Historical mining town of Lençois

Barbs and I woke up after a solid night of sleep at Bahia Cafe, Paulo picked us up shortly after breakfast and shuttled us to the Salvador airport for our domestic flight to Lençois. The Salvador airport was much more attractive than the Sao Paulo airport that was ugly as sin. We didn’t mind hanging around the Salvador airport while waiting for our flight and managed to do a little shopping as well as grab some Bob’s burger.

We boarded the small 2 propeller plane and took of to our next destination, Lençois, all very exciting. The flight was only 45min and we travelled about 450km to a tiny little airport, by far the smallest airport I have ever seen. As we were waiting for our luggage, we met a young French woman called Mona, who was also being fetched by the same driver and it turned out she was doing the same trek as us.

Our driver was picked us up and drove us 22km from the airport to the small diamond mining town of Lençois, as we drove in we could see this town had maintained its heritage and the old architecture, this immediately caught our attention. Mona was staying in a small Pousada near to us and we were staying at Villa Serano up on a hill overlooking the town.

The weather was not very good, it was raining, which meant it was not possible to do the planned walk up to some nearby waterfalls, we were not phased as we were still jet lagged. That evening Mona, Barbara and I met up with a guide who took us on a walking tour around the town. Our guide explained the history of the town and show us all the highlights in under an hour, which illustrates how small this little town really is.

After the tour the 3 of us were free to find a restaurant for dinner, we decided on a small place that had chairs set out on the cobbled streets, in the evenings these streets were blocked off to vehicles. We tasted some local dishes, local drinks and swapped stories about France and South Africa. The 3 of us really enjoyed our evening together and felt like we had got off to a good start. Barbs and I were pretty tired still from jet lag, so we decided to head home after dinner for a much deserved sleep. We needed to prepare ourselves for the impending trek…

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Salvador and the start of our Brazil 2013/2014 trip

It was Tuesday 10 December at approximately 3am and our alarm went off. We had a taxi picking us up just before 4am, so we slowly got ready. The taxi arrived and left, he didn’t see us waiting outside, so he drove off, what’s the chance we are going to wait outside on the street in Woodstock at 4am. Anyways, he came back, fetched us and took is to the Cape Town International Airport.

Our flight was only at 6am, so we arrived with plenty of time. The SAA check-in counters were not even open yet, so we queued with all the rest of the people. The first leg of our flight was to OL Thambo International Airport in Johannesburg, from there we checked our luggage through to Sao Paulo and waited for our flight to start board.

Barbara and I have a tradition of buying some goodies at duty free, we bought our usual 2 liter bottles of hard tack, 2 bottles of perfume and some M&Ms. This always signifies the start of one of our epic overseas trips, this would be a special trip as it was our first trip to Brazil and our first Universo Parralello festival.

Our flight to Sao Paulo went without a hitch, we landed and got our bags, then we headed to the domestic part of the airport to check-in for our last flight to Salvador. While we waited, we tried our first Brazilian beer and I bought some Havaianas. We had a fairly long wait before our Salvador flight and it was slightly delayed, which after a long journey felt like an eternity.

We eventually boarded the plane, it was a 2 hour flight to Salvador. The day really felt like it was lagging, but it was probably because we were tired. We had arranged for somebody to fetch us, we were concerned because our flight was late and when we walked out nobody was waiting for us… It turned out that our driver was waiting at the wrong side of the airport, so once we found him we packed our stuff into the car and headed to our hotel called Bahia Cafe. The drive from the airport was about 50 minutes, so along the way our driver Paulo filled us in about the history of Salvador and some tips on what not to do.

We only checked in around 11:30pm at Bahia Cafe, but that was no problem, we were glad to be settled. We both took a quick shower and hit the town, because Tuesday nights were party night. We took to the streets and bought a famous local drink called Caiparinha made with lime, sugar and Cachasa. We kept walking, the streets were fairly quiet, but we could hear music, so we decided to sniff out the party.

The buildings all looked so old, but had beautiful architecture. Drink number one died quickly, but around about the same time we found where the music was coming from and where to buy another Caiparinha. Feeling festive, we decided head into one of the houses where there was live music, try our hand at dancing to local tunes, at the same time we ordered our last Caiparinha, which was the cheapest and strongest drink of the night.

While tring to dance to the music, I realized I was failing badly when a local guy tried to show me the moves, it was a slow leg shaking movement, either I was too drunk or incapable of moving that way… Anyways, it was fun to watch the local people dance and have a good time. The last drink was however the nail in the coffin, Barbs and I stumbled back to the hotel with little memory of the walk back and passed out solidly.

