Posts Tagged With: Altitude sickness

Day 80/164: Puno to Juli – 83km

Climbing 175 meters, down 300.

It was cold coming out of the hotel, and had a maze of streets to negotiate through. Even though it was only 6:30am there was lots of traffic already. Once we got clear of Puno we had great views of the lake. It stretched out to the horizon, and was hard to believe that we are at 3,800 meters above sea level.

I am ok on the flat, but am still having problems with asthma and altitude on hills. My lungs have decided to add to the problem by producing lots of mucous. I am pleased that this week is going to be a relatively light riding week. 83 kilometres and not much climbing is just what I need at the moment. I rode with Shirley and Dan for about 20 kilometres but then stopped at some ruins.

All of a sudden my gear shifter on the left stopped working, so now I have small and large cog on the left and large only on the right. Not so easy for getting up hills! I managed ok for about 30 kilometres with an up gradient that was not steep, but had to get off half way up a hill in the town. It was either get off or fall off! Thankfully this was the last town before going downhill to camp.

We are camping at 3,750 metres, by the beach, thankfully not a dust camp. There is grass to pitch the tent on. Given that we were only biking 83 kilometres (although the climbing was at least double the 175 meters planned) I got to camp at midday. I cleaned my bike ready for bike clinic at 3pm, put up my tent, and dozed for a couple of hours in my tent.

View of beach camp

View of beach camp

Thankfully the problem with my bike is just a snapped gear cable, so I have a new one on, and the bike is ready to go again tomorrow.

Next I went to the medic clinic to discuss my asthma and altitude sickness etc. I am going to go off the altitude sickness pills as the effect wears off the longer you take them and they have side effects. When I am in La Paz I am going to go to a medical clinic, and get an asthma management plan. My asthma is starting to settle, but we are going to be going higher up in altitude again, so I need to be better prepared. I think I was lucky this time.

Dinner was hamburgers with buns, salad, and gherkins. It was warm here during the day, but the night was cold. I had both sleeping bag inners, my hat, long john top and bottom, socks and jacket and I was still cold! I will need to sort this in Lapaz, as I have been warned that Bolivia is going to be cold.

Camping on the shores of Lake Titicaca (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Camping on the shores of Lake Titicaca (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Our campsite tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Our campsite tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The sun sets on our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The sun sets on our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 76/164: Cusco to San Pedro – 158km

Climbing 1,900 meters – down 1,775

I had lots of weird dreams about riding and did not sleep that well. It poured during the night and I was dreading the morning. Thankfully at about 4am the rain stopped. It would have been a misery riding all day in the rain.

Max (TDA) said the first 5 kilometres were up, then a 30 kilometre downhill. Not sure what he used for his calculations but it was about 10 kilometres up. It was cold and quite steep and I walked pretty much all of the first 5 kilometres. I was breathless due to the altitude and asthma. Thankfully I got to the top then quite a steep descent. It was really cold. I stopped and put all of my warm clothing on.

View from the lunch bus this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the lunch bus this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The view from lunch today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The view from lunch today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The rest of the day was rolling hills, with a couple of short climbs. It was a long day riding, it was 5pm by the time I got to camp, so about 10 1/2 hours riding. I couldn’t push myself because of the asthma so going up any hills is pretty slow. We are staying in a field at the back of a restaurant.

About two hours before the end of the ride I was coming into a town and three boys ran out from a bridge and grabbed my bike and pannier and demanded money. They would not let it go. They were aged about 8 to 9. In the end I got off my bike. There may be a language barrier but they got the message that I was not giving them money and to bug off. It was pretty scary though, and I was pleased they weren’t any older. If they had have been, I would probably have given them money. It’s the first time in South America that children have been anything but friendly.

I got to camp and set up my tent, and was just in time for the riders meeting and dinner. We have a new chef for a month called April, as the usual chef Mark has a month off. The dinner was chicken pasta and fresh salad.

