Monday, 28 July 2014

Quito - Monday 28/7/14

I'm a bit ashamed to admit it but I've spent the last 48 hours being a stereo typical Gringo. Shopping in what I believe is the main mall in Quito. It's very, very modern and has a lot of the better known brand names that those of us in Australia or Europe would be very familiar.

Why did I do it I hear you ask - Well to buy a few things that I either forgot or didn't have room for in my bags, such as cable ties to make up for the ones that had been thrown out by the airport officials (I didn't have a problem with them taking those), a hammer so that I've got the means to put my tent pegs in on the nights we'll be camping, a torch (How'd I forget that) and a few toiletries, such as sunburn cream, etc.

Now in making the trek to this mall, I came to the conclusion, and it may be common knowledge to some, that there is a massive divide between the haves and the have nots here in Ecuador. In saying that, someone told me recently that roughly 20% of the population live below the poverty line. It's a bit hard to imagine when you look at scenes such as the above. It's probably true though and would explain why there is an armed guard in most shops and in front of virtually every Western Hotel! 

Friday, 25 July 2014

Quito - Saturday 26/7/14

I think I must be getting used to the altitude here in Quito, along with the way things work or rather don't when it comes to Ecuadorian SIM Cards. Hopefully one of the Bike Dream's crew will tell me on Tuesday or Wednesday how to make international phone calls and activate the data roaming facility, so that I've got the ability to access Skype and utilise Google maps!

On a more positive note however, I caught up with the Norwegian contingent of the Andes Tour! Knut Erling Wedul, Hilde & Kristin Vollan along with the solitary Kiwi in the group - Viv Hazelton.

Team tactics were discussed and the decision made in the end, why the hell would we want to ride as fast is humanely possible simply to get to the campsite/hotel first. This is an opportunity of a lifetime and that taking in the sights along the way is far more important than being able to choose the best spot to set up tent or what have you.

Once we got that little dilemma out of the way, we decided to practice what we preached by heading (by taxi) up to Teleferico Quito, to see if we could be "real" tourists given that it's apparently it's one of the highest aerial lifts in the world! Admittedly though it does get a bit of a head start given that it's starting base is on a mountain top just out of Quito! 

At this point I should perhaps also mention that at 2800 Metres above sea level, Quito is highest capital city in the world. Essentially though, the gondola takes you up to the top of the summit which is some 4100 metres high, is also the starting point for anyone daft enough to hike up Pichincha Volcano which is a further 500 - 600 metres up! 

What is funny though, is I forgot or simply didn't realise how much the temperature drops the higher one goes.

Sure I got a little cold, but the views were worth it!

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Quito - Friday 25/7/14

I deliberately organised to fly into Quito a couple of days prior to the start of the tour, in order to acclimatise, but also so as to ensure that I gave myself time to organise all of my gear, put my bike together and so on!

On reflection, I wish I had flown in a little earlier again, so as to either take a trip out to the Galapagos Islands or to spend some time doing a Spanish language course. I believe that some of my colleagues have done the latter and I suspect that's going to stand them in good stead as we head down the road.

It is at times like this when I'm really envious of anyone who speaks more than one language.

Being an Australian, there's not much need to know anything other than the business language of the world, no land borders with countries where another language is spoken nor such a large influx of international immigrates (It was slightly different in the 50/60s when a large number of migrants came from Italy and Greece in particular looking to start a new life) but not these days.

Might just have to put - Learn another language on my "To do list"!

Anyhow, getting back on topic - My first impressions of Quito is that it's an interesting city and one I'm looking forward to being able to explore, initially on foot and hopefully in the next day or so with a couple of people from the group on our bikes or otherwise!

There is supposedly a Quito "Old City" and a new more modern one, but I've got to say after a day of wandering around, often hopelessly lost, I've yet to distinguish between the two! What I can tell you though, is that it's not particularly flat around here. 

One way or another, I seem to have wandered up hill and down dale! The up hill bits have involved a bit of swearing and cursing, or it would have done had I been able to breath properly. Obviously I'm still in the process of acclimatising, to say nothing of the fact, that I managed to get myself a little sunburnt! Definitely popping a bit of sun screen on tomorrow!