Afro Brazilian Cultural Capital

After an incredible breakfast at Bahia Cafe and some much needed Brazilian coffee we were picked up by our driver from the night before, Paulo. He took us on a tour by car to see some of the highlights of Salvador. It was hot and humid, so we were great full to be in an air conditioned vehicle.

The tour started at the Lighthouse and the fort of the All Saints Bay, we then headed through the streets towards the market of the Lower City close to the port that brought in boats from Africa. We ascended to the Upper City and stopped at the Lecerda elevator to take in the incredible views of the bay amongst the impressive colonial structures.

Next we headed to the squares and narrow streets lined with the colorful buildings around the Pelourinho, which is considers to be the heart of Salvador and historical centre. This square still contains the whipping post where Africans were sold as slaves. Paulo filled us in with as much of the history as we could absorb. During our walk around Paulo warned us constantly not to walk down certain side alleys, actually most side alleys were a no go…

We spent the afternoon relaxing back at Bahia Cafe, our body clocks were not yet in tune with the time zone and we were extremely hungover from our Caipirinha escapades the night before. In the evening we headed out for a buffet dinner and a Capoeira show, but we faded really early and decided to sleep in preparation for our journey to Lençois the next day.

Stage 2 – Calitzdorp to Prince Albert 92km / 2760km

First thing in the morning I went to the tech zone to fetch my bike, but due to not having a bike repair package with them my bike was back of the queue, they didn’t get to it. I had to try fix my brakes, so I swapped my brake pads with some spare I had, but the rear breaks still would not work.

In a panic I went back to the tech zone and stood in a queue waiting for help. Eventually with about 10min to spare before the race the mechanic started to bleed my breaks. He told me that it was a 20-30min job, which meant I was definitely starting late. After a first rushed attempt at bleeding my breaks it was a fail and we were forced to swap breaks with another set as a temp solution.

I eventually started my race about 15min late. The start of the rotate was a district road, which meant I had missed out on bunch riding for the first 20km, this would mean I definitely loose time on my competitors. I decided to no fuss about this and just keep riding as strong and fast as I could.

I was motoring leading up to the big climb of Swartberg Pass, it actually helped morale starting further back because I was able to catch people consistently. By the time I hit the massive climb my legs were feeling it somewhat, but I kept going. Compared to my 2012 ride I was feeling much better, I managed to keep a decent speed up to the top. The finish line was actually at the top of the pass, but we still had another 15km to the camp site in Prince Albert. The views were spectacular and I made sure to stop along the way down.

My race had taken 5hrs 30min to the top of the pass and a further 30min to get to the camp site. The first thing I did when I arrived back at the camp site was to book my bike in at the tech zone and get my own breaks put back on my bike. The tech zone guys did a race check and made sure my bike was ready for stage 3.

Stage 1 – Oudsthoorn to Calitzdorp 105km / 1768m

I needed to be up at 5am to drop my car off at secure parking before 6am. There were shuttles taking us up to the Buffelsdrift for the start of stage 1, so after dropping car a bunch of us piled into a mini-van. There was an interesting cross section of riders in the van, from top sponsored riders to back markers. I always find the banter interesting.

As we got dropped off, everyone had to leave their bags at the baggage truck and we caught a lift up to the start. I had left my bike at the bike park the day before, so I had to check out my bike and make sure everything was still fine with the bike seeing it had rained all night.

While I was waiting for the start of the race I realized that it was definitely going to rain, but unfortunately I had no rain coat with me, mine was in my bag in the baggage truck. The main sponsor Bridge had been giving out rain coats and kit to selected riders, so I managed to wangle myself a new rain jacket just in time for the start.

Just before stage 1 started the rain started pouring down, this meant a tough day of riding and our bikes were going get destroyed. At first the roads seemed fine, but soon we moved off the district roads and onto jeep tracks that we’re predominantly clay. The combination of the clay and rain made for interesting riding or should I say walking. Very quickly riders were forced from riding to cleaning clay off wheels and frame to walking. This stop start process affected the entire field, even the pros were struggling. Bikes were breaking left right and center. I have never in my life seen so many broken hangouts, derailed and chains.

After about 10km of stop start walking riding, we moved onto more rideable terrain and we were able to consistently ride for long stretches. I managed to keep a decent speed up for a while, but then due to constant rain even the district roads became sticky and tiring. This went on for most of the race, the worst was that I started getting chain suck, which forced me to stay in big blade and tired my legs out. Then we hit more clay and were forced to start walking again. I eventually finished in a time of 6hrs 15min.

