Posts Tagged With: Lost in translation

2nd July: 2nd day in Amsterdam

Later breakfast again at 9:3,0 nice not having to be up at 6 am. A bit strange that there is no more biking until I get home.

We left the hotel and walked to the metro to head back into town to look around a bit more. We needed to make a change after one stop to get onto a different metro, as there is part of a line closed. As we got onto the next train we realised we were on the wrong train and went to get off, but only Shellbe got off before the doors closed! So much easier these days with cellphones in this situation. Very quickly worked it out and then ended up back on the same train heading into the central station.

I had wanted to go to the Anne Frank museum but had been unable to get tickets on line. They appear to be sold out for months (I later discovered more are released online daily at 8:45 and 11:30am). The website said you could buy them at the actual museum for after 3:30, so we headed off to the museum.

Outside the museum were some guides, so I asked one where we went to get tickets. His reply was “Where they are sold, when they are selling them”, so I asked when are they being sold, and no lie his response was “When we are selling them”! What a great asset he must be.

Thankfully we found another guide who had an understanding that their role was to be helpful, who advised they go on sale at 3:30 if there are any left. They don’t know until that time how many there will be. Sometimes very few. As it was only 11am I was not inclined to start queueing, and Shellbe had been there before when she was here as an exchange student.


Outside Anne Frank House

We went off and continued looking around and came across a cheese museum. We had great fun looking at the different cheeses and trying some. The cheese came in all colours, including green (pesto as an ingredient), bright blue and bright red (not sure what was in these). We also enjoyed trying on the traditional cheese making clothes and taking photos.


Dutch cheese maidens


Coloured cheese anyone?


After this we went to a tulip museum and then decided to have a cold drink. We stopped at a place by a canal (but I guess hard not to in Amsterdam) and watched people going by.


A’noon beverage time 🍺

At this stage Shellbe headed off for the rest of the day to catch up with a friend who was an exchange student at the same time as her, who has not longed ago moved to Amsterdam from Turkey. Brett and I had lunch and watched the crowds for awhile.

We then headed back to the Anne Frank Museum as as an ex-work colleague of Brett was in Amsterdam with his wife and they had tickets at 3pm to the museum. It was about 2:30pm and quite hot, so while we were waiting I decided to sit against the wall in the shade, and found a suitable space and sat down. I felt people tensing around me and looked up to see people glaring at me from all directions! Oops! I had just sat two spaces from the front of an exceedingly long queue of people who had been waiting for hours to get museum tickets! So I moved from there very rapidly, apologising and assuring people I wasn’t trying to get tickets. Brett caught up with his friend and wife (which was when I discovered tickets were released online twice a day).

We then went off and continued sightseeing. Later in the afternoon we caught the ferry from the central railway station to north Amsterdam, where the annual TDA alumni dinner was taking place. Given these are generally across the other side of the world from me I haven’t attended one before, but it seemed a good opportunity given we were already in the city (which of course was the reason for the timing).


Party boat on the Brouwersgracht

The ferry that we caught was just for foot passengers and bikes. At the dinner we sat with Yvonne, Scott, Ruth, Peter and John H, who had all been on our ride. Apart from that, the rest of the diners were TDA staff or Dutch, bar one other rider who had flown in from England.

There was not really any mingling, and apart from a quick welcome from Henry and auctioning of a book, it was pretty much like any other riding day dinner of the past month, so not high on my priority list to attend another one. The food was Tapas.

A number of us shared a taxi back to the hotel.


Bikes, bikes, bikes everywhere near Central Station

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Day 15: Innsbruck to Garmisch – Partenkirchen (aka GAP)

64 km of riding, with 815 meters up and 666 meters down


Today’s ride

My arm and wrist is very painful today, which is most likely because like an idiot I stopped taking anti-inflammatory as I thought I no longer needed to take them. I am back on them now.

The first hour of riding was along flat bike paths, and we rode 21 km. The next 20 km took two and a half hours! This was spent pushing the bike up 17% gradients with slippery gravel, riding when able to and and pushing my bike down hill, with rockslides, gravel and some steep gradients.


Pettnau, Austria

At some point we crossed into Germany, some of the other riders said it was when we went through a field full of cows with bells.


Tidy farmhouses in Krün, Germany

There are lots of other cyclists going both ways on the bike trails, some are friendly, some look like they are having a horrid time, and some ride two abreast and only swerve at the last minute back into single file, which is a bit nerve wracking.

The last 15 km on was mostly tar seal, so despite the 2 1/2 hours to do the 20 km we arrived at the hotel at just after one pm, to find the rooms were not ready. We got changed and walked into the city centre to catch up two of the riders, Daryl and Alex, at an Irish Bar. The Irish bar had the most amazing view of the Dolomites.


At Garmisch- Partenkirchen – view of the Dolomites in the background

When we arrived the TV was on, playing the NZ national anthem then the Maori All Blacks did a Haka. It was quite nice hearing and seeing it over the other side of the world.


Maori All Blacks on the TV at an Irish Bar

I had a lager and Brett had a Guinness and got given a bag of Guinness chips (or chippies as we call them), they were seriously delicious.