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Packing the bike

As you've probably deduced by now, I'm not a mountain bike rider but rather a road cyclist, so this whole trek through South America takes / stretches my comfort zones a bit, but what the heck, life is short, you've got to enjoy / take advantage of it when you can!

In saying that I didn't realise how easy I'd had it last time with my trip to Italy. Then it had just been a case of popping the wheels off, taking the handlebar stem out of the front forks, then putting velcro tape as per the Evoc Bike Bag's instructions.

This time, it was to be just a bit more fiddly and I think proved a great deal of entertainment to my mate - Rod - when it came time to pull the Surly apart and pop him in a Ground Effect's Tardis. By the same time, I have to admit that I was in the rather fortuitous position of finding a couple of photos on how other people had met the challenge.

Essentially, let's just put it this way. Buying a number of cable ties and several lengths of pipe lagging proved to be a very worthwhile proposition, as was the utilization of a great deal of duct and electrical tape to stop things moving around too much whilst in transit.

Now having packed the Troll into the Tardis, the big question was, and here's where I made a big mistake, how would it go once I'd zipped the bag together then popped it into the QANTAS Bike Box that I'd purchased a couple of weeks earlier and before I heard about the Tardis. 

Yeah, plenty of room for a bag full of camping gear and some assorted bike bits & pieces!

Worked out what my mistake was????

That's right I relied on the old bathroom scales, to measure the weight. It ended being out by several kilograms, something that I wasn't to discover till the sealed box had been plastic wrapped (inadvertently) by a company at the airport. Supposedly they should have picked up on it being overweight. They didn't and as a result when I went to check it in at the check in desk, I had to take a few items out.... Here's where I made my second mistake - In the rush to get things right in terms of weight, I took out my spare parts and tool kits.

Did that cost me or what. The folks at every airport I subsequently went through decided that there was something in my bag of goodies that they didn't like - Some cable ties and the repair kit were the first to go, then there was a set of Allen Keys, the Pedal Wrench and you've no idea how many times they tossed and turned as to whether I could retain my rear cluster or not!

I just wish now, in the benefit of hindsight, that I'd had more accurate scales and had taken out some of my camping gear or what have you as opposed to plumping for the bike bits & pieces! Ah well, I should be able to restock here in Quito or if all else fails, get the assistance of some of my fellow Bike Dream colleagues....

Sunday, 20 July 2014

A sponsorship request....

Whilst I'll do the hard yards and cycle the 11,000KM from Quito, Ecuador to Ushuaia, Argentina & keep you up to date, in the process, it would be very much appreciated if you were to show your support by donating a bit of money to either of the following organisations:



Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Capturing the essence of the trip - Part 3

Well it looks like someone has got a bit of reading material to get through in the next couple of days. Why? Cause guess who went and bought a Go Pro Hero 3+ Camera to shoot some video footage of the ride. 

Now in saying that you should be forewarned that I'll probably not be editing or posting the subsequent footage, till I return home. So don't expect any video footage anytime soon.....

Essentially I ended up going this way, as opposed to buying a Garmin ViRB on the basis that the later is still a relatively new product, in comparison with the GoPro camera and what's more no one here in Australia currently seems able to supply me with a spare battery. 

The other part of it was that, in the end I felt as if a lot of the templates indicating my heart rate, speed and location and so on that was initially pushing me towards the Garmin, is probably in fact a bit superfluous and would be out of context given that the idea of posting every hour of every day's ride isn't going to happen. Heck, I don't know that I could be bothered watching it all again and I certainly wouldn't expect you too.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

They were probably moths as opposed to butterflies

It's funny whilst there are / were a number of things about my forthcoming trip to South America which was causing butterflies, a good friend of mine - Robert - recently reminded me just how fortuitous I was, to be able to undertake this endeavour.

As far as not having any pressing family or work commitments, having sufficiently good health as to enable me to take on such a strenuous activity and financially, in terms of it not putting me into debt or requiring me to work my fingers to the bone. 

