Gary’s unedited blog
Sat 13th July
First day with out my life partner, lover, best friend.
Ginette is going ahead to Bolivia by bus so she can do a Spanish language course. I saw off off last night on a shabby bus, she has to spend god knows how many hours/days on this thing but it doesn’t look like it’s going to be much fun
When we saw the type of bus she had booked she could have elected to still come with me by bike, but she had her heart set on this language course so she bit the bullet. It was sad leaving her with tears in her eyes and asking me to stay safe.
This morning my ride out of the city was the usual city mayhem, a distraction for me was stopping at the Ferrateria hard ware stores in search of cooking gas, After lots of stops I found a camping/ gun shop and purchased two bottles.
The ride for the first 25 miles was just a hard slog, after that I had a few miles of bad hard shoulder and sand to navigate. But after about 30 miles the road and habitation changed. I now have a long flat straight road route 9 with no hard shoulder but the traffic is so light I am able to cruise along the road.
For the last 30 miles there have been no towns, shops, shacks, fuel stations. The only glimpse of life are occasional ranches off to each side and the odd tent village.
The area does have ranches with cattle and horses but the land is not farmed so the fields are full of trees. I have had lots of bird encounters and spotted a few Dead snakes and foxes. It feels like I am cycling off into a real wilderness
Shopping this morning I didn’t buy the extra water as I planned to but it on route cold, mistake. I do have water filters so could use the odd cattle lakes and streams but gaining access to these means climbing over private fences and probably getting wet feet in the shallows however I did manage to pass a ranch close to the road with a farmer in sight, so he was kind enough to fill my bottles up.
At one break in a lay-by making a cheese-and onion roll a tanker driver had also pulled over, before he set of he gave me some crackers, local round breads and a can of corned beef.
I have stopped at a fuel station and shop, the first in 30 miles. Tent is up and dinner was rice and veggies plus beers from the shop. As soon as I started cooking I was swarmed by mozzies, I had to put my waterproof coat on for protection and eat in the tent, I hate mozzies but they love me, hence I have loads of bites and I am in for an itchy night.
Somewhere North East is Ascention.
The chair I have has bust an elastic so I spent some time fiddling with it but became frustrated due to lack of suitable repair kit, hence I just have to take care now whenever I move the chair as one of the legs falls off.
Packing away this morning I decided to try to lay on the air mat to expel the air outside of the tent, only to have a local dog come and think it was play time.
The road is long and flat and mostly in good condition, there is no hard shoulder but the traffic is really light, if I can hear a big waggon behind me when a car is coming the other way I pull over in case he tries to squeeze by.
I have seen lots of animals that don’t know the green cross code, the only living ones are the huge away of exotic birds, wading and birds of prey. There a lot of different fairly large wild mammals around, however these are only evident by there roadside remains.
Some of the road kill today.
A few Large snakes.
An ant eater
What looked like a beaver
What was once a cute possum type mammal
A cow(this one obviously pushed its luck)
I have managed 80 miles without to much effort, just the amount of time riding on flat roads. I set up camp before dark, hiding under some trees by the side of the road. Not sure this was a good plan as I had to clear a load of spiky branches out of the way, plus I have chosen an area that has been grazed so there is no grass under me, however there are footprints of an animal that has been dwellers going here, though I figure it uses it for the shade and I am here for the night. Treading through the deeper grass to get near, stamping and clapping to try to ensure I don’t encounter any snakes. The dead ones I have seen are pretty large so it does put you on edge.
I am hiding in the tent but only because the bloody mozzies have homed in on me again.
Managed to find a fuel station with WiFi so could email chat with Net.
Ornithologist and taxidermist dream day
The camp spot last night was hidden and on bare mud, so when the thunder and lighting and rain set in at midnight I was concerned that the reason the area was mud was that it may be a dried up water bed. I had a little panic and considered packing up and moving. But not a good idea travelling in the dark so I stayed put and fortunately didn’t wake up in a puddle.
I have more mozzie bites on my bum than a teenagers face and I believe there is conspiracy going on between said bites and my hands. I know not to scratch them as it makes them worse but just as I am on the edge of sleep the mozzie bites whisper sweet nothings to my hands and entice them to have a scratch hence setting off the itching again, dam those mozzies
I did remove the tent inner when packing away as the outer was soaking.
The rain held off today but it has been overcast and cool at 20 degrees, making the cycling easy, hitting speeds of 15mph (not bad for a laden bike of approx 45kg).
There have been a couple of fuel stations on route so I have taken advantage of them to charge devices and try to use the WiFi to no avail, I even had a full basin wash and cleaned my shirt and shorts. I kept the wet shorts on put wore a lean dry shirt.
Today was even more intense on the wild life front, the bird calls had stepped up to a full orchestra, some of the things spotted today alive
Green small parrots
Lots of different birds of prey
Cranes, plus other similar wadding birds just as large but with black long breaks and red legs.
Dead things (I have only spotted one live mammal and that was a small armadillo were I am now camped, in some sort of disused gravel plain)
Huge ant eaters (at least two and these are bigger than your average dog).
Large snake (within minutes of setting of from last nights camp).
And various other fluffy small mammals.
The last 10 miles the road conditions have been appalling with huge axle breaking craters scattered all over the road, like an aircraft has come and striffed the runway. This however has led to safer conditions for me as the drivers are having to slow down and dodge and weave down the road. For my part it has been like riding in a peloton but with riders coming from both directions. I have been able to point out the holes and gaps to the other traffic so have quite enjoyed this last stretch.