Daryl is one of the Aussie 6 from Sydney, and had been here a couple of weeks before the ride doing training. Daryl does ultra marathons where it goes over three days. Day one swim in the ocean 10 km and bike 150 km, day two bike 240 km, day three run 84 k (2 full marathons). Daryl is in his late 60s and the last one of these he did was last year, and he currently holds the record for his age group. This explains his incredulous look when he saw me sitting outside the hotel when he arrived. “Take the truck did you?” he asked, and when I said no he wanted know where I had passed him (the Aussie group stopped for coffee at the top of the second 20 k). Daryl is retired but was a stock broker.

Alex is also one of the Aussies group from Sydney, he is the oldest in the group at 74 but is a very strong rider, and often leads the Aussie peloton. Alex is also retired and had a career in some sort of advertising.

IMG_2731 (1)

Alex and Anthony

On the way back through town we stopped at a Chocolaterie called Amelie, it was amazing – so many different types of chocolate, and so many tasting platters! Yum!


Chocolaterie Amelie


Chocolaterie Amelie

Back to the hotel for a shower, and then we went to dinner where we had the most unfriendly waitress ever, and she stayed consistently unhelpful and unfriendly for the evening.


Initially I was sitting with Jeff and Dianne, Robert, Graham and Brett. However it was so noisy, and there was quite a long wait so Dianne and Jeff left to eat elsewhere. Robert is one of the Aussie 6, and I never got round to getting a photo of him. He is a psychiatrist who works both in private and public in Sydney.

Dinner was a nice tomato soup, followed by mushy vegetables and tough chicken, with lovely mushroom sauce, and fried potato medallions. Dessert was fresh fruit and sorbet, all served with a frowning, unfriendly waitress. The waitress asked where Jeff and Dianne had gone, and I said they were having problems with the noise and hearing. Her response was “People with hearing problems shouldn’t travel in groups”.


Jeff and Dianne, with Miriam (in high vis)

Tomorrow we get into Munich, the end of this stage. A number of riders finish here, including Anthony the cardiologist and his wife Kerrie who is a maternity nurse, who provided assistance when I had the tachycardia the first day riding. I had been planning to get them a bottle of wine all trip and finally did so today. I gave up trying to explain to the wine waiter that I was buying it for another table, as I wasn’t getting anywhere, so just ordered it and when it arrived I took it over to them.

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Kerrie (left), and Torpie and Darryl (in blue shirt)

We are staying at Mercure Hotel.


Editor’s caption: I received no caption for this photo. Nor is there any mention of it in this blog entry. However, I am doing my due diligence and including it here for your enjoyment. 


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Day 11: Maniago to Cortina d’amezzo

The whiteboard said 120 km, with 2600 meters up and 1100 meters down. I was not sure what the gradient was going to be and was a bit daunted as we set off from the hotel.

We pretty much started climbing straight away, with some sections not so steep. At about 15 km I realised I must not have done the top on one of my water bottles up properly as I have lost it. Hopefully we will pass a shop so I can refill the bottle I have.

We seemed to go up and up and up and up, some tough gradient. At about 30 km we had some very pretty lakes and not much of a gradient for awhile, but then the climb began again. We had a couple of small tunnels, so it was nice and cool inside. At an average speed of approx ten km/hr this was going to be a long day.


Old rail trail

We passed through a number of villages, and all the houses had impressive stock piles of wood ready for next winter.

At 52 km we went through quite a long tunnel, but it had gaps on the side and way below it was a very pretty town. We had a fantastic 10 km downhill to the town, then climbed up to turn and leave the main road, to go along a side road along the river to the lunch stop.


Big climb Day. Check out Kaye’s eyes “WTF have you got for me around the corner you bastard hill?”

At 1:30 pm, after 5 and a half hours riding, I got to lunch. By this stage I had climbed 1,330 meters with only 68.5 km ridden. At this stage, looking at my riding speed I wouldn’t get to the finish until 8 pm. Taking into account my cold and my sore arm, we decided Brett would ride ahead and I would take the truck.

The only problem with that idea, is that on this trip there is a lack of infrastructure and the truck can only take 4 riders – and 6 riders wanted a ride. We tried to order a taxi, not but not surprisingly a driver from Cortina (60 km away) was not keen to come to pick up people from a ‘river’, with not great directions and language barrier.

The next option was to get the dinner truck (the one that goes straight to the hotel and flags the route to come back) which meant a couple of hours wait. Then this wait would be even longer as Gergo, who was driving the dinner truck, had to go and pick up Tony who had come off his bike. We were not clear about why he couldn’t then continue to come and get two of us. So then we had a bit of a standoff: none of the 6 of us now want to start riding, as another hour has past and we will be looking at arriving at 9pm instead of 8pm.

Without any other solution apart from two of us riding, and not wanting to be involved in deciding who that will be, I asked John W if he is prepared to hitch hike with me.

John W and I set off taking our helmets (but not our bikes as they can go on the rack on the back of the truck) with us to hitchhike. To start we had to walk back the 3 km to where we left the main road – while wearing our cycling shoes.

