Posts Tagged With: Random information

Day 25: Rest day in Cologne (27 June)

We had breakfast at the hotel, then the next step was the ongoing need to get laundry done.

When we got into the lift after breakfast, Gergo (the tour leader) jumped in and started having a chat to us about going the wrong way yesterday morning. Ezster (his wife) who was the sweep had caught up to us, and she must have mentioned it to him. Gergo spoke to us like we were about 12 years old so I walked off while he was talking.

Next thing we get an email from him, copied to Miles in the head office in TDA, telling us again why we were wrong and telling us how to navigate! Very frustrating as it’s the first time Gergo has spoken to me since the day I arrived, and it’s to tell me off! And he was totally oblivious that actually the flagging was wrong, and at least half the riders had made the same two wrong turns as us. After awhile I decided to just ignore it.  As in the words of Henry Gold, founder/owner of TDA, “getting lost is half the fun”.

After doing the laundry we had a couple of pizza pieces for lunch. Brett was not feeling very well, upset stomach, so he had a nap and I caught up on a couple of days with the blog.

Later the afternoon we went for walk and were amused to see a statue in square with her arm and hand open, holding a bottle of beer.


Statue in the Old Market

Then we went to see the Cologne Cathedral which is Roman Catholic and is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne. The height of the building is 157.4 meters, which makes it the 4th highest church building in the world. It covers 8,000 square meters and can hold over 20,000 people. The two massive towers were completed in 1880c.


Cologne Cathedral


Cologne Cathedral

The cornerstone of the present day Gothic cathedral was laid at the Feast of Assumption of Mary, 15 August 1248. The previous building was deemed not impressive enough to hold the bones of the three wise men (Magi) and were brought to Cologne in 1164 by Archbishop Rainald of Dassel from Milan, after the latter city was conquered in 1164. In 1,200 these remains were placed in a golden Shrine. Because of these remains, the Cathedral is one of the most important places of pilgrimage in Europe.


Cologne Cathedral


Cologne Cathedral

Outside the cathedral there were a number of beggars, I gave one a few euros and every time she saw me in the square after that she blew me a kiss. There was a man busking with an amazing voice singing opera, that we listened to for awhile also.

There were a number of cruise ships at the docks including the Ms Emily Bronte (from yesterday) and the Viking Vidar. The Viking Vidar goes from Budapest to Amsterdam.

We had dinner at a Lebanese restaurant called Beirut, with John W. We got a set menu and we could not believe it – we got about 20 starters (hummus, meatballs, rice, salad, chicken etc)  but thankfully only a platter of main, and a small honey pastry dessert.

Afterwards we decided to go to the hotel bar. Um 3 drinks later, I may regret this in the morning.



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

Day 12: Cortina d’amezzo to Brixen

68 km – 680 meters climbed up and 1,290 meters coasted down

We had the most amazing views of the Dolomites most of the day today. For the first 30 km we were on a rail trail, so pretty easy gradient. The trail is used in summer for cycling and in the winter it is used for skiing.


On the bike paths

There were what I thought were old railway stations approx every 6 km, but it turned out they are actually houses. There were families living in them, and it was the job of the father to check the section of line he was responsible for every morning, and confirm it was free of avalanche etc and safe for the trains. This would be done over the phone. Also, he was in charge of maintaining that section of the line.

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On the rail trail today

There were a number of tunnels to go through, it reminded me of the Rimutaka Incline in NZ (but the tunnels were lit). There were quite a number of other cyclists today, heading both ways.


Tunnels on the bike path

We stopped at a monument showing the different climbs on three of the peaks. The climb grade is an 11, which is pretty serious. It has the name and dates of people who have done the climbs.


3 Peaks Category 11 climb in Parco Naturale Tre Cime

You can go hiking up in the middle mountains, and walk between mountain lodges without having to come down. There are no roads up to these lodges, and they pull the food up on things that look to me like ski lifts, they have big balls instead of chairs that the supplies go in. The lodges have big dormitories that can sleep up to 200. The thought of that is like waking up in a nightmare!

The bike trails are a mixture of rail trails and bike paths, rather than one large trail. A number appear to go through people’s properties – at one place between a barn and a house.

There were lots of cows wandering around with bells on so they can be found.

