Posts Tagged With: Dog attack!

Day 71/164: Abancay to Limatambo – 116.6km

Climbing 2,450 and down 2,150 meters

Today was tough. We started straight away into a steep climb, 250 meters up in the first 4 killometres. After about 10 kilometres the road became a switch back, which is easier as it was newer and built with a more consistent gradient.

I caught up with Michelle at about 14 kilometres and rode with her to lunch. The climb was 36 kilometres long, and with tired legs it seemed to take forever.

Views out of Abancay (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Views out of Abancay (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

One of the riders who is usually really fast is suffering from altitude, and chest and sinus cold, and is really slow. I don’t think he should be riding at all. Grant is one of the few riders who is still EFI (has riden the whole ride so far) and is not wanting to give up his EFI status. I remind him his health is  way more important than the ride, and he assures me he knows this and will stop if he thinks he needs to, but I am still worried.

There are roadworks at about 25 kilometres and the traffic is stopped, but we are allowed through and have an hour on the road with no traffic. However the traffic above us is then let through and after the first few cars go whizzing down, totally disregarding the speed limit of 30 kilometres, Michelle and I get off the road just in time. Bus and trucks come racing down the hill in both lanes, and one onto the shoulder where we were. Once the traffic has gone past we set off again.

Finally we get to 36 kilometres and the top of the hill. Once again we stop to put on warm weather gear before the descent. There is about a 20 kilometre downhill before lunch. Once again a problem with a number of dogs rushing out. When we get to lunch about 1pm we find that one of the riders, Chris, has been bitten on the way down the hill.

Heading down: more crazy switchbacks (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

On the road today (Photo credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

After lunch it is downhill for a while, with a few ups. Amazing scenery with the river way below and the cliffs on either side. We get to the bottom of the downhill and cross over the river. Now we have 25 kilometres with an uphill gradient. Some of it is not nearly as steep as it seems, but our legs are tired, and Michelle and I are struggling.

A shot of the river and more stunning scenery (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A shot of the river and more stunning scenery (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

At 4 kilometres from camp we decide to stop for a beer (not from a fridge again, so it’s warm) and then set off again to camp. Once again a number of really aggressive dogs! One of the riders has bite marks on the heel of one his riding shoes.

We finally get to camp at 5:30pm. Taking out the hour for lunch and the beer, this was a 10 hour day riding – no wonder we are tired. I am starting to have trouble with asthma and have had to use the reliever a couple of times.

We only have 15 minutes to get up the tents before the riders meeting, after which it will be dark. In my hurry I forgot to clip one side of the top tent into its clip, which holds it off the under tent.

I rush off to the rider’s meeting, a number of people finish the ride this section:
Tony and Michelle from Oz (did Lima to Cusco)
Theo and Victor from the Netherlands (did Lima to Cusco)
Peter from USA (did Lima to Cusco)
Laura and Gregg from Canada (Quito to Cusco)
Pier from Sweden (Quito to Cusco)
We are getting two new riders in Cusco, not sure how far they are going.

Dinner was chops, broccoli, and rice.

Amazing views on today's ride (Photo credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Amazing views on today’s ride (Photo credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

We are camping at the Tarawasi Archaeological site, apparently originated by the Incas (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

We are camping at the Tarawasi Archaeological site, apparently originated by the Incas (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

We are camping at the Tarawasi Archaeological site, apparently originated by the Incas (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

We are camping at the Tarawasi Archaeological site, apparently originated by the Incas (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

And, here are some of the staff cooking steak for dinner. Peter and Jason (riders) are supervising (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

And, here are some of the staff cooking steak for dinner. Peter and Jason (riders) are supervising (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Some views of the surrounding landscape. A beautiful setting (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Some views of the surrounding landscape. A beautiful setting (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

Some views of the surrounding landscape. A beautiful setting (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

Some views of the surrounding landscape. A beautiful setting (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

 

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

Day 46/164: Las Lomas to Chulucanas – 84km (or not!)

Up 500 meters, down 645 meters.

We were going to be bush camping (no running water, shower or toilets) on a soccer field in Chulucanas. The soccer fields here are dry patches of dirt, so with the short day we weren’t motivated to rush to camp. I rode with Jackie for the day.

There are so many dogs here, most places seem to have at least two, plus there are strays in between towns, scavenging through the rubbish that is dumped there. I assume they are strays as they look underfed. A number of the dogs out the front of houses also look like they could do with a few good meals.

The road is full of tuk tuks, and carts and horses, if it wasn’t for the occasional motorbike and car you could easily think it was a 100 years ago.

We came to a town called Tambo Grande, it was crazy – tuk tuks darting everywhere, people, roadworks, unpaved roads, and traffic shooting out from everywhere, with very little – if any – regard for the traffic rules.

Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Not surprisingly in the chaos Jackie and I missed a flag at a roundabout. Luckily Jackie realized pretty quickly, and we made our way back again to the roundabout and got back onto the right road. A couple of quite aggressive dogs rushed, out but thankfully a local on a motorbike cut them off.

Turning left at the Farmers Statue  (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Turning left at the Farmers Statue (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We stopped for a drink and less than 5 kilometres later we were at the lunch truck at 9:15 am! The first riders were through before 8am. Today is going to be even shorter than planned as we are not staying at the soccer field any more, we are now stopping at 76 kilometres, at a proper campsite with showers/ toilets, a restaurant, and grass rather than dirt :D.

After lunch the road was basically flat, and before lunch there was not much climbing. The climbing must be between the 76km and the 85km we were meant to be doing today.

We came across a dip in the road with water in it, but thankfully we had seen locals going off road on a dirt road around it, as it looked pretty deep. There were two more dips like this, one with an off road option while the other looked really shallow. Luckily Jackie rode right to the very left of it and I followed her – four riders who went through the middle came off their bikes as it was slimy and slippery.

We went through a few quiet sleepy towns where even the dogs did not raise their heads from their dozing as we went through. Then we came to another crazy busy town, once again tuk tuks everywhere.

At the outskirts we came across one of the riders – Chris – whose chain had got caught in his cassette. We could not get it out so suggested that he and his bike got in a Tuk tuk and followed us to camp. The only problem is we did not know the name of the camp, or exactly how far it was, as we were originally going to be biking 83 kilometres and staying on a dirt soccer field, however Cristiano has found a better option at 76 kilometres yay! So off we went with Chris holding onto his bike. Thankfully it was only a few kilometres.

We got to camp, it was great – grass, a large covered restaurant area, and a pool. Certainly different than what we had been expecting (aka dreading).

My bike has started to make worrying noises and is getting harder to shift gears, so it went to bike clinic today and had something done with a bearing, and the gears adjusted, plus a check over, so hopefully it will not be as noisy. Jackie said she did not have to check if I was behind her, she could hear me!

We have had a change of route, instead of going through the mountains in Peru we are going to follow the coast. This is because there are no suitable places to camp for such a large group in the mountains, even bush camping. I am secretly quite delighted as I was not looking forward to altitude problems again. Another positive is we also pick up another rest day in Pacasmayo at the end of 7 days riding by the Pacific Ocean 😀

Dinner was pork stew, Israel couscous, and beans.

Tuk Tuk birthing station in Tampo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tuk Tuk birthing station in Tambo Grande (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 44/164: Catacocha to Macara – 86km

Up 1,530 meters; down 2,440 meters.

We all had a very disturbed sleep with roosters crowing and dogs barking most of the night, and a generator that kept turning on and off. Riders who had camped on the grass area also had problems with the wind trying to lift their tents up.

Just out of camp I had a run in with the very same dog as yesterday! But I picked up a rock and he took off.
A number of riders throw rocks at dogs, but I always worry that it will make them more angry, but with this dog I had already seen that it worked.

Leaving camp today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Leaving camp today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Out of camp it was up for about 2 kilometres and then mostly down with a few ups until lunch at 60 kilometres.

Wonderful sky this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Wonderful sky this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After lunch we rode down for about 10 kilometres, then 12 kilometres of up – some hills felt really steep – then rolling, and then down. Once again with great views and lots of brightly colored birds – bright orange, blue and green.

What views today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

What views today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

There were some unusual looking trees too, we think called Baob trees? There are trees that look like these in Australia called Baob trees.

Fabulous tree (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog) (Editors note: I'm not sure if these are the trees Kaye is talking about)

Fabulous tree (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)
(Editors note: I’m not sure if these are the trees Kaye is talking about)

The views once again were magnificent and the riding was great. I can see a big difference in my riding in getting up hills and generally feeling fitter. In saying that, I still had to stop a couple of times on the 12 kilometres uphill, but managed to ride most of it.

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At 72 kilometres I checked my notes and was delighted to find we were riding 85 kilometres, for some reason in my head it was 95 kilometres (Editor’s note: According to Sue’s blog it was 94km . . . ). I had another run in with a dog near the top of the hill and once again I had to get off my bike. I hope the dogs in Peru are bit less aggressive. A number of the riders had problems with this dog.

I got to camp at midday, so plenty of time to rest do washing etc. Some of the riders went into the town but it’s Sunday and most things are shut. No alcohol is served on a Sunday in town, although they are selling beer at the camp. No wifi and no phone service again (hopefully Kelly won’t worry that we have been delayed by protesters again, on our last day in Ecuador).

Lower tent city (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lower tent city (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Tomorrow we cross into Peru. Quite a short day and only 600 climbing.