Luckily once we got there the 12th car stopped for us. The male driver was Italian and spoke no English, he wasn’t going as far as Cortina but agreed to give us a lift to where he was going. He wanted to know where our bikes were, but with the language barrier we were not able to explain.  We did manage to convey that we had accommodation in Cortina, and John knew how to say it was a beautiful country.

We thought at least if we get to a town we will be better off. Well bless this man, there may have been a language barrier but he took us into the middle of a town about 20 km from where he had picked us up, and dropped us off at a bus stop. We offered him money but he wouldn’t take any.

So there we are at the bus stop trying unsuccessfully to read the bus timetable in Italian, when a bus turned up.
We asked the driver “do you go to Cortina?”
“No” he said “3 minutes”, then got out of his bus, locked it, and went across the road!
So then John and I are wondering does he mean he drives the bus to Cortina but not for 3 minutes?
Well exactly 3 minutes later the bus to Cortina arrived! To say we were happy would be an understatement! The bus took us to Cortina and dropped us off in the centre of town at the bus stop. Then we just had to find the hotel! Would you believe, right there in front of us: orange flagging  tape! Which we followed the 2.5 km to the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel at exactly the same time as a Brett, who had of course made excellent time not having to wait for me.

Tony, the rider who came off his bike, was unharmed but broke the hanger for the derailer and had no spare! Luckily the bike shop in Cortina, whilst not having the correct one for his bike, managed to fashion one to fit.

On arriving at the hotel I immediately had a cold beer with John W, Brett and Walker (all four of us did the Trans Europa in 2012).


Safe arrival beers: 2 riders, 2 hitch hikers!!!

Afterwards, I had dinner with John, Walker, Brett and Graham. We had pasta with tomato sauce, Chicken schnitzel  (nasty and dry), Strudel and ice cream, and Red wine called Pinot Nero

The Hotel we are staying at is called Menardi Hotel.


View from the balcony

Walker and his Wife Carol – both retired
Walker and Carol did the 2nd half of the 2012 TransEuropa
They are from USA. Walker was an investment banker and Carol a music teacher. Carol is on a singing tour (she is in a choir) of the UK, whilst Walker is doing the ride. They have 3 children and 2 grandchildren, no cats or dogs.

John W and Marilyn (doesn’t ride), they have 2 sons, no pets
John is an almost retired university professor from Vancouver, he still does some consulting. This is his 4th TDA ride.



1956 Olympic ski run

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

To Bosnia I go!

In Dubai we had to catch a bus from the terminal and then wait by the plane while the bags were loaded. I was watching the loading and saw what looked like my bag but not my bike box. I crossed my fingers that it was already loaded. The short walk from the bus to the plane had me dripping with sweat – 37 degrees out on the Tarmac.

Onto the plane and the first problem: there was a man sitting in my seat! He had no plan of moving. It was sorted out by the flight attendant, he moved into the next seat. Although the air conditioning was on it was really hot. The seats seemed very narrow, and his arm was on the arm rest and dripping over into my seat. I decided to let it go at that stage.

Every time I turn left to look out the window the man is staring at me. I turn right and a woman is staring at me! I think I must be imagining it but every time I turn her way she is looking right at me. Finally after about 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac we take off. Another 20 minutes and the seatbelt sign is off. I get up to go to the toilet, and what is it about airlines and the way they pack their planes! The front four rows we are jam packed 6 in each row, the rest of the plane there is one person in each of the three seats stretched out relaxed with their eyes shut!

Back to my seat and I have to wait whilst the woman from the aisle seat next to me has a fiery exchange with the man in the seat next to mine. The gist of it, from what I can work out, is she wants him to sit in her seat and she will sit in his. After a couple more minutes she goes back to her seat.  I get back into my seat, and the glaring from both sides resumed. I concentrated on reading my book.

Food is served: a box full of snack bars, chocolate, and a potato cheese thing.

The next test is trying to eat whilst not being able to use my left arm, as the man’s arm is intruding into my seat so does not allow any room for movement and I don’t want my other elbow in the very narrow aisle.

No water is served. and coffee and tea has to be paid for. It was a nice cup of tea. After the meal the woman in aisle seat next to me got up and leaned over me, and started the exchange again.

After a few minutes she went back to her seat and the glaring resumed.  After another 30 minutes, the man next to me indicates he wants to get up so I decided to take the chance to go to the toilet. When I get back I am waiting for him to come back, then I notice that the glaring woman is not in the aisle seat next to me any more, another man is. The glaring woman is seated two rows up. The man who was next to me – who knows.

All goes well for the next hour or so, until the person whose seat the glaring woman is sitting in, comes back from who knows where he was till then, and wants his seat back. Next thing I know the glaring woman is standing next to me. I have no intention of getting up and letting her into the middle seat, or moving over. Apart from the fact I am feeling a bit intimidated, she is huge!

