Posts Tagged With: Sore legs

Day 18: Thursday 1 Dec – Murchison to Westport

Riding 97km today – climbing 1,200 metres and 1,400 down.

Thankfully a shorter ride today as my legs don’t have much in them after the past couple of days.

I had no cell coverage again last night was unexpected as was the no coverage in Nelson in the Maitai Valley. Must be a hill in the way of the tower.

Today was officially the first day of summer. Ha I thought as I pulled on my arm warmers and leg warmers. Should have put my full finger gloves on as well as my fingers were very cold the first few kilometres.

For breakfast Yarnez decided to have a go at a roast lamb and potato hot pot/ stir fry – not his most successful dish, but I appreciated his efforts.

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Breakfast this morning (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I set off with one new tyre on the back, so was hopeful that I would have no problems with flat tyres today. Luckily there were not too many trucks that early before we got to the turn off to Westport and away from the Kaikoura to Christchurch traffic diversion. Instantly the roads were calmer, hardly any traffic and the few trucks there were you could hear them coming awhile away.

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A stretch of road today (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

A few climbs and my legs were hopeless,  it was like riding with concrete gum boots on. I gritted my teeth and kept grinding, focusing on that it was a shorter riding day and a rest day tomorrow.

Stopped at 51km stop for coffee and then around the corner at 57 km was the lunch truck. There was a much lighter atmosphere than yesterday with only 40km left to ride, no longer lots of trucks and mostly downhill 😀 Plus the weather was warm and not windy.

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Even so it seemed a long ride, every uphill was endless with legs that were not cooperative with climbing. It was very pretty scenery, the Buller river was very fast moving you would not want to slip in as it would be hard to get back out.

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Travelling down the Buller Gorges

There were a few narrow bits and some traffic-light controlled bridges, which had a button for cyclists to push as a bike was not heavy enough to activate the lights.

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Bridge where you have to push a button to get across (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Finally I got into Westport (only just before 2, so even though the day has felt hard it really wasn’t in term of distance and climbing). We were staying at the Buller Bridge Motel. Right by the sign that says “Spacious and quiet” was a road crew digging up the road. Luckily they won’t be working over night.

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On the West Coast

I had a shower and a rest and then went to the Denniston Dog Restaurant for dinner with Brett, Michele, Tony, Chris and Linda (Chris has done 7 TDA rides and did the whole South American EFI, plus won the men’s race, Linda did part of South  America, this her 3rd TDA ride). We also invited Sue but she had already made plans.

We had just sat down and ordered a drink when another big TDA group arrived and sat at the next table, 5 minutes later another big TDA group arrived – it was almost like being at camp!

Most of us had steak that you cooked on a stone hot plate yourself. A big serving of meat. I cooked mine in two halves so one half could be resting while I cooked the other half. It was really good, and if it wasn’t you could only blame the chef. I was too full for desert but a couple of people shared a cheesecake. The dark chocolate and cherry cheesecake looked pretty good. There was a very limited wine selection, in the end we all agreed on a Gatekeeper Aussie Shiraz being the best choice.

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Sizzling plate, pork and apple (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Jessica had said there was a fundraiser at a local pub to support a BMX track being built so we called in, it looked pretty tame. They were about to have an auction so we made a donation and left. We called into a pub further down the street called the Cosmopolitan, unlike the Denniston Dog which was crowded and humming, this place was deserted: the publican, a punter on the slot machines, and 2 customers who left just after we came in.

We returned to the Denniston Dog and it was still humming. The difference I think was the very friendly bar staff – two younger ladies with an extensive knowledge of cocktails. We decided to have a cocktail called a Tobblerone. It was absolutely delicious but quite a high alcohol content. Luckily we were not silly enough to do another round.

One customer had a cocktail called a “Dogs breath” which was lit on fire and he had to swallow the drink in the glass and breathe in the fumes – he looked quite glassy eyed afterwards. There was also a cocktail called a “Bubblegum”. The bar lady gave us a small taste, it did taste just like bubblegum. Time to return to our motels.

Yay rest day tomorrow.

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Travelling down the Buller Gorges

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Day 11: Thursday 24 Nov – Porangahau to Eketahuna

133km today – 1850 meters climbing, 1540 k down

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Today’s ride

Another big day of riding, but thankfully it’s not as hot as yesterday. No shops to buy a snack or a drink until about 70km so I preloaded on water and made a sandwich.

