Thursday, April 7, 2011

South American Facts and Figures

Before I set off across Canada, I thought there might be some people out there who would like to know some of the stats from South America. I’m certainly curious myself, having never yet got around to sitting down and doing the sums, so now seems as good a time as any. It’s going to be a bit listy, but I’m sure you’ll be able to manage. To add a bit of comic relief - or perhaps, preferably, some awe and wonder - the photo is of my biggest 'offsie'. Rich is standing where I began to lose control of the bike, and the bike is where it finished cart-wheeling. Cool, huh? (Mother, close your eyes!) So, here goes with some Crazy Roads accounting:

Total distance covered

30,810 km or 19,145 miles

Greatest distance covered in a day (best guess)

660 km or 410 miles (Foz do Iguaçu – Curitiba, Brazil)

Shortest distance covered in a day by choice

158 km or 98 miles (Azul to General la Madrid, Argentina)

(Actual) Longest day in the saddle for the shortest distance traveled:

105 km or 65 miles (Mendoza to Uspallata, Argentina) over 10 hours, in the snow and sunshine.

(Perceived) Longest day in the saddle for shortest distance traveled:

137km (Huanuco – La Union, Peru) over 6 1/2 hours, in the rain and mud.

Top speed (by me)

140km/h (Route 26 between Villa Unión and Villa San Agustin de Vallé Fertil, Argentina – throttle fully open, level ground, straight road, no wind)

Highest altitude ridden (by me – Rich went higher when his girlfriend came to visit in March)

4748m Paso de San Francisco, between Argentina and Chile)

Largest number of ‘offsies’ in a day

Impossible to count, but certainly over 30 (Mendoza to Uspallata, Argentina)

Total number of ‘offsies’ for the trip

You’re kidding, right? How the hell can I remember that? Well over 100, and thankfully ever fewer towards the end of the trip. I think Rich came off about 5 times in total. Git.

Most destructive ‘offsie”

The 60km/h cartwheel I did between Viedma and San Antonio Oeste (photo)

Total number of days on the road


Different places stayed at night en route


Number of nights camped out

27 (24 different locations)

Most nights stayed in one place

Cusco, Peru (2 months - volunteering)

Least nights stayed in one place

Rafael, Argentina (3 hours)

Number of windscreens broken

2 (3 if you count breaking the repaired one a second time)

Number of times handle bars bent and replaced

3 times bent, 1 time straightened and finally 1 replacement

Number of panniers damaged

2 – both the left and right were held on to the racks by straps by about the 5th week. They remained 100% waterproof throughout, however. I was impressed!

Number of times of chain/sprockets replaced


Number of times tyres replaced


Number of punctures


Number of breakdowns

1 (in Punta Arenas, Chile)

Number of Injuries

Not many. Coupla cuts and bruises, mostly my own fault!

Number of times food poisoned

2 (Fiambalá, Argentina; Lake Titikaka, Bolivia)

Run ins with the cops/customs


Number of tantrums

Too many, all ‘offsie’ or stress related

Approximate cost of whole trip, including shipping and flights


Number of unforgettable memories


There were times during the trip when all I wanted to do was go home. By the end, however, I was left with the certain knowledge that I want to do another motorbike trip some time. “So why not take a bike across Canada, instead of a car?” I hear you ask.

Well, during my time in Cusco and the Bolivian jungle, I was suffering some fairly severe back and sciatic leg pain. I got some treatment in Cusco and, by the time I got back to the UK in May, it seemed to have calmed down. About 3 months after returning to NZ, however, in October 2009 (and probably as a result of visiting chiropractors and massage therapists to ease the pain and tension I was again feeling) the locked muscles that had been doing their best to protect my lower back, were released sufficiently so that I burst a disc in my spine (the L5S1 in the lower back, for those with experience of these things) which inpinged on the sciatic nerve in my right leg. I have never felt pain like it, and suffered a week with only about 6 hours sleep before I was given a cortisone injection to kill the pain. I was off work for 5 ½ months, and have since been advised that long days of riding would be a bad idea at this stage in my recovery. The fact that my baby bro suffered a similar (but surely less severe ;-p) injury to mine several years ago, and is now planning a big bike trip of his own, suggests I just need to be patient and keep doing my exercises, and one day I will be up to another bike trip. That will be the time that I look at riding from Anchorage to Cusco, or some such. Until then, it will be 4 wheels on my wagon, and I’ll keep rolling along. And that's it for today. Thanks for tuning in, and see you next time &:-)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Once more unto the breach, dear friends...


