Shock to the system …arrived in Ushuaia known as Fin Del Mundo or The End of the World…it was freezing and in the distance the mountains I knew I had to climb to leave on my journey north. I headed for a quiet spot behind the airport and built my bike, fitted the cycle computer and loaded the bags. I nervously wobbled towards the town not yet used to the weight and feel of the loaded bike…it started to sleet and ice like wind cut through my clothes. I ducked into a shop to buy some basic food supplies then headed for the center to find a hostel…camping just seemed like it would be miserable.
It was good to meet two Swiss guys in the hostel who had just completed the Caraterra Austral and get their take on the route. Stuff which turned out to be really useful later.
I was nervous about setting off and decided to spend the next day riding a very lightly loaded bike up to the ski station just to get the feel of riding in the mountains. Back in town I toured the supermarket and outdoor shops to stock up ready for the big ride across Tierra del Fuego… I was pleased to find a telescopic fishing rod and all the tackle for what seemed like a reasonable price…a bit of extra weight but I was hooked by tales of the trout and salmon fishing in Chile.
The leaving party was over and after lots of last-minute faffing the bike was packed and ready. Final goodbyes were said and I was off, south bound on the London train.
With a very early flight booked I slept, tramp like, sprawled on the bench of the departure lounge at Heathrow. Check-in was hectic as I was sent from one desk to the next to book my bike on to the two connecting flights only just making it through the queues at security in time for departure. I tried to do some last minute revision of the Spanish phrase book on the flight and get some sleep. At Madrid we were herded to the departure lounge as as a delay at Heathrow had made the connection flight very tight. The second flight seemed very long …filled with attempts to relieve the boredom…mainly wine.
I finally arrived in South America …Buenos Aries …the home of tango… with bags but no bike. Apparently, it may have been possibly in Madrid but airline would let me know when they found it. Did I stress? Yes…but tried to enjoy the city and take the opportunity to attend some spanish lessons.
Buenos Aries is a smart busy city not to different from the places I have seen in Europe…it had a feel of Spain or France about it…with a South American touch
I was lucky to be shown round by a friend from back home who had lived in BA for a few years. Together we visited some of the landmarks and tried the food, beer and ice cream. The night life in BA starts late and goes on till early…but not for me …I had Spanish lessons to go to and after one late-ish night realised I couldn’t do both.
Eventually my bike was safely delivered to the hostel so I booked my flight to Ushuaia …pretty much as far south as you can get in Argentina with out falling in the sea.
Once the idea had started to form in my mind I couldn’t get rid of it…I have to do this… to travel by bike across the globe…or at least try. 18,000 miles in 360 days …50 miles a day …easy! It was December…” I have got to do it”. That would mean planning a massive change to my life.
January: Research routes and read up on cyclist who had done something similar. Find a suitable bike frame and bits.
February: Start getting equipment together for the trip …tent, sleeping bag, water pump. Build the bike.
March: Work out a budget. Research Visa requirements..
April: Sort out Internet banking. Apply for credit cards.
May: Write a resignation letter. Resign. Order guide books and maps.
June: Get the required vaccinations. Order a new passport. Set up a website.
July: Finalise equipment… net book and DSLR camera. Finish work. Sell car.
August: Decorate. Find homes for my stuff. Email everybody. Cancel the bills. Redirect mail. Rent out house. Move into camper van. Final preparations.
September: Sell camper van.Say big goodbyes and leave.
Have I managed to keep to the plan? Nearly…it took me a long time to decide on a route. So many possibilities, so many variables, seasons, terrain, visas, language, flights…. masses and masses of information. Things are starting to fall into place.
It has to be South America for starters. All one language on the west coast, Spanish. Easy visa requirements…just turn up and get a visa. October will be Spring in the southern hemisphere with the daylight hours getting longer which should be a bonus.
I am still not ready…flights to be booked …insurance to be organised… but the biggest headache is getting rid of stuff so I can rent out my house…stuff that has found its way into my possession over the last 10 years. Mountains of stuff!! Stuff to be packed. Stuff to be given away. Stuff to be given back . Stuff to be thrown away. Stuff to be recycled. Stuff to be freecycled. Stuff to be ebayed. Stuff to be stored. Stuff to go to charity shops. Stuff to go to the car boot sale. Stuff to be shredded. I have stuff everywhere!!!
Hindsight is a great thing. If I had the last 6 months again I would have downsized at the start…wrote little messages in the cover of books and passed them to friends…given handy gadgets as gifts…but no, stupidly, I left it all until the last moment.
I was told the hardest part of a journey is leaving the house…there is truth in that statement.
I still haven’t sorted out a route yet so getting the right medical advice is difficult. The Doctor’s receptionist wanted me to fill in a form on my travel plans….only space for 4 countries….Huumm??? I went away and printed off a world map. Drew a red line roughly from the UK to Japan, Alaska to Argentina and then South Africa to Norway…that should about cover it!! Popped it in the post.
Monday 5pm …my second visit. This time with the practice nurse…
There are a number of immunisations available on the NHS and you need to allow a few months before your trip to get the full course of treatment.
Cholera( according to the NHS website)
It is looking like I will need to get private prescriptions for the rest. I had budgeted £500 for vaccines but I am still shocked at the cost.
Yellow fever – £55 with the certificate, which is needed for entry to certain countries in South America and Africa.
Rabies – 3 x £50 !!!. Rabies is always fatal so I think that with all the vicious dogs out there I might need it.
Tick Borne Encephalitis – 3 x £60. Risk area, pretty much all the way from central Europe across northern Asia. I am a tick magnet so if TBE doesn’t get me I’m sure Lyme disease will.
Japanese Encephalitis- 2 x £85. Risk area, most of Asia and the northern tip of Australia. I am also a mosquito magnet!!
Other health risks:-
Malaria. The drugs needed to change from area to area but a good “mozzi net” and plenty of DEET should reduce the risk. A MSR Hubba hubba inner tent might be a good alternative to a net.
Water borne nasties…I have ordered 2 drinks bottles with ceramics filters and I am investigating a 100g military water pump. I might also take Iodine and chlorine tablets as a back up.
Food poisoning… I am going to try to stick to a policy of only eating hot cooked food that I have seen being cooked, processed food from tins or jars and peeled fruit. Unfortunately I love food so that won’t last.