Brazil – Km 146,000
Maceio was where I lived for 4 years and from where I departed in 1999 with the dream of touring the World by bike. Although I didn’t know exactly where I would go, it would all start here, in this city with the prettiest seafront of Brazil. A beautiful city with whom I fell in love in 1993, when I arrived seeking adventures and a new place to live.
I was only 19 years old and by then I had already made the hardest decision of my life: to break with the paradigms that society imposes on us. Study at univesity, working in an office, getting married and having kids is not what I wanted for my life. I don’t know where all this courage came from, and it wasn’t easy.
During my first time in Brazil I travelled a lot and in order to survive I took interest in handmade crafts, as my parents never sent me money; they never empathized with my adventurous spirit. And so I made Money to survive, because in Brazil there was almost always someone who would open their home to me. This is why this country holds a special place in my heart.
For a year I traveled by the coast, and then I returned to Maceio for a significant other. While the relationship didn’t prosper, I decided to stay, because I associated with some Argentines who had opened a travel agency. Raul, Nidia and Daniel, being three innate and experienced travelers, taught me about traveling and survival. I don’t think I would have gotten that far had I not met them. My job was simple: finding new customers. And so I would stroll around beaches in front of the main Hotels, searching for newly arrived tourists. I would try to sell them our tours, leased them cars and apartments, and made a commission on those. With time, and thanks to the influx of Argentines visiting Maceio, Samadhi agency grew and we got to deal with 3000 passengers per year. When Jovanio and Claudio joined in, we had a perfect team. We were the best, and I was the best salesman. I was devoted to our job. Afterwards, I took the tourguide course. At times I thought that I had an almost perfect life, living in a seventh floor by the sea, making good money and I even bought two cars to rent out to tourists.
But one day I realized that routine, comfort and the effort to keep making more money were driving me away from what I was most passionate about: traveling and facing the randomness of the day to day. So my dreams had been left in the backburner.
I started to be grumpy at work, dissatisfied and disappointed about not satisfying my expectations. And so one more time I had to turn society-imposed paradigms, but this time around it was harder, due to everything I’d amassed. I was 25 and all I could think about was to work, save and invest. I was thinking of my future! That damn future for which thinking of so much, I couldn’t live in the present.
What I wanted, for a change, was to leave everything behind and go out and see the world. Put the essentials in a backpack and open up to the adventure of finding out what the road has in store for you. Travel to face life. Who has never dreamed of it? And so, in 1999, almost suddenly, as a rebel act against myself, against my work and my associates, without any kind of knowledge about bicycle touring nor the outdoor life, I bought a bicycle and left to fetch my dream: to travel the world and shake the hand of people all over the planet, to get to know their culture and their values; to learn from them.
At Nova Vrajadhama – Visiting a Hare Krishna community
Following my friendo Pablo’s advice, my first destination was at Nova Vrajadhama place in Caruaru, where a Hare Krishna monk community is. I didn’t have much knowledge about these religious people, and my friend didn’t shed much light on them either. He merely said that they lived on the top of a mountain and that I should visit them before starting my travels. And so I headed to meet them.
When I got there, I was warmly received and asked to stay as many days as I wanted, but also following their guidelines if I truly wanted to get to know them. And so for over a week I followed them along their activities, which began at 4:30 in the morning, after a cold water bath, typically at the lake. Then, still in the evening and by the side of all the monks, we went to the temple, where we spent four hours in devocional service, singing mantras and attending Bhagavad Gita classes, considered the essence of vedic knowledge. After breakfast, I would help in the kitchen or helped farming, always by the side of a monk. And so these men and their teachings left their mark on me.
When I left, the monks gave me a Bhagavad Gita by Prabhupada, the founder of the Hare Krishna movement in the West, and which I keep to this day. They also gave me a yapa, which is like a rosary, so that I can always chant the Hare Krishna mantra.
And so like this, chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, I started my tour around the World cycling. Almost without noticing, the mantra became part of the pedalling daily, monthly, in every country and every continent. Like this, I visited several Hare Krishna temples in the World and many other sacred places of different religions, to enrich my soul through spiritual knowledge, doing devocional service and acquiring books that I would read on the road.