Later in the evening my phone got service so I was able to send a txt to Kelly. Dinner was grilled chicken with quite a nice sauce, rice and stir fry, plus rock melon and pineapple for dessert.

Banana trees growing right by the tents (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Banana trees growing right by the tents (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 43/164: Loja to Catacocha – 99 km

Up 2,135 meters; down 2,430 meters.

It was very nice to have a sit down breakfast in the restaurant. I went in the lunch truck to lunch as planned, helped to set up lunch and then set off. I did not have lunch as it was only 9am.

The lunch truck had parked part of the way up a long climb. The first 8 kilometres was an uphill climb, and I was pretty pleased with the way I got up it. Then it was rolling hills, a couple of big downhills, then back to rolling hills all the way to camp.

Top of the first 500m hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Top of the first 500m hill (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Up along the top of the ridge it was pretty windy, and I nearly got blown out onto the road a couple of times. I got off my bike at one stage as it was so windy.  The view was fantastic, just mountains stretching away from both sides of the road as far as I could see. As we have seven days riding and I don’t know if I will be able to charge my phone at all, I did not take any photos of the view but hopefully Sue took her usual number of photos. It was great riding with the glorious views and the gradient not too steep.

Looking back from where we've come (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back from where we’ve come (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Up up up and up (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Up up up and up (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I got to camp about midday. Just before the camp I had a standoff with a dog. I had my bike between us and every time I took a step backwards he would rush at me snarling! Luckily a local lady saw what was happening and threw stones at him and he ran away.

We are staying at San Jorge x Aquatic Centre. It was built as an aquatic centre and had three empty pools. Sadly it was not well used by the local population and now is shut. The caretakers did fill up the small pool for us.

Tonight's camp swimming pool (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Tonight’s camp swimming pool (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I got a nice spot to camp up on a mezzanine floor with a good breeze. Given it was only mid day I went to get a coke instead of a beer. The coke was warm, the beer was icy cold! So no need to guess what my choice was.

On the way to the camp there was not really anywhere to get food apart from just before the camp, and I decided to wait until camp to get something.  Usually at camp there is a restaurant, or a local who has set up shop and cooks. Today there was nothing, and I could not be bothered riding uphill into town, but was now hungry as I had missed lunch.  I made do with peanuts and a couple of Oreo biscuits.

I did some washing as there was plenty of time to dry clothes, chatted to some other riders, and caught up on a couple of days with the blog.

At the rider’s meeting just before dinner we got an update on Phil. Most likely Phil will get airlifted to Quito tomorrow and his son from New Zealand will also come there. The hospital in Quito is bigger and better equipped. Phil is talking, but still very confused, but certainly he will recover. It’s early days yet to know how much, if anything, the head injury will affect him. We are all going to either wear orange clothing or put orange flagging tape on our helmets to keep Phil with us as we continue on our journey sadly without him.

Dinner was spag bol, fettucine and salad.

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 41/164: Yantzaza to Loja – 104km

2,732 up and 1,537 down . 104 k

I enjoyed getting up and not having to get dressed in the tent.

Out of the past 6 riding days I have ridden 3 full days, but today I decided with a 2,732 metre climb that I was only going to ride to lunch, which was about 60 kilometres. The first 40 kilometres were rolling hills. I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. Two riders, Jos and Jason, who are faster than me came past and I decided I was going to stay with them till 25 kilometres. A few times they got away on me, but I managed to catch up each time.

At 25.7 kilometres I let them go, caught my breath, had a drink and carried on. At 40 kilometres we started to climb. When I got to lunch I decided I had done enough and was going to stick with my plan to stop there. I am really pleased I did, as the climb went on for another 28 kilometres. It was steep, it got overcast, then it got misty, then it poured. A couple of the riders flagged down a ute for lift. Others arrived at the hotel wet and cold. A number of the riders were chased by aggressive dogs. One was bitten, and one had her saddle bag attacked!

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

There were some treacherous bits on the downhill, and one bit where the road dropped at one point about a foot. Sadly one of the riders – Phil from NZ – came off his bike here at speed. Thankfully one of the other riders was just behind him and made sure Phil was not moved, and organized the ambulance and contacted TDA staff etc. Phil has facial fractures and some swelling on the brain, and had to have burr holes (small drill holes into his skull) to relieve the pressure.

Phil’s condition was listed as serious but stable. Thankfully Loja, the town we were going to, was only about 10 kilometres away and has a pretty good hospital with a neurosurgeon etc. As you would expect, we were all pretty shocked and subdued, but relieved that it looked pretty definite that Phil will make a full recovery. However we are thinking that sadly it is unlikely that he be re-joining us on this tour. Phil is well liked and well known for wearing brightly coloured bike clothing, including stripy socks and a hats. Just this morning we had had photo taken as we were both wearing our NZ riding tops (Editor’s note: unfortunately the photos were of terrible quality due to “it being misty”, but luckily I managed to at least get a pic of Phil from Sue’s blog).

