Posts Tagged With: SNAKES

Day 107/164: El Molino to Schaqui – 111 kilometres

Climbing 615 and down 690.

I decided this morning to pump up my tyre as I hadn’t for a week or so. When I took the cap off the first one the valve insert came out. I thought I had put it back in ok but 5 kilometres down the road I had a flat tyre. I thought it was just the valve and pumped up again and 2 minutes down the road it was flat again, so the tube needed to be changed (it is always the bike tyre!).

Today's route details  (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Today’s route details (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

The scenery was desert with mountain ranges today. We did 20 kilometres with a long gradual up hill and what looked like white arches away in the distance, but it was just the road going up and up. Bit of a headwind. Then we had ups and downs with quite a few hills and the road surface was quite uneven. Scenery was just kilometre after kilometre of desert.

The last 20 kilometres we turned right and the scenery was very pretty: flowers, trees, cacti in flower.

We had been going to ride 125 kilometres today and stay at a camp called “Quarry camp” which I was not looking forward. I was envisaging rocks and barren, bleak surroundings. Thankfully I did not have to find out as we are now staying at 105 k instead at a campsite.

We stopped at a shop 5 kilometres before camp where we had a cold beer which we had to drink there (because of the bottles). We must have got there just before 1pm, which is when siesta starts. The Siesta in Argentina starts at 1pm and shops open again anywhere from 6 pm to 8 pm. Most restaurants you can’t get anything to eat before 8pm.

At the camp on the white board it said to watch out for snakes eekkk!! Toliets but no showers! (day 3 without a shower).

There was a white staffordshire bull terrier at camp, a very nice natured dog. A few riders went for a swim in the river and were jumping off the cliff and she was howling with concern every time one did it. Unfortunately she had an awful skin condition like eczema (which Sue who was a vet says is caused by a mite and treatable) over most of her body which must cause her a lot of grief. I wish there was something I could do for her. Not sure if they have organizations like SPCA in Argentina. They do have dog charities in the bigger cites in Peru. Will need to google when I get some decent Wifi.

The campsite was quite peaceful until about 5pm when a number of motorcycle riders starting racing up and down and around a circuit that went around the camp. Thankfully it only lasted about an hour.

Dinner was chicken ginger sauce, brown rice and vegetable salad.

Australia bet Argentina in the semi final so Australia and NZ to play off in the final.

Today's Strava profile  (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Today’s Strava profile (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 57/164: Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay – 126km

Climbing 1,715 meters and down 1,415

There was a dog barking most of the night – protecting his territory from the invaders – so I only slept in patches. There is dust over and in everything. I shook out the tent and sleeping bed as best as I could. I am not keen on beach camping again. No doubt we will though at sometime in this tour.

Another 3 kilometre dirt track back to the highway, then deserts, dust, heat, headwind (Groundhog Day! Again!). This time to add a bit of interest, and to miss another crazy town, we did a two kilometre off road stretch on dirt, through where the locals dump their rubbish.

Making my way through the rubbish on the backroad from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Making my way through the rubbish on the back road from Bermejo Beach to Lomas de Lachay

Every day it starts off overcast and the cloud suddenly lifts at about 11:30am, then the temperature suddenly can shoot up over 10 degrees. It is also when the wind really picks up.

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The Pan American Highway (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Not much to say about the riding today as it was pretty similar to the last few days. There was one uphill that went on and on, every time I thought I was getting to the top I wasn’t. When I finally got to the top I was hoping for a nice downhill, but we had another few kilometres of a slightly up gradient, then finally a couple of kilometres down.

Tonight we are staying at a national park. While riding I was trying to remind myself that while the images this is invoking are images of national parks in NZ, this may very well be a national park of sand!

We get to the turn off, according to our notes it is meant to be about 3 kilometres up a dirt road to camp!
It’s not – it is 6.5 kilometres and a lot of it not rideable due to the streams of cars coming down, and the soft sand. The final kilometre is down a steep track into the valley we are staying.

