Having reached the Ecuadorian city of Santo Domingo by the end of my 23rd week in the saddle. This vibrant little city nestled in the western foothills of the Andes and only a few clicks south of the Equator would be my launchpad for yet another two wheeled Andean trek. Read More
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After 23 weeks in the saddle, the Global Wheeling carbon crusade enters its sixth country. Ecuador brings with it the humidity factor as I’m now within 500 km’s of the Equator. Traversing the last few hundred km’s on Peruvian soil marked the end of desert country as I followed the Pan-American Highway via the northern cities of Piura and Tumbes. Bidding farewell to Peru after what felt like a lifetime of pounding the pavements in this deceivingly large country.
A two hour affair at a rather relaxed Latin American border crossing and I was once again at the mercy of tracking down a local map and getting my hands on some new currency. The border town of Haquillas a mere 5 km from the Peruvian frontier would serve as my first pit stop and attempt to iron out a few of the necessaries.
Ecuador operates on the US Dollar, managing to track down a few green backs at the local market posed no major hassle provided you had your wits about you; the map on the other hand would be a bit trickier. Managing to source an extremely basic version of an Ecuadorian map, I rolled into country number six cycling virtually blind relying mostly on road signs to navigate and plot my way north.
A dangerous way to travel solo by bicycle, as it now becomes virtually impossible to plan ahead adding huge pressure on your food and water supplies as you’re now uncertain as to when the next “refueling’ spot will be. Fortuitously Ecuador is a rather small nation and distances between towns are fairly kind to the solo cyclist.
The Ecuadorian capital city of Quito is firmly nestled high up in the Andes at just below 3000m above sea level. The realisation that I would have to traverse the Andes for a second time in a matter of months was now sinking in as I plotted my route north through the relatively flat countryside. Banana plantations and sugar cane fields keeping me company during the day and providing shelter by night. I cycled north on the E25 parallel to these towering giants to my east knowing that come week 24 I would once again be embroiled in yet another monstrous battle with the Andes.
The humidity factor now causing major problems as my tent has turned into an oven and getting a full night’s sleep since crossing into Ecuador is a luxury I no longer enjoy. Each new country and terrain brings with it a new set of challenges and it’s imperative to have the ability to morph and change your approach accordingly to stay on top of the extremely demanding schedule of 400 km’s a week. Doing it with very little sleep is posing a huge challenge though and one I am struggling to factor in.
This blog comes to you from Santo Domingo and marks the end of the flatlands for a while. The road tracks back into the mountains in search of the capital and the crossing of the equator. After 9493 carbon free km’s the latest CO2 reading and quantity of pollution saved as a result of travelling on human steam is sitting on a staggering 1423.44 kg’s!!!
Viva pedal power!
Rolling out of Lima extremely relieved to have ticked a few mechanical boxes whilst in the Peruvian capital. I was fortunate enough to track down a set of new tyres and replace my chain and cassette that had taken a serious hammering crawling through the Andes. I had now also finally solved the back rim issue that had plagued me since I snapped it on the Altiplano in Bolivia a few thousand km’s prior.
Navigating my way out of this huge metropolis that took the better part of a day and roughly 50 km’s of urban sprawl before I was once again swallowed by the coastal desert. Peru seems to have all the natural boxes ticked as it boasts mountains, jungle and coastline, hugging the coast north of Lima however is a hot windy dustbowl of a desert.
I tacked north on the Pan-American Highway, two days ride and roughly 200 km’s from the capital I entered a small town to restock on supplies and had my odometer stolen off the handlebars of the bike. A bit tricky to put 8000 km on an odometer and a piece of equipment vital to the project, I kicked up a royal stink and got the local police involved.
Leaving things in the hands of our trusty friends in blue I returned but not 2 hours later to find the odometer had made a miraculous reappearance unbeknownst to anyone involved or the police or so they said. I pushed north with my gear firmly strapped down as I tacked up a few more miles through the desert.
The Pan-American Highway weaving its way through coastal dunes as it takes me north. I am now battling trucks and buses again on this busy thoroughfare and the quieter back roads of the Andes are a thing of the past unfortunately.
Less than 1500 km south of the equator now after 21 weeks in the saddle and the days are starting to get intensely hot and windy. My eyes now set on reaching Ecuador country number six and the penultimate nation in South America. Provided things stay on track the next blog will be written on Ecuadorian soil.
After 21 weeks myself and Little Ms. Sunshine (bicycle) have clocked up 8231 carbon free km’s, Carbon emissions saved 1234.28 kg’s and this two wheeled clean green eco machine continues to impress!
This belated blog comes to you from the metropolis of Lima on the Pacific coast of the Latin American continent. After 19 tumultuous weeks in the saddle the expedition descends out of the Andes. Reaching the small Pacific coastal town of Paracas and marking the crossing of the continent from east to west on human steam. Read More
Week 17 grinds to a frustrating end after starting with a bang. Taking a slight detour in an attempt to factor in some of Peru’s ancient wonders, I followed the road through the sacred Inca valley in search of a few ruins. Well aware of the fact that I might fall ever so slightly behind my relentless schedule of 400 carbon free km’s a week.
Rolling through the towns of Pisac and Ollantaytambo, both of which boast their very own set of Inca ruins, not satisfied though until I managed to add the famed Macchu Picchu to the treasure trove of wonders we have been able to accrue on human steam.
Getting ever deeper into the sacred valley in search of this Inca wonder I was able to reach the town of Ollantaytambo on pedal power. From here things would take a twist, unable to continue by road and adamant on reaching the ruins on human steam I continued on foot.
Locking all my gear away in a budget room, I packed a small bag with a few supplies and set off at 11pm on Christmas Eve, travelling by foot through the Andes at night in the hope of arriving for sunrise on Christmas morning. It seems my calculations on foot were leaving much to be desired…
It would be lunch time on the 26th by the time I reached Macchu Picchu after getting lost on a small winding track in the dark taking me far off course. Two days of excruciating trekking along the Andean Inca trail, and it’s surrounding tracks and winding paths. Macchu Picchu had officially been added on human steam but it had come at a price, I had twisted my left knee in the process and hobbled out of the Archeological complex in a bad way.
Still sporting a broken back wheel I had opted to bring in a spare rim via post. Sent to the city of Cusco I trekked out of the valley back over 3000m above sea level in search of the prized cargo. Arriving to find that Peruvian customs had blocked my parcel at customs in the capital Lima and all operations were closed until January 2nd.
So this Blog comes to you from a rain drenched Cusco as the wet season sets in here in the Andes and I sit idly by watching the clock tick away as I fall further and further behind schedule as I wait for Customs to re-open and hopefully iron out this new challenge!
I should be sitting on 6800 carbon free km’s by this stage of the expedition but setbacks see me nursing a rather low 6327 km’s with an injured knee and the pressure starts to mount to try and claw back the deficit to get back on schedule. After 17 weeks the amount of pollution saved is sitting on a staggering 949.05 kg’s!
I write this blog from the sacred valley in the heart of the Peruvian Andes. After 15 weeks in the saddle, the Global Wheeling America’s expedition has notched up 6193 carbon free km’s on human steam alone. Continuing to advocate the bicycle as a fantastic tool, this fortnight in particular makes a serious case for the humble machine as an alternative to motorised transport.
Surprising even myself with the sheer amount of landmarks and treasures that we (my trusty steed Little Ms. Sunshine & I) were able to navigate and add to the treasure chest of wonders that we have been so fortunate to see thus far on the expedition.
Still high up in the South American Andes in the city of La Paz, I waited with baited breath as a promised replacement back rim was en route from the city of Cochabamba to the local Sunday market in Al Alto. A few days of nail bighting anticipation and a bit worried about my fitness levels tapering off whilst waiting for the rim, I decided to put this human steam theory to the test on foot.
The Huayna Potosi snowcapped mountain peak towering at 6088m over the city of La Paz had been catching my eye for days. I decided to climb her. Already at an altitude of just under 4000m in La Paz I made my way to lower base camp at 4800m. From here it would all be on foot as myself and my local guide Mario packed our gear into backpacks and hiked up to high base camp at an altitude of 5130m.
Acclimatizing for the afternoon, we set off at one in the morning donning our ice climbing gear and headlamps as we slowly clawed our way through the dark abyss of night. Five hours of lung busting climbing we would reach the summit in time for sunrise and watch that big ball of fire start her shift for the day from a perch where I could almost touch the sky.
Using a completely different set of muscles I descended from Huayna Potosi a rather worked and knackered man. Pressed for time with just three days left on my Bolivian visa and still a couple of hundred km’s left to the Peruvian border. I would reach the Sunday market to find the replacement rim had not made the journey west and I would be forced to push on with a broken back wheel.
Reaching the border of Peru with hours left on my visa, I managed to navigate my way through without having to cough up any Gringo-Tax. I had reached the banks of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world at 3800m above sea level exhausted and somewhat relieved.