I concentrate on looking totally engrossed in my book. After about 5 minutes – feels way longer – she goes to a seat two rows up and starts a heated exchange with the man whose seat she was sitting in. Eventually he gives up and goes back to wherever he has been for the past hour (I presume) and all is well again. Well, apart from every 5 minutes the huge glaring woman turns around and glares at me. Very weird. At least one consolation is that neither of them look like bike riders.

All things end – finally I arrive in Bosnia. It was a small terminal, and we are the only flight at this stage. Standing at the carousel waiting for my baggage, my bag arrives but every rider’s worst nightmare: no bike box! I wait until the carousel gets turned off, I pick up the phone by the lost baggage which rings and rings without reply. Then a woman arrives and ushers me and a couple whose bags have not arrived into customs. They wave me through. I am trying to explain I am missing a bike box, they are all nods and smiles as I am waved through.

Given transporting large bike boxes is not always easy, Rachel my excellent travel agent has arranged for transport from the airport to the hotel for me, and the man who is here to pick me up speaks good English.

We go to the baggage counter and wait for ages while he deals with the couple in front of me who don’t speak English or Bosnian. Finally my turn, thankfully I have my baggage tracking slips and boarding passes, after a few minutes he gives me a two sided picture and tells me to select what my luggage looks like. Hmmm, they have no bike boxes on either side. Thankfully my driver steps in at that point and explains it is a bike box and there is not a picture of it.

More delays, and then it looks like my bike is still in Dubai and won’t be here until the next plane arrives from Dubai which is Saturday! At 1pm which is after the bike ride starts!

The man behind the counter asks when I am leaving here and I reply before the next plane arrives, so he says “Ok we will send your bike back to the country you came from” !! Thankfully Gerre, who is taking me to the Hotel, intervenes at that stage and it is arranged I will be here to pick up the bike when it arrives on Saturday. He gives them his phone number to ring once the bike is located.

Interestingly unlike NZ where the bike would be delivered to you, here it’s up to you to be back at the airport to collect. So it is what it is, and I will just have to deal with it. I am tired and smelly and just want to get to the hotel and sleep.

It’s about 30 minutes from the airport to the hotel, I chat to Gerre. There are about 1 million people living in Sarajevo and 3 1/2 million in Bosnia, the national sport is football (which even I know is soccer).

I am staying at Hotel Michele, it is a very quaint, family run place. My room is huge and cool and is all to myself.


My room is Hotel Michelle

The whole way since just before boarding in Melbourne, I have been worrying that I will have to turn around and head back to NZ as my 19 year nephew was missing. He was working down south and had gone missing since the night before I went away. Initially when my daughter mentioned it to me I was not worried as he is a teenager and I thought “Yep out partying somewhere and overslept”. Then when it was upgraded to a missing persons case I started to really worry. I was torn about boarding in Melbourne but as my daughter Kelly said “by the time you get to Bosnia he will no doubt have turned up, and you will have missed starting your ride. If he hasn’t turned up you can turn around at that point”. Thankfully she was right when I got up to my room and checked my phone: yay he has been found safe and sound.

I was just about to jump in the shower when the room phone rings and reception advises Gerre is ringing to say my bike is actually here at the airport, and for 20€ he will deliver it to me. What a relief! Only problem I haven’t got any currency yet, so off down to the shops with a map of how to get there. I found the ATM, and first problem: it won’t accept my card pin! Try another couple, the same problem, so I decided the only option is to get the cash on my credit card, which of course comes out in marks. I worked out the exchange and headed back to the hotel, carefully following the map.

I thought about going out to get something to eat as the hotel only does breakfast, but don’t want to go out before the bike arrives. 2 hours later my bike arrives intact. Yay! I don’t have to sort the logistics of starting the ride late, getting to the airport then catching up with the riders 100k away, with the transportation of a large box to arrange.

At this point I thought ok time to go and find food, and !then thought actually I am just going to go to bed. Nephew is safe, bike arrived, all is well, time to sleep.


A very welcome sight – my bike box at the hotel! 

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , | 5 Comments

Day 59/164: Rest day in Lima

Was nice not to have to get up at 5 am. I enjoyed resting in bed for a while. The hotel is breakfast included, and the restaurant opens at 7 am :D.  Finally some black tea without all sorts of spice added, I have noted the brand and will try to buy some at the supermarket.

I have a list of things to do and buy:

First wash the tent. After living in it for two months and after the dust camp it stinks. In our room we have a bath. Sue has already gone out shopping so tent bath time! The tent is so dirty I have to rinse it about 8 times after washing it. Then hang it all round the bathroom to dry.

Then off to the bike shop for the usual stock up, plus I want to get some new pedals. I was thinking that my pedals had only done 6,000 kilometres from when I did the trans Europa in 2012, as I have not used the trip bike since. However I have just realized I could not find the pedals and transferred the pedals from my road bike, which has had very regular use for over 4 years! However despite being a Shimano specialist bike shop they have no Shimano pedals or chamois cream.

Next off to the supermarket. I need some face moisturizer and to stock up on snacks and water for the room. Not as simple as it seems when everything is in Spanish! And no brands I recognize, with the exception of Ponds. So I think I have bought the correct product, but when I go to use it the next day it’s like Vaseline on my face. It’s not till the next day I realise that it’s face cleanser (may have noticed sooner if it had started raining), so top on my list for the next rest day is buy moisturizer!

