Posts Tagged With: Tired

Day 11: Maniago to Cortina d’amezzo

The whiteboard said 120 km, with 2600 meters up and 1100 meters down. I was not sure what the gradient was going to be and was a bit daunted as we set off from the hotel.

We pretty much started climbing straight away, with some sections not so steep. At about 15 km I realised I must not have done the top on one of my water bottles up properly as I have lost it. Hopefully we will pass a shop so I can refill the bottle I have.

We seemed to go up and up and up and up, some tough gradient. At about 30 km we had some very pretty lakes and not much of a gradient for awhile, but then the climb began again. We had a couple of small tunnels, so it was nice and cool inside. At an average speed of approx ten km/hr this was going to be a long day.

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Old rail trail

We passed through a number of villages, and all the houses had impressive stock piles of wood ready for next winter.

At 52 km we went through quite a long tunnel, but it had gaps on the side and way below it was a very pretty town. We had a fantastic 10 km downhill to the town, then climbed up to turn and leave the main road, to go along a side road along the river to the lunch stop.

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Big climb Day. Check out Kaye’s eyes “WTF have you got for me around the corner you bastard hill?”

At 1:30 pm, after 5 and a half hours riding, I got to lunch. By this stage I had climbed 1,330 meters with only 68.5 km ridden. At this stage, looking at my riding speed I wouldn’t get to the finish until 8 pm. Taking into account my cold and my sore arm, we decided Brett would ride ahead and I would take the truck.

The only problem with that idea, is that on this trip there is a lack of infrastructure and the truck can only take 4 riders – and 6 riders wanted a ride. We tried to order a taxi, not but not surprisingly a driver from Cortina (60 km away) was not keen to come to pick up people from a ‘river’, with not great directions and language barrier.

The next option was to get the dinner truck (the one that goes straight to the hotel and flags the route to come back) which meant a couple of hours wait. Then this wait would be even longer as Gergo, who was driving the dinner truck, had to go and pick up Tony who had come off his bike. We were not clear about why he couldn’t then continue to come and get two of us. So then we had a bit of a standoff: none of the 6 of us now want to start riding, as another hour has past and we will be looking at arriving at 9pm instead of 8pm.

Without any other solution apart from two of us riding, and not wanting to be involved in deciding who that will be, I asked John W if he is prepared to hitch hike with me.

John W and I set off taking our helmets (but not our bikes as they can go on the rack on the back of the truck) with us to hitchhike. To start we had to walk back the 3 km to where we left the main road – while wearing our cycling shoes.

Luckily once we got there the 12th car stopped for us. The male driver was Italian and spoke no English, he wasn’t going as far as Cortina but agreed to give us a lift to where he was going. He wanted to know where our bikes were, but with the language barrier we were not able to explain.  We did manage to convey that we had accommodation in Cortina, and John knew how to say it was a beautiful country.

We thought at least if we get to a town we will be better off. Well bless this man, there may have been a language barrier but he took us into the middle of a town about 20 km from where he had picked us up, and dropped us off at a bus stop. We offered him money but he wouldn’t take any.

So there we are at the bus stop trying unsuccessfully to read the bus timetable in Italian, when a bus turned up.
We asked the driver “do you go to Cortina?”
“No” he said “3 minutes”, then got out of his bus, locked it, and went across the road!
So then John and I are wondering does he mean he drives the bus to Cortina but not for 3 minutes?
Well exactly 3 minutes later the bus to Cortina arrived! To say we were happy would be an understatement! The bus took us to Cortina and dropped us off in the centre of town at the bus stop. Then we just had to find the hotel! Would you believe, right there in front of us: orange flagging  tape! Which we followed the 2.5 km to the hotel.

We arrived at the hotel at exactly the same time as a Brett, who had of course made excellent time not having to wait for me.

Tony, the rider who came off his bike, was unharmed but broke the hanger for the derailer and had no spare! Luckily the bike shop in Cortina, whilst not having the correct one for his bike, managed to fashion one to fit.

On arriving at the hotel I immediately had a cold beer with John W, Brett and Walker (all four of us did the Trans Europa in 2012).

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Safe arrival beers: 2 riders, 2 hitch hikers!!!

Afterwards, I had dinner with John, Walker, Brett and Graham. We had pasta with tomato sauce, Chicken schnitzel  (nasty and dry), Strudel and ice cream, and Red wine called Pinot Nero

The Hotel we are staying at is called Menardi Hotel.

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View from the balcony

Introducing
Walker and his Wife Carol – both retired
Walker and Carol did the 2nd half of the 2012 TransEuropa
They are from USA. Walker was an investment banker and Carol a music teacher. Carol is on a singing tour (she is in a choir) of the UK, whilst Walker is doing the ride. They have 3 children and 2 grandchildren, no cats or dogs.

John W and Marilyn (doesn’t ride), they have 2 sons, no pets
John is an almost retired university professor from Vancouver, he still does some consulting. This is his 4th TDA ride.

 

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1956 Olympic ski run

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

Long haul flights – first flight done

Thankfully long haul travel is like child birth – you quickly forget the realities and just remember the joy of the new baby or fond memories of the holiday.

The flight from NZ to Melbourne was uneventful, but I was close enough to the front of the plane to observe the food being served in business class.

I had a two hour stop over in Melbourne then onto to the plane for 14 hours. Luckily Rachel, my fantastic travel person, had booked me a seat with leg room so I could at least stretch my legs out and prop them up against a wall.

I was really tired and thought I would sleep ok, but the reality was I dozed off a few times for 30 or so minutes at a time. The worst bit was the screen at the front that relentlessly showed how much longer to go. I tried not to look as each time we had been travelling much less than how I felt.

I was quite anxious getting into Dubai as I had to change terminals, which involved getting to the right place where the bus left. Brett had emailed me a map but I still wandered round and round till I walked past the same security person for the third time. He started explaining to me again “you go down there, turn left and then…” but seeing the glazed look on my face he took pity on me and personally escorted me to where the shuttle bus left from.

I am now waiting to board the flight to Bosnia, I am very grubby and grumpy. I am also a bit jittery from the three cups of coffee, and pleased I packed my toothbrush in carry on.

Categories: The Odyssey | Tags: , , , | Leave a 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 6/164: Caucasia to Ventanas – 138k (or maybe not!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 1: Cartagena to Finca – 90k

90km down: 13,551km to go

The group!  (Photo credit: Tour De Afrique Instagram)

The group official start photo!
(Photo credit: Tour De Afrique Instagram)

We left the hotel and rode the first 20 kilometres in a convoy, then after that we rode at our own speed. It was so hot, it got up to 36 degrees! I’m not really used to the trip bike, have not done enough training, and am carrying too much weight – it’s not a great combination.

Official start photo!

Official start photo! (photo credit: Sue)

There was crazy traffic – big trucks, lots of scooters, horses, donkeys pulling wagons, people on motor bikes with long pieces of wood and chairs etc, whole families on the same bike. I saw milk urns being brought out to the road by a donkey. About every kilometre there were people selling mangos and water. There were quite a few check points and tolls, but bikes are able to go through for free. With the mangos you couldn’t buy just one you had to buy about 20 and I am already carrying enough weight with my gear on the bike. Every three kilometres or so there would be a highway bar run by locals with beer, water, and homemade lemonade. I bought a bit of water to pour over my head. The sun was beating down and there was a slight breeze but not enough to offset the heat. I stopped to put on sunscreen, but forgot to do my legs the first time I reapplied sunscreen and will need to wear leg warmers tomorrow to cover the sun burn on my legs but my arms were fine. Lunch stop was at the 60 kilometre point, I could quite happily have stayed there. Broke the afternoon into two stages.

Lunch stop (photo again stolen from Sue's Facebook page)

Lunch stop (photo credit: Sue)

I finally got to camp and it was still so freaking hot. We stayed at a farm for the night. There were so many chickens, chicks, ducklings, dogs and puppies, a donkey, one cat and – it turns out – roosters.

Arriving at camp

Arriving at camp (photo credit: Sue)

When I got there I had a sleep and woke up drenched. The camp was by a main highway and with the heat and the trucks it was hard to sleep. The rosters started about 4:30am and then the dogs and then the donkey chimed in. No one asked this morning “Did you sleep well?”. Some of the riders who have done a number of rides said it was the worse night they had ever had. I lay in my tent, dripping with sweat and thinking “Seriously, I want to do this because??”.

Categories: Columbia, Cycling trip, South American Epic | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Santiago to Cartagena

I got picked up at the hotel on time at 10pm and headed off to the airport. The driver insisted I fill out the customer survey before even starting the trip. Given that I had to plane to catch I did not want to argue the point so did it, but based on the previous driver, so good scores. After the ride to the airport I can imagine he wanted it completed first because he’s had complaints before. His driving was scary, weaving in and out of traffic without indicating, drifting across lanes, missing the turn off – I think – to the airport, driving way too fast, and at the airport wanted to dump my bags out on the pavement before I had managed to find a trolley. Trolleys for some reason are not outside at the drop off and can only be found down the far end of the terminal. This driver was totally different from the very nice driver who picked me up.

Feeling very relieved to have made it to the airport, I went to find the check in counter. I wandered up and down – if that’s how pushing a large bike box and bags could be described – but could find no check in counter for flights to Colombia. So I went to the Latin Airlines help desk and it transpired that I needed to go to the check in counter that says flights to Venezuela! Of course! Silly me?

Of course this was easier said than done, as there was a very long queuing tunnel and the width was not wide enough for a bike box, and if you tip it up the other way you can’t see to steer it! Luckily one of the staff noted the problem and directed me to another counter. For some reason both my bag and the bike box now weighed more than I left New Zealand! There had been nothing added to either and both showed as overweight luggage, however unlike New Zealand this only resulted on a heavy sticker being placed on both bags and they were checked through to Cartagena. Thankfully I had an aisle seat on the plane, so could get up and down to my heart’s content.

I arrived in Colombia at 5am and the next step was to find the gate for the flight to Cartagena which after some trial and error I managed. As the flight went from the same terminal it took me awhile to get that I had to go outside the exit and then into the domestic which was still Terminal One, but next door.

Then I waited for the flight to Cartagena, which thankfully was only one hour and arrived at 8am. As soon as I stepped off the plane the heat hit – hot and sticky. I can only imagine what it must be like in summer. I had been a bit concerned following the cold in Santiago whether I had bought enough warm clothes and whether I should have bought a warmer sleeping bag but given the heat here no need to worry. I am not back in Santiago until mid-October and it will be much warmer then.

Waiting at the baggage carousel, fingers and toes crossed that my bike and bag would arrive. I looked around and could not see any oversize goods counter. Yay out came the bag! Then when all the other bags had come and I was just starting to get a tad anxious – out comes the bike box intact!

Would you believe the airport has no luggage trolleys! And after having heard over and over again “don’t leave your luggage unattended” I managed to drag, shove, and push, my bike box and bag, plus carrying my back pack and camera bag, watched with interest by the security guards.

I was very pleased to see the driver holding a sign with my name waiting just outside the terminal. The transport was a small bus just for me. Bags loaded and off to the hotel. The driver and assistant driver were very friendly and gave me a lot of information about Cartagena, where to go etc.

From the airport to my hotel was about a 15 minute drive. Cartagena is very unusual in that it is divided in two – the old walled city and then new with tall apartment buildings etc.

After traveling all night, I decided sightseeing could wait until Tuesday. I checked in, and had a look around hotel grounds and immediate local area. I am staying in the Hotel Caribe, which is very nice. I have a large room with two double beds, bathroom with shower and bath. I plan to enjoy the next few days before 5 and half months of tenting or sharing. Tomorrow I am off to explore Cartagena.

Pic stolen from the website

Pic “borrowed” from the website http://www.hotelcaribe.com/fotos

 

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

Tourist in Chile

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Street Performer in Santiago

Street Performer in Santiago

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arrived safely in Chile

I am having some technical problems with my phone. It worked ok last time but not to worry, I have the info book out to read when I wake up.

The horrors of international travel in cattle class: first off I had a middle seat even though I had asked for an aisle seat. At least it was in the middle block of plane so I took turns annoying my neighbours on each side to get out, to go to the toilet, often! I got to the point where I did not want to drink anything. And trying to get up without disturbing someone who is asleep but with their head phones connected to the console is actually not possible. Yes I did try it!

Then there was the small baby who was not a happy traveller and the rowdy sports team. I finally feel asleep just before we landed and then woke up with a fright as the wheels hit the ground.

Santiago has 6.5 million people and is very dry and lots of smog, lots of people smoking, people riding backs and un-neutered dogs roaming around. Traffic is busy but tolerant of the dogs and other drivers mostly. My hotel is nice but the is room noisy, it’s like being out on the street. I am planning to try and have a sleep as I have been up since 3.15am on Friday morning (editors note: This was sent about 6am Saturday NZ time).

I will have to take some photos of the taxis. A number are beaten up and tied together with chains.

I have just had a shower so am going to hopefully have a nap. When I get up I can worry about having accidentally locked my documents in the room safe, when I thought I was just shutting the door . . .

Dog just chilling at the airport

Dog just chilling at the airport

Dog just chilling at the airport

Dog just chilling at the airport

Categories: Chile, South American Epic | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Day 61: Sant Feliu de Gulixols to Barcelona – 113k

4,904km down: 1,321km to go 

Ok so camp sites and tenting are never going to make it onto my list of favorite things! This campsite has a mixture of the best and the worst. There was a really nice pool and reception area, with good places for sitting and having a cold drink and reading after having a swim. And at first glance the camping area looked much better than the night before – it was not close to a bar or a light. However it was surrounded by noisy partying young people, plus there was a road going past the tents that cars raced up and down at speeds so fast, frequently, until early in the morning. At midnight there was a fireworks display for about 15 minutes. Finally things settled down and I got to sleep until 4:30am when the rosters started – note the  plural – they were the nosiest, loudest, most enthusiastic rosters I have ever heard. They were still going with gusto when we left the camp at 7:30am.

I did wonder if perhaps these weren’t real rosters but recorders of rosters that the disgruntled neighbour of the campsite played every morning to be disruptive to the residents as a payback for the disruption from night before until the early hours. One of the main supporting arguments for this theory is that I can’t believe that nobody has tracked these roosters down and made them into rooster soup, or rooster KFC. I am so looking forward to getting to sleep in a bed, with walls between me and the closest neighbours. Plus there will be no chance of a car driving over me while I sleep.

We set off in the morning to ride over what Christiano – one of the tour leaders – described as an “epic hill” riding along the Costa Brava coast line.  I’m not sure if I would have wanted to know beforehand that the epic hill stretched for 30k. There were down bits in that of course.

Costa Brava coast line on the way to Barcelona

What really surprised me though is that even after four days riding beforehand I still really enjoyed the ride. I am getting much better on the hills – up and down. Some of the bays were so beautiful with water so clear that even from the top of a hill you could still see the bottom.

Costa Brava coast line on way to Barcelona

We had to ride 40k by 10:30am to meet as a group, to ride the remaining 60k (which turned out to be 70k) in a convoy to Barcelona. The guy that led the convoy was a Scottish man called Richard who had lived in Barcelona for 10 years and has a local bar. He did not know any of the tour people, but Christiano had found him by ringing a local bike shop and they asked a local biking group if anyone was willing and available. He was a nice guy, but convoy leader material? No. He only stopped for the tail enders when one of us suggested it may be a good plan.

