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.