The Garmin 1000 is the leading edge.

The Garmin 1000 is the leading edge.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

eXsight Tandems Illawarra. Bicycle riding for those who need a little help.

Exsight Tandems Illawarra: eyeing up a bicycle ride for two.

Joint venture: Geoff Stratton pedals while Pamela Dunn keeps her eyes on the road on their tandem bike ride at Barrack Point. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Geoff Stratton cannot see the coastline when he's on the back of a tandem bike but he can feel the sunshine on his face, smell the salty air and hear the waves crashing onto the sand.

The 71-year-old's love of cycling is not diminished by the fact that he lost his sight at age five and he's helping other vision-impaired people saddle up through his group, Exsight Tandems Illawarra.
The group pairs people who are blind or have low vision - as well as those with other disabilities - with able cyclists on rides throughout the Illawarra.

"Sight is such a powerful sense that it often overtakes other senses - so if you have low or no vision you experience those other senses much more keenly," Mr Stratton said.
"You can hear the leaves rustling in the trees or the cars on the street; you can feel the bumps in the track or the way the bike turns; you can feel the wind or the sun - all these things help to build a picture.
"You still get that adrenaline rush when you go down a hill; you still feel that exertion when you're climbing up a hill; and you still get that uplifting feeling that you're connecting with nature."

The tandems ridden by Exsight are synchronised, so both the "captain" at the front and the "stoker" at the rear have to work together to keep moving. It's great exercise for both, and can be a way to meet like-minded people.

"You might go for a ride, then stop for a coffee and a chat, before continuing on your way," Mr Stratton said. "We often go on group rides and so you get that benefit of socialisation, too. A couple of people who come along have said that the rides have made a real difference to their lives, and have lifted their depression at losing their sight."

Mr Stratton was born with retinablastoma, a childhood cancer. Surgery saved his life at five years old, but took his vision.

"From the day I was born I had low vision and then at five the lights went out," he said.
"In this day and age those born with the condition can usually have their sight saved, but back in those days the laser technology was not around."

It was in 2008 after enjoying tandem bike rides with a friend, that Mr Stratton decided to create the group.
"The group aims to get those who wouldn't be able to cycle on their own onto a tandem bike and out enjoying the wonderful environment here in the Illawarra," he said.
The group is always looking for captains - visit to register.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Meeting Author Mark Morgan prior to his book launch. RATOON, THE NEXT GENERATION. Absolutely brilliant reading.

Every now and then I get to meet someone famous. During my ride through South America this year, I met the famous Buck Benson and now I've got to meet Author Mark Morgan.

The book titled RATOON, THE NEXT GENERATION is one of those books I had to keep reading. I read some pretty good books whilst on holidays, but this one is up there with the best. The official launch of the book is early 2015, but Mark has allowed me to invite my readers to grab a copy prior to it's launch.

The brief story is that in 1964 Michael Lamond was ten years old and surfing was the last thing on his mind. He lived a dull and stifling existence on a sugar cane farm in remote North Queensland , Australia, and until his parents bought a holiday house on the coast he had no idea at all what life had to offer.

During the family's first summer holiday a sequence of events was triggered that would forever change and influence Michael's life. Through new found friendships he soon discovered a natural affinity with the ocean that allowed him to do things on a surfboard that no- one else had ever imagined possible.

Michael's surfing adventure almost ended before it began and his journey to the final of the local surfing competition takes him through the highs and lows of family conflict, tragedy, romance, and adventure, with plenty of surfing thrown into the mix.

Living and surfing in the 60's, that was the life.

Now after reading the book I put a couple of questions to Mark about what happened to a certain character mentioned throughout the story. His replied with a smile and waited for a moment and said,

'You will have to wait Terry for the sequel, and that might explain everything, but don't hold me to it'. 

The photo above shows myself receiving the novel RATOON, THE NEXT GENERATION, from Author Mark Morgan. I asked Mark could he kindly sign my copy, and below is what is now and forever inscribed at the front of my book.
If you would like a copy of the book I've attached a list of contacts. I personally recommend this book to people of all ages.

Available now in paperback and ebook format through:

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Homeward bound.

All good things must come to an end, and so must this holiday. I've had an incredible time and am very grateful that I had the opportunity to travel from the equator to the end of the world on a bicycle. I've passed through 5 countries, each unique and rich in culture and history. Beautiful people, lovely smiles, and always a handshake and a thank you. The people of South America welcomed the cyclists with open arms and for that, I'm truly blessed. I never felt in danger at any stage of the trip, although sometimes I did go far too fast down mountains as if I was 21 again.


These are the National flags of each countries we visited. 

I started this holiday with one very important person, Barry Buckley. We had a great time and shared some memorable moments on and off the bike. He is a fierce competitor on the bike and loves to ride all day if given the chance. Barry will ride into Ushuaia as I'm flying over the Pacific Ocean back to Sydney, Australia, I will miss the ride into Ushuaia with all the other cyclists, but family will always come first, end of story.
 The photo above was taken on the 1st August 2014 when we arrived at the equator in Ecuador. What a journey.

The above photo was taken 3 days ago on the morning we rode to Punta Arenas, the end of the road for me. But not the end of the journey. A quick 11 hour bus to Ushuaia and I'm the first cyclist to reach the end of the world.  Although I did cheat.
That's Julia (L) myself, Roberto the driver, and Carmen who came out to see me off as I head up town to the bus station.