I am starting to realize that I have not taken being asthmatic seriously enough. The problem is generally it is so well controlled that most people don’t even know I have asthma. I can go a year or two without using the reliever at all. Unfortunately I did not factor in what happens when it is not well controlled, which is occasionally as a result of a viral illness. So I have no peak flow and no steroid medication with me. I have doubled my dose of preventer, and am carrying my reliever in my pocket when riding. Today I have used it about 7 times. As well as being breathless I am also coughing and bringing up phlegm. All in all not ideal. I spoke to Erin the medic to check it was what I thought: my airways bring over excited as a result of either (or both) asthma and altitude.

We are going to be at altitude for a while still – probably at least a month – so hopefully it will settle down.

Tomorrow we are going to be climbing back over 4,500 meters again in the morning. Given that I am sure the altitude is what is driving the asthma I am considering not doing the climb and taking the lunch truck to lunch. Disappointing to be back in the truck but I am realizing that I need to take my asthma a bit more seriously.

Love the terrain around here (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Love the terrain around here (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lovely evening light (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lovely evening light (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 74/164: Rest Day Two in Cusco

I slept in again, had breakfast and then went off to have a massage I had booked at 10am.

Along with general exhaustion I have
1. A really sore neck on the left hand side, I can’t even turn it
2. Altitude sickness, still really breathless and have coughing fits
3. Gastro related to the altitude medication, or the anti inflammatory medication for the neck
4. My bottom lip has big cracks in it even though I have been constantly covering it with lip sun block
5. A pressure area on my butt, thankfully the skin is not broken
6. Asthma, related I think to the altitude.

All in all the three rest days are badly needed. A number of the riders have organized tours to go to Machu Picchu but I decided not to. I was really conflicted as I am so close but in the end decided that I need to look after myself if I want to manage the whole of this ride. Sue went with a group of 7 of the riders, up on the early morning train, got to the main gates and was inside for ten minutes and collapsed. Sue was taken back to the hotel they had booked there and slept for 18 hours (which equates to a USD $750 sleep). Four of the other riders who went have also come back unwell, mostly with gastro related symptoms.

The massage (80 soles) was great, the masseuse really knew her stuff and spent ages on the left side of my neck and back. I had lots of knots. She would work on them for a few minutes and then do another area, but kept coming back. As I left I could already feel the difference.

Next off to get my hair cut and buy some sandals, mine have finally fallen apart. As I was walking up the street looking for sandals a pleasant seeming young man stopped me and asked me if I was from New Zealand. When I said yes he said “Wellington?” which I of course said yes. He then asked if I wanted anything for my hike, which is why most people come here. When I said no I am biking he changed to ‘did I need shoes, Lycra etc’. I assured him I had everything I needed. So then he asked me if I want some Charlie, blow or clean cut. I was a bit stunned and found myself shaking his hand saying ” I appreciate you asking but I am ok”. Weird, so I figure Charlie is heroine? Blow is cocaine? But ‘clean cut’? Crystal meth? Any ideas?

I managed to find some sandals finally in my size, a number of shops had sandals I like but not big enough to fit my feet. After this I had some lunch, bought some really warm multi colored socks, and went on the city bus tour. It was raining to start off with so I sat downstairs, but as soon as the rain stopped I moved upstairs, better for taking photos.

We went up quite a steep hill and I jokingly said to one of the other riders “I bet we come out this way”. No need they assured me, the main road leads straight out of Cusco.

View of Cusco from top of hill

View of Cusco from the top of hill

We stopped at a statue of Jesus that was donated to the people of Cusco by the Palestine government in recognition of the shelter given to the Jews in the second world war.

Rest day two in Cusco . The Jesus statue from the Palestine Govt to the people of Cusco for providing sanctuary to the Hews in world war 2

The Jesus statue

After this the tour went to an Alpaca clothing factory. I bought a dorky looking, but really warm hat. Hopefully the socks and the hat will make a difference at cold camps.

On top of your bus in Cusco rest day two ( with my warm bed hat)

On top of tour bus in Cusco with my warm hat

We saw some Inca ruins that were a ceremonial centre and temple to the sun called Saqsaywaman.  The rocks were fitted together, some weighing up to 130 tons. The Spaniards took a number of the rocks from here for buildings in the town.

