Zipaquira – Ventaquemada. 120kms

   
Sooooo this day turned out to be one of the hardest rides I’ve ever done. Started well enough with a lovely breakfast and a chat to the the hotel owner. Rolling along the flat green country side turned quickly into dragging my bike up a dirt path. It was steep… and there were dogs, lots of dogs. Mean, barking, big dogs. If you consider the timeline of this part of the day being 1-10.. At about 2 was the first time considered turning back to find a better route and less dogs. It would have been faster. In the end my bike became a passenger. I would leave the bike bags, carry the bike a few hundred meters then return for the bags. Eventually blah blah I made it over the mountain. There is always a downhill on the other side and hopefully a view. I got both. Weeee

   
 So the plan was to ride to ‘El dorado’ as in where the legend comes from. I was more careful choosing my route now and after passing through Guativita. (Side note, look how pretty this town is, it was completely rebuilt in the 60’s after the original was drown for a resivior, good jarb) 
Anyhoo… Yes so I picked the smart road to Laguna de guavita (El dorado) right? There was a sign at the turn off happily stating only 7kms to go! Yes…. The 7 kilometres took me 2 hours. I would have cried many times if I wasn’t drooling and gasping like that kid from triplets of Bellevue. So the sign at the 7 kms said open Monday to Friday. That sign is a dirty fucking liar. 

Alternative plan, I crawled through a barb wire fence a few more horrendous kms down(up) the road, but the bush was too thick to get through. Damn google maps makes you realise how close you are to things… 50meters, 50 gaaaadddd damn meters. Anyway tried to plead with the guards. then bribe the guards but in the end I just took five minutes at the entrance to improve my dejected pose, produced a lollie pop I had been saving for such an occasion, then rolled down the horrendous hill in 15 minutes quite happily, but still, Kill me.

  
  
   
 
Forgot to mention, the trip over the mountain with the satanic lassies took a toll on my bag. It fell off in Guativita and then again about a half an hour out of failed El dorado. I think there is too much in it.. So I’ve developed the system 2.0.. Happy I was, until i realised I would never make my target. It got dark. I felt ok, until i pondered how I was doing. I bonked about 40kms out from a town I would find accommodation. I ate a lot of chicken for dinner and pondered the health of my raw um… 
The highway town I landed in… Whoa.. I’m in Columbia. 
Ps on the way I met a wonderful family who simply pulled over to know my story. Warm fuzzy feeling win. The shower at the end of my day was cold. It hurt a little.

  
  
   
    
    
  

 

 

Onward to Bolivia

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So I’m writing this post from the FUTURE. I’m in Cuba with the first day of carnival starting up outside in Matanzas. The riding crew have gone to bed I’m still not tired… and I have a full glass of rum to get through… my feet are sore tho.. So I’ll just sit here on the balcony as the floats go past. ‘Dang’
More later… Back to Bolivia.

The morning was rushed leaving for Bolivia.. The bus came early.. Well we thought it was early.. It was on time. We were wrong. Anyway after this rush about 20 minutes later we were actually rushed off the bus to wait in a line for about an hour in sub zero Chilean air. Got the visa then on we went to … um.. Bolivia.. didn’t actually plan this leg other than saying yes to Gabby. 
Getting on with it. Its carnival and I’m drinking rum. Ramble.
Gabby, Jesse and I jumped into a 4×4 with driver Diego and guide Marzia. It was a long day of extinguishing or extinct volcanoes, thermal springs, multicoloured ‘lagoons’ and pink flamingoes huddled together in half frozen water.

Where San Pedro de Atacama was Mars, this was primordial Earth.

We wound our way through the bizarre colourful but desolate landscape up to 5000 meters. Everyone had a headache and were grateful to drop back to 4600m where our accommodation was. At sunset I went for a 5km run… The slowest I’ve ever done with multiple stops… Not just for photos.

Incredible place to stay..

That night got down to negative 20 but we were  hunkered down with a foot of blankets so didn’t notice. Bit of a mad dash to the car the next morning. Brrrrrr.

