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When the two of us are faced with a fierce hill, Ruth is the pragmatist. If the going gets tough enough that she’s in danger of riding to a standstill or losing control of her steering, she’ll simply stop riding and start walking. Will, on the other hand, is ox-stubborn on even the stiffest climbs, reluctant to give up the saddle until he starts going backwards and only then doing so after letting loose a blizzard of agricultural language.

When to goap – Get Off And Push – is a dilemma that divides touring cyclists. Some (Will) see it as heretical. Others (Ruth) consider that, on occasion, it’s a more efficient way of converting human power into forward motion. Ruth is right, of course, not least because once you’ve ground to a halt on a steep uphill riding bikes this heavy, it’s near-impossible to pedal them into motion again. Still, that doesn’t stop us both trying to defeat a combination of gravity and our own physical shortcomings from time to time.

As we’ve laboured towards fitness in these early weeks, goaping has become a laughably regular part of our day. Booked into a pousada with the address ‘Praia da Almada’, we assumed a descent from the main road to the beach (‘praia’), only to find ourselves negotiating two kilometres of treacherous, steep, up-and-down-but-mostly-up high into the hills. Seeking a campsite at the northern end of Ilhabela, a short-sharp-shock climb around a blind corner stunned us to a standstill; to get going, we had to get goaping.

Those hills surprised us. However, our longest humiliation so far, a tough climb of around 300m in a little over 3km leaving the upscale beach town of Maresias, was one that our research told us was coming. Ruth was off the bike within 500m, eventually seeking shade from the thirtysomething-degree Sunday sun under a telegraph pole. Will lasted about a kilometre before giving up when the gradient worsened, a puncture adding insult to exhausted injury.

We’ll get better. For the time being, though, goaping isn’t a choice but a way of life. After all, when we said we were touring the Americas by bike, we didn’t say anything about actually riding them. Did we?

from Bertioga, Brazil