Cycling the coast of Brazil, day 1

Having slept obliviously through my early morning alarm I resigned myself to not being able to run this morning. Despite more than seven hours sleep, I felt groggy and tired when I woke. It was day one of cycling for my second Women versus Cancer group. In total we would be cycling 350km down the coast of Brazil, starting in Salvador in the area known as Bahia.

On this first day we would be starting with a 67km ride to ease us in to the journey. I’m working as the doctor in this event, and was lucky to be again paired with an interesting an inspiring doctor. Due to the large number of women on these trips the company always take along two doctors, and I’ve always been amazed by the interesting people I meet on these trips. Medicine as a career tends to guide people towards a very conventional career trajectory so I find meeting others who are breaking this mould to be energising and uplifting.

After an eclectic mix of cakes, beans and exotic fruits for breakfast we were ready to begin part 1 of our adventure – a boat ride across the world’s second largest bay. To avoid dangerous traffic and a senselessly long land route out of Salvador we would instead be starting our cycle from the idyllic coastal village of Itaparica. This, the locals informed us, was the site of the only natural spring in the world that comes out of the ground next to the ocean. Combined with the many rumours of its healing properties, we didn’t take much persuading to fill up our bottles from its bubbling source.

The bike fitting took place in the local square. The local villagers, including the regional news channel and most of the local police force, gazed on in barely concealed amazement as 69 women of all ages, shapes and sizes hunted around to find their allocated bike. Dressed in just about every conceivable colour of Lycra the group gave the impression of carnival, and the locals were happy to join in with this spirit of festivity.

Day one was a beautiful ride through small, colourful villages. The small stone houses were painted bright colours but the tropical climate had taken its toll. Paint was stained with damp patches and all manner of vegetation were cohabiting with the families. As we cycled past the villagers would stare in friendly amazement, some waving and hosting a greeting. The morning passed quickly in a blur of rich green vegetation and small quaint villages, and soon it was time for lunch.

Hungry after our boat trip and morning cycling, we piled into the fairly nondescript restaurant to be greeted by plates heaped with rice, beans and meat of several varieties. Heaven! The food was fresh and hot and was the perfect fuel for a long day of cycling.

Following lunch, and a brief time stop to digest and queue for the ladies room, we were back on the road. We were treated to further views of rolling green forests and the occasional glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean in the horizon. Just as the group were beginning to wilt in the heat we were flagged down a dirt road to a wooden cafe that was little more than a hut with a thatched roof veranda. But beyond this simple establishment lay a beautiful ocean bay with a white sand beach. After collecting the ice cold coconut that the ground handlers had kindly arranged for us all, I kicked off my trainers and waded in to the warm, still waters. Was this paradise?

It was difficult to get back on the bike and complete the hilly last section that lay between us and the hotel. But refreshed from the coconut water and the paddle the kilometres passed quickly and soon we were at the familiar junction which signalled our arrival into the town on Nazaré.

The hotel was basic, with a petrol station in the front yard, and small enough that our group occupied every room even with three people sharing. This week the rooming lists had been slightly altered to allow the staff to share- the week before we had all been sharing with participants which, whilst good for bonding, wasn’t great for either relaxing at the end of the day or for confidentiality of those that came to seek medical advice.

Since we got in a bit before sunset I set off for a quick run. I had run along the beautiful river through the town the week before, so this week I had my heart on running the steep hill up to the replica of Christ the Redeemer that sat above Nazaré. I remembered the road up from the week before and my trail runner heart was beating excitedly at the thought of the technical and steep descent awaiting me. Unfortunately I took a wrong turning somewhere and after running up (and subsequently down) 5 different hills, and asking lots of amused locals for directions, I found the start of the trail only as the sun began to set. Darkness descents quickly in Bahia and so I admitted defeat and ran back to the hotel for a quick shower before dinner.

Dinner on this night was a really typical Brazilian affair. Plates of rice and beans and some salad were freely available whilst BBQd meat was carved onto your plate in a seemingly endless fashion. We sat at one long table – about 80 people, including our Brazilian ground staff! It was a really fun night and the food was delicious, despite the rather shabby appearance of the restaurant which was essentially a grocery store with a restaurant in the back. I was learning on this trip that appearances can definitely be deceiving!

After dinner it was straight to bed as the exhaustion of the day began to overwhelm us all. Stay tuned for day two’s adventures! And if you fancy taking on a cycle challenge of your own then check out:

On your own adventure right now? I’d love to hear what you’re up to! Either get in touch via the contact page, or share your adventures with me on Instagram @doc_gonewild ❣️