Peru, country number five on the expedition would bring with her a fierce storm with torrential rains that would welcome me with a bang. Flooding my tent, I woke on the banks of Lake Titicaca, well and truly reminded of the intense power of nature and just how vulnerable I was camping alone up here in the Andes.
Heading north through the mountains, navigating the towns of Puno and Ayiviri I would soon reach the heart of Inca country. This fascinating culture and its ruins dotted through the countryside would make for new surroundings and it would not be long before the idea of camping in one of the archeological sites would soon set in.
Pikillacta, a pre Inca site and home to the Wari civilization that bordered the famed sacred valley would be the site that scratched the itch. Arriving just before dark I managed to enter the site undetected and after some serious off road navigational skills and carrying my 50kg rig up and over some winding paths I managed to find a spot to pitch the tent for the night.
Sleeping alone in huge ancient, mystical ruins was a box I was determined to tick and I would certainly not be disappointed as I spent the night in awe of this majestic archeological site with not a soul for miles.
Now if that’s not a rather jam packed two weeks on two wheels then I don’t know what is… The expedition takes a bit of a detour as it snakes through the sacred valley in search of a few more ruins before tacking directly west in search of the Pacific coastline and warmer climes. The next blog will celebrate the crossing of the continent from east to west.
The information we have all been waiting for and the official CO2 reading after 15 weeks and 6193 carbon free km’s is a staggering 928.95 Kg’s of pollution saved !
Having reached the sanctuary of Santa Cruz in the eastern half of Bolivia, I bid farewell to the infamous Chaco and its searing heat. 1300 km’s in 13 days through this fearsome region in the heart of the Latin American continent. I was now looking forward to escaping temperatures that hovered in the forties and the barrage of terradactyl sized mosquitos that went with it.
Rolling west out of Santa Cruz, I set my sights on the next phase of the expedition. Little can prepare you for tackling the Andes mountain range solo on a bicycle whilst carrying all your worldly possessions. Luckily the road was kind leaving Santa Cruz and I was given 300 km to digest the rather daunting task before hitting the foothills near Villa Tunari. I had tackled a few big climbs in Borneo and Sumatra, what was an extra few thousand meters above sea level?
Leaving Villa Tunari early that morning knowing very well that by lunch time I would be breaking through new pain barriers as the foothills gave way to climbs that exceeded 35 km’s at gradients that permitted a pace no faster than 5-6 km’s an hour. I would be literally dragging myself, Little Ms. Sunshine and our 35 kg’s of survival gear up into mountain country.
By the end of day one in the mountains I had already reached a serious altitude of well over 2000m above sea level. Having battled rain and wind the entire day I welcomed the setting of the sun over a cloud covered mountain peak. I pitched my tent on a small gravel patch next to the road and passed out from sheer exhaustion.
Andean hospitality would be the order of the day as I was woken early the following morning by Eduardo and his wife. Invited into their humble home for a breakfast of potatoes, raw egg with chili topped off with whiskey and coca leaves. Day two in the mountains would be even slower than the first… It turns out whiskey, potatoes and coca leaves are not the optimum ingredients for a meal at 7am before tackling the Andes by bicycle.
The road snaked west through the mountains up to an altitude of 3200m before dropping into a valley which is home to the bustling town of Cochabamba. Once again rolling into town in need of a welder and some spares to alleviate the ever growing list of broken bits and pieces that are taking a real pounding from Latin American roads. It seems I am never more than a couple of days away from solving the next crisis and a broken aluminum rack and a temperamental camera were on the “fix it list” by the time I reached Cochabamba.
From Cochabamba the serious climbing begins, route 4 heads west through the Bolivian Andes reaching an altitude of around 4500m above sea level near la Cumbre. Breathing becoming laborious above 3500m as you gasp for air during the long grueling climbs that never seem to abate. I would get caught in a flash snow storm and forced to take shelter in a vacant classroom in a small school for the night. Sleeping on two desks pushed together to stay off the frozen concrete floor.
Dropping down from 4500m above sea level to the altiplano at about 3800 the last 150 km’s into La Paz were reasonably flat and seeing speeds in double figures on my odometer again helping to lift the spirits. Once again sporting my thermal gear that I had been cursing in the Chaco just weeks before, temperatures at night are seriously cold at this altitude and camping on the altiplano is a task in itself.
I would break the back rim descending onto the altiplano and hobbled into La Paz after 13 weeks in the saddle with a broken back rim and no back brakes. This blog comes to you from La Paz the highest capital city in the world as I battle the clock with my visa ticking away while I try to source spare parts for the bike and get the camera repaired before pushing on towards Peru, easier said than done it seems.
