Weather or not?
It was in 2005 when I first pitched the idea to Henry to run a bike tour in South America. But the original concept was to ride from Gros Morne Park in Newfoundland and end here in Brazil for carnival. After much refinement, research, planning and a bit of a reality check, the Vuelta Sudamericana rolled out of Rio de Janeiro last Sunday en route to arrive in Quito 134 days and 12,500km later. It still seems somewhat surreal.
Enjoying our first rest day in Sao Sebastiao a deafening crack of thunder interrupts my chain of thoughts. As I look out from my balcony to see the rain creeping across the channel to Ihlabela and I run to grab my desperately drying tent from the clothesline below. In the first three days this group of 25 cyclists and staff have pedaled 426km and climbed over 2800m of elevation rolling along a spectacular coastal highway of jungle, beaches, islands and fishing villages, but our biggest challenge has been the weather. I know it’s the rainforest, but come on… we haven’t had a single day without several periods of drizzle and at least one torrential cloud burst.
If I was in Algonquin right now I’d be praying to Okanda, but I guess I still have a few things to figure out about Brazil. Even the locals admit that this weather is unseasonal, the rainy season is over. And in 2008 the rainy season was extremely dry. When I hear about a cold rainy summer in Muskoka, increased avalanche frequency in BC due to snowpack instability or intense tropical storms that swamp coastal cities I revisit the debate on global warming. The truth is that weather inconsistency is becoming far more obvious than the subtle annual increase in average centigrade. Seasons no longer have a trend. But the question that remains is weather or not this is a response to anthropogenic activities or just a natural change in evolution of Gaia. Perhaps the TDA Foundation’s goal to achieve carbon neutrality is more than just jumping on the green bandwagon; it’s an investment in the future… for everyone.
The days leading up to any of our epic tours are always busy, but launching a new project is sheer pandemonium. The last week in Rio was a blitz of shopping sprees, welding bike racks and trying to figure out where to find 3000 energy bars and 1200L of electrolytes without paying the gringo price. The group is still forming, but it’s truly dynamic. At camp people speak to each other in French, German, Spanish, English and we all struggle with Portuguese. There is a good mix of experience and those who are still green. The starting line was an opportunity to reunite with some old friends and meet the newcomers. A sense of community amongst us is essential to the success of the tour and the foundation has already been set. Every person here is making positive contributions to the greater good of the group, the staff are hard working and the clients are quick to help with loading bags, fixing bikes and most importantly supporting each other through the daily challenges. The first three days have been very difficult, to be honest I was concerned that they may be too hard for being so early in the tour. But together they have faced the rains, the winds, the hills and all achieved their personal best. A fantastic start.
The next four riding stages take us through Guaruja, the holiday destination for the rich Paulistas, day two we pass a crazy festival in Iguape, then we have a series ferry boats to take us island hopping until Cananeia which was one of the first ports of call for the Portuguese colonialists, where we will spend our next rest day.