Posts Tagged With: Wildlife

Day 10: Wednesday 23 Nov, Napier to Porangahau

Riding 120km – climbing 1150 meters, down 1050 meters


Next stage into Wellington!

It was very warm today and sunny, with no wind first thing. We started off with an amazing breakfast cooked at the motel. As they don’t have a restaurant it was in the conference room. The chef and owner must have taken seriously that we ate a lot, as there was stacks of cereal and cooked food.

We have three new riders joining us for this section. TDA had an offer that people could do a section for free if they were interested to see what a TDA ride would be like. Joining us are Tim and his dad Steve. Tim has ridden with TDA before but is keeping his dad company, plus Veronica from Auckland.

Veronica sat at breakfast with Sue and I, asking lots of questions about TDA and the ride, and then wanted to know about other rides we had done. Once she heard we had done the South American ride she wanted to know all about it. I was trying to be polite but I was also trying to eat breakfast and get away on the bike before it got too hot out there.  So in answer to her question “How was it?”, my informative response was “Good” whilst shoving more food into my mouth. “What was good?” she asked. “Um, everything” I said.

I find it’s really hard to sum up the South American ride in a few words, especially when I’m not interested in having the conversation in the first place. However Veronica did not pick up on my lack of interest in a conversation, and kept on asking questions. Thankfully it turns out I could ride faster than her so was able to evade any further questioning for the day. (By the end of the four days I had nicknamed her the wasp, as she kept coming at you with questions about everything).

We set out in the lovely sun, the first 8 km was bike trails. There are so many bike paths here leading off in all directions. Whilst we were on the winery tour yesterday a number of people arrived on bikes following bike trails to get there.


Departing Napier on the coastal path

We rode on back roads from Napier all the way to Waipawa. It was really nice to be away from the traffic.


A traffic jam on New Zealand back roads (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I stopped in Waipawa for a drink . It was so hot I had already drunk both bottles of water. The cafe was happy for me to fill up my water bottles there.


Home town in sight!

From Waipawa to Waipukurau we were on the main state highway which was not fun, so I was pleased to turn off to Porangahau. It was a nice country road with rolling hills, but then off course a gravel road thrown in, just because there is one. On the way I passed a sign for “Ugly Hills Road”, someone has a sense of humour and am only surprised TDA didn’t send us up it.

Christian (TDA) had said at the lunch stop that it’s pretty windy up on the gravel track so you can take the road instead, it’s an extra 11km. We decided to take the gravel road, well it was certainly steep, and the gravel was so thick in places you had to get off and walk. At the top it was so windy I was pushed off the bike twice, so I walked a bit. At the end of the gravel was a really steep tarmac road downhill. I was hoping that we would not have to ride up it in the morning.


Old Hill Road, with gale force NW’er, cycling on gravel


View from the gravel track (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

Once I got down the hill it was just 5km on the flat to camp. When we got there we were surprised to see a rider who is slower than us, and who was at the lunch truck when we were there, was at camp already. I said “It must have been a pretty good 11km stretch of road” and she told us Christian had it wrong, it wasn’t an extra 11km it was 11km instead of 8km so it was only 3km more. If I had known that I would have certainly have taken the road!

It was not a bad camp spot, it was sheltered, no shops or wifi but good showers.

It was about 4pm by the time I got to camp so I had a wee doze once I had put up my tent. That night for dinner we had pork chops, which the chef had managed to cook for nearly 30 people and were still tender, plus potato with rosemary in it and salad. We shared a bottle of Moana Malbeck Merlot with Michelle and Tony.

I was in my tent, tucked up in my sleeping bag, eyes closed, by 7:30pm.


Looking down onto Porangahau (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)


Categories: Trans-Oceania | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Day 45/164: Macara to Las Lomas – 61km

Up 600 meters (turned out to be 700), and down 1,100 meters.

I had a reasonable sleep, with the usual roosters dawn chorus competition of course – but at least they waited until about 5am!

We had a nice short day, allowing plenty of time for the border crossing. We set off about 6:30am with 9 kilometres to ride to the border. School is back in and at 6:30 the children are arriving for school. A number of utes and small trucks arrive with their back-trays crammed with school children.

Welcome to Peru - where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru – where the old bridge used to be (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Getting out of Ecuador was pretty quick, then across to the Peru border counter. This took ages as they had a network issue, so the line seemed to hardly move.

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The queue for Immigration (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Waiting at the border (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

While we were waiting in the line we noticed a puppy that was about 4-5 months wake up, stretch, then wander over and start gnawing on the handle bars of one of the rider’s bike. When the puppy was yelled at he moved down to the saddle bag and started gnawing that, and when yelled at again he slinked off to find mischief elsewhere.

Then a healthy adult goat appears and wanders up and down the road chewing on plants.

Finally the queue starts to move and our passports are stamped. We still have to wait around for the dinner truck to go through in case they want to search the bags, so we go to get a drink while we wait. Next thing Mr Goat appears again, and trots into a restaurant across the road confidently like he has a reservation! Then suddenly he see the owner, and he’s off down the road at rapid speed with the owner throwing stones after him. I suspect he has had enough success in the past with this manoeuvre to make the risk worthwhile. The dinner truck is waved through and we are off.

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Welcome to Peru, on the new bridge (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Immediately you can tell we are in a differently country, the people look different, the houses are different, and there no yellow taxis. There are Tuk Tuk’s galore (motorbike in front and covered seats behind) as well as some white ute taxis. The country is very dry here, you can tell we are not far from the desert with cactus and dry dirt roads, and houses without grass.

A Tuk Tuk

A Tuk Tuk

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

The local taxis (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

The people are more friendly than in Ecuador. A number smiled and waved at us. There are a number of loose donkeys grazing at the side of the road, and herds of goats. Unlike in Ecuador they are not tied up.

We had rolling hills which are great as you can get up the hill quite a way with the momentum from coming down. As it was only a 60 kilometre ride I was pushing myself to go as fast as I could. I am also concentrating on changing to smallest gears as late as possible and changing up as soon as I can. On rolling hills you can do this as you know you will soon have the downhill to recover.

There are lots of dogs, at one shop I saw about 11 dogs, and some quite large dogs, milling around. Thankfully none so far (bar one very small dog with big dog aspirations) have been aggressive.

The town where we are staying is basically a town square with some surrounding shops. It is very hot and dry. We are staying tonight at Salon Communal Santa Isabel, which is the community centre, so tent city again! But the other option is outside in the beating down sun, on a patch of dirt, in 38 degrees heat and possibly will get hotter.

Tent City

Tent City

A number of the locals have lined up outside the building to watch our goings on with great interest. There are adults sitting on the tuk tuks, and children milling around the door.

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Taxi drivers watching us (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue's blog)

Passers by stop to watch (Photo and caption credit: Sue’s blog)

After getting the tent sorted I went off into town to find a cash flow, and a cold beer. The cash flow worked ok, thankfully, as I suspect it is the only one in this town. I have had some problems in some other towns where some cash flow machines don’t work and others do. The machine only gave $100 dollar notes which are too big to cash in most of the shops. So I went into the bank, which has an interesting system where you don’t queue in a line or at the teller, you sit in a seat and as each person gets served you move up one seat.

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue's blog)

Playing musical chairs at the bank (Photo credit: Sue’s blog)

I had a cold beer and then returned to the camp site to get my clothes to have a shower – the restaurant down the road was letting us use their shower. The restaurant also has wifi. I had a shower, but despite trying a number of times did not manage to get onto the wifi.

The place where we are staying has no running water, and the toilet has to be flushed by using a bucket, and pulling the water up from a well.

By dinner time there were about 30 townspeople gathered around watching us eat with great interest.

Dinner was Israeli couscous, beef stew, and broccoli.

Locals watching dinner preparation

Locals watching dinner preparation

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

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.

Categories: Cycling trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments