Imagine you’re in a foreign country and don’t speak the language. You are down to your last bit of money, enough for one taxi, and no ATM machine will accept your cards. You haven`t eaten all day.
This was the situation we found ourselves in a few days ago…
Unsuitable and sometimes impassable terrain meant that our progress had been slower than planned and the money that was meant to last until we reached Fortaleza was almost extinguished 300km (4 days riding even in good conditions) short of the city. Rocks, mangrove swamps and two huge river deltas meant we were only able to kite small sections of coast at a time and we were behind schedule. We had begun to appreciate why this challenge had never been attempted before.
Small banks in coastal towns in Rio Grande do Norte would not accept foreign cards. Funds were low despite our best efforts to save by eating once a day and buying from local stalls. We were also saving money by sleeping in our hammocks in basic pousadas where you had to look where you were stepping for the cockroaches and rat droppings.
By the time we got to Macau we realised that we didn’t have enough money or time so we made the hard choice to dismantle the buggies.
Using an entertaining series of lifts by dune buggy, (a stripped down jeep based on an old VW Beetle), raft, boat, car (with the buggies in the back and two of us squashed on the front passenger seat), and onibus (where we bribed the conductor to let us take our 150kg of luggage on board) we finally found ourselves in Fortaleza, the largest city in the northern state of Ceara. It was night time. With our last 50 reals we convinced a taxi driver to rope our buggies to the roof of his ancient peugeut.
With no knowledge of the area but knowing that we wanted to be near the coast in the north of the city to get a good start, we pointed to a district on a map and asked the bemused driver to take us there. As the car bumped over potholes and almost got stuck in a waterlogged section of road in a rough part of town we wondered if we had made the right choice, but luckily found a pousada who would accept our credit cards!
After three tense hours of running around what felt like every bank in Fortaleza and making numerous calls to our bank in the UK, we finally found a bank that would let us take out cash. We must have looked like we had stolen the cards as we jumped around HSBC in glee.
With buggies built, racks fitted, and bags loaded, we were then ready for the next part of the adventure…