Photo of Sagsay waman in Cusco

Photo of Saqsaywaman in Cusco

Another view of Sagsay waman in Cusco

Another view of Saqsaywaman

Sun temple in Cusco

Sun temple in Cusco

On the tour I also learned that 70% of the adult population in Cusco work in the tourist industry, and the average monthly wage is $750 soles.

After the tour I saw two of my favorite riders Shirley and Dan from the USA sitting in a boutique beer bar so I joined them for a beer.

Dan, Shirley and Brett and boutique beer bar in Cusco

Brett, Shirley and Dan at a boutique beer bar in Cusco

I could not stay long as I was meeting Rebecca, a friend of Kelly’s, for dinner. Rebecca comments regularly on my blog, and has been travelling through Peru the same time as me, but only arriving in each place just after I left, so it was a good chance to catch up.

I met Rebecca in the lobby of my hotel and we headed off to a Peruvian restaurant “The Andean Grill” that was recommended when we went past on the tour. It was quite nice, I had fillet migon again, was nice had garlic in the sauce. Rebeca had lomas saltardo which is a Peruvian spiced stew. We traded stories about all the different places we had been. Rebecca has been on a number of Intrepid Tours all over the world. It was a good evening. Rebecca heads off next to walk the Inca trail.

Earlier when I had arrived at the hotel after the tour, I was greeted by the news that Eriberto, one of the full tour riders, was throwing in the towel and heading home the next day. “Too cold and too hard” was his reason. I was quite startled as he is one of the better riders and had given no prior indication that he was even thinking of doing this. However he is very cheerful about it and has booked his flights and will be home where he lives near Venice in less than two days, he tells us “drinking good coffee, red wine, enjoying fresh pasta and being warm”.

After dinner I went back to the hotel I tried skyping my son Dan, but the connection was really bad so I will try again tomorrow. Off to bed, last rest day tomorrow.

Water fountain in Cusco

Water fountain in Cusco

Interesting mural in Cusco

Interesting mural in Cusco

Small boy who waved and calked out whilst on your bus in Cusco

Small boy who waved and called out whilst on tour bus in Cusco

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 69/164: Lake camp to Cotaruse – 110km

Climbing 1,250 meters – down 2,300 meters

Thankfully no snow or gastro overnight, but it is bitterly cold – less than zero degrees. Trying to do things with numb hands makes everything take longer! Trying to get cold hands and gloves to work together is also not terribly successful. I am dressed for riding in long johns, long bike pants, icebreaker top, long john top, bike top, bike silk balaclava, hat, socks, water proof socks, thermal gloves, and I am freezing. Having breakfast and washing your plates is painful.

A number of riders are quite unwell and are going on the truck which looks so tempting I almost give in. Cathy became so unwell during the night she has a swollen face, and has had to be taken to a lower altitude.

Morning at the Lake camp (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Morning at the Lake camp (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

I set off, it is bitterly cold and my hands are frozen. I was finding it hard to get my hands to adjust the gears. I would have cried if I wasn’t worried that my tears would freeze on my face. I rode the first five kilometres trying not to ride over my bottom lip, and finally my hands started to warm up. Then the next five kilometres I had the stinging as feeling returned to them. I am sure a black cloud was oozing out around me, such was my lack of joy to be in this moment! Then I came round a corner, the sun had come up, the temperature was climbing, and there were hundreds of alpacas. There were white ones, brown ones, black and white ones, and baby ones. They look so gormless when they look at you, it is impossible not to smile (Editor’s note: I wonder if their ‘gormlessness’ reminded Kaye of Benji 🙂 )

An alpaca (Photo credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

An alpaca (Photo credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

I sat and watched them for a while as they were crossing from one side of the highway to the other. The trucks and buses are used to them but there are a few close calls with the cars.

I set off again warmer and happier, still finding the climbing difficult due to the altitude.

I got to the top of the climb (4,515 meters high) and then a 9 kilometre downhill. Unfortunately I was not paying attention at the rider’s meeting as was too cold, and did not hear about the 7 kilometres climb after that –starting at 4,200 meters in altitude. Suffice to say the morning was the most miserable ride so far I have ever had. I had to stop about every 500 meters going up the 7 kilometres. Lunch is usually about halfway so expected it would be about the top of this climb, which was at the 57 kilometre point.

Stopping often for photos & wondering where the lunch truck is - we're hungry and tired (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Stopping often for photos & wondering where the lunch truck is – we’re hungry and tired (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

I had two attacks of gastro on this 7 kilometre and was pretty sure I was hoping to ride the lunch truck to camp. However the lunch truck was not at the summit. I was not too concerned as there was a downhill but then it started climbing again. I did a couple of climbs, stopping often and then thought I am hitting the wall. I checked my phone, the time was 1pm so I had been riding for about 7 hours.

I stopped and ate some Oreo biscuits that I keep as an emergency supply. Then I continued on riding, getting off, riding etc. I finally got to the lunch truck at 75 kilometres. Clearly the effects of altitude on the riders had not been factored into today. I decided not to discuss this at the time as I was feeling pretty grumpy, though it turns out a number of other riders had had a go at the staff about this.

Leaving from lunch for Cotaruse

Leaving from lunch for Cotaruse

Given that there was only 35 kilometres to go, and there was a lot of downhill to come, I decided to continue. When the first 10 kilometres was rolling hills and then a climb I was starting to regret this choice. Thankfully at that point I came to a huge downhill switchback, and then more downhill all the way to camp.

Up a bit and then a spectacular downhill - the craziest switchbacks (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Up a bit and then a spectacular downhill – the craziest switchbacks (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

We are camping on a school soccer field. The school asked for donations of useful items rather than money, so we have bought sports equipment etc.

There were a number of children all watching everything we did with great interest, peering inside tents etc and wanting to take photos of us. Plus a few hopeful village dogs keeping a watchful eye on the dinner preparations.

A bunch of schoolgirls watching Marina set up her tent (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A bunch of schoolgirls watching Marina set up her tent (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Thankfully we are at 2,900 meters in altitude so it was a lot warmer than last night.

Dinner was beef and lentil stew, cauliflower, and rice.

Through a canyon (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Through a canyon (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Coffee stop on road to Cotaruse School

Coffee stop on road to Cotaruse School

Main Street - Cotaruse (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Main Street – Cotaruse (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 68/164: Puquio to Lake Camp – 56km

Climbing 1,470 meters, down 525. Climbing up to and bush camping at a lake at 4,200.

The gastro is back! But I think it is related to the altitude rather than a bug. I am also feeling queasy and breathless, so when I set off I was not sure I would make it to the lunch truck.

We are climbing all day and going up to 4,200 meters again. Getting out of Puquio was a huge switch back for about 23 kilometres that just stretched on for ever in the distance and was very daunting.

A morning shot of Puquio just before we left (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A morning shot of Puquio just before we left (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

I set off slowly and made my way up the never ending switch back, which of course did end and then was replaced by long up hills stretching for ever with big winding curves, and a head wind half the time. I have no idea how many times I stopped but I finally made it to the lunch truck.

Climbing out of town - more switchbacks. A view of the town from one of the loops (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Climbing out of town – more switchbacks. A view of the town from one of the loops
(Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Having got to the lunch truck I decided I may as well try to make the rest of the day. I rode the afternoon with Michelle, who was also finding it hard going. The afternoon was straighter roads, with some climbs and some rolling hills. Finally we made it to the turn, and walked our bikes on the sand and dirt until the last rise before camp and rode in.

The top of our ride and our camp are on the Antiplano (High Plateau). Here's a lake, well above the treeline (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

The top of our ride and our camp are on the Antiplano (High Plateau). Here’s a lake, well above the treeline (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

It was 2:30 pm and already cold. It was windy and bleak. It took two people to put up the tents otherwise the wind would tear them out of your hands. There were no washing facilities, so after I got the tent up, I had a wet wipe wash, and then put as much warm clothing as possible.

I have 5 layers on top including my jacket, two hats, gloves, long john’s, pants and socks, and am warm inside the tent. I stay there until it is time for the riders meeting. For some reason as we are all shivering in the cold by the truck (as there is no shelter) the TDA guide decides we have to wait until all the riders turn up before starting the meeting, then also decides to give the longest explanation ever about the next day’s ride which is basically turn right onto the main road for 110 kilometres!

