Cycling in Northeast Brazil, through Piaui and Pernambuco.

Cycling in Northeast Brazil, through Piaui and Pernambuco.

“Are you from Mexico” is usually the way people greet me. I am wearing my Mexico cycling jersey that I bought when I was touring Mexico by bicycle. Most people in the interior of Brazil hardly ever see a foreigner. So the people of Piaui are often not aware that I do not look very Mexican. But they are also happy and friendly when I tell them I am from Denmark.

The past 2 weeks have taken me roughly 850 kilometers around Northeast Brazil. From the city of Teresina in the state of Piaui to the middle of the state of Pernambuco.

2 weeks where I have been cycling on some very good and newly paved roads, that are mostly used by truck drivers who transport goods from the many factories in Piaui, to the big coastal cities of Recife and Fortaleza.

Normally I dread cycling where you have many trucks. As they can be quite dangerous for us cyclists. But here in Northeast Brazil it’s quite ok, as the roads are not that congested. The trucks tend to stay off the road in the middle of the day due to the intense heat. So I often have the road pretty much to myself.


Feeling hot hot hot on the roads of Piaui.

Vultures who waiting for the next one who can't cope with the heat.

Vultures waiting for the next person who can’t cope with the heat.

I don’t mind the heat. Even if Piaui is one of the hottest places I have ever experienced.

I actually prefer to be cycling when it’s 35-40 degrees celsius, as I get a breeze. And my cycling clothes do not get nasty and sticky when I am sweating.

My biggest challenge is the long long hills that I am constantly climbing. And the constant headwind I am having during most of the trip.


The gas stations are my home.

Gas station in Piaui.

Gas station in Piaui.

Most nights I sleep at gas stations that often have a little hotel. Or a pousada as they call it in Brazil.

These places are made for truck drivers needing a rest but I am always welcome. They make perfect places to sleep, as they are comfortable and fairly cheap. And always have a restaurant as well as free wifi at the gas station too.

The truck drivers know the road conditions very well and can always inform me where I can find places to stay the next day.


Piaui is the state that no one visits.

Fellow tour cyclist Julio from Recife, Pernambuco.

Fellow tour cyclist Julio from Recife, Pernambuco.

Piaui is the poorest of all the Brazilian states. And also the hottest and it’s not exactly a tourist spot. Most people I talk to have never seen a european in their entire life. Piaui is also not a place that Brazilians from other states visit very much unless they have some business to do there.

The federal government of Brazil actually once forgot to put Piaui on a map of Brazil once. Which kinda says how much attention the state get’s.

Piaui has traditionally been farm land, with big farms employing badly paid farm workers. In recent years a lot of industry has come to Piaui though. I cycle past many factories along the way that produces everything from bicycles to fruit juice.

Because of the factories, I also come across a few engineers working on the plants and I learn a lot about the region from talking to them.


Hardly any cyclist travel this part of the world.

Lone cyclist in Piaui.

Lone cyclist in Piaui.




Prior to my trip I was trying to gather information about the cycling route I planned through Southern Piaui. I was hardly able to find any info online and I started to suspect that I was maybe the first cyclist ever to travel that route.

As I was cycling down the road in the state of Pernambuco, I met Julio who was doing the exact same route as me. But in the opposite direction (clever guy got the wind in his back all the way). He was just as surprised to see a fellow tour cyclist as I was. He had also never heard of anyone cycling that route and he even came from nearby Recife. But we had a nice chat along the road and Julio helps me to repair a flat tire.


Almost becoming a cycling celeb.

Posing for photos with a local girl in Pernambuco.

Posing for photos with a local girl in Pernambuco.

Most people I come across along the route are very surprised to see a blond haired foreigner coming cycling down the road. And they almost treat me as some famous celeb coming through town. They pose for photos with me and tell me that I have a lot of courage to do such a long trip in this heat.

Even the police stop me once and invite me for lunch at a local restaurant.


And the 2014 world cup is on.

Brazilian village house painted for the world cup.

Brazilian village house painted for the world cup

I had planned this trip so I am doing it during the World Cup so I can catch a bit of the atmosphere along the way and I spend many great afternoons and evenings with local Brazilians watching football on tv along the way.

Even if this is an area that has several hundred kilometers to the nearest world cup Stadium there is not a single village that is now full of world cup decorations and Brazilian flags are hanging everywhere I come.

Young waiter with world cup colors in his hair.

Young waiter with world cup colours in his hair.


Would I recommend this trip to other people?

The local police girls inviting me for lunch.

The local police girls inviting me for lunch in rural Pernambuco.

Yes absolutely. But don’t take it as your first long bicycle trip. You are really away from the beaten track and need to have some travel and cycling experience for a region like this.

Try to learn some Portuguese before going.

Had I not been able to speak Portuguese then I would have been quite lonely on the trip, as I only met one (1) person on the whole trip who could speak proper english. He had worked for the United Nations in The Dominican Republic. Helping with water delivery to Haiti, after the big earthquake in 2010.

And get some good tires on your bike.

I went with some pretty average ones and they punctured too easily. Because it’s a truck route there is a fair bit of metal wires lying along the road that can penetrate your tires. And there is also a type of cactus that went straight through my tires once. They gave me a quadruple puncture one time.

In regards to safety, then I can only say that I felt completely safe the whole trip.

Apart from that I can only say that I loved cycling the interior of Northeast Brazil. And that I will be back for some more cycling in the future.

If you want to have some general tips about tour cycling in Brazil, then I have a blogpost about that on this link.



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