We are still in in Italy but the buildings and the furniture are very Austrian.

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On the way from Cortina d’Ampezzo to Brixen

We have had the largest groups of cyclists out on the paths I have ever seen. We were playing leap frog with a group of about 25, as we would each be on different trails and then keep intersecting. I was surprised at how well some of the cyclists were doing, until I noticed they were on E bikes (electric bikes).

One of the riders got an instant fine of €17.5 for riding through a tunnel with a sign saying “cars only” – there was an alternative route for bikes and walkers next to it.

We stopped at a Cafe with seating outside, attached to restaurant. We had the most amazing apple strudel I have ever tasted. It was nothing like anything called apple strudel I have ever had before.

This place also has the award for the most beautiful cafe or restaurant bathroom, with a great big marble basin so big you could almost have had a bath in it, and a range of soaps and hand lotions, and real hand towels.

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An old fort as we approached Brixen

I had dinner with John, Walker, Tom, Graham, and Brett. Dinner was salad from a salad bar, pasta with tomato sauce, shoulder of beef with apple and horse radish sauce, tiramisu, washed down with sparkling water.

The Internet is not my sending emails again! Frustrating as I can get emails and use Facebook. I wanted to send email to two friends who are having surgery before they had it. I tried being in the room, and the bar, and the restaurant, and just can’t get anything to send.


Jeff and Dianne from Colorado, USA. Retired, they had a business setting up video links etc. They have 2 children and have done 7 TDA rides, they are not currently planning any more. (Editors note: but do they have any pets?! I’m pretty sure this is the first time you haven’t told us about a rider’s pet status!). 

The name of the hotel we are staying at is the Temhof Hotel.


View from the room balcony in Brixen

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Day 10: Trieste to Maniago

123 km: 800 meters up and 430 down

This is the start of another four day section, and this was the easiest of the four days.

Instead of having to take notes from a whiteboard like previous trips, this trip we get them passed out in their already printed version. Some riders pour over them, highlighting certain bits, others – like me – shove them in their pocket to be taken out if needed if there is confusion about which way to go.

We started at 8am with a convoy, which was meant to be for 4 km but after 1.5 km most of the convoy was out of sight due to having to stop at the lights. As Gergo doesn’t flag or give notes for the convoy to ensure riders don’t go off on the their own, it was just by good luck and guessing that we managed to stay on the right track.

The first 18 km was along along the coast, then we turned inward and took the last view of the Adriatic Sea (the top of the Mediterranean). The next time we see the sea we will be in the Netherlands.

We went through a town called Palmanova, which is an excellent example of a star fort from the Renaissance. This was built by the Venetians in 1593. The whole town is walled, and there are only entrances/exits through the walls.


An aerial view of Palmonova (picture source)

This is also where the Trans Europa ride we did in 2012 intersects with this ride, the Oydessy. In 2012, we came through here on the way to Venice.


Walled town of Palmanova, inside the south gate


Cathedral in Palmanova square


North-west gate out of Palmanova, onwards to Amsterdam

There was a big market in the square with lots of stalls selling food, clothes, cooking ware, and lots of fresh flowers.


Market square inside Palmanova


Through the palace gate to the Villa Manin

Where we stopped for lunch there was a man trimming his hedge who was chatting away to all the riders, and telling to make sure that they stopped in the next town Mortegliano to see the biggest bell tower in Europe.



The locals reckon this is the tallest bell tower in Europe, Mortegliano.

One of the TDA staff Ozgur had made homemade lemonade for lunch, which was very thirst quenching. It’s made from lemonade, honey, water and soda water.


In the afternoon the breeze from most of morning was replaced by beating sun, it was 35 degrees C and felt hotter.

There were lots of very long straights, broken up with interesting small towns. All the town were deserted and the shops were shut as it was siesta time.


Beautiful riding today through the agricultural flat lands north of Venice.

Whilst going around a roundabout I was bit/stung by bug (through my riding top!). I wasn’t sure what it was, but took an antihistamine just in case it was a bee or a wasp. Luckily I did, as later that night when I had a look I had a big welt.

The last twenty km of the day seemed to go on and on, a bit of an uphill gradient, and into a bit of head wind.

