Posts Tagged With: Lost

Wed 5 July: last day in London and home to NZ

Today the tea situation got worse, there was not even any Twinings everyday tea, I had to make do with green tea! Not a good start to the day. Apart from that, I have discovered that around the corner, on the other side of the restaurant, is another table with cereal and bread and a toaster. Yum, I had toast with marmalade, trying not to be churlish thinking how much nicer it would be with black tea. In context, if this the worst of my problems, life is pretty good.

After breakfast I headed to the metro, and off to see Shellbe. Sad to say goodbye to Brett, but excited to be  going to spend the with Shellbe and see where she is living. Brett is heading off for a couple of days to York to see his step daughter Sandra.

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London Bridge Underground – off to see Shellbe before the flight home.

To get to Shellbe’s I had to go two stops on the metro, and then get off and go up three escalators and then find the correct train to get to Teddington. I found my way to the station ok, but there was a signal problem and a number of the trains were delayed including the 10:27 to Teddington. There was however, a 10:33 via Richmond to Teddington that was not delayed and had a platform number, so off I went and hopped on that.

All was going well until we came into Richmond and I half heard the train announcement about this being the change for what I thought was Teddington, and just about everyone on the train hopped off. I jumped off as well, but actually it was the change for Twickerton. Drat! By the time I worked this out the doors had shut and the train was gone. Thankfully there was a help phone and I was relieved to find the next train to Teddington would be along in 15 minutes.

Shellbe was waiting at the station and we went back to her place. Shellbe is currently working as a live-in nanny, looking after two small boys, Asher 5 and Matthew (Matty) 3. Just after we got to the house Shellbe had to pick up Matty from kindy and left me behind enjoying a cup of black tea.

Matty was very cute and was interested in me being Shellbe’s mum, and within a couple of minutes he had invited me on the family holiday in a couple of weeks to Italy.

At 3pm we picked up Asher from school, and we went to a bushy park where there were a number of deer roaming around. They are really nice boys, both asked me lots of questions, and for the rest of the day they referred to me as Mum as Shellbe was.

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Back at the house, time for Shellbe to cook dinner bath the boys, read stories and then their Dad arrived home, and all too soon it was time to head to Heathrow airport.

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I had a last couple of hours with Shellbe at Heathrow, then it was time to say goodbye 😭😭. It was really hard to leave her. There were tears all round, it has been so great being able to share the past few days with her, in both Amsterdam and London.

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Not much of a consolation at the moment, but at least these days we have messenger call etc to keep in touch and see each other.

Off through security to the horrors of long haul flying. I just don’t have the ability to sleep on planes. I was flying Emirates, and on the leg from Heathrow to Dubai I managed about 45 min, thankfully only a two stop over in Dubai, most of which was spent getting to the next gate.

Dubai to Auckland, which is a 14 and a half hour flight, I managed about an 1 hour of sleep. The flight seems endless. Around me everyone seemed to be sleeping soundly. The two people in the seats next to me slept almost the entire flight. I spent most the flight watching movies, and getting up and down (thankfully I had an aisle seat).

Upstairs on the plane, as well as business class seats, there are sleep cabins where you have your own room with a bed! Plus access to a shower. However, to fly from Heathrow to Auckland in one of these would cost $13,500 dollars per person (20 hours flying, makes it $650 an hour).

I arrived at Auckland, it was lovely to go through customs etc, within 20 minutes from landing I had my bike box and bag, cleared customs and was heading to Auckland domestic terminal. I really did not want to get back on a plane again.

My son Dan picked me up at the airport, and had Benji (the dog) in the car. We got home at 3:30 pm. Dexter, the other dog, was delighted to see me and I spent the next 3 hours struggling to stay awake until my daughter Tracey got home with my grandson Jasper (who just turned one). They got home at 6:15pm, I managed to stay awake until 6:30pm then off to bed to sleep. Nothing quite like your own bed.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I am looking forward to catching up with my other children, their partners, and my grandchildren at Jasper’s first birthday party. Sunday will be spent unpacking and getting sorted to return to the realities of work.

On Monday there will be 323 days until the next ride. The next ride I have booked is The Pub Ride, from Dublin to Denmark.