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops.

Picture of me and Phil in our NZ riding tops

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Phil modelling a new outfit today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

In the town where we are staying, it is the night of the annual religious pilgrimage where locals walk 70 kilometres carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary. This pilgrimage has gone on for over two centuries. When they get here they will gather in the Centre Plaza to have speeches, fireworks and other celebrations, and a church service tomorrow.

The first thing when I got to the hotel was to find my daily bag which had been unloaded from the truck but was missing in action. Luckily I located it. For some reason the hotel staff had put my bag and 3 other riders bags separately in a different space – they must not have realised how many bags were being off loaded and when they realised they would not all fit in the original space they put the others somewhere else.

Next step was a shower and to get my laundry sorted, and then a snack and a beer. The laundry place a couple of blocks away is much cheaper than the hotel, and assured us our laundry would be back tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying at is called The Howard Johnson Hotel, which is part of a chain internationally, but is not one that is in NZ. It’s very nice, but the service is patchy, although friendly. We have a rest day tomorrow 😀

Heading off to have dinner with Sue and Jackie (Oz), we realised when we tried to get a taxi that they were all full of locals heading off to the square for the festivities. We did manage to flag one down eventually and went in search of a restaurant that served wine. A lot of the smaller places just serve food. We all had fillet mignon which was nice but I did not manage to convey “rare” successfully. The desert menu looked tempting but it turned out all but one of the deserts were not available.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel and had desert in the hotel restaurant. They served the most amazingly delicious chocolate soufflé . Then off to bed, with no further news re Phil.

Tomorrow the plan is to have a look around the town, and buy more riding glasses. I lost a pair a few days ago, and the next day broke my spare pair.

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A local tourist spot on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 40/164: Marianita to Yantzaza – 104km

1,400 meters up and 1,700 meters down.

We had a 12 kilometre uphill straight out of camp, which is not something my legs like that much. Approximately, 400 meters to climb we were told, then a big downhill and then flat and rolling hills. It was actually 14 kilometres up and 600 meters of climbing! I am pleased I did not know that at the start.

Great views! I took my time climbing and finally got to the top.

Looking down over the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down over the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Layers of mist everywhere (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Layers of mist everywhere (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I enjoyed the downhill, but have to be careful all the time because of the changing road quality. One moment it’s a good surface, the next it’s gravel or even big holes. There are signs that warn you “Hundmiento!”, but often the sign is just before the problem area without much time to slow down.

The sign

Not a place – it’s a sign that there is an uneven area of road coming up. Ranging from a small patch of gravel to a large crater. The only problem is often the sign is only just before it, so not much time to stop.

Also the dogs are more aggressive here, I had to stop going downhill as one had decided I was lunch! I had a bit of a stand-off with my bike between us before I realised that I had got between her and her puppy, and managed to walk backwards (keeping the bike between us) until she decided I was out of her territory. Apart from the dog I got downhill ok and stopped for a drink. I saw a tree that had a number of vultures sitting in it, so stopped to take a photo. There were about 40 of them in the tree I first saw them in, and surrounding trees.

The ride until lunch was a mixture of rolling hills and some ups and downs. I am riding a lot better now than at the start, as I am fitter and I have lost weight. Also the temperature is not hot and we are not at high altitude. I really enjoyed the ride from lunch to camp, as a lot of the hills I managed to get at least half way up from the momentum coming down.

We are staying at Hosteria Playa Verde. The camp is great, it looks a bit like an island resort with thatched roofs and a bar by a nice pool etc. Also great rooms. I had one with an orange theme, and the shower room is big enough to wash an elephant in.

Hosteria Playa Verde

Hosteria Playa Verde

Roughing it at Hosteria Playa Verde

Roughing it at Hosteria Playa Verde

The camp has not been that well utilized since the owner built it, but mineral mining is about to start nearby so he is expecting that business will pick up considerably.

One of the riders Eric (from France) was celebrating having ridden 25,000 kilometres in the past 12 months. Eric has done the Trans Oceania (finished Dec 14), the African ride (finished mid May) and now this ride, back to back.

Eric celebrates cycling 25,000km in 10 months (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Eric celebrates cycling 25,000km in 10 months (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Helping Eric celebrate (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Helping Eric celebrate (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We had beans and vegetables for dinner. As a result of the protest action lots of shops have not got their usual supplies.

It was very nice to go to bed in a room by myself, in clean sheets after a long shower.

Kaye and Australian Jackie (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Me and Australian Jackie (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

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

The Pool Bar (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Pool Bar (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Erin on egg duty preparing for breakfast (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Erin on egg duty preparing for breakfast (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 37/164: Puyo to Macas (or not!)

The day sounded great 130 kilometres: 1,650 metres of climbing and 1,545 downhill, with mostly rolling hills rather than big climbs. Sue said the weather forecast was for no rain and a temp of 16 degrees which sounded good. Finally fingers crossed I am over the gastro :D. I set off from camp with the plan to take it easy and ride the whole day. There are 6 riders in the trucks due to gastro, and 2 in varying stages of gastro riding.

The dogs in Ecuador seem a bit more aggressive than Colombia, and at about 15 kilometres I had two come running off a property and take off after me. Luckily I was on a downhill and pedalled as fast as I could! Even so I felt the breath of one of them on my calf before I finally pulled away!

The riding was good, hills but up and down. Every now and then you would come to a random unpaved section. One of the riders hit an unpaved section unexpectedly and had to be picked up by the dinner truck as they buckled their wheel when they hit it.

As I was riding along I was thinking about getting to camp that night where we were told we had wifi. It’s my daughter Lizzy’s 26th birthday today (in NZ which is a day ahead), hopefully I can skype but if not at least leave a video Skype message and text.

The view is amazing, riding down a road whilst the Amazon jungle stretches into the distance on either side of you. It’s a “Pinch myself! am I really here!?” moment. How lucky am I to experience this.

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the sign that we had ridden 64 kilometres so only 11 kilometres to lunch and halfway through the ride. I’m feeling good. I come around a corner and there is bridge and halfway over it I see the dinner truck parked next to the lunch truck and a number of riders clustered around it. Oh no what’s happened? Hope no one is hurt.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What’s on that bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the buses with Policia and Military marking on the sides. There are protestors between here and the planned camp. We are not allowed to go any further. The Policia and military have guns and riot gear. The protestors are not from the local villages, they are from around the country and are by all accounts pretty staunch. They are prepared to fight for the cause. Our sympathies are with them, the last thing any country needs is a president elected indefinitely (which is what the current president wants to bring into law). Cristinao (I have been spelling it wrong with a h) went and spoke to the Policia to see if we can get through but no! Not even locals are allowed to get through to their homes.

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are now at a campsite at 65 kilometres waiting to see what happens overnight! Hopefully we can get through tomorrow, if not we go back to Puyo. However there is no phone coverage and no wifi so no birthday message to Lizzy :(. I had a little cry and sleep in my tent, I know she will understand but still feels bad, especially when I thought I had sorted.

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue's blog)

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue’s blog)

The owner of the camp site was carrying his pet anaconda around for people to have photos with, luckily he did not come anywhere near me.

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I think the owner is very pleased to have us, he has set up a bar, organized a walking tour to a spot of tourist interest (did not catch what it was), and fishing and then for a price he will cook your fish for you. Totally different ethos than hosteria el piguali (which I guess is the difference between staff who not share in the profits vs the owner of a place). I was going to go for a swim in the river, then I saw the sign “River snakes”! No river swim for me.

At the riders meeting, we found out the plan at the moment is to continue tomorrow, to finish today’s ride and tomorrow’s ride as well! 171 kilometres, up 2,600 meters, down 2,250 meters.

Dinner tonight was stewed sausages, pasta and nice crunchy broccoli.

Rider's meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 7/164: Caucasia to Ventanas – 138k

568 km down: 13,073 km to go

Christiano told us at breakfast that the plan was to continue to Medelin. So off to Ventanas take two.

It had rained quite heavily during the night so I had to pack away a damp tent. I must buy some water proof bags on the next rest day to store it in.

So off (again!) for 102 kilometres of rolling hills, then 36 kilometres to climb 2,000 meters. Not sure I will do it all, as my legs are still very tired from the 12 hour ride on “mud day”.

We had been asked to ride in at least pairs due to the rebel and military activity. I started off with Sue, but was holding her back so then teamed up Nelson who was having a slow day.

There were military and policia everywhere, and all trucks were being searched. About every two kilometres there was a solider with a rifle standing at both sides of the road.

We got to about 90 kilometres and came to where the sewer pipe under the road was blown up, it had done quite a lot of damage. They must have had a large workforce to get it reopened overnight. It was just before a bridge. If they had blown the bridge this would have caused much longer delays to the traffic as it would not have been able to be fixed overnight, it would have been at least another whole day. The general feeling is that it was a statement by the rebels to be noticed, but not cause total chaos.

There were three tanks parked at the side of the road – first time I have ever seen tanks in actual use!

Lunch stop with a tank (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lunch stop with a tank (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

As you go along the road the locals have washing drying along the paddock fences, as well as the front of their houses. Even at the most modest of the houses the paths are swept and there are flowers out the front. Not all the houses have water, and we saw a number of woman walking along the road with water.

