Monthly Archives: November 2015

South American Epic: Section 8

Section 8 pic Section 8 words

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Day 123/164: Rest Day Two in Santiago

Three quarters of the way through the ride today!

It was nice to have two rest days, this is the last time we have two rest days on the trip. I spent the morning catching up on emails and the blog, and skyping with my daughter Tracey.

I had lunch with Dan and Shirley who leave this afternoon, I am going to really miss them.

Dan and Shirley have been very generous and have given a lot of their stuff to other riders who have problems with their existing gear or did not bring enough. I have been given an Apidura, which is a bag that you fasten onto the seat stem of your bike, which is replacing my panniers. This bag was designed by a previous TDA rider on the African Tour and is more aerodynamic and does not need the rack on the back.

Adrian (TDA) is delighted to have my panniers, I washed them first – what a color change, and took off the rack ready to give to him tomorrow.

Then as usual it was off to the supermarket, or “supermercado” as it is called here, then sorting and bags and laundry. The beggar dogs have been given a stack of bones, so many they have fallen asleep with most of them, I wish I had my camera with me!

I had dinner across the road: steak, chips (papa fritas) salad and crème.

I was going to give the man with all the dogs on sleeping mats all my change and take a photo, but they were having a night off. Hopefully they have a nice place to stay when not looking for donations.

Two of the riders, Erwin and Swend, were pick pocketed on the subway last night. They both had their wallets removed from inside pockets that had zips, and did not feel a thing! Unfortunately Swend had all his credit cards in his wallet so has spent most of today cancelling cards and trying to arrange replacements.

Two of the riders were ripped off by taxi drivers, one taxi driver said he was given a 1,000 dollar note not 10,000 (exchange is 1 NZ dollar to 465.56 Santiago), and another was charged triple the fare he had quoted, and when the rider refused to pay he drove off with his wallet!

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Day 122/164: Rest Day One in Santiago

We had arranged to meet after breakfast in the lobby at 10 am for the haircuts.

We had Ray, Shirley and Dan, Brett, Grant, Sue, Antonio and Luis. There was a hairdresser just down the road from the hotel so off we headed. It was quite hard to get across what it was we wanted even though Shirley speaks really good Spanish.

I think the hairdressers did not believe that this is what was actually wanted. We did get there in the end. A few of the other riders popped in for a laugh.

Brett getting his "Upsallata Cut"

Brett getting his “Uspallata Cut”

The group with their "Upsallata Cuts"

The group with their “Uspallata Cuts”

The group with their "Upsallata Cuts"

The group with their “Uspallata Cuts”

I got a few comments “Go on Kaye, do it as well”, but it’s now less than two months before I return to work (scary thought) so I do not have enough time for it to grow back.

After the hairdresser I went to a bike shop trying to get some chamois cream, the only place in South America that I have found that sells it was in Medellin. I caught up with Luis and Antonio (TDA staff) at the bike shop and they were going into the city to bike shops so I went with them on the metro. This was about 1230 pm and it was really packed, it must be dreadful in rush hour.

We went to about 5 bike shops, but no chamois cream. Luis spoke to the guy at a specialized bike store and discovered they don’t have it here, and he suggested the cream that babies use with zinc and caster.

Luis and Antiono were also on the hunt for bike boxes so I left them to it and went in search of a card for Sharita who is leaving as Cristiano returns in Santiago, hopefully bringing Ana with him. We are requested to give the staff gratuities in recognition of what they do for us (in the range of $100 US each staff member). I like to write a note as well.

Well it appears Chile does not have greeting cards – not at book shops, not at toy shops, and not at gift shops where they have paper and ribbons and gift bags of all sizes. In the end I bought a small gift bag and decided to put a paper note inside.

I decided I was not brave enough to attempt the metro without Luis and Antonio, plus I did not want to be crushed so I caught a taxi back to the hotel.

I went to a local restaurant for a quick snack with Brett and had squid rings, and he had really nice ceviche (raw fish).

I managed to catch up skype with Kelly and Lucy (for the few moments she deigned to talk to her Gran).

Tonight was a farewell dinner with Nelson. We went to the Bella Vista Tourist area. We had empanadas and tapas to share, then I had steak and salad.

We went to a bar before dinner, I noted that here they had Jack, Tom AND John Collins.

I had a margarita and Sue had a Sex on the Beach cocktail – thankfully Sue’s tooth is better and she is finally off antibiotics.

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Day 121/164: Los Andes to Santiago – 100km

Climbing 900 meters,  down 1,100 meters.

Just by the camp site was a disco that banged out the music till about 5 am. Thankfully I still managed to sleep most of the night.

There was no convoy into Santiago as there are bike lanes in the city and it is Sunday.

The start of the ride was through some towns and past some vineyards. We went through a town called St Felipe that had lots of vineyards around it. Riding through the town, there were a couple of homeless men in a park asleep, surrounded by 9 dogs also asleep.

I was not impressed to find our route took us onto a motorway with signs forbidding cyclists. This happened 3 times today, in total about 20 kilometres, I kept waiting for the police to pull up. There were also a couple of bits where there was not a good shoulder to ride on, and cars and trucks whizzing past with a speed limit of up to 120 kilometres, I did not feel safe. I did bring it up at lunch that we should be told if we were going to be on a motorway beforehand so we could make the choice whether to ride or not.

We then had a 6 kilometres climb that was steep in places and then some great views coming down.

View from top of the steep climb on the way to Santiago

View from top of the steep climb on the way to Santiago

We went through some back roads and then on the motor way a couple more times, the longest for about 8 kilometres! Before thankfully turning onto Route 5 and following this to Santiago.

About 10 kilometres from the hotel the bike lanes started, and we were able to follow this all the way in. Heaps and heaps of cyclists going both ways on the lanes.

Sunday in Santiago

Sunday in Santiago

So 4 months and about 9,000 kilometres later, and a few centimeters smaller, I am back in Santiago.

We are staying at the Ibis Hotel in Santiago. We got to the hotel about 3 pm. I managed to skype with two of my children Shellbe and Dan. It is great to have good Wi-Fi that you can actually skype.

I went to a farewell dinner with Dan and Shirley. We went to a German restaurant where we had huge steaks. Prior to dinner we went to a pub just down the road, they had a range of cocktails: as well as a Tom Collins they also had a John Collins.

In Uspallata one of the younger riders Marios was at the hairdresser at the same time as me. Marios asked for his hair to be cut at the length of 1cm at the sides and longer on top. The hairdresser must have heard “Give me a number one” because next thing she is shaving his head with a number 1 blade. A number of other riders decided to get a “Marios cut” to show solidarity, the hair cuts are supposed to happen tomorrow. So far 8 riders are signed up, will be interesting to see who goes through with it!

On the way back to the hotel we went past a man fundraising for homeless dogs, and he had about 7 dogs, all stretched out on size appropriate cushions. There was one old dog who was a dead ringer for my old dog Pat, with a collection bowl in front of him which of course I gave to.

Back to the hotel, yay no alarm in the morning.

Sunset santiago

Categories: Chile, South American Epic | 3 Comments

That Kaye, she’s a determined one!

Editor’s Post:

Two years ago today, on the 21st of November 2013, Mum sent us the email below. I found it in my emails recently when I was looking for a different email from her, and it made me smile, to know that she is on the trip now. She’s so determined, brave, and a little crazy, and I’m so proud of her 🙂

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Kaye
Date: Thu, Nov 21, 2013 at 10:13 AM
Subject: Bicycle touring in South America | Adventure Travel with TDA | Tour D’Afrique Ltd.#/?t=south-american-epic

Hi family
Am planning to do this bike ride from July 2015 to Dec 2015


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Day 120/164: Las Cuevas to Los Andes – 58km

Climbing 160 meters, down 2280!!

I was very pleased that we were not camping last night as it snowed, as well as being cold.

Sunrise at Las Cuevas

Sunrise at Las Cuevas

We had to cram into the two trucks to the border as there was a 7 kilometre tunnel before it, that bikes are not allowed to go through. We also have to be with all our bags at the border (up till now they have been able to stay in the trucks).

The border crossing took about two hours. Thankfully the trucks did not have to queue in the car lane, as there was a line a couple of kilometres long.

The loooong queue for the border (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The loooong queue for the border (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Luckily we could bypass a lot of the queue! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Luckily we could bypass a lot of the queue! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Brett and I at the border crossing

Brett and me at the border crossing

Once we got through the border it was quite a short riding day, 58 kilometres with 2290 meters down.

