I have joined a mad Irishman on a cycling trip around the world.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Week One

This is a blog about my trip around the world on a bicycle. I say my trip, I´ve decided to follow someone on his trip around the world on his bicycle. The bike I´m riding even belongs to him. He is an Irish fellow, Julian, I met in a night club in Bolivia. His trip began in Ireland about two years ago. He cycled out of his front door, across Europe, down the west of Africa and has most of South America. I am joining him about half way through his trip. Having done no training, never ridden a loaded bike, and never done anything like this before, I met Julian in the airport in Madrid and we flew to Colombia where his bike had been resting.

Day one was the hardest day ever. We left Julian´s friend Seamus who we´d been staying with in Medellin (Med-gee-an) for the last week, taking it easy and eating lots in preparation, on Sunday morning. Every Sunday there the main road through the city is closed for a Ciclovia where all the cyclists in the valley come out to play. The first forty kilometres of the trip were easy and fun, the road was slightly downhill, there were no killer vehicles, just friendly fellow cyclists. Forty k, done, easy! It was only lunchtime.


Fruity
After lunch we started up a rather imposing looking mountain. We were in the tail end of the Andes, a tricky place to start. It was a lot harder than the morning´s ride. It took me four hours to ride 14km up hill. Continuously uphill. Not even a little bit downhill. After about three hours the sun started to fade and we decided we would try to find somewhere to stay before reaching the pass. The first person said no, the next person said no. There was nowhere. We had to keep going. It got dark. I was shattered. There were many many trucks. Mostly friendly trucks, honking their horns to say hello, but trucks driving on the wrong side of the road in the dark honking their horns nonetheless. We made it to the top, ate a bowl of tripe and other inards and I went to bed.

Day two was THE hardest day ever. I managed 30km before going to bed at 4pm, up for dinner, back to bed.

I don´t want to talk about day three. Feeling pretty rough (me not Julian), and not being able to get food down, I scrambled through the morning. The afternoon was 20km downhill and a couple of glasses of Coke which perked me up. Fifty k done! Much better than yesterday. We were heading for Yarumal, the last town at the bottom of the last mountain of the Andes. Only it wasn´t. It was half-way up the adjectival mountain. Knackered and reeling, I steeled myself and pedalled slowly on, grinding away. Looking up, I did have a tear in my eye, seeing we weren´t half way there. But we did get there. We sat on the steepest plaza I have ever seen and chatted with some young ragamuffins.

Thankfully things have got a little easier and I am able to enjoy things more. There is so much to see on the road, cows with giant ears, mad dogs best avoided, giant iguanas legging it away from the trucks. In one day I saw a dead cow, dead dog, three dead buzzards and a dead snake. And the kids are very sweet and not at all shy.


We are out of the Andes now, cycling by the river Cauca, the 111th longest in the world, roads are flatter, although wetter. We are heading to Cartegena where we will catch a sailing boat to Panama. Incidentally it is the wettest month of the year in Cartegena, almost twice as wet as any other month with between 80-90% humidity. It is going to be sweaty.


Julian´s idea of 8km down hill

Pedalled: 308km