The first 5 km was flat so I had some time to get the legs warmed up, then up a hill but thankfully not the one we rode down yesterday.

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Back over the river out of camp (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Some of the hills were pretty steep. As I was climbing up one of them I thought to my self that although I had made a sandwich, I didn’t remember actually packing it into my bike pack. I got to the top of the hill and got off my bike to check. Drat! I had left it behind, plus I ate my emergency snack the other day and have not yet replaced it! So I was now worried about how long it will take to get to 70 km and how much climbing there would be, as I am seriously worried about bonking (a riders term for completely running out of energy due to lack of food).

Then I thought”Yay the 2nd truck has not yet gone past, I may be able to get something off that”. Less than 2 minutes later the truck came past so I did a thumbs down which signals them to stop. Thumbs up means you’re ok and they go past. Luckily they had a few bananas so they gave me one.

Off I went, much more happy, and ate the banana about 10km.

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Obligatory tourist photo with the world’s longest place name

The day was nice and warm, not much wind, with a few climbs. There was one quite big descent and I could see a big climb looming, but then yay there was a flag and we took the road to the left. A really nice gradual downhill of about 10 km following a river bed.

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Some downhill ahead, yippee (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped at 70 km at the shop and had an ice cream: pecan nut and caramel. It was a bit sweet but it tasted really good. Then I headed off again.

The day wore on and the legs were getting tired. The last couple of hills I got off and walked a bit.

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Coming down after another climb

We finally arrived in Eketahuna. Never did I imagine I would be thrilled to arrived in Eketahuna, but thrilled I was.

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Eketahuna, I love you.

We stopped at the Eketahuna Pub after 9 1/2 hours on the bike – that cold beer tasted really good. Then 2km to camp.

The camp was surprisingly busy with motor homes, and more arrived after we got there.
I got the tent up, had a shower, and then it was dinner time. Dinner was chicken casserole -the chicken was really tender and tasty, with white rice, salad and caramelised  pumpkin with feta sprinkled on top. Michele and Tony shared a bottle of Moana Park Merlot with us.

The weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking great: rain plus gale force winds. We are staying at a Top Ten so I rang and booked a cabin.

It took awhile to get to sleep, as unsurprisingly the other camp residents weren’t planning to go to bed at 7:30pm! But I was quite happy after a big day dozing in my sleeping bag, listening to music on the iPod.

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Eketahuna (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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Day 8: Monday 21 Nov, Kurpipapango to Napier

Today 810 meters climbing and 1,300 down and only 82km to Napier, with the next day being a rest day. Sounds good, the only drawback is the 10km of uphill first up.

My legs felt ok when I first got onto the bike, so 900m of shingle up to the main road then 500 meters until a big steep hill. To my shame I was off my bike and pushing less than 2km into the ride. I was hoping the whole 10km was not as steep, as other wise I would take over 3 hours to get 10km. Thankfully the gradient decreased so I got back on my bike and did not have to push my bike again for the rest of the day.

There were lots of steep bits but lots of dips too, so if you got a really good run up them most of the time you could get to the top in the big gear. A few I still had to push. It was lovely and warm, with blue sky and great views.

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View of Hawkes Bay

Before I knew it the lunch truck was in sight at 61km. The mood of the other riders was as jovial as mine. Only 21 km to ride and at the most 100 meters of climbing to go.

Back on the road again, 5km along a bike trail then onto the main road heading into the city. It was not too busy as it was only 12:30 pm.

We were staying at Bk Fountain Court Motel, nice rooms, comfy bed and a bath 😀. This time there was only one washing machine and it was only open 1pm to 8pm, so I decided to wait till tomorrow and go down town to do my laundry when I go out to have breakfast.

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Tony outside our motel (Photo credit: Michele’s Facebook page)

After a shower I set off down town with Brett, Michele and Tony for a cold beer. We went to a lovely old hotel called The Emporium Eatery and Bar, which is part of the Art Deco Masonic Hotel. It was built in 1861, destroyed by fire, rebuilt, destroyed by the 1931 earthquake, then rebuilt.

