Monday, December 1, 2008

Snowy Trondheim

On Wednesday we landed in Stockholm airport, after flying over a white land. Snow and ice covered Sweden and it was hard to believe only a day ago we had been in sunny Brazil. We stepped off the plane to an icy blast; but it wasn't long before we were back on a cozy Swedish train on our way to Borlange. We were so excited by the white cold landscape before us. By 3,30 it was dark, so we crunched up the front steps of Alistair's place in Borlange and located the key for the his stuga.

We woke up early to pack our vast mountains of gear into a vaguely transportable form and lugged it down to the train station via the bus. Once there we caught a train for 2 hours to Mora, and from there a 5 hour bus trip to Ostersund. In Ostersund it was beautiful and white with little christmas lights everywhere. We stayed in the 'train station hostel' (thank goodness there was one close!).

Early the following morning we boarded the train for Trondheim and arrived here just as the sun set at 2.45. Stig from the Wing orienteering club gave us a lift to the orienteering club cabin, up on the hill above Trondheim. The snow there is very deep, the trees are covered in white. Cross country skiers fly past our cabin on the trails that wind all over the hill and we are desperate to get some skis!

Our plan from here is to find a place to live in Trondheim and some work. Chris heads off to Dubai next week for the Abu Dhabi Challenge adventure race while I stay here and practice up on my Norwegian. As usual we are busy trying to get organised in a rush before he goes. I will keep you posted as to how it all pans out.


Barra Grande Sea Kayak Adventure

I looked out the cabin window to the arid planes of outlying Fortaleza disappearing below me. Slowly they transformed into more scrub covered hills and eventually onto a huge blue harbour. We landed in Salvador and waited in the airport for the arrival of Jorge and Rafael, our Brazilian friends who were going to lead us on this crazy adventure.

Once we had all gathered in the airport, with the help of some super friendly locals Dilton and Casseo (organisers of the adventure race Brazil Wild) we were dropped off at the ferry terminal to Itacare. The sun was shining out across the harbour as we boarded the boat and a group on the ferry were beating out some great samba music to accompany us across.

From Bom Dispachio on the other side we caught a 2 hour taxi ride to Camamu. By that time it was dark and Rafael had preorganised a jet boat to take us the final distance to the little beach villiage of Barra Grande. We sailed in across the still bay to twinkling lights on the shore and disembarked just in time for some great food at the beachfront restaurant where Rafael worked.

We stayed with Marcello, a friend of Jorge's, who owns a grocery shop in town. We slept late that morning, all a bit knackered from the long trip the day before. In the afternoon Chris and I wandered along the long coconut tree fringed coastline, encountering various curious beasts of the sea along the way.

Jorge trying to wrestle with the little native inhabitant 'Mingau'

Barra Grande is located on a beautiful peninsula with lots of nice bars and restaurants, set with tranquil bay on one side and a golden surf beach on the other. However, after enjoying being there for a few days we knew it was time to get our sea kayaking adventure underway. Some time was needed to get the kayaks up to scratch. By 3pm we were finally ready to set sail and we paddled accross the harbour to a (slighty ominous) setting sun.

We had to negotiate a tricky sand bar which runs from the spit of the land all the way out to an island. Fortunatly the sea was not too big and we bounced our way through, then continued paddling down the long coastline towards the distant landmass of the Island Boipeba. It grew darker as we paddled, and out came our light sticks as well as the familiar feeling of 'Is this a good idea?'

After a few more reef negotiations we made it into the bay and onto the shores of a small fishermans villiage called São Sebastião on the Southern tip of Boipeba. We whoppeed as we set foot on the ground again, pleased to have made it in one piece - much to the amusement of the locals who proceeded to offer us a house to stay in for free and a yummy warm dinner of fish and rice. Rafael and Jorge told them we had come from Barra Grande and they could hardly believe it.

We woke early to get a good start for the 50km plus we had to paddle this day. The friendly guy who gave us dinner last night prepared us breakfast and filled our drink bottles with the most delicous 'Mangaba' juice. We paddled up river along side huge mangrove swamps and into the occasional fierce rain squall. We stopped for lunch in a small villiage about half way up the island.

As the day wore on the winds picked up, so it was some relief to finally land on a sandy coconut spit just opposite Morro de Sao Paulo. We pitched our tents (and hammocks) for the night and went to bed early after a long day. In the night the wind changed so that now, even though we would be paddling in the opposite direction from yesterday, we would still have a head wind!

Our kayak had developed a small leek, so we pulled in at Sao Paulo and instead of partaking in the normal touristic activities of this pretty historical town we raced around trying to locate silver duct tape, candle wax and epoxy resin to fix our kayak. This is what I love about adventures like this, you never know what you will end up doing.

