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 :)


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.....

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Finding my limits

I set off from San Pedro in good condition with the bike (now named Ula) fully loaded with food and water for the 500km section to Salta Argentina. The first part, after checking out of Chile at imigration, was the steep climb upto 4800m.I gave it my best shot BUT I couldn't make it.

I started well, passing the mine fields that are still left from a conflict with Boliva I made steady progress, but as I got higher the altitude hit me hard and I ended up having to stop for a break every couple of hundred metres. For 10ks I walked, then feeling utterly exhausted I pulled off the road and looked for a camping spot, thinking that a decent rest and a night at the height could make tomorrow better. But as I looked at the amazing volcanic peak (5950m) that was now alongside me I evaluated the situation, with 123k still ahead of me before the border and the first water stop, all between 4300 and 4800m, I knew inside that I had found my limit and had been beaten. My lungs felt like they were been stretched with each breath, my head was throbbing, and I was weak. I got back on Ula and headed back down to a comfortable altitude.
It was a hard decision and I am gutted to say the least. As I rolled back down the mountain I wondered where this left me and my trek...was this the end of it?....should I refund the donations? the hell will I ever get through Boliva and Peru?...what will people think?...etc etc
I returned to San Pedro, checked back into the system at immigration and managed to find my way back to the hostel that I had been staying at just before dark - coming down the mountain had been a quick return to comfort and safety.
One of the reasons I abandoned the crossing at the early stage was that it was a bit of a "point of no return" - if I had continued and passed the first 4800m summit I would then have been stuck at high altitude without been able to just turn around and roll down to safety. I clearly knew that I was putting myself in a dangerous situation and would be reliant on passing traffic (which was limited) for water and help.

After checking how far I got on google maps I reached between 4200 and 4400m before turning back. The highest I have ever been.

I enjoy cycle-touring because it gives me a sense of freedom, I didn't feel free making the crossing, or cycling across the the Atacama desert. With the passing coaches - Stupid? Yes.
If I want freedom then I would allow myself to take a bus or train and enjoy the advantages that cycling gives as I feel necessary. The beauty of a bike is that you can do that!

So, with my tail between my legs I got on the bus and looked out of the window from the comfort of a reclining seat at the route that I would have taken. It was amazing landscapes - salt lakes, high altitude desert, and as we dropped into Argentina colourful gourges, giant cacti, Llamas and Vicunas.

Could I have tackled it better or different?
Most cyclists I have spoken to use coco leaves (from which cocaine is made) to relieve the effects of altitude. Before you dismiss this as drug abuse, don't you relieve your fatigue with another - caffeine? In Chile coco leaves are illegal, but I have now heard they are available in San Pedro (I didn't look). In Boliva and NW Argentina it is legal. So maybe I could get some help for when I tackle altitude again. But do I really want to be stuffing myself with it? Is it good for you? Apparently it suppresses your hunger - that can't be good for a long distance cyclist.
The other advice is to take more time to get used to the altitude, but that means getting there slowely and having enough supplies to do that. On the crossing I tried water was unavailable, and conditons very harsh - no shade, and limited shelter.

I got told a few years ago that I have a "mild obstruction" in my lungs, and was told to use inhalers (which I don't). Maybe that is a reason why the altitude hit me so hard. Even in San Pedro, at around 2500m, I felt breathless at times.
Extremely dry and hot climates I can do, altitude I cannot, but at least I gave it a go......

I am now in Salta, Argentina - which is a beautiful city with a clear difference to Chile. Daniela (she came on the bus as she had planned) and I hope to find somewhere to learn spanish for a few weeks, and I will probably take a few more weeks off from cycling before heading off on the road again - this time at a slower pace and allowing myself the freedom of jumping on a bus or train if I feel the need.

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Going up in the world

I have been chilling out and enjoying some touristic sights in San Pedro de Atacama, altitude 2800m. I have been amazed at the green fields in the town and old waterways running through the streets and sections. I went on a touristy tour to see some geysers (not geezers!) at 4300m and my breath was taken away by the landscape and altitude, plus saw Vicunas (small Llamas) and Flamingoes on the way back, awesome!

Tomorrow I will set off on the toughest section of my ride so far, the route to Argentina over the Andes via the Paso de Jama - I have marked the route on my map.

The route ahead of me will take me straight up to thin aired height of 4800m - 1000metres higher than Mt.Cook, NZ and nearly 5 times higher than the highest peak in England! It then stays between 4200 and 4800m for a couple of hundred K's before dropping slowly into Argentina, where I will give up any wanna-be vegeterian thoughts and get stuck into as many protien packed steaks as possible!

Wish me luck!

A touch nervously, Ric x

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Atacama 2: In sickness and in health

I have now arrived in San Pedro de Atacama after 4 days on the road going at a steady uphill through the desert.

There was however a few issues that made it a tough section....
1. Wind. After battling the strong westerly wind on the way into Antofagasta I had hoped to catch a lift back up into the desert on it and even through it. This didn't really work out and the best I managed was a tail breeze in the late afternoons. I did however get hammered by the head on easterly winds. Which on the first night nearly blow me and my tent away. A gusty side on gale also wipped up a bit of a sand storm that was an experience to ride through.
2. Dysentry. After yet more poor quality food in the city I managed to get some trouble in my bowels. It didn't make for a great last night of preparations in town and also had me squatting at the side of the road in a few spots (One freedom cycling does give is that you can stop and go to the toilet when you need to. In the desert however there is little privacy, and any dignity is well lost!).
3. Altitude Sickness. On the forth day of this section I climbed to over 3400m. It was amazing to feel the effect of altitude on my body for the first time - like I had suddenly lost all my strength and had got a strange hangover from somewhere without the pleasure. Thankfully it passed after struggling on for a while. With my next section taking me to well over 4000metres it is something I will need to plan for.

Well with those few issues and the fact that I had only spoken face to face in full sentences to one person in 21 days ment my second day was a real low and had me erecting my tent bend over double with stomach pain in the dark (the wind was in my favour in the evenings). I got straight in my bed without dinner and dreamed of happy times back in NZ and England.

On the positive at least the bike and equipment was all performing well, plus no sign of rain!

But the morning was brighter, and I was given a lift when I discovered a fruit leather from TreeDimensions Orchard in NZ (a bio-dynamic orchard where I did some work experience back in Easter). I had been saving it for this reason. I followed that with a descent breakfast and got stuck into the ride to Calama, a modern mining service town with all the services needed.
My spirit was further lifted just prior to reaching the town by a train driver hooting away at me and raising his mug of coffee out the window to me.

After I had crossed over the pass at over 3400m on the fourth day I descended towards San Pedro and the scenery became stunning - volcano peaks, weird rock formations, and dramatic desert plains. Plus the greenery of the oasis that San Pedro de Atacama is sited in.

After 21 days on my own I'm glad to be back on the tourist / gringo trial, (for a few days anyway). Daniela is coming up to meet me, so we will spend a bit of time checking out all the local sights. I will also give my bike a bit of a maintenance check, the chain is in need of been changed (I have a chain checker with me that checks fhow stretched it is. I had been waiting as the new chain I have for it will just get hammered in the desert sand)

Oh and I crossed into the Tropics on the first day!

Friday, 30 September 2011

Riding the Atacama

From Copiapo I rode for two days to Chanarel, the second day of which was along beautiful rocky coastline with amazing camping spots along the way.
I then had the luxury of a bed and a shower in a guest house run by a quirky old fella for a couple of nights and stuffed myself with great, but expensive, fish and chips.
Everything is about mining in northern Chile and it becomes more and more prominent the further north I get. The majority of cars on the road are utes connected somehow to getting the goods out of the ground, and there are scares all over the barren landscape.
Leaving the town with a 400km ride through the Atacama desert ahead of me it was quite simbolic to see a load of vulchers perched at the side of the road.
The last Posada (cafe) and water stop for over 100kms;
The ride through the desert was awesome. The first night I rode until it was dark and slept under the stars without my tent.
I tried to get most of the distance done in the morning and late afternoon, but there was no escapingthe tremendous dry heat of the desert as there is no shade bar the odd parked up truck or tiny patch under a road sign - which I did take advantage of.
The second day I road again until it was dark and was up at 5 the next morning hopeing to get to the next water stop before lunch (70km from camp). Cycling through the desert under the stars and slowly watching the landscape light up through many shades of colour was the highlight of my ride so far.
As it turns out the ride was downhill all the way to the Posasda. No wonder the last two days had been hard riding, I had been riding gradually uphill - to 2000m it turns out! It is hard to tell if you are going slightly uphill in the open landscapes and usually put the lack of speed down to tired legs.
I was going to reach Antofagasta (the coast) a day early!
But shortly after taking a quick snap of the desert hand, the Atacama showed me just how hard it can be at times, ahead of me was what looked like a nice bit of valley cloud... it turned out to be a dust and sand cloud blown up the valley by the strong afternoon westerly winds!
I struggled on for the last 50km, bearly moving at times, but managed to get to the next waterstop and onto the city before five. 165km, another personal best!

The Atacama desert - the driest place on earth. I'm proud to have made it across it, but have to admit without the steady flow of trucks and mining utes going past with the security of help if needed, it would have been far harder mentally and probably past my ability.

Not a plant in sight for 300km - strange place for a budding horticulturist to visit don't you think......?!

A couple of nights in the city then the climb east up the Andes awaits!

There is a short video clip of me in the desert on youtube:

Friday, 23 September 2011

Flower power

After leaving La Serena I crossed the 4th river with any flow, more like a stream in my book, and then headed along a beautiful coastline - rocky cliffs, blue water, pefect paragliding ridges (would have had me jumping 5 years ago), and no fences!! What few houses or shacks there were had wind and/sloar power. Sounds like paradise eh...? Only problem is there is bugger all water and the for sale signs are well up, but if you can get your hands on a regular water tanker and are quick it could work. Managed 75k after a lunchtime start so all good.

The next morning I got going early but for some reason my legs just were not having it, stopped for a stretch, still no go, what I struggled to see as much of a up hill seemed like a decent up. Was it me, the bike, was it really a hill..... No after slowly pedalling on for about 20k at no more than 10kph I decided it was the lack of fuel in my tank. My eating habit over the few days before was shockingly bad plus yesterday was a decent run. So I tuck my bodies hint and stuffed a packet of crap biscuits down and followed it up with meat and potato stew and goat (not a kid) and rice. Managed to speed up and clock up 75ks, god knows how! Oh I bumped into my first cycle tourist too, Pier from Holland on his way south to Santiago from Arica in north Chile.
Thursday all was well in the legs and I stomped on to Vallaner which is another oasis of a valley, with another stream of a river. Here unfortunately the ruta 5 turned back into a brand new motorway, not even opened yet, just putting the signs up infact, the problem was the barbed wire fence that accompanied it. It prevented me (and anyone else) from stopping and wandering off into the part flower covered desert when ever I felt like it, plus it seemed to be joined by a sudden lack of truck stop cafes, both of which gave me cause for concern with my water supply been used up fast (I had just upped my capacity from 3.5 to 5litres the day before thankfully) and when looking for a camping spot away from the road. I will go into more detail about my views on motorways in a later post (bet you can´t wait for that one...:) ).
The flower bloom is a natural phenomenon which only happens every 5 years or so and actually increasing with the change in climate (a positive at last!!). When the desert finally gets a few spots of rain the masses of waiting seeds burst into life and cover the otherwise barren landscape with a floral carpet.
Well I had stayed on the motorway to see it instead of taking an unsealed coast road and was just fretting about the lack of flowers, water, and fences, when my nose got the effect of walking into a florists, amazing!! A total carpet of white, and then purples. And it continued on today, for me it was like nature showing its beauty against the ugly new man-made tar-seal cutting through it.
Thursday was a big day at 110k and todays 90k had me reaching Copiapo, a large town in another oasis valley (this time no water in the river). I´m in a guest house tonight, the shower was cold but felt great.

I have decided to carry on north and try and cross the Andes inland from San Pedro. The true Atacama desert awaits! (Note; I will be upping my water capacity to 8litres over the next few days)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

I want to ride my bicycle

It is an overcast day here in La Serena, perfect for me to carry on riding north.
I have had an interesting week or so in the Elqui Valley area - sampled the famous pisco (superb name for an alcoholic drink!), viewed the contrasting barren mountains and irrigated valley floors (must be a battle ahead for water), got filmed and continualy stared at at the messy but very interesting Pampilia (national holiday party), and got utterly amazed by the beauty of the universe whilst visiting an observatory.
Unfortunately Dani´s knee is no better so she will head off to Argentina to learn Spanish with the hope of getting on her bike in the not to distant future.
Anyway I think Freddie sumed my thoughts up, a song for the month ahead;
Queen - Bicycle Race

Friday, 16 September 2011

Passing by

Having spent the last few days eating, drinking, and exploring the La Serena and Elqui valley area my feet are starting to itch, I am "chewing at the bit" to get pedalling again!
But my route is going to be changed a wee bit;

My plan was to cross at the Paso de Agra Negra which is inland from the Elqui valley, directly east of La Serena. At a height of 4780m crossing the Andes was (and still is!) one of the big challenges of my ride and I have been looking forward to spectacular views and isolation.
But since my farm contacts have not "fruited" and my pace along the first stage was a lot quicker than expected I have got months before the Pass is due to open. Also my funds would be better kept for a cheaper country (Chile is suprisingly expensive, some costs been similar to UK or NZ).

SO I have been looking at options....

1. Head north to the Paso San Francisco, similar height (4750m), passes by the highest active volcano in the world - Ojos del Salado 6864-6893m (true height undetermined..!), and would mean I still arrive into Argentina at a decent latitude to explore the North-west.
It is currently open but they will not allow solo cyclists through, possibility in 2-3 weeks!

2. Head further north. There are 3 passes near Sand Pedro de Atacama. All between 3800 and 4300m. All should be open. But that means cycling through the Atacama desert (the driest place in the world, not a challange I was looking for before climbing to such altitudes). Plus it means I enter Argentina at its northern tip and would be tempted to cross straight into Boliva which can also be entered at the same area.

3. Head South to the main crossing point near Santiago, 3800m, open all year, busy with trucks and buses, tunnels, and although very challenging I had hoped for an alternative. Plus means riding south again (see below).

4. Head further south. Many lower passes around the 1800 - 2000m mark near Chilean and the Lake District. Not the challenge I was looking for, but means I get to see the more (horticultural and agricultural wise) interesting part of the country, means riding south through Santiago area, expensive option due to increased time in Chile and Argentina, heading in the wrong direction (see below).

I decided pretty early on that to keep my moral and motivation up, it is best for me to be heading in th right direction for my journey. (Am I exploring South America or on a journey between my two homes....? A journey I think). I have a massive distance ahead of me and fascinating areas to explore without adding to it by going south t then have to ride further north. Therefore I should keep on a roughly northerly route and not, (as my good friend Kai puts it),"tit about" to much.

Combined with this I have been warned against Summer in Burenos Aires and the Uraguay coast, hot and crowded, which had been my intented schedule. So I am thinking the best option would be to cut the route and stick to the West side of the continent. But before you worry to much this is NOT a long winded cop out. In some ways the opposite. As many people know I am hoping to continue on north through Central and North America. So the kms will be covered!

Looking at my options and the information currently available to me option 1 is the one I would like to go for, so with 2-3 weeks before I am expected to beable to get through the border I will take my time travelling from here (La Serena) to Copiapo.

Lucky for me it is the National Festival for the next 4-5 days so will try and cure my itchy feet with a bit of dancing instead ;)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Breaking records and looking good in lycra

After spending a noisey night camping to close to the motorway I was up and away before sunrise. The K´s racked up along the hilly highway, going from 5km/h to 50 the whole day. I did stop to taste the local papaya juice (superb!) in an oasis of a town that had the only flowing river I had crossed since leaving Santiago (interesting to note that this is not the dry region and is the end of winter!!). I belted along with views over scrub land and amazing coast line continuing.
With all the downhill setions I started to take an interest in my top speed and was amazed that I had managed 58km/h before, so with that the head was down and managed to hurtle down another section at a personal record breaking 70.6km/h (it is the first time I have a had a speedo!), which with about 40kgs of luggage on an old quill stem bike my arse was clenched!
So the day turned into on of watching the clock, listening to my learn spanish mp3s, and clocking up k´s. I was amazed to make it to the thermal spring town, Socos, just before dark. But unfortunately the thermals were closed, so I made do with a cold shower and a great nights sleep. After another record smashing 140km ride I was knackered :)

