A Journey By Bike

By Col

Richard and Sarah are currently undertaking a 10,000km cycle journey through the Andes to Ushuia at the southern tip of Argentina. The journey will take in some of the most spectacular and inhospitable places on Earth. Flying out from Newcastle to Lima on 27th June 2006 they plan to finish in Ushuia in March 2007. They are keeping us up to date via their own blog and despatches.

10,000km in the saddle! you really have to like riding your bike to undertake such a challenge. This is exactly what Sarah and Rich were planning to do over a year long bike trip through the South American Andes. They got in touch with us a couple of months before leaving and although we shuffled around uncomfortably on our seats for a while we were interested in the project.

Rich and Sarah spent an awful lot of time researching and raising money to buy the kit needed for the journey. A year is not only a long time to spend in the saddle, it is also a long time to spend in a sleeping bag which is why we were happy that she chose ours for the trip. It was an ideal opportunity for us to get our PipeDream sleeping bag tested over an extended field trial.

Over the course of the journey Rich and Sarah will be posting to their own blog ajourneybybike, and sending us despatches whenever they get online. The blog will be illustrated with some photos of the places they pass through and will let other travellers know about places not to be missed and where to avoid! Their site will grow as the journey develops cross linking with manufacturers, suppliers and other blogs to create an in depth and interesting resource and online diary for others planning a similar trip.

Whilst being a very personal challenge Rich and Sarah hope their trip will capture people’s imagination whilst raising £10,000 for the YMCA and her sister organisation Y Care International. Sarah and Rich can be contacted through their website, so if you are looking to buy a new saddle and need some advice..

During the duration of the trip Rich and Sarah sent us regular e-cards which we have added to this page. They also sent us a CoLab field report.

26 June

Preparing for the bike rideThis is our story so far…

The idea of spending a year bumming around the beaches of Thailand sounds great, but often you can end up looking at the things around you without experiencing them. We wanted to travel in a way that would allow us to be part of the experience itself. We wanted a journey and a change of lifestyle not just a destination.

Whenever travel was discussed we’d end up talking about mountain ranges rather than countries. We had done the GR20 in Corsica a couple of years ago and after a week it became a bit samey. Then, by chance, we were bought a book entitled ‘The Trail to Titicaca’ by Rupert Atlee. This book documented the journey made by 3 lads from the bottom of Argentina to Peru. It was on reading this that things began to fit into place and a bit of a plan emerged. Cycling was to be the way forward and the Andes would provide us with the challenge we were looking for.

Our journey will take us 10,000km through the Andes, over some of the highest passes in the world, across the Altiplano, and over the Patagonian desert. Some of the passes will take us to altitudes similar to Mont Blanc, so ensuring we are well prepared has taken a lot of work. Every bit of kit must be worth every gram or it doesn’t go. Yes, we want a challenge but we also want to make it as enjoyable as possible, that’s what it’s all about right? This isn’t a military campaign but the more ground work we do before getting out there the more enjoyable and stress free the rest of the trip could be. It’s a very strange feeling having such a focus and plan to work towards, especially as the time draws closer. There is always something to do, buy, check or follow up.

It is now less that two weeks until we leave. Having been under the illusion that we where organised, we seem to be doing a massive amount of last minute jobs. We have been contacting the embassies who have given us their support, making contact with YMCA’s who have also been good to us, chasing up last minute kit items, sorting out banking, insurance, key contacts, medical kits, selling most of what we own, wrapping up work, eating whatever we like, getting the odd bike ride in when we can, tweaking the travel itinerary, down loading music to motivate us up those mountains and saying our goodbyes.

So, we set off at 6 am on the 27th of June. We arrive in Lima at 18.55. We will be lucky enough to be met by the Peruvian YMCA at the airport. They will host us for a few days as we orientate ourselves, buy good local maps and finally set off on our bikes.

17 July

Peaks en route to Machu PicchuI am sitting in a pokey internet cafe in the town square with a school band banging and crashing in the background.. it sounds like the kids are learning new material. There seems to be a taste for children and students marching in the streets. I don’t think there are any revolutionary tendancies, but instead a pride in their culture and a vigour for no smoking slogans!

I am slowly recovering from gastroenteritis which has been fun. I wondered why my bad tummy troubles had gone on and on. Still the doctor said with conviction after an ultra scan that I had a swollen intestine! (As long as he didnt spot a baby!!) I have been on three lots of medication and I can feel the benefits already. We are going to continue to rest in the hotel for two more days before we make the 250 k journey to Cuzco.

The last week has been a bit of a daze really due to lack of food, dehydration and rather large mountains to get around. We moved on from Ayachoyo and headed out on to the highlands. We travelled to over 4000m on bike and by truck. This was my idea…. its amazing what spanish you can utilise when you need to. We did some pretty hard biking on some extremely rough roads. You feel your entire body jar and jolt. You have to concertrate on not skidding, crashing, damaging your wheels and staying on your bike which needless to say I didn’t!

On the tops its a very strange experience. There is nothing, and I mean nothing for miles. You will see the occasional figure on the mountain side and you wonder where they came from and where on earth they are going to. We saw some mud huts which i believe where inhabited ( sorry distracted there for a monment by two teenage boys singing kareoke in the internet cafe) . There are lamas galavanting about. They are ungamely but speedy. Also there are horseman riding bareback traversing the mountains.. I quite like their look!

We stayed with a local family on one night. We had gone as far as our legs could take us. We asked if we could pitch our tent and they where delighted. We shared our oranges, face cream (that was hard) and littles gifts. They gave us milk, potatoes and a very odd looking soup. I was also offered a chicken’s gizzard for breakfast. I recognised it from my days in the old chicken factory. I think Mrs Felix read my face well and popped it straight back in the cooking pot for later!

Another night we stayed right on the tops. There are so many stars to see and the milky way was well defined. However, there was not much time to spend gazing as the temperture dropped very quickly. The hours Richard made me spend considering the tec spec of every item has certainly paid off, we where toasty! The next morning however, Richard was slightly alarmed to to see me when I woke up, looking very dehydrated, dry lipped and bug eyed… um looking my best! He rushed out immediatly to seek more water which he bought back in copiuos amounts. Thnaks to him. We both struggled that day knowing that the day after would mean another big climb. I took matters and spanish into my own hands and in the early evening flagged down a other truck. I am getting quite good at that now which is always useful. The driver was very kind and was going our way…. the only way…. over the tops to Andahaylas. I would take about 5 hours but at least we knew there would be a hotel there. we we loaded ourselves on between about one thousand eggs (no joke) and we lay on sacks stuffed with veg…. it was going really well until the nuts that hold one of the wheels on popped off. This was right on the tops and the driver refused to go on. We slept under the stars and under the potatoes! It was minus something and we where higher than 4000m.
The next morning we where up with the sun. The driver said it would be quicker to bike, the town was only and hour away and all downhill….. yeah right Mr.

I was pretty ill at this point and was beginning to see things.. or not see things as the case may be. I think I was so dehydrated my eyesite went blurred and things where spinning which is not good when avoiding dogs, people, wholes and bumps. Richard took matters into his hands and in the next small towm got us a taxi which would drive us to Andnhaylas whilst the locals gathered around me to keep an eye on me! The taxi driver ripped us on a bit but it was still a cheap trip to cleanliness, a semi hot shower, a doctor and bed rest.. and we have been here ever since. I am much better now. the drugs do work! My appitite is back, we got cleaned up and have spent much time in bed and drinking water. We are planning the next leg and both looking forward to getting to cuzco. Atfer abancy the roads are tarmac which will be a treat. We will spend some time in cuzco and decide then what parts of Bolivia we will go to.

Off the eat cake now. think I can have two pieces in light of the past week. We are having fun despite everything!!

14 August

Alpkit bikes!Well I have lost track of the days in Copacabana. Sorry it has been so long since I emailed.

We managed to make it to Boilivia in really good time. The trip from Puno was excellent.. flat and sunny and along the great Titicaca which for me has made the trip. It is an awe inspiring sight to see the vastness of the waters and we were only looking at a small inlet! Copa town is a sleepy little place full of religious buildings, market stalls and places to eat and drink for both locals and tourists. There is a significant hippie contingent here! Um… The feeling of being in Bolivia so far is really positive. Crossing the boarder was easy and fun. You get stamped out of Peru then enter ‘no mans land’ then get stamped in Bolivia. The nice man at the immigration office gave us, unusually, a 90 day pass to the country having showed him a copy of the letter from the embassy! yes!! The road then went up… that was not too bad actuallyand to Copa air strip and then descended to the lake side town. It was not really what I imagined but the more I looked the more I liked it. It is a very religious place where people come to be blessed… this is a party type activity whereby people come in trucks and mini buses, decked with red and pink flowers and numerours religious symbols and ornaments. They que up through the town and wait to be blessed and doused in holy water. They then smash bottles of cider over the cars and let off fire crackers!!! We considered getting our bikes blessed but decided against it. Then the families then climb the hill at the top of the town and do pretty much the same up there but with candles and confette. We went to join them one night and watched the sun go down over the lake…. ah…

We have visited the Isle del Sol. This is a very significant island for the Incas since this is where they first emerged. It is a small island two hours from Copa. The boat ride was incredible… very tranquil and you really begin to get a sense of how big the lake is. We walked from the north end to the south end. I am sure there were plenty of remains and ruins to see but we couldn’t find them! Still, we had a a great time looking at the secluded beeches, small villages and the views of the lake.

We are making the most of the great trout that you can eat ‘trouche horno or trouche ajo’.

We are leaving for La Paz tomorrow. Again we are excited about being on the road. It is about 170kms. It should be interesting entering La Paz. You have to ride up through El Alto which is the fastest growing city in S. America. Once at the top you get a view of the capital which lies in a valley.

The bikes are running really well. I had to clean my chain… my newly grown nails got really dirty! We are currently staying in a cheap hostle in the middle of Copa. It has a lovely family atmosphere and Rich is already a hit with the ladies… except that this one is approx 2 yeras old. She likes to come into our room and take things to hide in the kitchen…. little bugger!

We have been staying in hostels alot recently. This is out of necessity. There have been few places to camp safely and we have on the whole been biking from town to town. We are clocking up the miles and can bang out 90km if we have too! Things will change however, once we leave La Paz. We hope to go to Cochabamba and then to Sucre. We are not totally sure of our route but wll let you know and we have contacted our mate ‘the Embassador’! There are some great mountains here with great ice caps. We are investigating a guided climb provided that they are not too expensive. Otherwise we look forward to getting in the wilds again and camping. All this town living makes us lazy!

23 August

Outside La PazWe thought we would send a quick round robin email to let you know that our route has changed… for those who have the itinery… its different. We have decided to go out into the wilds of Bolivia. We have spent the last month doing the tourist thing and spent a lot of cash. We have discovered that there are some amazing lagoons, national park areas and hot spas to dip in south of the salt flats which we will be heading to tomorrow.

The route looks great and we have maps from the Boliv

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