Although we were riding towards the Dolomites, because of the heat haze we did not get a view of them until about 8 km before the end of the ride, where they slowly started to appear through the haze.


Approaching Maniago and the end of the flatlands. Next 3 days climbing up to Passo del Brennero and entering Austria 🇦🇹

We got to the hotel at 5pm and found out dinner would not be until 8pm. To start off with I could not find my bag anywhere. I looked through the bags twice, and was starting to get really worried. I then went through the bags again, bag by bag. I had never noticed until now that my red bag is actually half black. The bottom half is black and it was upside down. Relieved, I went off to the room to get cleaned up.

The hotel room had a nice big bath so I had a relaxing soak and then I intended to have a quick nap, but ended up sleeping for two hours. I was more tired than I would have expected, as not much climbing, but we had had 9 hours in the sun and although there was not much climbing there was no real downhill, so we were constantly peddling all day.

Dinner was tomato pasta, grilled pork and potato, vanilla ice cream, washed down with sparkling water.  I had dinner with Brett, Miriam, Tom and Cathy.


Tom and Miriam, retired they live in New York, and have 3 sons and one grandson. No pets. This is their 4th TDA tour. Miriam was a lawyer and then taught law, and Tom was an engineer.

Cathy is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She lives with her partner Peggy (who doesn’t like bike touring, so is not on the trip). They have no children and have a German short haired pointer. Cathy has done 2 previous TDA rides and is an ED doctor.


Tom and Miriam on the left, Cathy on the right

Tomorrow is going to be a big day, 130 km and 2600 meters climbing and I am feeling a bit daunted. We are going to be climbing through the Dolomites.

The Dolomites are the mountain range located in north-eastern Italy, and form part of the Southern Limestone alps. The Dolomites are also known by the name The Pale Mountains, they take this name from the carbonate rock dolomite. The rock was named for the 18th century French mineralogist Deodat Gratel de Dolomieu (1750 to 1801) who was the first to describe the mineral.

The Dolomites are renown for skiing, mountain climbing, cycling, and BASE jumping.

The first week in July is the Maratona dles Dolomites, where in a single day, road bikers climb all 7 mountain passes.

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

Another trip begins! (Friday 11 Nov)

I had a feeling of “too much to do” before I was due to head off on Friday. I went into work on Sunday (6th Nov) to try and get stuff sorted. When I left work on Sunday night I had 21 things on my “must do” work list. On Monday night went I left work I had 25!  Somehow I got every single one off my list by home time on Thursday, at least to the state of handing over where I was up to with it.

Unusually for me I left packing till the last minute, I hope I have everything. I have been using the trip bike for the past month and bought new shoes a month ago. The good thing with doing the trip in NZ is if I have forgotten anything I will easily be able to buy it.

We set off from Wellington at midday on Friday. We got a rental car to drive up rather than flying and having to box up the bikes. Plus then there was no pressure to be at the airport by a certain time. We drove to Taupo and stayed at a place called The Cove, it was very nice. Nicer I suspect than anywhere I will be staying the next month. We went to the supermarket and got some cheese and crackers, and picked up Indian take aways for dinner.

On Saturday morning we went to a cafe for breakfast. Crikey, the service was slow! I had read the whole Dominion Post by the time my food arrived. When it did arrive, it wasn’t worth the wait. I had a Spanish omelette, but it was hard and flat and had no olives or tomatoes and was pretty uninspiring, but by that stage I was hungry so I ate it.

Then we drove to Auckland and got stuck in the traffic coming into the city, from the Bombay Hills onwards it was crawling speed only and this was Saturday – I can’t even imagine what it must be like during the week.  It was a bit of a mission finding the place we are staying in Auckland with the one way traffic system, but we got there in the end. The place we stayed on Saturday night is less than 5 minutes from the start hotel.

We unpacked and then took the rental car back which was a couple of kilometres away. We then walked back along the waterfront and stopped at a bar called the “Y not” and had some lovely mussels in coconut cream and coriander, plus a couple of cold beers. Then we walked a bit further round and called in at bar and had a red wine. Then we headed back to the apartment. On the way we stopped to get tea bags and I bought a small bottle of calci-trim milk.

We had a great view from our apartment, and sat and watched the view change from day to night, munching on cheese and crackers.


Auckland waterfront – woohoo, we are on holiday!

Categories: Information, Preparations, Trans-Oceania | Tags: , , , , | 4 Comments

Day 65/164: Rest day in Nazca

I have organized to go flying over the Nazca lines today. I am starting to regret this, thinking of small planes and motion sickness. However the only way to see them is in the air.

These lines were built over hundreds of years and anthropologists are still trying to work out the reasoning behind them. There are lines that are pictures of hummingbirds, whales, families, and an astronaut (or as one line of thought goes – an alien). There are other lines that are geometrical shapes and then lines straight and diagonal that line them up. This is really impressive having been done from the ground over hundreds of miles.

The lines were plotted by the line creators, who put stakes in the ground and then joined them with string. Then other workers came and cleared the stones and a layer of dirt. The stones were placed at the outside of the lines which helped protect them from the wind. The language of these people has gone but the lines remain.

Also as they were dependent on water, they suffered drought and practiced human sacrifice. This is not yet fully understood whether it was people from other tribes or from within their own. Also they discovered they could get water deep below the surface of the desert and created huge wells with steps in a circle going down. They also built quite sophisticated irrigation systems for their crops.

With flying in mind, I had a plain breakfast of rolls and tea. (Editor’s note: Love the seamless change of topic here 🙂

A group of us were picked up at the hotel at 8:30am  to go to the airport, once again in a beat up old car.

When we arrived at the airport we had to pay departure tax of $20 sole, and watch a video about the history of the lines. Then set off for the 55 minute flight!

I had my camera with me but only managed to take about three photos, as every time I looked down and tried to focus the camera the motion sickness started to creep in.

It did not help that the plane was a six seater and the pilot was showing passengers on both sides of the plane each of the lines, so lot of banking and rolling.

The lines were amazing and I am really pleased I saw them. It was also great to see the vastness of the desert, and see the road we had rode in on. I managed to keep the motion sickness at bay whilst on the plane, but had the bag on my knee just in case!

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

Nazca lines

Nazca lines

The Hummingbird

The Hummingbird

Nazca lines

Nazca lines

The very small plane

The very small plane

I got back onto the ground and was waiting to be picked up, when I was still feeling very queasy and then lost my breakfast into a garden. Probably just as well, as would not have been good if it had been in the driver’s car.

I had taken my broken glasses with me as figured it would be easier to ask where to go for new ones. I showed the driver, he nodded and smiled and took me to a shop in town, which turned out to be an optician. Luckily I managed to convey that I just needed them for reading, and got two pairs for $20 sole each. The spare pair is now in a case. I will still need to get more so am keeping a look out for a street vendor.

After this I was hungry having lost breakfast. I had a sandwich, then off to the supermarket for supplies and back to the hotel. I ended up having to get Ponds moisturizer as it was the only one that I was sure was actually moisturizer.

I spent the afternoon sending photos, which was really frustrating as the Internet was really slow, and going through my gear. I am having lots of problems trying to shut my day bag, so was trying to take stuff out plus put more warm clothes in. Net result was I got the warm clothes in and some stuff out, and it is still just as hard to shut.

I decided to have dinner at the hotel rather than go into town again. Out of curiosity I chose pork steak, which ended up being like schnitzel but not crumbed, rice, an egg, and my favourite: plantain – oh well, I had a good meal last night.

Then an early night as we have a big day tomorrow – 90 kilometres, all uphill climbing from 400 meters to 3,200 meters!

A whole pile of lines and trapezoids (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

A whole pile of lines and trapezoids (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

The Astronaut (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

The Astronaut (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

This is a general shot of the valley.  Lots of agriculture and a dry river.  A lot of the lines have been affected by water flows, whenever it happens  (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg's blog)

This is a general shot of the valley. Lots of agriculture and a dry river. A lot of the lines have been affected by water flows, whenever it happens (Photo and caption credit: Laura and Greg’s blog)

nazca lines

nazca lines2

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

Day 19/164: Bogota to Anapoima – 85km

1,356km down: 12,285km to go

Three new riders have joined the group:
Franzwar (not how you spell his name but that’s how it sounds, he’s from France) he has done sections of other rides and is doing a couple of sections of this one (Editor’s note: I’m assuming Mum means “François”)
Mario – a young German guym this is his first TDA ride doing the whole ride
Rosa – from the Netherlands here for 3 weeks has done the South African ride before.

Rosa at the market lunch stop (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rosa at the market lunch stop (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We are staying at El Molino camp in Anapoima tonight.

We left in a convoy of course, as we were coming out of a large city. It was threatening to rain, and would you believe there is a public transport strike happening.

We had a police escort. I decided to ride in the the lunch truck until lunch, which was meant to be at 29 kilometres, and then ride the rest of the way – about another 90k. The convoy took over 2 hours through the crazy traffic.

The police escort then dropped us off at the Terpel petrol station as planned and the instructions for riders, regarding distance and turning etc started from there. Well, you know what they say about the best laid plans! The problem was it was the wrong Terpel station and the person who had mapped out the route was not with the convoy. So chaos ensued as the directions and the road were not matching!

Trying to figure out which way to go (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Trying to figure out which way to go (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Luckily the riders realized pretty quickly and re grouped and contacted Christiano, and they were redirected and it only added another 10k to their ride. The truck however went really wrong, and by the time the TDA staff realized and back tracked, the riders had already passed the 29k mark.

The lunch truck was following the riders, and trying to overtake riders going down a narrow steep dirt road. It was not till we got to 52 kilometres that we had passed enough riders to make it worthwhile stopping for lunch.

I decided to still ride as there was approximately another 40 kilometres so I hopped on my bike. The first 15 kilometres was down and up the same terrain as before lunch – windy, narrow, dirt and occasionally rocky. This certainly was part of the 15% of the time I knew I would wish I had bought a mountain bike.

After this was about 10 kilometres of uphill, reasonably steep gradient. It was boiling hot and I was huffing and puffing. I am still not coping with altitude, and generally not being fit enough. I finally got to the open road with a reasonable down, and then some rolling hills.

Just before camp I came across Paul, one of the other riders, walking his bike down the hill. Paul’s brakes had failed quite a while before but luckily he was not harmed. Paul commented that it was a peculiar brand of torture having a bike you could only ride up the hills.

I got to camp and set up my tent, but did not realize I had put it on too steep a slope. I didn’t realise until I went to bed, and then I did not want to try and move it in the dark, which as it turns out would have been a better option. I kept waking up uncomfortably hunched at the bottom on the tent. Between the roosters that started at 2 am, the heat, and the trucks, I did not get a lot of sleep.

We had Spaghetti Bolognese for tea.

Tonight's campsite (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Tonight’s camp-site (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

General Update, and photos – 29 July 2015

There is very little smoking that I have seen so far in Colombia. A bit more in the city but probably less than 1 in 100 people, and in the country less than that.

However all the major food chains have made their way to the cities: Mc Donald’s, KFC, Subway, and Dunkin Donuts. Everywhere sells coke (cocola), and a local fizzy drink called Postobon, which is really sweet fizzy drink. Mostly the locals are slim but the obesity epidemic is starting to appear.

Interesting fact: 70% of the world’s species of birds live in South America.  Out of the city you see birds of all sizes and colours. There are also huge brightly colored butterflies – bright blue and crimson and multi colored, flying around.

The toilet situation is variable from outhouse, to toilets with no seats and hoses for washing, to systems that look like the ones at home. However despite where you are, you don’t put toilet paper in the toilet – you put it into a rubbish bin next to it which takes some getting used to.

Beside all the toilets are small containers to put the toilet paper into it. Some are closed lids with foot levers, but others like this are open. It takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Beside all the toilets are small containers to put the toilet paper into it. Some are closed lids with foot levers, but others like this are open. It takes quite a bit of getting used to.

Correction: Regardless of what I say on my blog, when I say feet I mean metres, sorry, so we have been climbing 2,000 metres not feet (Editor’s note: I have now gone back and corrected any references to distances in feet that I could find, but if you find any please let me know).


Graffiti is everywhere, same as in Santiago


Making full use of the space in the car (In Bogota)


Side view of the same car


The man sells dog clothes – note the boots on the dog

Picture of a building in Bolivar square in the historical part of the city don't know what it is called

Caption from Kaye: “Picture of a building in Bolivar square in the historical part of the city, don’t know what it is called”


Name of the church in the next picture


The church


Tim and Rhonda who are leaving the tour here in Bogota

Editors Note: Below are photos that I’ve just found from Kaye, that I hadn’t posted earlier. Oops, sorry bout that: 

Dad and daughters on a bike in San Marcos

Dad and daughters on a bike in San Marcos

Tyres for sale at local supermarket in San Marcos

Tyres for sale at local supermarket in San Marcos

Car in San Marcos

Car in San Marcos

Our equivalent to Telecom: Movistar technicians in San Marcos

Our equivalent to Telecom: Movistar technicians in San Marcos

Tour staff buying 5 trolleys of food to keep us going to the next rest day in San Marcos

Tour staff buying 5 trolleys of food to keep us going to the next rest day in San Marcos

My lunch date in San Marcos

My lunch date in San Marcos

Washing on roof of Art hotel in Medellin

Washing on roof of Art hotel in Medellin

View of Medellin from roof of Art hotel

View of Medellin from roof of Art hotel

View from roof of Art hotel Medellin the building in the foreground has King Kong painted on it

View from roof of Art hotel Medellin the building in the foreground has King Kong painted on it

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

General Update – 21 July 2015

Some general comments and info I have not put in previous blog updates:

I like my new tent much better than the last one. It’s a MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2. There are 3 other riders with a Hubba Hubba tent also. The tent has a feeling of spaciousness because it has a pole that goes across the top diagonally, as well as the length – this makes it seem bigger than it is. In the last tent it felt like the walls were closing in on me. The one issue is putting it down in the wet, it is really hard to get the poles to unfold. I will have to come up with a solution before it gets frosty as well.

Offers of help
I have had a number of helpful locals stop and offer to give me and my bike a lift as I am struggling up yet another hill, including a couple of large trucks who have just stopped going uphill – blocking traffic while they converse. The people are really interested in having a discussion, which so far is limited on my part to:
Hello – halo (don’t pronounce the h)
Buenos Dias – good morning
Buenos noches – goodnight
Gracias – thank you
Muchas gracias – very much appreciated
I como esta – how are you
Aqua – water
And of course “No Spaino” – no speak Spanish
So it’s pretty limited but a lot more than when I got here!

Most of the local people have no idea where New Zealand is, and a couple of times after trying to explain, I apologize but I have to admit to this: I have said I am from Australia. Sorry but I would rather be considered an Aussie than being from America!!

The daily life when not on a rest day
Alarm at 5am, pack up everything into the daily bag, organize water and snacks, sunscreen etc for the day onto the bike.
Riders update at 5:45 with anything new for the day or changes to the route.
Breakfast at 6am – cereal, bread, fruit sometimes boiled eggs, sometimes porridge , tea and coffee.
Apply sunscreen, bug screen and on the road by 7am.

The lunch truck is generally half to two-thirds of the way to the next campsite.

I generally have one or two stops to refill water (am drinking about 7 litres each morning and afternoon) – and then consequently stops to pee. Plus reapply sunscreen at least once.

Lunch truck has sandwiches – generally only white bread by the time I get there, with meat, cheese, fruit, water. I stay clear of the meat as has been out for a while by the time I get there. Watermelon is delicious when you arrive hot and thirsty. I fill my water bottles and reapply bug and sunscreen.

The idea is to limit the lunch stop to less than 10 minutes and not sit down – otherwise your legs start to seize up and then it’s 20 minutes riding before they warm up again.

I stop once or twice as in the morning for water, sunscreen etc, and of course it goes without saying: stop and look at interesting sights.

Then into camp which is anywhere between 2pm and dark (6:30pm).

If there are showers then I’ll have a shower, otherwise it’s wet wipes and reapplying bug spray.

After that I sort out my gear, clean my clothes if possible, check over my bike, put up the tent, and get ready for the next day.

On a good day I have an hour or so to drink tea and rest. Other days I spend with the bike mechanic sorting out the day’s bike issues.

We have another rider’s meeting at 5:45pm to discuss the next day and any issues from that day. We all take down the directions for the next day’s route, and also take a photo of it with our phone as a back up.

Dinner is at 6pm. Then the plan is to have either Spanish lessons, or a basic bike workshop, but with the extended days and issues we have had so far on the trip, these have not happened, apart from one Spanish lesson.

We have been having really long and challenging days but the days for the tour staff have been much longer. They are still sorting out the trucks and cleaning up well into the night and are up at the same time or before us in the morning.

Generally I am in my tent attempting to sleep by 7:30 pm. Then the next day it starts again.

The other riders

I still don’t know everyone’s names, by best count there are 30 people doing the whole ride, plus a number of section riders.

Most of the riders have done at least one TDA tour before so had some understanding of what to expect.

There are five woman planning on do the whole ride:

  • Sue – a retired vet, age 59 from England, who has already done the South African ride: Cairo to Cape Town this year.
  • Annegrete – age 59 from Denmark, who has done the tran Oceania and one other ride. She is currently planning to finish about Santiago but may change her mind)
  • Jacquline – who is from South Africa but spends half the year in Sweden, and has done a couple of previous rides.
  • Johanna (Jo) – from Melbourne, I am pretty sure this is her first TDA ride but she has done other riding tours.
  • And of course me.

Team New Zealand

The New Zealand team

The New Zealand riders

From left: Phil is from Christchurch, he has done one previous ride – the South Africa ride, and Peter is from Palmerston North, he has done one previous ride – the trans Europa (not the same year as me).

On this ride there is a race component, and Phil will often win – if he doesn’t win, he is still in the first 3. He is missing the bottom two gears (where I have spent most of this ride) and still manages to win.

Today there was a speed trial from Camp 27 kilometres over a 2,000 meter climb and Team NZ was well represented with 1st place going to Phil and 3rd to Peter. Sadly the woman’s team of one is not of the same standard.

Made it to Medellin!

Made it to Medellin! From left – Jo, Sue, and Kaye (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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Day 6/164: Caucasia to Ventanas – 138k (or maybe not!)

After a wash and an oil I hoped the bike would work better. I decided that I would keep riding with my old shoes and tape them at lunch time when they had dried a bit, to give my new shoes a few more days to break in.

My panniers are now tied on with cable ties and my speedo has lost its magnet. However it was basically a straight road today, so rolling hills until 102 kilometres, and then 36 kilometres with a 2,000 meter climb.

I set off with my legs feeling a bit weary from the day before, but once I got going it was ok. I got to about 35 kilometres and a bunch of riders came back and said we had to go back to the town 9 kilometres away, as there was a skirmish between the military and the rebels up the road and no one could go through.

We went back to the town and waited at a roadside truck stop cafe for an update. It turned out the rebels had blown up a sewer line under the main road. This is the main road from Cartagena to Medelin. There is no railway, so this caused chaos with trucks backed up for miles.

Trucks backed up (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Trucks backed up (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

We were not sure how long the road would take to open, plus Christisano and Henry (the company owner) had been advised not to go through the smaller roads as we could run into rebel groups. So it was back to the previous night’s camp in Caucasia.  At the place we were going to stay tonight, the guy had built 4 toilets especially for us!

We will get an update at the rider’s meeting tonight about the plan for tomorrow – whether we are riding or bussing to the next stage. At one point there was talk of riding back to Cartagena and flying to Medelin.

Henry and Christiano are very confident that we are in no danger as the issue is between FARC (the rebels) and the military. There has just recently been a break down in the peace talks and the feeling is this was the rebels telling the government you had better get back to the table. Even so, Henry has recommended we stay together in a group. Henry and Christano will reassess the situation tomorrow morning and make a final decision then.

Tonight we had a whole bunch of locals show up with a floral float and the priest and a lot of villagers on motor bikes. They blessed the hotel and sung some songs. I think they were doing this at all the hotels.

Tonight one of the tour leaders started Spanish lesions for the riders. I went along for 30 minutes, after which my general level of tiredness caught up with me and I went to bed.

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Other riders, the lunch truck, and a cow

There are 19 other riders in total, and I thought I might share a bit about all of them. We have the front three, the back three, and those in between. We have mostly settled into groups with some movement in the middle riders.

Front three
Making up the front three are the honeymoon couple from Canada: Jan (pronounced Yarn) who is 29 and Darnya who is 30, as well as Scott who is in his 50s, a retired accountant. He was born in Australia but has lived in Canada for years. He met his wife there and they moved back to Australia at some point, but he didn’t really like it so moved back to Canada. We do not see them all day once we leave camp until we get to the next one. Their average riding speed is about 32k. Jan is Mr PC Savvy and sorted my iPad for me. He has also helped me get and install the app for Skype, so I will have a go at using that sometime soon.

Back three
At the back are Walli, Rob and Jen. Walli (who’s real name is Walburga) is a 71 year old income tax consultant. Walli was originally born in Germany but moved to Canada 18 years ago. Walli is the same age my mother would have been if she was still alive, hard to imagine my mother at 71, even harder to imagine her on a bike. Walli is not built like a biker and trails the field, she has done one ride with this company before, and plenty of other rides. Walli does not always ride a full day, and will either go in the lunch truck at midday on to camp or to the lunch spot and bike from there. Everyone admires her ability to keep going, often we have set up camp, had a shower, done our washing and a cold beer before Walli arrives.

Rob is a 67 year old retired accountant from Australia, and his daughter Jen is a 26 year old registrar on 6 months leave. Neither Jen or Rob have done a lot of road bike riding, though they are reasonably fit. In preparation for this trip, Rob did a couple of 50k rides, and Jen bought her bike in Singapore on the way over. These are the only two who have spent every night in a tent, even on the wet miserable night. They are quite used to tenting and happy to stay in a tent. I say any time I can have an indoor toilet at a reasonable cost I’ll take it.

I was talking to Gergo – one of the guides – and he told me about a women who turned up to do the Tour d’Afrique African tour (4 months cycling 12,000kms through African desert etc). She took her bike out of the bike box and said “I haven’t done much riding”. The first day was 150k through desert – hot, deep sand, the longest day of most of the riders lives, the next day was the same but 160k. Gergo said there were tears along the way – and not just her – but she made it.

Those in between
Jules (mid 60s) is an architect from Israel and he is still working. Rodney is in his 60s, I think he either ran/runs or owns/owned a hotel in Israel. Don is 60 and is Canadian. He works as an ED consultant as a locum part time, and the rest of the time he minds his 14 month old. All three are friends and have done rides before. All three are very nice and have a good sense of humour. Rodney and Jules leave us in Warsaw and Don left us in Vilnius – what a day to have as your last ride, doing 170k!

In Riga, Walli and I were looking at the Wall of Remembrance for the victims of Stalin and Hitler. While we were looking at it, Jules and Rodney came past. Jules was talking to us about his personal history with his family. There was one photo on the wall which bought me to tears – it was a photo of a group of teenagers, a couple of young women and a small girl about two years old, on the beach just before they were shot. Their crime was being Jewish!! How can this happen, and yet it is still going on in parts of the world as I write this. 6 million Jews – the population of New Zealand and half again.

Dan is in his early-to-mid 60s, and is a Canadian retired accountant. He has done about 3 of the Tour d’Afrique tours before. Garth is also Canadian, he is 67 and works in the film industry. I am not sure if he has done any of these rides before but he doing really well. He is a nice person, and married to Louise. Louise has done rides before, but not sure if they were with Tour d’Afrique. I am unsure of her age, she is a volunteer and also Canadian.

Daphne (72) and Shirley (69) are both retired ex-nurses. They have both done two rides with this company before and plenty of other rides. David joined us in Vilnius and is going to Barcelona. David is from Melbourne, he is a lawyer and semi retired. Michele is a 60 year old retired Canadian. Brian is 60ish, he is retired also but was a stock broker, from England. John is a 67 year old retired professor, from Canada. Brett is also retired, he was a Sea Captain. He is Australian, and is 60 years old.

The riders that are going all the way to Lisbon are Brett, Jan, Darnya, Michele, Dan and myself. John and David are going to Barcelona, Rodney and Jules are leaving us in Warsaw, and everyone else finishes in Venice.

Rider’s Priorities
The rider’s priorities depend on the time of the day: in the morning we are looking for coffee, as soon as we get to camp we are looking for a cold beer, we have hardly drunk any wine at all. The next concern – but very secondary – is whether there is Wifi?

The Lunch Truck
The lunch truck parks along the route each day. There have been a few occasions where the locals have turned up and have wandered around looking at the food, picking up the lids, obviously thinking it was a good stall.

A tethered cow – as mentioned previously

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