Thank you to my daughter Kelly for all her hard work and patience as editor of the blog -dealing my spelling abilities (or inabilities) and the Ipad’s tendency to change what I have written, not an easy task.

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Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Day 24: Koblenz to Cologne

108km, flat – the biggest climb today is a bridge

We had a problem with the flagging as we left the hotel and ended up going the wrong way, left and right along the river. Eventually we worked out that the flagging was wrong, ignored them, and headed straight, and then turned towards the river and picked it up further down on. We found out later that at least 10 of the other riders had the same problem.

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Crossing the Mosel River at Koblenz

Mostly today the riding was on bike paths, without a lot to see apart from fields, canals and the occasional village.

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Andenach

We went through one town with a lovely waterfront, so we stopped and took a couple of photos.

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Bad Breisig

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Bad Breisig

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Bad Breisig

Coming out of the town we went up and then under a railway pass, there were three young boys sitting on a bench. As we were looking for which way to go next, one of them pointed left. Given the amount of touring riders, he must have had to do that a few times in a short timeframe.

We went past an old house that was built in 3 sections, the earliest in the 1300.

As we went along the Rhine we had one cruise ship “Ms Emily Bronte” keeping up with us. I googled the ship name later and found she has only been sailing since Feb 17. 

Today we only saw a couple of castles, unlike the past two days.

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Boy on his bike on the river bike path.

When we got into Cologne, we found we had to go to another hotel to store our bikes, in Hotel Martin across the road. It was a huge hotel that had shops in the foyer.

The WIFI is hopeless, I can not log on and will probably have to find somewhere to send emails. Probably the number one frustration on a trip is if you can’t get WIFI. First world problem really.

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Arriving in Cologne

Brett and I went to have dinner at El Chango, the number one steak place on trip advisor in Cologne. It was pretty delicious. The steaks came in 200 gram to 500 gram with sauce, baked potatoes and vegetables.

To start we had a beer, which came in the smallest beer glasses I have ever seen. Apparently this is to keep the beer fresh. Then we had a nice Argentinian Malbec red.

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At the Argentinian Steakhouse

We are staying at Hotel Malzmuhle, which is apparently also a brewery but it is shut today. There are photos of Bill Clinton on the wall, apparently he stayed here.

When I got back from dinner thankfully I managed to log onto the internet, which was lucky as the next day there were still people who had not managed to log on.

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Riverside at Benthurm

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Long haul flights – first flight done

Thankfully long haul travel is like child birth – you quickly forget the realities and just remember the joy of the new baby or fond memories of the holiday.

The flight from NZ to Melbourne was uneventful, but I was close enough to the front of the plane to observe the food being served in business class.

I had a two hour stop over in Melbourne then onto to the plane for 14 hours. Luckily Rachel, my fantastic travel person, had booked me a seat with leg room so I could at least stretch my legs out and prop them up against a wall.

I was really tired and thought I would sleep ok, but the reality was I dozed off a few times for 30 or so minutes at a time. The worst bit was the screen at the front that relentlessly showed how much longer to go. I tried not to look as each time we had been travelling much less than how I felt.

I was quite anxious getting into Dubai as I had to change terminals, which involved getting to the right place where the bus left. Brett had emailed me a map but I still wandered round and round till I walked past the same security person for the third time. He started explaining to me again “you go down there, turn left and then…” but seeing the glazed look on my face he took pity on me and personally escorted me to where the shuttle bus left from.

I am now waiting to board the flight to Bosnia, I am very grubby and grumpy. I am also a bit jittery from the three cups of coffee, and pleased I packed my toothbrush in carry on.

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Day 5 – Friday 18 November

Easy riding day today, 850 meters climbing with 670 down, and only 85 km in total.

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Rotorua to Taupo ride

When we left it was sunny. The first 23 km was on bike trails. I made a wrong turn and ended up on a mountain bike track – steep, rocks, wet. Thankfully I managed to get off it and back to the main bike trail.

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Track out of Rotorua

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Lunch stop

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Lunch stop: Michele and Tony and other riders

We stopped at Waimangu Volcanic Center, New Zealand’s newest geothermal area. We had coffee and a look around but did not have time to go on the tour, but I will certainly come back.