Then whilst looking at the snacks, instant joy: blue cheese, camembert, crusty bread and a nice red wine:  picnic lunch again!

Whilst tempted to doze away the afternoon, the blog is calling. I am about 5 days behind and Kelly will soon be catching up to me. Spent a couple of hours there, and then packing gear again as back to riding tomorrow. No time for being a tourist in Lima sadly.

I managed to Skype with Dan for the first time since I have been away, so was really good to catch up with him. I also skyped with Kelly and had a short chat with Lucy. Unfortunately Skype has changed its setting and either I could see me or Kelly and Dan, but they could not see me. Will have to figure it out before next time.

On the way over the road to the pizza restaurant I bumped into Bob, who is one of the riders who was doing the whole trip. Bob has had bike problems and has not really being enjoying the trip – too hard, too cold etc, and has decided to leave from here. Bob has done other trips before with TDA.

Part of the problem is he has a really bad hearing loss, and does not have hearing aids, so often he does not hear people talking to him or misunderstands what people say, which makes it hard to integrate into the group. It’s sudden news for us but I suspect Bob has been considering it for a while.

Packing was a bit strange, I could not find my bike sunglasses and looked through all my stuff, then I realized I was missing other stuff as well. Turned out for some bizarre reason the housemaid had gone through my packing cells, moving some of the stuff into the drawers and the wardrobe. Also turned out Sue had not actually stacked her stuff up like a pyramid! I had wondered about that.

Dinner was anchovy pizza and a cold beer, then an early-ish night.

We have 6 new riders joining us tomorrow, plus a new TDA staff member, and 5 are leaving tomorrow (including Bob).

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

Day 42/164: Rest day in Loja

Even though it was a rest day I was wide awake at 5 am. I lay there until about 6:30 trying not to wake up Sue or Jackie who I was sharing with. I decided I would get up quietly and go and sit downstairs and use my iPad until the restaurant opened at 7. Unfortunately I could not find my glasses or iPad in the dark, and ended up disturbing them both :/.

I had breakfast at the hotel, caught up on some emails, then headed off into town to find the bike shop to buy some riding glasses. The bugs and the glare have made the past couple of days a pain not having any. Luckily I bought a cycling cap in Medellin which sits under the helmet and the peak provides some protection against the glare. I got two pairs of glasses from the bike shop, they were USA $57 each which is less translated into NZ $ than I would pay at home. The shop had a great selection of biking components, probably the best of any shop so far. By the time I left it was like a riders meeting at the shop.

After that I went off to look around the town. There were some interesting murals on a couple of the street corners that I took photos of. Then I went to Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja which is a building where the entry to the city used to be, built in 1571.

Puerto de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja ( entrance way historically to Loja now in middle of city )

Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja – the historic entrance way to Loja, which is now in the middle of the city

Another view

Another view of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Giudad de Loja from the other side

View of Puerta de Entrada Ala Ciudad Loja from the other side

I climbed up to the clock tower where I got some great views of the city. I then had a look around the markets and walked around a few squares.

Markets in Loja

Markets in Loja

Street in Loja

Street in Loja

I went into one church on a main square where the statue of the Virgin Mary had been carried to the night before. The church was beautiful inside but I quickly realised they were actually having a catholic mass so backed out again quickly.

Took a photo of the Convento Fermoisaito. (Editor’s note: I could not find any reference on the internet to anything spelled even remotely similar to this (or the way Kaye has spelled it below) – if anyone can shed a light on what the building is actually called, that’d be fab . . .) (Editor’s update: Thanks to everyone who sent through a comment or email about this – the consensus seems to be that it is actually Iglesia de San Francisco (Loja) – and the statue is of Alonso de Mercadillo, the founder of the city).

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Convento Fermoisaitonin

Another view

Another view

In the square was a bus full of military, I thought “Not more protests?”, but no they must have just been there for crowd control the night before.

Interesting mural in the streets

Interesting mural in the streets

Another mural

Another mural

I really enjoyed looking around the town but decided it was time to head back to the hotel. I had some lunch across the road from the hotel, then headed back to catch up on the blog and sort out my bags ready to leave again tomorrow. Rather than stay in the room I went down to the bar to use my iPad.

I managed to skype Kelly and have a quick chat with Lucy :). The service in the bar was pretty hopeless, Ray one of the riders had been trying for 40 minutes to get a drink, and in the end he went in and poured his own.

The update on Phil was pretty much the same: he was talking, but confused and still stable but serious.

The laundry was meant to be back by 2pm, then 5 pm – a number of us were getting concerned that it would not be back before we left and we had no riding gear! The hotel staff reassured us that it would be back, and it was the laundry that they used, and sure enough much to our relief it arrived back about 6pm.

A number of us had organized to have dinner at the hotel restaurant as we wanted to get the chocolate soufflé again. We had a new rider join us here – Emma – and she joined us for dinner. Emma is a student nurse from the UK, and has just finished her second year training, she is going to be a paediatric nurse. Emma is the youngest tour rider here at 22, and is with us for 6 weeks.

Sadly the restaurant was out of chocolate soufflé 😦 but we still had a nice meal.

Then it was off to bed, ready to be up at 5am again. We have two more days in Ecuador, then we go to Peru.

There seems to be a lot more money, and spread more evenly, in Ecuador than there was in Colombia. I say this because the houses are a better standard. There are some really flash houses, but even the most humble houses are a much better standard. The roads are also mainly better quality.

I have seen more snakes here, mainly in the middle of the road squashed, but a couple just lying on the road, chilling in the sun. I certainly am no longer ducking off the road into the bushes, but instead I am waiting for petrol stations or shops with toilets (Bano).

We have a 7 day stretch of riding before the next rest day. Six of the riding days I am confident I will be able to ride the whole day.

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

Howard Johnson Hotel where we are staying

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

Day 24/164: Timana to San Agustín – 86km

1,900km down: 11,741km to go

A few locals came past in cars and on cycles during the night to see the novel sight of a bunch of foreigners camped by their local pool. One of the riders was up at 4am showering! There are a small number of riders who get up about an hour before the others, and you get woken up by their tent pole noise as they get clipped together and their tent fly opening. I have no idea why they get up so early as 5am is plenty of time if breakfast is at 6am.

I woke up with neck pain and a pounding headache and decided that a 45 kilometre ride with 1,200 meters climb I could live without, so decided to go on the bus. After the last trip (the trans Europa) where I rode the whole ride and did not get in the lunch truck at all, it has been hard mentally to adjust to not riding whole days. However, the mind may be willing but currently the body is not capable. Since I have made the decision to relax and to ride half days I have been enjoying myself again. This is what I came to do right! Enjoy myself. My day of half riding can still be 6 hours, which is not a bad effort for the day. Since I decided this I have been riding about the same but waking up without feeling the pressure.

In the lunch truck were a couple of riders taking the day off riding due to gastro, general weariness, or tenderness in the seat area. One of the riders who is continuing to ride has a boil on his butt that has had to be lanced ouch. This is where the focus on achieving EFI (doing every bit of the whole ride) can be dangerous I think. On a previous ride one of the riders ended up in hospital due to complications from boils, because they persisted in riding.

Interesting countryside today, quite steep again with every patch of hillside cultivated. Took a couple of photos of waterfalls coming down the hills.

Through town for a kilometre before the uphill starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Through town for a kilometre before the uphill starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

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

The hotel is an interesting place, it is called the Hotel International San Agustin. It is either very old or has been built to look very old. They have a number of different blocks where they have rooms, each one has a different international theme. Sue and I are in the Asian themed block, which is like a rotounda (round) and each room is a wedge with high ceilings and bamboo pools and green walls. The grounds are lovely.

The building we stayed in known as the Asian house in San Augustin ( it's not as nice as it looks rooms and beds were musty and walls paper thin)

The building we stayed in, known as the Asian house, in San Agustin
(It’s not as nice as it looks, the rooms and beds were musty, and the walls were paper thin)

Luckily being up in altitude again (1,900 meters) it is cool, as there is no air con.  Not sure what happens if it gets much colder, as there is no heating. Due to being up at high altitudes one day and then back at sea level the next, it is hot one day and cold the next, so you have to have gear for both temperatures in your daily bag.

As soon as we arrived, I headed into the hotel to log onto the Internet to send away the five blog updates I had ready.  Many of the riders send huge numbers of photos once they get onto the Internet, you can’t even send a two line email. I am pleased I did as it took 20 minutes to log on. A number of the riders have not been able to get onto the wifi at all. Tomorrow I will go to one of the Internet cafes in the town, which starts about 500 meters away, and see if I can send photos. Although it may be you can only use their machines, which won’t help with sending photos.

I really enjoyed having a warm shower. Next on the list was to sort out the laundry. The white board said the hotel would do the laundry, so without thinking about it I handed mine in. One of the other riders said afterwards that they were taking theirs to look for a place in town, as the hotel was really expensive. Oh well, too late now.

I went off into town to explore with a couple of the other riders. We stopped at a cafe on the corner where a number of the riders had gathered. I had a strawberry soda, and what I thought was going to corn bread, meat, and mushrooms. It turned out to be my good old friend plantain! It was fried and hard, and was ok for dipping into the shredded meat, guacamole and salsa. I managed to eat about half of it.

I went off to have a look around. Because San Agustín is a place for tourists, there were heaps of shops selling souvenirs, which due to having no space in my bags, stayed on the shelves. So far I have yet to see a post office anywhere since I arrived in Cartagena.

We ended up spending a couple of very pleasant hours having a couple of cold beers, sitting in the corner bar on the square, watching the town life. It is a most delicious feeling to have nowhere you have to be and no jobs to be done, just the rest of the day to spend how you please.