In other words, its a once in a lifetime opportunity and to that end, there's no point owning a decent camera if you leave it at home. It'll be no use to you there, when your wandering around Machu Picchu, or in Antarctica should you end up going there at the conclusion of the ride. As a result, take it and use it along with the common sense that you've picked up during your travels. Further, take it easy on yourself if you end up being last into camp, jumping into the sag wagon or what have you - it is not a race.

Saturday, 5 July 2014


I'll be honest & admit that with just over a fortnight to go before I head to Quito, I'm starting to suffer from a few butterflies. Why, I hear you ask?

Well it's partly because I've not been able to ride the Troll or for that matter my road bike, for at least the last three weeks as a result of being interstate, not to mention the fact that I've been feeling unwell with the dreaded Man-Flu which probably would have kept me off the bike this last couple of weeks, irrespective of where I was.....

Of course, the other thing that's got me feeling a little apprehensive, is the "tourist" safety aspect. Whilst as many of you would know, I'm relatively well traveled, albeit primarily to first world destinations, I suppose I naively assumed that simply rocking up to a Quito a few days prior to the tour start would be straightforward and without any need for concern. That was all fine, till a few of you asked as to what safety precautions I was taking, which then prompted me to start doing a bit of research about the situation.

Now, I don't know whether the extent of pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, robbery, bag-slashing and hotel room theft is accurate or blown out of proportion, but either way it's got me feeling a little tetchy and oh so eager to catch up with some of my fellow riders, hopefully before the ride starts, so that I can not only get used to the altitude - It is at an elevation of 9,350 feet (2,800 metres) above sea level - but also so as to do a bit of sightseeing. Whilst I'll probably post a comment in a couple of weeks that my fears were daft or that so long as one takes sensible precautions that thing's are particularly dangerous. At the moment however, who knows.... I just wish the butterflies would settle down!

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Ten Reasons to Date a Cyclist

Being foot loose and fancy free, I gotta admit I had a bit of a laugh and thought you might also enjoy appreciate my sharing what are supposedly ten good reasons why you should date or  be glad that you married a cyclist:

1. Cyclists are hot, it's science. A recent study found that cyclists who excelled in the Tour de France are perceived as more attractive than other athletes and that the top 10% of cyclists “are about 25% more attractive than the lowest 10%” which means maybe fast is the new rich?

2. Cyclists are smart. According to a recent Mindlab survey, most people view cyclists as 13% more intelligent than the average person.

3. According to the same Mindlab survey, cyclists are generally viewed as 10% more charitable than non-cyclists.

4. Your date will be around for a while. Pro cyclists live, on average, 6.3 more years than non-cyclists. 
So long as we don't fall off coming down the Stelvio or get hit by a car.

5. After years of honing bike-maintenance skills, your date will be up for fixing things around the house, too.

6. No lazy bums here, just toned ones. Cyclists are disciplined, often rigorously so, and will withstand the elements to get their rides in.

7. Cyclists are constantly setting goals for themselves so if you want a forward-thinking date,  cyclists are a catch!

8. Cyclists have great near-death-experience stories to share, which is also why they’re also sticklers about safety.

9. Cyclists don’t call in sick. According to a 2013 survey by the National Cycle Network, cyclists take half the number of sick days as their public transportation-riding colleagues.

10. Think your date’s obsession with the open road is a little over-the-top? He / She is saner than you think. Studies have shown that vigorous exercise like cycling can boost concentration and memory while reducing stress and anxiety. The bike is good for the brain.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

A bit of wet weather gear....

Having looked at the weather conditions we may encounter whilst in South America, I recently looked at updating my wardrobe which I felt gave rise to the need to add to my cycling attire. The result has been:
  • The purchase of a new jacket. Hopefully it will get me through the worst of conditions should the heavens open and the rain start tumbling down. Of course, it had to be red, so that I could rejoin Team Red (Annie & Nicki from La Bella Italia 2013) and so that I should stand out somewhat, in photographs....

  • The purchase of some rain repealing trousers.

  • The purchase of a headband / muffler, to keep out the worst of the chill / exhaust fumes.