Just down the road we turned to look at a mud pool at Wai-o-Tapu. They get pretty cold – 60 to 100 C 😀

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Mud pools

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Mud pool

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Mud pool info

We managed to stay off the main road for most of the day and came into Taupo following Broadlands Rd which is the road that the riders go on doing the Taupo Ironman ride. We were riding into a head wind most of the way.

We stayed at a nice little camp called the All Season Kiwi Park. It said it had a hot pool but in reality it was a hot box, and both times I looked it was full with a family.

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Camp: my tent by the hedge

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Saw this sign at the camp, was a bit worried until I read it all

We went down in to Taupo to the Torpedo 7 store, I wanted some legs warmers and Michelle and Tony got tops and socks. Then off to the lakefront for a relaxing cold beer.

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Good use for old bikes as a fence at Lake Taupo

We got back to camp in time for riders meeting – just – then dinner. Dinner was Spanish lamb stew which was really nice, with minted peas and plus salad, with green leaves, feta and pear.

It was very cold tonight, hard to believe it is less than two weeks to summer. Tomorrow we have a big day, 145 km plus lots of climbing and the weather forecast is not great, so I have rung ahead to the Top Ten we are staying in at Ohakune and booked a cabin.

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TDA provide wine and beer for $4 a can or glass. So far I have not been tempted by the wine . . .

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I have had the odd beer though. A number of the riders are really enjoying L&P.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

Day 106/164: Palomoto Yala (dust camp) to Londoret

Climbing 615, down 690

It is hard to imagine the wind from the night before as it is very calm in the morning when we got up. Since we have been in Argentina we are getting up at 6:30am not 5:30am, which makes a big difference as it is light and generally starting to get warmer.

The first 5 kilometres was a continuation of steady uphill without the head wind. Then we had a great stretch of road until about 50 kilometres, with a lot of downhill and the uphill was ok, as you were going at a reasonable speed you got three quarters of the way up before having to do any work.

A long straight road ahead (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

A long straight road ahead (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

More amazing views today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

More amazing views today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I have broken my speed record again and and have now reached 68.5 kph, my goal is to break 70 before the end of the trip.  I could possibly have done that today but there was quite a lot of strong side gusts which was unnerving.

Then we had about 20 kilometres of headwind to contend with. After this we went through a gorge for about 15 kilometres, mostly sheltered from the wind but every now and then you would come around a corner straight into it.

After this we had fairly straight roads with rolling hills and a cross wind. I missed a flag near the camp and added 12 kilometres to the day.

A hard slog at times today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

A hard slog at times today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

View from the saddle today (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the saddle today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying at El Molino camp, a campsite with toilets and supposedly a shower. There are trees and grass and it is well sheltered. There is a big empty swimming pool. Like a lot of the places we have stayed – great facilities, sadly in need of a good paint and tidy up. It must not be swimming season yet as all the pools we see are empty.

When I headed for the showers one of the riders Shirley was in it, all soaped up and the water just stopped and did not come on again! Thankfully the water in the basin was still dribbling and she was able with some difficulty to get all the soap off. Wet wipe shower for me!

There is a restaurant just up the road where a number of riders have gathered. New Zealand has bet South Africa in semi-final of the World Cup so I am duty bound as a New Zealander to go and fly the NZ flag.

Rider's meeting tonight (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting tonight (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

At camp there were a number of dogs watching the cooking with great interest. Even greater interest when we started eating. As we had t-bone steaks they scored a number of bones. There was no fighting if two dogs went for the same bone, as the pecking order was clearly well established. There was a huge dog, and a few large to medium sized. If a medium sized dog had a bone and a bigger dog walked up, the smaller dog would just back away.

Jason and his ever hopeful friend (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Jason and his ever hopeful friend (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Dinner was t-bone steak and rice, carrot, and zucchini salad

Once again no cell reception.

An example of the orange flags that shows us where to go (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

An example of the orange flags that shows us where to go (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

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 20/164: Anapoima to Prado – 146km

1,502 km down: 12,139 to go (1,200 metres up, 1,600 metres down today)

When I was putting my tent down I did not realise that but not only were there a couple of large ant mounds near the tent (which I had seen and kept away from) but there was also some netting above the tent and there were ants all over it. I must have brushed up against it, as I got ants all inside my riding shirt. The biting sort! Ouch! I quickly changed my shirt.

