Thursday, 17 April 2008

Off-season melancholy

There is something melancholy about beach resorts in the off season. Restaurants stand empty save for the rows of tables with seats stacked upside down, legs in the air. Shops selling flip-flops and swimwear have brown paper messages plastered on the inside of the window: ‘Stock Liquidation’; ‘Final Clearance 50% off’. Sand drifts down the street, blown on the wind along the curb until it forms into drifts against a stick lodged in front of the storm drain. On our first day on the Isla de Santa Catarina, outside the city of Florianopolis, the overcast skies brought a chill to the air and the gloom added to the off-season quiet of a town slowly dropping into hibernation. Bright flowers in the courtyard of our hostel, a warm oasis in the doleful tranquility of the resort, indicate what might have been if we had arrived a month or so ago. Bathed in sunshine and bustling with holiday makers, this town would be positively radiant, however, the weather and season conspire to suppress the joie de vivre and dampen the spirits of even the ebullient Brazilians.

We had come to Brazil with visions of white sandy beaches bathed in sunshine and ice cold caiparinhas. With two weeks remaining on the continent we were prepared to surrender to the sound of the sea lapping against the shore, read a book and mentally adjust to the prospect of a return to ‘everyday life’. Being well seasoned travelers now we have both learnt to always have a Plan B and to adjust to the situation at hand. As such, we have a second beach trip planned to Buzios after a brief trip to Rio and have stumbled across an ATP Challenger Tour tennis event just down the road; entrance is free and the standard is fantastic and with a bit of luck the next couple of days will bring more sunshine to boot.

I mentioned in my post about Buenos Aires that we were already starting to think about home and the prospect of ‘business as usual’. After several months on the road the frustrations of an itinerant life are always close to the surface: the constant packing and unpacking of bags; the limitations of restaurant food for every meal; the need to pay for activities that at home would cost nothing; and, the inability to access the everyday amenities of home. As we get closer to our return the lure of normality becomes more real and compelling. However, we are both conscious that we don’t want to suffer the inevitable feelings of anticlimax that also accompany the end of such an epic trip and the only way we know to avoid this is to begin planning new experiences. Strange as it may seem, I am really looking forward to getting back to work and all the challenges that it will bring, however, I have also missed being able to get out and ride, run and walk in the way that I can when we are at home. With that in mind I have a number of plans afoot to enter events in the summer and to set myself some longer term goals for endurance events that will test my limits and bring structure and meaning to my training. Luckily it looks like I will have someone to push me on as my good friend Simon is also looking for a challenge. We have bandied around a few ideas and will continue to do so until mid-May when we will meet in person to agree a schedule. Knowing how we are, I suspect that there will be a distinctly competitive edge to it, all the better to focus the mind.

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