Breaking Chains and Not Burning Rubber

BREAKING CHAINS - Freedom: Cycle touring is the greatest way I have found to experience freedom. Whilst I celebrate mine I hope to help others gain and realise theirs, and protect ours, by fundraising for Amnesty International

NOT BURNING RUBBER - Environmental Awareness: Cycling is one of the most efficient and sustainable modes of transport. It's slow speed allows you to become more aware and connected with our surroundings, and therefore the pressures that they may be under. I intent to have a minimal negative impact on the environment whilst I travel, and will share my observations and experiences about my journey, environmental issues, and sustainable living here:

Thursday, 24 November 2011

A picture paints a thousand words

For those who are interested now I am comfortable back in Europe I will be uploading all those photos that I didn't get round doing on my ride. Check out the old and a few new posts.

In Smug defiance! A stray dog that got taken in by the Hari Kristna Project we stopped at in the Elqui Valley, Chile. Cute pal by day tent piss artist by night!

Cyclist World

Whilst travelling by bike you find that you don't often fit in the box;

That can of course have its advantages! (Chile)
But it is nice when you are accomadated for, even if it is just for 100metres (Chile near Santiago);

If your not...well there is no choice (after many 100s of kms on the m'way, Chile)

Othertimes you just have to make yourself fit! Getting me and my gear into some places was often a struggle. Entering this hostel in Montevideo turned into a sketch off a slap-stick comedy.

But the future for bikes is bright! This is one of the new anti-theft cages in BA, also the map on the side shows all the planned cycle routes - pretty much every street :)

Bikes!

Here are some pics of some interesting bikes I saw along the way;

This was at a street market, check out the great idea for rear panniers!


A typical Buenos Aires ride! No brakes, no gears, keep it simple. The handle bars are pretty low compared to most.
A crazy guy on the BA prom. Speakers going and CB radio included!
Take it easy!

The only cyclist I met on the road, a Dutch guy heading south to Santiago from the North tip of Chile. Check out the alternative setup to mine - a trailer. He said he was to exhausted riding through the desert so got the bus up the Andes to San Pedro (Sorry but that makes me feel better!). He did make it through the true desert though and gave me some great advice. Cheers!

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The end and what is freedom.....

After getting back on the bike and heading along the Uruguay(an) coast I couldn't help but wonder if the last few months had led me down the road to freedom. I had found adventure, and a few good examples for living sustainably. I'm sure I could find more fun and some great examples of "in harmony with nature" living in Bolivia, but would I feel free?
I am sure not.

Cycle touring gave me many advantages over the car and train in England and NZ, but here in South America it was continually feeling like a lead weight around my neck.

Rather than putting me in touch with the land and culture I felt like it was keeping me away from them, and I am sure the locals just look on at me as a ridiculous westerner doing something that they don't have the time or money to do, or stupidity.

What is freedom?
Type it in to wikipedia and it doesn't really give you an answer

Maybe the image below is what a lot of us think of as freedom. It was certainly one of the highlights of my trip. A secluded bay on the Pacific ocean coast, with fire wood and even our own well for drinking water. Beautiful! Notice our campsite on the bottom left corner of the photo.

But I think the St.Pauls (as in the Cathedral in London) Institute report made a great quote on the topic, one that sums my recent situation up;

"The paradox of freedom is that those who struggle for the unencumbered life, those who seek only to be free of any sort of constraint can readily end up living with an empty freedom that narrows one's life to a succession of individual choices which actually feel anything but free.
"Our individualistic culture has gone too far ... We need to recall where we have come from and not fall for the foolish false wisdom that we can simply reinvent ourselves through some superhuman act of choice. We need to value and nurture those communities that sustain us morally".

I know it most seem like I am chickening out from what I had planned to do, and I am sure it will be disappointing for a few.

But I feel that I have challenged myself enough by getting through the Atacama and up the Andes (4300m is bloody high!), and am very proud of that!

Apart from the altitude, the main challenge for me has not been the cycling or the tough climate but the solitude. They send people in prison to solitary confinement as punishment, with seven billion people in the world I don't think a freeman needs to be alone.

Positively I have managed to raise well over a $1000 NZ for Amnesty and hopefully given them a wee bit of publicity along the way.

So I'm heading off to Europe to try and find a community that I can feel at home in, and hopefully find that freedom.

A massive thank you to all the people who have donated to Amnesty, and to Moon Saddle for the amazing seat and support!!