Beach coming into Barcelona

70k is way too long for a convoy when the speed of riders is quite different, plus it was hot and we were weary. It was a pretty disgruntled group – even riders who I had never before seen snappy weren’t their usual selves. Because we were riding as a convey the average speed was much lower and it just went on and on and on. We arrived at 5:17pm –  over a 10 hour riding day.

Grumpy, thirsty, and tired riders nearly in Barcelona (me, Bill, Carol, and Geergo at the back in red)

It’s amazing what a shower can do, or how being in a room where you can actually stand whilst you are looking in your bag can improve your mood. A friend of mine commented after the baboon photo that it may take me a while to integrate  back into society on my return. As some riders were leaving in Barcelona we were having a conversation about

1. The first meal we would cook
2. What we were looking forward to about being home

I will probably make a lamb roast and what I was most looking forward to was not having to crouch over my bag every day to get dressed and undressed. Of course as pointed out by another rider, I won’t have my clothes in a bag anyway, they will be in a drawers.

As John and David are leaving us here we had arranged to have a farewell meal. Unfortunately David had woken up feeling unwell so he was not able to come which was a shame but a group of us set off anyway. The problem of course is the locals eat late and we are used to eating early. The restaurant in the hotel where we are staying does not even open until 10pm! By that time we would be gnawing on our own limbs! So we wandered the streets until we found a tapas place, we walked in and placed ourselves in the waiter’s hands and let him choose the food and wine, it was great. Plate after plate was devoured, plus a few beers and some great red wine. Then we were off to the hotel for a good sleep.

Farewell dinner – Me, Scott, Michele, John, Carol and her husband Walker.

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Day 56: Rest day in Montpellier

I slept in until 8:30 and then Skyped with Lizzy, Dan, Theo and Eva. Lizzy is now 38 weeks and on maternity leave. It was good to catch up and see them all looking well. I even got to see our old cat who looks like she has put on weight, which is reassuring.

I went out and did the laundry, and bought a couple of things from the market. I had plans to sightsee but I have been feeling a bit weary and ended up having a three and a half hour nap. Then I went for a walk. We went through a wall, up an escalator and then we were in the old town. Unlike the new part of town it was full of people – once again street performers, painters etc. There was one particularly novel act – a pair of jandles on a box with a note saying “Naked invisible man”. I gave some money for being so novel.

Novel type of street busking

There is definitely a change in the temperature, after being way too hot, people are wearing jackets, and hats (including us), and the wind is not pleasant – although it would be normal to those of us who live in Wellington, but after the past couple of months is not normal to me!

A couple of things have hit me while I have been looking around, there appears to be much more than the usual number of disabled people that are in wheelchairs. It is a university town so I wonder if they are students or lecturers, but certainly many more than you would see around Wellington.

The other thing that is more numerous is dogs! In many sizes and shapes, they are allowed into the malls and restaurants and general shopping centres. They are everywhere. When you have a meal at a restaurant it is not uncommon to see a few nozzles poking out from under the table, hopefully sniffing the air.

Not sure if you remember back to a very early blog when I first got to St Petersburg when I mentioned that I really missed being able to just make a cup of tea whenever I wanted to. Well unbelievable, this hotel has a kettle in the room plus paper cups. Only two teabags but that was quickly sorted by going to the market. It’s hard to explain the joy I got from making as many cups of tea as I wanted over a 24 hour period!

We have a new rider, Danya’s dad Bill has come to join us to ride five days to Barcelona. Bill flew into Nice and had to manage transferring a bike box and two bags in between platforms on a train change – no mean feat. We have given him some helpful hints such as the tradition that new riders ride baboon style their first day. Tomorrow we will see if he has taken our advice.

The evening finished with a curry, at the first curry place I have seen in two months (my local would be under no threat) then back to the hotel for an early night, as we are back on the road tomorrow.

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