An old lesson

By Mike Tomlinson

This is Day 32 of Ride to Rio and there is no doubt that it was never going to be easy. But, as often, on these rides the cycling can be the easiest part of the trip. Long days, a different town every night, strange bed, no chance to do laundry are just the tip if the iceberg.
Everyone is affected differently, with me I crave the solitude and head space that is hard to find in the environment.

This has been heightened in Brasil. We landed in Recife two weeks ago. We were all shocked by how poor the country was and the quality of housing. People had little, work seemed scarce. Like many poorer countries I have visited the quality of life has been excellent without the demands of materialism.

There was though an undercurrent of danger from robbery, never felt by us but advised by the locals. As darkness falls by 5:30 we were advised not to go outside of the accommodation and I felt trapped. The people  were to a person, smiling pleasant and very helpful.

As we have moved down the country, about 1000 miles, the wealth has increased considerably, especially in the Cities and so has the aloofness of the people. There is a considerable north/south divide, ring any bells, I know where I would rather be.

Brasil is an outstandingly beautiful country, many places unspoilt, since we have been here we have seen no western or American visitors; who knows how long that will last.
So for all the long days in the saddle, the one thing that I will take away from me is that wealth does not mean happiness, its the simple things that matter the most.

Navigation blunders

By John Miller

Today’s navigation blunder occurred in the opening few minutes, and once rectified, the road became a dirt track which caused some more confusion as it lasted just one kilometre before turning into smooth Tarmac for 18 miles passing oil fields and lonely farms – but no traffic. We realised why when a rickety narrow bridge signalled the end of the road – and the start of 23 miles of sandy track, which proved slow and treacherous. Two falls and a bit of swearing later and we were back on the blacktop for the last 39 miles to tonight’s stop at Linhares, passing thousands of workers cottages for Petrobras – the local oil giant. So 70 miles further – and all into a relentless battering headwind. Highlights today – comical cows chasing us along the fences, Cokes at the back-of-beyond beach bar, trying (and I think failing miserably) to explain to the locals in Linhares what the Garmin was, and a road sign for a caption competition…

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Character building…

By Paul Highton

Day 28 Blog

After yesterday’s down pours leaving us damper than an otters pocket I’d prayed that evening that today would be dry and all started so well …
After a pretty decent drive to the start point the heavens opened and the stall was set for the day … In the 1st hr I’d put on and taken off my jacket more times than a pissed up scrapper on a Friday night …
The day was one of firsts and in particular a 1st puncher for Charlie … She has managed to complete an ironman numerous other challenges and the 4 weeks of ride to Rio to date without a single blowout so it just shows that having your own mechanic (Mike West) carries some weight and luck ha …
I’d love to now go on to tell you that today was full of wonder and rain Forrest adventure but it wasn’t !!
It was unfortunately 1 of those days you just need to get ya nut down and grind out whilst smelling like a Damp Alsatian  …
Mile after mile of Tarmac … hill … Corners … Hill … Down hill … Back up a massive hill .. And then a long Arse straight worthy of any final walk scene from the Incredible Hulk.
But luckily the finishing point of the day which just so happens to be a petrol station was in sight and that euphoric feeling no28 kicked in !!
Another day done another day closer to Rio and another huge confidence boost for me
…. Although No champagne showers or ticker tape parades but there was a clatter of local fire crackers and a Solaro !! so all in all I’ve had far worse Sunday’s and as ever feel blessed to have been given this opportunity.
Night
Highto X

Falling in love with Brazil in a pothole, crazy bus drivers kind of way

By Charlie Webster

From what I have seen so far Brazil is one beautiful place. The scenery is just natural beauty at its most stunning, it is only when you see the little kid walking down the road barefoot and the favela’s with back to back shacks made of sticks that it reveals its hardships. Yesterday we cycled through so many of these little townships, we stopped at a few for a drink and the locals despite most likely never seeing a foreigner before were so welcoming, smiling as we pulled up and waving as we went by. The kids all eager to talk to us. I ended up having a chat with 2 kids, well maybe not ‘chat’ but some form of communication through my broken Portuguese and gesturing, their eyes lit up as they looked at my bike and I showed them photos on my phone of our trip so far. I ended up giving them a drink and Keith’s crisps.

Today was very different. We started around 730am and already the sun was beating down on us and the air was so close with humidity. Unfortunately for Mike his bike wasn’t playing ball and he fell off on the first mile. He’s all patched up now. We kicked on as we knew it was going to be a long day of 100 miles and more. For the first 5 hours of the day we literally didn’t see anything or anyone. It seemed like we’d left civilisation behind. The road was just one long line of trees for what seemed like forever. Cycling like that is so hard. There was no turns, nothing to engage our mind apart from hills. I’m sure somebody told me Brazil was flat. It is not! We climbed more today than one of our Pyrenees days. The hills were just constant and what made it worse was that the road is straight so you could see everyone of the long steep hills coming right up, taunting you to take it on.
We got half way through the miles and myself, Mick, Paul and Keith really started to feel it. I went through about an hour of just feeling rubbish, sick, eyes allover the place and head banging. We pulled up for some shade and to take on a few gels and we all just slumped on a makeshift bench, clearly all feeling the same. The hills were tough but the heat just makes it ten times harder.
Somehow after some stupid jokes and laughs about how crazy what we are doing is, oh and Paul nearly having a wee as a school bus appeared infront of him, we managed to pull ourselves together. Finally we started to see signs of life. It started with some favela’s that were of a higher standard than the ones we’d seen yesterday. Some of them were brick built – still all had massive satellite dishes nearly as big as their houses.
We were glad of something to look at, then came the fun and games. The same long road we’d been on all day all of a sudden  turned into the busiest craziest free for all. Buses dipping in and out, no order, no bus stops, no signally, no warning. Lorries, cars flying past, Keith, Mick infront and Paul behind me blocking me. It definitely made us feel alive! Did you ever play chicken as a kid?  It all came back to me today when we had to got across 5 lanes each side of the road to get to the left turn coast road. Honestly we must have looked like a right bunch. I couldn’t stop giggling at one point.
It really is so different cycling over here in Brazil than in Europe. The roads are full of pot holes and things to dodge, the cars wave at you or drive so close you can literally feel them skim past.
We ended the day just before the dark started to close in as the light goes around 5pm here. I was so hungry so within seconds of getting off the bikes after over 100 miles we went to a little cafe on the side of the road where we’d finished. I ordered for us in my mixed Portuguese-Spanish combination which seems to be working whilst 2 guys argued with a crowbar.
The food was delicious despite Keith morning that it was the ‘caravan of death!’ whilst calling me by my new nickname ‘Tigger’ because in his words ‘your always bouncing around.’
Today has ended in lots of giggles, I think this is making us all go a little bit insane. The guys were amazing today, we have now taken to chanting ‘let’s go defense’ to keep us moving. Don’t ask! We are now in Salvador and tomorrow starts with a boat and then we head to Valenca. I’m writing this lying in bed, laughing at today with sore legs and a sore bottom! I’ve changed my seat 3 times now and gone back to number 2 today! Night night….

A wheely big adventure

By Kat Macknay

A lot has happened since I last put fingers to keyboard but have now been put to work again to fill you all in on the life of the support crew. We successfully made it through Europe with little problems to us and our vehicles, just a lot of losing and finding riders (it’s like herding cats, honestly) through keeping them hydrated and fed to finishing each day with washing out bike bottles. Much has been said about the technical issues that happened to several of the riders during the two and a half weeks that we traveled across France, Spain and Portugal but it seems that the technical issue fairy has decided to spend some time with me now that we have reached Brazil. After a rest day in Recife, we started to make the trip out of the city and I hit a pothole which could have been mistaken for the entrance to an underground car park, cut a long story short, two bust tyres.