It was also there where I thanked for the journey traveled and I would reload my energy to go on travelling. In many Eastern countries, seeking and connecting with God is the common denominador in people, and having witnessed that was one of the best things that happened to me.
Arrival in Maceio
On December 30th, 2015, I arrived in Maceio after pedalling for 146,000 kms. After resting for a few days, I returned to Nova Vrajadhama in Caruaru, where I did not find the same monks that I had met fifteen years earlier, but I found the same energy and peace that I found during my first visit. This time I was greeted by Swami Dhanvantari and Daruka among other monks. While they were all new people fo tme, the essence and width of their knowledge was the same, and so talking to any of them would be a delight.
I could spend hours listening to them, without even leaving them time to go to the bathroom. A few months later, I visited Jagad Vivitra, whom I had previously met in 1999, but who currently lives in the Dos Avatares hostal, in Ibicoara, Chapada de Diamantina.
Chatting with the monks, I inquired once again about mantras, and in this regard they told me: “mantras are trascendental sounds used to aid people to control their own mind, to free it from the temporary concepts.” The strongest temporary concept there is: “I am my body,” which is taught from the moment we are born. Due to the love and attachment that our parents feel, they promote the thought that we are our body and teach us about our nose, our hand, our toy, our bed, our house, our son, our mother, our country, etc. “I” and “mine” are temporary concepts that progress throughout a person’s growth, and finalize at death. Everything in this material world is a force to attach ourselves to what we see and feel.
Mantras are a process to free ourselves from that concept, but it is not easy, and so it has to be repeated always. There are many mantras in different religions. The Word “religión” means re-linking and the Word “yoga” means union. Both mean re-linking or uniting ourselves with God. Unless a person is free of the “I” and “mine”, he or she cannot unite with God. They have to be in the spiritual concept because God is spirit, and one has to be in sync to link oneself. If you are water you cannot mix with oil; if you don’t identify with spirit and identify with the body, you cannot asociate with the Supreme Spirit. And so mantras have the purpose of linking with God; they are a process to ask for help to God. For example, the Hare Krishna mantra Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare, is a way of asking mother Hare, material energy, to occupy us in the devotional service to the Supreme Master: Krishna and Rama.”
During several days I stayed at Nova Vrajadhama place, chatting with each monk from this community. They are all an open book and listening to them enriches one’s soul. Encounters like these have been the most interesting ones of all my travels.
I can also remember Priya in India, Ven Charnsak Kantigo in Thailand, and Syed and Ahmed in Bahrein. All of them turned out to be enlightened people with deep spiritual knowledge, who very luckily crossed my path.
My travels throughout Brazil took me to the litoral, through the coast of Sergipe and Bahia states, and then inland towards Brasilia and Goiania, where I met other kind people who helped me make things happen when I needed it the most, because that most recent year I had not generated enough resources to continue traveling.
I first met Federico Pensado, who introduced me to companies like Incalfer, who sponsored me, and La Serenissima from Brazil, which made a donation. Later in Goiania, I ran into Amandio and Joselle, whom I had met in Colombia, when they were touring America in they 4×4 truck. This married couple, now sponsored, was about to tour the world in their new truck. They were able to negotiate with Edson, leader of Go Ciclo, upon my arrival.
At the Entrance of the city, I was greeted by a Group of cyclists who escorted me to the Decathlon de Goiania Business, where they tuned-up my bicycle and I got a cold weather outfit for Bolivia. Junior from Sonic Sport also handed me an excellent set of clothes to bike in.
In the last stage of my tour through Brazil, I arrived in Bonito, the top ecotourism destination in the World. It is an impressive place because of its rivers of transparent water, full of fish, falls and caves. There, Grupo Rio da Prata supported me so that I Could get to know the place better: swimming downstream almost 2 kms of the length of the Olho de Agua river, snorkeling next to uncountable Golden fish that escort the swimmer. A unique place worthy of being visited.
Finally, after 8 months of travels, I left Brazil for Corumba, headed to Bolivia. Of course, I was chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, which not only protects me, but also guides me to certain people. And I hope that it keeps on doing that! Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.
Inshallah, as Arabs say, that means: if God wills!!
Memory from my journey in Brazil