Start of another adventure – Cape Pioneer 2013

It’s been a while since my last post and my last adventure. I left Cape Town on Friday 18 October and headed a short distance to my close friend Pieter in Grabouw. It was just the two of us on the farm, so it was the perfect opportunity for. The two of us to catch up as we hadn’t seen each since before my last cycling adventure in Thailand. It was a good way to get my head into gear, braai and catch out, perfect.

In the morning I had to start the drive to Oudtshoorn, it was going to be a 4 hour journey on my own. I am not a fan of driving, even less of a fan of driving alone. I had to focus on the end goal, arriving at Buffelsdrift farm in Oudsthoorn where I would be registering for the Cape Pioneer mountain bike 7day stage race.

As I arrived at Buffelsdrift I immediately got changed into cycling gear and heard over to race registration to get my goodie and race number. After registering I headed off for my first lap of the course, the route was exactly the same as 2012, which meant fast, tight single track and easy to fall. I managed get round the track without incident. On the finishing stretch I had to cross dam wall with branding flags lining the wall, stupidly I got too close and wiped out… Managed to bend my dropout and stuff up my gears, thank goodness the bike mechanic was able to sort out all my issues. I went round for a second lap, but this time pushed much harder on speed, what a load of fun, feeling fit and fast. Hoping that the actual prologue goes well on Sunday.

After my practice laps I headed back into Oudtshoorn town where I was staying at a little back packers called Karoo Soul. I checked in, unpacked and took a shower. Long day, so chilled out did some bloggingand reading. I decided to get an early night and was in bed by 8pm

Prologue

I only woke up at 8am, so that meant I got a solid 12hour sleep, that’s the first time in a long time that I have slept for so long. My event was only at 10:40am, so I was in no rush to go anywhere. It’s great when you can take your time before an event and the start time isn’t at some obscene time like 5 or 6am. I was able to eat breakfast at respectable time like 9am. I ended up going to Spur for a breakfast special, such a bargain, R35 for bacon, eggs, sausage and a coffee.

I headed up to Buffelsdrift, about 6.5 km out of town, for the start of my prologue. I was feeling good and ready to do a better time than 2012. Lining up for the start of a prologue event is always nerve wracking, there are a bunch of riders lined up and every 30 seconds a rider leaves.

There are two things that always happen, you catch riders ahead of you or somebody catches you. The course provided little or no place for over taking, which made things challenging. I caught 4 riders before the first rider caught me, that helped morale in a big way. The start is fast, my lungs were burning and my heart was pounding at close to my max heart rate, this is not something I find enjoyable and isn’t my strength. My time was looking good nearing the finish, I knew I would beat last year’s time… I finished in a time of 48min, which was about 5-6min faster than last year.

I didn’t feel like sticking around Buffelsdrift, so I headed back to Karoo Soul back packers for a shower and some relaxation. I did some prep for the next day. Once I was done with admin I decided to go to Cango Caves for the first time since childhood.

While driving to the Cango Caves it dawned on me that I was on holiday for the week, despite doing a race for 7 days, I didn’t have to be at the office. The trip to Cango Caves was me being a tourist, when I paid for my ticket I noted that most of the people were foreign, so it really felt like one of my overseas trips. I got in for the last tour of the day, thank goodness I was a part of a small group of cool people. I snapped some wicked picks, the caves were awesome.

After the cave mission I headed back to Oudtshoorn and stopped at Spur again for their other special, Surf and Turf. I don’t mind Spur every now and then, it’s always the same decent meal. I was sitting in the restaurant on my own and missing my wife somewhat, staring out the window looking at the rain pouring down outside.

After my early dinner I headed back to my accommodation to grab an early nights rest. The morning was set to be an early start, so I had to be prepared.

Pierre and Lisa’s Thailand Wedding Weekend

On the Thursday 7 March wage wedding group all joined up for a special group dinner. Afterwards excessive drinking and eating the guys headed out for the bachelor party. I bailed at 3am as I realised I needed to get up at 7am to pack….

7am rolled on and I was not feeling lekker, was still drunk in fact, dragged myself out of bed around 7:30am and started the slow process of packing my trailer for the ride up to where the wedding would held. I aimed to arrive at the wedding venue approximately the same time as the wedding crew. So I left at 9am and managed to maintain a steady 20km / hr average. I had 80km to ride from Karon Beach to Aleenta Resort near Khok Kloi just over the Phuket bridge.

I felt pretty dreadful for the first 40km and 2hrs, but managed to sober up, just sweated put the booze. Not awesome, but I refused to catch a taxi, my mission was to ride my bike everywhere possible. I arrived at Aleenta Resort before the wedding party because the busses had been delayed by 1,5hrs.

I managed to find an open wifi network and decided to chill in the shade waiting for them while I caught up on work emails. Not sure how I do it sometimes, work, play and sport… I are one mad cat! Everyone else was amazed that I had ridden to next location after the night we had. Thank god I didn’t stay till the end of the bachelors, I would have rolled in around 5am or later and a lot more drunk.

Once I had seen everyone from the wedding party, I moved on to my resort that was 10km up the road from where the wedding was taking place. I arrived at Waterjade Resort where I was staying, checked in and unpacked. A few of wedding party peeps were guests at Waterjade, so after everyone had settled into our respective rooms we decided to meet up at the resort’s restaurant for food and drinks.

The group of wedding people I met during the week at Karon beach were awesome, we had spent time together every day and slowly but surely formed connections. I could tell everyone sitting at the table was getting excited about the wedding, the build up was amazing. I munched my food, drank a beer and we chatted for a while. After dinner I decided to to head back to my room and get an early night, by early I mean 8pm.

The wedding day had arrived, it was 9 march around 7am and I was wide awake after 11hrs sleep. Feeling considerably fresher than the previous morning, breakfast was included at Waterjade, so I decided to take full advantage. Seeing the wedding only stated at 5:30pm, I decided to head out for a training ride. I headed off to Khao Lak, I knew that I would not get to see it after the wedding, so it was perfect opportunity. Carpe Diem, seize the moment and so I did.

It was approximately 40km ride to Khao Lak Lam Ru National Park, before I went to the park I road along the Khao Lak beach, very pretty beach. Then I paid entrance of 100baht for the Park and went for a wander. There wasnt much to see, but it was beautiful.

I took a walk down the one trail to what the sign said was “footprint”. The shoreline is made up of granite rock, which is not too common in my experience of Thailand. I found what was called the footprint, it was indeed a footprint in the granite rock. The footprint look like a human footprint in cement, quite intriguing. The sign stated a phrase that I have tattooed on my leg “leave only footprints, take only memories”, this is a philosophy that the national parks are trying to encourage, leave no trace.

After visiting the national park, I decided to head off back to my resort and take a nap befor heading off to the wedding festivities. I showered, packed a bag and prepped for the wedding. The plan was to catch a taxii, but nobody was around and I decided to just ride my bike to the wedding.

I arrived at the wedding venue called Villa Satis around 4pm, this was a separate Villa to the Aleenta Resort, so the wedding was a private affair. What a beautiful villa on the beach, massive pool and a bunch of rooms with a huge downstairs open plan area. The scene was set for an awesome wedding experience.

I showered again and put on the suit that I had tailored in Karon. Everybody started arriving around 5pm and the wedding was to kick off at 5:30pm. The best man and ring bearer waited patiently, then Lisa and her brides maids came out looking beautiful. The wedding was small and intimate. The ceremony kicked off, Pierre said his vows, I read out a song verse by Jack Johnson and Lisa said her vows. Once the ceremony was over the newly weds signed the wedding register and it was official.

Let the festivities begin and we all started drinking religiously. Actually I had started drinking a couple of hours before the wedding. All the guest were happy, not only because of the amazing wedding, but everyone was on holiday. What a great idea to have a small intimate wedding in a beautiful beach paradise. Happy days.

Dinner kicked off, I didn’t realise we kicked off with starters, I actually pigged out on starters so excessively that I didn’t even get to main course. The MC Kim said some introductory words after dinner, then came the speeches. First it was Pierre’s sister, she said some heart warming words and shed some emotional tears. Next up it was Pierre’s dad and then Pierre said some words. Andy, Lisa’s dad, said some words too and lastly there were some thank you’s to people who could attend as well as people who did attend. All in all, lovely moving experience.

The drinking continued well into the night, I did however realise that I needed to head off on my bike at night to my accommodation… Then somebody said that there was a bunk bed available at the villa. Perfect, that meant I didn’t have to worry and so I continued to drink. People started getting into the pool or being thrown into the pool.

Eventually around 3:30am I decided to give it a rest and hit the hay or bunk bed. Woooowhaooo, drunken and disorderly, just the way a wedding should be. I knew I had to wake up fairly early so I could ride back to my resort. I set my alarm for 6:30am… Waking up at 6:30am after drinking for about 11hrs isn’t very much fun, but sometimes you gotto do what you gotto do.

I rode back in the day light at least. When I got to my room it was about 7:20am, so I napped till about 9am. Breakfast was included, so I made full use of the opportunity seeing I had to ride 100km to Khao Sok. After breakfast I checked out of Waterjade and hit the road. So ended one chapter and another began.

Bottle Beach and trip back home

Back in 2009, Barbara and I stayed for six days at Bottle Beach when we were on our honeymoon. It was a highlight on that holiday, so this holiday we decided to return to the private paradise.

We had initially planned on staying at Bottle Beach for 4 nights, but we ended up changing our plans to only 2 nights. We left Blue Ocean Garden resort around 3:30pm on 10 January 2013, caught a taxi to Chalokalum. From Chalokalum we needed to catch a long tail taxi boat to Bottle Beach, but you never quite know what boat is going or when it’s going…

We sat down on the beach and decided to wait for a boat. There was tooth old man who approached us and offered to help find a boat, we were not sure exactly what he was telling us, but we understood we needed to wait for 20-30min. While we waited I went off to the near by 7eleven for some staples – Chang Beer 2 pack, 2 Ham and Cheese Croisants and a Cheese Sausage Sandwich.

The old man ended up being the boat man and he was waiting for supplies, that’s why we had to wait. Funny how things go in Thailand, gotto love it. The boat ride was about 20-30 min across to Bottle Beach, we loved every minute! Snapping pictures the whole way.

When we arrived we realized that not much had changed on bottle beach, a few small enhancements to the resort we stayed at before, the cottages were slightly upgraded and the wall that was in progress was now finished. We were immediately happy to be there, no issues with checkin, our room was basic but lovely! Happy days!

Barbs and I went for dinner at the resort restaurant and ordered a spicy glass noodle salad dish that we had the last time we stayed there. The dish was exactly the same, spicy as hell and as tasty as it was spicy! After a couple of gin and tonics, we decided to hit the sack at about 7:30pm, yes that early. We slept or almost 12 hours! Bliss, only on holiday!

I woke up around 7ish and decided to go for a run by 7:30am for about an hour, then on my return I went for a swim in the bay from side to side. After my morning exercise I was more than ready for a phat breakfast, so Barbs and I hit the restaurant again for a morning meal, YUM YUM!!

After breakfast we decided to go for a kayak as we had not done any kayaking that holiday. The bay was dead calm, it looked like a perfect day. We started out on the kayak, got round the first corner and realized that we would probably not see any beaches along the way, only rocky coastline. There were some interesting little coves to explore with crabs everywhere.

We kept kayaking, I kept suggesting one more corner thinking that maybe we would see an amazing beach, but it never happened. What did happen is the weather started changing, the waves picked up and the current made us flow forward pretty fast… We were floating at one stage, watching the rocks flow past at a pace… Thats when we realized we had to fight our way back to Bottle Beach against the current with increasingly larger waves. It took us 30 min to get where were and 1hr and 30min to get back! We were knackered when we got back.

Shortly after we got back the weather cleared up, the waves dissipated and the bay was calm again. We were done with the sea for a while, so we floated in the pool for about an hour to relax and recover. While at the pool we decided to start drinking, the drinking continued for the rest of the day.

We met an interesting Welsh guy called Daniel at dinner while snacking, drinking and watching the sunset. He was a prison officer back in Wales, we sat chatting about our holidays for ages. Shopping stories and exciting experiences. That night there was going to be fire dancing, music and a little bit of a party. We hung around chatting to various people, snapping pictures of the fire dancing and drinking fairly excessively. What a great way to spend the evening.

Before we went to bed we decided to pack our bags as we knew we would not be feeling great in the morning. We woke up feeling fairly rough, but not too bad, had a serious breakfast and waited for our taxi to Thong Sala. The taxi ride was about 40min, not too bad, easier than catching a boat and then a taxi!

When we arrived in Thong Sala I had a tattoo scheduled. I got a red bar around my right arm, the idea was it symbolized my trips to Thailand and the good memories that went with those trips. Once the tattoo was finished I was very happy! Satisfaction! Yay!

We had some killer lunch at a Vegan Restaurant, really healthy and tasty. Then killed some time around Thong Sala while we waited for the boat to Koh Samui. The Seatran ferry arrived and took us back to Koh Samui, where we were taken to the airport. The airport experience was smooth, we had checked in online already, this meant a quick checkin experience.

We landed in Bangkok at the domestic arrivals, then missioned over to the International side of Bangkok airport. All was running to plan, no hiccups or stress, smooth sailing through security and immigration.

Once we went through to duty free zone, we browsed a little and then went for an hour long massage. Both of us fell asleep during the massage, what a blissful experience. Both of us felt super chilled and relaxed after our amazing 5 week holiday. We boarded our flight home a little before 1am and that was that, holiday over. Good times, one love, peace out!