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Kaye’s Great Gatsby entrance at the  Masonic Hotel Napier

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Emporium Cafe & Bar Napier

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Emporium Cafe & Bar Napier

We had cold beer, and a pizza and chips to share. Sitting out on the Napier esplanade in the warm afternoon sun was great, there was no wind.

 

We googled a number of places for dinner but most of them were closed on Monday. We decided to go to a place in the old Napier port called The Thirsty Whale, which had good reviews. However we were not keen to walk there as it was over 5km away and I felt I had done enough exercise for the day. So we decided to get a taxi.

We flagged one down in the street, what a miserable chap he was! He was Norwegian and had been here for a couple of years, and did not much like New Zealand or Napier. When asked what bought him here he said ‘A plane’.

Anyway, he reckons New Zealand houses are shit, and the people in Napier are small minded. I was tempted to ask him why he was still here. When we got to the Restaurant I told him to keep the change, that worried him as well. Tony got his card off him as we would want a taxi to go back.

We got a great table on the deck at the restaurant. To start we shared a bottle of Hãhã Sparkling Brut with the Parmesan bread. Then we had an Ash Ridge Sauvignon Blanc with our meals. I had a very nice version burger.

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Napier old harbour – Thirsty Whale

We asked the people in the restaurant to call us a taxi as we did not want the happy Norwegian – well guess who turned up. Unfortunately Michelle and I got the giggles.
He was less happy, nearly drove out in front of a couple of cars whilst sharing more of his views on Napier and the people. Apparently the people here have nothing better to do than turn the street signs round the wrong way! Really will watch out for that.

Back to the motel and in bed by 8:30pm, yay a rest day tomorrow. At midday 8 of us are off on a wine trip.

https://www.relive.cc/view/781135935

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Mon 21 Napier

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

Day 49/164: Lambayeque to Pacasmayo – 118km

800 meters up, 950 down.

It was nice to wake up and not have to pack up a tent etc. I am looking forward to getting into two rest days. I have not ridden 7 days in a row before and my legs are certainly feeling it.

Every morning before leaving my tent (or room) I spray myself with bug spray. Today it helped for the bits I had sprayed, but I was bitten through my bike shorts and top! Just when I was almost free of bites. Due to this I had a very short breakfast and was on my bike by 6:15am.

I rode in a group of 5 for the first 35 kilometres. It was useful for getting through the crazy traffic. Where cars would not stop for one rider, they did for five. We still had to be constantly watching – a few times a tuk tuk got in the middle of the group. The police escort from yesterday may have had some uses today!

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt's Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt’s Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt's Facebook)

On the road today (Photo from Jo Platt’s Facebook)

The city is the dirtiest I have ever seen, rubbish bags, deal animals etc. The trucks and buses would fail a WOF in New Zealand due to fumes. The drivers are aggressive with cyclists and each other. The horns are constantly blaring. Some of the rubbish at the side of the road has been lit, so there is also the fumes of burning plastic and other waste. Overall not pleasant riding.

Once we got out of the city we were in the desert, endless sand as far as the eye can see. Then more dirt towns. At about the halfway point add to this a significant head wind!

Lunch stop today

Lunch stop today

With about 15 kilometres to go, we went back into the desert, with a strong head wind, little road shoulder and trucks and buses going past blaring their horns and covering you in fumes. The landscape is bleak and dry with very little vegetation. I was developing very low expectations of the rest day accommodation.

We turned left with 5 kilometres to go still, there was sand and old – almost derelict – buildings. We got down a steep road, came round a corner, and there was the most quaint little seaside town, with a promenade along the sea shore, little shops and a nice hotel! And best of news – I have been allocated my own room for three days! The joy! Not only do I have a view of the sea, but the sounds of the waves crashing on the beach can be heard from my room.

We arrive at the Pacific Coast of Peru (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

We arrive at the Pacific Coast of Peru (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

I unpacked and took the washing to the laundry, and then Jackie and I met for a cold drink on the hotel balcony. Nice outlook looking at the sea, warm and sunny, and only 2pm. A feeling of contentment and relaxation pervades. Then I was introduced to an innocent looking drink called a Pisco Sour. This is made with cane sugar liquor, lemon and egg. It does not taste like it contains the punch it does.  During the evening I had another 3 of these, thankfully I only had to navigate my way upstairs to my room. I was sensible enough to drink a litre of water before bed.

Categories: Peru, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Day 48/164: Pasabar to Chiclayo – 113km

Up 700 meters, down 775 meters.

Not such a good sleep last night – just because a weird bunch of Lycra clad cyclists go to bed at 7pm does not mean the locals do. Quite a lot of talking and laughing, thankfully I had the iPod and ears muffs!

The soccer field has overhead lights, and these were on for a while, and then came back on at 5am.

When one of the riders woke up it was so light they thought they had overslept. Being so close to the equator there is not much time from dark to light in the morning, and light to dark at night. So usually we are getting up in the dark and going to bed in the dark.

As I don’t have my keys to lose every day I instead play “hunt for my overhead light” – if only I would put it in the same place each day! If I forget until it is dark more challenge is added to this by having to crawl around inside the tent going through everything with the light from the cell phone. My aim from now on is to put it in my toilet bag every morning (which I plan to do as soon as I find it).

To add variety today we had a team challenge, we had to get into a team of 4 and guess how long it will take to ride 25 kilometres-ish (maybe slightly more or less) without knowing the road and how much of today’s 700 meters climb is in it. I am in a combined NZ/OZ team called the Anzac biscuits. You can over estimate your time, but if you underestimate you’re out, and it’s based on the time that the last rider in the team crosses the line.  Given that we don’t know the gradient we are cautious and overestimate based on the expected speed of the slowest rider in the team (me).

It is for fun and there is no prize, but some of the teams are deadly serious and are warming up and have stripped everything off their bike. I considered if I should take off my panniers, but I already spend a few minutes each day trying to close my daily bag so that’s not an option anyway.

There was less gradient than we expected so we come in under our time. Going up the hill to the end I was feeling the pressure, was huffing and puffing and pushing as fast as I could. My team could hear me behind them, thankfully no one in my team was yelling at me to hurry up.

One of the teams had a rider who is also not great on hills who thought he was going to throw up, and in another team one of the riders was screaming and yelling at his team. Anyone would have thought there was serious prize money at stake.

The AZAC biscuits: Peter and me from New Zealand, Jackie and Brett from Australia

The ANZAC biscuits: L-R: Brett and Jackie from Australia, Peter and me from New Zealand

With this behind me, I set off for the rest of the ride. There were some ruins along the way, pyramids in Tucane built out of sandstone, that I stopped to have a look at. I need to google some info about them as everything I have seen written was in Spanish.

Me in front of the pyramids

Me in front of the pyramids

The pre Incan pyramids (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The pre Incan pyramids (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Detail of the Pre Incan pyramid (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Detail of the Pre Incan pyramid (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The road is not good to ride on, the shoulder has numerous pot holes but the road has trucks, buses and Tuk Tuks everywhere. Even when you are on the shoulder they blare their horns at you. They are much more aggressive than Colombia and  Ecuador, with us and with each other. They are also less kind to animals, and there is a distressing amount of animal carnage at the roadside. Also distressing are the vultures feasting. I can just imagine vultures as the birds in the horror movie (called I think Birds). There is also rubbish everywhere again.

Because of the team challenge and the rest of the day not being a race day, most of the riders are riding in groups. The group I was with got stopped and questioned by the Policia – an interesting conversation when they did not speak English and none of us spoke Spanish. We showed them on our notes where we were going, they took photos of us and – we thought – drove off happily.

However about 5 kilometres up the road along came 3 Policia on motorcycles with their sirens going and one headed over to us. Once again a challenging conversation, and he did not seem very happy with us. We got an escort for the remaining 16 kilometres to camp. It was a bit scary as he seemed really grumpy and he had a gun. It was useful though in controlling the traffic, and he stopped the traffic at two intersections so we could go across. However we were very relieved when we got to camp to see Cristiano. We left Cristiano to deal with him and went thankfully inside the camp.

Cristiano said after being asked for his documentation and having his photo taken, the cop said he had been told to ensure we got safely to camp – by it turns out the cops in the car who had stopped us.

The place we are staying has rooms at a reasonable price so a lot of the riders got one. Nice to have a room to myself, and not have to pack up the tent in the morning, and be able to get dressed standing. As it turns out also thankfully to stop being savaged by bugs. I put two types of spray on for dinner and still got bitten. In the morning I got bitten through my bike shorts and riding top as well.

This place is meant to have wifi but like the place in Las Lomas I could not get onto it. So rather than get frustrated I decided to turn the iPad off. Hopefully the hotel for the rest day will have good wifi.

I am looking forward to the rest day. Even though the days have been shorter and not much climbing, I have never ridden 7 days in a row before, and the legs are getting weary.

Dinner was goat curry, couscous, coleslaw.

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

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

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

Day 15/164: Viani to La Vega – 72 km

1,211 km down: 12,430 km to go – 1,800 metres up, 1,300 metres down

My tyre was still up in the morning, so I crossed my fingers that the problem was solved. I decided to ride the lunch truck to lunch, as I was fed up with getting into camp late with only just enough time to put up my tent, eat, and crash into bed. Plus I was very weary as I had been kept awake quite a bit of the night by the local pub across the road where they partied on until about 2:30 in the morning, then the roosters and the dogs took over. There were a few grumpy riders in the morning. I figured “Hey, it was Friday night and the locals have the right to do as they usually do”. But added to the last few days, I decided to listen to my body.

Off we went in the truck. We went up and up and had the most spectacular views of the mountains covered in snow. Colombia is a very hilly country, without much flat land so far. We went past a petrol station and there was a horse just sitting and chilling in the forecourt. Ray, one of the truck regulars, commented that the horse was there so that if there was no gas you can continue on horseback.

Certainly the animals here are very road wise and I have only seen two dead domestic animals at the roadside so far. You see locals heading off to work with their horses following them along a main road, not bring led or held at all. There are lots of cows grazing untethered on the roadside as well. Endless dogs happily trotting along the road, and crossing at will, happily preoccupied with their doggy business. There does not seem to be any regulations or a pound truck cruising around. The dogs seem in reasonable health and happy. So far I have not seen a dog fight. If I come back in the next life as a dog, I would like to be a dog in Colombia.

The roads are variable, you get a well paved bit then for no reason it becomes rocky gravel, and then paved road again. There are a lot of areas where there have been landslides and there is only one lane. This becomes a challenge with trucks, mostly the drivers are excellent but there is always the occasional few bad ones, then when both don’t give way, a line of trucks backing is no easy feat!

The one place where the roads are in pristine condition though is 50 meters before and after the toll booths. We go through an average of at least one toll booth a day (bikes don’t have to pay). The road can have numerous pot holes and gravel for a couple of kilometres before and after. At every toll booth there are people selling food and drinks. Often there is a person in a wheelchair or on crutches asking for donations. There is only one per toll booth, almost regularly. You have to wonder if they have to pay for the place!

Today was a very busy section for trucks, endless trucks going both ways, sometimes 10 in a row. I was pleased not to be riding this bit.

I had seen a few locals taking milk urns on their horses or motor bikes, today I saw one with the urns in a wheel barrow. It’s amazing what the locals transport on a motor bike – fridges, wood, whole families, pigs etc.

We had been going for about 40 kilometres when Luis the truck driver got a phone call telling him to stop before 40 kilometres for lunch, as after that there was nowhere to park. It would have been really difficult to turn around because of the traffic so they decided to keep going.

We went for about another kilometre and they saw a local’s house with quite a big front section, so asked the family if we could park there. The family kindly agreed. I don’t think they were quite so happy a couple of minutes later when one of the hydraulic pipes burst in the truck and sprayed fluid all over their concrete!  As Luis and Alejandro (bike mechanic) were busy with trying to sort this out, Ray, John (another truck regular) and I got the lunch ready before we rode off.

I had the job of cutting up left over chicken, helped by the family pets – two dogs and the cat – who happily took care of the chicken skin for me. Luis had managed by this time to get hold of a local truck mechanic who came and fixed the problem.

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Dog and cat at lunch time (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Off I went for 35 kilometres, 900 meters of uphill. I managed to ride most of it but did have to get off a few times. I have discovered that one of my problems is that I try to ride up hills too fast. My experience of hills is hills that go for 3 kilometres, not 30, and I am starting to realize that you just can’t attack them the same.  There was mostly paved with some sections of rocky and gravel, sometimes two meters and sometimes a kilometre or so.