I set off feeling reasonably good, and aiming to ride the whole day. There were some rolling hills to begin. I stopped at 16 kilometres for a freshly squeezed orange juice. They squeeze it while you wait – 2000 pesos (approximately a dollar) for a glass.

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Juice stop (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

At 16.9 kilometres I missed a turn – I’m not sure if there was a truck parked across the road or whether I just wasn’t paying attention. After 7 kilometres I realised I had gone the wrong way and back tracked, adding 14 kilometres.  I learned from my last trip not to try and work out (aka guess) how you could meet up with the right road again, as this led to the time I got really lost on my last trip but thankfully was saved by Bobby and her bright red sports car, who delivered me safely to camp.

The next bit was rolling hills on a back road through a village and farmland. Quite a lot of the road was gravel and bumpy and rocky.  Due to having made the wrong turn, I had the sweep behind me as I was now the last rider (two other riders also missed this turn but they are faster than me). We then came out to a main highway, after about 5 kilometres I had to go over an abandoned bridge, and then connect with another highway. It was really hot, with a headwind, and was hard going. By this stage I had done about 90 kilometres – but only 76 of the planned ride.

Luckily lunch was at 78 kilometres, a very welcome sight. Two of the other riders were stopping at lunch and taking the lunch truck back to camp. I considered stopping also as it was so hot! But I decided that I really wanted to ride the whole ride so I had something thing to eat and carried on. I had 67 kilometres to go – not including the 14 extra due to getting lost.

It was so hot it, was beating down and not a lot of shade. I saw the first couple of flags ok but then, would you believe it, I missed a turn again!!!! I have discovered my speedo is slightly out, as it is set it for the size of tyres I have but not the width/ thickness, so this is throwing the measurements out just enough to cause an issue – especially for with someone already challenged with directions.

I asked a couple of locals and they assured me I was going the correct way to Neiva – they were right, just not the way I should have been going. The road went on and on, and the heat just kept glaring down on me. It dawned on me that I was probably lost again especially as there was meant to be more downhill than uphill and I was mostly going up.

Over one of the many rivers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Over one of the many rivers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I went to a service station to buy water, and it is the first petrol station I have come across that only sells petrol. I decided to ring Christaino to see which direction I should go, as I was not sure where I had gone wrong .I could not believe it but my phone was nearly flat! It had been showing full charge that morning.

I rang Christiano but he could not hear me but said to text him., which I did but got no response . I was sitting there thinking “What next?” and thinking how I would love to see Bobby and her little red sports car, when I remembered that my son Daniel had kindly downloaded all the maps where I was going onto my phone and my iPad.

I had enough phone battery to get the map app up and it showed me where I was (thanks Dan xx). It also showed me that I was on my way to Saidane, which I was pretty sure from my notes was a town I needed to go through, but as my writing is not very legible even to me I was not 100% sure. Note to self: have better handwriting! Off I went and yay it was the right town and joy such joy there were flags!   🙂 🙂 🙂

I stopped, had some more water, and set off again. At this stage I had done 148 kilometres and still had 30 kilometres to go but at least I was on the right road.

And then there were road works! Thick, wet, dirt roads, hard to ride on, especially with tired legs. There was a water truck laying down more water. I was behind it so I was getting covered in mud as well. The water truck driver jumped off his truck, gave me water without any prompting from me, smiled, and drove off again. They have water here in plastic packets as well as in bottles, this was a plastic packet.

The road was going on and on and I was starting to worry that it would get dark before I got to camp. I decided I would make the call at the next town, and if I needed to I would catch a taxi to camp. 152 kilometres on the clock at this stage and then suddenly in front of me I see Christano and his partner Anna driving towards me in the ute 🙂 🙂 🙂

Christiano had decided to come and find me and see if I was ok. The text I sent had not got through to his phone either. Turns out from where I had missed the flag I had done a bigger loop to Saidane than the way that was planned. I was very very pleased to see Christiano and Anna.

Back at camp I noticed there were a few mosquitos so plied bug spray liberally after my very cold shower. It did not help, I am covered in bites – most people are even those who don’t usually get bitten. It didn’t help that I had one in my tent for part of the night who waited until I went to sleep before feasting. I heard it at 2am and located it.  Now I am trying really hard not to itch, and taking antihistamine.

The view from Sue's tent at the campsite (Photo credit: SUe's blog)

The view from Sue’s tent at the camp site (Photo credit: SUe’s blog)

I plugged my phone into the charge bank when I got to camp, and then discovered a couple of hours later that the charge bank was totally flat. Either it is dead or more likely I forgot to check it was plugged in properly when I charged it in Bogota.

I got the phone charged just enough to text my daughter Kelly like I do every day when I get to camp. I must have accidentally pressed a button to ring her, as a few minutes later my phone told me I had a missed call. I tried to ring back (thinking she had rung me, and worried that there was something wrong) but the phone decided there was no service. I went up into the camp ground into the main building and charged the phone for 45 min. I text Kelly that I had service and she could ring me back, and then realised that it was me accidentally pressing ring to her, so she didn’t need to ring. I made sure I had enough battery to last the next day.

Dinner was pork stew, beans and plantain. Plantain is in the banana family, and depending on how you cook it, it is either all right or horrid. Boiled and mashed is nasty, but these were partly baked and ok.
I am not going to be a convert though.

One of the riders missed the turn for the camp and clocked up 200 kilometres today!

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 3: Tolu to San Marcos – 130k

306km down: 13,335km to go

Everyone slept better last night. It’s still hot, and so far I have slept with no covers at night. The rosters made their appearance about 4am.

I have been having trouble with my speedo on my bike which is a real issue as it’s hard to turn right at 33kilometres if your speedo is not working. I took it to the tour bike mechanic yesterday and thought it was fixed but it stopped going again today, just a couple of kilometres out of camp.  However, it was lucky that I had taken it to get the speedo looked at as the mechanic picked up there was a problem with my front brake – it was only clamping on one side. So much for spending a fortune at the bike shop before the trip to make sure it was all in working order! There was a screw stripped, and it took the mechanic ages to get the screw off and readjust the brakes so they worked both sides.

We had an early start today – breakfast at 6, to get on the road earlier because of the heat. Even so it was 7 before I got on the road.

Not sure how I managed it but I took a wrong turn before the Main Rd and ended up at a dead end in a paddock. Luckily some young local lads pointed me the right way. Then 2 kilometres later I nearly made a wrong turn again – that old confusion between left and right – but some locals yelled at me and pointed the other way. They had noted the other riders going the other way.

A number of the locals, especially the children, smile and wave and I have learnt hello. They helpfully point the way at some of the intersections also.

The planned ride was 134 kilometres. The first 20 kilometres was pretty good – still nice and cool, rolling hills, and I was feeling pretty ok.

I enjoyed looking at the local houses with their thatched roofs. There are chickens and chicks, pigs, cows, donkeys, and horses, all grazing on the side of the main road. They seem to have a really good road sense and don’t wander out into the traffic at all. They say the South American cows are quite smart, they are interesting looking – they have long ears and a hump on their back. A lot of them have a white bird hanging around – one white bird per cow. The birds eat ticks off them.

The locals have an interesting habit of painting the trunks of trees to match the colour of their houses, it makes for an interesting colour combo going along the street. The houses in the country side are very basic with thatched roofs, and one or two rooms, no plumbing. No running water, but a number of them must have a septic tank but the water is from a big drum and the shower is a bucket of water. The family generally sleeps in one room.

At most houses are chickens, at least one dog, and some have pigs – not so many cats. Although that could be because it’s baking hot and the cats are sensibly asleep out of the sun.

In the more built up area, the houses range from small dwellings with a couple of chairs in the main area, to some quite substantial ranches.

The main traffic here is trucks: large and small, motorbikes by the hundred carrying whole families, wood, shopping – I saw one with the passenger carrying three squirming, squealing pigs. No helmets to be seen. Then there are buses, very few cars, and people on horseback and in carts. There are so many roadside drink stops often a bit of shade, a few seats, and one glass front cooler.

