Monday, 20 October 2014

Hualfin to San Blas de los Sauces

Unfortunately it would appear that I don't have the mental stamina I thought I had when I signed up for this trip in January or unfortunately (and perhaps more importantly) that'll see me through to Ushuaia.

Basically I no longer have the desire or perhaps it's the tenacity, to push myself through whatever the conditions are, such as the barren landscape we were due to ride through today.

It would seem that in order to ride at my best, I need to enjoy the scenery and to be somewhat mentally distracted, cause otherwise I end up either over thinking things whether it simply be what I'm doing in terms maintaining a decent cadence, or (as occurred yesterday), what I should do on the work front when I get home to Australia, what's currently happening at home, etc. Heck I mean if I'm totally honest, there's at least part of me that thinks I should be at home living and concentrating on the real world as opposed to living in cuckoo land, as I am at present by being on an extended holiday!

So where does that get us as far as today's activities, well aside from not really looking forward to riding what appeared like being a long (150KMs) ride through a boring nondescript wasteland I woke up this morning feeling a little dispirited about things and with a heart rate that was well above what it should be.....

So essentially I didn't ride today....

Hopefully resting today as I have, will result in things returning to normal and I'll be able to get back on the bike tomorrow even it's only for a portion of the 120KM we're due to ride.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Santa Maria to Hualfin

Today was a tough day on the road and I am ashamed to admit that I pulled the pin 2/3rds of the way in, I was just so tired of fighting what I can only guestimate was a 40 KM/H headwind for three or four hours on end. 

The effect of the wind was such that I was only averaging 15 KM/H and with the campsite, located some 120 kilometres from Santa Maria, I became a little concerned at my ability to get there, grab a bite to eat, set up my tent and so on, before midnight!

In all seriousness though, with the scenery being a little boring (Sorry no photos to prove it either way) and getting so frustrated at pounding the pedals and getting nowhere fast, it was my mental stamina that gave in far before I reached a point of physical exhaustion. Hopefully, it’s just a 24 hour phase, though unfortunately I suspect it may not be, cause all I know is, if the scenery / wind are like they were today for the next couple of days or so, then I will most definitely pulling the pin in Mendoza.

Whilst the size of the peleton has diminished, with seven or eight cyclists leaving in Salta, there has been an addition to the staff in the form of a new cook which I’ve got to tell you has resulted in the quality of the dinners going through the roof, relatively speaking.

Nonetheless, whilst both of the above scenarios should mean that there has been an improvement in attitude and conditions, I’m not sure that the former has occurred. 

Basically, I suppose what it boils down to is that I don’t think, I’m getting as much enjoyment or satisfaction out of this little adventure as I envisaged originally or was having whilst in Ecuador / Peru, not that I haven’t enjoyed my time in Argentina, per se. 

Either way though, I suppose only time, the next week or so, will tell as to where I head or what I do next.

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Cafayate to Santa Maria

I may well have burnt off a bit more of my energy than I anticipated yesterday and ended up paying for it today cause I gotta tell you, today's ride just felt a bit more sluggish than usual. I mean sure I was able to maintain a decent pace, it just felt harder to keep the pedals turning.

Fortunately the first fifty odd kilometres was on a well paved road and so it was only after lunch and I'd paid a visit to some Inca ruins that the fun and games really began to start as the final thirty kilometres were all unpaved. Not that they were treacherous or overly corrugated just tough enough as to be a pain in the arse, particularly as by now I was coping a fairly decent head wind. 

Resistance training as its called in cycling terms and good practice for what I believe we'll encounter in Patagonia. 

Whilst normally I don't do too bad on rolling hills today it was just painfully slow hard work and I was wrapped to get into town and to be able to buy myself a nice ice cream (as good as some that I bought in Italy, but without the drama of missing a ferry - Dammo). T'was, Banana, Limon and Strawberry and very delicious.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Salta to Talapampa

It felt brilliant to be back out on the bike today and I've gotta say I didn't realize how much I'd missed riding, till today.

Initially, well till lunchtime at least, we ostensibly rode as a single group, with everyone I think feeling very relaxed and extremely well nourished as a result of having spent the last two days in Salta.

No-one was seemingly in the mood for pushing the pace too greatly rather there seemed to be a desire to simply chat with one another as to where we'd all been, what we'd eaten and so forth.

T'was very pleasant it was.

It also served to distract us from the fact it was getting increasingly hotter as the day wore on. Seriously folks, it was warm when we'd started out but by the time it got to midday it was hot. Forty degrees according to my Garmin, though I suspect closer to low to mid thirties.... Following lunch, which included a bottle of Fanta purchased from a little shop across the road from our designated lunch stop the pace (and temperature) got a little hotter and hence the peleton became no more.... At this point I've got to be honest and say my speed became a crawl as we rode towards the campsite.

Whilst I'm only guessing, I'm going to say it was the temperature, which by two o'clock was apparently tipping close to forty degrees, that had my heart rate going through the roof, despite my endeavours to lower my cadence (number of pedal revolutions per minute), slow my cycling speed and to generally "relax". T'was a bit scary I've got to admit. Just hope I don't suffer from the heat like that again, tomorrow or ever again for that matter.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Having spent almost the entire day yesterday going through the pros and cons of continuing on with my Bike Nightmares cycling tour through the Andes and having given my travel agent from Flight Centre no end of grief trying to come up with opportunities for me to still see some of the must see sights of Argentina and Chile before flying home, I've come to the conclusion that I should carry on riding till Mendoza (a fortnight and some one thousand kilometres or thereabouts, away) if for no other reason than it gets me into another large town with an airport, it gets me a little closer to my final destination and a prospective tour date with another (non-cycling orientated) company and most importantly of all an opportunity to "hopefully" enjoy the sights and sounds of Argentina.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Whilst I've been in the rather fortunate position to have been in a hotel here in Salta for the last couple of days (only cause I needed a bit of time away from the group), I heard tell from one or two of the other riders who I bumped into in town earlier today, that the campsite that the I'd otherwise be in, is a cold, miserable and run-down dump of a joint, to the extent that there's now only something like eight or nine (out of forty-five) people staying there.

Now as for whether this was a contributing factor to the brawl which occurred between a couple of guys within the group last night or not, I don't know nor care. Essentially though as far as I'm concerned (without knowing all of the details / reasons involved) I think that both parties should be shown the door..... 

On a more positive note, whilst I spent much of today either eating or shopping for tourist trinkets, I also managed to jump on a cable car to the top of San Bernardo Hill so as to get an overview of the city as well as the Lerma Valley, through which we'd driven a couple of days earlier on our way into Salta from La-Quicaca.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rest Day - Salta

Owing to the fact that we sort of painted the town a very dark shade of red, last night, I'll have to fess up and admit that I did bugger all today. Had a bit of a late lunch in one of the restaurants overlooking the town square, then went for a bit of a snooze in one of the parks, which was then followed by dinner (a sumptuous steak) in one of the better restaurants in town, whilst watching a very large and vocal demonstration by some of the young women of Salta demanding, from what I can gather, that abortion and sex education in schools be legalised. Of course, as for how successful they'll be in a country where the Catholic Church is so well regarded, with the current Pope coming from Argentina, who knows.... Maybe it's the opportunity to get the message across that was seen as being the main aim. Either way though, the police were concerned and had the town's main church or Cathedral well and truly protected!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

La-Quicaca to Salta

Given the way I felt in Tampa a few days ago, I made the decision (and took the opportunity whilst I had Internet access in Unuyi) to book a hotel in Salta, Argentina a couple of days earlier than the group was due to arrive there, with the view that whilst I'd miss a couple of days riding it would give me an opportunity to eat well, do some "tourist stuff" and clear my head.

As a result, after saying goodbye to the group, Julia and I, jumped into a car (with a driver) for the 400 kilometre trip to Salta. Sure it was a bit more expensive than if we'd caught one of the long haul coaches, but I've got to say it certainly paid off in the long run!

Whilst we were stopped on four or five occasions by the police for a bag and identify paper check, if we'd been on one of the buses the stops would have taken considerably longer and probably added an extra hour or two to the trip. Thanks for the forewarning about the prospect of police checks must go to one of the bus driver's we spoke to last night.

Getting into town at just after 3.00PM, we took the opportunity to grab a bite to eat, t'was McDonalds I am ashamed to admit, and then to explore the city and get some retail therapy in! 

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Rest Day - Tupiza

I'm not too sure why we're spending a rest day, today in Tupiza, another boring Bolivian town without any redeeming attractions or scenery. Sorry, but as you may well have deduced by now, I haven't exactly been inspired by Bolivian cities,something which hasn't exactly been helped by the poor (read virtually non-existent) service shops or the quality of the food in restaurants.

Seriously I have never come across a country so lacking in entrepreneurial flair or a willingness to do anything for themselves.

I'll be pleased to be getting back on the bike tomorrow, particularly given that from what I can gather it'll be a paved road, and will end up with us riding into Argentina, assuming the border crossing goes smoothly. I mean I will be entering the country as a POM and we all know the recent history between the England and Argentina.

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Atocha to Tupiza

Whilst I had a bit of a minor scare that I might have to ride the full day today, it looked like it was going to be particularly long and hard day in the saddle on an unpaved road similar to or worse than yesterday, with one of the two trucks having not returned from its overnight search for one of the spare truck tyres that had apparently rattled loose from its moorings at some point during the day, fortuitously it returned moments before I was due to mount my stead and head out into the wild blue yonder.

As a result, I along with Carmen, Julia and Dave popped our bikes on the roof of the lunch truck, with the view that at least this way we'd get most of the day's climbing out of the way (by cheating) and at least giving ourselves every opportunity to enjoy riding (as opposed to it being a chore / endurance test) and I'm so glad we did. That's not to say we didn't do any climbing we did, with the first serious test of about four kilometres, having a gradient at time. that had pinches in the double figures. Of course, I should also mention that this was all on an unpaved road, making things just that little bit more interesting.

Of course, there were to be downhills to be found / enjoyed as well, though one did have to be mindful of the corrugations in the road that had one bouncing around on the seat like nobodies business and I'll admit it, I've got a very sore arse at the moment!

The other thing to be aware of, was not only the drop off should one take the corner's a little too fast, but also the long haul coaches! It's one thing to stay in front of one and to be pedaling like mad and speeding down hill like a looney it's another thing all together to be confronted by one coming in the opposite direction!

Being a hot day, we were all ultimately pretty wrapped when the road leveled out somewhat and the riding became a little easier. We even managed to find a little village, where we were able to enjoy a wonderful bowl of soup and a bottle of coke.