After 13 weeks in the saddle we ( myself and Little Ms. Sunshine my trusty bicycle) are sitting on 5475 carbon free km’s with the official CO2 reading sitting on 818.3 kg’s ( amount of CO2 that would have been emitted had this journey been done in an average sized American sedan). Fast approaching our first ton of carbon emissions saved!!!
After eleven grueling weeks in the saddle traversing the treacherous freeways of Brazil, battling storms in Uruguay and searing heat in Paraguay, I sit here quite relieved to have popped out the other side of the infamous Chaco region in the heart of South America. The odometer reads a whopping 4525 carbon free kilometers as I write this blog from Santa Cruz de la Sierra in eastern Bolivia.
Rolling out of Asuncion 1300 km’s ago, I knew I was going to be up against one of the toughest challenges of the expedition in its entirety. The extreme heat, long distances between villages and the scarcity of water in the region during the dry season making it one of the most dangerous places on the continent to travel by bike. Tackling it solo and unsupported would be an experience I shall never forget.
The Chaco would consume me on so many levels, the physical demands of getting from watering hole to watering hole in extreme heat transforming the expedition from purely physical to somewhat of a spiritual experience as I rolled through this vast plain that spans Argentina, Paraguay and Bolivia.
I reached the village of Mariscal where I would be stamped out of Paraguay. Spending the night camping at the immigration office, waking early to avoid the heat I rolled out of Mariscal heavily stocked with supplies as I ventured into a rather peculiar and unique stretch of the trip.
Officially stamped out of Paraguay with no Bolivian immigration office in site, I cycled into “no man’s land” a 300 km stretch of the Chaco where you are stamped out of one country but not yet into the next. A corridor of this desolate region that would take 3 days to traverse before I stumbled across a military outpost called Infanta Rivarola.
I spent the night at the military base still bemused by the fact that I had not yet been stamped into Bolivia. I would reach a shack in the bush near a village called Ibibobo a good 70 km’s on the Bolivian side of the border before I found an opportunity to get stamped into the country. A two hour affair as I battled with a corrupt border official that scrutinised my documents with a fine tooth comb before I was granted entry.
I was officially in Bolivia country number 4 on this 20 000 km intercontinental bicycle ride. The Bolivian section of the Chaco would rival its Paraguayan neighbour for beauty. The road leading north on route 9 through Villamontes and Camiri before finally rolling into Santa Cruz after 1300 km’s in 13 days in the Chaco. Arriving in this city of 1.5 million completely shattered and somewhat shell shocked going from the remote Chaco into the hustle and bustle of a vibrant Latin American city and once again having to navigate trucks buses and taxis.
The expedition heads west from here into the Andes mountain range towards La Paz at just under 4000 meters above sea level. Going from the Chaco plain to the Andes will require a shift in strategy and snakes and dehydration give way to altitude sickness and loss of breath as my new stumbling blocks.
The official CO2 reading after eleven weeks in the saddle is sitting on a rather scary 677 kg’s!
The Global Wheeling Americas expedition rolls into Paraguay and enters country number three on this two wheeled intercontinental bicycle ride for change.
Week nine boasts a rather chilling CO2 reading, mechanical nightmares in the infamous Chaco and the blog comes to you from one of the remotest locations on the expedition to date, Filadelfia!
Iguaza Falls would mark the end of a natural chapter to the expedition, leaving Brazil and its rather treacherous “BR” freeways behind me, I ventured west across the border into Paraguay.
Instantly blown away by this jovial, landlocked gem of a country, my biggest challenge heading towards the capital was wrapping my head around a new currency, Guaraní. Becoming a millionaire over night was rather impressive stuff but learning how to spend it would be a different story entirely.
A solid three day ride from the border town of Cuidad del Este to Asuncion, 350 km’s to the west. Up to my usual antics of waking at sunrise, cycling till sunset and crawling into some random bush to pitch the tent (humble hilton) for the night. At first glance Paraguay seemed too good to be true, people were friendly, and I was a millionaire…
By day two on Paraguayan soil it became rather clear that I was now dealing with an entirely different beast, heat! The day I rolled into the capital was 43 degrees and as jovial as it may be this country packs a serious punch in the climate department.
The capital Asuncion sits on the banks of the Paraguay River that divides the country into two halves, the Oriental in the east and the Chaco in the west. The latter of the two, home to less than 2% of the country’s population and the next phase of the expedition. The Chaco is notorious for sweltering heat and long distances between small villages, a true test for a man travelling solo on a bicycle.
I set up base camp in Asuncion for a couple of days sourcing information on the Chaco. The locals at Paraguay’s tourist information office highly recommending against anyone entering the Chaco alone or without a guide or vehicle support. Naturally the rebel inside me jumping with joy at the opportunity to pip myself against a new challenge, I’d conquered the Sahara, how hard could it be?
Mechanical headaches plagued the first 150 km’s into the Chaco, breaking my handlebar bag and losing two of my spare inner tubes due to faulty valves. Adding immense pressure as spares would only be available again once I reached Santa Cruz in Bolivia in 1400 km’s, a worrying thought considering the scarcity of infrastructure and water in the region. Refusing to go backwards, I muddled on armed with luck alone.
With daily temperatures well over 40 degrees and nowhere to hide, the Chaco demands 100% dedication to be able to conquer successfully and after ironing out some of the initial headaches with cable ties and duct tape I continued to venture north west. Coming across some rather peculiar wildlife en route the Chaco starts off extremely dense and lush and boasts an array of some outrageous animals from snakes and armadillos to large lizards and some unidentifiable bits and pieces I haven’t managed to wrap my head around just yet, see picture below and assist if you can !
I post this blog from roughly 500 km’s NW of the capital in Filadelfia, the largest town in the Paraguayan Chaco. Unfortunately it’s only going to get more dangerous from here as the road becomes gravel and unsealed whilst distances between villages grow even further as I continue towards the Bolivian border crossing.
And with 3504 carbon free km’s on the dial and the official CO2 reading having now broken half a ton (522 kg’s!) The expedition prepares to roll towards the Bolivian border. The dangers of snake bights or dehydration, two of my biggest worries as I continue into this sweltering desolate section of the expedition with less than optimal spares forced to camp in the wild.
After 2842 carbon free km’s and 7 weeks in the saddle, the Global Wheeling Americas expedition reaches the border of Paraguay. Calculating how much CO2 would have been emitted had the same journey been done by an average sized American sedan, the project rolls west across the Latin American continent. Boasting an enormous CO2 reading of 423 kg’s, the data captured from the onboard computer continues to startle as the expedition makes a pretty serious case for the bicycle and it’s carbon free properties as an eco-friendly alternative mode of transport.
After reaching Curitiba the state capital of Parana I was now firmly entrenched in the grasp of mountain country and the relentless rolling hills of this southern Brazilian state. Undulating topography would be the order of the day as myself and my trusty steed Little Ms. Sunshine tacked west in search of the Paraguayan border and the 3rd nation on this pedal powered venture for change. A stretch that would cover roughly 700 km on the BR277 freeway, the sound of the Atlantic now growing ever more distant as I bid farewell to the east coast and set my sights on the interior of the continent. New challenges lay ahead as I can only but imagine what difficulties the Chaco plain and the Andes had waiting for me.
Ticking an enormous natural box, this pedal powered environmental pilgrimage rolls through the town of Foz do Iguacu and has the privilege of seeing one of the world’s finest natural assets. The Iguaza falls, recently included in the elite list of the world’s 7 new natural wonders of nature. This amazing spectacle was the icing on the cake as the journey reached the end of its first natural chapter.
Preparing to leave the affluent SE corner of the continent for more desolate pastures such as the Chaco plains of Paraguay and the Andes in Bolivia, this solo expedition continues to advocate the humble bicycle as a viable tool in the battle against climate change albeit up against some rather interesting challenges. Successfully navigating the southern state of Parana and its mixed bag of obstacles including trucks and snakes alike, Global Wheeling Americas prepares itself for country number three.
The Chaco, home to less than 2 percent of Paraguay’s population and one of the hottest regions in Latin America boasting temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius is next on the agenda and the town of Foz do Iguacu (big water as the native Americans call it) would be my last pit stop before the crossing into this intensely remote region.
After navigating Brazils immensely populated freeways I am looking forward to some quieter roads as the battle between bicycle and truck has left me drained and somewhat disheartened as the constant battle for space and the mission to stay out of harm’s way wears you down after weeks in the saddle.
Iguaza falls doubling up as my base camp for a few days as I service the bike and source some spares before making the crossing into Paraguay. The next phase of the journey set to unfold as I ready myself to roll back into Spanish speaking territories with far fewer resources on offer, my bike now a few kg’s heavier as I stock up on spares and resources I won’t be able to find in the less developed nations heading west.