Cowboys and Indians
A fairly good nights sleep, once I got used the sound of the lorries having to slow then reaccelerate past the holes in the road
It seems the mornings are the noisiest time for the birdies, not just dawn chorus but all morning. Today was much sunnier at around 26 degrees and I even have a little sunburn on my arms
Today I spotted 4 Emus along with the usual varied array of other exotic birds, I also had another close encounter with an armadillo. This was about a foot long and scurrying across the road just in front of me.
I was hoping to visit Fortín Boquerón, but when I reached the turning the road was just a dirt poor surfaced road and due to the recent rains was no fit for me to cycle on, at least not when this would have been 18 miles there then the same back on said road.
It feels like now I have passed this last landmark the road conditions have deteriorated even more with not just holes but sections of road missing, the traffic is much lighter as well but this just maybe because it is now late afternoon.
I have managed to find what I hope is a good camping spot, behind a hedge on a track that is used by the nearby ranch, I am camped on a grassy bit of track so hopefully it won’t be used. I have cooked dinner and played my ukulele with an audience of cows, I am sure they would have given a round of applause if they had hands.
Ginette and I are having trouble keeping in touch, I have a local sim but the network coverage up here is not great. I have managed to find the odd petrol station with WiFi and we can communicate this way but if we are not next to our pc/phone at the same time then we end up reading each overs messages the next day
Today I have seen lots of cowboys on horseback tending to their cattle, I am also in an area where there is a strong Indigenous presence, as yet I have not seen any trouble between the two and no smoke signals in the distance.
Not much to report
It gets dark here at 540pm, I prefer to set up camp and have cooked before dark so I end up with a lot of time in the evening. The snag with some of this.wild camping is there’s no where to go and you end up just catching up on the diary and reading kindle , on the bright side I get to practice my ukulele
Last night I was ready to sleep by 730 pm, but it took me ages due to fact it was still warm in the tent and my hands and mozzie bites were getting acquainted making me hot itchy and miserable. I even had a full wash with a wet wipe but was soon sweating again
Today the road has improved as I know have brand new tarmac to cycle on, however they have widened both sides clearing the trees and shrubs so now I have very little fraternation with the birds and wildlife. Today has been pretty boring but Ginette and managed a very short face time session that really lit my day up. The rest of the afternoon was spent cycling singing and whistling
Definitely a Stuart road day
Slept better, have changed my bed layout so that I now sleep similar to Ginette. I use the sleeping bag liner to cover the Thermarest bed so I can lay on it without the horrible plastic feel and use the sleeping bag as a blanket as it gets cooler on the night. I slept with some thin clothes in so that my sweaty body parts didn’t touch each over, seemed to help.
The first 25 miles was on new road, I made good progress stopping for some empanadas and drink and picking up another large water
So now the road took two turns, Left was route 9 which I had been following but my Garmin plotted route went straight on as did I on route 3,
Within half a mile the tarmac ended. Should I go back and follow route 9? If I did then my planned Garmin route to Sucre would no longer be valid. I continued straight on route 3 as the road although dirt seemed in good condition.
I am now 25 miles further and the road is now a single lane sandy rutted track (with not just grass but plants in the middle) the going is tough as I can ride the majority of it at a slow careful pace but occasionally my steel horse refuses at the deeper sandy bits and I have to walk a little.
A few miles back I bought some water from an old lady sitting at a junction in the middle of nowhere, there is very little traffic but I take some relief that there have been the odd motorcycle and one jeep go by. There have been a couple of ranch turnings as well so there is life out here
Maps . Me suggest I have 45 miles more of this track, yuk. But it looks like there are some more army barracks and indigenous areas coming up so maybe the road will get better
I am having an adventure
I wondered this morning whether to turn back but three wagons came down from the direction I wanted to head last night (having cycled this route now I can only presume they came from a charcoal farm, I past one with lots of round huts burning just like they would have done for centuries), also 18 miles further is an army barracks so I am hoping the road after it will improve
It has been a real struggle, the road has become a single sandy track and I am pushing the bike more than I am riding it,
After struggling along I reached an Indigenous camp, I had lunch at there gates, they could see I was there but showed no sign of wanting contact. Straight after was the army barracks. The road was worse, I am having to push all the time and it’s loose sand so a right effort, in my head I thought by reaching the barracks I could ask for a lift the 23 miles to next junction so persevered.
The guys in the camp were really nice, they couldn’t help with a lift but offered me a place to stay. It was 2pm so I decided to push on, how hard can it be?
It turns out really hard, an hour later I had covered 3 miles, I was knackered and full of doubt that even if I reach the junction 23 miles away what if this this road is also a sand track.
So I have finally succumbed and am doubling back the 53 mile to the tarmac road. Although I know how much pushing I am going to have to do to go back at least I know things will get better
On the way back another Indeginous cowboy came across my path, not only did he not want contact he looked anxious to get away from me.
I am now back at the army barracks and have my first shower since leaving Net and have washed the cycling kit (this has been washed before and worn wet)
This is small but cosy barracks with only about 14 soldiers, I have had fresh cold water and sat and shared Mattie tea with them (this is drunk cold, I had presumed the flasks they all carry in this country had hot water in them)
Not looking forward to retracing my steps as I know what hard work it’s going to be for the next 30 miles.
Other than the kindness of these army lads the only other highlight today was walking through a plague of locusts that took flight as I approached in waves, quite a spectacular sight and went on for ages.
Unfortunately Gary has had poor internet connection and he has been unable to send many photos. I spoke to him last night he is in good spirits.