The town square

The town square

We then went to a pizza place for dinner. I got a margarita pizza, which was clearly adapted to local taste as it bore no resemblance to any margarita pizza I have ever had before (apart from that it was pizza).  It was loaded with cheese, so when you picked it up you had to hold the whole slice otherwise the weight of the cheese caused it to collapse. I had some Chilean red wino (vino tinto) – Cab Sav seems to be all the red that a lot of Colombian places sell. The owner was a German lady that had lived in the town for 35 years. The pizza place suddenly got busy so I did not get a chance to have much of a conversation with her.

I stopped at the supermarket on the way back and got some yoghurt and cereal for breakfast (they have a combo of cereal and yoghurt you can combine into one). The yogurt here is all liquid, not quite the consistency of milk but not as thick as custard. Apparently, it is like this in most countries?

I got back to the hotel and the washing was back already – 72,000 pesos (about $45 NZ) so not as bad as it could have been. Some of the clothes look brand new and have been ironed! Even my Hospi riding shirt, which was starting to look pretty manky, is looking respectable again.

Tomorrow a number of us are going off to do some site seeing. There is an archaeological site about 3 kilometres out of town.

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Day 17/164: Rest Day One in Bogota

Yay no roosters, no loud music, and yay being able to get dressed upright, and have a warm shower 🙂

I  skyped with my daughter Shellbe last night who is currently in Vietnam, it was great to catch up with her and all her news.

Writing my blog in bed this morning (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Writing my blog in bed this morning (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I had to be downstairs at 9am to go and drop off the laundry. There was a laundry just up the road who will do it for you and charges by the kilogram. 24,000 pesos for 4 kilos, which is approximately $11 NZ.

I forgot to take my towel, so I will have to wash it by hand back at the hotel. Then off to the bike shop to get inner tubes, tyres and more brake pads (I suspect the two I bought with me will not be enough). I caught a taxi to the bike shop, which was about a 30 minutes taxi ride away. The traffic, even at this time of day, was gridlocked. The taxis though are surprisingly cheap – the trip cost 16,000 pesos which is less than $8 New Zealand dollars!

There was a group of four bike shops in a row. I managed to get everything I needed. I bought 6 inner tubes, 2 patch repair kits, as well as the tyres and brake pads. I paid by credit card and signed the receipt. When I left the shop they came running after me as they thought I had the signed copy. Who knows where it went, as I didn’t have it and they couldn’t find it. They wanted me to repay and sign another one, which I had no intention of doing, as it had already been approved electronically. Given the language barrier it was a bit like a scene from Faulty Towers! Eventually after I had turned out all the bags and pockets, and shaking my head each time I was offered a pen, they let it go.  There were a number of other riders also trying to get parts for their bikes, and some having real difficulty. Phil was having no luck getting what he needed to fix his two bottom gears.

I got a taxi back to the hotel to have something to eat, and skyped with Kelly and Lucy, and Lizzy and Xavier. It was great to have a good wifi signal.

View from our hotel window of the national museum (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from our hotel window of the national museum (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I went down to clean my bike and sort out the tyres etc. I discovered I had a heap of grass in the cluster and generally the bike was pretty caked with dirt. I got the new tyre on the back, so fingers crossed the issue with flats is sorted. I was not able to get the same type of tyre, so bought two different ones with a slightly smaller tread that I will use on the road. The ones currently on the bike are heavy and better for off-road, as slower on the paved road. I still have one brand new spare of these tyres.

Once the bike was sorted I went off to buy water and other supplies. I needed to get some more lip cream and went into what I thought was a pharmacy type shop and mimed lip stuff. Not surprisingly they had none as I was reassured after I came out that it was actually a pet store!

When I got back to the hotel I bumped into Phil who had just arrived back in a taxi. The bike shops were not able to help him, but would you believe the taxi had been a professional bike rider and managed to get his bike sorted.

I went for dinner at a meat barbecue type of place. On the way there I was looking at the tallest building which had a very colourful light display, including cyclists riding around the building and dolphins swimming. I was more concentrating on this than my surroundings, and got a hell of a fright when a small homeless man jumped up into my face and went boo! My reaction caused general merriment with the surrounding locals. Sue had an encounter of a different kind during the day, when she was in the Bolivar Plaza she was asked if she wanted some cocaine!  Sue is very partial to coke but not that variety!

Ever changing lights on a skyscraper (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Ever changing lights on a skyscraper (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Off to bed now, at 9:30pm.

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Day 16/164: La Vega to Bogota – 60 kilometres

1,271 km down: 12,370 km to go (End of Stage 1)

We had to get up at 4:30 as getting into a large city is always difficult. Having been awake most of the night with the music and with the puncture issues, I decided to forgo riding 60 kilometres, including a 2,000 metre speed trial up hill, and the convoy into Bogota.  A convoy is difficult enough anyway when you are one of the slowest riders, without an almost 100% certainty of a flat tyre or two. So, I decided to ride in the truck.

We got to the lunch spot and set up lunch, by the time we had finished it was about an hour before the first riders were expected. The road we were on is a main road into Bogota, and one that the local cyclists use for training, and it is Sunday. Cycling is big in Bogota and there were hundreds of cyclists out that morning.  There was a constant stream of pelotons (groups of cyclists) individuals, dads and sons etc. Most were brightly dressed in cycle gear, but some were in jeans. The bikes ranged from top of the line to old.

The 30 kilometres ended up being 27 kilometres due to parking availability. I wandered about 500 metres down the hill. I was watching one cyclist with a very old bike that had a rusty chain, and it broke twice within a couple of hundred metres. I tried to convey to him that there was a bike mechanic just round the corner who could help, but it was lost in translation.  As the riders were expecting to do another couple of kilometres I stayed where I was, letting them know the finish was just around the corner.

After they had all come in and rode off again to the convoy spot I was helping clear up lunch, watched by a couple of hopeful local dogs. As we were going into two rest days and left overs needed to be chucked, they became very happy local dogs, with a big bowl of shredded chicken tipped out for them.

Once we got the truck packed we headed off to the convoy spot. The constant stream of local cyclists continued. Outside every cafe and coke stop there were dozens of bike. The convoy start was by a big café, inside were about 40 cyclists as well as the TDA riders.

Amazing atmosphere at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Riders congregate at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)


Amazing atmosphere at the cafe (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We had three cyclists from Bogota to help led the convoy. We had a TDA truck at the front of the cyclists, and another TDA truck behind. The traffic, as you would expect in a city of over 7 million, was crazy but much more tolerant than Wellington drivers.

One of the riders got a flat and him and his bike had to be hauled up into the truck. Then another rider’s bike broke – he is still on track for EFI, so the sweep gave him her bike and then the sweep and the broken bike had to be hauled into the truck.

The riders got to a bike only lane (Bogota shuts off inner lanes on Sundays, the same as Medellin, for public use, only Bogota started this). There is a complicated one way system in the city and we ended up going around one part twice, taking about an hour due to traffic.


Convoy into Bogotá (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Finally we got to the hotel which is Hotel IBIS. The riders got there well before us. We collected our daily and permanent bags and set off to get into a warm shower. Warm shower – the joy! Then into my only remaining clean clothes. Just as well Sue and I get on, as we have a really small room. The beds are two twins pushed very close together, and not a lot of other space.


The hotel room Sue and I are sharing at the Hotel IBIS in Bogota (Photo credit is obviously Kaye, as it is blurry again)

A group of us went to an Italian restaurant just around the corner called Archie’s – found out later it was a chain. The food was good, I had a medium pizza with jalapeños and anchovies, it was delicious. I also had some red wine.

My plan for the next two days:
Monday – laundry and sorting bike and bike gear
Tuesday – a tourist.

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Technophobe Tourist

I met a few of the other riders at breakfast this morning. So far, apart from two of the riders, everyone has done at least one ride before. It was great catching up on other rides, and swapping tales of tours.  One rider and I got on really well – Sue from England, we are similar ages. Sue has had issues with her flights because of one flight being late, missing the connection, then having a 12 hour delay, then getting here with no bags or bike. At this stage Sue had been here since Monday and it was now Wednesday. Sue was understandably starting to worry how she was to replace a bike and her gear by Saturday morning.

Sue on the left and Annegrete on the right, Sue is doing the whole trip, Annegrete is doing till the end of October (Editors note: The photo of Annegrete was stolen from Sue's blog, as the photo Kaye took was terrible)

Sue on the left and Annegrete on the right, Sue is doing the whole trip, Annegrete is doing till the end of October
(Editors note: The photo of Annegrete was stolen from Sue’s blog, as the photo Kaye took was terrible)

Next I headed off by taxi to an inner city mall where according to Google there was an Apple Store. Took about 20 minutes by taxi and I thought this will cost a bit! It actually cost 10 peso, which is approximately 6 NZ dollars. Once I got there I got directions and made my way to the store. It turned out it was not an apple shop at all, it was more like a Noel Leemings! It did sell iPads and iPhones but had no specialist staff. I did buy a new charging cord in case that helped the charging issue.

I thought I may as well get a charger for the phone while I was there but no luck at this store. After a lot of miming and showing of the camera charger, I got directed to a shop called Panamericana which they wrote down on paper for me. No luck there but one of the shop workers took me to a shop called Audio Color, once again no luck but they directed me to a shop called Home Centre. Each time I had to find my way around a 4 story super mall. I got to Home Centre, it was huge, like a Bunnings but bigger! It sold everything from paint to doors, tools and tyres. However there was a bit of a language barrier and they were showing me a lot of stuff that was not a wall connector. Luckily I got out the iPad connector to show as an example, confusion overcome and a minute later I had one.

Back to the hotel, sorted out some photos and emails, then made my way to the lobby bar at 6pm.  Met up with a few more riders, had a few cold beers and we made our way up the road to eat. We went to an Argentine grill place to eat. The food was very average but the company was good. Thankfully when we got back to the hotel there was Sue’s bike and bags!

Cartagena version of the $2 shop

Cartagena version of the $2 shop

Don't think I will go quite this far to eat like the locals

Don’t think I will go quite this far to eat like the locals

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