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ELF AUTHENTIQUE ADVENTURE - BRAZIL
APRIL 2000

 

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Thursday 20th April. 
 mountain bike for transportation between the Poussada and the main headquarters in the Hotel. The leading team Pharmanex-Spie aI awoke refreshed after good nights sleep and hobbled across to the dining room for Breakfast. After breakfast had an idea to use myrrived during the night and commenced the mountain bike stage at 0745. It was interesting to note how little equipment they appeared to be carrying. I went to the press room and radio room for news on the team however their appeared to be a breakdown with radio communications due to the weather. I had tentatively arranged to meet one of the project panel to discuss the teams project, however I waited in vain by the hotel pool. I tried to get information from some of the journalists, who were flying the course in helicopters, but there was no news. After lunch I headed back to the Poussada to rest my feet. I had just entered the compound when a Frenchman asked me if I was assistance for team 16, I replied no, I was actually one of the ground team. He then said he had brought in one of my team. Imagine my surprise to turn around and see Primus hobbling along towards me. I dropped my bike and returned to support him and take him to our room. Some sight we must have made, the lame helping the lame! Primus. I left Primus in our room and on the way out was met by Mimi from the organisation who was on her way to tell me we need to send out our assistance vehicle to collect Primus, she was somewhat surprised to see that Primus had already got back. Judy was away on a shopping trip for supplies, so I rode over to the hotel to collect Henley and on the way met the Brazilian doctor who came at once to look at Primus's feet. The three members of the team had had a difficult 24 hours, the trekking through the national park had been quite difficult and they had climbed up ladders leading to the top of the 300ft waterfall, only to find that the rappel had been closed. Recent rain resulting in a large amount of water going down the falls. They were therefore forced to make a difficult descent on foot. Primus began to have foot problems and cut away the top of his shoes to relieve pressure, however when crossing scrubland, he lacerated his toes and was eventually forced to retire. 

Trish and Karina were continuing and were expected to arrive during the evening. Henley got to work preparing their bikes and checking out. Our room was quite cramped now accommodating five persons instead of three. We started to make arrangements for the transition and it was agreed that Primus and myself were as far as possible to keep out of the way and not become involved with the checking of equipment. I had slung a hammock in the room as I had given up my bed for Primus. We were just finishing our evening meal when the women arrived, traveling in company with the Brazilians all girl team, Atenah.  They were in 28th position and decided that they would take the opportunity to rest for night. After showering and eating and tending to their feet, Irena gave them each a massage and they fell asleep. Judy having completed supplying first aid support to the girls then went and assisted sorting out the feet of Team Athena. All through the night teams were arriving most of them with injured feet and Judy selflessly tended to the needs of many, as the organisation doctors were overwhelmed. Plans were made for Trish and Karina to depart at the same time as Team Athena for the long mountain bike leg in the morning. 

Friday 21st April 
In the morning whilst Trish and Karina prepared themselves for the Mountain bike stage I went to find out what time Team Athena planned to leave, whilst I was doing this the checkpoint controller advised me that as our team was incomplete we would be paired up with another team. I explained that we had made arrangements to travel in company with Team Athena, both teams having traveled the last stage and arrived together and Judy also had worked with then during the night tending to their feet. I was advised that I had to put the request in writing and await a reply, as departure time was fast approaching, I took matters into my own hand and hand carried the request to race headquarters. The radio operator was the only person around and I stood over him until he managed to pass my request to the organisation for approval, eventually a Frenchman came along and signed off agreement to my request. I returned and the girls made hurried preparations for departure, checking out as the Brazilians departed.  The transition over the logistics team started to pack in preparation for departure to the next transition point. Whilst this was going on I went to the communications centre to give a radio interview to a UK based Internet company. Before leaving I received news that our two women team was making fast progress and already some ten minutes ahead of the all girl team. 