I hot to about 30 kilometres and I got another freaking flat tyre!!!! Same tyre! Bloody hell! Starting to lose my sense of humour! I had to find a safe space to change the tyre so had to walk for a bit. I spied a piece of flat lawn that looked possible, by what looked like a house. Joy of joy to find it was a shop and I could have a cold drink first. A couple of the other riders were there, once again we checked the tyre and rim. The consensus is that there is a small shaft of glass or wire that you can’t see or feel, that pushes out when the tyre is warm and it pops the tube. I will take the tyre to a bike shop in Bogota and if nothing can be found I will bin the tyre and replace it.

Off again, temperature rising up to 38 degrees again, but thankfully not far to go. I had to go through the town and then a kilometre out of town and turn right, and go about a kilometre up the road.  The kilometre up the road took for ever, it was so hot I was going from tree shade to the shade.

Putting up the tent was done in stages due to the heat. It was nice to be in camp by 2pm and I spent the afternoon sitting by the pool, chatting to other riders, and catching up with the blog. No internet again for the 5th day in a row, even though there was meant to be I could not log on, but at least I caught up a few days and saved in draft.

 

Relaxing by the pool

Relaxing by the pool (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

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The pool where we stayed (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I went to lock up my bike and found I had yet another flat. I decided I was not going to ride the next day in the convey into Bogota – it’s bad enough being a slower rider holding the convoy up, without getting flat tyres as well.

Rider's meeting

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

I went to bed about 7:30 but had trouble getting to sleep. There was a youth/ church/sports or something group making lots of noise. This music went on until 4:30 in the morning. They were shouting, laughing, drumming, playing music etc. It was harder to cope with than the night before, which had been a constant beat. I did have my earplugs in but it did not shut out the noise completely. We had  to get up at 4:30 so we could be in Bogota by 2pm.

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

Day 75: Malpartida de Plasencia to Cáceres – 83k

5,933km down: 292km to go (95% of the way there!) Up 1,064 metres, down 1,054

I slept reasonably well last night. It was still dark at 7:30am, so after breakfast we had to wait for it to get light before we could leave. Hard to believe that only four weeks ago in Italy we were leaving at 6:30 in the morning to get some kilometres in before the heat.

The first part of the ride today was on a gravel and rocky road for 22k. We had great views from the top but it was a serious climb to get up there. We had to get up there more than once because the road not only kept going up but also back down as well. There were a couple of bits that I did not think I would get up as they were steep – 8% and 9% gradients – and my tyres were slipping on rocks.

View from the 22k gravel track

View from the 22k gravel track

I was pretty impressed with myself that I managed to get up without stopping, as some of the ups were long as well as steep and slippery. I would not have been able to ride this terrain without stopping at the beginning of the tour. Overall we climbed up 500 metres on the 22k gravel road.

Finally at the top of 22k gravel road with Esther

The brake pin from Brett’s bikes rear brakes came out, and he had to ride down the last gravel downhill plus another 34k to the lunch truck with only his front brakes – including down the spirally hills to the dam.  Once we got to the lunch truck he was able to put another set in. Gergo was on lunch so he helped as well.

Climbing up from the dam

We saw lots of cattle but the land they are on is very barren, the farmers give them hay to eat. We saw another cluster of eagles/condors, about 10 of them swooping and soaring above a field.

It was hot and after the gravel road my legs were tired so I was pleased it was only a 83k day. The last stretch seemed long, it was hot, and there was a head wind. It was nice to see Gergo in the lunch truck at the top of a rise about 10k from town with oranges for us.

The hotel tonight is nice – and not undergoing renovations. I had a rest and then a meal in the square just outside the hotel. When we arrived most of the shops were shut up as it was siesta time. The shops are shut between 2:30pm and 5:30pm, and then are open again until 8:30pm. The restaurants do not start serving dinner until 8pm.

I decided the laundry hunt could wait until tomorrow.

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Day 68: Molina de Aragon to Sacedon – 109k

5,448km down: 777km to go

How nice it was to wake up in a bed, even though for some reason mine had a plastic undersheet, so it crinkled every time I turned over, but I still slept well. Breakfast was amazing, fresh fruit, TOAST, homemade cake, meat platters, juice, proper coffee, plus freshly made omelettes. The lady came out and said “Anyone like an omelette?” and eight rider’s hands went up instantly. We were joking that next time the tour books in there the owner will say “Ok, 8 riders? That equals food for 18” and charge accordingly. The people running the place were really friendly and we all thought it was fantastic. We all left rested, well fed, and happy. I think it would have been a different scenario if we had stayed on a sports ground (aka piece of dirt) and had to use one shower between us, like was originally planned.

On the way out of town there was an amazing monastery, I took a photo but it doesn’t show how big it is. The fence goes for ages around a hill, and there are also buildings at the back.

Monastery on the hill

Christiano talks about how this tour is not just physically testing, but also psychological testing. Not only do you have to get along with a group of riders you have never met, staying at campsites with other noisy campers that stay up until the wee hours, barking dogs, enthusiastic roosters, heat, and bugs. But added to this, you have no idea of the day ahead, no idea how high or long the hills are, unlike when you do your usual route at home, so you are always holding a bit in reserve in case you get the killer hill. But it also adds to the fun, as like today you have fairly low expectations and end up with one of the best rides of the tour.

It was really cold this morning once we had left the hotel, it was only 7 degrees, and of course having rationalized my panniers my jacket was in my daily bag that had left in the truck already. The hotel was really warm, so the cold was unexpected. Thinking about it later though the hotel had really thick concrete walls which would hold in the heat. (I have now pulled my jacket out ready for tomorrow morning).

We rode the first 70k around the perimeter of a national park called Parque Natural Alto Tajo. It was very scenic, with trees, cliffs, and even a deer running across the road. Plus there was a very pretty river / pond area. Amazingly enough, you are allowed to take dogs on a leash and have them in the camping grounds, so long as they are tied up. Actually if I had not said already, having dogs at the camping grounds is very common (not just the owners but also the campers), plus often a number of pretty feral looking cats!

Riding through Parque Natural Alto Tajo

The orange arrow shows the place we were

I warmed up on the first hill about 6k, up but then we had a downhill that went for about 10k, under trees and in a gully. By the time we got to the bottom I was freezing and looking forward to an uphill! Pinch me but it’s true!

After going up for about one kilometre we came to a sunny bit and stopped and looked around. We were lucky enough to see 17 condors or eagles – there is a difference of opinion amongst the riders. It was fantastic, we stayed there for ages watching them soar and glide. Two came and had a closer look at us, but then soared away again.

If you look really carefully, the back dots are the eagles/condors

The ride until lunch was great, some ups but also good downs. My legs felt better than I had expected, even though they are stiff when I walk, they are ok on the bike.

After lunch we had a couple of fantastic down hills, and then we had some rolling hills.  With the wind assisting me I hit 51kph pedalling uphill. It certainly helps the more speed you can pick up, the less work it is to get up it. I have still not broken my downhill record, I have got to 56kph a number of times this trip, today included, but still have not broken through the 56kph barrier.

The road we were riding on that had the great rollers was called Paso De Ganada. Then we made a right turn and crikey, at the end of the road were two big hills with the wind now against us! My legs were tired but being only 10k from the camp gave me the needed energy to push up the hills. All the hills today were honest hills, up 1,321, but down 1,671 🙂

We are staying at a camp site called Camping Ecomillans, back to dirt again but only one night back in a tent and then three nights in Madrid. While we are in Madrid we are going to go to a restaurant called Botin which is the oldest restaurant in the world. Yes very touristy, but it has to be done, we have booked already. I also want to go and see the flamenco dancers.

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Day 67: Canizar de Olivar to Molina de Aragon – 120k

5,339km down: 886km to go  (Up 1,424 metres, and down 1,130)

I had a good start to the day as I got a reasonable sleep last night. The local rooster must have slept in because he did not start until after we got up. I have rationalized my panniers down to one which Brett has very kindly offered to carry for me. Every bit will help get through the next three days.

I rang home to get the update regarding how Lizzy and Xavier are getting on. They are both going well, and Lizzy was taking Xavier for his first walk, along the beach near our home. Not that Xavier knew – he was fast asleep! After having a chat to Lizzy, I spoke to Kelly and got some fantastic news.  Kelly is 12 weeks pregnant, she had the scan today and all looks good. So I will be a Gran again at the end of March. It put a big smile on my face. I also shed a few tears, and had to explain to my fellow riders that they were happy tears, as they weren’t sure what was happening on the other end of the phone, they just heard me shriek and then start crying!