As luck would have it, I had pulled in by a local mechanics and the two riders I had with me, John and Mick, went to try and sort things out. Another long story short, local mechanic gets the tyre guy across the street to come over and help. Little bit more detail – tyre guy was other side of a 6 lane motorway and had no shoes on – he shot over, took off the two tyres, took them back to his workshop, banged out the dented rims, fixed the tyres and refitted, cost of all this – just under a tenner – absolute quality. If only that was the end of it, next day, trying to avoid a raised manhole about 3 foot high, I curbed the car and did it again. This time the spare had to come out but found another lovely tyre man and he again worked his magic, point to note – overtipping will lead to a hug from your friendly Brazilian tyre fixer.

As you can imagine, the riders are finding all of this hilarious but personally, I am hoping that if things come in 3’s, I am now done. Will keep you updated with progress…

 

View from the road…

By Mike Tomlinson
Not to trivialise the achievement of cycling from London to Lisbon this challenge was always going to be Brazil. We arrived in Recife in the early hours of Friday morning. My first impression was not good, incredibly poor living conditions, rats the size of cats and lots of feral kids out on bikes (even at 3 in the morning).

By Friday lunch we ventured out into the City centre to explore. Trying to blend in was hopeless, we were the only tourists and may well have had a sign saying “mug us”. After an uncomfortable hour sweating in the heat and for our safety we got a taxi back to the hotel only for him to knock over a motorcyclist who could have given Ronaldo an acting lesson.

As for the cycling the first two hours was like Russian roulette, buzzed by trucks, avoiding potholes which should have their own postcodes and vehicles that ignore every law. At one point there was a road sign, a rarity in itself, warning of bulls. I thought my chances of surviving 19 days were pretty slim.

This though is a wonderful country and the majority of people we have met have been happy, polite and very helpful. There is extreme poverty, shacks without roofs and windows but there is a crazy vibe, music blasting from pimped out knackered car’s, ranchers, kids cycling the wrong way up 6 lane highways, it’s mental. Cycling down the Atlantic Coast the scenery is so beautiful and every sense is heightened.

Day one in Brazil

By Paul Highton

So that was a strange 1st day in Brazil and in particular Recife. After an uneventful lie in I decided to get up and make a dent into my mountain of washing that was slowly gathering mould as quickly as it was flies. After a quick game of hunt the travel wash I decided there was only one thing for it and that was to start at outfit 1 and get in the shower clothed and get the trusty complimentary hand soap on it (it felt quite nice if I’m honest). After change of gear no7 the water wasn’t running as fast but my pules were .

I then got the call to say some of the group were heading into Recife City for a mooch about and a bite to eat so swiftly joined them. This gave us a good opportunity to take a look at what the road conditions were like in Brazil and how the traffic treated us iron pushers and as it happens not too well.

We arrived in Recife and were dropped at a busy local market and for some reason we all gravitated towards the huge cathedral in the centre which as it happens had armed security on the front doors !!! this kind of set the standard for how the next few hours would go. We started to stroll around the markets and couldn’t have screamed out tourist any louder if we tried, from me stuffing my phone and wallet down the front of my strides to Shiv and Mike reading a map whilst trying to control it in the wind.

The streets we walked over the next hour or so threw up everything from children trying to sell us a bottle of water and a straw to some of the team trying to access a mini bank which was once again under armed control the city really was a rabbit warren full of people really fighting it out to make a living but amid all the poverty and hardship I really felt a sense of gratitude and purpose walking around the streets and bridges that I have dreamt about for so many years and I can only thank everyone involved in this journey for helping make this a reality on the back of doing so many good things for organisations like Janes appeal and RL Cares.

Now Let’s not get too carried away and nostalgic as we were very quickly reminded about the quirky and dangers of brazil as our cab driver ploughed into a guy on a motorbike waiting to pull out!! Personally I had no sympathy for the guy having come off my own bike 3 times and haven’t once made a song and dance like he did.

Anyways of for tea and to see what the fall of darkness brings in this wonderfully freaky part of the world !!!

LATERS

Highto

Day 17 – It’s been emotional

By Darren Clark

We’ve arrived in Lisbon and for me the last day in the saddle is complete.
Since the 27th June we’ve covered 1,100+ miles across the UK, France, Spain and Portugal. There have been some ups and downs – emotionally, physically and most definitely in the road.