Our team had only one support vehicle and now that we needed also to transport both Primus and myself, we joined up with Team Terraforce who had two 4WD. Our little convoy left just before lunch heading for the Rio Parnaiba, just as the last team Ford Raca arrived at the checkpoint. During the previous night four teams retired from the race having got lost or being unfit to continue. The journey took some five hours sometimes on tarmac roads and others on dirt tracks along which the jeeps drove at seemingly breakneck speeds, occasionally zig zagging to avoid the potholes. The campsite by the river was quite lush and in places muddy from the afternoon rainstorms.  We set up camp on some high ground near some trees and settled down to what was going to be a long wait. During the evening a folklore show was laid on for press and logistics crews. It was difficult to get news of the team but we knew they had passed through checkpoint 23 at 1430 having also been passed by Team Athena. They had only one more serious climb before starting the decent towards the river, so we were expecting them to arrive some time tomorrow. 

Saturday 22nd April 
A day spent at Faz Varzea on the muddy banks of Rio Parnaiba. Trish and Karina are continuing to battle their way along the watery roads and trails over the Mountains, where at times they have to carry their bikes, trying to avoid the prickly bushes that will slow them by causing punctures.  There are numerous streams, which need to be forded. The river Parnaiba is in full flood and a large amount of debris is being washed down, including at times what appears to be large islands of grass. Henley spends some time checking out the sea kayak for the next stage. Once again there appears to be little information coming in due to poor communications. My feet are beginning to feel better so after lunch I take my bike out backtracking along the trail down which the competitors will come, apart from mud and water the track is level and firm so the teams should be able to make good speed in the checkpoint.

Upon my return we get some news the team has arrived at checkpoint 25 just before 1600hrs, so they are expected to arrive during the evening.  Whilst waiting at the finish line, I lend my bike to some of the local children for them to try. As the evening draws on teams arrive but there is no news for us, then two bikes appear from the gloom and we rush forward to great them, they are tired, hungry and happy. We take them to our makeshift camp for them to rest and recuperate. They had risen in the rankings to 16 place a fantastic position as teams around them faltered or retired. Their initial plans are to have a few hours rest before setting off down river. There is a little confusion over the rules as to whether a two person team can kayak on the river at night or  is required to team up with another incomplete team. It seems that we will need to find another team to pair up with. Henley goes off to see if he can link up with another team and eventually returns so say the two members of Team Ford are preparing to leave at dawn and are willing to join up. We all settle down for the night to await the dawn. 


Sunday 23rd April.
 As dawn approaches Judy goes of to the nearby ranch in search of eggs for breakfast. Over breakfast maps are consulted. The route whilst some 100K long does not appear to difficult navigation wise apart from finding the turn off from the main river onto a smaller one that flows through Araioses and Parnaubeira.  Before finding a route through the mangroves to the estuary, which they need to cross to reach Tutoia the next assistance point. Equipment was stowed in the kayak, which was carried to the water’s edge we then awaited for the Pair from Team Ford to arrive, after farewell hugs they launched in the Grey/brown River and were quickly lost form sight as the current carried them downstream. Once more it was time to pack up camp and drive to Tutoia. The drive to Tutoia proved to be relatively short and the race headquarters had been set up at a hotel on the edge of the beach.  There was a choice of accommodation for logistics teams we could camp on the beach, or else in one of the Poussada's scattered about the town, or a local campsite. Other teams had arrived ahead of us so the prime places were already full, whilst we were looking around our friends from Terraforce arrived to say that they had found an empty house for rent which could accommodate 10 persons. The accommodation proved to be in a modern bungalow on the road to the beach, there were cooking and washing facilities and some furniture including two beds, there were however plenty of hooks for hammocks. Both teams agreed to take it and then we set off once more to beach to get a late lunch. As we were eating the leading team Spie arrived. We then returned to hang out the wet gear to dry. Of course no sooner had we done this than the heavens opened for the afternoon shower! Once again there was very little news coming from the communications centre. The mountain bikes had suffered during the first biking stage, so I prepared my bike for Karina to use, as it had goo in its tubes to help seal any small punctures. I replaced my pedals with ones from Karina's bike as hers had cages fitted. Primus and Henley checked out the lights and Trish's bike ready for their arrival.

There was a dark zone in place on the estuary, so the earliest they could be expected was first thing in the morning. The plan for the following day was for Judy and Henley to travel by convoy along the beach to Cabure some 63 miles further north along the beach. Only 4WD vehicles were allowed to go due to shifting sand and the need to ford rivers and the timing of the departure depended on the tides, the planned departure was to gather at 10AM, so we hoped our team would have completed the transition by then.

