The final conclusion to our cycle trip, by Gemma

Trip Start Oct 16, 2012
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135
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Trip End Apr 20, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  , Capital Federal District,
Sunday, April 21, 2013

So we have now finished our South America cycle trip. We covered 9,500km, starting in Cartagena, Colombia and finishing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. We cycled across six countries, through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguay. Along the way we had some fantastic experiences, met amazing people and learnt more about other cultures. The only bike hiccup we had was a very annoying pedal that refused to spin properly. As it took us three and a half weeks to find a replacement, it meant some very difficult cycling days for me.  I accrued 5 punctures over the duration of the trip, and Kory notched up 7, but at least this time I learnt how to change a bike tyre.  For our own bodies, I don't think we had any injuries, other than I dropped my bike on my toe and gave myself a black toe nail.  Other than that we didn't have any problems, and even though we didn't train for the trip, our bodies just grew stronger as the trip continued.

The highest point that we climbed to was just under 5000m above sea level, which is high enough to be able to notice the lack of oxygen in the air.  We could feel our hearts pounding and couldn't cycle and talk as we needed to concentrate on breathing.  In case you can't imagine this, the highest mountain in the UK is Ben Nevis, which is 1344m high.  The highest mountain in Western Europe is 4807m.  For my Kiwi friends, you all know that Mount Cook is 3754m.  For Kory's family who know the Rocky mountains well, the highest one there is apparently 3954m high.  So you can imagine the tallest mountain you have seen in Western Europe, NZ or the Rockies and then add on quite a bit....and we cycled it!  I was pretty proud of this accomplishment!

We cycled for 101 days, and averaged 94km per day.  Each day we cycled an average of 5hrs.47mins on the bikes, but that doesn't include any time that we were stopped for lunch or to take photos, or if we were moving at less that 4km per hour.  When we went that slowly the computers gave up on us and thought we had stopped.  In total, we cycled for 552 hours, which is like cycling continuously for 23 days.  These statistics all seem ridiculous now that we have finished and I have joined the population of people thinking "how on earth did we do that?". 

One of my favourite parts of the trip was camping in remote places, with only a few cows or goats around us. In Bolivia the light pollution was so minimal that the stars would light up the night sky and we were able to enjoy some fabulous views. We were also treated to some fabulous sunsets and sunrises, which seemed like the perfect way to start or end the day. Other favourite parts of the trip for me were visiting the coffee region of Colombia, and cycling through the mountains of Peru. Which was also the hardest cycling that we did on the trip.  We also cycled through 800km of barren, sandy desert, which took us 10 days.  It was incredibly strange to be surrounded by an endless landscape of sand everyday, and this made it difficult to find somewhere to camp for the night, that was sheltered from the wind and hidden from the road.  Also, the wind was phenomenal is the desert.  At times we would struggle to keep the bikes upright to cycle at 4-5km per hour, with sand blasting us in our faces, but we made it though and it gave us a new appreciation for trees.

For people to be able to put it into perspective, we cycled the equivalent of going from London to Moscow and back and then back to Moscow again, and then almost back to London for the second time. In a straight line, we cycled the equivalent of cycling from London to Mumbai, in India. In Canada it would be the same as cycling from Vancouver to Montreal and back. For people in the Southern hemisphere it is the same as cycling Sydney to Perth and back to Sydney again and then half way back to Perth again.

Obviously there was plenty of time for reflection, whilst cycling through the breath-taking landscapes (we took over 5000 photos in total) and whilst immersing ourselves in the different cultures. I couldn't help but consider this when we saw the biggest hills in the distance and thought that we wouldn't be able to make it up something so difficult. Usually as we approached it, and the perspective changed, we realised it was not more difficult than the last hill we had climbed. The perspective had changed as I approached it and I saw that it wasn't as steep as it had looked from further away. I thought that this seemed true for lots of things in life, and usually the idea of trying something new is more daunting and seems more difficult than it actually turns out to be. Most things are perfectly possible once you begin to tackle it. However, I think that you need the right person by your side to help you, motivate you, encourage you and someone who you know is going through it all with you, bit by bit. Sometimes I would lead the way and sometimes I would need to follow Kory's path, but either way we would tackle it together and feel the sense of satisfaction of completing what we had set out to do together, as a team.

We set out to cycle as far as we could in the five months that we had off work. At one point we had wondered if we would be able to make it to the southern most tip of Argentina, but instead we decided to go at a slower pace and enjoy everything that we saw along the way.  We had some difficult times, and some areas were hard work to cycle through.  We encountered two days of deep mud, the 6am alarm every day never made it easy to get out of a frost covered tent into the bitterly cold air, and sometimes we struggled to find a secluded place to camp. Despite or maybe because of these things though, we had an amazing, once in a lifetime experience. We set out to do something that was unique and ultimately difficult but we tackled it together and enjoyed every moment of it (even if I didn't think I was enjoying it at the time). I am so pleased that so many of you joined us on our journey and I would like to thank you all for all of the words of encouragement. It definitely helped to keep us motivated and I am so pleased that you have been able to have an idea about what we have accomplished.  I am so pleased that I kept my blog up-dated, and not including this page, it includes 135 entries, 1224 photos and has had 4800 visits already!  People have read my blog in Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Argentina, Holland and Israel.

Lastly I must thank Kory, for helping me everyday and for being my best friend. I have added many of my favourite photos from the trip, which give a small snapshot from our adventure.  Now, this blog is completed, we can start planning the next trip!!
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Comments

Paddy on

Truly amazing Gemma, that's what you are. You're blog has been a fabulously exciting read & one I'm sure will inspire many more like minded people to set out to achieve the same feats that you & Kory achieved. Thank you again for taking us along for the ride too. I look forward to the next chapter in your life's story. Until then, take care x

Julie on

Thankyou Gemma your blog has been amazing. I have enjoyed it so much. It amazes me how such a wee thing could achieve so much. I have thoroughly enjoyed and loved the experiences that you and Kory have had and it has been an absolute joy to follow you both. Take care and much love...........oh and did I say would you like a job?????? XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

debi guerin on

so enjoyed reading about your amazing trip ~ wow!!! ~ what an accomplishment and what an experience ~ so enjoyed the pictures and how you captured the very essence of everything around you ~ thank you for sharing ~

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