It is freezing. We have to take our gloves off before we can get served dinner, even though the staff ladle the food onto our plate. I am sure the cold is clouding my views, but it was the worst meal I have had ever. I don’t like white rice, white pasta, or potato, especially when over-cooked, stodgy, or in the case of the potatoes lumpy (and often partially raw).

I do understand that this is the most economical food to serve, and knew this would make up a significant portion of the meals. Tonight however, when faced by a stack of stodgy totally over cooked food, which was apparently risotto, meat stew of some red meat description too tough to eat or decide what it was, all 3 small pieces swimming in gravy, and stir fried cucumber (I think). I took one mouthful and scraped my plate contents into the bin, washed my plate, and went to bed. I was in bed by 6:20pm. Due to the altitude I have been struggling to eat as I have no appetite .

At breakfast I usually manage tea and porridge, but it not really enough for 4 to 7 hours biking before lunch (usually I have a peanut butter sandwich as well). I try to take a banana, which I also don’t like, but is very good for easy to digest food. For lunch I usually have another peanut butter and jam sandwich as I keep away from all the left over food, or food that would usually be in a fridge. Then at dinner I don’t eat the rice/pasta/potato, so I am starting to think about what I need to do to supplement my diet. I also used to think I was not a fussy eater but I realize I actually am. I keep thinking I will get hungry enough to eat the rice/ pasta/potato but I don’t. Luckily I was well padded when I arrived, so I have plenty stored to see me through.

I got into my sleeping bag thinking I hope it does not rain or snow during the night. Cristiano spoke to some workmen further up the road who said it had snowed there the night before. The wind was buffeting the tent and I slept intermittently. The worst thing is being nice and warm in the sleeping bag but having to get up during the night. Also every time I turned over or got up I get breathless.

As we are told to keep well hydrated, it is a vicious circle: drinking leads to getting up more. Thus tonight was a “Why am I doing this again?” moment!!!!

Here's our camp. The ominous looking clouds are NOT rain clouds. Luckily, no snow (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Here’s our camp. The ominous looking clouds are NOT rain clouds. Luckily, no snow (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 66/164: Nazca to Pampa Galeras Camp – 90km

Climbing up 3,200 meters; down 100 meters (surely there is a missing zero?).

I am feeling quite daunted at the thought of today’s climb: 90 kilometres up, and getting up in altitude also, so I decided to add a couple more kilometres by missing the first flag. Thankfully some of the other riders did the same thing and we noticed quite quickly.

The climb for the first 30 kilometres was a series of switch backs, then just a road that kept curving and going up and up.

A photo of the winding road today  (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A photo of the winding road today (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Lunch was unexpectedly early at 38 kilometres, and we were given the welcome news that instead of 90 kilometres we were riding 70 kilometres 😀 😀 :D. At an average of 7.5 kilometres and hour this is nearly three hours less climbing!

The lunch truck today (Photo credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

The lunch truck today (Photo credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

At about 2,900 meters up the altitude starting taking effect. The scenery was stunning, but very hard to truly appreciate when you are gasping for breath.

I stopped at every shop for more water, and one PowerAde, and reapplied sunscreen countless times. I started taking altitude sickness pills today (which I should have started two days ago, oops!) and they say to avoid excessive exposure to sunlight. Well from 6:30am to 3pm I was out in the sun. Eight and a half hours climbing up a hill.

I was very pleased to get to camp. I got my tent up, sorted out my gear, had a wet wipe bath, and had a nap. In total I climbed up 2,192 meters.

The change in the distance was because it would have been more than a 3,200 meter climb, and the 20 kilometres we did not do today will be added to tomorrow’s ride.

It’s cold once the sun goes, I have a few layers on including a hat and gloves.

Dinner was chicken, pasta, and stir fry veges.

Bush camp - basically a cleared lot beside the road.  Dusty!  (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Bush camp – basically a cleared lot beside the road. Dusty! (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Bush camp - basically a cleared lot beside the road.  Dusty!  (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Bush camp – basically a cleared lot beside the road. Dusty! (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Day 33/164: Quito to Papallacta – 65k

2,633km down: 11,008km to go

The route for today is 65 kilometres – 1,858 metres up and 1,550 metres down. It does not sound like much but we are already at 2,800 meters and the plan is to go up to 4,050 meters, and camp at 3,900 meters! We are staying at Termal Santa Catalina.

