through a fairly monotonous, dry landscape eastward toward the Atlantic coast. I navigated us past the Valley of the Dinosaurs: A park with one of the best preserved (over 70 million years) dinosaur footprints in the world. The charming guide went to great lengths to use her hands and feet to tell her story.

Dinosaur footprints

For the first time since we left, we were turned away from a (wild) camping spot: the "neighbor" thought we were standing unsafely in the dark and referred us to a lit spot next to the church. When we woke up, we noticed that shy looks from all sides followed our morning rituals, which we then completed at an exceptionally high pace.

On one occasion we were awakened by the mutterings of an unforeseen guest next to the car, when we had parked in the midst of huge fields. This "neighbor" came to ask us if we wanted breakfast....

We reached the town of Natal on the north coast. A tourist place with a beach life like we saw in the south. Sitting and watching among Brazilians is a delight, especially in the very place where those Brazilians feel best.

The Beach!

We felt very comfortable under two tall trees, which were situated on the beach of a remote village. Hardly anyone in the vicinity: only a pleasant sea breeze, bright sunshine, shade, lying in a hammock, sand, regular swimming, emptying a coconut and both nights only the sound of the surf, which at high tide reached 5 meters from our bed. Some of the places we dreamed of turn out to be real places.

A very nice camping spot

Along the coast we drove further north and stopped in the more or less touristy places that I recommended after reading our travel guide. July is a vacation month in Brazil and it shows. Everywhere there are tour operators hailing you for an excursion. Especially light beach buggys which drive over every possible patch of sand are very popular. In Canoa Quebrada we even saw those buggys driving in traffic jam.

Showers are often electric: the water is heated by an element in the shower head. Usually there is a switch, which we never touch. Travelers don't call these showers 'suicide showers' for nothing, because the grounding is usually not connected. It would be easy to make hot water with a solar water heater, but we never see them here.

We were already at the largest hydroelectric power plant in the world (on the border of Paraguay and Brazil), but here this country makes use of the constant wind that brings cooler air ashore across the Atlantic. There is no fuss here about a windmill more or less. There are truly hundreds of them along the coastline.

Wind energy: substations

Fortaleza is the fourth largest city in Brazil with more than 2.5 million inhabitants. The city is primarily known for its many beaches. We are staying on Iracema beach, in a 20-story building. It is Benidorm or Blankenberge squared. When I take a long walk through the city on my own, I notice the difference between rich and poor. I am approached by begging tramps and for the first time I do not feel at ease. The dreary, somewhat neglected core is in sharp contrast to the shiny beach side with its many hotels and apartments. This city is loved not only by Brazilians but also by Europeans and Americans as a vacation spot. In the evening we take a walk and are surprised by a driving dance. What a party country (for those in the money)!





We pick up the package with brake pads; the brakes of The Beast brakes can be repaired so we can leave for the Amazon!