Archive for the ‘Detours’ Category

Bike Heaven

Posted: February 15, 2016 in Detours
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Where do bikes go when they die?

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Or did I die and go to heaven?

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Or is this Hell?

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Because I’d sure hate to be one of those bikes on the bottom!

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Every picture here is from a different warehouse.

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Supposedly all of these bikes get moved within 3 months?  Hard to believe.

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Where did all these bikes come from???? (I learned most came from Japan)

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Where are they all going? (Bike shop owners from all over Thailand come here to fill their trucks with used bikes plus many of the less expensive one speeds will be going to Myanmar)

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Why Mae Sot? It’s not a sea port? (No one could answer that question other than Mae Sot is a border town in what is being developed as an “economic free zone” that will connect with sea ports in Dawei and Mawlamyine, Myanmar)

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Given that every picture here is of a different “bike pile”

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How many bikes do you think might be here?

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Hundreds of thousands for sure!

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And how many new bikes are being manufactured each day?

Heaven is going to overflow!

Exciting Peruvian Detour

Posted: September 29, 2015 in Detours

What an incredible rush to arrive in a new country and almost new continent.

PS-protest

The natives are restless, a protest on our first day.

It took me 3 months of cycling and camping to get in physical, mental and spiritual shape to be ready to appreciate and accept the newness of Peru.  In order to get us and our gear here we had to pack and pray and then use all of our charm and diplomacy plus our credit card.  In Lisboa they swore that O our tandem would not fit on their plane.  Then they swore she had to be boxed. Finally they agreed she could fly but we’d have to have her wrapped in plastic.

PS-all wrapped up and ready to fly

O gets wrapped to go to Peru

They also charged us for her as an oversized bag.  Between the negotiations and the wrapping and double check-ins we got to our gate just in time to board.  And then we landed in Lima, Peru at 4:30 in the morning.   O was the last off the plane, but arrived unscathed, though a little rattled from being handled by so many strange people.  We rolled her and the rest of our gear through the airport to the domestic ticket counters to try and buy tickets to Cusco, a city that was recommended to us by a Peruvian friend.  The first 4 airlines took one look at O and said “NO, impossible”.  The 5th, Peruvian Air, said yes and sold us a ticket for the 8 AM flight which was an hour and a half from then.  So we rolled as fast as we could to check in, stood in a short line before being told “No, that bike is too big.”  We tried to reason with them politely but we were really too tired and our Spanish too poor to win the argument, however they finally agreed that if we shrunk her she could fly.  The problem was it takes about an hour to fold O. We asked if they had a later flight and found that they had room on the 9:45, so we rushed back to the ticketing counter and changed our ticket.  We then parked ourselves in a corner of the airport and unwrapped and folded O in 3rds, zip tied her together, and then put her on a cart and wheeled her to the baggage wrapper.

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O gets wrapped to go to Cusco

PS-O-folded in 3rds

O was stuck into a vice like contraption and spun by a Peruvian while another wrapped her in green plastic.  We paid double the normal baggage wrapping fee and entered the long line at check-in.  We got a new check-in person, he asked no questions about our strangely shaped bag and forgot to charge us for any of our 3 large bags or tag our too many carry-ons.  By the time we landed in Cusco at 11:30 AM we were jet lagged, brain dead zombies.  We got teary eyed when O showed up and we danced when all of our bags finally made it through.

We then reserved a room from an airport hotel hawker and got a mini-van taxi to take us there.  Despite our state of jetlag and altitude head we managed to check-in, go out into the strange touristed streets, find an amazing restaurant for a huge lunch, and unwrap all of our gear and put O back together again.  Somehow we also managed to stay up until eight.  The next morning after our free hotel breakfast in the freezing unheated dining room, we packed up and rode through Cusco in search of a more affordable guesthouse that had room for O and would let us stay for a couple of weeks.

2nd day on the move

Cusco 2nd day on the move

We checked into the Mirador after hauling O and the burley trailer and the panniers up three stories of stairs (big duh here, mirador means a place with a view, as in “on a hill”).  We learned from Lucus, the owner and our new friend, that Cusco is located at over 11,000 feet, which explained my shortness of breath and slight headache.  We had been at sea level for 3 months riding in an oxygen field which caused us to lose all of our altitude fortitude.  After checking in and unpacking and spreading all of our gear about our new quarters we took to the streets once again in search of food.  While wandering the streets we realized that most of the population had on either 2 layers of wool or what looked like down jackets and hats and gloves.  It didn’t matter if they were inside or out they had on layers (we have yet to find a heated building).  Curt and I had come from the beaches of Europe so we didn’t have enough layers to even begin to stay comfortably warm.  We have since learned that Cusco has unpredictable weather, in one day, and sometimes in one hour, we have experienced a warm sun, a freezing rain, wind, and temperatures so low we could see our breath – and then back to a warm sun.  Our Lonely Planet guidebook said that it’s supposed to be 68-74 degrees during the day and there should be little rain until the summer rains in November. I imagine it’s too late to return the book as we bought it in Lisboa.

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Layers, need more layers

As you can imagine in a town located in a mountain range the temperature dips at night.  The Cuscoans are so darn tough they don’t need heat, and budget guesthouses like the ones we stay at adhere to that idea. We didn’t know that small fact when we checked into the Mirador so didn’t think to ask if there was heat. At night we sleep under three heavy wool blankets.  I wake up slightly tired and a little bruised from the weight of what I call bullet proof blankets, truly they are that heavy.  And if the gods are in a mood and I have to get up in the night, the floors are freezing and the toilet seat can send me into shock.  We’re lucky as our bathroom has an on demand hot water heater for our shower.  It can heat a drizzle of water hot enough to enjoy and a steady flow to a tepid temperature that leaves me only slightly hypothermic.  Getting out of the shower is an act of bravery.

