Thursday, October 31, 2013

Mountain biking Madness: Madeira part 1

It was a Saturday afternoon at Oslo Airport, and I was a giggling fan girl. Ingvild and I had just spotted Aleksander Gamre, famous for his solo South Pole expedition, along with Cecilie Skog, of Seven Summits and pole expedition fame. They were both looking cleaner and more well-fed than in their expedition photos, and we couldn't pass up the opportunity. So here's my real, live celebrity photo!

Lovin' it
We, a group of 5 hopeful Norwegians and an enthusiastic American, were on our way to the resort island of Madeira. As usual, not to relax, but to bike. On the way we had a 5 hour layover in Lisbon, which turned into to a 7 hour layover when our plane was delayed.

Bridge above the streets of Lisbon

Lisbon by night, taken from the top of the bridge in the last picture.

Because of all the delays, it was 4:30 am by the time we rolled into our hotel beds in Funchal. That gave me 6 hours to sleep, unpack and put together my bike, and be a functioning bicycling being. It was going to be a hard day.

I awoke to this:

The view from our hotel. Note the huge cruise ship.
Spurred on by the gorgeous weather, and the threat of rain later in the week, our guide John had a long day of biking planned. We were shuttled to the top of Pico do Arieiro, the third highest peak in Madeira. As I stood on top, drinking in the view of 1800 spectacularly steep meters down to the ocean, I felt so tired it was like being hungover.

The first kilometer on the bike, I felt scared and out of control, and I had no idea how I would be able to keep going for the next 6 or so hours. But somehow, the sunshine loosen my sleepy muscles and I forgot that I was tired, and remembered how much good, unclean fun can be had biking trails.

Viewpoint
It was widely agreed among the group that we biked so many trails the first day that we couldn't possibly remember them all. The biking was also so varied - from soft, smooth trails in the forest, to rocky, exposed trails that seemed to traverse down cliff faces.

Our guide, John, and Ap head into the bushes

The day culminated in an extremely steep, loose downhill that was basically unbikable. As we dragged our mountain bikes slowly down the hill, I started to doubt the sanity of the expedition. After all, who carries their mountain bike down a hill?

Luckily, the trail continued out onto a dramatic cliff looking over the sea that rewarded us for our hard work...

Heading out onto the cliff
... and swooped into one of the most enjoyable descents of the day, except for the agressive looking goats standing by the trail.

Towards the end of a long day
Needless to say, I was extremely tired that evening, as exemplified by my rather rude exchange with a Madeiran waiter at dinner. I ordered fish, and the waiter asked me if I would like it with banana, passionfruit, ++. When I replied, "Pick whichever you like best", he countered "I cannot pick for you, what do you want?"

In my tired, sleepless brain, this waiter represented the barrier between me and food, which implicitly was the barrier between me and sleep. So  I said, "I just want food. Can I please have food?" The waiter spent the rest of the meal going on about how he had to kill the monster in my stomach. And I was teased for the remark the rest of the trip.

There are four whole days of biking not yet immortalized - stay tuned for Madeira part 2!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

3 comments:

  1. You take the best trips. If I were a mountain biker, I would have to start begging you to take me along! :) So cool that you met Aleksander. I watched a movie made by the two Aussies that did the trip the same time as he did. Seemed like he was a really fun guy from the movie's portrayal of him.

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    1. Haha, thanks! Some trips (this one included), I'm really just along for the ride, my friends are doing all the planning ;) And Madeira would be great for hiking or trail running as well. I'm glad someone else gets the Aleksander Gamre thing, I felt kind of silly at the time but they're so cool!

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  2. What a beautiful place! Also, I never heard of Aleksander but I love his hair in that picture!

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