We did a reasonable patch up job in front of many very curious locals. We set out round the tip of the island as the grey clouds came in, and paddled around a wonderful stretch of golden beach and crystal blue water. Chris spotted a pack of dolphins and I saw a turtle some way off. Eventually we headed inside the reef to a shallow bay. Just round the corner we could see our destination, but because the tide was some way out te only way to get there was to paddle back outside the reef then in again - or drag your kayak.

A race soon ensued, Chris and I paddled along watching Raf and Jorge furiously pull, lift, drag, tug their kayak as fast as they could. We sailed in to the bay at a leisurely pace, and by the time they arrived we were all in histerics. Unfortunatly somewhere along the way their kayak had also sustained some holes.

Luckily we had already aquired the epoxy, so some more ingenious epoxy/ strapping tape fixing ensued. We spent the night in the most beautiful bay, at a poussada called Paraíso which means 'Paradise'. It was a beautiful spot with the two most friendly owners Dona Angélica and "Seu" Gentil. They had soon advised us on a 'safe' spot to put our tent where we would not be hit by falling coconuts from the towering trees above.

We sat in their thatch hut and cooked dinner while the rain poured down outside and all the local crabs scuttled for shelter. They prepared us a variety of delicious and exotic juices to sample: more mangaba, graviola, abacaxe, caja! We went to sleep to the sound of the rain and the odd thud of a coconut.

Our final day paddling dawned windy and stormy. We waved sadly goodbye to the elderly couple, and set off on a tough paddle homeward. After leaving the sheltered coast of the island we made slow progress into choppy seas and strong winds. This coupled with the continued bailing effort due to the holes in our boats made for hard work.

We paddled solidly for many hours before reaching the mainland and the final obstacle of the reef. We portaged the reef on the beach and as we paddled wearily across the bay it grew dark. Finally we pulled up on the shores of Barra Grande and were very happy to have made it home. The people at standing at the bar were very excited to see a group of wet tired paddlers arrive and shouted us some beer.

The kayak adventure was over after an awesome four days. Rafael and Jorge made great company - it was a trip we will never forget. We spent the next few days in Barra Grande snorkeling and relaxing before heading back to Salvador for our return to Fortaleza and eventually Europe.

In Salvador Rafael's fried Dilton met us for some sight seeing, and then took us to a Samba music concert. It was a great way to finish our time in Brazil, the lively music stayed with us as we flew up and away from Brazil's sunny shores and on to the much colder climes of Norway.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Brazil - Ecomotion World Adventure Race Champs

Long awaited, here finally is our Brazil blog entry! Having spent a weekend 'training' up at James' (Kiwi living in Sweden owning kayak company) place in Dala Floda we organised our gear and caught an early morning flight out from Stockholm airport.

We flew through Lisboa, then on to Fortaleza. Fortaleza greeted us hot and steamily - and a dismembered leg lying in the middle of the road from a car crash just outside the airport didn't help the unbalanced feeling you always get upon arrival in Brazil. We taxied to our hotel and gratefully discovered a supermarket right next door to do team shopping - it was dark and venturing far out into the city was not an exciting prospect.

At 5.30 am we caught the taxi back to the airport and to get the race organised bus to Jericoacoara (about 7 hours north of Fortaleza). We met Orion there, they had spent the last 4 days in Fortaleza and confirmed it was not the nicest of places to stay. After 5 hours on the bus through blistering hot scrubland of the Serato we arrived in Jijorca and transferred our gear to a rickety jeep thing to bump across sand dunes for a further 2 hours.

Finally we arrived in sandy, funky Jericoacoara. We were staying at the Mosquito Blue with delicious blue swimming pools and about 2 minutes walk took you onto a cool beach filled with activity - hundreds of colorful windsurf sails, surfers, horses galloping the beach and capoera dances. Off to the left was the large 'sunset dune', while the whole beach front was lined with classic bending tall coconut palms. We dashed into the warm sea with Marcel and as we surfed the waves we spotted Sia paddling past in a kayak.

The following day Chris and I spwnt several hours enjoying the surf in a double kayak which was then borrowed for 'secret purposes' by one Steve Gurney. That afternoon was Ian and Nora's wedding and we all headed up the sunset dune with many fellow Kiwis.

After Nora was carried up the dune and the vows were said the big yellow double sea kayak made its reappearance and Ian and Nora carriered down the dune in their 'wedding getaway vessel'.

Chris with an enormous avocado...yumm!

The next day was back to the more serious matters of getting organized. Gordon (racing on Chris's team this time) arrived and Chris had the normal issue of last minute bike repairs to attend to. We met Marcus our Brazilian driver; he was great, super friendly and he owned a cool yellow truck which we would support in. He also owned the local bar ZChopp and shouted us a beer. Late that night Mona and Mike turned up after their flight was delayed leaving the US.

After another day filled in with gear checks and other carry on we were finally ready to leave. Marcus's wife Wilmina was also going to travel with us to help out, as well as Fernanda (a Brazilian media person). We took the yellow truck along the beach to the race start which proved to be very exciting with several 'ferry' crossings (see below) and no actual road to drive on with one very loaded truck.

The team had one night with the maps to plan and discuss tactics such as whether to take the 'bonus PC' which would mean 4 less compulsory sleep hours need be taken, but you had to paddle an extra 1.5 hours to get it. Nike opted to miss it.

In the morning we set out and dropped the guys at the beach for the race start. We had to drive to the first PC straight away so we couldn't veiw the beginning of the race - a bit sad! We set up transition one on a wind swept beach and after stressing and preparing stuff for several hours before the team arrived I realised this was going to be hard work! Most other teams had several guys to support who were connected with the team, I was on my own.

Luckily Fernanda joined us the following morning at TA2 and Marcus and Wilmina were trying their hardest. The day was super hot so we sheltered under a bridge getting organised until the team turned up about 3pm. Then we were off again inland - the teams were now biking through 'the boiler' which was possibly the hottest section of the race.

We arrived at the wee villiage of Itatuba in the dark and were helped out by a friendly group of villiage girls eager to assist with sandwitch construction. Nike had a brilliant ride and came in an hour up on the rest of the field. We zoomed off to the next transition weaving through the sandy roads at high speed (Brazilians love driving fast). We were greeted by crowing roosters and snorting pigs as we set out TA4. It was 4am, so after getting everything organised we grabbed an hours sleep before the team arrived.

Unfortunatly they were late arriving - Chris was distraught because they had been lost in the jungle for 2.5 hours! Chris's navigation had let him down, something I knew would take him ages to get over. Consequently the team was in a screaming hurry with Orion right on their heels. Pressure in transition to get going was immense. They zoomed off on their bikes and we zoomed off in our car to try and get to the transition in time.

We had about 30 minutes before they arrived - they grabbed some food and were off again onto the trekking and ropes stage, with Orion now only about 5 minutes behind and having taken the bonus control Orion only needed to take 2 more hours sleep that night where Nike had to take 4. By this time as support crew the only other support crew we were seeing were for Wilsa, Sole and Power by velvet, so we could only know about what was going on in the front of the race.

We reached the square in a pretty little town called Tiangua. There we had a first proper meal for 3 days, before setting about getting the TA ready. About 7 hours later we were all ready and in came Orion having taken the lead. About 1 hour later Nike arrived having taken their 4 hours sleep. They were a bit spaced out and needed a bit of guidance to the TA, but we got them onto their bikes in about 20 minutes. We repacked the car, a bit of a feat in itself, and took off to the paddle transition at the top of the Rio Coreau.

After a 4 hour drive to the TA it was now midnight and the lack of sleep we had had over the last 3 days was starting to get to us. In a mad rush we unpacked and set everything up, made up food bags and cooked some food before the team arrived. Orion had just left about 30 minutes ahead and Nike was in a big rush to make up time. They downed their food and jogged off down to the river for what was predicted to be a miniumum of a 12 hour paddle.

To my horror when I looked around the tranisition I saw they had forgotten an entire drysack including all their food for the section and their tow ropes for the kayaks. At this stage all of us on the support crew hit was you could describe as rather a low point. We packed the car silently and drove through the remainder of the night to arrive at the next TA beside a damn at the end of the river at 5 am; we all managed a much needed 2 hour sleep.

I woke up feeling so sticky and it was an enormous relief to head down to a shower in a local hall with the Kiwi support girls for a shower and my spirits after last night's disastor lifted - the team would just have to survive with next to no food, that was their problem not mine. As more teams arrived all the support crews jumped in the damn for a swim - it was wonderful after so many days of stinking hot stickiness.

Steve and Fiona helped me do some much needed bike repairs while Fernanda and Wilmina busied themselves preparing food and Marcus sorted out new supplies, as a support team we were on top of things again. At about 2 oclock after 13 hours paddling Orion arrived and about 30 minutes later in came Nike. Sole were also hot on their heels after a cunning tactic of dragging their kayaks down the road instead of down the river.

We drove to Camocin where we booked a Poussada for the night. In Camocin teams had to wait overnight before taking a local fisher boat and fisherman along the beach to a spot 10 km North of Jericoacoara. From there they had to run the final stretch along the beach and over the sunset dune to the finish. Orion came in at about 6.30pm and we waited...and waited for Nike. Eventually I fell asleep waiting.

Finally they arrived, it was about 10pm. Chris was horrified that once again they had got lost. Sole had caught them in the dark and been somewhat surprised to find Chris did not know where he was! For some reason Sole had then lost time again and was now one hour behind, but Chris was dismayed that the race was a disastor. Still strongly in second place 'disastorous' is probably a bit debateable but anyway.

At 5am (the fisher boats were scheduled to leave at 4am) Mike woke us all...we had missed all our alarms and slept in one hour. Panic and chaos ensued, even when I assitained the boats had beed delayed by one hour and would only begin in 10 minutes. Luckily I had stayed up another few hours after the team had gone to sleep getting all the gear completly ready for them in the morning.

Gordon was white as a sheet and Mona could only see from one eye as we loaded them into the boat. Then Chris yelled 'I forgot the map!' Well, I thought, that really tops it off. At that point I declared to noone in particular 'I quit'.

Fortunatly Fiona and Lynne from Orions support assured me that they probably didn't even need the map so I tried to forget it - and breathed a sigh of relief that it was all over anyway. We drove back along the beach enjoying the scenery whizzing by and arrived at Jeri in time for some cool beers at Marcus's bar.

Soon we could see Orion cresting the top of the dune and everyone flocked to see the Kiwis run into the finish line and victory. I was pretty proud of the all Kiwi team coming out on top. Sole came in next, followed by Nike, who were in a bit of disaray after a frustrating sail and they wanted to know their final position to Sole. They would not find that out until 2 days later at the Prizegiving. It was a bit sad for all us support who were looking forward to a fun finish fro the team who instead headed off for a clean without much ado, nevertheless I was glad to see Chris and we went for a swim in the sea.

We enjoyed relaxing over the next few days, hanging out at the Acai shop with Gordon and Marcel. Marcos took the team for a fun trip to a nearby lagoon for some hammock bathing and delicious lunch.

On Saturday night all the teams had arrived back in Jeri and congregated at the huge white tent for the prizegiving which was topped off with a great film of the race.

The whole team outside Marcus's bar

By the next day most people had headed home, including the rest of the Nike team. We shifted into a nice (and much cheaper) poussada on the main street and hung out with Orion who had a bit longer in Jeri. Chris and I decided to invest in some windsurfing lessons and spent the next 4 days windsurfing morning and afternoon in the rather challenging wavey conditions. I was actually really wishing I could visit the Christchurch Estuary.

Anna and Kate from the Orion team had met up with a really nice Brazillian called Jorge. We had dinner together one night and that was when we jacked up the plan to travel with Jorge to a place called Barra Grande South of Salvador. He was travelling there to live aand work anyway, and thought it would be a really fun place for us to go for our remaining 10 days in Brazil.
So on Friday afternoon we boarded the jeep and somewhat sadly drove away from beautiful Jericoacoara.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Swedish Multisport Champs

After staying in the cozy flat of Juliette's for a week enjoying some great orienteering forests right nearby we reached the weekend. Chris and I were planning to race in the 'Swedish Multisport Champs' held in near Vaxholm (a town some way out in into the archipelago from Stockholm). However, the day before Aaron rang up to say that Anna (who was going to race with Sara) was sick and so I decided to dump Chris as my teammate and race with Sara instead (-; Chris would get the marvelous opportunity to be my support crew!

The day started off crisp and misty, but as we headed off into the forest on the first orienteering run it gradually cleared and the sun lit up the yellow autumn leaves.

The transition area

We were running with some other girls teams when we reached a river which we had to swim across, it was mighty cold. Thanks to Sara's cunning we came in to the paddle first equal with another team. Then we headed out onto the beautifully calm waters of the archipelago and navigated our way around little islands and under bridges to collect 5 more controls.

Chris and Anna doing a good job of being support crew

In our single kayaks we could just hold off the other female teams who were all in these double canoe things.

After the kayaking we hopped on our bikes for the mountain bike orienteering section. The first bit was pretty tricky following a very rocky and slippery single track. We made a little mistake when we couldn't find the track we were after and I got zapped by an electric fence, but we kept going and the terrain got a bit easier again.

By the time we zoomed into the last transition we knew we had a good lead for the last orienteering section, I was very glad given how stiff my legs had become. We ran through the forest to collect the last 5 controls then into the finish, yaaaah!

We were both stoked to win the women's section of the Swedish Champs (-: Chris and Aaron went for a mad forest run afterwards to burn some energy before we all went out for a well earnt pizza along with Anna and Anders and little Karin and Mia.