Wednesday, 27 August 2008

1983-1986: Bicycle World Tour

The "holidays" between the trip to Spain and the World Tour lasted barely 5 months, time spent in seeking backing for his new adventure.

He found help in no less a person than the President of Brazil, João Baptista Figueiredo, who professed to be a great admirer of his. On the 15 of January 1983, Pedal Joe left his home in the city of Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil, for a four year long World Tour culminating in the World Cup México '86.

The voyage through the American continent was, in contrast with the previous one, rather tranquil. The cyclist even allowed himself the luxury of running and winning, in the "foreigner" category, the marathon commemorative of the 447th anniversary of the city of Lima, Peru.

This time, while entering the Old Continent, he didn't have any problems with British immigration... and, besides a small incident in Gothenburg, Sweden, and a few unimportant falls, all went according to plan. While José Geraldo was in Italy, died his biggest idol, Indira Gandhi, a person whom he planned to meet once in India. "For me, Indira Gandhi was one of the most important women who graced the face of the earth, very mystical, powerful and at the same time humble. She left a great void, very hard to fill."

Next stage of the trip took place in the North of Africa, Asia, Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Birmania. In Thailand, the old Kingdom of Siam, he was able to contemplate the most beautiful things and events of the whole trip, like the wonderful beaches of Pukett and Pataya, the paradisiacal islands of Kho-Samui and the famous bridge on the Khuay-Ai river. Having been invited by the Ministry of Defense of Thailand, he spent one week in the Vietnamite refugee camp of Kao-I-Dan, where he could hear shots that came from the close by frontier between Thailand and Vietnam, the refugees being very, very afraid that the nightmare they were living would never end. "Each day that I spent in that camp, was like having lived a century of an absurd war that, in the end, only left destruction and death. On my last day at the camp, a six years old Vietnamien refugee girl, orphan and with cancer, one more victim of the chemical bombs dropped somewhere over Vietnam, got close to me and asked, her eyes watering, with the simplicity that only children manage to have, 'Farani (estrangeiro), what means peace?' At that moment I was unable to respond, and until today I am at a loss for an answer!" says José, with perplexity. All the wonderful things that he was able to come to know during his trip, were not enough to get rid of the thought of the suffering of that child and of the thousands of human beings thrown into that concentration camp as if they were a disposable thing.

But life has to go on, and José Geraldo had to keep on going as well: Malasia, Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong-Kong, Macau, China, Japan... In the kingdom of the Rising Sun, last leg of his World Tour (from there he would fly to Mexico via New York to be present at the World Cup), the cyclist had prepared a "little big thing": to cross the 2500 km length of the large island on a child's kart. When he arrived in Tokyo, he was taken aback with the size of the velocipedes that they had... he had to contend with a small kart, given by the toy company Toy Park Ginza Rakuninkam. It took him 107 days, travelling 25-30 km per day. To travel at 5 km per hour, was a beautiful and captivating madness. "When the inhabitants went by me, they would smile and encourage me to persevere. I really felt the fondness and respect of those kind people", says José.

Back in Mexico, the Brazilian selection was left again lagging behind. Once more Pedal Joe was going home without the pleasure of witnessing the "tetracampeonato".

A trip to forget

Back in Brazil, Pedal Joe ventured on another bicycle odyssey, in 1987, from Chuí, Rio Grande do Sul, to Brasília. "The objective of the trip was to bring the attention of our politicians to bear on the children of the Nordeste (Moto: 'Constituinte, dê uma chance para o Nordeste' - 'Constituent, give the North-East a chance"). It became my worst project. I was caught by a policeman in Rio Grande do Sul, at a gas station, who took me for a bandit, first hitting me mercilessly and only then asking me for my documents; I was kicked on the head and spat upon by people who where passing by in cars; and, worst of all, until today the North-East remains forgotten, only talked about during election campaigns.

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