And now, the end is near….

By Kat Macknay

As we sit looking at the Rio skyline, Christ the Redeemer lit up and hovering over the city, there is a moment of nostalgia to be had. The ups and downs of the last 6 weeks across 2 continents and 5 countries have been at various points hilarious (to the point of tears), sad (tears may have also appeared), annoying, boring but ultimately extremely satisfying.

The work put in by the riders – 5 in Europe and 7 here in Brazil –  has been phenomenal, they get up at silly o’clock, have brekkie, get bikes sorted, pick up water and then ride for anything up to 100+ miles stopping only for food and water top ups.

The work put in by support, myself, Roo Harrington and Siobhan Curtis has, in my opinion (and I may be slightly biased) been phenominal in a different way. Ensuring that the riders have what they need, when they need it, making sure we know where they all are at any time (I refer you to a previous blog and the term herding cats) as well as ensuring all is in line for when it is required, be it food, water, first aid kit and a hundred plus other things is a full time job.

I have said before that I feel both blessed and honoured to have been able to help with this challenge – the inspiration of Jane has really helped focus what it is that we are all doing and when you think what she undertook while terminally ill, we realise that horrid roads and bad drivers pale in comparison with the things that really matter.

Life is a journey not a destination and the last few weeks have been a hell of a journey.

 

Nearly there…

 

By John Miller

70 something miles further today on wearisome roads where we all spent the whole day looking over our shoulders wondering whether the next truck we saw would be our last. Nevertheless we’re all here in one piece, and just one more day cycling should see us literally within sight of our goal – Rio de Janeiro, the “Marvellous City”.

It’s been quite a journey through Brazil, from the poverty and roller coaster hills of the north, to the flatter, busier, more sophisticated south with an ever present headwind and some dirt tracks thrown in. Through it all the people of Brazil have been friendly and curious, and once they understand “Recife to Rio” eyebrows are usually raised, hands shaken, photos taken.

Jack and I wanted to show some family support by riding and he has shown his usual determination to put up with an ongoing foot injury throughout. Mike and I have successfully completed our auditions for “Grumpy Old Men” but the family wouldn’t have us any other way. Mick is of course a triathlete and a machine but he’s kept his frustrations at our slow pace in check.

We’re very grateful to our high profile team members who have given freely of their time and efforts and deserve much credit – Paul was by his own admission no cyclist before this challenge, but he has done brilliantly and can certainly call himself one now. Keith and Charlie are both in such great shape that they’ve made it look easy, but don’t be fooled – Brazil has served up some very tough cycling conditions.

Our support crew have been the real unsung heroes. Shiv, Kat and Roo have been there through thick and thin, calmly picking up our teddies and putting them back in the relevant prams – all the riders have had their moments… A small but typical example – today three of us arrived at a bar after 50 miles for a drink. Kat appeared, but before thinking of herself was quietly refilling our bottles. This sort of selfless attitude has been their hallmark – people of real quality. I’m sure all the riders will agree we are deeply in their debt.

Of course the main reason we’re here is to mark Jane’s remarkable achievement in riding across the USA in 2006. Jane has been an inspiration to all who know of her – one memory that has stayed with me was in October 2005 when I had gone to Leeds to collect Steven to take him to Grandma in Settle. Jane asked me if I wanted a brew (yes, obviously) and then insisted on getting up and making it herself despite being hardly able to walk across the living room. Yet this was just a few days before she was due to fly to Florida to attempt a full Ironman event. I got to Settle and told them I had no idea how she thought it would be possible. But despite everything that was exactly what she did in November 2005 – so when I’m having a hard day I often find myself recalling that, and can then usually find an extra gear.

Thanks to all who have generously donated – and there is still time!

‘The end is in sight, Christ Redemeer, I can’t wait to meet you’

By Charlie Webster

I think it’s fair to say we are getting to the point where we all would quite happily throw our bikes in the sea and never see them again. That’s saying something as I love my bike. We have 3 more days to go and I can actually see Rio on a map, if I zoom out a bit anyway! We have nearly cycled 3000 miles which despite doing it I can’t quite get my head around. Every day I’ve worked hard to get through the days challenges and at some points thought how on earth are we going to do this on a day to day basis. All of a sudden I’ve found myself on day 36.

Today the sun came out more like you would expect in Brazil after 3 days of monsoon like conditions which I literally needed a wetsuit to tackle. At one point I cycled through a flooded road where the water came above my pedal and crank, my front wheel wobbled and I could see on everybody’s faces that I was about to fall off. I didn’t, somehow!
This morning wasn’t great if I’m honest…it was like they often so obviously say in football commentary, it was a game of two halves.
The first half was rubbish and the second was a bit better!
The first 30 miles took us through a village which had a deserted train track line weaving its way through it. We crossed this numerous times which actually makes your brain shudder, a bit like when you get brain freeze eating ice cream. We stopped on the side of the road for a pit stop and I spoke to the Yorkshire Post about our incredible journey – quite apt being Yorkshire day. It was funny at times to try and explain exactly what we’ve gone through and the challenges we’ve faced. I sat on the edge of a field doing the interview and the cows which seem very intrigued here came over to me and just stood and watched – it did make me chuckle to myself, it would have made a good photo.
Keith even said ‘you’ve had enough of talking to us that you were really just chatting to the cows pretending to be on the phone!’
After this we kicked on, got our heads down and I led us to the end. I took a little bit of my frustration out on the bike, I was flying!
The day finished at Macae. Brazil is such a country of extremes, where we are now seems relatively wealthy. There was a helicopter field surrounded by oil stations – whenever we see oil installations, this is reflected in the next town on. The people are different, the houses are as we would know. The total opposite of where we finished yesterday which was ghetto, derelict and immediately radiated wariness on all fronts.
Other areas are just favela’s for miles, stray dogs and barefooted kids. The scenery though no matter what the social demographic has been stunning!
I can feel my eyes closing so I will say goodnight. A really big thank you for all your strength and encouragement throughout this. We are nearly there and I absolutely can’t wait for the 14 mile climb to Christ Redeemer and to scream over Rio ‘I’ve done it!’

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.

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….

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