 Monday 24 April 
Judy was restless during the night and at one time I walked with her down to the communications centre. The operator was asleep however his log indicated that the team had arrived at the other side of the estuary, so as dawn broke Judy and I went down to the shore. Shortly afterwards Henley arrived and the three of us spotted to craft heading towards the beach was it our Kayaks? A camera crew arrived so we felt sure we would see our team, however our hopes were dashed as what we thought were see kayaks were in fact local fishing boats returning to shore.

A little later on at 0830 the Portuguese team arrived, they had no assistance to meet them and said that our team was not that far behind they settled down to sleep on the beach beneath an upturned fishing boat whilst they waited. I went into town to see if I could find out where their assistance was staying, but to no avail. When I returned our kayak was just arriving in 15th place just after 9AM. One team that had been ahead of them forgot to turn off the main river and had got lost. Karina was complaining of suffering from stomach problems which was making her weak, so I took her to see the doctor whilst Trish was taken to the Bungalow. I was wary about Karina having medical attention as a number of competitors had been forced to withdraw on doctor’s orders. However he appeared to read the situation quite well and was able to provide medication in order to give her system a boost and control her ailments. She did not however get a transfusion she requested!. We returned to the bungalow just in time to see Judy and Henley heading off in out vehicle to join the convoy to Cabure. Primus, Irena and myself were left to attend to the needs of Karina and Trish. Trish decided that she would not use her cycling shoes, which Judy was restless during the night and at one time I walked with her down to the communications centre. The operator was asleep however his log indicated that the team had arrived at the other side of the estuary, so as dawn broke Judy and I went down to the shore. Shortly afterwards Henley arrived and the three of us spotted to craft heading towards the beach was it our Kayaks? A camera crew arrived so we felt sure we would see our team, however our hopes were dashed as what we thought were see kayaks were in fact local fishing boats returning to shore. A little later on at 0830 the Portuguese team arrived, they had no assistance to meet them and said that our team was not that far behind they settled down to sleep on the beach beneath an upturned fishing boat whilst they waited. I went into town to see if I could find out where their assistance was staying, but to no avail. When I returned our kayak was just arriving in 15th place just after 9AM. One team that had been ahead of them forgot to turn off the main river and had got lost. Karina was complaining of suffering from stomach problems which was making her weak, so I took her to see the doctor whilst Trish was taken to the Bungalow. I was wary about Karina having medical attention as a number of competitors had been forced to withdraw on doctor’s orders. However he appeared to read the situation quite well and was able to provide medication in order to give her system a boost and control her ailments. She did not however get a transfusion she requested!. We returned to the bungalow just in time to see Judy and Henley heading off in out vehicle to join the convoy to Cabure. Primus, Irena and myself were left to attend to the needs of Karina and Trish. Trish decided that she would not use her cycling shoes, which had clips, so asked if I would change out her pedals with mine. Judy returned to collect the food laid aside for the next transition, which she had mislaid during the confusion of the team’s arrival and her departure. We had managed to get some of the clothes dry so that the girls could change, but a few items were missing. The two members of Team Ford soon arrived keen to be off on the bikes, the plan being to get in a few miles before resting during the heat of the day. So once more the team was on its way, with only a trekking leg and sailing section to come, that is after a hard cycle along the sands for some 120K.Once the team had departed it was back to the logistics chores of collecting together cast of clothing and equipment, sorting it out, washing and hanging everything out to dry. Primus and Irena went down to the beach to eat. I hung my hammock outside and dozed in the afternoon sun. Two Frenchman who came through the gate, asking about team 5 (Terraforce) Sea kayaks, which were lying in the garden, awakened me. Unbeknown to us they should have been delivered to the nearby airport to be transported by helicopter to a point in the sands where the teams would pick them up to get to the penultimate Transition area. Although Terra force had two vehicles one was away with ours to Cabure with two of their logistics team and the other was in town having some repairs carried out and was not due back until later. With the help of another support team Fujifilm we collected together the necessary equipment and loaded the kayaks on a vehicle and they were soon on the way to the airport. That evening we had a relaxing meal by candlelight and as there was nothing for us to do until the convoy returned at 1400 the following day we made tentative plans to visit a nearby beach the following morning. Before turning in I checked with the communications centre to learn that the team had arrived at Cabure to meet up with Judy and Henley at 2135, just in time for the beach party that had been planned by the organisers.

