Preparations

The blog resumes!

Writing this I am at Wellington airport on Tuesday afternoon, through security, and relaxing with a book and a glass of wine.

My bag plus bike was over the weight limit by 4kg but Qantas didn’t seem to have an issue ūüėÄ. They just printed the labels and smiled. ¬†I smiled too as there was nothing I could leave behind.

I have travelled twice on these biking trips with the same weight restriction and once had to pay excess baggage. This time I was wondering why I was over the weight limit, as I am staying in all hotels so I am minus the weight of the tent, sleeping bag, and sleeping mat –¬† until I remembered that the last two trips I boarded with a carry on backpack well over weight, having to concentrate on not falling backwards and hoping they would not weigh it – whereas this time I just have a small string bag.

It has been a crazy busy last few days trying to get on top of work, so I have not done a lot of training – never mind plenty of training coming up!

I am boarding in 30 minutes, the first leg is three and half hours to Melbourne, a two and half hour wait, then I board for a 14 hour flight to Dubai.

Then I have to get to another terminal to find an airline called Fly Dubai. I have nearly four hours before boarding, and then a final 6 hour flight to Bosnia.¬† Thankfully my bag and bike are checked through to Bosnia, so I don’t have to worry about them in Dubai.

Let the horror of long haul travel in cattle class begin.

Thanks in advance to my daughter Kelly blog editor extraordinaire (Editor’s note: My work has already begun, turning what was a wall of text with few full stops, terrible sentence structure, and multiple auto-corrects into something slightly readable!)

Categories: Preparations, The Odyssey, Uncategorized | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Up next: The Odyssey

My next trip is not far away now! This time in two weeks I will be on the plane ūüôā ¬†On my way to join The Odyssey¬†for section 2 and 3 (I am missing section 1), cycling from Sarajevo to Amsterdam.

As always I am regretting my increased girth and lack of training, but looking forward to the trip.¬†After the trip I am catching up with my daughter Shellbe who is currently living in London. Then I head home and back to reality, until the next trip! ūüôā I

I am doing 22 riding days and 2,150 kilometres, so keeping at the roughly 100kms a day riding rate from previous trips – but this time¬†there is no tent, no sleeping bag, and no sleeping mat – it’s proper accommodation all the way, wahoo!

 

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Categories: Cycling trip, Information, Preparations, The Odyssey | 10 Comments

Another trip begins! (Friday 11 Nov)

I had a feeling of ‚Äútoo much to do‚ÄĚ before I was due to head off¬†on Friday. I went into work¬†on Sunday (6th Nov) to try and get stuff sorted. When I left work¬†on Sunday¬†night I had 21 things on my ‚Äúmust do‚ÄĚ work list.¬†On Monday¬†night went I left work I had 25!¬† Somehow I got every single one off my list by home time on Thursday, at least to the state of handing over where I was up to with it.

Unusually for me I left packing till the last minute, I hope I have everything. I have been using the trip bike for the past month and bought new shoes a month ago. The good thing with doing the trip in NZ is if I have forgotten anything I will easily be able to buy it.

We set off from Wellington at midday on Friday. We got a rental car to drive up rather than flying and having to box up the bikes. Plus then there was no pressure to be at the airport by a certain time. We drove to Taupo and stayed at a place called The Cove, it was very nice. Nicer I suspect than anywhere I will be staying the next month. We went to the supermarket and got some cheese and crackers, and picked up Indian take aways for dinner.

On Saturday morning we went to a cafe for breakfast. Crikey, the service was slow! I had read the whole Dominion Post by the time my food arrived. When it did arrive, it wasn’t worth the wait. I had a Spanish omelette, but it was hard and flat and had no olives or¬†tomatoes and was pretty uninspiring, but by that stage I was hungry so I ate it.

Then we drove to Auckland¬†and got stuck in the traffic coming into the city, from the Bombay Hills¬†onwards it was crawling speed only and this was¬†Saturday¬†‚Äď I can‚Äôt even imagine what it must be like during the week. ¬†It was a bit of a mission finding the place we are staying in Auckland with the one way traffic system, but we got there in the end. The place we stayed on¬†Saturday¬†night is less than 5 minutes from the start hotel.

We unpacked and then took the rental car back which was a couple of kilometres away. We then walked back along the waterfront and stopped at a bar called the ‚ÄúY not‚ÄĚ and had some lovely mussels in coconut cream and coriander, plus a couple of cold beers. Then we walked a bit further round and called in at bar and had a red wine. Then we headed back to the apartment. On the way we stopped to get tea bags and I bought a small bottle of calci-trim milk.

We had a great view from our apartment, and sat and watched the view change from day to night, munching on cheese and crackers.

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Auckland waterfront – woohoo, we are on holiday!

Categories: Information, Preparations, Trans-Oceania | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Friday – last day before the ride begins!

Sue and I went for a swim at the beach before breakfast. Even at 7:30 in the morning a swarm of hawkers appeared as soon as we set foot on the sand.

A hawker trying to sell me a necklace

A hawker trying to sell me a necklace (again, photo taken from Sue’s Facebook page)

The water was warm but not too warm, and a relatively safe beach.

Beach by hotel with city in background

Beach by hotel with city in background

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The beach in front of the hotel in Cartagena

After breakfast we had the first riders meeting, got to meet everyone and go over the outline of the trip, what was expected etc. It certainly sounds like it is going to be very challenging, from hot and sticky to cold and windy. Through the Andes the temp is expected to be minus 4 at night. The first three days are relatively flat which means we should not have to spend too much time in the lowest gear. Then a rest day and then we start to climb some pretty gruelling hills. I suspect there will be a fair amount of pushing my bike in the first month or so until I drop some weight and get fitter.

The trucks

The tour trucks

After the riders meeting Sue and I went into the walled city to have a last look¬†around. We had lunch at the square in the middle. I had a very good friend whilst I was eating ‚Äď a small pregnant dog who stayed until I had shared the last scraps, and then she was off. In the time we were at the table we had about 25 hawkers trying to sell us stuff. I have learnt not to smile or be too nice when saying no or they take that as encouragement.

My friend

My friend at lunch

We had to be back at 5pm as someone from the Colombian government (to do with tourism) wanted to come and wish us well. After that off to the bar for a cold beer then up the road for something to want. Than back to finish packing and sorting stuff into my bags – my daily bag and my rest day bag (we can’t access the stuff in that until the rest days).

The ride starts tomorrow!

5:50 am – bags to the truck
6:15 am – riders meeting
6:30 am – breakfast
7:00 am Рleave hotel

We are doing a 90 kilometre ride, with the first 30 in a convoy.

Tomorrow night will be my first night in my new tent.

I am unsure what the internet coverage is going to be so there may well be gaps in the blogs, and then 3 days at once.

I have decided that I am going to be a racer ‚Äď not because I am expecting to be fast ‚Äď but if you identify yourself as a racer your time gets clocked in and out of camp each day, and I think it will be interesting to collate how many hours I spend on the bike.

Street in walled city

Street in walled city

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Hats for sale (Editors note: Really Mum? This is the best photo you could do? Check out Sue’s photo where you can actually see the hats!)

Categories: Columbia, Preparations, South American Epic | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Thursday in Cartagena

I ended up staying awake until really late. Bit of a time zone problem still, so was a bit later to breakfast. Met up with some of the riders from yesterday, plus some who had arrived since breakfast yesterday. Traded a few stories about who knew who, what rides people had done etc. Met one rider who did the Trans-Europa last year – this was the one I did in 2012. I caught up with Brett at breakfast who did the Trans-Europa the year I did. Great to see him and catch up with his news. Brett has done 3 more rides since the Trans-Europa, and is on track to be one of the first ‚Äď if not the first ‚Äď to complete the ‚Äú7 Epics‚ÄĚ (the company has 7 big rides they call the epics).

At breakfast a small group of us decided to walk along the shore to the old city. The water was warm but not nearly as warm as the hotel pool. I have not gone swimming in the pool as the water is as hot as a bath. Half way to the walled city my new hat decided to unravel and fell apart completely. Sue took some photos as I modelled different ways of wearing an unravelling hat. It disintegrated completely just as I got to the walled city.

My hat unravelling

My hat unravelling (photo copied from Sue’s Facebook)

All the way along the beach there were hawkers trying to sell us fruit, drinks, sunscreen, sun glasses, shady tents to use when on the beach, and ice blocks. Once we got to the walled city, this was replaced by hawkers trying to see t shirts, paintings, hats, sunglasses, and food of every description.

After wandering the outer walls we made for a square, and sat down for a cold drink. We had a constant stream of hawkers. Mostly all very good natured but the occasional one was a bit OTT. One of the young riders Rob (approx 23 year old) said about 10am in the morning he was offered drugs, cigars and prostitutes.

Square at Walled City market where we stopped for a drink

Square at Walled City market where we stopped for a drink

After the cold drink we went to the gold museum and to the Navel Museum then the clock tower. After this we needed to get back to put the bikes back together. It was too hot to walk back again so we hopped into a taxi.

It took a while to put the bike together, so after this it was time to retire to the bar for a cold beer. Afterwards a group of us went up the road and had pizza. Mine was very nice: anchovies, capers, cheese ‚Äď what’s not to like.

At the Gold Museum - Example of gold works made by 15th century inhabitants of Cartagena

At the Gold Museum – Example of gold works made by 15th century inhabitants of Cartagena

Clock tower in the walled city

Clock tower in the walled city

Categories: Columbia, Preparations, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

Ready to go!

The day has arrived and unlike last time I have packed everything in the car and have two hours to spare.

The last couple of days have been crazy getting everything at work and home sorted. I managed to get hold of Millie the cat and take her to the vet for vaccination so got everything on the list done.

Having a day off before going has helped, especially with daughter Shellbe also off today to Asia for 3 months.  I dropped her off at airport already this morning.

Last night was busy, with the last family dinner and packing. Trying to get everything you need into two 23 kg bags for 6 months, including the bike parts and tent was a mission. Thank you to Kelly, Daniel, Dan and Karen, after packing, re packing, weighing and re weighing, and then re packing we managed to get everything into the bike box, bag, and carry on (just hope they don’t weight my carry on! ), except 3 items. Degreaser and tubes I can get over there. Oh, and also the large bottles of shampoo and conditioner that I took out at the airport ‚Äď who knew they weighed so much?!

I will certainly look like a tourist, with my camera around my neck, and iPad and book in hand (because they won’t fit in my carry on). I will miss family and friends but looking forward to seeing what the next 6 months brings.

The packing process - the top left is all my medication!!

The packing process – the top left is only about half of my medication / first aid kit!!

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My life for the next 6 months, all packed up!

If only I could take this guy too!!

If only I could take this guy too!!

My last coffee . . .  . Headed for the plane - goodbye NZ, hello South America!

                            My last New Zealand coffee                                       Headed for the plane Рgoodbye NZ, hello South America!

Categories: Preparations | Tags: | 5 Comments

Four sleeps to go!

Four more sleeps to go, and still so much to be done Рeven though I have been working away on my list for weeks! So pleased that I actually started when I did.

Plus you always forget about the things that go wrong that aren’t on the list Рsuch as the override keys for the garage going missing, the locks on the boat shed seizing, the roof developing a leak and the alarm playing up on the car etc etc, however yesterday I bought the last couple of items on the list and learnt how to download photos from my new camera onto my iPad. Sadly I am sure I will have to email Kelly at least once to run through it again with me.

Looking at the huge mound of stuff on my floor I have no idea how it will fit into 2 x 90 litre bags, and also am not sure it will be under the weight limit. I have looked through and there is nothing I can leave behind.  I need to take bike parts, tyre tubes, medications (the amount is insane, I will take photos for you), I need wet weather gear (for sleet, rain and possibly snow!), a sleeping bag, a tent, a mat, torch, camera, iPad, head light, bike gear, camp gear, cloths for rest days РРРthe list goes on and on! Into two bags it has to go or I can’t take it!  I might need to dig out my wand or go to Ollivanders.

I have 3 days left at work and more than 3 days’ worth of work to do.  I have to at least write down everything in my head about the 19 items still on my to do list, so that someone else can actually do them.

I have had lots of lovely catch ups with family and friends, and a couple more to squeeze in. It has been lovely to have my daughter Shellbe home from Australia for a couple of weeks before she heads off on the same day as me on her trip to Asia. Plus my daughter Tracey was over for a few days over the weekend as well, which was lovely too. Lots of family dinners to add to the memory banks to sustain me whilst away.

I have not trained enough and am carrying too much weight, I expect to suffer for this for the first few weeks but nothing that can be done about that now.

So off to work and onto the list.

Things to do and buy before the big trip!

Things to do and buy before the big trip!

Categories: Preparations | Leave a comment

Bulletin #17 – Road Conditions

June 2nd, 2015

Road Conditions

The majority of the scouting on the trip has now been completed. ¬†The general tire recommendations for your bicycles which were made in an earlier bulletin remain true. ¬†However we’d like to give a few more details of the roads in each country.

The Undiscovered Country

For those doing the full tour or starting their sections in Colombia, we can not recommend highly enough that you put in some serious hours of cycling in the next month in preparation. ¬†It is a very hilly, challenging start to the tour and the fitter you are the better time you will have and the healthier you will remain. ¬†Approximately 75% of the route is paved, however a lot of the pavement is not smooth tarmac and will have some potholes, uneven surfaces or short stretches of gravel. ¬†The unpaved portion of the route¬†is hard packed dirt with rocks in areas. ¬†You’ll need your wider tires for these stretches and your brakes should be in top shape for the descents.

Coffee and Cocoa

Very similar to the previous section, we will have about 75% paved roads.

Volcano Alley

We are looking at about 75% pavement with the main amount of off road being in the mountains of Peru north of Lima.

The Gringo Trail

This stretch is about 95% paved, however as we climb up out of Nazca towards Cusco we’ll face some detoriorating roads with gravel stretches, potholes etc…

Incan Highlands

We are lucky to cycle almost entirely on paved roads, including our journey past Lake Copacabana.

Cycling the Salt Flats

Approximately 60% of this section is paved.  The unpaved portions are a mix of quite rough rocky roads, and even some sandy stretches near the Salt Flats.  The Salt Flats themselves are unpaved but the surface is very smooth.

Across the Andes

This section is approximately 85% paved.  A good chunk of the portion that is not paved is a very tough stretch as we are getting closer to the Chilean border.  The paved stretches are for the most part well maintained and in good shape.

The Lake District

This section will have about 85% pavement, with most of the paved stretches in good condition.

Carretera Austral

This section has the most off road of the tour. ¬†Approximately 55% is paved, with the rest being a mix of gravel, hard packed dirt and even a stretch of narrow trails when crossing the Chilean/Argentinian border!:) ¬†You’ll spend a fair bit of this section on your wider tires.

Categories: Bulletins, Cycling trip, Information, Preparations | Leave a comment

Here we go again!

In 42 sleeps, I am off again on another adventure Рthis time heading off on the South American Epic. I will be gone for almost 6 months, cycling from Columbia to Argentina, covering 13,641 kilometres Рon road and off!

My generous daughter Kelly has agreed to ‘curate’ this blog again, so I am hoping to keep you all up to date with my travels, experiences, and mishaps.

In preparation for my trip, Kelly has given the blog a bit of a makeover, and included a page¬†of information about the new trip. Over the coming couple of weeks, in the lead up to heading off, I will be posting some of the “bulletins” of information we have been getting from the tour company, to give you an idea of the preparation that goes into the trip, as well as what to expect.

I have learnt a few things from last time – this time I am not going to:

  • Work until the day before I leave (which ended up being well into most of the night before)
  • Leave packing until 15 minutes before I have to go to the airport (due to frantically trying to finish of work stuff before I went). Suffice to say it did not work well, and some very important items were left behind
  • Just chuck things into my bag – I am going to use a list to pack by, now there is a novel idea, bet no one else has ever thought of that! This way I won‚Äôt leave key items behind.
  • Cheap out on getting a good tent¬†– this time I am going to take a tent that is suitable for the trip, seeming as I will be spending a lot of the trip in it – I’m even going to take a mallet for the tent pegs.

In fact, this time I have actually made a four page list of all the things I need to do and buy, and have been steadily working my way through it.

I can’t believe there are only 42 sleeps to go – and 50 until my trip starts!

I am looking forward to making more new friends

I am looking forward to making more new friends

Categories: Cycling trip, Information, Preparations | Tags: , | 8 Comments

Last day in Russia

Now it’s Saturday afternoon, and my bike is all put together and working Рalways a relief. The tape my son put on the bike to show where the seat and handlebars should be was a great help in setting up.

I have packed my stuff into two bags, one of the bags is already packed in the van and I will not see it again for five days so hopefully I have got it sorted. I remembered in time that I needed my passport to cross into Estonia in four days so was able to dig through and get this out. We can ask for something from our non-daily bag if it is urgent, but certainly I do not want to be the first – especially as the tour guides said at least three times ‚Äúdon’t pack your passport in your non travel bag‚ÄĚ!

After packing I was tired so I decided to have a nap – luckily I had packed first because I woke up at 6pm which was the time we had to get our bags down to the van.

A number of the tour group were heading off to the summer gardens but I have already been so I headed up to the local James Cook (there are three in St Petersburgh). I had native steak caked in Parmesan, fresh garden salad and ludlow potatoes (these turned out to be brown baked fries I think). It was ok, not a lot of taste with the steak but good to try something different.

Tonight if there are enough people booked from the hotel I am going on a night tour to see the bridges being raised on the Neva River so the ships can pass through. I will not get back until 2am so will have to set my alarm. Tomorrow is a very short ride (only 45 km) so I can catch up on my sleep with a nap in the afternoon.

Points of interest

  • Russian supermarkets do not stock a lot of things that we take for granted such as plasters and snap lock bags. Luckily I worked out that an ‚ÄúA–Ņ—ā–Ķ–ļ–į‚ÄĚ is a chemist and there is one just up the road so now I have two more boxes of plasters.
  • Russians do not acknowledge or thank you if you hold open a door for them or step aside to let them pass. I guess with the population you would be constantly stepping aside and saying thank you. On the other hand, as I have already mentioned, Russian children do¬†stand up on the metro for older people.
  • At the supermarket there is only one door in and out the size of a standard front door at someone‚Äôs house, so unless you barge in you can be there for a long time. I have not yet got the knack of shoving my way in front of people, but if I lived here for a while I am sure it¬†would quickly develop.

Today was 32 degrees and I have been eating the most ripe delicious peaches. It seems strange to have been in winter a week ago, and now be in the middle of summer. Apart from the first two days there has been no rain. Igor says that they get maybe 30 perfect summer days in the whole of summer and I have been lucky enough to have had five of them. Hopefully this will remain so for tomorrow.

So, tomorrow the tour begins – off to Lisbon we go.

Categories: Preparations, Russia | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment