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….

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 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…

Day 8,9 & 10 – Hills, Thrills & Bellyaches

By Darren Clark

In the three days we’ve climbed almost 10,000 ft in total. Day 8 was the warm up for two big climbs at either end of day 9 & day 10 was completed by our highest ascent yet 4920 ft (1.5km).

I’ll be honest, I like cycling up hills, the challenge of getting to the top beats the boredom of long straight roads, and then there’s the thrill of the all two short, but quick (just short of 40mph on one section) downhill.

We past over the border into Spain on day 8, which we almost missed as there’s no real sign or demarcation. Bit of a disappointment, I expected at least a welcome to Spain sign for a photo opportunity .. !

Northern Spain is dismal and industrial we could’ve been cycling through any Northern UK town/city, and at one point I thought we’d passed Forge Masters on Brightside Lane..
The climbs on Day 9 were great, a steep incline with switchback bends on the early morning one and long sweeping curves on the second.

For Day 10 we started at the top of last nights climb, and descend over 1000ft in the 1st 5 miles. That means only one thing – no pedalling, which is good for me because my left knee is very tender at the moment. It’s been aching for a few days, but today it’s worse and after a few miles and a dodgy change of gear that resulted in the chain coming off and my leg jarring straight, the pain is much worse.. Lunch in the beautiful town of Santo Domingo is served with painkillers as desert and as we leave we’re pretty much straight into our ascent up the highest point on the ride to date, Puerto de La Pedraja @ 1150m. After the usual team photo at the summit I switch off and the final 20 miles into Burgos in temperatures of 37c drag, so it’s plenty of water / isotonic fluid refills to see us through to the end. Our hotel in Burgos is at the side of the absolutely stunning Catedral de Burgos, and the city itself is definitely worth another more relaxing visit.