The first 15 kilometres was a switch back with a few tunnels, and stunning scenery. It was pretty much downhill all the way to camp.

Switchbacks after the border crossing

Switchbacks after the border crossing

The descent from Portillo, A glimpse of Jo riding the long switchbacks (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The descent from Portillo, A glimpse of Jo riding the long switchbacks (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)


I stopped at a cafe at 30 kilometres, and had an empanada which was the size of a large Cornish pastie.

A number of the riders leave in Santiago:
Shirley and Dan from Cape Cod, USA
Katrina and Mike from Scotland
Jean and Marina from French Canada
And Nelson from USA.

All of them, apart from Jean and Marina, have been full tour riders and it will be strange to carry on without them. We are getting 8 more riders in Santiago, and then two more at the start of the next section. Certainly it will change the dynamics of the group. We now have more riders that did not do the mud day than riders that did.

We are staying at a camp ground called “El Sauce”. It has grass and trees and a restaurant. It is so much warmer, hard to believe that last night we were cold and it was snowing. I guess that’s the difference a couple of thousand meters in altitude makes.

Categories: Chile, South American Epic | 2 Comments

119/164: Uspallata to Las Cuevas – 83km

Climbing 1620 meters, down 362.

Thankfully today has blue skies and is not too windy to start. I have warm riding gear and more clothes in the pannier. Also a reflective jacket, flashing tail light, and head lamp as we are going through 6 tunnels.

My hairy friend is still outside the hotel and I felt bad riding off and leaving him. I rode fast so he would not get any ideas about coming with me.

Stunning scenery: snow on the mountains, huge mountain ranges. We rode past the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere: Cerro Aconcagua, 6959 meters high (Everest is 8800). It was covered in cloud but I stayed there for an hour and the clouds cleared briefly, long enough to get some really good photos.

Cerro Aconcagua - 6595 meters. Highest mountain in South America and Western Hemisphere.

Cerro Aconcagua – 6595 meters. Highest mountain in South America and Western Hemisphere.

Due to the concern about possible riding conditions the staff had organized hot soup at the Lunch stop, at a restaurant. We are also having dinner at a restaurant across the road from the hostel, because they can’t take any food across the border, including things like peanut butter and sauces etc.

This is a major route and there are lots of trucks. The first 25 kilometres there was no shoulder and the gravel was very soft, a bit hairy when there was a truck coming in both directions. Thankfully only one truck drove a bit close to me and a number of other riders, but thankfully not close enough to cause any one an injury.

There is lots of snow on mountains and some down to road level. Even though the weather conditions are not as bad as the past few days, it is still not warm.

Uspallata to Las Cuevas

Uspallata to Las Cuevas

The tunnels are ok, apart from the last one, they are very short and you can see the other end.

One of the tunnels - but not the scary one

One of the tunnels – but not the scary one

One of the tunnels (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

One of the tunnels (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The last one was scary, it was about 500 meters long but seemed longer. The tunnel lights were broken and the headlight did not really provide enough light and it was really hard to see.

Then we heard a truck coming and were riding as fast as we could. There were also holes which luckily we avoided, and ice! One of the riders Annagrete slipped in the tunnel on ice, and Sue’s bike went down a hole, but luckily neither of them were hurt.

After coming out of the tunnel

After coming out of a tunnel

Coming up to Las Cuevas

Coming up to Las Cuevas

In Las Cuevas there is snow on the foot path, and later while we are having dinner it started snowing. In the hostel we are stacked up to 8 in a room, thankfully I am in a room of 4 (better than being in a tent with snow!).

We are staying at 3,100 meters in a hostel. At the hostel we were talking to Pablo – worker/owner? –  and when he found out I am from New Zealand, he told me he went to NZ for the last rugby World Cup, and toured NZ in a camper van. “Beautiful country”.

Outside the hostel

Outside the hostel

The hostel

The hostel

The dinner at the restaurant was an empanada, pasta with meat and fruit salad. It was ok, was nice to be warm, and sitting inside watching the snow outside.

Tomorrow we have to get a bus the 7 kilometres to the border, as there is a tunnel we are not able to ride through on bikes.

Natural bridge on the way from Uspallata to Las Ceuvas

Natural bridge on the way from Uspallata to Las Ceuvas

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Day 118/164: Rest Day in Uspallata

It was nice to wake up to a sunny day with blue skies, a good chance to dry tents, sleeping bags, and thermal rests.

We are currently at 2,000 meters in altitude and climbing again tomorrow, 1650 to about 3100. Given that we are staying under 4,000 meters and are only up at altitude for one night I have decided not to take altitude medication. The next day we go back down 2,280 meters.

I am feeling a bit daunted about tomorrow as it possibly snowing and could be very cold. The TDA staff who have scouted the last couple of days say it has been snowing and very cold. As a result we are not going to be bush camping, we are going to be staying 7 kilometres from the border to Chile in a hostel. So all my warm weather clothes are back out.

Sue is feeling much better this morning. Yesterday she had an appointment with the local dentist at 1:30pm who did X-rays and found her tooth was abscessing under an old filling, so he has taken that out and the roots, and put a temporary filling in. Sue managed to sleep well last night so hopefully she is on the road to recovery.

I spent the day re packing and catching up with my blog. However the wifi is not good here, once again not able to cope with this amount of people sending photos etc.

Sunset in Uspallata

Sunset in Uspallata

Same view, but not at sunset

Same view, but not at sunset

Jo and I had discussed getting our hair done in Santiago. Jo speaks quite good Spanish and as we had an extra rest day we decided to try and get it done here. Jo went and spoke to the local hairdresser yesterday and she told her we should come at 5pm today.

When we left the hotel my hairy friend was waiting for me outside the hotel, and came all the way to the hairdresser and waited outside.

When we got there we found she had told a number of other people also to come at 5pm. She was a lovely lady but had no concept of time. People would come in and she would say “Come back in an hour” when she already had 3 hours of people at least lined up. One guy came back 3 times while we were there.

At 8pm she asked if she could quickly do a local lady, who was getting cross at waiting so long, before she washed the color out of hair and cut my hair. The quick turned out to be consulting color charts and she was going to color the ladies hair at 30 minutes. Luckily Jo intervened and said that no this was not quick, we had been there first and needed to eat and sleep. It was 9pm by the time I got out of there.

The dog was still out there waiting for me!! He followed us across the road to the restaurant. I had trout with a blue cheese sauce which was really nice. I ordered 2 empanadas for my hairy friend in case he was still waiting. He was, and was very happy with the empanadas and downed them very quickly, and then followed me back to the hotel.

When we went past the hairdressers she was still working!

Editor’s note: Below are some photos from Jo’s Facebook page, from when she went for a ride on the rest day:

Heading back into Upsallata, the town dwarfed by the snow capped mountains

Heading back into Upsallata, the town dwarfed by the snow capped mountains (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Riding toward our hotel in Upsallata

Riding toward our hotel in Upsallata (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The beautiful driveway to our hotel

The beautiful driveway to our hotel (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Categories: Argentina, South American Epic | 3 Comments

Day 117/164: Bonus rest day in Uspallata

It was quite cold and overcast this morning and I was happy not to be riding. An extra rest day is a bonus and I am determined to be up to date with my blog before we leave tomorrow.

Sue has had a very bad night with little sleep and is in a lot of pain. The TDA staff are trying to sort out an appointment at the hospital to see a dentist.

After breakfast I went for a walk into town which is about a ten minute walk. When I got to the town a large hairy dog decided he was my new best friend and followed me from shop to shop, sitting patiently outside each time until I came out.

The town is not very big but I found a couple of restaurants that looked like good places for dinner, and went to the supermarket and got snacks and some food for lunch and went to the bank. My new hairy friend then followed me all the way back to the hotel. Unfortunately he is a car chaser which was a bit stressful, but he stopped when I shouted at him. He also went and harassed the hotel pig but the pig is huge and just ignored him. He followed one of the other riders Shirley back from town later and chased cars and hassled the pig again. The pig must have been fed up by that time as it charged at him.

I caught up with Sue, the hospital dentist was not able to help and gave her 3 injections to try and numb the pain until this afternoon when she has an appointment with a dentist in town. The injections have not helped the pain at all, but they have left her with a numb mouth.

My plan for the afternoon was to get the blog up to date which I did get onto after I had finished my book. I have managed to catch up 9 days and will do the rest tomorrow.

At 8pm it was time to head off into town for dinner. I ended up at the same restaurant as most of the riders and the TDA staff. I had some nice red wine, there was a nice warm fire, however I once again managed to order greasy chops! I am starting to think that every third option on the menu despite what it is called is actually greasy chops!

When I came out of the restaurant my hairy friend and two of his mates were waiting. Luckily I had some scraps for them. Once again I had a dog escort home.

My hairy friend in Uspallata

My hairy friend in Uspallata

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Day 116/164: Pedernal to Bush camp – 80km

1,850 meters climbing, 700 down

Thankfully there was no more heavy rain so no one got flooded again during the night.

My tent was soaking and the ground sheet was caked with mud. My thermal rest was wet but luckily with my Alpaca blanket on top of it under my sleeping bag I stayed warm.

Today is cold, windy, and rain is expected. I decided not to ride a wet, slippery, gravel, corrugated, sandy ride with a significant climb. So into the lunch truck I went. All the mountain bikers will be going “What?! It sounds like a great ride!”.

The Lunch truck had to stop for lunch at 35 kilometres, because where it was going to stop at 42 kilometres it’s snowing! So I am pleased I decided not to ride, the five other riders in the lunch truck with me were all feeling the same.

A welcome sight - the lunch truck (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook Page)

A welcome sight – the lunch truck (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook Page)

We made a fire to keep the riders warm at lunch, and helped set up lunch, then when the dinner truck came past they picked us up and took us to camp. Another desolate spot bush camping, no shelter, windy, and cold. Some fantastic scenery on the way down to camp.

Perdenal to bush camp

Perdenal to bush camp

Another nine riders got into the lunch truck at lunch as the conditions out there were too bleak.

Mostly the people completing the day were those who still have their EFI and/or are obsessed with the race! These riders don’t stop for lunch, or stop extremely briefly, if they think that will give them an edge. A number of people are so obsessed they ride when they are sick, even stopping a number of times whilst riding with gastro.

Camp before we were moved

Another exposed, desolate camping spot

I was lucky and managed to get my tent dry and up before it started raining.

The wind changed direction about an hour after we got to camp. The TDA staff had set up the kitchen on the protected side of the truck and then had the wind coming directly at them and had to change sides.

It was looking like it was going to be a windy and cold night. I was hoping the wind would either die away or change direction before we ride tomorrow as otherwise it would be a strong cold head wind.

I have had problems with my tent leaking again and it’s not because I have forgotten to clip all the bits in. The top layer rests on the back right side and quite a lot of water has flowed in and my thermal rest is wet again! I have discovered if I stake the fly out so tightly I can’t shut it then the top layer doesn’t rest on the tent. I will have to get some tent guy ropes and pegs and lay around to get something that works as I can’t have a tent that either flies or can’t close (Editor’s note: sorry that this doesn’t really make sense. I’m not quite sure what Kaye was trying to say).

It had not been a problem till now as last night was the first night we had rain since the day before we rode into Cusco, and I put that flooding down to not having clipped the tent up properly. So I went off to the rider’s meeting at 5:45 not feeling very positive about the night ahead!

At the riders meeting we are told that due to the weather conditions, the high probability of lightening, and how exposed our camp is, we are going to the next rest day hotel tonight. So after dinner down come our tents, and mini vans arrive to take us to Uspallata a day early.

A storm brewing on the horizon (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook Page)

A storm brewing on the horizon (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook Page)

We got to Uspallata at about 9 pm. The hotel was about a kilometre out of town. The restaurant was still open but did not sell snacks, the only option was a two course dinner, which a number of riders, myself included, decided we could manage with no difficulty.

There was only one option which was Meat loaf with pumpkin and potato mash, and a pink desert that was like instant pudding with cherries and sweet biscuits that I didn’t eat. There was no vegetarian option. Argentina is a big meat eating country and does not cater well to non meat eaters.

I had dinner with Sue who is still having dreadful problems with her tooth and is hoping to see someone about it tomorrow. If it cannot be sorted here Sue is going to go forward to the next rest town which is Santiago to get it fixed.

Yay a bonus rest day tomorrow!


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