I arrive feeling grumpy – no showers; toilets have no running water, just a hole in ground with a seat; the whiteboard says watch out for snakes and scorpions, don’t leave your tent or bag open! Eeeekkkk! And no beer!

About 11 riders are going into Lima a day early to get an additional rest day (and miss the 50 plus kilometre convoy tomorrow morning). Once I put up my tent, wiped the tent, my sleeping bag and mat, and everything else, with wet wipes, and had a wet wipe wash I was feeling a lot better.

The national park is not forest, but it has grass and shrubs and trees further up the hills. It gets cold quite quickly once the sun goes. It is 4:30pm, and I already have a thick jacket and a hat on. I am trying not to get paranoid about snakes. I had an email from Shellbe who is currently volunteering in Sri Lanka – they have snakes slithering around the streets!

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Lomas de Lachay Reserve (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

At the riders meeting we get an update on Phil – yay he has been discharged from hospital and is staying in Lima for a few days. However the family have asked that we don’t visit as he is still a bit confused due to the head injury. We are sorry we won’t get to see him but a number of us have already decided to visit him in New Zealand in a few months, and hopefully organize a short bike ride with him.

Tomorrow we have a 50 to 60 kilometre convoy – the distance is not finalized yet.

Lima has 9 million people and is no more cyclist friendly that anywhere else in Peru. We are asked if any of us want to go in the lunch truck, and are told there is a cut off to be at the convoy  point. Given that there is only 1,160 meters to climb in the whole day, I am confident I can make it to the convey start before the cut off.

The camp is really quiet because of riders who have left the tour, and those who have gone into Lima early.

Thinking about Peru, I have been a bit harsh, there are some places I would come back to: Pacasmayo where we had the two rest days, and the town the next day Huanchaco.

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Looking down at our camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 37/164: Puyo to Macas (or not!)

The day sounded great 130 kilometres: 1,650 metres of climbing and 1,545 downhill, with mostly rolling hills rather than big climbs. Sue said the weather forecast was for no rain and a temp of 16 degrees which sounded good. Finally fingers crossed I am over the gastro :D. I set off from camp with the plan to take it easy and ride the whole day. There are 6 riders in the trucks due to gastro, and 2 in varying stages of gastro riding.

The dogs in Ecuador seem a bit more aggressive than Colombia, and at about 15 kilometres I had two come running off a property and take off after me. Luckily I was on a downhill and pedalled as fast as I could! Even so I felt the breath of one of them on my calf before I finally pulled away!

The riding was good, hills but up and down. Every now and then you would come to a random unpaved section. One of the riders hit an unpaved section unexpectedly and had to be picked up by the dinner truck as they buckled their wheel when they hit it.

As I was riding along I was thinking about getting to camp that night where we were told we had wifi. It’s my daughter Lizzy’s 26th birthday today (in NZ which is a day ahead), hopefully I can skype but if not at least leave a video Skype message and text.

The view is amazing, riding down a road whilst the Amazon jungle stretches into the distance on either side of you. It’s a “Pinch myself! am I really here!?” moment. How lucky am I to experience this.

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

On the road through the rain forest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the sign that we had ridden 64 kilometres so only 11 kilometres to lunch and halfway through the ride. I’m feeling good. I come around a corner and there is bridge and halfway over it I see the dinner truck parked next to the lunch truck and a number of riders clustered around it. Oh no what’s happened? Hope no one is hurt.

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What’s on that bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then I see the buses with Policia and Military marking on the sides. There are protestors between here and the planned camp. We are not allowed to go any further. The Policia and military have guns and riot gear. The protestors are not from the local villages, they are from around the country and are by all accounts pretty staunch. They are prepared to fight for the cause. Our sympathies are with them, the last thing any country needs is a president elected indefinitely (which is what the current president wants to bring into law). Cristinao (I have been spelling it wrong with a h) went and spoke to the Policia to see if we can get through but no! Not even locals are allowed to get through to their homes.

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Riot police and soldiers (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting to find out the plan

Waiting to find out the plan (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

We are now at a campsite at 65 kilometres waiting to see what happens overnight! Hopefully we can get through tomorrow, if not we go back to Puyo. However there is no phone coverage and no wifi so no birthday message to Lizzy :(. I had a little cry and sleep in my tent, I know she will understand but still feels bad, especially when I thought I had sorted.

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue's blog)

Over the bridge to the campsite (Photo: Sue’s blog)

The owner of the camp site was carrying his pet anaconda around for people to have photos with, luckily he did not come anywhere near me.

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The snake is nearly as big at Kathy (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I think the owner is very pleased to have us, he has set up a bar, organized a walking tour to a spot of tourist interest (did not catch what it was), and fishing and then for a price he will cook your fish for you. Totally different ethos than hosteria el piguali (which I guess is the difference between staff who not share in the profits vs the owner of a place). I was going to go for a swim in the river, then I saw the sign “River snakes”! No river swim for me.

At the riders meeting, we found out the plan at the moment is to continue tomorrow, to finish today’s ride and tomorrow’s ride as well! 171 kilometres, up 2,600 meters, down 2,250 meters.

Dinner tonight was stewed sausages, pasta and nice crunchy broccoli.

Rider's meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Rider’s meeting (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 36/164: Rest Day in Puyo

We had to be at Hosteria reception by 8am for the jungle tour Sue and I had booked. Then Mike from Scotland and Chris from Vancouver decided to come as well. Mike’s wife Katrina had fallen off her bike a couple of days ago and needed to stay behind to get her bike fixed. Chris’s partner Jackie was stuck in her room with gastro!  While we were waiting we found out a number of the other riders now also had gastro and suspected the meal the night before. Hopefully as I still taking medication I won’t get it again, and hopefully theirs will be shorter lived than mine was.

The tour driver turned up, for $50 USA we were doing a full day tour, including:

  • Walk through the jungle looking at plants, flowers and birds
  • Going to a fish growing farm
  • Lunch
  • A canoe trip
  • Walking to a viewing point where you can see the jungle stretching out for as far as the eye can see, plus the opportunity to go on a rope swing from a clift
  • Hand crafts and customs at a local village
  • Pretty good value, especially in the context of having paid $45 USA for the not very good red wine in the restaurant (about 70 NZ).
The tour driver and Chris from Vancover

The tour driver and Chris from Vancover

The first step was to the tour base in town, to get coats and gumboots. Mike bought socks for everyone from a shop across the road as gumboots with no socks is a really good way to get blisters! While we were waiting for him to come back we were watching a procession go past. The tour guide said it’s an annual pilgrimage of an indigenous tribe from the Amazon who celebrate their coming out of the forest in time of drought to Puyo. They walk 16 kilometres during the procession.

Procession in Puyo

Procession in Puyo

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People in the procession

Off we set in the tour van, the first stop was a fish farm. The fish were imported from Africa, they are called Confiscadas de Crianza de Tilapias. They imported 50 fish from Africa, but only 6 of the original 50 remain, the others have died over the years for a number of reasons.

Name of the fish

Name of the fish

There are a number of fish ponds. One where the small fish to feed the bigger fish are produced. The 6 original fish are 6 years old and have only just started laying eggs. They grow to 4 meters and about 80kg, and when fully grown they sell for about $1,500 USA.  The fish are huge, and remind me a big of eels – only wider. They track your reflection on the water and move across the pond following you.

The fish - they grow up to 4 meters long, 89 kilos, and are approx 6 years old here

The fish – they grow up to 4 meters long, 89 kilos, and are approx 6 years old here

Another photo of the fish

Another photo of the fish

Owner of the fish farm

Owner of the fish farm

Back into the van to the next stop: the jungle walk. It was amazing! We got shown various medicinal trees and plants.

About to go on the jungle walk with Sue

About to go on the jungle walk with Sue

Off we go for our rain forest walk (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Off we go for our rain forest walk (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

First was the vines that are used to make poisonous darts. They are boiled and then pounded to get the poison – the indigenous people have an antidote.

The vine that is used to make poisonous arrows

The vine that is used to make poisonous arrows

We were also shown a tree that had sap that is used as an ointment for wounds for infection, a tree that the sap is used for bee stings, a plant that the leaves are used to make a tea for upset stomachs, and a tree that the bark is menthol and is used for chest and sinus infections.

The tree that is cut to get sap that is used for the salve/ ointment for cuts

The tree that is cut to get sap that is used for the salve/ ointment for cuts

The salve from the tree for cuts / infections

The salve from the tree for cuts / infections

Sap from this tree is used for bee and other insect stings

Sap from this tree is used for bee and other insect stings

Leaves to crush up and make a tea infusion for upset stomachs

Leaves to crush up and make a tea infusion for upset stomachs

Tree that bark smells like menthol, used for sinus and cyst infections

Tree that bark smells like menthol, used for sinus and cyst infections

Smells very menthol like (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Smells very menthol like (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

As well as this we saw a tree that the sap is used for painting faces for ceremonies that last up to three days.

Tree with orange pigment used by natives to paint on skin, lasts 2 to 3 days

Tree with orange pigment used by natives to paint on skin, lasts 2 to 3 days

We saw some pretty orchids and got to have face masks from river clay.

Orchid on the jungle tour

Orchid on the jungle tour

Sue and I with river clay masks

Sue and I with river clay masks

Chris, Sue, Mike and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Chris, Sue, Mike and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We also went to a waterfall where Chris and Mike had a swim, and saw some recent stone carvings.

Cleaning the mud off (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Cleaning the mud off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Going for a paddle (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Going for a paddle (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue, the guide, Chris (from Vancover) and Mike (from Scotland) at the waterfall

Sue, the guide, Chris (from Vancover) and Mike (from Scotland) at the waterfall

Another view of the waterfall

Another view of the waterfall

Carving in soft rock by waterfall done recently

Carving in soft rock by waterfall done recently

Communing with the spirits (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Communing with the spirits (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Fording streams (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Fording streams (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Lunch was included as part of the tour. It was steamed fish, salad, rice and plantain.

Amazonian Forest Lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Amazonian Forest Lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Fish for lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Fish for lunch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

We then went to a village of local indigenous people and learnt about some of their customs and saw some of their crafts.

My camera battery had gone flat by this stage so any photos for the rest of the day will need to come from Sue’s blog. (Editor’s note: Just as well I looked at Sue’s blog, as you’ll see below, there are photos of Kaye holding monkeys and parrots, getting her face painted, being near people holding snakes, and having a bunch of other adventures she’s completely failed to even mention here!).

We cross the river to a small community (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We cross the river to a small community (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue, Mike, Chris, and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue, Mike, Chris, and Kaye (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye with face paint and hat (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Face paint and hat (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye and the tamarin monkey (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

With a tamarin monkey (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Kaye and the parrot (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And with a parrot (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Outside the large communal building (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Outside the large communal building (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue with the latest neck wear (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue with the latest neck wear (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Then we went off on the canoe trip. The canoe was a shelled out tree and fitted four people, plus the person steering. It was a bit scary at first as the river was fast moving but it was great fun. The guide said that the wet / rainy season is usually January / February but this year the rain has not stopped. This explains the numerous landslides and fast full rivers.

All aboard (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

All aboard (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

And off we go (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And off we go (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Look at that surf (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Look at that surf (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After this we went to a place that you could climb up and get a great view of the forest and rivers, whilst relaxing looking at the view from hammocks. There was a rope swing to go on which was over a huge drop. I started wondering how secure the branch was that the rope was tied to, and after I had thought that I was not able to go on swing.

Climbing up to get the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Climbing up to get the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A wonderful hammock interlude to the day (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A wonderful hammock interlude to the day (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

View from the top (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the top (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

View from the top of the rainforest (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

View from the top of the rainforest (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Sue on the tree swing with a huge drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Sue on the tree swing with a huge drop off (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

A last look out at the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A last look out at the view (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After that it was time to head back to the place where we were staying. On the way back we could hear the clutch on the tour truck was slipping. It got so bad that we had to get out twice to push the tour truck up the hills. We were still 16 kilometres from where we needed to go but after pushing it twice we had got back to the main road. We left the tour guy there as there was nothing we could do and caught a taxi.

The clutch starts slipping (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The clutch starts slipping (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The dinner at the place where we staying on the first night was pretty meagre so a number of people, including me, went elsewhere for dinner.

Six more days riding till the next rest day.

Known as a phone tree, when you are lost you hit the tree and it makes a sound that reverberates and help will come

Known as a phone tree, when you are lost you hit the tree and it makes a sound that reverberates and help will come

Beautiful butterfly on jungle tour, when it was flying the inside of the rings are brilliant blue.

Beautiful butterfly on jungle tour, when it was flying the inside of the rings are brilliant blue.

Place we are staying at - you have to go over a suspension bridge to get to it

Place we are staying at – you have to go over a suspension bridge to get to it

The suspension bridge at place we are staying at

The suspension bridge at place we are staying at

Kaye finds a dog to talk to very quickly (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Kaye finds a dog to talk to very quickly (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 35/164: Archidona to Puyo – 86km

2,832 km down: 10,809 km to go. Up 1,280 metres, down 960 metres.

After a nice night in an air conditioned unit I woke up feeling ready to go. It had poured down during the night and I was very pleased that I was not in a tent! I had a dream during the night that there was a snake under my bed and I could not go back to sleep without checking (silly I know but then a lot of fears are silly).

It was pouring down still when we left. I guess that’s why it’s called the Amazon rain forest! The ride was 86 kilometres with rolling hills, and apart from some gearing problems I was riding quite well (I was having trouble shifting between gears).

A rainy day on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

A rainy day on the road today (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

And the rain keeps coming (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

And the rain keeps coming (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I was not too worried about the pouring rain as I much prefer that to beating heat any day. I stopped at about 30 kilometres and had coffee, and then because they did not sell any water, for some reason I decided to have a pineapple drink. The next twenty kilometres were good and I was actually ahead of some of the riders. Then at 48 kilometres I got to a 6 kilometre climb. I got 2 kilometres up and started feeling dreadful – I was breathless, lightheaded, dizzy, and could not walk more than 10 steps so decided to sit down.

About 5 minutes later Erin who was the sweep turned up, and suggested I lie down as I looked really pale. My pulse was going flat out and I was thinking “What the heck is wrong with me? It’s not hot and I’m not at altitude!”. I sat there for about another 10 minutes and then decided to see if I could walk the remaining 4 kilometres to the lunch truck.

About 5 minutes after I started walking I started vomiting up the pineapple drink, and then had another bout of gastro. No wonder my body decided it was not interested in biking up the hill. Finally I got to the lunch truck! I was soaked and ironically given that I am lending warm weather gear to a number of riders all the time, I only had an ice break singlet, arm warmers and an emergency blanket (like a huge sheet of aluminium foil but much stronger). So back in the lunch truck again to camp!

We are staying at a place called Hosteria Finca El Pigual. To get to the hosteria you go across a suspension bridge, but the TDA trucks are too big for the bridge. The trucks had to follow a roundabout route that went up slippery gravel roads and through bush to get there.

We have breakfast and dinner included here, plus you can buy food at the bar. After I had had a shower etc I went to the restaurant as I had not had lunch!  Order straight away said the riders in there. Some of them had waited for nearly an hour to get their food. You could not pay at the bar, you had to sign a room docket which then went to the front office, and you had to pay there. The hamburger was very nice, but I had to repeatedly ask before I got the beer I had ordered with it.

The lunch and dinner truck parked at the hotel The finish flag at the Hosteria (Photo credit: Hotel's Facebook page)

The lunch and dinner truck parked at the hotel (Photo credit: Hosteria Finca El Piguel’s Facebook page)

That night we were having a party to celebrate crossing the equator. The theme of the party was Rubik’s Cube where you come dressed in all the different colors of the rubric cube and then the aim is to be dressed in one color by the end by swapping clothes! I went up to the shops to buy some cheap stuff like a hat , ribbons etc to swap.

The meal at the restaurant was between 7:30 to 9pm, and the party after. Mostly the riders are in bed by 730 pm! We all arrived at the restaurant at 7:30 and waited and waited and eventually the food arrived . It was turkey, cold frozen vegetables, and hard chips. A number of people tried to order wine but they had run out after selling about 8 bottles during the day and did not seem to have a lot of interest in getting more. I had got a bottle when I arrived which I shared with a couple of people.

While we were waiting for the party to start, various riders gave up and drifted off to bed. The room where the party was planned was still getting ready, and there was still no wine. We got some wine up the road and got back to find at least the room for the party was open. It was interesting to see various riders dressed up in all different colors, but no one swapped any clothes.

The rubik's party (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The rubik’s party (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Peter from NZ and I got most of the people up at one stage to do a dancing snake (where you put your hands on the hips of the person in front and dance in a line snaking around the room) (Editor’s note: I think Kaye is talking about a conga line, haha).

A waiter arrived with some wine. I am not sure how much he sold as we had sorted out wine for ourselves by that time. This was about 10pm, and we had been told for over 3 hours the restaurant was going to get more wine! I went off to bed about 11:00pm and drank lots of water to address the not such good quality red wine (vino tinto).

Tomorrow an adventure tour to the Jungle!

Sue and me at the Rubik's party (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Sue and me at the Rubik’s party (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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

Day 59: Le Balcares to Colera – 76k

4,701km down: 1,524km to go (3/4 of the way there!)

I never sleep well in a tent but last night I was awake for a few hours and could not go back to sleep. I feel very conflicted being over here with Lizzy just having had a baby. I rang Lizzy before leaving camp this morning; it was evening there so I got to speak to Lizzy, Theo, Shellbe and Kelly.  It was reassuring as it sounds like everything is going along very well.

I got some great photos of the aunties and uncles with their nephew, my grandson looks a lot like his Mum did as a baby – long and thin, with a red tinge to his hair, and very beautiful.

Today we rode through more deserted holiday parks and shopping centres, and closed amusement arcades. Although they look quiet and deserted now that school has gone back, the places must have been humming in the midst of the season. We made our way through the south of France and went through a couple of towns too beautiful not to mention.

Collioure had an old castle, old walls, a nice harbour, interesting looking houses and old boats.

Collioure

The next town, Port Vendres, had a great big ship in the middle of the harbour unloading, and lots of other small and large boats.

Port Vendres

From about 40k we hit the foot hills of the Pyrenees Mountains so we had couple of significant climbs, including the one to the Spanish border.

Just before the climb up to the border we stopped in a really pretty little town, Cerbère, for a cold drink and tried not to look at the climb ahead.  At least today the wind was behind us and we had a bit of assistance up the hills, however we also nearly got blown over the sides a couple of times, especially up by the Spanish border.

There was a really pretty little bay with people swimming, unlike France with its long sandy beaches, this was pebbly with a rugged coast line (a bit like Makara).

John, me and Brett at the Spanish border

The Spanish border is at the top of a big hill, on the way coming down the hill we came across a small snake on the road, it was smaller than I expected snakes to be, it was more like a large worm! I will have to watch carefully for these in the grass at toilet stops!

Coming down the Pyrenees mountain foothills just past Spanish border

The place we are staying was just after the bottom of the hill, San Miguel Camp Site in a town called Colera. We rode past the campsite and had a look at the town, it was very much like Cerbère – a pebbly beach with a rocky foreshore, the water is so blue.

Beach where we are staying in Colera

The campsite has toilet paper and a shower that stays on, but still no soap and still no toilet seats!  This is the third country with toilets at camps without toilet seats, but on a positive side there were no squat toilets to be seen 🙂 The last couple of camp sites that we have stayed at have been set up for mobile homes rather than camping and the ground is like concrete. I have had to borrow some tent pegs as mine have turned into tired and bent squiggle shapes, and some of them can no longer be knocked back into shape with a mallet.

Tortured tent pegs, or art?

Tortured tent pegs, or art?

We must not have been able to cook here as we had dinner in the restaurant tonight. We had paella, it was really nice.

Paella (pic stolen from another riders blog)

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Day 47: Casalmaggiore to Bobbio – 112k

3,773km down: 2,454km to go

So once again we set off early to try and beat the heat. The mosquitos were pretty savage again in the morning and it’s hard to see them when it is still dark.

We have been noticing since we have been in Italy not only do the Italian women dress so beautifully – very chic! – but so do the riders. When they are in couples you can understand the matching clothes, but you see groups of riders that not only match clothes, but also their helmets, gloves, and shoes. It’s like the last thing they discuss before they finish a ride is what clothes they will wear the next day. And boy, are their whites white – they glisten! I am thankful for wearing sunglasses as they come towards me. We, on the other hand, look like a bedraggled bunch who have been sleeping rough for a couple of months and mostly hand washing our clothes (regardless of what we do, the whites in our clothes are gray!)

The first half of the ride to lunch today was flatish and not too hot. We were at lunch by 10:30am again. The second part of ride was hot and then climbing. We stopped 5k before the camp to go to the shops but they were shut. We thought it was just for the usual siesta, but no, turns out they are shut every Thursday afternoon for the whole afternoon.

So off to camp, we got there and yay there was a swimming river right by camp, so I quickly put up the tent and then headed off for a swim. Later I was talking to Dayna and she told me she saw a SNAKE!!!! In the river!!! Not sure how much more river swimming I will be doing!!

At the rider’s meeting that night Christiano told us that we are doing a 56k climb first thing the next day. I am not sure if some people have been complaining or if he had an idea of the night that was coming, but he gave us a long talk on how this ride was not only a test of physical strength but was also a test of psychological strength as well.

Not sure what it is with the toilets over here, I have got used to no soap, and even the squat toilets, but once again we are in a camp with no toilet paper!!!! Plus not sure how common flossing your teeth is here, as I had a line of small girls watching me in the wash room, and they ran away giggling when I turned around.

There are not so many bugs tonight but have a couple of things to add to the perfect campsite
1. Mosquito free dome
2. Snake free river!!!

So back to the psychological testing. We had a number of families camping near us at night. One family partied on until midnight, with loud Italian voices, laughter, and children laughing, playing, and giggling. We of course were all in our tents from about 8pm after a long day and a big day the next. While I was lying there unable to sleep due to the noise I thought “I can either get really frustrated or I can enjoy that once in my life I am at an Italian party” (even though I was uninvited, and in a tent a metre away). The Italians have loud, but quite singsongy voices.

Also I’m not sure if I have already mentioned it but last night we had members of the sports club partying it up, yelling and shouting in the pool area (by our tents) until about 3am.

Once the Italian family finally went bed – just after midnight – we had people partying in river until about 4am. I kept thinking thankfully it is a rest day the day after tomorrow. And I hope they fall over in the river and hit their heads. Although if they had, they would probably have just woken up and thought “Hey dude, must have been a good night, because damn I have a hell of a hangover!”.

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Day 12: Riga to Biržai – 102k

991km down: 5,234km to go.

Not sure how it passed me by but there are SNAKES in Europe!!! Only found out after a couple of days of happily going for rest breaks in long grass, my biggest concern had been ticks! But sitting at camp one of the riders was showing other riders the picture of a stork slurping up a SNAKE! Oh my god!

Those who know of my totally ridiculous worm phobia are no doubt smirking right now. To my mind SNAKES are big worms but more vicious! The Aussie guy Brett said helpfully MOST (!!) of them are not poisonous.

Anyway I got it in back into context after an hour or two and a remedial wine (or two). The biggest danger is cars, or as I found out yesterday other cyclists! However no more long grass rest stops for me!

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So today up at 6am and back on the road again. The day was overcast and looking like rain, it looked like it might but actually didn’t! The traffic coming out of Riga was a bit hideous but thankfully we turned off the main route after about five minutes. The road today was through farmland with a constant up gradient. Lots of vegetable gardens, some were huge!

Today we crossed from Latvia to Lithuania. Once again no sign of the border, this time did not even see the Lithuania sign apparently it was there but was not in English!

As we were riding out of Riga today I saw a dog trotting along the street with that purposeful look on its face and important business trot that dogs have. While we were riding along I was thinking about this, like what is the purposeful look and trot all about? I was imagining what was going through the dogs mind: “So, I’m going to look for the neighbour’s cat to chase, then I’ll pee on the brown fence, and after that I’ll check out the rubbish behind the dairy” etc!

Anyway lots of run down houses, falling down barns etc still. The ride today never really got going and feeling good today, still feeling the effects of the fall off the bike coming into Riga.

Coming into town we somehow missed a turn and added 3k to our ride as we found the flags and followed them but worked out after coming past the same shops again that we had been following the flags from the wrong direction. Anyway sorted it out and got to the hotel. Once again we got to the camp site and there were rooms available, so it was a very hard decision to make – warm, dry room, no tent to put up, no worry about rain during the night, inside toilet and shower, for 20 euro. Took me all of 0.1 of second to decide to get a room.

I am sharing with Walli so will see how that goes, I am a bit concerned because there is a TV in the room but at least I have my music on the phone. I am really pleased we have a room as it is really cold here tonight and windy, only about 8 degrees! It also looks like it will rain.

Europe is having an usually cold and windy summer (which I have mentioned previously) which is hurting their tourism – but it does mean that so far there have been vacant rooms at each place that has accommodation. So far I have only slept in my tent twice – both places did not have extra accommodation on site.

To give you an idea of the temperature when we are riding, in the past few days I have been wearing biking pants (2 out of 3 days over boots), my ice breaker t-shirt, a riding top, arm warmers and at least 2/3rds of each day a rain jacket! So it’s not just New Zealand that did not get much of a summer this year. I’m hopeful that the weather will improve but as I was reminded today: I am on holiday. Also you generally keep pretty warm when moving.

Tomorrow weather forecast is not great but I have my full clothes now. I had been able to get my not-daily bag until yesterday, as we only get access to our permanent bags on rest days, so at least will not get cold wet soggy fingers.

Towororrw we are cycling 118k to Anykščiai, staying at the Zve Jo Sapnas campsite. There are rooms available there so we have rung ahead and booked 🙂 Otherwise the fast riders get in first, and if it is limited there may be nothing left.

Rob and Jenny tent every night, no matter what the weather is like. Then there are a group of riders – Michele, Dan, Scott, Yarn and Dana – who tent every night except the really wet miserable night. Then the rest like me who jump into a room if available.

Tonight at tea there was a comment and congratulations that I had gone an entire day without an injury! The wind caught the whiteboard that our instructions are written on for the next day, Jen said she was surprised it had not ended up on me!

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