So off we went, and of course we first of all had to climb up the 2k we had gone down to camp the night before. Then it was 2k up a 5% gradient – ouch on tired, unwarmed up legs. However this was followed by an 11k downhill 🙂

Heading up a hill early in the day

We had rollers for awhile then a 4k up but then a 6k down. Brett said they are honest hills – they give back more than they take. The bugs going up the 4k hill were a pain, trying to get in my eyes, it was very odd seeing them walking across my sunglasses. Plus there were a few I had to spit out, and one I nearly swallowed, yum.

After 20k I had a quick stop and my legs were wobbly and tired, I did not see how they would make the day. Thankfully they loosened up. Overall it was a great ride until lunch. There are lots of small towns perched on the hillside, often they don’t have a shop but they all have a church. We passed a town called Caminreal, it had heaps of Piggeries, there was building after building of them however it looks like the  pigs never get to go outside 😦

As I said, it was a great ride until lunch, and we set off with 55k to go feeling really positive and looking forward to an early day. You know that saying don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched?! Well the afternoon was mostly up; at one point there was a hill that was 15k, with a hideous head wind. The afternoon went on and on.

The ride goes on and on

Thankfully we are staying in a hotel tonight so no putting up tents and listening to noisy campers. It’s a really nice hotel we are staying at, the Parador de Santa Rita, established in 1826. I have a hotel room to myself with three beds and a bath 🙂 But it does have a low ceiling  that I have to look out for, so far I have only banged my head three times.

We had dinner at the restaurant, it was really nice: salad, meat and pasta. I think they were surprised by how much we ate given that we are not enormous people.

Tomorrow we are riding 109k, the same uphill distance as today, and the weather forecast is for the wind to be at least as bad as today.

The Shepard and his dog were walking along with the sheep, they probably cover quite a distance each day. Not much food for the sheep though.

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Day 66: Arnes to Canizar de Olivar – 116k

5,219km down: 1,006km to go  (Up 1,478 metres, and down 943)

I had another dreadful night’s sleep, the Italian family at the campsite before Genoa had nothing on their Spanish counterparts. There were people drinking when we got to camp about 2:30pm, and still going after midnight. One particular woman had a great parenting technique, every 20 minutes or so she would scream at the top of her voice something that sounded like “Harriieee!”. Also it was really hot again in the tent. So far this half of the trip I have slept every camping night in a tent but my resolve is quickly waning.

The day started off with us being served porridge for breakfast, which is always a sign that the day ahead will be challenging – usually we just have muesli. The good news was the first 50k was on a rail trail (www.montsport.es), the bad news was that there was 10k of it on a gravel road, and after that it was climbing for the rest of the day.

The rail trail was pretty good, a slightly up gradient but cool temperatures. The gravel road was challenging, it was more like stones and rocks.

Rail trail after it turned from rocks to gravel

We went through three tunnels, and yes my light chose now to die again.

Rail trail tunnel

The hills after lunch just went on and on, and up! We only had two small down hills the entire afternoon. It was hot too, the country is stark, the scenery was like the desert road – miles and miles of dirt, but instead of tussock grass we had dirt and olive trees!

Dirt and olive trees

At about 15k out from the finish I had had it, my legs were sore, and I was over it! I have to admit there were tears, but tears are not weak – giving up is, so on and on and on I went. At 11k out I came across the lunch truck again! For a moment I thought “Oh my god we haven’t even made it to the lunch stop yet!!”. But Esther realised that we were having a hard day and had stopped to refill water and give us watermelon. I have not yet mentioned the watermelon, it’s the highlight of the lunch stop each day, as it is instant sugar and fluid.

The road went on and on

And on and on some more

I finally got to the last turn, and it was a 2k ride downhill to camp. And yay – a campsite with grass, I should actually be able to get my tent pegs in. And the toilet has soap and toilet paper and toilet seats, plus a shower that stays on. I’m moving in. There were also hardly any other campers, so it should be a better night than last night. We had the riders meeting and got some daunting news about tomorrow – 120k with some big hills. I think it’s time to review what’s in my panniers.

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