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Trip Report: The Third Year On The Road

It’s that time of year again – another 365 days on the road and time for the appropriate features. Here we have a trip report for the previous year on the road, covering 29th April 2010 to 29th April 2011.

Kilometres Cycled this time last year: 38,292

Kilometres cycled now: 57,340

Total for the year: 19,048

Location this time last year: Emiliano Zapato, Chiapas, Mexico

Current Location: Grahamstown, South Africa

Countries visited this year: 16. Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Argentina, Chile and South Africa.

Favourite Places: The best place I've been to this year is Bogota by quite some distance, but I loved riding in Bolivia, made some great friends in Cape Town, have a soft spot for Panama City and would love to go back to the mountains in Ecuador and Peru.

Wouldn't go back to: Most of Central America. I'm glad I went and I wouldn't change the experiences I had but I have to admit I've been to better places in the world and Tegucigalpa in particular was the first time I've really not felt safe, even in daylight.

Favourite ride: The five days I rode in Peru from Arequipa to Lake Titicaca. It was tough, it was offroad and the locals told me that we were at around 5,500 metres altitude. Whilst Google proved the locals to be wrong by about 500 metres it was still bloody high up and a hell of a ride.

Hardest ride: The 55km from where you turn off the Panamerican Highway in Panama  onto a back road which takes you to the San Blas Islands. The unpaved road is meant for 4x4's and for the first time not only could I not cycle up some of the gradients, I couldn't even push up and several times I physically had to take the panniers off the bike and carry each of them up to the top of the hills individually.

Best day: Arriving in Bogota. I had a magical month once there but I had to push it in order to arrive on time. That last sentence is a bit of an understatement as on the day of my arrival I rode 147km, spending 12 and a half hours on the bike, whilst accumulating a net altitude gain of over 4,000 metres. It was one of the few times I've really pushed my fitness limit, it was on some of the best roads I've been on and it took me to a city I fell in love with. Brilliant.

Worst day: Having my camera stolen in Trujillo, Peru. I'd got through the town of Paijan - a place known for robbing cyclists - earlier in the day after having taken extra precautions for my safety. Having successfully traversed the town known for crime I arrived in Trujillo, was 100 metres from the Casa De Ciclista and then - whilst still on the bike - had my camera snatched by it's wrist strap (which had been hanging from my shorts pocket) by a kid who couldn't have been much older than 12. A thoroughly depressing day.

Longest day: 173 kilometres in Tierra Del Fuego ridden into the town of Tolhuin. I'd been told cyclists slept for free at the towns bakery, so this was more than enough motivation to get the extra k's in.

Number of crashes: 1 - Just like last year I've only been run over once this year by an idiot with a truck in Honduras. If I ever return to Honduras vengeance shall be mine.....

Bike Problems: Numerous blown tyres, a cracked rim and gears that were rusted completely after 4 days at sea. On the flip side, a special mention for the Schwalbe Marathon XR tyre - one of mine finally gave up after a whopping 24,000 km. Brilliant.

Best purchase: Whilst I didn't technically pay for it, the helmet I was given by Rob, my host in Cape Town, is probably the  most important piece of equipment I've acquired this year.

Piece of kit I've not used: And for the third year in a row the Katadyn Water Filter takes the prize. It still hasn't left its case since July 2008.

Biggest headache: Trying to get my head around how many different versions of Spanish there are in the world; whatever it is they're speaking in Argentina I'm fairly sure it's not Spanish.

Best alcohol: No massively memorable beers this year so instead the prize goes to the red wines of Argentina. Beautiful.

Worst alcohol: The Pisco in Bolivia. Death in a bottle.

Best looking women: Pffft, like you need to ask: Colombia. A special mention to the ladies of Argentina as well.

Couldn’t live without: The support I've recieved from people I've never met in real life. Internet forums have played a big part in my life over the last three years and the support I've recieved from people I would now consider friends - despite us never meeting - has been invaluable.

Thing I miss most from home: I've been able to get most of the food I've missed (not to mention a lot of Guinness) in South Africa, so the answer is now simply that I miss my family the most.

Biggest surprise: Aside from the odd bit of insomnia, just how well I coped at altitude. Also that the guinea-pig I ate in Ecuador actually tasted good.

Hope for the coming year: To get through Africa safely and without visa problems to be home by April 29th 2012 at the latest.

Where did I predict myself to be on the 29th April 2011: Zambia. To be fair to me on this one if I hadn't spent the month in Bogota (where I waited as I was getting my camera replaced on it's warranty) and a further 3 weeks in Mendoza (where I was running around after a package) I probably wouldn't be too far off.

Where do I predict myself to be on the 29th April 2012: Home. I'd really better be.

 
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