Tuesday, 27 September 2011

ADIOS PERU, HOLA ECUADOR










Since my last report from Trujillo, I've left Peru behind and cycled North across the border into Ecuador. But first let me start where I left off last time. I was at Lucho's famous Casa De Cyclistas in Trujillo, Peru. There I made new friends, Germans Marcus and Dorothy on their way South, and I also met up with Hannes and Annelies who I'd met earlier on the road close to Cuzco. After a photo session with Lucho in front of his Casa, the five of us cycled to the nearby Huanchaco beach where I'd already been, and we had a couple of relaxing days there. From there I headed North alone on the infamous section of road, notorious for armed robberies on touring cyclists. For most of the first day I was escorted by the highway police (at one stage they even stopped a pickup truck and loaded me up for about 30 km). In Chiclayo I found the local Casa De cyclistas where I camped in the yard amongst the chickens and guinae pigs. Further North I met local cycling enthusiast Juan Carlos, who stopped to chat (although the conversation was rather limited, he spoke no English and my Spanish still leaves a lot to be desired. In the city of Piura I stayed over for a day, and then disaster struck. My bank card was swallowed by an ATM, and when I eventually got the bank to open up the machine my card was not inside. Fortunately my sister Olga wired me some money via Western Union, so I could at least pay my rent and stay alive until I could organise a new card. I had to get a SIM card for my phone, and spent about 80 dollars more phoning Nedbank in South Africa to block my account and order a new card for delivery in Ecuador where I was heading next. So I had to spend another couple of days in Piura, which turned out not too badly as It is quite an interesting non-touristy city with an amazing huge market (one can buy anything from bicyles to day-old chickens there). I got to Ecuador OK, and there I was soon into the big mountains again. Perhaps I didn't look all that great, because the vultures seemed to be following me along, roosting in the roadside trees. I had to wait a few days here in Loga for the new bank card, which was miraculously delivered (adressed to Loja, South America). Loja is quite an attractive historic small city. So far I also quite like the Ecuadorians, and things here seem a little more relaxed than in Peru. From here I will head North through the mountains again.

Friday, 2 September 2011

THE CORDILLERA BLANCA










After heading North from Lima through the desert, I couldn't wait to get away from the damp foggy coast. I had been intending to cycle via Huaraz (the "Adventure Capital" of Peru), and as soon as I could I headed for the hills again. Initially the climb followed a river valley, and again I noted that the desert is actually quite fertile if there is irrigation water. The dry ground is also a handy space for drying crops such as maize and paprika. So, once more I climbed to over four thousand metres before descending a bit to Huaraz, at the foot of the beautiful snowy Cordillera Blanca (still part of the Andes). There are apparently 22 peaks in this range of more than six thousand metres (including the highest in Peru), so trekkers and climbers tend to make their base in Huaraz. There I camped for a week at the popular Jo's Place hostel, where I enjoyed the company of a number of other cyclists and climbers. Eventually it was time to leave, and I headed back to the coast via the spectacular Santa Rosa River Canyon. However the road is unpaved, bumpy, narrow, and dusty, with about 40 hair-raising tunnels. I'd heard a lot about Lucho's Casa De Cyclistas in the city of Trujillo, but the day I finally arrived there, nobody was home. So I went to the nearby Huanchaco beach where I found a nice cheap hostal for a few days rest (the weather is also better than around Lima - the fog clears in the afternoon). Luckily I did find some life at the "Casa" on my return to Trujillo, and it's a good place to pay some attention to the bike (Lucho has a small workshop and loads of spares - mostly 2nd hand). The historic centre of the city is quite interesting, with many attractive colonial buildings. However, the road for some distance to the North is a bit of a gauntlet for cyclists - lots of reported armed robberies. I'll have to see how it goes when I leave. Daily distances cycled since Lima have been:- Lancay Nat Pk 102 km; Pativilco 104 km; Valley Camp 74 km; Cajacay 26 km; Junction Village 33 km; Huaraz 86 km; Caraz 71 km; Canyon Camp 1 74 km; Camp 2 41 km; Chao 120 km; Huanchaco 84 km; and Trujillo 16 km. Total in South America so far is 15 222 km. Total distance cycled on this trip is 81 709 km.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

THE TALE OF A TYRE






I would have preferred the tyre to tell this story. However, the tyre in question has now perished, and I'm the only other who knows the full epic. (If you have no interest in bicycle tyre performance, then you may choose to skip this post). Anyway, the story started in Australia where I was having a few tyre problems towards the end of the Outback crossing. Finally I found a set of decent Continentals in Adelaide, which Leana kindly bought for me. A thousand km's later in Melbourne I was somewhat disappointed to note that the rear Conti was already showing some wear, and I swapped the two around. After another two thousand k's in Puerto Montt, Chile, the orange puncture-proof layer was starting to show, and I dumped both tyres in the garage of the rickety hospedaje where I was staying. There I bought some sturdy Vietnamese tyres as well as a set of knobbly's - all in preparation of the bad road I was expecting to the South in Patagonia. After arriving back in that rickety hospedaje a month later, the knobbly's were finished and the fat Vietnamese were on their last legs. I reluctantly retrieved the better of the two Continentals from the garage where they were collecting dust, just in case I needed it as a spare on the way to Santiago. In Santiago I found 2 good-looking Kenda's, so I fitted one on the back wheel and kept the other as a spare (I also fitted the Continental to the front wheel, so it got a new life after 3 thousand km's). I was somewhat optimistically hoping to get across the Andes and Argentina to Buenos Ayres where I thought I should find some decent tyres. I was amazed that the Conti just kept going up the coast to Brazil, and by the time I reached Rio De Janeiro both the Kenda's had blown out the side-wall, and I had some Brazilian tyre on the back which kept getting punctured by truck-tyre debris. In the interior of Brazil I bought 3 fat Wanda King tyres (never heard of them before, and would rather not hear of them again). I'd become rather attached to the Continental on the front wheel, so I fitted one of the "Kings" to the back and kept the other 2 as spares (they each lasted just over 1000 km on the back wheel). In Lima the Continental went on the back, as I'd found some slim OK-ish tyre for the front. Everything seemed to be going well, but after Huaraz I hit the bad road via the spectacular Santa Rosa river canyon back to the coast. This was too much for the old Conti road tyre, and she waited patiently until I'd found a nice camp site before blowing through a cut in her side. At least that was a suitable spot as a last resting place for a tyre which had initially been treated shabbily, but had then performed it's duty. Also on that canyon road I met Jurgen from Germany cycling in the opposite direction (he'd apparently had his own share of tyre troubles). We swapped camera's and had some fun taking pic's of each other - in the process I failed to get a photo of him. On the second day of the Canyon road I met Australians Jules and Megan, who seemed to be going along just fine (both them and Jurgen had been cycling South since Alaska). I thought I'd also mention the two Belgians on their reclining bikes (Julian and Lori), who I'd met after they had already completed the bad section (with about 40 narrow dusty tunnels). Now I'm staying at the Casa De Cyclistas in Trujillo, and I still need to take a look to see if the owner (Lucho) perhaps has a decent tyre for me to carry on with. I'm still missing that old Conti, who in the end lasted for nearly 15 000 km, all with only one single puncture!