Now the final blog on my journey from the Equator to the end of the world.

I got up early with all intentions to go for a ride but had an issue that needed to be sorted out, so I missed the ride with one of the local guys and instead went for a walk to the 'Maritime Museum of Ushuaia, Ushuaia Jail, Military Prison and finally the Antarctic Museum Jose Maria Sobral.

After looking at ships from the 18th Century through to the 20th Century, prison cells, fury penguins, a very old train, naval clothing and more, I was ready to leave after spending 3 hours walking around this fascinating  museum.  The Museums go through the history of the shipping industry, trading up and down the coast of South America, and the whole history of prison life.

I still had a lot to do so I headed back to the apartment to pack my bike away. As I made my way back up the road I could see fresh snow on the mountains, the wind was getting stronger and it's a place I can't wait to leave. It's just too cold for me.
The train above was the first train used to transport the prisoners in this part of the world. The train originally ran on wooden tracks. Now the train has been remodeled and called the 'Tren' train which is dedicated to tourists.
The only difference between this prison and many I've seen over the years is the this place is about 30 degrees C, cooler than the rest. This place would be like living in a refrigerator.
You can see in the photo fresh snow on the mountains overlooking Ushuaia. It's a real shame I won't be riding in these conditions with the other cyclists on the 14th December 2014.  In all honesty, I wish each and everyone of the cyclists and staff of 'Bike Dreams' a safe journey to the very last km. Well done.
And the final photo for this journey is ME, with the Aussie flag at the end of the world, Tomorrow I catch the plane to Buenos Aires then onto Santiago and then onto Sydney Australia.

I hope you enjoyed following me from the Equator to the end of the world. It's been a fantastic journey and I wouldn't change one thing.

So, what's next?   I haven't got a clue.
Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

You would never believe who I met today.

After settling into my apartment located 1 block away from the main street in town, I finally fell asleep around midnight. I managed to get about 6 hours sleep before I woke to a rainy and bitterly cold morning.

By the time I had breakfast and got dressed, I hit the road around 8am in drizzling rain for a short ride out to the entrance to the National Park. On the way I got to see the most southern golf course in the world, followed by the famous Tren train which has a motto of 'the train to the end of the world'. Well I've been on the Machu Picchu train and that was incredible, so in this weather, I didn't think much of it. It was back down the mountain and into town.

In town I checked out the Plaza Islas Malvinas which is a monument dedicated to those who gave their life in the battle of the Falkland Islands in 1982. There is no need to go into how many died because in the end it was another war, and another needless loss of human lives. The monument is quite nice with a flame burning in front of the many names inscribed in the granite block. 
 The photo above show the temperature at 8.30am today at the entrance to the National Park.
 The photo above shows the Falkland Islands with the Argentinian flag in the background.
 The photo above is of the Argentinian army getting ready to head to battle. 
 In every armed service around the world, there is a job for someone. These 2 young men carry their brooms as if they were rifles. Probably going to clean up the mess left by the Brits.
You can see the flame and the granite block showing those perished in battle for their nation.

Now the next part of my day relates to who I met.

I walked over to the Tourist Information Office to get a better map and to see how I could visit the Martial Glaciar tomorrow on my bike. I left the office and sat on the step checking out my map when I saw a man taking photos,

I said, 'hello you ass hole'. I think this man was taking back by what I said. 
He said 'what did you say mate', 
I said, 'are you deaf, I called you an asshole'? 
With that the man approached me and said, 'bullshit, bloody Terry Wall, what are you doing here'? 

A moment later another bloke walked around the corner and I called him some rude names, and his reply was worse. We had a laugh and sat down on the steps and spoke about why we were in this part of the world. So where do these 2 chaps come from? The best place in the world, Wollongong. They live about 15 kms from my house. 
The photo above is of Bob Burridge and myself sitting on the steps outside the tourist office in Ushuaia.
The photo above is of Neil Harris and myself on those famous steps. 

Bob Burridge and Neil Harris are 2 of the nicest men you could ever meet. They are both retired police officers and were highly respected in their senior positions in the service. I prosecuted many of their cases and shared many stories over the years. Bob and Neil had had just got back from a 10 day cruise of Antarctica. After looking at their photos I'm now thinking that I might have to go and visit the place one day. At $1000 per head per day on the cruise, that's a bargain. I think I might stick to bicycle tours.

The afternoon was getting on and I hadn't really done that much. I went and checked out one bicycle shop and they wanted to sell me a cardboard bicycle box for $6 US. That's bullshit, they only throw them out and he wanted money for it. I politely told him what I thought about the offer and where that offer should be filed. 

I found another bike shop and bought a really cool long sleeve cycling jersey which will certainly have me standing out in the crowd when I get back to the GONG.

I ended up walking to the address that Rob the Boss had given me and got a bike box there. From the hundreds of trophies all over the shelves, this place is full of crazy keen cyclists. With the purchase of a roll of tape, it all looks good for packaging that bike away tomorrow.

I wanted to go and see 2 museums today, but that didn't eventuate. I'll do that tomorrow after a bike ride.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Punta Arenas to the end of the world. By bus, but still the first cyclist to get here.

Wednesday 10th December 2014. Stage 104. Punta Arenas to Ushuaia, the end of the world.
Cyclists head off for the next stage of the tour whilst I bus it to the end.

