out of Natal, over the Ferry and through the Countryside of
Brazil gave me time to reflect on the last twelve months of
training. After cycling with Lepra in India I wanted to see
another country from my bike. "If you cannot beat them
join them" must have been on Hayden's mind when he decided
to join me, with just 8 weeks to train. Hayden had not ridden
a bike for more than 30 years, bought a bike in July and within
2 weeks he was cycling at an average speed of 13 mph
We were to cycle from Natal to Fortaleza, which is on the
North East of Brazil not far from the equator. The temperature
was always mid 30's with a strong wind. We joined a group
of 16 cyclists with ages ranging from 18 -60+ who had all
raised money for Lepra. The British Leprosy Relief Association.
Our first day's cycling in Brazil took us through small villages
and quiet roads where we saw a herd of cows but what they
were fed on remains a mystery because the countryside was
very barren. We turned off road to head down to Petitinga
our first experience of Brazil's country lanes! When you leave
the highway you can expect anything from corrugated tarmac,
cobblestone or just track but always covered with sand. Not
being an off road cyclist I had to leam fast how to cycle
on sand - keep on peddling! The cycling was challenging because
you could never relax - You had to be aware of the surface
and try to judge the depth of the sand.
We stayed in small chalets most nights beside the Beach and
we could swim in the sea. The Beaches were beautiful and so
unspoilt from Natal up to Fortaleza. During the next couple
of days we had some difficult terrain to cover and we stopped
at a Manioc factory to see how the vegetable is peeled, ground
into flour and cooked over an open fire. Further along the
road I went up and met a little family outside their shack.
The girl was 25 with 5 children and her sister 18 with 2 children.
We also met an ox cart with three little children riding on
the axle trying to get some shade. We saw a little boy on
a donkey carrying milk in an old oil can to the local milk
factory - no hygiene standards here!
arrived at Galinhos only accessible by ferry and when we landed
children grabbed our bikes and disappeared, our bags were
loaded onto donkey carts and raced off in the same direction.
We tried to keep up with them but found running on sand very
difficult but were relieved to find our bikes and baggage
at the hotel and all the children beaming at us asking for
1 Real (30p) tip.From Galinhos we made our way to the Beach.
We cycled for 3 days on the sand and were constantly wet because
it was easier to cycle down near the shoreline. The coastline
in Brazil is breathtaking -golden sand that goes on for miles.
We raced a wind buggy, stopped at beach bars and enjoyed a
cold beer (30p a pint!) and fresh lobster, cycled over mangrove
swamp, through a river - enjoyed watching the fisherman fishing
in their junta, while their wives scanned the coastline for
seaweed. Our bikes took a lot of punishment with the salt
water and we did get problems with cables and chains rusting
- even though we were careful to wash and oil everything at
night. One bike had to go into a little bike shop and for
replacing the wheel rim, new tyre, tube and service 14 Real
Unfortunately we had to return to the main road to head into
Fortaleza and civilisation. We stayed in Fortalaza for 3 nights
and were taken to the Leprosy Hospital, but as space is limited
suffice it to say "An experience of a lifetime",
seeing patients at the Hospital makes one realize how fortunate
we are in being able to undertake such a challenge.