Posts Tagged With: Not lost!

Day 16: Tuesday 29 Nov – Picton to Nelson

113km to ride today – 1,650 meters of climbing 1,600 meters down.

Emily the tour leader described it as “rolling hills and two bitches”.


Today’s ride

Our new rider Justina thankfully had her gear and bike arrive so was ready to set off with everyone this morning. It was nice weather to ride in, not much wind and not too hot.

The first part of the ride was along Queen Charlotte Drive, which is part of the famous Forrest GrapeRide and the less well known but extremely enjoyable Gourmet Grazer Ride.


View of the Sounds (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook page)

There were some interesting mail boxes to look at as we rode along. There was a bit of earthquake damage to the road in places.


Interesting letterboxes

I was amused to see a sign for a “Live Stock Psychologist”, not sure of the significance of the pair of gum boots under the sign.


Not sure what the gumboots signfy

I stopped at 35km for coffee at Havlock, then back onto what was a really busy road. It was much more busy than usual because of the earthquake, all the traffic that would have gone down Kaikoura is on this road, plus there even more increased traffic because the railway line is also out of action.


Earthquake damaged road

It was quite daunting when trucks coming from both directions pass right by you. As always, some drivers are pretty good and some are either ignorant or deliberately come too close. Where ever possible I got right off the road until they had passed.

At 65km was the first big hill, then downhill to lunch at 70km. The next hill was one that Emily referred to as the second ‘bitch’, it was at 83km, and seemed to stretch on for ever.


Lunch stop (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook)

Almost at the top there was a pine tree randomly decorated as a Christmas tree, with a naivety scene at the foot. It was a good reason to stop and take a picture.


Random Christmas tree

There was a huge downhill with no shoulder, so I pulled over a number of times to let trucks past and was constantly looking over my shoulder. I was very pleased to get down the bottom.

Over the past three weeks I have noticed there are a few riders that I see a lot during the day. I am reasonably fast on the flat but still a bit slow going up hill or down steep slopes. I generally see Kelvin, Bill, and Charles, numerous times in a day. The other morning when leaving camp, instead of saying “have a good ride”, Kelvin said “See you 14 or so times on the way”.

It’s Kelvin’s first TDA ride. Kelvin is from Canada and owns a dog food making company. I don’t know much about Bill other than he drinks two 500 ml bottles of juice each morning, and he likes cake. Charles is also from Canada, and is a university academic of some sort. He has done a few other TDA rides and has endless energy, he buzzes past me with frequency making cheerful comments.

Bill is convinced he saw a Kiwi today, in the middle of the day crossing the road in a farmland area. As all New Zealander’s know this is unlikely, almost certainly impossible. For non-New Zealanders: Kiwis come out at night, live in the bush and 99.9% of people can live their whole life with never seeing one in the wild. (Editor’s disclaimer: not sure if this statistic is a true fact). 

After the big downhill we rode along the coast into Nelson, around the outskirts of town and then out of town to the Maitai Valley Motor Camp.


Cycling towards Nelson (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)


Cycling towards Nelson (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I nearly went the wrong way as there is also a camp in Maitai Valley Rd called Brookland.
I felt a bit uneasy as I had gone through two roundabouts with no flagging, so called into a dairy and asked the owner, who told me I was going in the wrong direction. Then we had quite a long conversation about the Brookland camp being empty, and she was going to petition the council to get it opened to accommodate the homeless people in Nelson. Apparently because of the house price increase, and the knock on effect of increased rents, there are a number of families living in tents. I have to say living in a tent with a family would be really tough going especially in the cold and wet. Hopefully she is successful and the community gets behind her.

I arrived at the camp, put up my tent and had a wee nap until dinner. Dinner was beef stir fry , vegetables and noodles plus a roast vege salad. Yanez the chef said he had made the noodles because in South Africa, where he and Emily are from, you have noodles on your birthday for good luck for the next year.

Brett shared a really nice bottle of red with Michele, Tony and I – The Obsidian from Waiheke Island. It was an interesting mix of grapes: 40% cab sav, 28 % merlot, 13% cab franc, 13% petti verdott and 6% Malbec. All these variety of grapes were grown on Waiheke Island (a small island off Auckland). It was seriously nice wine.