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Drink stops (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

At 20 kilometres the sweep caught up with me as I was the last rider. Three of the riders had gone in the lunch truck to start from 84 kilometres. The sweep is a tour staff member who rides at the back of the riders so will come across any one broken down or in trouble. They will either fix the problem or call for one of the vehicles. Erin, who was the mornings sweep, is a general surgeon from Switzerland who has taken six months off work. As well as being the sweep some days, Erin is one of the two medics on the tour. The other medic is Jodie, a trauma nurse and Paramedic.

It was my first time being the last rider, I expect it won’t be the last until I get fitter and thinner. My legs were tired by the previous two days riding, and overall tiredness from lack of sleep, but I was confident that if I took it slowly and drank plenty of water I would complete the ride. Although I did have to get off my bike part way up a steep long hill.

At about 55 kilometres the road got very uneven and a few pot holes. It was starting to get very hot and humid, and the sun was not covered by clouds as yesterday. I stopped to buy more water – some to drink, some to tip over my head.

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The dirt road begins (photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

I got to 67 kilometres where the gravel road started. The first five or so kilometres were ok but then I started to suffer from the total lack of any shade, plus it was 42 to 43 degrees, it was insane. The next 15 kilometres were dreadful: biking for three to four kilometres, stopping and pouring some water over my head, then biking some more.

Even with applying sunblock every hour my arms were starting to burn so I had to put on arm warmers, plus I still had my legs warmers on as my legs had not recovered from the first day. This really did not help!

As well as this the dirt would turn to deep sand and you would get stuck. About 2 kilometres before the lunch stop, we stopped at a bit of shade. I was feeling a bit light headed and made the decision I was going to stop at lunch.

I got going again and made it to the lunch stop which was under three massive big trees. There was another rider – Nelson from Canada – who was also stopping at lunch. Nelson has done a lot of riding but, like me, could not cope with the heat. I had drunk about 6 bottles of water so hydration wasn’t the issue. Along the dirt track a number of trucks slowed down to check we were ok, which was nice. The locals are really friendly.

Having never got in the lunch truck to ride back to camp I was surprised how long it took to pack it all up. I am pleased I made the decision, as although I could have ridden the distance with the terrain, I don’t think I would have finished with the heat. The dirt road went on for another 30 kilometres with no shade! We picked up another rider 10 kilometres along also done in by the heat.

Along the way there were hundreds of anthill mounds, some impressively high –freestanding up to a metre high, and then some against trees and fence posts. I did not get a photo as I was in the truck, but am sure I will see some again.

Just after this we passed Sue who was riding with another rider, Mark from USA . They both gave the thumbs up signal (which means you don’t need the truck to stop) and big grins – or were they grimaces?!  A number of the riders told us that one of the locals had driven into town got cold water and driven back to give it out to them.

Got to the hotel … at about 4:30pm. It was nice to have a chance to get washing done, and sleep in a bed for two nights.  I am sharing with Sue. The room is very basic, and the shower is just like a tap on the wall with cold water, but the toilet flushes – amazing how quickly you come to appreciate that.  Plus they do your washing for a reasonable fee so I don’t have to find a laundry yet.

I had a shower and a cold beer, at that stage Sue came in, she was knackered – and she just finished riding the South African trip 2 months ago!

Once Sue had had a rest and a shower we went up the road, found the local supermarket and bought water etc. We were quite tired so just had something to eat there, got some water and a couple of cold beers, and came back to the hotel. On the way back we were amused to see three cows just wandering the street, one was pulling up the shrubbery by a house.

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

Day Two in Santiago

It was so crazy here last night after Chile won the football, the city partied for hours. The pick up to the show was 40 minutes late – I was starting to be sure I had been forgotten but the lady at reception assured me they would just be running late. Once I got picked up I could see why they were running late, the traffic was gridlocked! Luckily they had a traffic warden at most intersections.

There were cars with flags hooting with people hanging out of windows. people standing almost leaning out of cars. people on the street and in cars waving flags and chanting “cc le le le chile!” (or at least that’s what I think they were chanting). The police did not seem to be bothered at all by the people hanging out of cars, so very different from NZ. I must look up the road toll as the cars do not always look road worthy, cyclists mainly don’t have helmets, and to my NZ conditioned soul people hanging out of cars is not going to end well.