It was the start of a long day that would end in Mexico City. We travelled across the salt flats, Salar de Uyuni to an ‘incan island’ covered in hundred year old cactuseseses

Bizarrely staying awake in the car was an  impossibility. The rocking motion of the 4×4 navigating the rough terrain mixed with, I presume, the altitude turned us into drooling wee Melburnian babies.

At a yet to be completed ‘salt flat hotel’ made of salt from the.. salt flat, I said my goodbyes Gabby and Jesse and headed for Mexico City and Cuba!

Definitely a photo day.

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Mars

With a day to spare in San Pedro de Atacama, the reunited group set out on horse back to what can only be described as Mars.

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On this adventure, the pictures really do speak for themselves. I shut up now.

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Later, the storm still lingered, so our plan of visiting the valley of the moon was squashed. Que afternoon drinks and raw meat!

With our tour leaving at 8 am the next day we decided to do the right thing and attend an astronomy star gazing seminar until 2am. Unprobable(sic)

Leaving for the desert – Calama to San Pedro de Atacama

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5am. 3hours sleep, an uber to the airport, a flight next to Germans and I was in Calama, Chile. Assembling my bike took forever and the desert sun baked me. The load on my bike looked more than before..all good only 100kms and a whole day to do it…  Right? After a brief 2 hour (sigh) venture in Calama central I had sunscreen, water gatorade and a new sense for how over loaded I was.
I like to travel light, stupid light. But this time Surly would almost pull a mono if I let go of the handle bars. I still cant believe that it and the rack could take so much. Engineering win!

I wobbled up the road and took my first time delay function on my phones camera. No more arms length selfies!

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The next 60kms were amazing but hard. Baron, lifeless, nothing and windmills! Fu abbott. Have I mentioned I love Chileans. The road had a clean one meter shoulder and even then the trucks and everyone else gave an extra 2 meters when passing.. Often even merging to the other lane to pass. Lots of friendly toots too! Legends!

My legs were weary from Santiago running… And I should’ve brought food into the desert, yup. Took an exhausted nap on gravel near a stone writing that said ‘Jesus’. I enjoyed it in the profane way. Seemed fitting.

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Anyway.. If I knew what lay ahead I would have future bubble slapped the whinging muppet out of myself. Over a rise was the start of the best downhill I’ve ever done. Salt lakes, volcanoes, mountains, ridiculously dynamic skies AND 20kms OF DOWNHILL. I didn’t need to pedal once for 20 minutes and laughed and howled most of the way. Photos won’t do it justice so I’ll just say, this was probably the greatest cycle of my life.

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I had expected to see gabby and Jesse passing me in a taxi before I got to San Pedro de Atacama.. But they were busy having the worst day of their trip and only managed to get into town at 130am. Shame, but bumped into and made friends with the Germans I sat next to on the plane. I had a coffee at the #melbournest looking place I could find and even ate a pizza! Sleep slammed me in the face at 9:45pm. Body clock reset!!
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Wake in Fright & Arrival of the Newlyweds!

Non edited version: wordpress issues.

Jet lag and hangover slammed me. Ive applied the ‘drink too much to get over jetlag’ theory before.. Didnt work this time.

Guilt peeled me from my bed about midday. Found a gutted mansion cafe that served oysters and wine then rode up San Cristobal hill… Well tried to. It was blocked due to ‘weather’. A group of cyclists had a massed at the entrance and were told by an official not to proceed. Their response to the official, ‘is there another entrance which isn’t guarded?’  The official, ‘yes on the otherside of the hill’. Off we went. I love Chileans, especially the guy who translated the exchange for me.

There was supposed to be a storm that would flood Santiago and Chile, it seemed to have hit the rest of Chile but missed Santiago sucking away the smog. Yay(sort of, lots of issues for the rest of country).

The road up was beautifully car free and the peak should have been packed with tourists but even the Vehicular was off due to the absent storm. I was told it would be one of the clearest days of the year. Lots of smiling cyclists.

The next day the storm had arrived and after a sleepless night and a 4am run I decided to go up Cristobal again. I ran this time. It was great, but it was a little different with hail in the face and mobs of crowds.

Slept better that night and the next day the newlyweds Gabby and Jesse arrived! We had dinner at a great little place which served possibly the fowlest pugnant smelling fish ever. Pretty sure it was off.. Gabby was so embarrassed I wouldn’t eat it that she mushed a few pieces into her jacket pocket to avoid the confrontation with the waiter. Think she realized what I was on about once we left the restaurant. Her jacket will never be the same again.

Oo this view to wake up to…

Roll’n Out!

I have been pretty busy over the past year.. tasks which were giving me the most stress got the most attention but weren’t the most important. Usually, the task I want to do least is the most important, so I do it first. This way, you always have the feeling you are moving towards the thing you want most! I am looking forward to getting back to this.
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So 1 am came around, 7 hours before my flight to Santiago.. and I was ready. Bizarre. I had expected to be up all night. It came down to four bags. A backpack, a bike bag(with my bike Surly in it), and small saddle bag I would double as a day pack… and a laptop (yup)..
I had tried to keep it all light.. but still in the end it was all disappointingly pretty jammed packed. I even felt I had cheated by filling the bike bag with extras like my running bag jammed with bike parts and tools. My extra pannier bag was squashed into the backpack.. a reversible system.. I intelligently call ‘the system’.
letsgoGood to go.

The issue is heat and plans.. and not enough of either. Layers like jackets take up way too much space. In the cold its best to go half naked and keep warm by continuously moving than be bored standing still, warmed by heavy jackets. My ‘plan’ is minimal meaning I had to pack for contingencies.. which means more crap.. the laptop, hiking bag, running shoes, running bag and of course a trusty leather jacket.

The flight. I got the usual ‘I’m sorry Sir, you cannot fly because you need a visa’ at the airport. I’ve had this trip stopping comment said enough to me that this time it didn’t cause vomit inducing thoughts of failure of yesteryear. After 5 mins of explaining myself and providing documents on my phone I had my boarding pass. Wee.
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On my way to South America.. which is ‘south’ of Australia according to Qantas.

On arrival the bad idea was to ride from Santiago Airport to Santiago Central, about 25kms after 15 hours travel. Body clock 2am. After a gin and tonic and a wine mid flight I had worked out how I could get all my crap on the bike, I was doing it!… Come Santiago, I was exhausted, I literally had to peel myself from my seat and my bravado sank when I saw the torrential rain out the plane window. My mind flooded with legitimate excuses for not riding. Riding was out.
After waiting in line for customs twice (missed the please all Australians pay $115USD for some reason window) I was at the baggage carousel. I found my bike bag containing Surly discarded to the side, limp and torn a little. The change in mood was immediate, I was riding that Surly little bitch outta there!
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There’s a laptop, tent and sleeping bag somewhere in there.

Gotta say, prepping your bike, stripping to ridding clothes in front everyone, then rolling out of a place designed to kill cyclists in the cold and rain is an amazing feeling (mentally I flipped the bird to every completely nice looking person as I rolled out). Down the freeway I had to ride past 5kms of ‘no cyclist/pedestrian’ signs before I could get to a road that was safe.. If a little flooded.
A nice guy gestured I could put my bike in his ute.. I responded with a sentence that certainly wasn’t English, or any other language for that matter. But I finished with ‘gracias’ so you know, nailed it.
Down the road and properly on the move, the clouds and rain had cleared and I got one of those bone chilling moments that simply sums up why I love to ride. This picture isn’t much, but in the middle of frame is the freaking Andes!
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For some reason the GPS kicked at this point. I AM THE BLUE DOT. An hour and half later, with a puncture (nailed it) and covered in Santiago sludge I arrived at my ridiculous airbnb. Woo for tipsy accommodation booking! Which brings me to the end of my day.. turns out 36hours without sleep and 2 liters of Chili’s worst beer ‘Escudo’ is a bad idea. Made it home safe.. enough. Begin, hangover and 3 days of jet lag.

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