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.