I’ve seen some outstanding views and some utterly dismal towns.

There are places I want to return to as a tourist to investigate more, there are others I want to forget completely.

Good luck for the rest of the challenge to my fellow European leg cyclists, those that join in Receife and the amazingly patient support team – remember the old management saying “team work, makes the dream work” or in this case makes the cycling much bloody easier…

Finally, special thanks to Vicky, Jenna and the rest of my family for their support and encouragement not only over the last 3 weeks but all the times I’ve woken up said “I’m off for a short ride” and returned 5 hours later over the last 6 months.

Until the next one … Au revoir, Adios, Adeus and si’thi

Day 15 & 16 – Location, Location, Location

By Darren Clark

The cycling has been pretty uneventful over the last two days, that is if you consider one puncture for Paul in the carpark before we managed to set off and a second 1.5 miles later the norm for day 15, over 4000 ft climbed on roller coaster type single track roads the norm for day 16 (when promised ‘it’s all down hill, from here’ by Mike the day before) and oh yeah the truly awful cobbled Portuguese town main streets – after the last one I felt like claiming for vibration white finger disease…

So I thought I’d share some thoughts on 3 distinctly different hotels we’ve stayed in / staying in since we crossed into Portugal…

Hotel 1 –  Alfraites.
Just over the border from Spain, a very quite family run hotel. I can’t really figure out who would normally stay here, maybe it’s used by drugs mules or arms dealers given its proximity to the border.

On Sunday night we had the entire restaurant to ourselves and our host and his wife kindly laid on a homemade four course banquet for us (they don’t normally do Sunday’s) and to make the night complete they moved the tables to allow us to watch the euro2016 final. Needless to say our host was suitably happy with the result.

Hotel 2 – Castello Branco
My 1st thoughts on cycling up, along with – who the hell picked a hotel at the top of a steep off route climb, was Bond villain hideout. The hotel was perfectly perched at the top of a hill with glorious views across the valley from 3 sides, and on entering my thoughts came to life as the reception resembles the room used in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service to brain wash a bunch of femme fatales.. The bedrooms were pleasent, although the the air con was only powerful enough to cool a space the size of a shoe box, so Mick and I resolved to open the balcony door. All went well until a bunch of what appeared to be school children upset the local dog community at about 11:30pm and all hell broke out for the remainder of the night with occasional stereo effect howling continuing on & off, normally with prefect timing to start just as you felt yourself drifting off…

Hotel 3 – Abrantes
Wow, what a place tonight’s accommodation is. It’s actually a retired show jumper / antiques dealers house and it is amazing. It’s as though the last 90 years have passed this place by, ornate bedrooms/bathrooms, stunning views and some truly remarkable antiques on display.

The standard is set high for my last night on the ride tomorrow….

Day 14 – Groundhog Day

By Darren Clark

After a well needed rest day we’re back on the good old N620 today for another 40 miles before we switch to its slightly older, narrower, less straight and less smooth cousin the SA62. At least it’s not busy, miles & hours pass by without us seeing any other traffic – cycling bliss.

To keep ourselves amused during the day we’ve had a bit of bike karaoke. We’ve had a crack at everything, the Stone Roses, the long forgotten 1986 classic Male Stripper (thanks Paul), Spirt in the Sky from Charlie – Dr and the Medics not the 60s original & thankfully not the Gareth Gates version, The Macarena from me, yes The Macarena, including full no hands cycling dance moves, The Fraggle Rock theme tune (again one from Paul) and Mikes standard cycling tune – Ini Kamozies 90s classic – Here Comes The Hotstepper. I kid you not.., this 1st appeared on one of our training rides to York and is frequently sang (in the loosest sense of the word) by Mike, so much so that we’ve all started to sing the bloody thing at different intervals…

Today saw us cross the border into Portugal, which was slightly more memorable than the France to Spain crossing as it was at least sign posted and even more memorable at the top of hill..!!

Tomorrow we head a further 60 miles into Portugal and a choice of The Birdie Song or The Time Warp including moves awaits…