Categories: Trans-Oceania | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

Day 23/164: Hobo to Timana – 112km

1,814km down: 11,827km to go. 1,880 metres up, 1,520 metres down

I was awake a bit in the night – a mixture of dogs barking, gastro bug, and truck drivers coming in and out and their trucks idling for a few minutes to warm up. The trucks here don’t seem to have sleeping compartments in the cabs. There are rooms attached to a number of the restaurants and petrol stations for the drivers to stop. This place has about 18 rooms, and with the attraction of air con and en-suites, I am sure it will soon become a favourite spot for the truckies.

I was pleased I had a room with an ensuite and did not have rush to and from the tent in the dark.

So my revised plans for today are to hydrate really well, and focus on making it to lunch. I set off into a bit of a head wind, but it was nice and cool – the top temp was 30 degrees 😀

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

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

I had a nice warm up with a few rolling hills, before the 7 kilometre climb at 13 kilometres. I got up the hill with only stopping and walking once. At the top I stopped for a freshly squeezed orange juice. After I had drunk it I thought that maybe it was not the best idea with my current upset stomach, but it was too late.

Juice stop at the top of the hill (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Juice stop at the top of the hill (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There were amazing views at the top – I even took a couple of photos!


Editor’s Caption: Photo credit: Kaye! (And it’s not blurry!)


Editor’s Caption: Photo credit: Kaye! (And it’s not blurry!)

Today’s plan is basically follow the main road, and not even I should be able to get lost. All went well until I got to Giganto, where there was a choice of directions and no flag, and the turn did not marry up with my notes. (I must get my speedometer re calibrated). When it doubt I think it’s best to choose the one that looks most like the main route. 100 meters along I was stopped by a couple in a car who stopped me and shooed me down a side street. They then followed me in their car to the end of it to make sure I turned left. I was pretty confident they knew what they were doing as they were pointing to my rider number plate.

I followed the road out of town – but still no flags! I checked my maps and it said I was heading in the right direction. I got to a hill at 37 kilometres and started to doubt it, as according to my notes the climb was actually meant to be a reasonable downhill. Just then Britten, who was the sweep for the day, arrived and confirmed we were on the right road.

Soon enough the climb arrived but it had lots of downs and the gradient was not too steep, and it was not too hot. I managed to get through the climbs on my bike – progress finally, while the lower temperature, asphalt, and not being at high altitude all certainly help, overall I am definitely getting better at sustained climbing.

I decided not to push what was an enjoyable ride, and stop at lunch. There were two policia sitting watching the whole time. Luiz said when he arrived he asked the lady who was running the shop next to the big parking lot if he could park the lunch truck there, and she refused. One of the two policia, who overheard, shouted “I am Horrace, and I say they can park where they want”. No wonder she was stony faced when I went in to buy a cold drink.

I helped clean up lunch and rode back with the lunch truck.

We are staying at the Municipal pool complex in Timana. Where we are camping there is a pool and a large grass area and a couple of soccer fields.

The municpal pool ( (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The municpal pool (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

There is the choice of camping in an area under a thatched roof with loud pumping music or on the grass where small children are playing soccer and riding bikes. I chose the field. There are three showers, but only one of them works, and three shared toilets. At least the shower is so cold no one is interested in staying in it too long.

The thatched roof many chose to sleep under (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

The thatched roof many chose to sleep under (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

It is Sunday today, and the local village has a few stalls. A couple quickly clicked on to coming here and selling to a hungry bunch of bikers. There was one very cute wee girl going around sharing her small packet of what tasted like very small bread sticks, but bite sized.

Two Columbian girls (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Two young girls at the markets (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I think I am not hydrating properly – too much water and not enough rehydration drink. I have concentrated today on two bottles of water followed by a bottle with half a sports rehydration tablet and feel better for it. I suspect I also need to eat more as generally am not eating between breakfast, lunch and dinner. This is ok when it is two to three hours, but not if it is six – the problem is I don’t get hungry. I will buy snacks in San Augustine and trial them on the next segment.

Tonight for dinner was chorizos, a cabbage based stir fry with cooked radish (which was actually pretty good) and pasta.

Hobo t

Hobo to Timana


Hobo to Timana

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

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

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

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

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

Day 11/164: Medellin to La Pintada – 82k

816 km down: 12,825 km to go

Back to riding today after a rest day. The first 17 kilometres from the hotel was a convoy. We were in rush hour traffic on the motorway, it was insane. I kept imagining what the police at home would do seeing a large group of foreigners riding along the motorway in the rush hour.