After finishing my riding at Punta Arenas I had a rest day yesterday which I spent with Barry and Buck. We did the usually stuff like eat and drink coffee, have a look at a couple of shops and that was about it. I met up with Carmen and Julia for lunch and we had a good time reminiscing about the holiday and the laughs we shared. I wanted to have dinner with the 2 people who made my holiday a fantastic experience, that's Barry firstly followed by Buck. I rode with them and hung with them the most on tour. There were others which I've mentioned throughout my journey which will be friends forever, but when it came to riding the bike, they were No.1 & 2.
 That's my good friend the famous 'Buck Benson'.
 The photo above is of Roberto our truck driver. Fantastic chap and had some good times together.
 That's Viv above. She's a New Zealander (loves sheep) or possibly a Brit. Can't really work that out.
 The photo above the other truck driver, Walter. Walter also prepared our lunch each day. He is a really nice man.
 The photo above is Rob the Boss. He helped me get to the bottom of the world and for that I will always be indebted to him for that.

The last photo above is of our Dr. 

Now for today.

I woke up nice and early and headed off to the hostel to catch up with a couple of cyclists before I went to the bus station. I said farewell to Barry, Hilde, Kristin, Jan and Reinhardt before going up to the other hostel. Once at the main hostel it was a quick bite and catch up with Buck. I took a couple of photos of some of people who meant something to me and helped me have a wonderful time. I'll post those photos below. I thanked Robert the Boss for a great holiday. I know there are those who had complaints about certain aspects of the tour, and there are some who will never be satisfied with the holiday. All in all, my goal was to go from the Equator to the end of the world and I made it because of 'Bike Dreams'. Would I recommend them in the future? YES.

I felt sad saying farewell to the famous 'Buck Benson', and I could tell through his eyes that he felt the same way. I met some pretty special people in my Cairo to Capetown trip in 2011 and I keep in touch with some of them, I put Buck in that category of a special friend. Now Barry is a different story, it would have been pretty special to ride into Ushuaia with him after starting in Quito together over 4 months ago, but I'm sure we'll have a good laugh when we get together again upon his return back to the greatest place on earth, THE GONG.

I left the hostel and balanced my enormous bag on the handlebars of my bike and carried the other bag on my back and made the 2 km ride back up into town to the bus station. Finding it was pretty easy and getting my bike in the cargo section of the bus was straight forward. The bus is ready to leave in 5 minutes, I have my seat and I'm ready to be warm,comfortable, watch a movie, whilst the riders freeze their asses off in this windy and cold part of the world. Do I care? No way, I intend to be the first cyclist on this tour to reach Ushuaia.

The ride took me out of town exactly the same way I came in 2 days ago. It always give you a different impression when you are in a bus instead of doing it on a bike, I do prefer the bike.

Once out of town we turned off onto a dirt road, yep more dirt road, and ended up at a small harbour where the bus went onto a small ship that took us to the other side of the mainland. The trip only took 20 minutes across the straits of Magellan and it was a smooth trip considering the wind was once again blowing like crazy.

I took the photo as we neared the shore and commenced our 300 km drive on dirt roads.

Once back on dry land it was a trip of nearly 300 kms along dirt roads exactly the same as we've ridden over in the past couple of weeks. Heaps of rocks, heaps of sand and very strong winds to add some excitement to the ride.

That's my bus taking a lunch break on the dirt road. Bike Dreams lunch is much better than the crap this place dished up.

We arrived at the exit post for Chile and had to go through a quick process before being allowed to continue on the Argentinian border post arriving at 3.30 pm. I have no idea how far we have to go before Ushuaia but this is going to be a long afternoon. The scenery is mainly flat roads, very little vegetation, some sheep and even 1 lonely Guanaco. We finally hit the pavement after 400 kms of smooth cruising.  

It's so much different watching the countryside go by as one sits in the bus. As we got closer to Ushuaia the snow capped of huge mountains loomed in the distance. The rain started to fall and the fog crept in. We rolled down into Ushuaia at 7.30 pm, over 11 hours after leaving Punta Arenas. 

Eventually I caught up with Tony and he took me to the apartment I've booked for the next 3 nights. Tony was really helpful in pointing me in the right direction for shopping, which is a must tomorrow, the supermarket and which is the best road to go for a ride on.

I've just run the bath, got the WiFi running hot, and I'm going to lay in the bath and soak an hour away. Now that's better than that shitty tent for sure.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Torres de Paine to Punta Arenas. 2 stage wins this week ends my time with bike dreams.

Friday 5th December 2014. Trekking to the 3 Torres in Torres del Paine National Park Chile.

Today is the day we make the 10km trek up into the mountains of Torres del Paine National Park to see the famous 3 peaks. The weather was overcast and slight rain was falling when we finally hit the trail at 9.15am. We were told it could take anywhere from 5 hours to 9 hours to complete the walk.

With the huge mountains looking rather daunting, the 3 of us headed off over the flat plains and straight up to commence the climb. The path was a rocky baron track that hundreds of tourists take each day and also is the track that the local gauchos take to haul goods up and down the mountain to the to the small huts you can stay at, if you can afford it.
 The photo above is the trail we took to reach the viewing area of the 3 Torres.
 The 2 ladies above are Carmen (L) and Julia (R) who were my trekking buddies for the day.

The scenery above is what we trek with all day. It certainly is a beautiful place to go for a walk, if you like walking that is.

The narrow path took us high with some pretty scary drop off we if we manage to get our footing wrong. At times we would walk through beautiful rain forests reappearing on the other side to incredible snow capped mountains and the 3 Torres getting every so closer.

We walked 5 kms to reach the first hut and took a nice break from walking up and down dale. The rain was starting to fall so it was time to put all my wet weather gear on. I could see hundreds of walkers up ahead, some young and some old. I think I fit into the old category.

We passed a couple of bike dream cyclists who had reached the summit and got some great shots of the 3 Torres and that what we were hoping for. With 3 kms to the summit the track climbed through a rocky section that was really hard on the legs. As a cyclist, walking is not our favourite past time. We kept going up and up over rocks, over boulders, along beautiful narrow paths whilst searching ahead for that once in a life time photo.

As we crested the summit and turned the corner, all we could see was the 3 Torres covered in clouds. The crystal clear turquoise lake beneath the peaks was just as impressive. We found Buck, Deb and Brian and took up a seat on the rocks with them waiting for the clouds to disappear just for a moment. Unfortunately luck was not on our side today. With light snow falling it was time to get out of the region and start the 10 km trek back to the campsite.
 The photo above is what greeted us, cloud and rain covering the 3 Torres. It didn't matter as it was a good trek to the viewing point.
 And that's a photo of myself standing in front of the lake beneath the 3 Torres.

The photo above shows the famous 'Buck Benson' and the rest of the crew taking shelter from the rain and freezing conditions at 3 Torres.

Walking back down the rocky path was quite dangerous with the lose gravel/sand scattered everywhere. The temperature was 4 degrees and the wind was now belting us from all directions. I had my face scarf on, beanie, long pants, long jacket and wet weather gloves on, and felt perfect. We made our way back through the forest and reached the ½ way point within 1 ½ hours. That was 50% quicker than the trip up the mountain. We sat down on the benches and took out our salad, bread rolls, biscuits, ham, cheese and fruit and had a nice lunch. I really needed to get off my feet and give my legs a break. I starting to think, 'I hate walking'.

The weather was turning again and we needed to press on down the mountain. The view along the mountain, down into the river and into the valley 10 kms away was incredible. The clouds, the rain, the sun trying to break through every now and then made the journey worthwhile.

Once we reached the last section of the mountain, the path finally went downhill. It was here where 3 gauchos and their horses passed us. The horses were carrying gas bottles, litter and other goods from the ½ way point back to the hotel below. We stopped heaps of times taking beautiful photos and slowly clawing our way back to our campsite. By the time I made it back to 'Tent Hilton' I was stuffed. My legs, ass muscles, back muscles ached with pain. I have no idea how I'm going to manage 135 kms on dirt tomorrow. We arrived back in camp at 5.30pm. That makes it a very long day out in the mountains.

Dinner was a nice meal in the hotel and the most expensive on tour thus far. Compared to back home it was still cheap.

The wind has now picked up and I'm laying in my tent wandering whether I'm going to lift off. This is the strongest wind I've felt in the tent on this tour. It's now 12 midnight and the wind is going crazy outside. A bad night's sleep is coming my way.

Saturday 6th December 2014. Stage 101. National Park Torres del Paine to Puerto Natales. 134 kms, paved 13%, climbing 1256 metres, summit 300 metres. Gale force winds puts many on truck.

I finally got about 5 hours sleep last night due to horrific winds and constant rain. Thankfully my tent is waterproof. We rolled out of camp at 8am for the long ride to Puerto Natales.The first 8 kms was a walk in the park and then the shit hit the fan as they say in Australia. We were hit by a force 10 gales right in the face. For the next 15 kms it took us 2 ½ hours due to being forced off the bike and into the dirt on more times than I care to count. We had bike riders scattered all over the road, struggling to walk their bikes and struggling to keep upright.

This wind is the strongest wind I've ever been out in, in my entire life. It got so strong there was Brian, Deb, Carmen, Barry, Kristin, Hilde and myself sitting behind a clump of dirt to get out of the wind. The other problem was that the wind was so strong it was forcing the gravel off the road and belt into our legs and face. I had to put my leg warmers on as the gravel was hitting so hard it was painful.

We waited behind the clump of dirt from 11am to 1pm before the fire engine came back to pick us up. Hilde and Marius attempted to ride again but were stopped about 2 kms up the road. It was lifting water off the lake and blowing it straight across the road an onto the riders. This is just downright dangerous and not worth taking any risks by riding in these conditions.
 The photo above is of Kristen getting ready to head off on her birthday in ferocious winds.
 During the ride out of Torres del Paine we had to push our bikes because of the crazy winds.
The photo above gives you a better idea of how crazy it was out there riding. When you see the water being whipped off the lake high in the mountains, you know you are in a serious situation.

We arrived at the lunch stop and found about 8 other riders taking shelter in the office of the National Park Service. The next decision was who was going to take the lunch truck back to the camp and who was going to wait behind for the other truck to come back and get us. If there can be one good thing to come out of all this, the National Park office had heaters, and WiFi to keep us company.

Barry, Carmen, Leyte, Brigit, Dr, and myself stayed behind and waited till 6.30 pm for Roberto to come back. We made it to camp at 8.30am very tired. The wind is still force 10, my tent is up, I'm too tired to have a shower, and I only rode/walked 23 kms so I don't care.