Cheers Ric

P.s. I am sure to be back on the bike very soon in Europe and will write about it here.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Plants that Heal

I've spend the last few weeks volunteering through wwoof at a garden in a Mens Psychiatric hospital.
It is an amazing space with mature trees, a large greenhouse, and permaculture modelled vegatable beds. There are many volunteers there from overseas and Argentina, and the patients wander in and out through the day, but most seemed to appear for the lunch (certainly a better atmosphere than elsewhere in the hospital to have it) and to chat up the female volunteers (I can't blame them!).
The nice natural environment was clearly of benefit to the patients and one of them was there everyday putting in a lot of hard work. The Psychologist who had worked at the hospital for 30 years belived it was a great asset. I hope there are more of these in other homes and hospitals (if, or when, I end up in one I will appriciate it...). The was a lot of visitors from outside the hospital so maybe it is a model to be used elsewhere in the country. I have heard of similar projects in the UK.
Unfortunately they did lack organisation, skills, and tools / equipment, but they had plenty of ideas and tried many, such as seed balls.
I donated a few tools to them from the cost of equipment donated to me for my trip.
There are other examples of the benefits of gardens for healing. A couple of Months ago whilst in Santiago I visited an amazing lady who ran a Herbarium part of which was a healing garden set up for horticultural therapy. Beds where built at heights for disabled visitors and plants were selected to stimulate all senses - touch, smell, visual.

Another area was set out in the shape of a butterfly, with each wing segment been used by different local youth and school groups to experiment with what they could grow. A great break from the slums that some of them come from.

Hopefully more people will get the chance benefit from the healing potential of plants and natural environments.
I know for one after 4 weeks in the big city (the longest I have ever spent inner city) I am in great need of some treeshugging therapy ;)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Street Life

The streets in BA are full of life, fast colourful buses rush past you as you walk through the narrow streets, bikes with unusally high handlebars (will add a photo soon!) weave through the traffic, and beautiful people dart across the roads when they dare or get a critical mass togather to force the cars to stop.
Along with that there was an election at the weekend, the city square was packed. Amazing to see so many young people celebrating there President retaining office. Can't imagine David Cameron or Jon Key attracting much of a youth following.....

Below is a photo of me in the middle of the widest avenue in the world, at least 14 lanes!!

There are a few cycle lanes in the city and tours of the city of sections of the city seem quite popular. I have found if I stick to the main avenues it is easy, on the narrow one-way streets I end up jumping on and off the pavement annoying both the pedestrain and motor traffic.

BA is busy 24hrs a day and for me beats New York and London for the city with the "buzz" title. I have had nearly two weeks here now "trying" to learn Spanish, it has been fun but for a mono language English speaker it is slow progress. I will spend another fortnight here volunteering at a urban farm / garden at a phyciatric hospital that is used for reabilitation before heading on the road again via a ferry to Uruguay.
The route of my second Leg looks awesome: along the Uruguay coast via the beautiful beaches and capital, Montivideo, then north inland through the country, possibly dipping into Brazil or back into Argentina, towards the, apparently stunning and mighty, Iguazu falls on the tri-borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Then I hope to be joined by a keen cycle tourist from my Spanish classes for a week or so through Paraguay to Asuncion the capital, before I head through the wilderness of the Chaco and onto the Andes (again) of Boliva.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Good(s) air

After cycling for over 2000ks from Santiago, at Latitude 33S, to 22S in the Tropics (Tropic of Capricorn - 23S). I am now further south than where I started, with a huge unplanned overnight bus leg (23hours) from Salta in NW Argentina to the capital Buenos Aires, 34S.
Christchurch, NZ - 43S
London - 51N
*The equator is 0*

BA was on my origanal route plan, but due to my route taking me to the north of Chile in an attempt to find a way over the Andes, I had crossed it off. However, with my limited spanish I am in real need of some lessons and the "good air" city is one of the most popular spots in Latin America for Gringos to learn Espanol.
Plus it means I have a obvious and interesting route NW to Boiliva via the mighty Iguazu falls on the Brazil / Argentina / Paraguay border with the possibility of cycling through Uraguay and the gringo-free Paraguay (haven't met anyone who has been there yet!).

So, Leg 1 is complete - 2300kms from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama

I will spend two or three weeks in BA learning Spanish and planning my new second Leg.

Not to sure about "good air" lark though, when we arrived in the city a lot of people were coughing due to volcanic ash been blown over from Chile.....