Tuesday 25th April
I awoke as usual at 5am, to the sound of teams across the road in the campsite packing vehicles, I walked down to the beach where other teams were preparing to pull out, seeming not waiting for the convoy to return. Upon enquiring the reason given was that the road leading towards Primeira Cruz was in very bad condition after the recent rains and the journey was likely to take 8-10 hours. There was also the need to ride in a boat for an hour to actually reach the town. I did some calculations and worked out that if we waited for our support to return from Cabure, there was a risk that Trish and Karina would be left waiting for us at Primeira Cruz. I returned to the bungalow to inform Primus and Irena of the latest news and made the decision that I would collect together a change of clothes and the sailing equipment for the team and find a way of getting a lift to the town. One option was to travel with the Terraforce vehicle, however, Elvis the driver was under orders to await the return of the other vehicle from Cabure. I found the manager of Team Ford and explained the situation to him, he did have a vehicle but it was not a 4WD so that it might have difficulty on the rough tracks. He did however gather together food and equipment for his two team members and asked if I would handle the transition of his team as well. It took until about 10am to eventually persuade Elvis that both myself and the remaining team 5 assistant needed to leave in order to reach the next assistance point. I quickly loaded my rucksack and dry bags and we were off. The roads were good as we headed inland, in order to make something like a 450km semi-circle to reach the transition area. we stopped on the way for lunch and were able to catch a snatch of race news reported on CNN. By mid afternoon we were wondering why there had been a fuss made about bad roads, another 4WD vehicle from the organisation overtook us and later on near a road junction at Rosario we came upon the support vehicles of Team Fujifilm. One of  whose vehicles was suffering from an electrical problem. The organisation vehicle was also there and Mimi was travelling in it. I asked if she thought we would be in time to reach the last ferry to take us to Primeira Cruz, to which she replied yes. We turned off the main road leading to Sao Luis and after passing through a small town took a bridge over a river. On the far side of the bridge the road became a muddy track, there being more potholes than track. Elvis the driver started to zigzag his way around the worst of the holes as we made our way slowly towards our destination. It was somewhat amazing to meet buses and large lorries and small private cars on the road, which to all intents was suitable for only 4WD vehicles. Darkness began to fall and we still had not reached the boat terminal, eventually much to our relief we reached a small village where we were once more able to pick up a tarmac road. We arrived at Ubana at about 1900 and stopped beside a couple of other support vehicles, it appeared that an extra boat had been arranged to run Primeira Cruz and would depart at 2000. We left Elvis with instructions that he should return in time for the first ferry in the morning by which time the remaining support team should have caught up after returning from Cabure. I travelled light taking only the lifejackets, paddles and equipment and a change of clothes plus first aid kit for the two members of my team and Team Ford, there was no room for my own personal items. The boat trip was quite relaxing as it made its way down the river by the light of the stars. Arriving at Primeira Cruz we checked in with control and made our way to a school where we were allocated a classroom in which to sleep. I went to the radio room to check progress of teams who were by this time were thought to be nearing the end of the cycling stage along the beach. The mixture of hard and soft sands together with the need to cross streams and lakes making for a quite difficult stage leading into checkpoint 32 where they would start the final 24 K trek to the transition. The usual story- no news so went for a beer at nearby stall and then returned to the school to lie down on the wooden floor and get some sleep.

Wednesday 26th April 
A member of Elf Sogeres support team awaked me in the early hours enquiring if I had a spare GPS system they could borrow as they had lost theirs. I did have my own one, so I got up and went to explain how it worked, I just hoped that the GPS that Trish and Karina had with them was still working so they would not need mine as a replacement. In the morning I sorted out the equipment for my team and Team Ford, laying it out around the edge of the room, I then went out to the local market to see what fresh fruit might be available to supplement food bars. I had just returned from my reconnaissance, when the two members of Team Ford, Ben and Gisele arrived. Ben seemed to be in a hurry and when I asked where Trish and Karina were, he replied that they were some distance behind and he was going on without them! A minor argument ensued between Gisele and Ben, as Gisele wanted to have time to try and borrow some clothes from the Brazilian team Athena, as I did not have a change for her, whilst Ben wanted to get straight out on the water. Whilst Gisele changed I went and purchased fresh fruit for them to supplement their food. For the final leg each of the teams would act as crew on a local fishing (sailing) boat captained by the owner. The safety equipment was checked out and they departed about 0930. I had not envisaged that the two teams would separate prior to the sailing and this meant that I need to purchase 10 metres of rope for Trish and Karina as originally Team Ford had supplied this. Luckily the town was well stocked so it was an easy task to accomplish and I also purchased some 10 litres of water for the journey. I then went to the crossroads to wait. Trish was the first to appear with Karina lagging behind, walking, barefoot, having lost her shoes. For the first time in the race she was in pain with tears trickling down her face, I comforted her, telling her that the worst was over and the final stage would be easier. I took both the girls to the Schoolroom, where they were able to tend to their injured feet and change into fresh clothes. I checked out their safety equipment and found that we were short of one strobe light, so I borrowed a spare one from team Tchiboula. As they prepared to depart the organisation asked if two other girls from team Airwave and team Quebec could join them as otherwise they would be excluded from the competition. There was a slight delay as the woman from Team Quebec had not had her race passport signed, I boarded their boat, collected the document and got it signed off at the CP and then they were away on the final leg, some 90 K of sailing. My initial plan was to catch the midday ferry, the following day to take me to the finish line at S.Jose de Ribamar, however the ferry would only arrive in the evening and I would probably miss the teams arrival. The remaining members of team Terraforce's support crew arrived by boat, with news that my logistics team was heading directly to the finish line to meet the girls. Team Terraforce had still not arrived and reports had been received that they were recovering from a navigation error and were heading for their Kayaks in the sands. Susan from Terraforce was planning to return by boat to Ubana and then take their two support vehicle to the finish line, leaving the other two logistics members to complete the transition for the team and travel back on tomorrow’s boat directly to the finish line. I decided the only possible way I could see my team at the finish line was to hitch a lift with Susan so I hurriedly packed the discarded clothes and trekking equipment and headed for the boat. The organisers advised us that the bikes that had been dropped at the previous checkpoint had arrived so I went to check them out, they appeared to be in good order but on closer examination, all lights and water bottles had gone missing. My first thought was to load the bikes on the boat to go up river, however there was doubt over if they could all be carried on the two Terraforce vehicles along with all their own equipment. In the end I left then to be put on the ferry to S. Jose de Ribamar the following day. On arrival at Ubana Susan and I were soon off the boat looking for Elvis and the other driver Roberto, we loaded up and then set of once more down the rough track heading towards the main Sao Luis road. We were lucky that we had virtually completed our passage of the rough road before darkness fell otherwise the journey would have been extended even more. Once on the main road we quickly sped on our way to Sao Luis, skirting the city we arrived at S. Jose de Ribamar, the highlight of which was the town square with a large church and floodlit statues dominated by a huge white statue. We toured around trying to find a place to stay, not wishing to travel to the campsite at the finish line as it might be difficult to find in the dark. We eventually settled on a hotel down on the beach that appeared to be deserted, We took two double room , the drivers in one and I shared one with Susan. It was great to be able to shower, even though there was no hot water. Elvis gathered some supplies from the vehicle and then prepared a meal for us all taking over the hotel kitchen. We then retired to bed, I wondered where my logistics team was, and little did I know that they were in a Poussada about 800 yards away above us in the town. 

Thursday 27th April 
Awoke and walked out onto balcony to look at the view across the bay and spotted the race finish line at the far edge of the where the TAM globe had been erected. After breakfast we set off to drive to the site and find my team. As we drove into the campsite, I spotted Henley and Primus and as we drew up at the checkpoint Judy arrived. We swapped stories of what we had been through since Tutoia. Judy had returned from the press centre with news that some boats were in sight around the headland, so we made our way down to the waters edge to wait. It turned out to be the first of many false alarms, as it was only the local boats returning from fishing trips. Then one by one the teams began to arrive, first to the line were the leading discovery teams Aerospatial and Elf Sogeres, separated by only 4 minutes after 12 days of competition. The two remaining members of Team Ford followed them, then the only adventure team Reebok a few minutes later. Shortly after this the second in the extreme class arrived Team Paul Vatine, to be met and congratulated by his widow Mimi. The question was where was our team?  Two more boats were sighted the first being Athena the Brazilian all girl team. We waded out to great the second one Trish and Karina had reached the finish we hugged and congratulated them for their success, in finishing in 15th Place with a time of 12 days 3 hours 27minutes.  I was proud of them but at the same time sad about not being able to stay the course, however their strength and determination had enabled them to race  a distance of  more than 785 Kilometres. After some time spent mingling with the other teams at the finish line we set off to our base. Once at the Poussada where the two women could shower, change, attend to injuries and change into clean dry clothes and have a hot meal and rest! In the evening Judy, Henley, Primus and myself went to the Ferry pier to meet the boat carrying our bikes. The Pier was busy as well as locals there were a number of other teams also awaiting equipment and team members, as well as GFC organisers. The ferry eventually arrived but appeared to be having trouble mooring up after some ten minutes of watching, decided to help, the current was forcing the stern away from the pier and the only rope holding it in was around a bollard where I was standing. I put one foot on the rope and added my weight to see if I could move the boat, the rope began to dip and the ferry started to move. I then grabbed the slack rope in my hands and started to pull eventually being assisted by Brazilians around me as they saw what I was doing. Eventually with the boat moored we were able to go aboard, open the hold and form a line to pass the cycles and kayaks up the steps and onto the quay. Judy and I then rode the two bikes through the town back to the Poussada. 

Friday 28th April 
Woke up early and started to sort out my equipment disassembling my mountain bike and packing it in my bike bag and packing everything else into my rucksack or holdall. We were planning to move into Sao Luis, however as there were six of us it would mean two trips. After breakfast I set off with Trish and Karina to find our hotel, on the way we dropped off at another hotel to pick up a rope Primus had lent to another team. We also stopped at the Pria Mar hotel to find out about where the Prize giving party was to be held on the following day, whilst there we phoned our hotel only to find out that our rooms had been given away. We checked nearby alternative hotels but none had any room. The only one with vacancies was the Vila Rica a five star hotel in the old town, as it was expected the party was to be held in the old town, we decided it would have to do and managed to negotiate a reduced room rate. The hotel was like another world spacious and cool, the porters had quite a shock however when they say our luggage consisted of 3 bikes, six gearboxes and numerous packs and bags. as soon as the 4WD was unloaded we sent it back to the Poussada to collect the other team members. In the evening the whole team went out to a nearby restaurant for a celebratory meal, after which we headed over to the Pria Mar to find out what was happening.  We split into two groups Judy, Primus and Henley hanging out around the hotel, whilst, Trish, Karina and myself joined the Brazilian girls and Portuguese team to sample the local Frango nightlife. We piled in to vehicles and eventually arrived at an arena with load music thumping out. The music was somewhat based on Reggae with a Brazilian slant and soon we were all partying and enjoying ourselves. At about 0100 we headed for the exit, however outside met some other teams who were just arriving, Trish and I decided to take a taxi back to the hotel, leaving Karina and the others to continue the party. 

Saturday 29th April 
A day of rest and recuperation and a chance to shop and explore Sao Luis and prepare for the Prize giving and party in the evening, the great adventure was coming to the end for a further year. The Prizing and following street party was enjoyed by everyone, however unlike last year the venue of next Year’s event was not announced although there was a strong rumor that it will be held in Mongolia. On the Sunday morning Trish was the first to depart, accompanied by Judy who was trying to get her own flight brought forward from Monday. Judy then returned and together with Primus, Henley and Karina we had a final Lunch together before Karina departed. In the evening Primus, Henley and myself left. Team Compaq had dispersed. 

Thanks to the generosity of out Sponsors: 

COMPAQ ELF EXPLORATION UK PLC LENDAL HIGH FIVE  Without whom we would not have been able to participate in the longest Adventure Race to date.

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