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Drizzle head shower

I really do not know how the Incas with their beautiful long hair manage to wash it in unheated water and still smile.

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Happy Inca dancers

Maybe it’s the coco leaves they chew for every reason; coco tea helps you acclimate to altitude, chewing coco leaves gives you strong teeth and probably coco leaves if digested properly can make an icy shower enjoyable.  I am obviously lacking a reserve of coco as I shiver through part of every day.  Every morning we get a nice breakfast in an unheated dining room as we try to drink our coffee and eat our eggs within the two minutes it takes them to get cold.

And that’s not all.   I forgot to mention that Cuzco is a vertical city, it’s built on a mountain with cobbled, narrow streets that are teaming with crazed bus drivers and shoulder to should pedestrian traffic.  I continue to get a daily workout despite not getting on the bike.  I find that between shivering, trying to acclimate to the altitude and walking up steep hills or stairs to get absolutely anywhere that I’m burning as many calories as I can manage to digest.

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Walking up always up

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This narrow street has a name and is on the city map.

Looking back I realize I was more jetlagged than I realized on our first days.  I was running on pure adrenalin instead of mindfulness.  We landed on a Sunday afternoon and on Wednesday afternoon we started Spanish lessons.  Every day at three Curt and I walk 20 minutes up the hill and then climb the stairs to our classroom for 4 hours of extensive Spanish lessons from a native speaker who knows very little English.  We then limp out of the unheated classroom shivering from the cold with spinning heads and growling stomachs.  We hit one of the neighborhood pollo broasters and each get 1/8 of chicken, fries and salad bar for $2/$3 before we go back to our room to listen to bad Peruvian television to help us stay awake until an adult 9PM.

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And some of the narrow vertical streets always cars

This is not what I expected, a strangely beautiful city, shrouded by ancient history, surrounded by mountains and devoid of summer.  I mean really how can the oldest inhabited city in South American not have summer, why did people stay here?   I’m not sure how long I’ll last myself.  Every time I start shivering uncontrollably I pull out the maps and start looking at climate charts and then the sun comes out and warms me or we meet some wonderful person or discover some interesting place and I think I can handle the cold and the rain and the tepid shower for a little while longer.

PS home for now

Home for now

Wrap up for Europe

Posted: September 24, 2015 in Detours, Road Buddies

I’ve been sitting here in Peru trying to write the final chapter to the European leg of our trip and feeling like everything I’ve written so far has been pretty boring – certainly guaranteed to make it so that no one would ever want to visit our blog again.

Truth is, I think we were just spoiled by the beauty of Northern Spain and the cycling of La Loire A Velo.  Also, we hit Portugal at the end of “Season”, which means the campgrounds and beaches are only about 10% full, employees of the tourist industry are burnt out and ready to pack up their belongings and move on, the ice cream is stale, and the weather is turning cold.   Portugal is a really fun country with lots of great “old world” qualities, it didn’t really get a fair shake.

That said, highlights of the country were Porto – truly one of the most beautiful and playful cities we’ve visited, the great bikeways surrounding Porto, some wild kitesurfing on the beaches, good food, the Roca Toilet Museum in Lisboa (really!) and a great bike shop that made us a new rear axle for our bike because we couldn’t get on shipped in time.

Here’s a few pics and a wrap-up of the trip!

Au revoir, Adios, Adeus to France, Spain, and Portugal.

France: La Loire a Velo, bike friends, some old castle in every other town, civilized camping, bad burn but some wonderful medical assistance.  The greatest abundance of quiet, peaceful backroads.

Spain: The Basque Country, the best beaches, three hour lunches, good friends, massive climbs from the Pyrenees to the coastal roads to the beautiful Picos de Europa.  The Peligrinos (pilgrims) and Santiago. Some very wet days in Galacia.

Portugal: Old world, cork trees, cobble stones everywhere, some of the best sailboarding and surf beaches in Europe, very inexpensive camping, fish, fishing villages, fishing boats, and more fish.  Women in black, more Peligrinos, some great bike shops, and a lot of windmills.

Best bike routes: France, but Portugal surprised us with some nice coastal routes.

Most helpful people: Spain

Best cuisine: The Basque Country

Best camping for cyclists: Loire Valley (special prices and areas for cyclists)

Best beaches: Spain

Best surf and sailboarding: Portugal

Most beautiful: the Basque Country, Costa Verde and the Picos de Europa – all in Spain.

Least expensive: Portugal

Best wine: France, but then again…….the Basque have some great whites – in particular one that’s called Txocoli or (something like that)

Best wine for the money: Portugal

Cheapest beer: Spain (and good beer too!)

Best place to be a dog: France

Best place to be a kid: Basque Country

Best place to bring your raincoats and umbrellas to: Galicia, Spain

Easiest city to bike through: Porto

Best surprise: Getting a free apartment in Zarautz

Best bookstore: Fnac in Lisboa

Best bike shop: Loja de Bicicleta in Lisboa (they actually made us a new axle for our rear hub!)

Best campground: Luarca, Spain (stunningly beautiful)

Best meal(s): Miren’s lunch, Mikel’s dinner at the “club” – oh, and Urko’s barbeque!  All in the Basque Country

Cheerful Sculpture

Cheerful Sculpture

Porto Bikeway Humor

Bikeway Humor in Porto

typical portugal coastline

Classic Portugal Costline

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Backside

Coimbra Street

Coimbra Street

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Coimbra Intersection

front side

Frontside

Really - this is Portugal

Honest – this is in Portugal!

Roca Toilet Museum

From the Rico Toilet Museum – this uses the grey water from the washbasin to flush the toilet – very nice concept!

What is it?

What is it?