Convoying through rush hour (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Convoying through rush hour (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

Every now and then a motorbike got in the middle of the convoy and then wanted to turn suddenly which added to the chaos. One of the other riders, having seen me hesitate, told me that when we had to change lanes not to hesitate because the drivers then did not know what you were doing.

The aim of the convoy, apart from leaving the city safely, is to have the slowest riders up the front. This may be the aim but human nature being what it is I am one of the last at the back within a couple of kilometres. I am not that fond of convoys due to the pressure of not keeping other riders waiting.

Convoy in Medellin (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Convoy in Medellin (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

After the convoy there was a 21 kilometre uphill climb. After the rest by days my legs were in pretty good shape and I only had to stop a few times before the top.

View from Sue's bike as she cycles up the hill (Photo credit: Sue's Blog)

View from Sue’s bike as she cycles up the hill (Photo credit: Sue’s Blog)

I had bought a new battery for my speedometer in Medellin as the mechanic thought that would get it sorted but unfortunately this was not the case. It is disconcerting not knowing how far you have come and also hard to follow the directions.

I saw two of the riders at the summit of the climb and as I am not exactly speedy, I expected they would overtake me within a few kilometres. After I had been riding for about an hour and a half and they still hadn’t, I was pretty sure I had somehow managed to make a wrong turn. I was also pretty sure after another hour that I had missed the lunch truck.

There was a really long downhill with some steep ups. There were a few dogs that rushed out at me which is always a bit nerve wracking, as you never know if they are aggressive or not . I found out later they had had a great day rushing out at a number of the other riders. Shirley, one of the riders, was hit a few days ago whilst riding.

Through a village on the ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Through a village on the ride (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

I was tired and hungry and started pushing my bike up the hills. A motor bike with two local chaps came past and asked me something in Spanish, but I had to say “No Spanio”. They then speed off and arrived back about 10 minutes later with a mango and oranges for me to eat. I must have looked as tired and dispirited as I felt.  I said mucho gracious a few times and they speed off smiling and waving.

In much better spirits I pedalled off again. Five kilometres later – yay there was the lunch truck! Yay I wasn’t lost! Yay also to the news that it was only three more kilometres to camp! And double yay it was all downhill!

Green Colmbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Green Colombia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

Once I got to camp, I put up my tent and I headed over to the bike clinic. The mechanic played around with my speedometer for a while but decided it was beyond fixing. One of the other riders offered to sell me their spare cats eye (a type of speedometer) for US$150, but the attachment that kept it on the bike had been cut so it would not fit around my handlebars and needed two cable ties to hold it in place. I decided that I did not want to pay the price that it cost new for something that did not fit my bike. So I will probably have no speedometer until Bogota, in another five days.

Waiting for my bike to be worked on (Photo credit: Sue's Blog)

Waiting for my bike to be worked on (Photo credit: Sue’s Blog)

At this stage I realized I had lost my wallet, so I spent the next hour retracing my steps to no avail. Luckily it only had cash, not any credit cards.

I went to bed at the usual time of about 7:15pm and as I was going to sleep I heard the rain starting again. As we had come back down in altitude it was again sticky and hot.

Stunning Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue's Blog)

Stunning Columbia (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s Blog)

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

Day 5: San Marcos to Caucasia – 122km

428 km down: 13,213 km to go

I set off from the hotel at 6:30am thinking “122 kilometres with 65 kilometres off road, how bad could it be?”.

Well. It had rained constantly overnight and the dirt road was actually a dirt bath. The first 3 to 4 kilometres were ok, but then it was followed by a section where the mud was so thick and wet you could not ride and you could not push your bike either. Every time you tried, you got 10 meters and then had to spend 5 minutes pulling mud out of the front and back tyres and chain of the bike.

The mud road

The mud road

A couple of times along the track the locals helped us out and hosed down our bikes. There was about 3 kilometres where the only option was to carry your bike. My bike is 18 kilos, plus the panniers that kept trying to fall off at every opportunity, though they were also hooked around my bike chain and locked so I couldn’t actually lose them. I would get about 30 meters carrying the bike and have to stop then go another 30 meters and so on. Thankfully the temperature was kinder than previous days, it was only 26 degrees.

A local hosing down my bike

A local hosing down the bikes (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

The locals all waved and smiled at us as we went past, and were probably thinking “Stupid foreigners, why the heck don’t they use the main road!”.