Tomorrow is a long day and I hope the winds are favourable. We're staying in a bush camp so that could mean anything.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Sunday 7th December 2014. Stage 102. Puerto Natales to Bush camp Villa Tehuelches. 148 kms, paved 100%, climbing 1124 metres, summit 345 metres. 2nd last day on tour and 8th victory comes my way in gale force winds.

After arriving in camp so late and getting to sleep close to midnight I wasn't really in the mood for a race. We rolled out of camp at 9am on the dot and commenced a long gradual climb out of Puerto Natales. By the time we reached the top of the climb there was only Alfred, James, Reinhardt and myself left at the front of the riders.

The tail wind was already force 10 gale and we were now screaming along and couldn't see anyone behind us for miles. I told Reinhardt that we should not get involved in the race between James and Alfred as they are about 1 hour apart at the top o f the rankings on tour. We both sat back and watched Alfred time after time make strong surges up all the climbs trying to dislodge James. No matter how hard he tried he couldn't drop him. I didn't have a problem staying with them and kept out of the fight for the majority of the day. 
During the ride the other day I manage to get a photo with JR. He's one of the great guys on tour. 

With tailwinds pushing us along at 50 kph it didn't require much effort. Actually its quite frightening how dangerous these winds can be to a 70 kg cyclist. For the ride to lunch we had a strong a tailwind and were waiting in anticipation as to what the afternoon would bring us.

The lunch truck was at the 65 km mark and we arrived there at 11am. Since James is leading the race there was no reason for him to do any work on the front of the bunch, it was up to Alfred to break James and win the stage today. We rolled into lunch and filled up our bottles, and got some fruit and hit the road again. No sooner had we hit the road and we were flying along. We were hitting speeds over 60 kph and still being forced faster and faster by the ferocious winds.

With 40 kms to go we could see a dust storm up in the distance. It was at this point the road turned south and now the wind was hitting us directly on our side. As we entered the wall of brown dust it was very very dangerous not being able to see more than 10 metres in front of you. At one stage the wind was so strong James was blown completely across the road and then a car sped by. He was so lucky not to be cleaned up. Reinhardt had the same problem trying to keep on our side of the road. Alfred was having all sorts of problems due to riding on knobbly tires which are terrible on the road. For the next 10 kms we literally rode at a 45 degree angle to the road. We had to lean over like a motor cyclist does going around a bend to keep the bike on the road and us on the right side of the road. It was a fight of skill and mind to keep upright.

After 10 kms of fighting the wind, my arms and neck were hurting, my face was covered in dust and I was in the lead with James behind, followed by Reinhardt and I couldn't see Alfred at all. I felt sorry for him as he was struggling in the wind and losing valuable time to James in the race to the end of the world.

Since I had a lead I kept pushing along until James caught up. I sat on the front and James got a good ride off me. I helped Alfred earlier on in the tour and now I thought I should do exactly the same for James. I could see Reinhardt about 200 metres behind, so I upped the pace as I wanted this to be victory for both James and myself. I pushed harder and harder sometimes dropping James, so I slowed down to make sure he was with me to the end. I know there are those who say I should not have helped him, but then I say, Joost has helped Alfred on many occasions, so I was doing exactly what has been going on from day 1.

At times we were being belted by the side winds but I kept on the front driving hard. With 10 kms to go I turned around and couldn't see Reinhardt anywhere. I wasn't going to let up and kept fighting the bike and the wind all the way until the road turned in our favour and dipped over a crest to reveal the small town of Villa Tehuelches. I can tell you it's a good feeling when you know you did a good job for a friend. We rolled into town and made it to our campsite just as the express fire engine pulled up. We arrived 10 minutes ahead of Reinhardt and about 30 minutes in front of Alfred. James was very happy with the outcome and came over and shook my hand thanking me for the work I did today.

I helped unload the truck and set up 'Tent Hilton' for the last time on this tour. Tomorrow we head to the town of Punta Arenas where we are staying in a hotel for 2 nights. As soon as I arrive tomorrow, Roberto and myself will head for the bus station so I can purchase a ticket to Ushuaia. I will not be riding the last 5 days with bike dreams but will be flying out of Ushuaia on the 13th December 2014. The cyclists will be arriving on the 14th December 2014.

I had a great day today, and tomorrow will be much of the same, strong winds and rain.

We had a secret Santa tonight where all the cyclists purchased a small gift for one of their fellow cyclists. Each person was allowed to spend no more than $10 US and had to write a short poem.

I got a great book called, Che Boludo. Basically it's Spanish for dummies. The poem goes like this;

I pedal for adventure,
I pedal for the thrill,
I've pedaled my fat arse
Up every bloody hill.
From Ecuador to Argentina,
I've seen some amazing sights,
and now my journey's nearly ended,
I've got to catch a flight.

The wind is now dying down and the temperature is hovering around a cool 1 degrees. It's time to jump in the bag and get a good night's sleep and enjoy my last cycling day with 'Bike Dreams' and all the friends I've made on this amazing tour.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Monday 8th December 2014. Stage 103. 101 kms. Bushcamp Villa Tehuelches to Punta Arenas. Paved 100%, climbing 558 metres, summit 230 metres. 9th Tour victory ends my time with Bike Dreams.

After watching episode 3, season 5 of 'The Walking Dead' I was ready to get a good night's sleep. The wind was still blowing the tent all over the place but I was too tired to worry about anything. Thank God I don't have to sleep in that bloody tent again.

Because I'm leaving the tour in Punta Arenas I had to get up a little earlier to organise my papers, passport, any money I had left in the 'fridge', tires and my carry bags. It's obvious I've got too much stuff with me and will have to ditch some before I catch the plane out of Ushuaia on the 13th December 2014. With all my gear ready and a belly full of corn flakes and a banana I was ready to roll out of town with the group and have an easy day to celebrate my last day of riding with the group.
The photo above is of myself with Michelle on my last ride day. Michelle is a young lady from Brisbane, Australia and perhaps the winner of the ladies section of the tour in 5 days time.

With the wind at our backs, and a fast smooth road a group quickly formed up ahead. I decided to tag along for the ride to see what eventuates. As soon as we hit the first hill, Lupcho attacked and went off the front of the peleton and created a gap of 20 metres. I immediately chased him and so did Diderick and Jan. We pulled away from James, Alfred and the rest of the group pretty quick, as we built up a lead of 30 seconds within 2 kms. After smashing my legs yesterday I was intending for a nice cruise to the end of my tour. Once you've raced a bike, you can never get it out of your system. 

I started doing work at the front of the group but Jan wouldn't help. I attacked again and Jan went off the back. Soon it was only Diderick, Lupcho and myself working hard to stay away from the chasing peleton. On the next climb I attacked again and Lupcho went off the back of the group and chased for a km to get back on. I then started doing small turns at the front of the bunch. Every now and then I'd have a look behind to see if the group was closing in on us or the gap was widening. After 10 kms I couldn't see anyone, it was now up to us 3 to ride to the end or drop someone else.

My legs were still burning from the 148 km ride yesterday and I didn't know whether my legs would hold up to another day of severe cross winds and high speed riding. With 10 kms to go Lupcho dropped his pump. Diderick and I kept going and that was it for Lupcho. The next time I saw him was pulling into the lunch stop.
The photo above is of Barry and myself ready to start my last day of the tour. We started together 10,000 kms ago and have had one hell of an experience. I'm indebted to him for his friendship.

Diderick and I kept sharing the workload and pushing hard all the way to the end of the stage. We pulled into the lunch stop at 60 kms with 1 hr 30 minutes on the clock. Now my legs were well and truly stuffed. Other riders started arriving a couple of minutes later to relax over a nice lunch. It was freezing cold and hanging around was not on the menu. We quickly ate and got back on the road for the final 50 km push to Punta Arenas. We all made it in one piece and found our hostel. Barry and I are staying around the corner at another hostel which is pretty nice. 

It was so nice to have a shower, put some kind of clean clothes on and head back to the other hostel for some lunch. By now all the riders were arriving and starting to go to hotels in town and off their respective hostels. Barry and I went for a ride up town and located the SUR bus ticket office. I bought a ticket for the 10th December 2014 for Ushuaia. It looks like everything is now going to plan and I should arrive at the 'end of the world' first, beating all the other cyclist who will be pedaling there. 

It's now time to clean my bike, put some good tires on the bike and throw out the ones with 10,000 kms on them.

Tomorrow will be a day of eating and catching up with the other cyclists and saying goodbye.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

From El Calafate, Argentina to Torres del Paine National Park, Chile. Time for a rest.

Tuesday 2nd December 2014. Stage 98. El Calafate to Bush camp. 30 kms short of Tapi Aike. 132 kms for the day. Paved 55%, climbing 1403 metres, summit, 1140 metres. A nice day to start the 3 ride stretch to Torres del Paine.

After a long day yesterday, it was time to get back on the bike and start the 3 day stretch to the National Park Torres del Paine. We arrived back at the campsite to meet up with all the other riders around 8.15am. Some were still having breakfast and others were talking about the glacier they visited yesterday. If you're ever in this part of the world you must go and visit the Perito Merino Glacier, you will not be disappointed.
 I took the above photo as we started the 10 km climb and slowly watched the valley disappear.

Next time I do a tour it will be on a motorcycle like above. As I've got further south I'm seeing more and more motorcyclists touring Argentina and Chile.

Now we all like to watch or participate in a bit of dancing, but the South American people love to 'Tango'. The Tango arose in the brothels, bars and port areas of Buenos Aires, where waves of Europeans poured into the country mixing various forms of music. The result, tango, came about as a fusion of disparate influences including;

  • Old Milonga-songs of the rural gauchos
  • Habanera-Cuban music.
  • Polka an Mazurka-Slavic music.
  • Contradanse-Spanish music.
  • Flamenco-from Andalucia.
  • Italian folk music.
    Now you have all the information you need to know about how the 'Tango' came into existence.
We rolled out of camp at 9am on the dot. Our route would take us back 32 kms along the road we had to battle to get to El Calafate 2 days ago. Now we would head east and have the benefit of a roaring westerly wind. I rode with Barry from start to finish and we had a great day.

As soon as we got to the outskirts of El Calafate the wind seemed to hit us hard in the back forcing us along at speeds around 40-45 kph. We didn't have to do much other than steer the handlebars in the right direction, the pedaling was pretty easy.

When we start riding each day it's always a good feeling to see all the cyclists scattered all over the road in front of us and behind. Today we would have the majority of riders in front of us. We both decided that today was going to be an easy day. After 45 kms we hit the first climb for the day. Just as we were about to climb the 10 km mountain we got to see a Guanaco standing on a small mound of dirt all on his lonesome. I did read that the male is known to be a loner and only comes in contact with the other guanacos during the mating season. How cool is that?
We started the climb and watched the valley slowly fade into the distance. We did see some very nice homesteads during the climb which obviously meant that someone in this area is rather wealthy indeed. We tapped away for just under an hour stopping often to look in amazement at this beautiful land we were riding through. Once at the top we were on the flat plains for the rest of the day.

Lunch was at 70 kms and we were sitting down eating away before midday. With sun shining down and the lunch stop well protected from the wind, we took ½ an hour to devour our rolls, fruit, biscuits and drink. This is the time of day I really enjoy, sitting down and relaxing and not busting my ass out on the road into the headwind.

Barry and I got rolling again and the wind was still favourable. We continued on and soon we were at the 94 km junction which meant it was time to hit the dirt for the rest of the day. The road wasn't that bad, but still we had to work hard on finding the best track to take. Now the wind had changed and we were riding into the face of a stiff southerly breeze. You have to ask the question, ' how the hell can the wind changed from westerly to southerly in the space of 10 minutes'?

We kept pedaling along the rocky road for the next 40 kms till we found the fire engines parked down on a nice grass area in a small valley. The last 40 kms was a landscape of lunar appearance, small thick clumps of grass and nothing else. At times it looked like the rolling hills had been hit by a lawn mower they looked so smooth and green. I'm sure my grass will look like that when I get home in 2 weeks. NOT.

Once in camp it back to the usual stuff of building a home, a quick wipe over and off for soup and bread. I went for a walk on my own up along the road to see what I could find. I ended up finding a piece of 'Andesite', a rock for Ashley, some sheep in the distance, some Rheas, and about 5 dead cows, 4 of which were floating in the creek close to the camp. Not a bad afternoon of sightseeing.
 The photo above is of Julia, one of the nice people on tour. Julia comes from Brisbane Australia.
 The above photo was taken today with the Torres del Paine 3 peaks in the distance. This is one spectacular place to ride in.
Slowly but surely we made our way around the lake and onto our campsite in the Torres del Paine National Park.

We ended up riding 30kms shorter than expected and should have reached bush camp Tapi Aike, but because we all went trekking yesterday, Rob the Boss decided that we could start at 9am instead of that terrible time of 8am and would therefore cut the day to 132 kms. The only bad thing about that is that we have to do those 30 kms first thing tomorrow. Who cares?

I'll be in 'Tent Hilton' nice and early tonight and reading another good book, 'My name is Malali'. The book is the true story of the young Afghani women who was shot in the face in 2012 on her way home from school. She was 15 years of age at the time and came from the SWAT valley. The other 2 books I've read lately which are both brilliant are; The Lone Survivor, and The Man Who Broke into Auschwitz.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day on the dirt roads of Argentina as we cross back into Chile. Not sure what tomorrow will bring other than tiredness by the time it's over.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Wednesday 3rd December 2014. Stage 99. Bush camp to Cerro Castillo, 92 kms. Paved 43%, climbing 618 metres, summit 645 metres. Back to Chile and freezing cold weather.

Sleeping in the small valley 30 kms away from Tapi Aike was pretty cool, actually it so was cool that inside my tent at 4am the temperature was 5.8 degrees C. Thankfully I was nice and warm in my duck down sleeping bag listening to the frogs in the river, the sheep in the meadow and the birds putting their 2 bobs worth of calls out to the world, otherwise I woke refreshed and ready for another day of riding.

With an 8 am departure it was back up to the road and start heading south for 35 kms of rocky roads. The scenery of vast valleys and rolling green hills, and one lonesome Condor flying overhead was just like a 'National Geographic' moment. I had seen a couple of Condors flying overhead when we were walking on the ice in Perito Merino the other day, but today was the first time I got to see one so close. The wing span on these birds is close to 3 metres and they have these fingers at the end of their wings which make them stand out from the rest of the bird life in this part of South America.

When we got to the town of Tapi Aike all we found was a closed service station, a closed shop and 2 sheep eating grass at the front of the school. I think this place must open up when summer gets a little closer. What we did notice this morning was the temperature. Although it was cold in the tent last night, whilst eating breakfast the temperature rose to 7 degrees and we hit the road at 8 degrees. For the majority of the day the temperature sat between 8 and 14 degrees C.

Everywhere you looked, all you could see were those beautiful green pastures and once again snow capped mountains far away in the distance. The Patagonian winds were still quiet early in the day and only started to awake around 11 am. Once at the deserted petrol station it was back onto the pavement for the run into the lunch truck at the 65 km mark. I rode with Barry and JR (who I've given the title of my own photographer for the rest of trip), stopping to take photos and just enjoying the limited time I have remaining on this holiday.

Now people say to me, 'how can you call what you do each day a holiday'? Simple, I love cycling, I love an extreme challenge, I don't have to carry my bags, someone cooks for me and cleans up after I make a mess, I'm told where I can put 'Tent Hilton' up, shown where I can go to the toilet, I can wear the same dirty smelly clothes each day, and I can go as fast or as slow as I like all day everyday, and I don't have to work, so I must be on holidays. Yes, it's tough both physically and mentally, but anyone can do this if they want to, it's just how bad do you want to experience one of the greatest cycle journeys on earth? If you're answer is 'Yes', then this tour is for you. Remember it's one of the toughest holiday's you will ever endure over 4 ½ months of your life.

The above photo was taken from the campsite inside the National Park today.

We rolled down to the lunch truck which was set up near a nice wind break. Walter had the fire going and was toasting bread and some food left over from last evening's meal. I had my bread roll with salad and that was enough for me. I found that lately I've been eating less for lunch and dinner. I think my body doesn't require as much food now as it's use to the enormous load I'm putting on it each day.

It wasn't until we stopped for lunch that we realised how cold it really was. I had every bit of cold weather gear on and still I was freezing. All the other riders also complained on how cold it was. Although we've ridden in colder weather I think the westerly winds coming off the snow capped mountains were causing all the damage. We didn't hang around too lunch at lunch as we had to cross into Chile today and sometimes these border crossings can be a pain in the ass.

About 20 kms after lunch we made a right hand turn and got back onto the dirt again. A short 8 km ride got us to the Argentinian border control. Just as Barry and I pulled up, a bus load of German tourists walked into immigration before us. About 30 tourists had to be processed whilst we were waiting outside in the cold. Eventually we got to the counter to be told to fill out a form. So out we went again and completed the form and returned for the stamp that allowed us to continue on.

The dirt road was pretty good all the way to the 90 km mark and the Chilean border post. There is absolutely nothing between these borders posts that resemble civilisation. A couple of cows, the odd Guanaco running around and that's it. We were told we had to get rid of any fruit we may be carrying before entering Chile, so whilst completing the forms I devoured my banana and ate the 1 remaining fruit bar. The Chilean border control was straight forward and within 5 minutes we were back on the pavement and heading the 2 kms down to the campsite. Our campsite is situated in the backyard of a family home. They have kindly allowed us to set up home and use some of their facilities for the evening.

After cleaning up I went for a walk with Carmen, Julia, Brian and Deb up to the cafe near the border post. They had a lot of souvenir shirts, mugs, caps and maps for sale but so expensive. They wanted $25 AUS for a T-Shirt. There was no way I was going to pay that much for a T-shirt. We all had a drink at the cafe and spent the rest of the afternoon doing very little.

By the time we got back to our campsite it was time for dinner. After dinner I heard some men calling out from behind our property. It was a group of men training their horses how to work with cattle. Since Julia is a keen horse rider we went over and watched for while. It was quite amazing to see how one horse would put it's chest into the side of the cow and steer it around whilst the other horse would push the cow along. It's the first time I've ever seen a horse go so fast sideways.

Today has been a really good day, even considering how cold it was.

Tomorrow we head to Torres Del Paine National Park, and the following day is a rest day. I've decided to change my mind and go on the 5 hour walk to see what has been described by Rob the Boss as the best National Park in Chile. As if I need anymore exercise on a rest day.

Once again, it's time to go to sleep and get ready for more riding on the dirt.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.

Thursday 4th December 2014. Stage 100. Cerro Castillo to National Park Torres del Paine. 64 kms, paved 27%, climbing 857 metres, summit 391 metres. A great ride to our next rest day.

Today was a great day, I got to sleep in till 8am for the 9am departure. I stayed up really late last night to watch episode 1, season 5, 'the walking dead'. Now that's a top show. I ended up crashing at 10 pm, and still managed to be woken by all the noise around the campsite at 7.15am. Plenty of time to pull down 'Tent Hilton' and get my act together.

We rolled out of camp at 9 am for the 20 km ride on nice pavement over rolling green valleys till we came to the junction where the dirt began. At this junction we made a left hand turn and headed to the famous Torres del Paine National Park. But first we had to stop and watch the local Gauchos rounding up the cattle in the nearby field. I always love to watch these guys working their horses around the cattle. It was onto the dirt road for a jaw jarring 40 kms till lunch and the entrance to the National Park.

Today the scenery is just as magnificent as every other day on the tour. The morning started with very little breeze and nice clear blue sky. I did get to see another Condor close by, and watched as it appeared to hover overhead waiting for it's next victim.

We rode around the famous Lake Nordenskjold, which gave a great shadow of the '3 Torres' peaks towering before us. This was one of those moments where you get off your bike and take some photos and try and take in the grandeur of this region.

We pulled into lunch and this time we were the attraction. There were heaps of tourist buses coming and going at the entrance point to the park and many of the tourists wanted to get their photos taken with us. I thought they must have known me. Obviously not.

With the clouds now setting in, the top of the 3 peaks disappeared. It was time to get back on the bike for the final 8 km push to our campsite beneath the peaks. It was a comfortable ride today and we only got a couple of drops of rain. Our campsite is perfect and we have all the amenities we need.

Tonight Gurdy our chef will prepare dinner and tomorrow we have to look after ourselves. I've booked breakfast for 9.30am which seems more realistic and sensible. It's then off for a 5 hour walk to see the '3 Torres' up close and personal. That is what I'm doing on my rest day.

The time is now racing away and I have 3 more days of riding left. My last day of riding will be the ride into Punta Arenas, but first I'm going for a long walk.

Until tomorrow, safe riding.