Well, I'm back after a somewhat extended hiatus. It's as though we've been at a work Christmas party and conversation dried up. We've been standing in awkward silence, swirling our drinks, looking at our shoes and rocking on our heels, desperately trying to think of something interesting to say or, better yet, an excuse to go and talk to someone else ("How about those Hurricanes / Maple Leafs / Harlequins (insert sporting team of choice here)?").

Luckily for you (you be the judge), I have come up with a new topic on which to wax lyrical: I am poised to embark upon an epic road trip across North America. OK, I agree, its not quite as interesting as South America - unwittingly, I set the bar rather high on that one. Very little I ever do again will compare to that, unless I am able to return to finish what I started (Mexico to Peru anyone? Now there's a thought!) but, for now, I have engineered a spare 3 months this year, and this is what I have decided to do.

For those out there who have been outside the cirlce of trust (its your own fault, the door has always been open to you) I was originally gearing up to use May - August as a precursor to working with the Toronto Fire Department for a year on the International Firefighter Exchange Program. I'd calculated that, with a little careful planning, I could spend the summer tripping around out west and then concentrate on the rest of the year out east. Unfortunately, my planning was a little sharper than my exchange partners, and while I was ready to sign contracts in November last year, he wasn't, and by the time he was, there was no longer time to organise the requisite visas without seriously altering my own plans, so the year of work was moved to the back burner. Disappointing, but when life gives you lemons, you say "Bugger the lemonade, I'm going to make a lovely big lemon meringue pie. Now, do I have any eggs?"

So, there it is. Arrival date in TO: 6th May. First order of business: secure a vehicle - at this stage I have been looking at either something my father would be proud of, or alternatively something fun...but ridiculously impractical and asking for trouble. I suspect the Volvo station wagon will prevail. As soon as I have it in my sweaty hands, I will change the front page photo. Thereafter, I will spend a fortnight or so catching up with a few friends around the area before heading west.

I have only a vague idea of what route I will take at this stage, but basically it will involve getting to Vancouver, exploring some of British Columbia and returning via the US of A through the northern states. I'll be aiming to get back to TO by 1st July, where I will collect a travel companion for a month or so of exploring Quebec, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, and getting to North Bay, Ontario for a canoe trip in the first week of August. After that, I should just have time to chill out and do some more local exploring before finally hitting TO and flying back to NZ on August 18th. All these plans have been made, needless to say, with only a minimal understanding of just how large an area I am crossing, so it could turn out to be an altogether different trip. I have already re-jigged it once and dropped Alaska from the itinerary - it'll keep! Watch this space. If it all goes to plan, I will have driven across both Canada and the USA, and will feel very special.

I will begin up dating the blog again once I get underway, which is actually around April 21st, when I head back to the UK for a flying visit. I will be checking up on my niece (at 9 months old, I will be expecting an intelligent conversation from her about the situation in Libya...or at least some pretty solid raspberries), and bidding farewell to my little brother who is about to undertake one of the biggest sibling rivalry one-uppings in history, as he sets off on a motorbike trip of his own, from London to Beijing in a group, then on to Anchorage and down around South America (and maybe Africa after that) on his own. I am, needless to say, rather jealous (particularly about the second part of his trip) and very proud of him. I don't take any credit for inspring him, he was talking about big bike trips way before I even considered my own adventure. I have added a link to his own, far more professional-looking blog for those that are interested, and will be following it closely myself. I just wonder how professional he will be able to keep it when he realises his secretary is not there to do it all for him ;-p It is somewhat galling to find his writing style is very nearly as good as mine.

I have left the charity links in place for the same reasons as before, really: I wish there was some way of earning the amazing experiences I am anticipating on this trip. Maybe this is one way. If you feel inclined at any stage to make a donation on my behalf, as gesture of appreciaton for the blog updates or whyever, that would be fantastic. Helen House is such an incredible set up, and having spent a considerable amount of time working with Bruce Peru, I cannot say enough good things about it, nor stress how much they need help to stay afloat. Do what you can, and thank you.

As for the new look of the blog...well, it has a vaguely Canadian feel (Autumnal , slightly Maple leafish, the best I could do without a secretary or an Applemac). I quite like it. Oh, and I'd like to say thank you at this point to all the people who were kind enough to tell me that they enjoyed reading about my South American trip. Its nice to know I wasn't wasting my time. For those that are interested, since I got back I have been trying to write it all up into a kind of travel book. It is a very slow process and so far has consisted of committing to paper (OK, hard drive) as much detail as I can remember. I have only got as far as Rio, and its been two years. One day it may even be in a state worthy of being read, at which point you will all be welcome to take a look. Now, run along and tell your friends that Steve's blog is open for business again. TTFN.