After a while there were bits you could ride but I still had to keep jumping off whenever it got to a muddy bit, sometimes 20 meters, sometimes 50, then we got to some stretches where you could ride 200 to 300 meters. I fell off a number of times and was caked in mud, mainly by thinking the mud was harder than it was and over balancing when my bike slipped. I soon learnt not to try and steer when this happened.

Ironic, I thought I bought my bike here for it to carry me, not the other way round! After a stretch of a few kilometres where it started to get better I was feeling hopeful, then I saw riders carrying their bikes over a 500 metre stretch that was a quagmire. Luckily after this it improved again.

The quagmire

Carrying your bike was the only way to go (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)


Stopped for a quick drink – yes, I am as exhausted as I look (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

We had to go 35 kilometres and then catch a canoe to the other side for 2000 pesos, which is about 1 New Zealand Dollar. When we got there, there were heaps of locals collected to watch the entertainment, and the local children were fundraising by washing our bikes for 2000 pesos each. They were most enthusiastic and you had to stop them from rushing off with the panniers still attached.


The kids washing the bikes (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)


Locals on the river bank watching us


Canoe loading in progress (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

Then across on the canoe – which was more of a long boat – to the other side, about 50 meters. Once we got to the other side it was narrow, windy, muddy and at times steep. I decided to walk as I had fallen off enough for the day, and because of this I lost contact with the other two riders who I had come across in the canoe with.

Thankfully it started getting a bit easier and less narrow, however then I came to another river and another canoe, and this was not in my notes! I started to get that sick feeling that I was lost. I pointed down the river rather than across and the two ferryman shook their heads and pointed to the canoe. I was still dubious, so they decided for me by pulling my bike on board.

Sitting on the canoe I could feel my bottom lip start to tremble and then tears slide out of my eyes as I was really worried that I was going the wrong way. “Stop being a baby”, I told myself “I’m sure the locals know what they’re doing”.

Over the other side I biked about 5 kilometres feeling a bit worried, and then came to a house where the road curved. There was Christiano, the tour leader, who had to come to the first point that there was vehicle access, as he knew that we would be worried that there was a second canoe crossing. I was so pleased to see him I burst into tears and hugged him.

Off again, more dirt roads, another 35 kilometres to go, thankfully only had to get off on average every 500 metres. My cleats and clips were so clogged with mud that I could not clip them in, and it got very wearying trying to balance my shoes on top. I tried washing them a few times in puddles without much success.

I seemed to ride forever and just when I thought “Ok I have missed a turn”, I came to a more built up area (5 to 6 houses) and then thankfully hard tarmac and there was the lunch truck! I could not believe it was 3:50pm! 9 hours for 65 kilometres and still 55 to go.

I had a quick lunch, once again the local children washed the bike for 2000 pesos. My bike was clucking and clacking and I could not get into the biggest gear. I managed to get another 35 kilometres but it gets dark at 6ish, and I did not have my light or reflector as I had no reason to think it would be needed that morning.

After 35 kilometres I made the call that I wouldn’t get another 20 kilometres before it got dark. By this time I was on a main highway with lots of trucks, and motorbikes zooming along on the shoulder.

I decided to stop at the toll booth where it is well lit – and there are Policia – to wait for the truck to pick me up. I asked the policia man if I could sit there, he seemed agreeable although after I had been there for about 45 minutes in the dark he tried to ask me what I was up to – in Spanish. After no success there was a huddle of the policia and then about 10 minutes later another man arrived and sat down next to me and asked if I spoke English. I told him what was happening, he spoke to the Policia and all was fine. I was pleased I had bought my bug cream in my pannier, as I was there for another 30 minutes.

It was 8pm by the time we got to camp. A number of riders only got to lunch and one of the riders Asha had lost his rear derailer, and was up for ages repairing his bike.

It was a tired lot putting up tents in the dark (my headlight batteries ran out of course!), sorting our bikes and getting the mud off (2 showers for all the riders – but thankfully there were showers at all!).

Sue had broken 7 spokes on her bike and another rider and I had wrecked our riding shoes (both of us had old shoes). I have been wearing my new riding shoes as walking shoes on rest days to try and break them in so I don’t get my feet covered with blisters. The clips are inserted into the sole, and then you put a cover over the sole.

When I got onto the truck I had both panniers and my bike chain lock, but I haven’t seen my bike chain lock since. Last time I was on the truck I had got on with 2 water bottles now I only have one. I am carrying water in my panniers, and will buy a new chain and lock when I see a bike store.

