Cycling the coast of Brazil, day 2

Day 2 started badly with a broken sleep and a 3am decision to switch off my early morning running alarm for a second day in a row. But when the real alarm went off at 6.15 the memory of sweet tapioca pancakes and the large quantity of green tea bags squirrelled away from the last hotel was sufficient to let me drag myself out of bed. We have a staff cycling top that we have to wear each day, and due to being on the road for 6 weeks doing a multitude of activities I had only two pairs of cycle shorts with me. Therefore getting dressed in the morning is a fairly simple affair. Still I managed to faff about repacking my bag for quite some time.

Eventually, after walking down to the ground floor to drop my bag, and back up to the beautiful roof terrace, it was time for breakfast! As our tour leader Carol reminded us on several occasions, the three exceptional women in this hotel managed to feed all 70 of us (with an incredible variety and quantity of dishes) using a kitchen smaller than that in the majority of British homes. As such breakfast was a chaotic affair, with a shortage of plates and cups and a constant unmet demand for caffeine. But the enthusiasm and unfailing good nature of the three staff made it a rather enjoyable experience, and everyone chipped in where they could to help things move more effectively.

After piling my plate with exotic fruits and tapioca pancakes, and queueing for some hot water for my green tea, we sat down to have break fast with a view. The shortage of chairs and tables meant the other doctor, Louise, and I had the perfect excuse to eat facing out off the balcony. The morning was picking up already.

After the usual chaos of unpacking the bikes from storage, helping everyone find the right bike and running through a quick warm up, we were ready to begin day 2’s cycle. The morning was a challenging 14km off road section through a local village. The terrain was undulating with a few steep climbs, and a few fairly steep descents. Many of the women on the event have done all or most of their training on road and so these sections can be pretty tough for them. This morning was my turn to cycle at the back (one of the two doctors always rides as the ‘back marker’) and so it would be my job to coach and comfort those struggling most with the rough ground.

It was slow going, with lots of people having to walk the uphills and others choosing to walking down the steeper down hills, but none-the-less is was a beautiful morning. The village was alive with loud music in the restaurants and bars, smiling children were peeking out of open windows and leaning off verandas while the adults greeted us good naturedly. The houses were again beautifully painted yet weather worn and trees and bright flowers creeped out of every available space, from gardens to chimneys. As the off road section came to an end we crossed over a beautiful fast-flowing river via an arched stone bridge.

From here it was a fairly short section along the main road to our first snack stop, which was based in the restaurant we had dinner in the night before.

Cycling at the back of the group has its own challenges. Whilst not physically exerting, it means you are out in the heat of the sun for a long time- at times more that an hour longer than those at the front. It also means longer times between eating and filling up your water bottle. I took full advantage of this stop to fill up my Osprey hydration pack and to stuff my face with watermelon and orange slices. I didn’t have long though as now it was my turn to go at the front. Because I did the route the week before I often found myself being switched from the very back to the very front at times when they needed someone who knew where they were going. Apart from the shorter snack stops I didn’t really mind, I love the excuse to really stretch my legs.

A quick pace along a gently undulating road saw us reaching lunch in little over an hour. Another unassuming little hut, but one which I knew made some of the best tapioca pancakes in the area. Tapioca is a very common food in Bahia and these pancakes were quick to make, and both filling and nutritious. The first pancakes was stuffed with cheese, tomato and oregano and tasted just like a pizza. The second was a sweet pancake with coconut and condensed milk. They weren’t large, but two pancakes were surprisingly filling – even for someone like me with a bottomless appetite!

After lunch we had a staggered start as we still had a long distance ahead involving a detour down to a beach. There was a time cut-off involved due to the early sunset and so we were keen to let as many people reach the beach as possible. As I had been to the beach the week before I was again on back duty along with the tour manager – a selfless soul who also hadn’t reached the beach the previous week. It was a long, tough slog over constant undulating hills and when we reached the cut off point the ladies at the back decided to miss out the detour and head straight to the hotel.

Tired, and feeling the effects of standing about so long in the blistering sun, I wasn’t too sorry to cut the day short. After a quick dip in the pool to revive myself, I headed up to get changed to go for a quick run. When my room mate woke me three hours later as it was time to go for dinner, I was still wearing most of my sodden cycling gear. No running today then!

Dinner was another typically Brazilian affair with a buffet consisting largely of rice, beans and meat. It was in a simple outdoor restaurant attached to the local football club. With a plate full of good local food, the hubbub of the football match in the background and a caipirinha in hand, I was one pretty happy girl!