After getting medical attention in La Serena Dani is out of the ride, so I decided to keep heading north to meet her, and got stuck into another day on the highway. This time I exposed myself for the first time to the world in lycra shorts (ok carmdown there are no photos... ;) ). A big step for any cyclist and man I think!
The road was a bit kinder today with some good flat sections. The flowers at the side of the road had been changing over the last few days with the common orange been replaced with blues and then whites (sorry no names). I stopped for another papaya juice and got given a strange looking fruit, which i must find out the name of...tasted great. Otherwise I passed goat cheese and meat sellers and fine views of the Andes.
About 20ks south of La Serena the developments started. As I entered Coquimbo (La Serena´s ugly port city sister) I was amazed to see a Union Jack on the cities coat of armes...??? I read the city got ransacked by an English pirate (Sharpe) back in the 16th century, but how the flag got there I will have to find out.
I arrived at the German run hostel in La Serena after another 100k + day ready for plenty of food and beer.
347kms in 3 days and 7 days ride from Santiago with one days rest, the first section of the first leg was completed :)

God the lycra feels good!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Solo on the highway

After saying goodbye to the amazing bay we camped in for the last two nights, we rode 15km in land to the Route 5 motorway (The Pan American Highway - longest road in the world I read somewhere). There unfortunately Dani s knee was to bad to ride on. So we made the decision for her to jump on a bus (of which there are loads, must be at least 6 an hour heading north) to La Serena (329km North). She will rest up there and then, hopefully, meet me for a ride to a national park just south of La Serena in 3 days time.
It is a shame, and she is gutted. It s not that she is unfit or hasn t trained, she had just completed a 24hour hike in the Swiss Alps just over a week ago. We could have waited longer but with the national holiday festival near La Serena next week we didn t want to hang around to long.
So solo I am.
Just hammered 70km on the motorway to Los Vilos. Motorway riding is actually a lot safer and more pleasant than it sounds - plenty of room at the the side and most of the trucks move over and and give a wave.
The route follows the coast so amazing views, and have been joined by a few birds of prey flying above me (checking me out) for a few Ks, a great experience.
Right a quick empanada and back on the road, hopefully crack a 100km today!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

On the coast

We set off from Santiago on Sunday, riding through a few poor areas of the city before coming to the airport area which we cycled around to head to the mountains North West of the city. The road side was full of rubbish mostly plastic, the odd street dog was rumaging through it.
After the city outskirts the area was dominated by orchards mostly olives and some almond groves. We camped at the start of the pass at the side of the road on a great spot. 72kms.
Woke to ice on the tent then headed up the pass, another great day weather wise. Views to the coast to the west and the mighty andes to the east, with a peak at 6110m it is the highest I have ever seen!

Down into a lovely valley of small farms, and amazingly no rubbish! What a difference a mountain range makes. The crops turned to avocados and citrus. We stopped briefly at a National park, but cracked onto the coast. Ended up on the motorway for a short stint after a wrong turn. The area was now covered in industrial scale mono-crop orchards.
Arrived at the coast for a beers and empanadas at sunset. Awesome! Ended up camping just around the corner from the posh Radisson hotel (nipped in for a beer and to use their facilities!).
Got woken at 2am by the Police, but they left wishing me luck and said to call them if we need to!! There was 5 of them!

Headed north along the coast past loads of developments. Ended up at an amazing beach and stopped at lunchtime as Dani´s knee had started to play up. Got a great beach front cottage for bugger all, owner ran the shiop next door so happy days! 40kms.

Was ment to be a big day but as the coast road climbed and dropped Dani had to stop, so as we swung around into a very plush European riviera like resrot, Papudo, we stopped again. managed to link up with a helpful local who put us onto an amazing bay just north of the town and all its new develpoments. Beauty, camping for free, our own well, and couiple of kelp gatherers / fishermen for neighbours (they use donkeys to carry there harvest). He spent some time showing me the local flora, some edible plants and a bit of history, great!
Awesome sunset. 30kms.

No Tags but awesome Street Art

Here are some photos of some of the awesome street art I have seen and some messages that people have expressed. Great to something other than pathetic "tags" marking boys "territory". Should people be free to do this, is it criminal damage or free-speech...?
Don´t think they need transalating.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Get going

After a couple of weeks and 380kms of biking around Santiago, it is time to finally get on the road and head north. Dani arrived yesterday and her bike is all fixed together and looking good.
Here are a few pics from my riding around Santiago.