This one photo pretty much sums up the day. This isn't posed - it's where Sue fell off her bike Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page

This one photo pretty much sums up the day. This isn’t posed – it’s where Sue and her bike landed when she fell off.
Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page

Categories: Columbia, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , | 8 Comments

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

Tourist in Chile

I am staying at Hotel Fundador, it is a nice place, the staff are friendly, the only draw back is there is no soundproofing so it’s like you have the window open. My bed is comfortable, there’s a good shower, and nice sheets.

I got up at 7:30am, had another go with opening safe but no luck. Breakfast at the hotel is included in the price of the stay – I had serious tea withdrawal by this time! There was the usual stuff: cereal, fruit, toast, hot dish, plus some very sweet looking pastries.

Then I went to reception to get a hop-on/hop-off bus pass for the city – the tour stops at 12 main tourist points –  and to ask if my safe could be opened.

First off one hotel man came up and spent about 15 min trying to open it, then went and got another man who must have had the override code as he opened it straight away. However, he must have met people like me before, as we then had a lesson in opening and shutting about 5 times before he decided I understood what to do next time.

By this time it was 9am and I thought I will just have a quick nap before getting out on the tourist circuit – and didn’t wake up till 1:30pm. Given that there is a football final between Chile and Brazil tonight and there are constant hordes of people walking past the hotel with horns and singing and cheering. I must have been tired.

The man at the front desk said he did not recommend starting the city tour today with thousands of football fans in the city, so I thought I would just have a look around the vicinity of the hotel, get an adapter for Chile, water, and masking tape. When I came through Immigration my bike box was inspected and then shut with two flimsy pieces of tape. I managed to find a store with masking tape within a kilometre of the hotel, and despite making a few wrong turns, I found my way back – however I had written down the name of the hotel just in case.

There were quite a lot of street performers and street sellers. They are quite intense, I got a Chilean paper flag head band to stop being asked constantly if I wanted one.

Street Performer in Santiago

Street Performer in Santiago

As I have slept most of the past 36 hours I thought I would go to a Chilean show and dinner, so I went to reception to book one. I wanted to go to through Turistik Tour Cena Show Santiago, but I was not allowed to as they don’t take single bookings!! However there is one with another company that I can go to the helpful hotel receptionist found for me she tells me it is really good.

Talking about reception reminds me when I got to Wellington Airport the check-in lady was asking about visas and how long I was staying in each country and doing all sorts of adding up. I was confident that Rachel from House of Travel had everything sorted and I didn’t need a visa, but the longer the check-in lady took and more questions she asked, I was starting to get a bit concerned! But it turned out the confusion was because I had no ticket flying out of Colombia, or into Argentina and even though I had explained I was bike riding she did not grasp that I was riding all the way there! She thought I was just doing some biking in Colombia and Argentina. Once we sorted that out (and I removed the giant bottles of shampoo and conditioner and rearranged a few things!) all was well.

Until I got to the hotel in Santiago and the reception man asked for my Police Visa! “What?!” I said, “I don’t have one!”. It all got a bit exciting at this point and I was going through my ticket folder in the hope that one may emerge when he smiles and points to the piece of paper the lady from Customs gave me on the way in, that she explained as “You need this to get out of Chile”, so phew!

I am very pleased that I broke up my flight over here by staying in Santiago for a few days. If I had gone straight through to Cartagena then I would have landed here at 11:15 in the morning, and then left again at 1am the following morning – I don’t think I would have managed it well! Instead, I will leave Santiago on Monday morning, after two nights here. The flight is still at 1am, but at least I will be rested, before being picked up from the hotel at 10pm on Sunday night. Hopefully there won’t be any issues with getting my bags looked after during the day at the hotel. 

A blast from the past: Yesterday when the driver picked me up at the airport, we were talking about the smog and he said it is so bad that there is now a restriction on cars on the road, yesterday cars that the registration plate ended in 7 or 8 were not allowed on the road. Those of you who were old enough will remember the carless days of the late 70s due to the petrol crisis. My day was Sunday!

Categories: Chile, South American Epic | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Day 80: Benavente to Lisbon – 55k

6,288km down: 0km to go!!

We had a great meal last night in the hotel restaurant, we were all pretty happy. We also got given our tour shirts so we could wear them into Lisbon. Plus Gergo had put together a slide show of photos from the tour which was pretty good.

Today was a late start as we did not have to be up for breakfast until 8am so I enjoyed sleeping in. We left the hotel about 9am and rode 17k, then all met up to ride in a convoy for the remaining 33k.

Leaving the hotel in the morning wearing the tour shirt

The drivers in Portugal are really nowhere near as cyclist friendly so the convoy was pretty slow, as we were very cautious. It was actually much better once we were in the city, even with all the traffic.

On the way we passed another bullfighting ring in a small town. Bull fighting seems to be a bigger thing here than Spain. They have female bull fighters as well. In Spain the tide is turning against bullfighting, over 50% of Spanish people think it should stop. It would be interesting to know the percentage here in Portugal. It seems to me to be unfair that the bull is predetermined to die. I prefer the method in St Gilles in France, where the bull wears carpet on his horns and when it is over it gets to go back to the farm.

Bullfighting ring on the way from Avis to Benavente on day 79

We arrived in Lisbon about midday. We had stopped 12k out and had a sandwich. This morning when we had breakfast in the hotel we were told we could make a sandwich. It seemed really strange taking food from the buffet and putting it into a plastic bag.

When we got to Lisbon we stopped at a park across the road from our hotel and had some sparkling wine and photos. In total we have done 6,288k! An awesome effort.

The park in Lisbon where we celebrated, across the road from our hotel

Opening the sparkling wine on arrival in Lisbon

Then it was time to box up my bike, sort out my stuff, throw away quite a bit, and get things ready to pack. Tonight we have a celebration dinner at 7:15pm.

As I fly out tomorrow I have not got a lot of time to look around, so am going to head out to look around for a couple of hours now.

The TDA Crew: Gergo, Esther, Cristano, Ezther, Miles, TJ (Miles’s wife, only with us part of the time) and their son Kaia

The seven full tour riders: Brett, Michel, me, Dan, Danya, Jan, Scott

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Day 77: Cáceres to Valencia de Alcántara – 101k

6,034km down: 191km to go Up 984 metres, down 817

We left the hotel about 8:45am and rode in a convoy for the first 5k. Today we are following the same road nearly all day so nobody should be getting lost today.

Brett and I leaving the hotel in Cáceres

We see lots more stock now but there is still not a lot of grazing. In the fields there is hay spread around all the paddocks for the stock to eat.

There was not a lot to note about the morning, there were rolling hills and I tried to get enough momentum to get to the top or as close to it on most the hills. There were a few though that because of the length or the gradient I only got part of the way assisted. When I get back to New Zealand I have four days before I go back to work and I am going to go and ride a couple of hills to see how much I have improved:
1. The hill in Makara that goes up to the windmills – before I came away I had to stop twice on the way up
2. Hungerford Road from the Lyall Bay side which I have not yet tried, but I believe is a 20% gradient.

Just before lunch I looked up as we came up to the crest of a hill and unbelievable but there were about 30 to 35 eagles/condors soaring and gliding above me, amazing!

Today we reached another milestone, the 6,000 k mark 🙂 By end of the day the total we have ridden was 6,034. We bought some bottles of local red wine to celebrate this achievement.

Just reached the 6,000k mark

Celebratory wine for reaching the 6,000k mark

This afternoon when we turned off the N521 towards the camp the landscape changed again. There are more hills and also quite a lot of rock formations. We are staying in a national park about 4k from the border to Portugal. So tomorrow is the last border we cross for the tour.

The scenery at the camp Aguas Claras in Valencia de Alcántara

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Day 46: Bondeno to Casalmaggiore – 140k

3,661km down: 2,564km to go

This morning our bags were by the van by 6am, breakfast was at 6:15am and we were on the road by 6:30am. All in a bid to try and beat the heat. It was another day of mostly flat riding, but also very hot. We were at lunch by 10:45, determined to be at camp before 2 pm.

The sun was a really fiery red colour when we left this morning (photo from here)

The morning started off quite nice and cool but soon started warming up. We were again riding along a levy but thankfully it was not as hot as the day before. I was riding with Brett again, luckily Brett is really good at following the directions, and he has a really good map. We were idling along the levy – it was like water torture. There were glorious blue swimming-pools on one side, and the river on the other. No one was swimming in the river though so we were not willing to risk it, and also there was no easy access down to it. I did think about throwing myself into one of the swimming pools. I wondered what would happen: “Hey mum there’s a lady in our pool”. Just as I was getting tempted to risk it I got distracted by another bee stinging me (this one took 3 days to stop hurting). The bees or wasps – am not sure which – love me, as soon as I arrive at lunch so do the bees.

After lunch we were riding along the main road. We stopped once for a drink but got back onto the bike without stopping too long. I was starting to wilt as we came to the 120k mark, and I had just said to Brett “Wouldn’t it be great if this was a day they had got the distance wrong by 10k in our favour again?” (like they did at the camp the night before Venice). Just then Brett saw a flag and they had got the distance wrong by 20k 🙂

Our accommodation was a weird set up, we are staying at a sports club which has a bar, swimming pool, tennis court etc. We set up our tents where we were told to, but a couple of hours later we had to dismantle them and set up further down the field away from the members (apparently a couple of them had complained about us being there, not sure what about but it could have been the washing lines with bike pants, bras etc, that upset them).

The water torture continued as you could only use the pool if you had a bathing cap (which of course we didn’t), and then to reinforce our torture, there was a hose spraying the lawn in front of us. This also attracted the mosquitoes in droves. When you came out of your tent in the middle of the night they descended on you as a pack. We all left there sporting numerous bites regardless of putting on bug spray.

With leaving earlier we are getting up in the dark, which is usually ok as I have my head light. However, it has been merrily turning itself on in my bag since St Petersburg, and of course it chose this morning to be flat. The spare batteries are in my permanent bag, which at the moment is off scouting for tomorrow, so I will have no light tomorrow either. It makes getting ready a bit difficult as the phone light is useless.

On a positive note we had dinner in the restaurant at the camp tonight, we had 18 pizzas between 13 people, and the beer was cold. However the Wifi did not work so sending this was delayed. I also got a nasty fright when I went to the toilet – it was a squat toilet, basically a hole in ground with foot spaces on either side. Yuck.

Squat toilet. Yuck.

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Day 42: San Stino to Venice!!!! – 58k

3,392km down: 2,833km to go

Sadly the talent show did not get up and running as after dinner we walked down the road for ice-cream and then sat around talking.

So this morning we had a 58k bike ride before we met in Punta Sabbioni at 12pm at the dock to take a boat into Venice. I set off about 7:20am as I wanted to get to Punta Sabbioni and hopefully Skype my children. There was quite a lot of traffic and lots of turns, I was worried at one point I had made a wrong turn but thankfully I had not. Jan and Dayna had their first turn at getting lost, but still turned up in plenty of time.

Unfortunately there was no Wifi connection at the dock, so it had to be a phone call instead. I shopped at a cafe where the owner was quite interested in the bike ride (but he did not speak a lot of English so it was not a long conversation). I was the first there and then in twos and threes the other riders arrived and joined me. The owner got more and more enthusiastic as we ordered food and drink, and started bringing out food for us to try. He then started bringing out sparkling wine – at 11am – and was very insistent that we should try it. We ended up being there a couple of hours waiting for our boats to Venice.

Waiting for the boat at Punta Sabbioni

The tour guys had organized for us to do an hour water tour on the way to our hotel. We set off in two boats, and our bikes in another. What an amazing and beautiful city, it is everything I have imagined and more. So many intricately decorated and detailed buildings, the water is only about half a metre from the front doors. The buildings open out into the canal and there are boats and people everywhere. And it is really, really hot – not sure if you have heard that Italy is having a heat wave.

Approaching Venice by water

Sadly about 15 minutes before the end of the trip I decided to look in my bag to get my iPad out to take a photo, and just that one act of looking down was enough to set off my sea sickness. By the time we got to land I felt dreadful. I got to the hotel and slept for a couple of hours, and luckily woke up feeling better.

We are staying at Hotel Atlanta Augustus. Amazing – in my room I have a four poster bed, complete with tapestries.

We had the farewell dinner at a restaurant just down the street. Or I should say the farewell feast. We had Prosecco Frizzante (a white sparkling wine) provided by Tour De Afrique, and Daphne and Shirley. We had numerous courses – sea food pasta and risotto, salad, baked fish and squid rings and shrimps. Then we had limoncello to drink, and sgroppino, which is made from lemon sorbet, presecco, vodka and menthe.

After dinner, Gen, Rob, Walli, Brett and I went down the road to a local bar and sat outside by the canal. We should have only had one more drink (well I should have) but we ended up drinking two really large glasses of beer, I woke up the next morning feeling a bit seedy – with another boat trip in the very near future! Not such good planning.

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