When I went to bed I was planning on riding from lunch. Given the altitude there is no way I can do the whole day. I can only walk two steps and then stop for a breath, it would take me a week. As it turns out I did not need to worry about the ride, as my gastro returned with a vengeance during the night. So the truck for me again!

The riders did not have to convoy out of Quito, and the first 20 kilometres was on paved, reasonably flat, road and then the climb began. At 30 kilometres they had to turn off the highway onto a dirt road which was rocky, slippery, drizzling, windy and cold. We stopped for lunch 7 kilometres before the summit. Everyone was cold, and a number of riders still do not have enough cold weather gear. Yesterday I lent my rain jacket and rain pants, arm warmers and two hats!

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Leaving Quito in the sunshine (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at the main highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The rain, mist and cold arrives (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was pleased when the dinner truck stopped at the lunch stop, and I was able to go in that straight to camp, as it is boring sitting in the lunch truck especially when you can’t help.

I was not so pleased when I got to camp! What a bleak cold place. It was overcast, drizzling and cold. And of course no rooms! (Just our tents). One of the TDA staff suggested I go into the restaurant and get warm. Ha! That was just as cold as outside, there were no windows and I could not get the person who worked there to come to the counter, so I could not even get a hot drink (apparently there were problems all day with getting any service).

I slunk outside again and decided to put my tent up. Once that was done I decided I should put up the tent for one of the other riders who puts my tent up for me if it is getting late and I am not yet in camp. So those who know me, and my ability to put up tents the first time by myself, will already be smirking!

First of all I got it out and laid it out on the ground . . . Hmm, where do the poles go?! I turned the tent over a few times and finally found the channels where the poles go in. In they go, or not! as it turns out. I got one half way in and it came apart and I tried to put it together still inside but no success. I took it out again. I got both poles in but the tent was inside out or something – both poles were about 10 centimetres apart. Start again, this time I got them in the right way and the tent looked almost like it should. I put the tent pegs in and left the mallet for if it needed a bit of tidying up, and decided it was as good as it was going to get.

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Cold and wet camp tonight (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I slept most of the afternoon and then got up for the riders meeting and dinner. I didn’t not eat very much and was back in bed at 6:50pm. Fingers crossed my gastro has cleared up by morning as I would like to actually be riding some of this section.

I was very cold in the tent and had on long johns, ice breaker tops, hat, and jacket! I need to get a bivy sack and a thermal liner for my sleeping bag.

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We get to over 4,000m again today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Categories: Ecuador, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 14/164: Libano to Viani – 105 km

1,139 km down: 12,502 km to go

Of course climbing again today – 2,000 meters again! But with a big downhill as well. The consensus amongst the rides (who between them have done all the rides) is that this is harder than any of the other ride. Apparently this ride makes the South Africa ride look like a walk in the park.

Today's route and profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Today’s route and profile (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I patched the tyre before I left camp, as I don’t have any of the right inner tubes. I asked a few riders if they had a spare but there had been a number of flat tyres and everyone I spoke to either only had one themselves or their tube would not fit. So I set off thinking “hopefully it will hold for the day”.

The first 40 kilometres were great: rolling hills, and a massive downhill of about 20 kilometres. You could not go too fast though as every few kilometres there would be a bump or gravel, or it would suddenly get rocky and stoney.

After the downhill there was actually flat land for a few kilometres – the first flat land for days! I was enjoying riding along until I got my first flat tyre for the day.  Again the back tyre. I was changing this when two of the other riders, John and Asha, stopped to help. Once again I carefully checked the tyre – nothing! I checked the rim etc, no reason that could be seen. I thought perhaps the patch had lifted so I took it off and re patched.

Back on my way for another 2 kilometres, before another flat tyre, this time I changed it myself! Off again, another 5 kilometres, flat tyre again. I had to find a safe place to stop – 1) off the road and 2) out of the beating sun – 38 degrees!  So I walked to a safe spot, propped my bike up, it unbalanced and I cut my hand catching it. I could feel tears pricking at my eyes.

Just then Tom and Rhonda rode past and said the sweep was just behind them. In about 2 minutes Adrian pulled up and once again checked the tyre and rim, and found nothing. We re-patched it, and Adrian has a really good pump so good pressure in. While we were doing this a local with a ute stopped and offered a ride into the next town.

Off again, stopped about 3 kilometres up the road for some more water and caught up with Tim and Rhonda. The man at the shop noticed I was hot and gave me a fan to use, then gave me lessons in how to use it properly!

Off again, christ it was hot. Due to the flat tyres I was starting a 60 kilometre climb in the heat of the day. Got up another two kilometres and then another bloody flat – the rear tyre again!!!!

This time Adrian stretched one of my smaller inner tubes into the tyre. Then I began a mixture of walking and riding, and catching my breath, and taking breaks in the shade. I came around one corner and came across Tim and Rhonda who had decided enough was enough. They were either going to wait for the lunch truck to come back and get them, or try and get a lift.

Tim and Rhonda are leaving in Bogeta which is about two weeks earlier than they were planning to, because it is too hard. They are the oldest riders here, and although they have done other rides, this ride is harder than expected. It’s a shame as they are a lovely couple. One of the other riders said Tim was instrumental in the design of the first ever TDA ride.

I had the sweep behind me which always makes me feel bad about stopping and being so slow. In the end we decided that he would ride to the lunch truck and then get it to come back when all the other riders had had lunch. I kept going up and up, walking, stopping, panting, riding, sitting, almost out of water.

I decided if I ran out of water I was going to just sit in a cool shady place and wait. Down to the last bit of water and warming up to this plan and around the corner I came across a shop. I drank two bottles of water straight off and bought two more to fill up my water bottles.

I was just about to head off when a ute pulls up with Tim and Rhonda who were getting a lift to lunch – sadly no room for one more! So, up and off again, more of the same: riding, panting, walking, sitting etc.

I got to about another 5 kilometres from where I saw Rhonda and Tim and came across Ray sitting on a chair at a local’s house. I went over to talk to him and he said the hill went up another 15 kilometres and he was waiting for the lunch truck to come back. As it is hard for the truck to stop I decided to wait with him. I asked the man if I could sit down by pointing to the chair and he said I could. He was not over friendly – he was probably wondering what was next. About 15 minutes later the lunch truck arrives!

On my last trip I did not go in the lunch truck to or from lunch at all, and today I have not even made lunch. I am pushing myself as far as I can but the body is not obeying! I am reassured that everyone is finding it tough, but I am disappointed not to be completing days. A mixture of day after day of climbing, the heat, the altitude, being overweight, a heavier bike, and not enough training. Two things for sure: I will be much fitter at the end of this, and I suspect I will be much lighter.

Off to camp in the lunch truck again with Ray, Rhonda, and Tim. We got to camp and I set up my tent etc etc. Tyre was still up. Had a cold shower again.

Where we were camped it turned out it was in front of a bar, and it was Friday night. The locals partied until about 2:30 am, with loud music and enthusiasm. It reminded me of the camp sites in Italy and France. Like there, you just have to remind yourself that no doubt in your younger days you also kept people awake, partying into the small hours, and it’s their home and we are the weird foreigners occupying their space.

I slept intermittently. Once the music stopped, the roosters across town had a crowing contest, and then the dogs joined in. On a positive note, it did not rain and my tyre was still up when I went to bed.

Roadside shrine at about 600m up the hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Roadside shrine at about 600 metres up the hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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Day 13/164: Manizoles to Libano – 88 k

1,036 km down: 12,605 km to go (climbing 2,000 meters)

I set off in the morning with no idea of whether or not I suffer from altitude sickness. It turns out I certainly do. As I didn’t know if I did or not, I had not taken any medication. Coming out of camp it was straight up a hill – slippery gravel and rock, and on average 8% gradient but it seemed a lot more as it was so slippery. Plus we were at over 2,000 meters to start, and I have lived my whole life at sea level.

Profile for today's ride

Profile for today’s ride (Credit Sue’s blog)

After only about a kilometre, I started getting breathless and had to get off and walk. By the time the other truck (not the lunch truck, which heads off before the riders each morning, the other truck stays to pack up camp) caught up with me I had only managed to make 7 kilometres in over one and a half hours.


Leaving Manizoles, faced with a brutal climb up up up  (Photo and caption credit: TDA Facebook page)

The grey dog from camp had followed me for a while, then when I tried to shoo it home it ran on ahead. I figured it would go to a certain point and then return back home. Tim, who I was walking with for a while, thought 6 kilometres, I guessed 5, we were both very wrong.

When the tour trucks go by they toot. If you are ok you give the thumbs up, if not the thumbs down. I gave the thumbs down meaning I wanted a lift. There was another 8 kilometres of this slippery rocky road, and then another 25 kilometres to climb.

This truck carries most of the gear and does not have as much space for riders as the lunch truck. There were already three riders in the truck, plus six tour staff, and the back half was piled with gear. They managed to fit me in.

The truck getting ful

The truck getting full! (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I was wheezy when I got in the truck and went to get my inhaler out of my first aid kit, but it was not there! I must have taken it out for some reason at Medellin! I never not have my inhaler with me! Luckily the wheezing stopped ok.

It was really slow going, as the truck was slipping and sliding, plus there were over hanging bushes that had to be cleared as the truck is high with the bikes on top.

Another kilometre up the road Sue gave the thumbs down (end of her EFI), then another couple of kilometres another rider Fred gave the thumbs down. At this stage it was getting too much to take in the truck.

No room in the bus!

No room in the bus! (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We stopped at a restaurant / hotel at 15 kilometres and Henry (TDA owner) went in and spoke to the owner, who agreed to take 3 riders 5 kilometres up the road. He would not take any money. He took us up to what I thought was the summit and dropped us off.

The hotel picke

The hotel pick up (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

It was really cold so I put on all the cold weather gear I had and set off. The first 5 minutes was downhill, which was rocky and steep and hard to get down and stay on my bike, as I don’t have a mountain bike and lack confidence.

Then it started going up again – now we were over 4,000 meters above sea level. I was suffering really badly from altitude sickness at this point. It took me nearly 2 hours to walk from where I was dropped off to the lunch truck, which was about 3 kilometres. I managed to walk about 50 steps, then had to count to 50, then walk another 50 steps, and so on and on and on. I also had to have an occasional rest. The lunch truck was like a mirage, I could see it in the distance at least an hour before I got to it.

At one rest stop, two of the riders were sitting with the grey dog from the camp – it had walked about 40 kilometres at this stage. I was worried about how it would get home, but they told me it was actually a stray and the camp owners had shooed it away. No wonder it craved attention, but at least where it was it was surviving ok, not sure what will happen now. I turned my attention back to breathing and walking.

Luckily I have altitude sickness pills so will take them next time we are climbing up to 4,000 meters (you have to take them the day before, so there was no point taking one at this stage).

I finally got to the lunch truck, and was starting to feel pretty stuffed. I decided that even though the rest of the day was downhill I was too cold, and too stuffed. Plus it was slippery and rocky. There were a couple of riders in the lunch truck who had decided not to ride today at all.

The lunch truck took ages to make its way downhill. There were some bits were the road had fallen away that were quite scary. One of the riders Jessica put her helmet on, if we had gone over the side it would not have helped. Luis the driver is an excellent driver with many years of driving trucks and got us down safely.

When we went through the town it was like a Wild West town with one main street, guys with hats (not quite sombreros), lots of horses and dogs, and there people standing in most doorways  watching everything go past.


Seen on the ride downhill (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

About 10 kilometres out of town we passed the grey dog again! She had walked over 70 kilometres!  I was really torn, I wanted us to stop and pick her up but it would not have been in her best interests as we can’t take her across the border. I was very sad thinking of the poor dog, following along thinking it had found some humans to look after it. I only hope that it finds a safe home this side of the mountain, and I hope her paws aren’t shredded and she gets something to eat. Right, I have to stop talking about it, it makes me too sad.

I got to camp and had the usual riders meeting, dinner, set up my tent etc. As I was locking up the bike I noticed another flat tyre!  And again the back tyre! Decided I was too tired to do anything about it, and it could wait till the morning.

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