Washing hung out to dry

Washing hung out to dry (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The temp got up to 32 degrees, so we stopped for more water a few times. There are still endless dogs, cats, chickens and livestock. I am a bit wary of dogs standing at the side of the road in case they rush out, but we came round a corner and there was a cute little puppy trying to break into a rubbish bag. Well, he must have thought I was interested in it, as he rushed out at me very ferociously. I was half nervous and half laughing.

The locals were still mostly smiling and waving out at us but as we got to closer to where the explosion had taken place we were greeted with total silence. Must have been really scary for them, and no doubt they are worried by the really heavy military presence.

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A typical sort of home in this part of Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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And next door a ‘richer’ house (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

Along the road there are hoses with water coming down from the mountain, and they have holes in them with water spurting into the sky. This is where the locals wash the passing trucks and cars for a fee. Turns out they also wash foreigners on a bike unasked and for free, but with delightful smiles whilst doing it.

Hundreds of water pipes spraying water out (photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Hundreds of water pipes spraying water out (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I went through a couple of towns where there were lots of locals on horseback. I saw a couple of horses along the road carrying two milk urns one on each side. I have seen a number of cows being milked by hand.

I got to the lunch stop in good time so I decided to have a go at the hill. The gradient was not that steep, only 6 to 7%, but my legs were very tired and there were trucks constantly going up and down.

I saw two local boys latch onto the back of a truck to ride up the hill – very dangerous, but not as dangerous as the family going up sitting on top of the trucks with their toes tucked under rope!

The traffic is totally crazy, they pass on blind corners with double yellow lines. How the road is not littered with wrecks I don’t know. There were also two trucks broken down, and a couple just stopped where they had nipped across the road totally blocking the traffic, leading to even more crazy passing.

After 5 kilometres I decided enough for the day, what with tired legs, scary traffic, and I had a big sting/ bite on my legs so I decided to sit it out and wait for the lunch truck. Just after the lunch truck picked me up, it got foggy and you could barely see where we were going, so I was pleased I had called it a day. It took over an hour to go the remaining 33 kilometres to camp.

The mist descends (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The mist descends (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

When I got to camp the choices of where to put up the tent were a soggy paddock or tarmac by the side of the road. I chose the swampy soggy paddock.

Just after I got the tent up it started to rain. All 35 riders were cramped under an awning for the rider’s meeting and dinner. Even though the temp was 17 degrees it felt chilly. I had dinner and went straight to bed. I had a choice of an open shower with a main road passing, or wet wipes – I chose the wet wipes.

Cramped under the awning watching the rain (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Cramped under the awning watching the rain (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We were not sure what the plan was for the next day as we had lost a day and had to be in Medelin in two more days riding. The rain started to pelt down just as I got into my still damp tent, but it was cool enough to tuck up into my sleeping bag.

We were about 2 kilometres from a military base and they had advised they were going to be doing a practice exercise that night, so not to be alarmed if we heard gunshots etc. We did check they knew where all our tents were. As it was I heard nothing, but the sound of the trucks going past would have drowned most things out.

The place that we camped was where the owner had put in toilets especially. He and his family were very hospitable and were bringing out small cups of coffee to the riders as they arrived.

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

Day 79: Avis to Benavente – 104k

6,233km down: 55km to go 

It was a very quiet camp site last night, but I still managed to wake up at 2am and stay awake for a couple of hours. “Oh well” I thought “At least it is the second to last night in the tent, and its not raining”.

I know I have probably bored you all to tears with my running commentary on the toilet facilities where we stay. However as I have talked about the other countries I can’t not mention the Portuguese facility. So I walk in and the first thing I see is a squat toilet, no paper but a hose, and no hand rail to lever up and down! Thankfully I went to the next cubicle and there is a toilet bowl, though once again no seat and no paper. In comparison to the squat toilet it is not so bad, apart from the fact they don’t really flush. You push the button and about a teaspoon on water comes trickling out, so not the cleanest. There was no soap which is par for the course. The showers are full of empty shampoo bottles, toilet paper (I don’t even want to imagine why that was in there) and hair. I felt like I needed a shower after the shower, ugghh! The camp site was well lit though so no problem finding your way to the facilities in the dark.

There was no rain over night and as we have moved back an hour since coming into Portugal it was light this morning when we had breakfast. When we got the instructions for the day – YAY!!!! No tenting tonight, we are staying in hotel, hurray! Yahoo! A bed etc.

Tonight we will get our tour tops so we can wear them into Lisbon tomorrow. The ride tomorrow is going to be short about 50k, of which 35k is a convoy. We will have a celebration when we get there with photos etc. Then we’ll have a break to pack up bikes, get changed etc and then our last dinner together.

Even while today riding it did not seem real, but tonight it is starting to sink in. Especially as I have spent the past hour writing thank you cards for the TDA crew. They are all amazing people and I am going to miss them. I have been challenged on many levels on this trip and they have been supportive and encouraging all the way.

Today was 104k which makes our total so far 6,233k, so we have definitely done the distance on the shirt which is 6226k, phew I won’t feel like a fraud when I wear it. Today was not so challenging, a few climbs but nothing significant. There were two gravel roads, one about 4k and one about 10k. A couple of the riders are not happy when we ride on gravel because they have thin road bike tyres, but hey, it says clearly in the tour information we will go off road onto gravel and dirt roads.

We had one highway we had to go along that did not have much of a shoulder, and there were trucks, so it was a bit hairy. The Portuguese drivers are not as relaxed and bike friendly as their Italian and Spanish counterparts. We discovered this within about 5k of entering the country, when two cars cut us off at a roundabout.

So we were wary of the traffic, but mostly it was pretty good, only a couple of cars got a bit close. At the lunch stop Esther made us laugh, she had flagged the stop with the usual orange tape, but had also written last lunch with the tape (tomorrow we have a packed lunch).

Last Lunch Stop

Today at about 20k we were rushed by a couple of guard dogs. The gate to the yard they were minding was open, and all of a sudden out they came! I concentrated on not making eye contact and not moving my legs as it was a slight downhill, so I just glided through, and they let us go. They got pretty close to Daniel, with one being on each side of him, and he could feel the cold of their noses on his buttocks, but once he stopped pedalling they let him glide through. Carol was the last rider through and she was bitten on the leg, whether it was because she was yelling and kicking out at them, or they had just had enough, who knows but I will maintain the same gliding strategy in future.

We saw lots more calves and lambs today, so it is clearly a planned strategy, not accidental. Also saw a field full of white herons, it had been watered and they were down on the ground.

We got to the hotel about 2pm. I needed to dry out my tent as it was wet from dew from last night. I went into the park across the road, and got a few curious looks from locals, wondering no doubt exactly what I was up to sitting on the grass with my tent in two layers spread out in front of me.

Tonight we are having dinner in the restaurant. When we arrived we had to make a choice – fish or chicken. I chose the fish as it comes with corn bread which I am very partial to. I hope I don’t get food envy when looking at the chicken.

Hotel Vila in Benavente

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Day 13: Biržai to Anykščiai – 118k

1,109km down: 5,116km to go.

Well lucky we got a room because it poured most of the night last night! When we set off we promptly made a wrong turn and added an extra 2k to the trip. It did not seem like much at the time but by the end of the day…

For the first 10k there were spots or just wisps of rain. After about 5k I stopped to take a photo of milk urns sitting at the side of the road. Daphne and Shirley didn’t stop, and I didn’t see them again until just before lunch. Now that I am a bit more confident I am actually happier riding by myself as I can stop and take photos, and just look around, and be in the moment. I am unlikely to ever visit most of the places again. I then stopped to take a photo of a women sitting in a paddock milking a cow, just further on there was a lady going to feed her cow, and it was wagging its whole body in welcome as she walked up to it, something I have not seen before.

I have not yet mentioned the fencing here, or should I say lack of fencing. Each cow is tethered either by a halter or a foot chain and they get moved each day to a new feeding spot. By the numbers of cows and the numbers of houses it looks like each house has one, or occasionally two, cows. While I was taking a picture just further up the road of this huge garden in front of a small house, the lunch truck went past. About another 3k up the road the sweep was waiting for me, due to our wrong turn coming out of camp the rest of the riders where all ahead of us. I rode along with Ciran chatting about nothing in particular for a few kilometres and then caught up with Rob, then Jenny, then Walli.

After that I was my own again for about 2 more kilometres and then the rain started, and it rained and rained. About 7 kilometres before lunch I caught up with Shirley and Daphne, and after about another kilometre it started really pelting down. We came across a bus stop with a shelter and stopped to let the worst of it pass. It rained so heavily the road started flooding! It eased off so on we went in a glum convoy (Rob, Jen, Walli and Ciran had caught up and waited out the rain as well).

When we got to lunch it was pouring. A number of the riders were saying they wanted a lift, but there are only two spaces on the lunch truck. Louise said at least 5 times “Well I am going in the truck” until her husband said “Ok, I think we have all got that!”. Gregor tried to get hold of Christiano to bring the other truck (but over 70k to travel back to pick up and again only 2 spaces!). Anyway with demand exceeding space I drove off, as the last thing I wanted was to get cold again.

Daphne had given me a pair of rubber gloves and I was wearing them inside my gloves, which I had wrung out at the lunch stop. It poured for awhile and then it stopped, then it poured again. At one stage it started to really bucket down just as another sheltered bus stop came into view, so once again I took shelter. In the bus stop there was a Lithuanian women who I said hello to. She chatted away to me, I have no idea what she was saying but she was smiling away as she said it – could have been “you are a totally crazy person”. She waved at me as I drove off.

Coming into the outskirts of a small town there was a dog lying in the middle of road looking at me. Although most of the dogs have been behind fences and those that aren’t have generally been ok, we have had a couple of instances of being chased so I stopped and was not sure what to do: I waited, the dog waited, I inched forward, the dog slithered forward as well. I was aware there was another rider not far behind me so I decided to wait for them – the dog seemed a substantial size but could not tell what breed it was. Just as the other rider came into view a car came the other way and the dog leapt up and took off. Well the big dog turned out actually to be a dog with the shortest legs you have ever seen – a body the size of corgi but legs half the size.

I kept up with Garett easily on the flat but then we got to some rollers which still slow me down. When I got to 100k mark I stopped at another bus stop to have a drink and a snack, and the sun came out. Daphne and Shirley caught up and we rode the rest of the way together. It was a hard riding day and the last 15k was rolling hills, some of which you did not have enough momentum from the down to get you up.

The last 6k was up dirt roads, so we were weary when we got to camp. The first truck carrying riders passed us at about 103k and the 2nd only passed us about 500 meters before the camp, so it was much better to have ridden.

The accommodation was a four bedded room, Wally and I had to share a double bed. There were two other 6 bedded rooms – one was full and the other the owner would not let people use unless there were no beds left in the other two rooms. In the whole camp site there were only 2 toilets and 2 showers! One was in our building, the line took about an hour and a half and there was nowhere to dry clothes – and it was raining.

To add to the joy, the steps up to the room and the balcony were treacherous with slime, so I quickly got my daily injury over and done with, and slipped on the slimy balcony. Thankfully nothing hurt, just revolting slime on my clothes.

There was a large German Sheppard dog, very motley looking, chained up and incessantly barking which was really annoying. But there was also a stalk nest up on eye level just outside the building we were staying in, so it was a good chance to get really close and see the chicks, which by now look almost the same as their parents, just slightly smaller.

When we arrived, the owner told us that he did not have any beer on site – even though he had previously told the tour people that he did. He seemed a reasonable person, and he said he would go up the road and get some home brew for us, at 6 Lats a head, which we thought was pretty fair.

After he got back, we crowded around the long picnic table that sat 8, there were 14 of us drinking, but as I said – we have been sitting all day, standing is good for us. We noticed the dog was off his lead and we thought nothing of it. It came and nosed around our table but luckily as it was so mangy no one tried to pat it, and it wandered off. About 5 minutes later we heard shouting and screaming, and Miles – one of the tour guides – comes up past our table looking for the owner, with the dog in a chocker hold. The dog had gone to bite his son Kaya (who is 2) and his wife TJ (not really her name but her real name is unpronounceable), plus it bit the child of another family who were staying at the camp, and had arrived just after us. Miles wanted the owner but we could not find him. I told Miles I would show him where the chain was to hook the dog back up. Luckily Michele came with us, because when Miles did the dog up he tried to jump back away from it, but it turned really quickly and locked onto his arm – it only let go after Michele kicked it repeatedly in the head. As it let go Miles dived away from it doing a forward roll and only just got clear of its snapping teeth! One of the riders Don is an Ed consultant so he did the immediate first aid. Miles, Kaya and TJ went off to the closest hospital.

When the owner was finally located, he was a total dork. First of all he was adamant that Miles, TJ, Kaya and the other child had got bitten because they went into the dog enclosure, then he said one of us must of let the dog off. The other family with the small child left. But we had to stay as it’s not easy to find another space at 6pm at night for 24 people! By the end of the evening the owner was convinced that actually it was not his dog at all, it was a stray dog who had run away and now run off again. He was very belligerent and offended when asked about his dogs rabies status, and he sat brooding and glaring at us. It was very unsettling and I would have liked to have been able to leave. The tour people will avoid his place in future.

I went to bed early sharing a small space with three other people and a communal toilet that the door creaked and squealed each time it opened – this did not lead to a great sleep. Once again Walli’s ability to sleep was awesome – she did not stir all night!

Up again in the morning with wet shoes, wet gloves, wet arm warmers and an overcast sky, but we were pleased to be going! However, in regards to a dry bike seat, never again will I go to a hotel and not collect the shower cap – during the day you put it over your helmet when it rains, and when you stop you put it over your bike seat!

Miles and family returned from the hospital, Miles was full of shots and his arm was in a big bandage. On medical advice he will stay in Vilnus (our next town) for 5 days, and meet us in Warsaw!

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments