Posts Tagged With: Scary

Day 2 -Tuesday 15 November

115 kilometres- climbing 110k, down 130k

Thankfully when I woke up the rain had not yet started, but by the time I had nearly packed up the tent it was starting to spit. Luckily we had a covered space for breakfast with tables and chairs for breakfast. Yanez the cook had made stacks of French toast and one of the Canadian riders had bought a tub of real maple syrup, plus cereal and yoghurt.

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After breakfast I put on my over shoes on, put on my rain jacket, and off we headed. I was riding with Michelle, Tony, and Brett. The first 44.5 kilometres of the day was flat with lots of left and right turns. Left was into the wind, and right it was behind you. When heading into the wind I kept thinking to myself “At least it’s not the 130 kilometre per hour wind and torrential rain that was happening in Wellington”.

We stopped at Paeroa for coffee, and then of course obligatory tourist stop by the big L&P bottle on the outskirts of town. For non-NZ blog readers, a factory in Paeroa used to make a drink called “Lemon & Paeroa” which was lemon with Paeroa spring water. Now it’s made by Coca Cola but is still a NZ favourite).

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Brett and me at the L&P bottle in Paeroa

Then we headed off up the Karangahake Gorge. There was not much of a shoulder to ride in, and at times there was no shoulder and lots  of traffic. A friendly driver gave us an earful as they went past. Sue got a flat on a nasty bend but managed to find a safe bit off road to change it. Brett and Tony stopped to help whilst Michelle and I continued on.  Thankfully at 58.4 k we turned right to Waitawheta and had a nice quiet country road until 70.1 k where we turned onto SH2.

We were on SH2 for most of the rest of the day. It started pouring down , there was not much of a shoulder, and what shoulder there was a lot of it was taken up with raised white lines, which are not pleasant to ride on.  The trucks were whizzing past and spraying water all over us. One tanker came way too close to me.

Lunch was at 73.7 k, where there was a tarpaulin to sit under plus a nice selection of sandwich fillings. Is this really a TDA ride?

As soon as we stopped riding, even though I had layers of clothes,  over boots, water proof gloves and rainproof jacket, I started to feel cold. I had lost my water proof skull cap a few weeks ago, so I solved the problem by putting a shower cap over my merino wool skull cap. Almost Enid Sharpels looking but of course it wasn’t quite a hair net. Once my head was warm I started feeling warmer.

Off we went again into the pouring rain, with busy traffic and big trucks. There were often reasonable shoulders but they would disappear and all of a sudden you would be on a narrow piece of road with a large vehicle in each direction.

About this time I started regretting my lack of training. I kept meaning to increase my training but sadly I didn’t. The most I have been getting done over the past couple of months is two rides a week, of about two hours and about 50 k each. These rides had hills but not enough.

At 107 kilometres I was coming up a hill and I thought “I am not going to be able to get up this hill” – my legs have just about stopped working. I gritted my teeth and locked my eyes onto the Challenge Petrol Station sign up the top of the hill where I had decided to stop, and I managed to get up there.  It’s amazing what a nice hot chocolate and a 10 minute rest will do. While I found the going tough for the rest of the day I didn’t have another “I can’t do this” moment.

At 118 kilometres SH2 becomes like a motorway going into Tauranga, then add rush hour traffic, and having to cross lanes  – crazy!

At 125 kilometres we had to go right at the third exit of the roundabout, but to get to it we could either go off the track onto a bike path across the road, or ride about 1 kilometre on a bridge with two lanes, no shoulder and heaps of traffic . Michelle kept on going onto the bridge, but after waiting about 5 min the rest of us managed to get across the two lanes of rush hour traffic to the bike lane.

The bike lane took us off to the side of where we needed to go but we managed to work our way back to where we needed to be but no Michelle. We waited for awhile and when we didn’t see her we figured she had gone ahead so we set off for camp. It was mostly down hill from there to camp. Whilst I was riding I was thinking “I hope we don’t have to come back this way tomorrow”.

At 130.5 kilometres we arrived thankfully at camp. I was very pleased I had rung before and booked a cabin. Shared with Tony, Michelle and Brett. It was a nice camp with a laundry with washing machine and dryers, so was able to get our soaking wet bike gear dry.

There was also a covered space with tables and chairs, plus of course the lovely hot pools. But no Michelle at camp. We were reassured however that she had a cellphone plus also any local would give her directions so we headed off to the hot pools.  It turned out there were workmen at the roundabout and they had removed the orange flagging, so a few riders got lost. Michelle arrived in camp having done an extra 6 kilometres but one rider did an extra 20 kilometres – so a total of 150 kilometres!

Welcome Bay Hot Springs are very close to Te Puke where my dad lived with my step mother Lynne. Dad sadly died 6 years ago but Lynne still lives in Te Puke, so she came to visit at the camp to visit.

I had got two small holes in my gloves and had forgotten to bring needle and thread, so I text Lynne and asked her to bring this with her. Lynne not only bought the needle and thread but sewed the gloves up as well. Unlike me, who spends about 10 minutes trying to thread a needle with glasses, Lynne just does it straight away and doesn’t even wear glasses! Pretty good vision for a pensioner.

I had arranged for Lynne to stay  with us for dinner. We had a very nice beef stew with potatoes and a salad with kale, tomato, feta and olives, yum. Plus Lynne had bought two bottles of red wine which went down well with the group. It was good to catch up with Lynne, and she enjoyed meeting people she had read about in my blog, especially Sue and Walli.

A few of the riders had approached Emily, the tour leader, about how uncomfortable they were with the SH traffic and lack of shoulders. We discussed alternative routes and luckily Lynne was there to give local knowledge of the alternative roads.

At 8pm I was suddenly very tired, so Lynne set off home and I crashed into bed.

Categories: Trans-Oceania | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Day 76/164: Cusco to San Pedro – 158km

Climbing 1,900 meters – down 1,775

I had lots of weird dreams about riding and did not sleep that well. It poured during the night and I was dreading the morning. Thankfully at about 4am the rain stopped. It would have been a misery riding all day in the rain.

Max (TDA) said the first 5 kilometres were up, then a 30 kilometre downhill. Not sure what he used for his calculations but it was about 10 kilometres up. It was cold and quite steep and I walked pretty much all of the first 5 kilometres. I was breathless due to the altitude and asthma. Thankfully I got to the top then quite a steep descent. It was really cold. I stopped and put all of my warm clothing on.

View from the lunch bus this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the lunch bus this morning (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The view from lunch today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The view from lunch today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The rest of the day was rolling hills, with a couple of short climbs. It was a long day riding, it was 5pm by the time I got to camp, so about 10 1/2 hours riding. I couldn’t push myself because of the asthma so going up any hills is pretty slow. We are staying in a field at the back of a restaurant.

About two hours before the end of the ride I was coming into a town and three boys ran out from a bridge and grabbed my bike and pannier and demanded money. They would not let it go. They were aged about 8 to 9. In the end I got off my bike. There may be a language barrier but they got the message that I was not giving them money and to bug off. It was pretty scary though, and I was pleased they weren’t any older. If they had have been, I would probably have given them money. It’s the first time in South America that children have been anything but friendly.

I got to camp and set up my tent, and was just in time for the riders meeting and dinner. We have a new chef for a month called April, as the usual chef Mark has a month off. The dinner was chicken pasta and fresh salad.

I am starting to realize that I have not taken being asthmatic seriously enough. The problem is generally it is so well controlled that most people don’t even know I have asthma. I can go a year or two without using the reliever at all. Unfortunately I did not factor in what happens when it is not well controlled, which is occasionally as a result of a viral illness. So I have no peak flow and no steroid medication with me. I have doubled my dose of preventer, and am carrying my reliever in my pocket when riding. Today I have used it about 7 times. As well as being breathless I am also coughing and bringing up phlegm. All in all not ideal. I spoke to Erin the medic to check it was what I thought: my airways bring over excited as a result of either (or both) asthma and altitude.

We are going to be at altitude for a while still – probably at least a month – so hopefully it will settle down.

Tomorrow we are going to be climbing back over 4,500 meters again in the morning. Given that I am sure the altitude is what is driving the asthma I am considering not doing the climb and taking the lunch truck to lunch. Disappointing to be back in the truck but I am realizing that I need to take my asthma a bit more seriously.

Love the terrain around here (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Love the terrain around here (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lovely evening light (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lovely evening light (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 27/164: Mocha to Sibundoy – 85km

2,146km down: 11,495km to go. Up 2,920 metres, down 1,500

We had to go on a road known in Colombia as the Trampoline of Death. It is a 70 kilometre dirt road, with slippery gravel, with some steep gradient. Most of the way it is only wide enough for one vehicle . There were places where there is a 400 foot sheer drop, with no barrier. When two vehicles meet going in different directions the smallest vehicle has to back backwards to where there is a space to pass. It was pretty scary watching some of the backing, especially when they were going back round a bend with a sheer drop.

No protection, a narrow track with long drop offs (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

No protection, a narrow track with long drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The first 15 kilometres of the ride was paved, then we got onto the Trampoline of Death and onto the slippery rock. My bike and tyres and I are not good on this stuff. I don’t know if it’s because I am not strong enough or lack confidence, or both, but I slip and slide all over the place. Going up a 15% gradient is one thing, but going up over slippery rocks and sliding adds another level! There seems to be more off road than was advertised on this trip so far, hopefully it is just this and the last section, as otherwise I would have bought a mountain bike!

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Trampoline of Death road starts (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The road went on and on, up and up, you could see another 5 switchbacks above you, no matter how many you had done. We were told if we were not at the lunch truck by 1pm to hitch a lift. We had been walking for a while, and we stopped a ute with a family in it and Aussie Jackie went in that (Jackie went first as she had carbon cleats which are really hard to walk in). Jodi the sweep and I discussed vehicles that we would stop. We decided not the buses or vans, as they drove really fast and looked the most unsafe. Not a truck as there was only one lane, and having to back when two vehicles needed to pass each other. We thought a ute would be the best bet.

The first ute was a Red Cross vehicle, which did not stop or make eye contact. We think that must be protocol as Jodi said in South Africa they never stopped or made eye contact, ever.

The next vehicle was a ute which stopped for us. There were four locals in it, so I squeezed in the back seat, and Jodi went in the tray at the back with the two bikes. I was a bit concerned but she was happy, she said it was better than a lot of the vehicles she had been in in Africa.

The driver was safe (in my view). I think they were surveyors, as they had to stop a couple of times and one of them would jump out with a clip board and then jump back in a minute later. They dropped us off at the lunch truck, and were just about to drive off when they realized Jodi had left the sweep pack (mainly first aid) in the ute, and came running back with it.

On the road were a number of river crossings where the water was up to half a meter deep and sometimes running very fast! The river crossings were rocky and often had a sheer drop. The good thing is Colombians don’t seem to suffer from road rage and the backing up and pulling over etc was all done without any angst. There were a lot of crosses by the side of the road which I guess gives the road its name and reputation.

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Lots of crosses by the road (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We started across the road at 7:30 am. Even after the summit whenever the road went down it always then went up again. Four of the riders did not even start the day (one had gastro, the others weren’t keen on the road). I wanted to ride across it, as I was more worried about being in a truck, but relented and got in the lunch truck.

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking back down the hill at the road (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue had got a lift part of the way up the hill with a guy in a cattle truck. To work his clutch he had a stick and piece of string, and a couple of times he had to get out and adjust something under the truck!

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

View from the cab Sue was in (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

A couple of other riders took the truck from lunch and we picked up a couple more on the way down the hill. The lunch truck was packed. Halfway down the hill the lunch truck got a flat tyre – what a mission! We all had to get out, the wheels had to be blocked with boulders, and the spare had to be got down from the top of the truck. However to get the spare all the bikes had to be shifted and then shifted back. The whole thing took about an hour. By the time we got off the highway it was 5:30pm. As we got to the camp where we were staying three riders – who are really good riders – had just got there and they were stuffed!  I am pleased I made the decision to stop at lunch.

The campsite was quite small, a bit of grass at the back of a building, plus we could sleep inside on either level. Human nature being what it is, some riders had staked out large amounts of the building for themselves. Late comers ended up stacked alongside each other like sardines, on their sleeping mats in every nook and cranny.

I found a space under the eaves which was fine so long as I remembered not to sit up! There was no window so I was worried about being cold but it was warm enough, as I slept in my jacket, hat, and sleeping bag.

My sleeping space under the eaves

My sleeping space under the eaves

I was a bit worried about waking people up when I had to get up during the night, so I did not have anything to drink from when I got to camp and only had to get up twice, but was dehydrated in the morning so it was probably not the best idea. There was only one shower with cold water and a large queue, so day two with wet wipes instead of a shower.

Dinner was chicken, pasta and beans.

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