Invisible Volcans, The Curse of The Cobbles and the Opposite of Nude.

By Emma

My face feels like this

I think I am having a break-down. I keep hearing myself thinking ‘I don’t think I can do this.’ And by ‘this’, I am talking about finishing the journey. That’s pretty negative isn’t it! How can one possibly expect to achieve anything at all with such deleteriousness!

But it’s true and I am ashamed to admit it even to myself.

All of my thought processes begin with ‘its so hard’ and then trail off into a list of things I am missing, and missing out on, at home. For instance, my best mate is having a baby and not only have I missed her entire pregnancy, but I wont be there to visit her in hospital or cry with her over the joy of her new-born.

There is a rather huge list.

And crying is something that is happening a lot too. In the past, I have shed tears of joy, jubilation and wonder. But recently, the tears are because ‘its so hard’ and ‘I am so tired’. I try to reason with myself knowing that somehow I actually can do it.

And I do know that I can, but I just don’t know how. Hmm….it’s a tough one. Chalk it up to a bad day? Yep, I guess there’s nothing much more to do than that. And let the tears fall I suppose, although I prefer to retain my salts with all this hill climbing. I need them.

Chocolate. The answer must lie in chocolate. Excuse me while I scarf 200grams.

We realized that we are 2/3 of the way through our journey. Or perhaps I should at this point in my break-down be thinking, there is only 1/3 left.

With an awesome crew of cyclists at the Casa de Ciclista, Tumbaco

With an awesome crew of cyclists at the Casa de Ciclista, Tumbaco, Ecuador

Having cycled 14,500km over 14months, there is roughly 7000km left to ride to Santiago. And we reckon that’s about 7 months. Still, it seems impossibly tough to me. We have met 5 cyclists in the last week that have all been riding north. They have shared their tales of the roads we are yet to encounter and I have to say, I didn’t hear any of the good bits. I am sure there were some, but all I heard and retained is images of us pushing Falkor through mud, sand and up cobblestoned roads for days and for 1000’s of metres. And I don’t have to do much imagining as we have already spent the last 4 days doing a fair bit of exactly that. Sigh. I seem to be sighing a lot too.

Baking up a storm at the Casa with Aussie cyclist 'Dallas the legend'.

Baking up a storm at the Casa with Aussie cyclist ‘Dallas the legend’

The last blog was written from the Casa de Ciclista in Tumbuco, just outside of Quito. We spent 4 days there doing the routine cleaning of everything and bike maintenance while baking lots of goodies in their oven. Stopping is a huge relief, even when you are still camping. To know that there is a toilet with a door that closes (even if you have to flush it with a bucket), to have access to clean running water, to be able to use a kitchen let alone an oven!, to have a place to hang out your washing, to be able to use wifi & to not have to wake up and immediately commence packing all your stuff up every day; these are all things we consider luxuries.

Camping blissfully sheltered from the elements at the Casa

The gorgeous estate of the Casa

The gorgeous estate of the Casa

Falkor gets a wash at the Casa

Falkor gets a wash at the Casa

But since we left the casa on 11th September, it’s just been tough. Tough going on the good roads, tough going on the bad roads. The close calls seem to be getting closer and the rough roads are becoming ridiculous. We took a 2-day detour off the PanAmerican Hwy though the Cotapaxi National Park as we believed the sight of the volcano would lift our spirits. We had a good description of the road from several cyclists and thought we knew what to expect. But thinking that you know how hard it will be and actually then pushing the 100kg of Falkor and our gear up cobblestones and through sand, are not the same thing.

Committing to the secondary road meant pushing Falkor up a steep incline at 3000m through sand and rocks for 1km

Committing to the secondary road meant pushing Falkor up a steep incline at 3000m through sand and rocks for 1km

Don't be fooled, these cobblestones are anything but a smooth ride

Don’t be fooled, these cobblestones are anything but a smooth ride, at the Northern entrance to Cotopaxi NP

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‘This is too hard and I’m not having fun’ were the headlines of my thoughts for 4 hours as we travelled 15km (I cant say ‘rode’ as we pushed a lot of it) with 2 punctures. And as if to test our resolve, the weather was total bollocks and we only got brief glimpses of the volcan Cotapaxi, which we believe is spectacular. So that was an excellently exhausting 2 day detour with little of the expected rewards. Hmph and double hmph.

Waking up to a flat tyre

Less than 2km up the road and she’s flat again

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It’s a beautiful route, but very slow & bumpy going

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A distant glimpse of the Volcano Cotapaxi the day before we enter the park

Rough roads but gorgeous views….not of the volcano though

You can almost see it, maybe the clouds will clear….

Waiting for the clouds to clear over the volcano

Waiting for the clouds to clear over the volcano

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The weather starts to come in as we encounter another tricky section of road

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F F F Freeeezing we have to stop around 3pm in order to get in our sleeping bags and get warm for the night. Only 15km but we are knackered.

F F F Freeeezing we have to stop around 3pm in order to get in our sleeping bags and get warm for the night. Only 15km but we are knackered.

At sunset we catch a glimpse of Volcano Cotopaxi

At sunset we catch a glimpse of Volcano Cotopaxi

Waking up at 6am determined to see her full glory, we catch more clouds but a pretty view of the volcano

Waking up at 6am determined to see her full glory, we catch more clouds but a pretty view of the volcano

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Check out the sand under the front wheel. This was our journey out of the national park

Check out the sand under the front wheel. This was our journey out of the national park

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And just for fun, the front tyre blows a side-wall. This $8 gem got us around 3000km from Costa Rica. Lets see if the flash new Schwalbe will last longer

And just for fun, the front tyre blows a side-wall. This $8 gem got us around 3000km from Costa Rica. Lets see if the flash new Schwalbe will last longer

The change in climate has been a real shock to our systems too. Don’t get me wrong, I love cold weather. As a Melbourne girl, I am all about layers and as a cyclist, cooler weather makes for perfect riding conditions. Central America was way too hot and most of the time it consumed us. Humid weather makes it impossible to sleep in the tent and the bugs are a nightmare. So cold nights have been a welcome change and finally, we can put to use all of the cold weather gear we have been carting around with us. And I mean ALL of it. What is the opposite of nude you ask? Well, it is wearing absolutely every piece of clothing that you have of course! ALL of it. So stuffed into our sleeping bags are we that we can barely move. Just a nose and a mouth showing to prove we are people and not sausages. But cold wet weather? Icy gale-force winds? Not so much fun for camping. Cooking dinner in an arctic flurry after a hellish day pushing the bike through impossible conditions, not that much fun. And having to get up and pee in the middle of the night? Lets just say my dreams of weeing in public are alarming.

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VERY cold in the tent. The camera lens fogged up it was so cold. We can barely move inside our sleeping bags wearing ALL of our clothes to stay warm.

Now onto crazy South American dogs. We were warned that the dogs get even gnarlier as you go south, but as we had encountered some pretty angry dogs throughout Central America, we thought we had it covered. Nope. The word for fierce in Spanish is ‘bravo’ and it turns out, the dogs down here are somehow more bravo than ever before.

We have met several cyclists that sport huge tears in their panniers from trying to outrun the bravo’s and I shudder to think what they would do to a leg. And as if to thwart our already incredibly slow pace, we now have pockets full of stones.

Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love dogs. I couldn’t imagine ever throwing anything but a stick for a dog. Until now. The first few times, I did the fake throw, which sometimes works. But there are some crafty bravo dogs out here that can see in your eyes if you are really gonna throw the stone. Luckily for me, they can’t see in my eyes how crap my aim is, and the times when the stone has actually left my hand has been enough to deter them from advancing. I can only hope that continues.

We have refined our technique now so that we brave a complete stop for the packs of angry dogs that chase us, which can be every few 100meters off the PanAmerican Hwy, and show them our full pockets. I jump off the bike and pull a full ‘don’t make me do it’ stance. If I spot them on the horizon, I do a Clint Eastwood stare from the front of Falkor while casually tossing a rock up and down and catching it (like I say, it’s a refined technique) and sometimes, that alone is enough to make them scamper. I am scared to know that they get worse in Peru. Lets just hope that either my scary stare or my aim gets better.

 

And Peru! Have you even looked at a map of South America? Of course I have many times, but now that I am just 2 weeks from her border, I realize how freaking huge that country is! I mean, it’s gonna take us 3 months to get through Peru! Three Whole Months! And of all of the worst fears I have harboured for this journey, Peru holds the healthy majority.

Oh man. I think we are gonna need a lot more chocolate.

 

Be careful when you are honest with yourself. You might just find out exactly what you are afraid of.

Sometimes, its hard to see how beautiful a apace is when all you can think of is 'how the hell are we gonna ride out of here?'

Sometimes, its hard to see how beautiful a apace is when all you can think of is ‘how the hell are we gonna ride out of here?’

 

Sometimes I write the blog when we get connected to wifi, and sometime I write it in advance when the moment takes me. I wrote this blog from our very cold tent on 12th September.

Since leaving the Casa de Ciclista in Tumbaco on 9th September, we have ridden 6 days & travelled approx 264km in some of the most challenging conditions we have faced.

Some days for the sake of ones sanity, you need to get out of the tent and into a hotel.

 

Today we woke up at elevation 4,194m with the garmin reading 8degrees inside our hotel room.

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Our ‘hotel’ in Le Arenal

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Our room. Yup, 3 beds & we have stuff on all of them

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Within an hour, we had climbed to 4,410m and the garmin read 10degrees. It does not measure wind chill factor, which was around 0degrees and blowing so strongly that we were shivering as we rode.

Highest Elevation - 4410m

If you are having trouble imaging that elevation, the top of Mt Fuji is at 3786m. Now imagine riding a 100kg bike (with the added weight of 2 people) at more than 600 vertical metres above the top of Mt Fuji for an hour in gale-force winds. And there were no noodle shacks to stop at along the way.

 

Two days after writing this blog, I would also like to point out that thinking ‘I don’t know if I can do it’ is entirely different from thinking ‘I can’t do this’. Desperation and exhaustion is one thing. Giving up is something else altogether.

We are now in Riobamba taking 2 days off, sleeping in a warm hotel. And tomorrow, I shall not be packing my bags.

 

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO;

Every blog really should end in a ‘special thanks’ section, but I am starting now. Part of working through my break-down involves distracting myself by thinking of all the lovely things that I have and am able to be thankful for. Lots of random bits pop into my mind as we ride so here’s a list, in no particular order, of things I am thankful for;

My mum – for teaching me to look away when things are too scary (like dead dogs or people on the road).

My dad – for always calling me possum and for being as gorgeous in real life as he is in my mind

My girlfriends – for having the best silly voices that swim through my head when I least expect them & make me laugh

My sisters – for making me listen to all their vinyl ensuring that I know the words to every ABBA song and all the best hits of the 80’s.

My Aunty & cousins – for skype and email and treating me as if I am just around the corner.

The Tozers – for bringing us so many special supplies that we are eternally grateful for, including rescue remedy, my thermal leggings, our stove repair kit and mozzie coils.

Anne Nolan – for her unreal motivational emails.

HoorRag – for always saving my face from all of the crazy the elements.

Tom & Pal Thurman – for my awesome waterproof trousers. They are getting a bloody good work out and make me sing David Bowie songs.

Andrew M – for the supply of musk lollies. Pink lollies make everything better.

Ambie – for thinking of me and finding ways to include me in events I am not physically present for and for giving me THE best mantras that I recite hourly.

Sanrio – for making Hello Kitty bandaids.

Leanne – for incredible videos of a dancing tummy.

Kirst Van – for magical bracelets that sound like fairies.

My brother Michael – cos he is just so ace and thinking about him makes me smile, even when I am very sad.

The Brophys – for the hilarious memories that pop out of nowhere

The BlackBoard from Mr Squiggle – for making grumpy funny. Double hmph indeed!

SealSkinz – for our waterproof gloves and socks. We had our doubts about those socks but now we are believers.

Mr Tickles my friendly koala – for always smiling despite the fact I stuff him inside my sleeping bag everyday

Emma Leigh – for sharing snippets of her life in beautiful photos and being in the lyrics of every Beatles song.

My Disco Inferno Family – for sparkly outfits, platform shoes and afro tumbleweeds. They all play an important part of getting up those hills.

Tokyo Gospel – for Tuesday nights and heart-felt clapping

The Casa de Ciclistas and all of our warmshowers & couch surfing hosts – for taking us in unconditionally and pretending that we don’t smell. You’ll never know how much you save us.

World Bicycle Relief – for helping us to make a difference

All our followers on facebook & the blog – there are some who amaze us by commenting on every blog & post (Felicity, Tomoko, Andrew M), but even those who don’t, we know you are out there riding with us and it makes us feel stronger.

Brendo – cos without him, my dreams would be very selfish and my legs quite flabby.

 

More pics from the road;

 

A flat tyre within 15km of leaving the Casa. This lil guy helped us laugh it off

A flat tyre within 15km of leaving the Casa. This lil guy helped us laugh it off

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Check out our new Aussie flag HooRags! STOKED to get this package in Ecuador.

Check out our new Aussie flag HooRags! STOKED to get this package in Ecuador.

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The gorgeous town of Latacunga

The gorgeous town of Latacunga

Our hosts in Latacunga Javier & Rosa

Our hosts in Latacunga Javier & Rosa

Brendo, ready for the cold rain we have to start the day

Brendo, ready for the cold rain we have to start the day

And another flat tyre

And another flat tyre

Riding through a canyon

Riding through a canyon

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Can you see any ninjas?

Can you see any ninjas?

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Its been uphill all day riding out of the canyon in the cold. And then we see this road in the distance. Our hearts sink

After 30km of riding solely uphill,we treated ourselves to a dip in these thermal baths

After 30km of riding solely uphill,we treated ourselves to a dip in these thermal baths

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Another cheeky hiding Volcano - this one Chimborazo. Starting from over 4000m, with a height of over 6000m, it is apparently the highest mountain with the highest starting elevation in the world

Another cheeky hiding Volcano – this one Chimborazo. Starting at an elevation over 4000m, with a total height of over 6000m, it is apparently the highest mountain with the highest starting elevation in the world

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In Le Arenal

In Le Arenal

Our new mate Sammy from  our hotel in Le Arenal. He took us for a quick drive to see the incredible volcanic rock formations

Our new mate Sammy from our hotel in Le Arenal. He took us for a quick drive to see the incredible volcanic rock formations

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Volcan Chimborazo at 6am this morning

Volcan Chimborazo at 6am this morning

 

Llamas entertained us as we climbed to our greatest height

Wild llamas entertained us as we climbed to our greatest height. We know they have warm feet. We have their socks.

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So. Very. Cold.

So. Very. Cold.

Because even when you are cold, opportunities like this are too good to pass up.

Because even when you are cold, opportunities like this are too good to pass up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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13 responses to “Invisible Volcans, The Curse of The Cobbles and the Opposite of Nude.

  1. Two-thirds of the way through anything is always the most difficult point…on a one day ride or a two year epic journey. In no time you will be on the homeward stretch and it will be done and dusted all too soon. Keep your chins up and keep peddling…there are a lot of people back home rooting for you!!

  2. Love your guts, miss your faces and boast about you both to everyone I speak to! Our Skype sessions keep me going…now chin up and eat more chocolate…
    OOOh and I found the fake market here….handbags are a waiting when you return 🙂
    xxxx

  3. Love your guts, miss your faces and boast about you both to everyone I speak to! Our Skype sessions keep me going…now chin up and eat more chocolate…
    OOOh and I found the fake market here….handbags are a waiting when you return 🙂
    xxxx

  4. Keep it up guys. What you are doing inspires people you will never meet at never know, but your story and journey is told many times over by many different people. The pain is temporary and will pass – what you are doing will live on for much longer. A saying that might help get you through – Shut up legs!! Pro cyclist Yens Voigt takes the credit for that one!

    I thought of you guys yesterday while doing a half ironman and it got tough. You guys helped get me across the line yesterday so thanks.

    Keep going and you are always in our thoughts

    Love you guys

    Sean, Sam and the kids

  5. Enrico and I are super impressed. You dont need to know how you will do something, only that you can do something. They way will show you the way. Keep going!
    Love from us on Micamale X

  6. Hey Wild Cyclists !
    You’re beautiful and I can’t imagine how fun it would be to ride with you again. Suerte amigos

    Fred & Ophélie – your french buddies

    • Yay! Frenchies! Hola amigos! Hope all is well in French town. You should TotallyComeBack and ride with us again! Remember how much you loved the mountains in Peru! Surely you want to do it again no? Sending you both much love. Sent you some photos ages ago, did you get them?

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