There is an amazing amount of graffiti in this city, just about every building has some tagging. A lot is graffiti but some are works of art. This on private houses, public buildings, shops and on walls and riverbanks. There are also a lot of stalls and makeshift shops selling 2 dollar shop type stuff. A small number of homeless people, but not beggars that I saw.

At the show we got to sit with the tour group which I was pleased about. I sat next to a very nice young couple from Brazil who luckily had not come to see the football. They came for the skiing. The show was interesting, sometimes the dancing reminded me of a mix between Maori and Pacific Island.

They got members of the audience up at regular intervals, luckily they had plenty of volunteers. If you did not know the basic dance steps I don’t think you could have managed, but I guess that could be part of the fun. The whole night the show was interspersed by “cc le le le chile” and occasional breaking into song. I got round the problem of ordering with no Spanish or menu by ordering what the young couple had. I have got their name but it is packed as I am currently in the hotel bar waiting to be picked up to go to the airport.

I got back to the hotel just after midnight. I had worried I might not sleep after my long nap but I slept without waking up until I woke up at 9.50, what the?! So then I had to rush around packing. Things did not seem to go back in as well (as predicted) but I managed to shove it all into the box and bag and then head down to reception to check they would look after my stuff until 10pm tonight.

Next stop: the city tour. I asked reception about getting a taxi to where I could get the City Tour bus and he said “No no need, just go 3 blocks up and you will see the stop”. So with some misgivings I went 3 blocks up and found the stop just as the bus pulled up – unbelievable.

It was freezing on the bus and I had not dressed warmly enough but luckily I had a warm jacket. The circuit takes 2 hours if you don’t get off, so first of all I did the whole circuit without getting off. During the next circuit unbelievably I started to fall asleep again, probably because in NZ it would have been about 3am.

I got off at the Furnicular Santiago. It makes the Wellington cable car pale in comparison. The trip up takes about 5 minutes up and is very steep. On the way back down the guard was explaining to a couple what would happen in an emergency, but it was in Spanish so I missed most of it. But I was not reassured by the tool he was showing them that he would jam in and stop the cars in an emergency, but of course it must work.

The Furnicular was built for Santiago by the Italians, not sure why, will have to google this. There was a Zoo on the way up but I did not stop at it as it did not look particularly big or interesting.  At the top of the Furnicular I took some photos, you could see the snow topped Andes behind the city, but the amount of smog meant they were very hazy.

At the top, there were what I am starting to realize are the obligatory 2 -3 stray dogs for every public space. So far most of the dogs had looked older in years and I wondered if there was a revoking programme for the younger dogs. They do not seem aggressive at all and don’t beg for food, so I am not sure how they get fed. They are not skinny but they are slim.

After I came down again I wandered around some markets and then went to go back to the Turistik bus stop but I could not find it. I walked up and down a couple of times as knew roughly where it was, as I had of course got off at it. I was getting annoyed at myself for not having taking better notice but had been falsely reassured by the fact that all the stops had big “Turistik” bus stop notices. In the end I asked a lady – by asked this was limited to smiling and pointing at my Turistik pamphlet. The stop it turns out was 200 meters up the road where I had gone to a couple of times but it did not have the Turistik bus sign that they are meant to have. So I am not going to count that as lost, so that means so far I have been overseas for 48 hours and not yet lost!

I was amused by some of the power lines, there are numerous wires in a tangle going from lamp post to lamp post, unlike NZ where you have to cut back your trees.

Once back at my stop I wandered around the shops for a while and then headed back to the hotel to wait to be picked up. I had 3 hours to wait, but I had had enough of wandering around.

Next stop is the airport, hopefully there will be no issues with customs or the weight of my bags, and then off to Colombia.  I have enjoyed Santiago and am looking forward to coming back in a few months.

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

Day 69: Sacedon to Madrid – 123k

5,571km down: 654km to go Up 1,400 metres

It was quiet in the campsite, I hardly heard anyone all night. The temperature has certainly dropped at night; I spent the whole night in the sleeping bag last night. It is also totally dark now when it is time to get up – thankfully I got batteries for my head light from a petrol station. This campsite has no lighting, not even inside the toilet block, and there was a steep set of stairs to get up and down to it.

At the riders meeting this morning Christiano said there would be two convoys into Madrid from the 20k out mark, the first one would leave at 1:30pm with whoever was there, and the second one would leave once everyone else reached the meeting point. I really wanted to be in the first convoy as Suzanne, the niece of a friend of mine, was coming over to spend a couple of days in Madrid with me, so I did not want to get in too late. Plus I had booked tickets to see flamenco dancing, but I had chosen the wrong city when booking the tickets online, and I had not managed to sort it out before we left the camp site.

We had to wait until 7:30am until it was light enough to ride. The first part of the ride we went down more of a track than a road, it was a really beautiful setting. Again I thought how lucky we are that we get to see parts of the country that most tourists never get to see. Soon enough however we were back on a road, and the climbing started again! One of the riders Daniel told me that in Spain only 12% of the country has a gradient of less than 5%!

The yellow speck going down the side of the dam is me. It’s just after sunrise.

I got to the top of a hill at about the 20k mark and got off my bike to take off my jacket. When I got back onto my bike it was making a terbbile rattling noise, but I checked it and nothing was visibly loose. The front hub axle on my bike needs to replacing and Brett’s view was that it was a  ball bearing rattling around. Gergo – who is the only bike mechanic now that Ciran’s left – was on the lunch truck so seeming as it was ok, although noisy, it seemed safe to ride so we set off again. Unfortunately we were so busy talking about different options and whether it would need to be fixed before Lisbon that we went past a well flagged turn! This cost us an extra 8k – 4k out and 4k back. On a positive note we did stop three other riders about 500 metres past the same turn who were about to make the same mistake!

Scott also missed this turn and did another 20k! As I said it was a well flagged turn but it was on a downhill with a tail wind. It put the pressure on though as both of us really wanted to be in the first convoy and we now had extra kilometres to catch up, and we had to allow time for Gergo to look at my bike! So just to add to the pressure we also missed another turn shortly after, but this one only added 2k! It was frustrating, especially with the added irritating constant cluck-click-clank of my bike.

Today we had some significant climbs, with tired legs from five previous days of riding with significant hills on each day, but I was pleased with how I was doing, I was certainly pushing myself as hard as I could.

About 2k before we reached the lunch truck the noise stopped. Gergo had a good look at the bike and thankfully it was pronounced safe to ride, plus it should hold together until Lisbon. When I get home I need to replace the hub axle in the front wheel.

We left the lunch stop with 1 hour and 30 minutes to do 40k, with hills, traffic lights etc. I have never pushed myself so hard. We got to the convoy meeting place at 1:34 – thankfully they had not left yet, yay! Then of course I had to do another 20k, and keep up with riders who are all stronger riders than me.

We have a convoy into the major cites so that we don’t get lost, and it is safer in traffic if you are  part of a group and being lead by someone who knows where they are going. I tucked in behind Christiano and did my best to keep up. Christiano is a great convoy leader, he gives plenty of advance hand signals, and is fearless about stopping the traffic.

We got to the Ibis hotel and I was at the check in when Suzanne arrived, so I arranged to meet her in an hour, after I had checked in and showered etc. The Ibis is in the middle of a fairly big renovation downstairs, so you can’t use the stairs and there is only one very slow lift. There is a fire exit but we can only use this in a fire.

It was good to catch up with Suzanne for a couple of hours. We then met up with Brett and we went to see the Corral De La Moreria – El  Tablao Flamenco. We had booked dinner beforehand and I must admit that I had fairly low expectations of the food. However the food was great, I had giant prawns and fish. The fish was the most tender I have ever tasted, it was Hake, followed by lemon sorbet. Included with dinner was water, and half a bottle of wine per person. It worked out well as everyone could have the wine they wanted.

The show was great, good music and dancing, the dancing looked extremely energetic and am sure much harder to do than it looked. Unfortunately the week of riding was catching up with me and I was fading rapidly by the end of the show. I was pleased to get back to the hotel, and yay no tenting for three nights 🙂

Flamenco dancer

Flamenco dancer

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments