Argentina to Alaska 2012/13

A Long Ride Ahead

With just a couple of weeks to go until departure for Argentina, I’m still trying to get all my kit and equipment in order.  This ride is going to be a lot more difficult than Australia in 2010.  The places I’ll be travelling through are very remote, with few, if any, facilities.   I’m therefore going to be carrying a lot more gear with me just to get by.

My main concern at the moment is making sure that my bike and equipment will survive the long flights to Madrid, Buenos Aires and Ushuaia.

I’ll be updating this Page as soon as me, the bike and equipment have all arrived safely at the start point in Ushuaia.

Thursday 25/10/12

Finally arrived in Ushuaia, over 51-hours after leaving home.  Suffice to say, the less said about the the actual journey, the better.  My bike-box has arrived safely, however, my luggage did not arrive in Buenos Aires so I am without my clothing, camping & electrical equipment and bike tools & spares.  Unless the airline can find my luggage, I will not be able to even start the ride North.  Blizzard conditions in Ushuaia.

Friday 26/10/12

Still no sign of my luggage – airline appear clueless as to its whereabouts.  The thought of all the planning, time and effort, not to mention the cost, going down the drain is pretty sickening.  Priced flights back to the UK from Ushuaia – cheapest is £2,200!

Saturday 27/10/12

Still no news from the airline.  In two minds whether to go ahead and book the flight home.  Will probably make a decision tomorrow.

Sunday 28/10/12

Got some great news last night – the airline “found” my case in Buenos Aires and put it on the first flight to Ushuaia.  Now delivered to my B & B –  everything seems to be intact so I’m now making final preparations to the bike and kit before setting off tomorrow morning.  Watched the River Plate v Boca Juniors game this afternoon – finished 2-2, but what a spectacle.

Monday 29/10/12

Finally set off this morning in cold and miserable conditions.  Ushuaia is the southernmost town in the world, near Cape Horn, on South America’s largest island, Tierra del Fuego (The Land of Fire).  Really hard uphill climb out of town for about 30-miles through the snow covered mountain passes of the Darwin Range.  There then followed a nice downhill stretch for about 5-miles before the road began to level out into rolling plains where almost immediately the wind began to pick up from the North.  Got confronted by a loose black bull standing in the middle of the road but, thankfully, it just stared as I gave it a wide berth.  Meant to camp at a small place called Tolhuin but couldn’t find a suitable pitch.  Carried on up the road for another 9-miles or so and finally found a place to shelter in a small thicket of trees.  A pretty tough first day.  74-miles completed.

Tuesday 30/10/12

The day started off OK but quickly went downhill.  Met some motorcycle tourists from Santiago, Chile who gave me some coffee and cake in the morning.  Just after saying goodbye, the wind quickly strengthened and a series of long, rolling climbs made it very hard work.  Got to the Atlantic and freezing rain began to fall and the Northerly wind got even worse.  With about 22-miles to go to my target for the day, Rio Grande, I suddenly became really sick and lost all my strength.  I’m not sure whether I’d become dehydrated due to sweating under all the layers of clothing I had to wear to combat the cold, or whether there was something in the “cake” I’d eaten with the bikers to make me feel sick.  Either way, with Rio Grande in sight, I had to give up for the day, made camp and endured an awful night of sickness and headaches.  52-miles completed (126-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 31/10/12

Took me about 2-hours to pack my tent away, then another 2-hours to cycle the 9-miles to Rio Grande.  Booked into a B & B to sleep and, hopefully, get better.  A wasted day.  9-miles completed (135-miles cumulative).

Thursday 1/11/12

Felt a lot better this morning and made good progress North through the barren, windswept countryside.  Wind really picked-up about 20-miles from the Argentina / Chile border.  Passed through Argentinian border control at a tiny place called San Sebastian and there then followed 7-miles of virtual full-on mountain biking across the no-man’s-land between Argentina and Chile. Dust storms and incredible headwinds and plummeting temperatures made this stretch really difficult; got blown into roadside ditches 3-times and couldn’t get above 3 mph.  Passed through Chilean border control and decided to camp half a mile up the road at San Sebastian, Chile.  Quite a day.  59-miles completed (194-miles cumulative).

Friday 2/11/12

After the final stages of yesterday’s ride, I was really nervous about the stretch of rough gravel track leading West to Porvenir.  Today turned out to be worse than I feared.  Cycling into an absolutely freezing cold gale on a boulder strewn, rutted and pot-holed surface meant it was virtually impossible to steer and get any speed.  At the end of an awful day, I tried pitching my tent but it took off and landed about 400-yards back down the road.  Luckily, a farmer was passing in his pick-up and grabbed my tent.  He then told me to follow him and put me up for the night in the workhouse on his sheep farm.  His lovely Chilean wife and grandchildren then gave me tea and sandwiches for which I was really grateful.  A great end to a mentally and physically challenging day.  46-miles completed (240-miles cumulative).

Saturday 3/11/12

The windiest and coldest day so far.  Road surface appalling.  Last 25-miles to Porvenir became extremely hilly and nigh on impossible to ride.  One bonus about cycling in this harsh environment is the variety of wildlife on show – Patagonian foxes and guanaco are everywhere and the birds are really beautifully coloured   Had a really surreal experience – in the middle of nowhere, a stream of vintage cars suddenly appeared heading East.  Then saw 1960′s and 70′s cars rallying towards Porvenir.  Saturday must be rallying day in Chile.  Finally, after 2-days of struggle I got to Porvenir where I collapsed for the night.  Without doubt, the 2 most mentally and physically demanding days I’ve ever had on a bike.  46-miles completed (286-miles cumulative).

Sunday 4/11/12

Spent all day just waiting at the terminal for the ferry to arrive.  It finally came mid-afternoon and I left the island of Tierra del Fuego heading towards the South American mainland.  Arrived at the world’s most southerly city, Punta Arenas, in the late afternoon, after a gentle crossing of the Magellan Strait.  Another wasted day.  6-miles completed (292-miles cumulative).

Monday 5/11/12

Headed North from Punta Arenas and initially made good progress.  Landscape now completely barren grassland and totally exposed.  At about midday, the conditions became pretty farcical due to the continuous wind.  Unable to stay on the bike for any length of time before getting blown off, let alone pedal; I spent long periods just pushing the bike to make any progress; at one stage I couldn’t even push the bike downhill as the wind was so bad (continuously over 60 mph)!  Met a young German cyclist from Berlin (Ronny) who was also heading North and we managed to help each other get to a place called Villa Tehuelches where I pitched my tent next to a rodeo ring for shelter.  Another first – my windiest day ever on a bike (for now).  Today summed up Patagonian weather perfectly – absolutely brutal.  63-miles completed (355-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 6/11/12

Made a very early start in an attempt to beat the forecast gales.  Unbelievably, the gales never materialised, although it was still very windy.  Fairly featureless landscape continued until the sight of the distant Torres del Paine National Park came into view.  The day ended with a nice, leisurely downhill freewheel into the pretty little town of Puerto Natales where I’ve booked into a backpackers’ hostel to get my mortifying laundry sorted.  93-miles completed (448-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 7/11/12

I really began to wonder why I’d got up this morning as yesterday’s forecast gales arrived with a vengeance – it took three and a half hours to complete the first 10-miles out of Puerto Natales.  The wind began to ease as I climbed up through the foothills of the Torres del Paine National Park and the scenery became much more alpen and picturesque.  Had a wonderful Chilean lunch at an isolated little hotel called Tres Pasos and even enjoyed a nice freewheel for a mile or so into the tiny community of Cerro Castillo.  Got invited to camp for the night in a young lady’s back garden so that I could get some shelter from the evening gales.  The Chileans really are a very friendly people.  41-miles completed (489-miles cumulative).

Thursday 8/11/12

Left Chile first thing and proceeded across the rough no-man’s-land to the Argentinian border control post.  Bitterly cold all day and my water even froze in my bottles this morning.  Made the turn Eastwards with a welcome tailwind and passed through a place called Tapi Aike en-route to La Esperanza at day’s end.  I did try to “cut the corner” and take the North Easterly Route-40 that could have saved some time and distance but the road surface was like treacle after recent rains and, with the bike clogging-up with thick, sticky mud, I turned back to Tapi Aike after a few miles and then continued on an Easterly route.  About 30-miles West of La Esperanza a vicious hailstorm appeared out of nowhere – luckily, I was just passing some farm buildings which provided some much-needed cover.  Ended the day wearing every single item of clothing I have in a freezing gale.  Met some lovely tourists from Colorado in La Esperanza who treated me to a welcome cuppa and some biscuits.  A better day today but I’m already dreading the ride North to El Calafate if the wind is like this tomorrow.  85-miles completed (574-miles cumulative).

Friday 9/11/12

Headed North West on a cold, beautifully sunny morning but with the wind almost at an unmanageable level yet again.  Came off bike another 5-times today with one fall being really quite heavy.  Getting a bit scary now trying to stay upright if there’s traffic around.  The empty, barren grassland continues and the struggle to find a spot with just a little bit of shelter is always on my mind.  The wind, dry air and layers of clothing to beat the cold means that I’m continuously thirsty with the nightmare of dehydration always on my mind.  An awful day.  50-miles completed (624-miles cumulative).

Saturday 10/11/12

Set off very early this morning in an attempt to gain some ground before the gales started up again.  Sunny but bitterly cold most of the day.  It was turning into just another head down struggle and I wasn’t really looking at the road ahead when, all of a sudden, I rounded a bend about 30-miles East of El Calafate and began hurtling down  a fantastic downhill stretch from the high escarpment.  Didn’t bother covering the brakes, not that it would have done my rims any good at 45 mph!  A long ride along the valley floor to El Calafate followed with the beautiful turquoise waters of Lago Argentino in the distance.  El Calafate is a lovely little town bordered by the lake and high mountains.  Shattered and in need of a hot shower, I’m staying in a B & B tonight.  52-miles completed (676-miles cumulative).

Sunday 11/11/12

A beautiful day riding along the Southern shore of Lago Argentino, heading West towards Los Glaciares National Park, about 50-miles away.  Lovely water meadows and all variety of birds along the way.  Last 20-miles into the Park were very hilly but the glacial scenery was well worth all the effort.  Just on midday, arrived at a natural wonder of the World, the Perito Moreno Glacier.  Hard to describe it really but jaw dropping will suffice.  The sight and thunderous sound of the glacier slowly advancing is quite something with huge explosions of ice and water as giant chunks fall off the front.  Decided to get as far back to El Calafate as possible in readiness for a tough few days ahead.  Found a nice little spot to camp alongside a little river West of town.  Fantastic day with very little wind.  84-miles completed (760-cumulative).

Monday 12/11/12

Late start this morning, heading East through and past El Calafate.  Very hot weather for most of the day.  Turned North heading towards El Chalten just after midday and, from thereon in, struggled badly to make progress against a relentless headwind.  Landscape totally barren apart from a few beautiful milky-turquoise rivers.  Just about made it to a place called La Leona, where I camped for the night.  The little hotel at La Leona is quite famous as it was once used by Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid and his wife, Ethel Place, who were on the run at the time having robbed the Bank of London and Tarapaca at Rio Gallegos, Argentina in 1905.  After yesterday, this was a very tough day.  77-miles completed (837-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 13/11/12

Very early start in darkness this morning in an attempt to beat the wind.  About 9-miles North of La Leona, joined Route-23 heading North West along the Northern shore of Lago Viedma.  Barren landscape, fairly flat, punctuated by glacial dunlins.  Although tough, I arrived in El Chalten just before the wind got too much.  I first glimpsed it about 100-miles back down the road but when you get to El Chalten, the close-up view of Mt Fitzroy is amazing.  Another natural wonder of the World, Mt Fitzroy is a giant granite pillar, 11,020′ high, with about 6,400′ just sheer rock face.  It is considered one of the most difficult mountains in the world to climb with its almost vertical, slick-rock faces.  What a sight!  Camping by the side of another little river tonight in the shadow of the mountains.  I’ve decided to try and go North from here through the mountains and lakes and try and reach Villa O’Higgins in Chile.  From there, it’s going to be another cross-country trek through the mountains to Cochrane in Chile.  By attempting this route, I don’t have to return South to Argentinian Route-40 which is really tedious with nothing but barren landscape to see.  Fingers crossed, I’ll avoid the mountain pumas and make it to Cochrane safely.  68-miles completed (905-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 14/11/12

Headed North from El Chalten along Provincial Route-23 – surface a bit like Chesil Beach in Portland!  Beautiful mountain scenery all the way with waterfalls and rivers teeming with fish.  Arrived at the South end of the isolated Lago del Desierto in readiness for the departing ferry going to the North shore.  On arrival at the lake,  the ferry was high and dry out of the water with mechanical problems and with no chance of a crossing for weeks to come.  With no alternative, I then had to start carrying my bike and panniers in relays along the Eastern shore of the lake.  This wouldn’t have been too bad if there had been a level path;  unfortunately, there was a trail fit only for goats and the terrain was mountainous and through forests and streams.  Managed to complete about 2-miles across the lake in the 5-hours before darkness fell.  Camping directly opposite a glacier on the West bank tonight which is creaking and thundering away with avalanches of snow and ice falling into the lake every few minutes.  In pretty poor physical shape with all the continuous heavy and awkward lifting I’ve had to do; a bit fed up with the bad luck regarding the ferry; and certainly not looking forward to tomorrow.  31-miles completed (936-miles cumulative).

Thursday 15/11/12

After another 13-hours of struggle, I finally managed to carry the bike and panniers to the North shore of the lake.  Currently a physical wreck, I’m more concerned that the bike will be OK as it’s taken a bit of a battering really.  Cleared Argentinian border formalities in readiness for another early start tomorrow morning.  Camping in an idyllic location on the North shore with an amazing view looking back down the lake and to Mount Fitzroy in the late evening sun.  Aching all over and totally exhausted.  6-miles completed (942-miles cumulative).

Friday 16/11/12

3rd straight day of bike & pannier carrying started from the Argentinian border post heading up and over the no-man’s-land to the Chilean border post.  Near vertical climb for 2-miles, then through beautiful mountain forests for another 8-miles and finishing with a precarious and dangerous downhill stretch of 4-miles before finishing at a 1-house ferry port called Candelario Mancilla on the shores of Lago O’Higgins.  Once again, the terrain was extremely tough with countless, fast-flowing streams, bogs, fallen trees, rocks and tree roots to negotiate.  Completely stuck up to my knees in mud at one point with the bike on my shoulder.  I managed to get to the ferry house just before dark and will camp on the one open area of grass beside the house tonight.  Legs, arms, shoulders, feet, hands and clothing are in shreds but I’ve made it in time for tomorrow’s once-weekly ferry.  Completed Chilean border formalities.  I’m going to remember the last 3-days for a long, long time.  14-miles completed (956-miles cumulative).

Saturday 17/11/12

Ferry finally turned up and crossed to Bahamondez Port.  Incredible mountain shoreline with huge waterfalls cascading into the lake.  Very windy and very rough crossing and I had to make sure the bike was lashed down properly or it would have been over the side.  Finally got back onto the bike and rode into a small little place called Villa O’Higgins, where I’ve booked into a little hostel called El Mosco for 2-nights to recover.  Met a lovely Belgian & Bolivian couple (Stephen & Valeria) who are on their way to Bolivia for Christmas.  They treated me to a lovely meal this evening.  Best part of the day was finally having a hot shower.  37-miles completed (993-miles cumulative).

Sunday 18/11/12

Had a day off today and concentrated on getting my kit and laundry sorted and getting my bike properly cleaned.  Got invited to Sunday dinner by the boss of the ferry Company (Robinson Crusoe) who I met yesterday.  He had just gone out and shot a hare, skinned it and cooked it.  I’ve never tasted hare before but it really is delicious.  His lovely wife also made a wonderful tomato salad – fantastic.  Getting ready for another tough day on the gravel tomorrow cycling through the stunning Aysen Region of Patagonia.  0-miles completed (993-miles cumulative).

Monday 19/11/12

Set off at 1030 this morning heading North West along another rough gravel road.  Made pretty good progress along Route X-91 until about 22-miles short of Rio Bravo when a series of steep uphill climbs out of the river gorges made progress very difficult.  The steep hills continued for about 10-12 miles before a twisting descent to the valley floor.  Made a big effort to get to Rio Bravo to catch a ferry across the Mitchell Fjord to Puerto Yungay but gutted to find out that it doesn’t leave until 1300 tomorrow.  Rio Bravo is not a very glamorous place, it’s just a concrete ferry ramp with a wooden waiting room, in which I’m sleeping tonight because there’s nowhere to pitch a tent.  61-miles completed (1,054 miles cumulative).

Tuesday 20/11/12

A very frustrating wait for the ferry today but I finally got to Puerto Yungay and immediately began a very long and very steep climb before descending into a river valley.  Decided to turn West towards a small village called Caleta Tortel which is situated on a Pacific Ocean inlet, because of rapidly deteriorating weather conditions and because there was absolutely nowhere to pitch a tent amongst the rocky gorges.  Conditions became really bad with torrential, freezing rain.  I was so glad of the protective motorcycle gear I’d brought with me or I would have been in quite a bit of trouble otherwise.  Just made it to Caleta Tortel before complete darkness and staying in a cheap B & B for shelter.  A pretty awful day.  36-miles completed (1,090 cumulative).

Wednesday 21/11/12

Caleta Tortel turned out to be a village built on wooden stilts with wooden walkways for pavements.  Pretty eerie place really with the Pacific mists swirling around – reminded me of the old film “The Fog”.  It’s actually built next to the Rio Baker delta which is the largest river, by volume, in Chile.  Freezing rain again this morning but it brightened up this afternoon.  The first 50-miles were along the fairly flat Rio Baker valley, then a huge climb up a mountain before a gradual, never ending descent into the small town of Cochrane.  Some better road conditions this morning amongst the usual rubble.  Beautiful scenery all the way.  A case of deja vue – another bull blocking the road – this time I had to walk the bike around his rear end as he wouldn’t budge or even look at me – very scary.  Very late into Cochrane so stayed in another cosy little B & B as I couldn’t find anywhere to pitch the tent again.  80-miles completed (1,170-miles cumulative).

Thursday 22/11/12

Late midday start after last night’s late finish.  Cochrane turned out to be a nice little place with paved streets.  Day started with 15-miles of very steep climbs on a  road surface even worse than the road to Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego.  More animals blocking the road today, this time a family of guanacos who simply wouldn’t move until I whistled really loudly.  Landscape continues to inspire.  I’d wanted a short, easy day today but got the opposite really.  Camping on the shore of Lago Bertrand at the source of the Rio Baker tonight.  31-miles completed (1,201-miles cumulative).

Friday 23/11/12

Gales and torrential rain last night meant I had to wait about 2-hours to try and dry everything in the morning sun.  Usual uphill start for about 5-miles and then made steady progress until the turn to a tiny place called El Leon when a freezing headwind coming straight down off the high glaciers started.  Finally reached El Leon (just 2-shacks), turned North East, and made good progress onto Puerto Rio Tranquilo where I’m camping tonight.  Very hilly and very dusty all the way today with absolutely everything coated.  Saw some wild turkeys and some alpaca along the way – the alpaca were quite comical and seemed mesmerised by the sight of a cyclist.  Now part of the way around the huge lake called Lago General Carrera.  Glorious scenery in beautiful sunshine all day but the freezing wind never seems to die down at the moment.  42-miles completed (1,243-miles cumulative).

Saturday 24/11/12

Headed North along remaining coastline of Lago General Carrera.  Road still bad but flatter than of late.  Followed the Rio Murta North into freezing headwind then made a huge climb out of the valley floor to turn East.  Finally, a nice, smooth section of hardened clay followed for a couple of miles before I finally found a place to pitch a tent alongside the Rio Horquetas.  Very dusty again with dust-devils springing up all day.  Lost my bike-lock keys when I ripped my trouser pocket.  I have a spare set but definitely can’t afford to lose them or I’ll be in trouble.  Didn’t think I’d get this far today so quite pleased really.  57-miles completed (1,300-miles cumulative).

Sunday 25/11/12

Day started in beautiful, warm sunshine as I climbed up out of the Rio Horquetas valley and up past a lovely lake called Laguna Verde.  Scenery getting better than ever with Mount Cerro Castillo dominating the skyline.  There was a very steep but very difficult descent on a treacherous surface into the tiny village of Villa Cerro Castillo – no more than 3 m.p.h.  On arrival, there was the wonderous sight of a concrete road heading North out of the village!  Had a quick bite to eat and a cup of tea before heading 9-miles uphill on the concrete – the last 4-miles were very difficult.  Finally got back up onto the snowline in the Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo which is refuge for the endangered Huemule Deer.  Had a very narrow escape from falling rocks at the top of the climb and had to wave down a motorcyclist who was behind me about the continued danger.  Then had a fantastic descent to Vista Hermosa before turning North West towards Coyhaique.  A very cold Northerly wind started up in the afternoon and with no place to camp again, I asked a farmer if I could camp in his field.  60-miles completed (1,360-miles cumulative).

Monday 26/11/12

Hardly any sleep last night due to a bitterly cold wind, despite having all items of clothing on.  It took 4-hours to complete just 20-miles into Coyhaique this morning due to the continuing wind so I decided to call it quits for the day as it was getting quite dangerous on the roads.  Had a very rare laundry day and ate pizza, chips, cake, biscuits and chocolate all day to raise the spirits a bit.  Staying in a lovely little hostel and met a charming graphic designer from Nebraska who is travelling the world.  20-miles completed (1,380-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 27/11/12

Had to use my sleeping bag last night as the quilt supplied by the hostel was the size of a postage stamp.  Never mind, they provided a really nice breakfast which set me up for the day.  A bit cold and overcast all day, very windy first thing but brighter in the afternoon.  Day started with a 4-mile climb out of Coyhaique after which I headed North West along the Rio Simpson valley and through the National Reserve.  There was an impressive Catholic shrine in the valley (these shrines are literally everywhere in South American).    After about 30-miles, I turned North East up the Rio Manihuales valley where there was an incredible Spring wildflower display – mile after mile of beautiful purple, white, yellow and pink flowers.  The whole valley from start to finish was covered in millions upon millions of flowers.  Had a break in Villa Manihuales before pressing on to find a suitable camping spot for the night.  Finally found a place next to the Mina El Toqui access road.  A good day really. 70-miles completed (1,450-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 28/11/12

Glorious, warm sunshine all day with very little wind.  The best cycling day so far with stunning mountain scenery.  Stopped and sat down for a drink from a mountain stream when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye land on top of my rear rack.  I thought it was a large dragon fly at first, as they’re everywhere, but it turned out to be a little humming bird (I think).  Unfortunately, it must have been exhausted or something and quickly died – very sad.  Progressed North through the beautiful Reserva Nacional Lago Los Torres and had a break in Villa Amengual.  After 42-miles, the tarmac gave way to more ripio and almost immediately I began an incredibly difficult 5-mile climb into the Quelat National Park.  The climb was 33% in places which was far too much for me so I had to settle for a flat-footed push to the top.  There was an almost immediate descent to the Rio Quelat valley floor which was pretty terrifying to say the least.  The river valley turned out to be a strange place, obviously affected by the nearby Pacific Ocean – huge, cabbage-like plants, giant bamboos and giant ferns.  Followed the valley until it became a sea inlet and eventually found an old works sand pit near to the Ventisquero Colgante Glacier to camp for the night.  A great day until the gravel and then extremely difficult.  65-miles completed (1,515-miles cumulative).

Thursday 29/11/12

Had a bad night last night with very little sleep and felt very lethargic this morning after yesterday’s big climb.  Had a nice little ride along a Pacific inlet into the small fishing village of Puyuhuapi.  Salmon farming seems to be a thriving business in these parts.  Struggled on to La Junta where I quickly cleaned the dust off my bike and panniers and bedded down for the night in a cheap little hostel.  Feeling very tired at the moment.  42-miles completed (1,557-miles cumulative).

Friday 30/11/12

Low cloud, mist and drizzle all day.  Followed the Rio Palena most of the day as I headed pretty much due North all day to Villa Santa Lucia.  Decided not to progress further to Chaiten as the road was a complete quagmire with continuous lorry loads of supplies moving North as the Chileans try to rebuild the infrastructure of the region following the big volcanic eruption of Mount Chaiten a few years back.  Instead I turned East, descended to the southern shoreline of Lago Yelcho and then finally found a place to camp away from the road.  Although there is always grass nearby, I have been very wary of camping next to deserted shacks, sheds, outbuildings, etc. as they will invariably attract mice who also use them as shelter.  Trouble is, once disturbed, particles of mice droppings can become airborne in dust, (e.g. when you clear the ground of leaves, stones and branches to camp).  If you breathe in this dust, there is a distinct possibility of contacting Hanta Virus which has been reported in this region.  If you contact this Virus, it’s curtains.  A head down slog all day.  58-miles completed (1,615-miles cumulative).

Saturday 1/12/12

Reached the tiny village of Puerto Ramirez and then turned North East in torrential rain and along an awful road to Futaleufu.  Finally reached Futaleufu which is a picturesque little town favoured by the American kayaking and rafting fraternities because of the extremely difficult rapids nearby.  Had a bite to eat, spent my remaining Chilean Pesos and cycled up the Futaleufu Pass to clear Chilean and Argentinian border formalities.  Sods law, the last 6-miles to the Posts was tarmac.  Leaving Chile this time, I have finally left the Carretera Austral road system.   Instigated by General Pinochet in the ’70′s, it is quite a feat of engineering considering the terrain it runs through.  When the road system is fully sealed, it will be one of the best bike rides in the world.  Until it’s sealed, and if I did ever return to Aysen, I won’t be cycling on it!  It turned into a beautiful, sunny evening as I crossed into Argentina and the landscape became very reminiscent of home, even with some Welsh place names.  I carried on until nearly dark to a small town called Trevelin, where I am camping on a rugby field.  65-miles completed (1,680-miles cumulative).

Sunday 2/12/12

Very, very sore from weeks of riding over ripio so I decided to have a day off.  Torrential rain from late last night and all day today has flooded many roads and turned others into mud baths anyway.  Cleaned and lubricated bike and tightened the headset which was coming loose after weeks of continuous vibrations over the ripio.  Everything closed today so had to do laundry by hand.  Watched Velez Sarsfield win the Argentinian Championship this afternoon.  Staying in a B&B tonight.  0-miles completed (1,680-miles cumulative).

Monday 3/12/12

Had a huge breakfast including delicious walnut bread.  Rain finally stopped late last night but still a strong North Westerly wind this morning.  Decided to stay on ripio and forego the paved Route-40 via Esquel in order to get some shelter from the wind in the lee of the mountains.  Spent all day cycling through Los Alerces National Park on forest tracks bordering Lagos Futalaufquen and Rivadavia.  Very peaceful and just saw a few people all day including a trout fisherman from New York who had flown down in his private jet for a break (he was busy disinfecting his gear to stop the spread of Didymo Algae which would cause havoc if it ever got hold in Patagonia); and, a motorcycle tourist from Shrewsbury, who was heading South to Ushuaia – he works for Aston Villa so we spent a quite a bit of time discussing the weekend’s results.  It was actually really good to speak English to someone for a change.  Camping in a nice little spot at Puerto Canero on Lago Rivadavia tonight.  59-miles completed (1,739-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 4/12/12

Really sick this morning – not sure whether it was something I’d eaten or the water I’d drunk.  Had very little energy until I cleared Los Alerces National Park, finally left the ripio for good, and entered the small town of Cholila, where a lollipop and a can of coke seemed to settle my stomach.  Joined Route-40 and headed North through the outskirts of Epuyen, Lago Puelo and El Hoyo before settling down for the night in a hostel in the busy little town of El Bolson.  Route-40 was very busy and dangerous today and I’m a little bit worried about tomorrow.  65-miles completed (1,804-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 5/12/12

A difficult day along Route-40 with continuous up and down terrain in a mostly rocky, barren landscape with little greenery.  High mountains seem to be bare and covered in ash deposits, probably as a result of the recent eruptions of Volcano Puyehue which is just over the border in Chile.  Hardly any mountain streams to mention which points to even smaller amounts of available water further East.  Went along the Western shore of Lago Guillelmo before eventually finding a place to camp on the South shore of Lago Mascardi.  Still feeling unwell and still a bit worried about some of the drivers in these parts.  58-miles completed (1,862-miles cumulative).

Thursday 6/12/12

Scenery changed as I approached San Carlos De Bariloche from the South along the Eastern shores of Lagos Mascardi and Gutierrez.  The roadside verges were covered in miles of yellow gorse-like bushes in full bloom.  Arrived on outskirts of the large town of SCDB to the sight of an open landfill and litter strewn roads so I decided to carry on and turned North West along Route-231, along the shore of Lago Nahuel Huapi.  There were some beautiful houses along the route so this is obviously a place for the rich.  Arrived in the pretty, little tourist village of Villa La Angostura in pouring rain – a shame because I would imagine this place would look quite a sight on a sunny day.  Still feeling unwell and camping for the night not far off the main road through the village.  77-miles completed (1,939-miles cumulative).

Friday 7/12/12

Decided to go back into Chile because of the lack of ready drinking water and dangerous driving in Argentina.  Headed up the long and winding Cardinal Antonio Samore Pass through an area of dormant volcanoes.  Volcanic dust and the occasional whiff of sulphur still hung in the air for most of the climb.  The summit (the actual border between the two countries) was bitterly cold with freezing mist and low cloud and very little visibility.  The whole route up from Argentina and down the other side into Chile is covered in volcanic ash and pumice from the Puyehue eruption.  On the Chilean side of the border, all the trees are a ghostly white having been burnt and singed by the hot, falling ash.  Made the long, freezing descent down past hot, volcanic springs and on to Lago Puyehue and proceeded along the southern shoreline until stopping at a place called Entre Lagos.  Landscape has now changed to rolling farmlands.  71-miles completed (2,010-miles cumulative).

Saturday 8/12/12

A warm, sunny day with just a gentle breeze.  Headed West on Route-215 and turned North on Route-5 just East of Osorno.  Landscape now beautiful, rolling pastures with the snow-capped Andes just visible to the East.  Route-5 is commonly called the “Trans-American Highway” – this far South, it’s equivalent to a dual carriageway at home and I’ve seen quite a few Chilean cyclists on it today making use of the very wide, smooth shoulder.  Beginning to feel that I’m on “mainland” South America now and finally starting to make some progress North.  Reached the small town of Los Lagos.  86-miles completed (2,096-miles cumulative).

Sunday 9/12/12

Overcast all morning then nice and sunny in the afternoon.  The rolling farmland and hills along Route-5 remind me a bit of the M4 through Wiltshire and Berkshire although there are a lot more trees here in Chile as well as  the occasional volcano that pops up into view.  Having no luck finding camping spots at the moment as everything is fenced off and the only “official” campsites are way to the East.  Reached the town of Pitrufquen and staying in a dilapidated hostel next to a noisy petrol station tonight.  84-miles completed (2,180-miles cumulative).

Monday 10/12/12

Overcast again today but this evening was lovely, warm sunshine.  The trek north along Route-5 remains the same but I’m making steady progress at the moment.  Reached the town of Collipulli which has a very impressive yellow-metal, rail viaduct over the Rio Malleco, just as you enter the town.  I had to push the bike over the river gorge on the lower road bridge.  Staying in the Collipulli Savoy tonight – cost £11.  83-miles completed (2,263-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 11/12/12

Very tired this morning, missed breakfast and made a late start.  Sunny all day but a tough headwind made  progress pretty slow.  Camped in a tiny place called Salto Del Laja which had a nice waterfall and a river gorge splitting the village in two.  66-miles completed (2,329-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 12/12/12

Sunny for most of the day.  Had a nice tailwind this afternoon so took full advantage of it and pressed on as far as possible.  Forestry has now give way to vineyards and corn fields.  Traffic is getting heavier and heavier the nearer I get to Santiago so I’m trying to work out a suitable route to take me to the west of the whole metropolitan area.  Eventually found a place to stay tonight in the small town of Longavi.  I’ve been given a nice little room in a newly built hostel so that’ll do for me.  Good day today.  107-miles completed (2,436-miles cumulative).

Thursday 13/12/12

Getting quite hot now as I move north.  Landscape is now dominated by mile after mile of vineyards.  Got my first puncture this afternoon when a piece of staple-like metal went through my rear tyre.  Traffic is also getting a fair bit busier now the further up Route-5 I go.  Pretty much desperation stakes trying to find a spot to camp as absolutely everything is fenced off.  Had to settle for a room in the small town of Teno.  95-miles completed (2,531-miles cumulative).

Friday 14/12/12

Another hot day and traffic is getting too heavy for my liking.  Reached a northbound tunnel which was far too dangerous to enter so had to wheel my bike against the flow of the southbound Route-5 to get over the hill and continue north.  Reached the busy town of Buin about 22-miles south of Santiago.  I think this is as far as I go on Route-5 for the time being as the shoulder is disappearing for long stretches now and it’s getting quite scary at times.  I’ve planned a circuitous route for tomorrow which, hopefully, will take me most of the way to Valparaiso and completely avoid Santiago and any more tunnels.  97-miles completed (2,628-miles cumulative).

Saturday 15/12/12

A lot cooler today especially when I went up into the mountains.  Decided to avoid the Santiago congestion and the danger of the Lo Prado and Zapata tunnels on Route-68 by heading west through the wine region of Isla de Maipo and then north to Talagante.  I then joined Route-78 to Melipilla where I met a bloke called Pablo, who is apparently the best amateur cyclist in Chile.  He was also very generous in that he gave me a can of chain degreaser for free (I’d been searching for degreaser for weeks).  I then went north west through Bollenar and Chorombo before completing two fairly big, winding climbs on the way to Casablanca, where I stayed the night.  77-miles completed (2,705-miles cumulative).

Sunday 16/12/12

Joined Route-68 and headed north west on the roller coaster ride towards the busy port city of Valparaiso.  Lots of local cyclists on training runs along the wide shoulders even though, officially, cyclists aren’t allowed on any of the major routes.  The Police tend to be very pragmatic though as they realise that the main routes are just about the only way you can get about in this country.  The final descent into the city was incredibly steep so there were no lorries or buses to be seen.  The road ended abruptly at the bottom of the descent and then there was traffic chaos because as soon as the motorway ended, a Sunday market began with thousands of people milling around.  I just went straight to the harbour and followed a cycle path around the coastline to the upmarket resort of Vina Del Mar, which just happens to have a football club called Everton and also happens to be the birthplace of Tom Araya, the lead singer of Slayer.  I then followed the coastline past some very exclusive housing developments and gated communities to a place called North Zapallar where I camped in some bushes just off the main road.  79-miles completed (2,784-miles cumulative).

Monday 17/12/12

Hot and windy all day.  Went through the pretty harbour village of Papudo and rejoined Route-5 northbound shortly after.  Route-5 north of Santiago is very different to south of Santiago.  The road is much hillier now and any greenery seems to be fast disappearing.  Some beautiful views along the Pacific coast today though.  Staying in a place called Los Vilos tonight after a tough day.  59-miles completed (2,843-miles cumulative)

Tuesday 18/12/12

Another hot and windy day but cloudier in the afternoon.  Struggled today as the road was just a series of continuous long climbs and very tiring.  The road hugged the coastline nearly all the way and the scenery is now very reminiscent of the American south west, with just brush and cactus to be seen.  Population centres and services are also rapidly dying away now.  I was determined to make it to a proper campsite today so kept going to just before dark to reach a place called Socos.  I have the campsite all to myself and there’s the added bonus of some relaxing volcanic hot springs to bathe in.  A great end to the day.  95-miles completed (2,938-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 19/12/12

Had another relaxing dip in the volcanic pool this morning so set off late.  After an immediate, steep climb out of Socos, the road was mostly over a fairly flat plateau today.  Away from the coast for most of the day, riding through fruit plantations, the road then went back to the Pacific near Guanaqueros which heralded more big hills and awfully humid weather.  At the top of one climb, I had a bit of a shock as over the other side was the sprawling port city of Coquimbo and just to its north, the upmarket beach resort of La Serena.  Workers were busy working on the roof of the Coquimbo football stadium as I passed – the ground was used as a venue in the 1962 World Cup.  Route-5 became impossible to ride for long stretches today so I had to use the pavement and dirt paths to get by.  I rode on past La Serena Golf Club and found a bit of waste ground to camp on for the night.  73-miles completed (3,011-miles cumulative).

Thursday 20/12/12

Terrible humidity last night before temperatures plummeted about 0300 this morning resulting in all my kit and belongings becoming absolutely sodden with condensation.  The road north is now single lane with a very narrow shoulder and the stretch to Caleta Los Hornos this morning was very scary.  After leaving CLH, there was a huge climb up the mountains called Cuesta Buenos Aires which took me inland from the coast.  Struggled on to a place called Incahuasi and then began another big climb up the mountains called Cuesta Pajonales.  I’m glad I did this climb in the evening sun as the views at the top were wonderful as you could see directly across the valley to the European Southern Observatory at La Silla and also the Las Companas Observatory.  I’m now in the Atacama Region of Chile, although not yet in the Atacama Desert which is further north.  The heat has definitely gone up a notch today to oven-like and it’s becoming a real physical struggle to make progress.  73-miles completed (3,084-miles cumulative).

Friday 21/12/12

Baking hot today and, worryingly, much windier.  Heard huge explosions in the distant mines as I passed through little places called Cachiyuyo and Domeyko.  Arrived in Vallenar where I called it a day as I was really struggling in the heat and wind.  Learnt that Santiago is suffering torrential rain down south – oh for some rain up here because it’s now desert in all but name.  42-miles completed (3,126-miles cumulative).

Saturday 22/12/12

A really frustrating day today.  Advised by some locals to head west and take the coastal road north from Huasco, “as it was now fully paved”.  It turned out that after a few miles the road went to bad ripio.  As I am now carrying a lot more water, I decided that with the extra weight, it was just too risky to chance breaking my racks and had to return all the way to Vallenar in order to progress north.  I made a big effort in the late afternoon to push north but progress was slow due to strong winds.  Camping in the desert sand near a road junction called Algarrobal tonight, although it’s been a real struggle to erect the tent in a gale with no pegging points.  94-miles completed (3,220-miles cumulative).

Sunday 23/12/12

Last night’s gale subsided just before dawn and I started north in unusually cold and cloudy conditions resulting from the Pacific moisture.  Made steady progress in the cooler temperatures until about 1130 when the sun finally burnt the cloud away, temperatures soared and everything became a huge effort.  Route-5 went back to dual carriageway north of Vallenar so progress is now a bit easier in that respect.  I decided to take Route-386 in order to bypass Copiapo and avoid any congestion in the regional capital and then re-joined Route-5 west of a little oasis called Hacienda Toledo.  I then rode along the Rio Capiano valley before turning north again and finishing the day in a slightly bedgraggled little town called Caldera, which nestles beside the Pacific.  I’ve effectively been in desert conditions for quite a while now but today the landscape became “real” desert – just bare mountains and sand.  My knees have been giving me a lot of problems today so I’m hoping that there’s nothing serious going on.  102-miles completed (3,322-miles cumulative).

Monday 24/12/12

Followed the coastal road north, which turned out to be fairly flat compared to earlier coastal stretches.  A bit cooler in the Pacific breeze but otherwise it’s nothing but desert mountains and sand.  Stopped in an isolated fishing village called Balneario Obispito and tried some freshly caught fish called Reineta, which was really delicious.  Made it to the isolated coastal town of Chanaral in the early evening and am now going to rest here for a day as absolutely everything closed at 1900 this evening and I won’t be able to get any water or supplies for the next leg of my ride until Boxing Day.  58-miles completed (3,380-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 25/12/12

Rest day.  Happy Christmas to anyone reading this.  0-miles completed (3,380-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 26/12/12

The ride from Chanaral to Antofagasta is often considered to be the “real” Atacama Desert.  It is widely considered to be the driest place on Earth, with some places having no record of rainfall for hundreds of years.  My main concern for the crossing is water supply as, apart from a few widely-spaced posadas (truck stops), there is just sand and gravel and nowhere else to re-stock.  I started the crossing with a nice ride through Pan De Azucar National Park before re-joining Route-5 after about 35-miles.  The route was mostly uphill and very busy with heavy mining traffic.  I managed to make it to the road junction leading to the coastal town of Taltal, where I found a sheltered spot in the desert to camp away from the road.  A very hot and tiring day.  76-miles completed (3,456-miles cumulative).

Thursday 27/12/12

Had a real struggle this morning on the leg to Agua Verde. Apparently, this posada sits on top of some underground aquifers which supply Taltal to the west.  There were a couple of bushes which signalled water but the place itself is just a sandy oven.  Had a slightly better afternoon as the wind died down and then a lovely ride in the cooler evening sun including a great downhill stretch from the Mina Julia access road to road marker KM 1227, where I camped for the night.  The desert is certainly a prettier sight in the low, evening sun and the sky at night is an amazing.  The famous Paranal Observatory is not that far away to the west.  84-miles completed (3,540-miles cumulative).

Friday 28/12/12

Everything seemed to break today:  watch strap, bar-bag fastener, cycling gloves, tooth filling and last night, worst of all, the valve on my inflatable mattress.  I’m now sleeping on the ground until I can find a replacement.  Bitterly cold again last night so the thermals came in handy again.  Made good progress in the morning but had an horrendous struggle against a hot Patagonian-type gale in the afternoon and early evening.  Decided to call it a day just short of what looks like an industrial complex in the distance as I was told at an earlier posada that there were some major road works ahead and I didn’t fancy going through them in the failing light.  Rode past a strange piece of modern art at road marker KM 1308, about 45-miles short of Antofagasta.  A big hand appeared in the desert sand called “”El Mano Del Desierto”.  I haven’t got a clue what it’s supposed to represent!  77-miles completed (3,617-miles cumulative).

Saturday 29/12/12

The empty desert came to an abrupt end at an industrial site called La Negra.  Went through the road works and then there was a simple downhill through the desert canyons to the Pacific coast and the city of Antofagasta.  Antofagasta is supposedly a boom town because of the mining industry, although it’s not that impressive really.  I carried on through the city to a place called Cerro Moreno where I crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, which is marked by a roadside monument.  Not having had a wash, let alone a shower, for 4-days, I made it to the coastal town of Mejillones to get myself sorted out.  I had a lot of stares from the locals as I was just a little bit dirty and covered in salt.  60-miles completed (3,677-miles cumulative).

Sunday 30/12/12

Having left Route-5 at La Negra, I am now on Route-1 heading up the Pacific coast.  The road is hemmed in by the high mountains of the Cordillera De La Costa to the east and a rocky moonscape and the Pacific to the west.  There is the occasional sandy cove but this is a pretty hostile place really.  I stopped at a little mining village on the coast called Michila for a break from the heat and watched the daredevil mining trucks descending the zig-zag roads from the mines thousands of feet up in the coastal mountains.  I had to admire the drivers’ skill and bravery.  A real struggle today.  77-miles completed (3,754-miles cumulative).

Monday 31/12/12

I finished off the last few miles to the coastal city of Tocopilla which appears to be another mining hub and port.  Had to finish early because I’d aggravated an old rib injury by sleeping on the ground.  Tried to find a new mattress or roll-mat in town but had no luck.  24-miles completed (3,778-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 1/1/13

Left Tocopilla early with quite a few people still partying in the streets, but the roads were otherwise quiet for a change.  After about 14-miles I had a bit of a shock as there was an 18-hole golf course in the middle of nowhere.  There was no grass and the fairways and greens were finely crushed rock and gravel with painted stones to mark the fairways and to represent hazards, e.g. blue for water.  A few hundred yards further I passed through a mountain tunnel (there was no other option this time).  Once through the tunnel the coastline became a long succession of sandy bays with lots of pelicans and the odd man or two harvesting seaweed for some purpose.  Got the first sight of running water for ages when I crossed the tiny Rio Loa as it trickled into the Pacific.  Had two fairly tiring climbs in the evening: Cuesta De Punta Labos and Cuesta Pabellon De Pica.  On the first descent I freewheeled at 45.5 m.p.h. into Rio Seco, my fastest time to date.  A long but enjoyable day with a nice cool Pacific breeze.  104-miles completed (3,882-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 2/1/13

Finished off the ride into the little coastal city of Iquique, passing the airport and another rock & gravel golf course on the way.  Iquique is probably the nicest place I’ve seen since Vina Del Mar.  Finished early and got a little replacement airbed in a DIY shop.  Also managed to find a jet washer and gave the bike a good clean.  Did some minor maintenance and changed the brake shoes.  Staying in a backpackers hostel and feeling very old.  41-miles completed (3,923-miles cumulative).

Thursday 3/1/13

Began the day with a tough 7-mile climb up the mountain overlooking Iquique.  At the summit, paragliders were leaping off and heading down to the beach far below.  The road then turned east and I climbed gradually for another 15-miles or so to the top of the Cordillera De La Costa.  Saw the first of many geoglyphs at the top of the Cordillera and then made a small descent into Humberstone ghost town, which was once a major potash mining centre but, due to falling demand, was completely abandoned in 1960.  By the look of it, the inhabitants left literally overnight and everything is preserved pretty much as it was.  Shortly after Humberstone, I re-joined Route-5 northbound and got as far as the desert oasis crossroads of Huara.  I had planned to turn east here and head up into Bolivia but was told by some locals that there had been trouble at the border crossings due to land owners demanding money from anyone using the main roads which cross their land.  I didn’t really fancy getting involved in local disputes as they can quickly get out of hand in Bolivia.  I was also told that there had been a number of landslides in the mountains with quite a few roads cut off – the rainy season is from November to April.  I’m now trying to work out another suitable route out of Chile.  53-miles completed (3,976-miles cumulative).

Friday 4/1/13

First thing, I saw “El Gigante De Tarapaca” geoglyph, just to the east of Huara.  Apparently, this is one of the biggest geoglyphs in the world at around 280′ in height.  Went north through the flood plain of Pampa Del Tamarugal which has thousands of small trees surviving on the occasional wash coming down from the Cordillera.  The lunar landscape then continued as I went up Cuestas Tiliviche and Tana in the late afternoon.  I stopped at the top of Cuesta Chiza because the descent into the canyon looked pretty daunting and I didn’t want to do it in the failing light.  It’s been a real fight to make any progress today because of the westerly gale coming in from the Pacific across the high desert plateau.  78-miles completed (4,054-miles cumulative).

Saturday 5/1/13

I was really glad I changed my brake pads in Iquique because the steep, 10-mile descent to the Rio Suca canyon floor was very dangerous – I lost count of the number of burnt out buses and cars that had gone over the side.  The road then continued along the canyon floor to a place called Cuya which appeared to be nothing more than a police vehicle checkpoint area with a couple of cafes.  There was then a huge, 14-mile climb back up the canyon which seemed to go on for ever and was really tiring.  I then crossed the desolate high desert plateau called Pampa De Camarones before finishing the day with a nice gentle descent into the Chaca canyon where I called it a day.  The wind has been awful again today.  61-miles completed (4,115-miles cumulative).

Sunday 6/1/13

Made the 6.5-mile climb out of Chaca canyon first thing and then had a fairly straightforward crossing over the desert plateau before a nice, gentle descent into Arica, the most northerly city in Chile.  Some pretty awful shanty towns on the outskirts of the city and a prison complete with armed guards in towers welcome visitors from the south!  I’ve had to book into a hotel to get my kit sorted but in any case camping is out of the question because this whole border area is littered with marked and unmarked minefields.  I hope to cross the border into Peru tomorrow and make it to Tacna, where I’ll seek further advice on onward progression.  At the moment, I fear my options are pretty limited and I may have to stay in the high desert for a long time to come.  28-miles-completed (4,143-miles cumulative).

Monday 7/1/13

Left Arica in good time and passed a Dakar Rally staging post on the way to the Chilean border post.  The current round of the Dakar Rally is being jointly hosted by Peru, Chile and Argentina  The last mile or so to the border went right through the middle of yet another minefield.  Border formalities were pretty straightforward although a very young Peruvian official did try to tell me that I needed a vehicle permit for my bike(!) until, thankfully, he was corrected by his senior.  A few miles into Peru, I got hit by a small dust devil which covered me in sand and debris.  A few minutes later, a dust devil hundreds of feet high crossed the road not far in front of me.  It actually looked like a funnel tornado but it quickly dissipated.  Arrived in Tacna to get some local currency and got some general advice on travel in Peru from the local Tourist Office.  Pleasantly surprised by Tacna but not by the driving standards which are unbelievably bad.  Peru is minus-2 hours behind Chile so my daily routine will have to change quite a bit from now on.  36-miles completed (4,179-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 8/1/13

Headed south west to the coast to avoid the heavy traffic heading north to Lima on Route-1S.  The coast road was between wide, sandy beaches and dunes to just past the little, coastal village of Boca Del Rio.  The coast then became quite rocky until it reached the oasis of the Ite wetlands.  It was quite strange seeing sheep & goats grazing on a narrow green strip of land between the desert and the ocean.  Finished off the day back in the dunes and called it a day at a place called Ilo.  It’s already plain to see that Peru has quite limited services, e.g. road signs are virtually non-existent.  It’s also plain to see that there are some very poor people in this country.  98-miles completed (4,277-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 9/1/13

Took ages to find my way out of Ilo as the main coastal road into town just disappeared and became a side street whilst there wasn’t a single directional road sign (exactly like Tacna).  Thick, ocean mist and very humid first thing.  Guessed I was on the right road when I passed through an industrial eyesore called Fundicion.  Not long after, I began a brand new stretch of road with a lovely, smooth surface.  This stretch led up into the coastal cliffs and mountains with continuous up and downs, curves and hairpins.  The road eventually descended onto a wide beach bordered by dunes and an escarpment.  The beach gradually disappeared and became farmland all the way into the coastal town of Punta De Bombon.  For some reason, the road then disappeared at PDB and became a rough, sandy track through a cornfield which was impossible to ride on because the bike just sunk in the fine dust.  The road suddenly reappeared after about a mile and I carried on through endless rice fields past the small villages of Cocachacra, La Curva and Mejia.  Finished a hard day at the coastal resort of Mollendo.  85-miles completed (4,362-miles cumulative).

Thursday 10/1/13

Made a short but nerve shredding ride from Mollendo to Matarani around some treacherous coastal hairpins and then began a straight-up climb of 14-miles through the coastal mountains.  The weather was very hot which made the climb really gruelling.  After just over 3-hours I got up onto the high desert plateau.  Passed a small farming community in an oasis just before re-joining Route-1S.  Carried on through the desert and slowly climbed to La Reparticion before turning north west on the main Lima road.  Stopped at a small place called El Cruce just as the light started to fade.  Really glad to get today out of the way.  60-miles completed (4,422-miles cumulative).

Friday 11/1/13

Very hot and windy all day.  Started the day with two down and ups into the Rio Vitor and Sihuas river gorges.  Just about negotiated a dangerous, uphill tunnel on the climb out of Vitor, although I had to stop twice and pin myself against the rock wall to avoid some lunatic coach drivers.  Had a terrible afternoon in the desert wind before completing an 11-mile descent to the coast.  Saw a small truck carrying melons lose it on a bend and go into a ditch.  Both male occupants climbed out of the wreckage and started laughing and cheering as I passed!  Carried on to the coastal town of Camana to end the day.  78-miles completed (4,500-miles cumulative).

Saturday 12/1/13

Got woken up at 0530 by a big lorry trying to negotiate the tight street outside my hostal bedroom window.  Watched as the driver hit the high hostal hoarding on the side of the building, tearing it off its fixings, and then hit and brought down a power line in a shower of sparks.  The driver just drove off – unbelievable!  I told the hostal staff what had just happened and pointed out the power line dangling on the pavement but they just shrugged it off!  My legs started to go on a climb up from the coast to two shacks called Los Alamos.  Shortly after, I just called it a day because the heat was unbearable.  Reached the coastal farming community of Ocana where the locals are celebrating something and all seem to be hammered so I’ve locked myself in a B&B room to watch the NFL play-offs.  Not really with it at the moment and feeling a bit iffy.  40-miles completed (4,540-miles cumulative).

Sunday 13/1/13

I’m not going to forget last night in a hurry.  Quickly became very ill and incredibly weak. Must have passed out at some stage because I woke up on bathroom floor with a massive headache and huge lump on the back of my head.  No idea how I got there or how long I’d been there.  It was an effort just to lie down today so I’ve just been drinking the town’s supply of bottled water to try and sort myself out.  0-miles completed (4,540-miles cumulative).

Monday 14/1/13

Still far from well but just had to get out of Ocona which wasn’t the nicest of places really.  The coastline continued to be really testing with continuous up and downs, including a few quite big climbs.  Still very hot but the biggest challenge today was the sky high humidity which just drained me so I called it a day at Atico.  I’ve been getting really sick of South American “food” for quite some time now and suspect it may be contributing to the bad way I’ve been feeling for the last few weeks.  I’m certain it caused my illness in Ocona as I only drink bottled water.  Boiled rice and fried fish or chicken seems to be the staple choice for breakfast, dinner and tea in Peru.  Soups (greasy dishwater) contain all manner of things, including chicken feet and gizzards.  At least in Argentina and Chile there were proper supermarkets supplying fresh fruit and other produce.  Unfortunately, this part of Peru doesn’t seem to have a single market, just shacks and kiosks stacked with toilet rolls and fizzy drinks.  46-miles completed (4,586-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 15/1/13

Got going at first light hoping for cooler conditions.  The stretch of coast west of Atico was much flatter than of late and I made steady progress until a difficult and dangerous climb just east of Chala.  Passed another lorry overturned at the final hairpin on the climb.  Decided to carry on through Chala and then had a really hard period of climbing up and over some coastal mountains before finally descending to the coastal village of Yauca, where I camped in some groves.  Draining humidity is really taking its toll.  A long and very tiring day.  87-miles completed (4,673-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 16/1/13

Started out across flat, windswept, coastal sands and shallow dunes.  Carried on for about 15-miles before beginning a very gradual climb up and away from the coast towards Nazca.  The landscape remains empty, featureless and uninspiring.  Got to the outskirts of Nazca which were very busy with traffic so, with the road ahead looking a bit tricky and as it was already getting dark, I found a spot down a track off the main highway to camp.  72-miles completed (4,745-miles cumulative).

Thursday 17/1/13

A little less humid today.  Had a quick ride around the virtually empty Nazca streets.  The town seems to be a tourist hotspot judging by the number of restaurants, hotels and shops.  I then had a straightforward ride to Palpa before a small up and down into the village of Rio Grande.  I passed the Nazca Lines on the way to Palpa and saw a couple of the Lines and geoglyphs from a distance, which is as close as the authorities will allow.  Apparently, access to the Lines is only given to approved archaeologists so tourists pay to use the local planes for a proper look.  The highway split at Rio Grande into the “old” and “new” routes.  The “new” route was built especially for lorries and coaches.  I chose the “old” route” which although much steeper, is also much shorter.  Just 2-miles or so in length, this road was really hard going, especially in the midday sun.  I couldn’t imagine lorries or coaches using this road as it is really dangerous.  Dated 1990, there was a memorial to a “tragedia” on the road with loads of names on it so maybe this prompted the building of the “new” road.  The steep climb ended with a very narrow tunnel and I then had a slow descent through the village of Santa Cruz before starting a near 30-mile straight stretch across the flat, windswept desert.  The desert ended with a short descent into the Rio Ica valley and a place called Santiago, which must be the longest village in the world because it went on for about another 12-miles.  There must be an ongoing peasants revolt in Santiago as there were signs of burnt out barricades and tyres on the road and hundreds of armed police just sitting along the road waiting for something to happen.  I went through as fast as I could as it was nearly dark and didn’t want to get caught up in anything.  The Rio Ica valley was full of huge vineyards and cotton plantations.  In total darkness, I finally found a place to stay on the outskirts of Ica.  88-miles completed (4,833-miles cumulative).

Friday 18/1/13

Very hot today.  Managed to negotiate the Ica rush hour traffic then completed a fairly straightforward ride through mile after mile of vineyards, a couple of stretches of open desert and finally, some very scary traffic in the city of Chincha Alta.  Made it to the far end of the city and found a place to stay for the night.  An uneventful day over flat terrain for most of the day.  71-miles completed (4,904-miles cumulative).

Saturday 19/1/13

A short hop to the coast and straight into very thick Pacific sea mist and fog.  The whole day seemed to drag on forever with no reference points and only the occasional sand dune becoming visible.  A pretty horrible day was compounded by a strong headwind and what seemed like endless hills, although with only 50-100 yards visibility all day, it was impossible to see what the terrain was really like.  The road became dual carriageway as soon as I reached the coast so at least there was some good to come out of the day.  It is now impossible to safely camp anywhere so, scared of being caught out by the dark like I was in Ica, I decided to finish early at a place called Asia.  57-miles completed (4,961-miles cumulative).

Sunday 20/1/13

Watched another River Plate v Boca Juniors game on TV last night which helped to break up the daily routine a bit.  Another good game which River won 2-0.  Made an early start in lovely conditions although it got very hot in the afternoon.  Had a fairly flat ride early on with very few hills of note and got into a good rhythm for a change with no wind to worry about either.  The closer I got to Lima, the heavier the traffic got and by the city centre I was riding in 5-lanes of crazy traffic.  Judging by the standard of driving I’ve seen so far in Peru, I was really worried at the prospect of riding through Lima.  In reality, it was just plain frightening.  Imagine a high speed free-for-all with no rules, where everyone does what they want, when they want, and that would sum up Lima traffic.  I somehow managed to survive through to the northern suburbs of Lima and a place called Puente Piedra.  As for Lima, put simply, a squalid, filthy dump.  I’m not looking forward to more of this tomorrow.  80-miles completed (5,041-miles cumulative).

Monday 21/1/13

Finally got clear of the smog, noise and filth of Lima and then spent the best part of 50-miles climbing up and down huge, coastal dunes.  Went through some small places called Ancon and Chancay on the way before descending to some coastal salt flats and finishing the day at a place called Huacho.  Very hot again today.  Really tired now after a couple of pretty stressful days.  77-miles completed (5,118-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 22/1/13

Very hot today.  Had a fairly easy ride up to the town of Barranca and then had a bit of a nightmare trying to find a bank because the town was like a rabbit warren.  Eventually found a bank but it then took me ages to find my way back out onto the PanAm.  Not feeling too clever today so I had no option but to stop at a little place called Pativilca.  41-miles completed (5,159-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 23/1/13

Headed north out of Pativilca and passed the Chimu Inca site a few miles up the highway.  I then had a long uphill ride into the coastal hills before a swift descent into a place called Gramadal.  Another long uphill followed before another quick descent into the town of Huarmey where I found a place that cooked spaghetti for a change.  After a further 10-miles or so on the flat to La Caleta De Culebras, I then had the luxury of riding on a brand new stretch of unopened dual carriageway.  The workmen said I could use it because the busy northbound and southbound traffic were using the old carriageway which didn’t have any hard shoulder.  After about 20-miles of having the whole road to myself, I found a spot in the dunes to camp in the fading light.  83-miles completed (5,242-miles cumulative).

Thursday 24/1/13

Scorching hot today.  Carried on up the empty dual carriageway for another 23-miles before my luck ran out and the road ended abruptly at a sandpit on the outskirts of Casma.  Spent all day going up and down into the high coastal dunes before reaching the city of Chimbote.  Found a comfortable, little hostal for the night directly opposite the local football stadium.  I also found a Starbucks just up the road so, for the first time in South America, I had a proper cup of coffee.  61-miles completed (5,303-miles cumulative).

Friday 25/1/13

Late start and then spent ages trying to find the northbound PanAm out of Chimbote.  Had a nice change of scenery today, spending most of the time in flat farmland with only one short, steep climb into a section of high coastal dunes.  Had to walk through another very dangerous tunnel just north of Chimbote and then went through the little towns of Santa, Guadalupito, Chao and Viru before completing a long, gradual uphill and a quick descent into the sprawling, chaotic city of Trujillo.  Managed to find a very cheap hostal, conveniently located near a nice little bakery.  Very hot and humid all day.  85-miles completed (5,388-miles cumulative).

Saturday 26/1/13

Spent over 2-hours trying to get out of and clear of Trujillo this morning.  No signs and traffic chaos as usual.  Like most of Peru, Trujillo’s population just throws its rubbish, building waste and other unsavoury items onto the street.  I couldn’t stop for water or food until I was about 20-miles clear of Trujillo because of swarms of flies which are now a real nuisance.  No hills and fairly flat all day.  Roasting hot again and I can sense it getting hotter and hotter the further north I go.  Stopped at a place called Pacasmayo for the night.  Nerves in shreds with the crazy traffic.  70-miles completed (5,458-miles cumulative).

Sunday 27/1/13

Made an early start in an attempt to beat the traffic and heat.  Passed through numerous small towns today, most of which were holding Sunday markets.  Saw loads of lizards along the roadside, all with striking, powder-blue heads.  Flat all day but the last 20-miles or so in the empty desert were scorching hot and gave a taster for what’s still ahead.  Got sand blasted most of the day by a strong crosswind but finished in good time at the city of Chiclayo.  65-miles completed (5,523-miles cumulative).

Monday 28/1/13

Got through Chiclayo and Lambayeque traffic congestion and then headed out through Morrope into the empty Desierto De Sechura.  The road through the sand and desert scrub was flat as a pancake with light traffic.  Had some problems with a strong crosswind blowing sand and dust but made steady progress.  Really hot today.  Found a spot in the dunes to camp just after the turning north for Piura.  79-miles completed (5,602-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 29/1/13

A hot desert gale last night left drifting sand against the tent and bike.  A lot more desert scrub, vegetation and low trees than yesterday but still pretty flat.  Cloudless sky and scorching hot today – the hottest day I’ve had in South America.  Began to wilt in the heat before getting some respite on leaving the desert and entering the outskirts of Piura.  Took the southern bypass which avoided the worst of the city traffic and then rejoined the TransAm after a few more miles.  Struck lucky again with another brand new, unopened stretch of dual carriageway all to myself, which took me the remaining 17-miles into the city of Sullana.  Unbelievably hot this afternoon and really struggled to make it to a hostal and a cold shower.  78-miles completed (5,680-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 30/1/13

Headed east out of Sullana and the desert brush gradually disappeared and gave way to mile after mile of fragrant fruit plantations.  On the outskirts of Tambo Grande, I turned north east and for the first time in ages, grassland appeared.  Stifling heat again this afternoon so I carried on to the small town of Las Lomas and called it a day.  50-miles completed (5,730-miles cumulative).

Thursday 31/1/13

Headed north this morning and the landscape quickly changed into the tree covered mountains of the Andes foothills.  Continuous up and downs but thankfully very light traffic as I made my way to the minor border posts at Rio Macara.  Had a stroke of luck just past the village of Suyo when I saw a bloke with a pressure-washer.  He kindly let me clean my bike so I bought his kids some ice cream and coke with my remaining Peruvian Soles – they were landed.  Cleared Peru border control and crossed the bridge/border into Ecuador early this afternoon.  Decided to stop at the small town of Macara to get the lie of the land and to find a bank for some US$.  There is only one way to go from now on and that´s straight up.  34-miles completed (5,764-miles cumulative).

Friday 1/2/13

Straight up into the cloud covered mountains this morning.  Impossible to see more than 100-yards all day with zero visibility a lot of the time.  Had to stop at a routine army checkpoint called Empalme so had some food in a cafe whilst waiting for the all clear to proceed.  More or less continuous climbing all day with a couple of very fast descents and no flat stretches at all.  The last 10-mile climb to the town of Catacocha was very steep and in pouring rain.  I reached the top in total darkness and zero visibility.  I was very fortunate to find a place to stay because I had absolutely no idea where I was in the thick cloud.  A really hard day.  58-miles completed (5,822-miles cumulative).

Saturday 2/2/13

Left Catacocha still in zero visibility so never actually got to see the place!  Very warm and humid first thing as I continued up the corkscrew Route-35.  With the sun blotted out by the cloud and with the road enclosed by thick vegetation, it was a bit claustrophobic and I had no idea of my bearings.  After about 12-miles, I reached a junction and continued climbing up a very steep section, occasionally getting a glimpse of some pretty frightening sheer drops off the side of the road.  There was a never ending, downhill freewheel into the large town of Catamayo, where I had a short break and some food whilst looking up at what lay ahead.  Straight up out of Catamayo on an ear-popping climb.  Everything buckled as I reached the top so I had to have another break.  Thankfully, I didn´t have to pedal again as it was all downhill on another long, fast descent into the city of Loja.  My passport says I´m in Ecuador but I still haven´t seen any of it yet.  58-miles completed (5,880-miles cumulative).

Sunday 3/2/13

Last week was probably my hardest in South America trying to cope with the desert heat and then the high mountains so I´m having a rest day in Loja to try and recover and acclimatise to the altitude.  Had a splitting headache all day so yesterday´s final descent probably stopped me feeling even worse.  Loja seems quite a nice place although once again, it´s hard to tell for sure because of the thick cloud and pouring rain.  Watching the Superbowl tonight.  0-miles completed (5,880-miles cumulative).

Monday 4/2/13

Humid and usual thick cloud as I started the twisting climb out of Loja.  There were lots of houses along the roadside but it was hard to see if they were isolated or part of villages as the cloud was so thick.  After a long climb there was a long descent into the small town of Saraguro where a lot of the men, women and children were wearing their traditional black dress:   men – long shorts & DM´s;  women – dresses & shawl;  everyone – a trilby or bowler hat & a long, black ponytail.  Continued downhill for a few more miles before another long, hard climb and gradual descent through El Tablon before finally stopping near Ona.  59-miles completed (5,939-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 5/2/13

A quick descent out of Ona to the Rio Leon and then up and down all day.  Got some very brief glimpses of beautiful mountain scenery so really looking forward to a clear day.  Got a lot cooler and rained all afternoon.  Passed the villages of Nabon and Cumbe before finishing the last descent of the day at Tarqui.  From Tarqui to the city of Cuenca was a relatively flat final 10-miles.  65-miles completed (6,004-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 6/2/13

Noticed I had a flat rear tyre late last night – once again, the cause was a bit of staple-like metal.  Lucky I wasn´t on the road at the time because there´s currently nowhere suitable to change a tyre safely.  Left at first light to beat the city traffic in thick fog, cloud and drizzle.  Straightforward ride to town of Az0gues and on to the village of Biblian before starting a long, winding climb up through mountain pastures before a gradual descent to the town of Canar.  Decided to carry on as I´d made good time and climbed to a small village called El Tambo before a final 12-mile up and down stretch to near the town of Zhud.  56-miles completed (6,060-miles cumulative).

Thursday 7/2/13

Another miserable start in zero visibility.  Absolutely no idea where I was until I reached the town of Chunchi after what seemed like an eternity.  Had a quick snack before starting a very hard uphill to and past a place called Guasuntos.  A quick descent to the town of Alausi in pouring rain before another steep climb up to Tixan before carrying on and stopping near Palmira, once again in zero visibility.  58-miles completed (6,118-miles cumulative).

Friday 8/2/13

Had the luxury of maybe 2-300 yards visibility today in amongst the usual patches of dense fog and cloud.  It also didn´t rain today.  It was quite humbling seeing toddlers who could barely walk to very old women, all in traditional dress, tending to their goats and cattle and tilling the fields by hand.  I was lucky that the road from Palmira through Guamote and on to Cajabamba was relatively flat for the Andes and ran alongside a railway line for some distance.  From Cajabamba there were a few more up and downs for about 13-miles before a final, short downhill into the city of Riobamba.  A much easier day today.  44-miles completed (6,162-miles cumulative).

Saturday 9/2/13

Heavy rain all day but visibility improved to a few miles.  Started off with a 17-mile climb north out of Riobamba followed by a short but very quick downhill to Mocha.  Managed to avoid a huge traffic jam and long diversion in the town caused by a big crash involving a lorry.  Luckily, the Police waved me through as I was on the shoulder.  Skirted around the large town of Ambato because of more traffic congestion but had a very steep climb in torrential rain to get around the other side of town.  More up and downs followed before finishing the day at the  small town of Salcedo.  Not a bad day considering all the rain.  55-miles completed (6,217-miles cumulative).

Sunday 10/2/13

A beautiful sunny morning for a change.  Fairly flat for over 20-miles in lovely scenery with cloud covered Cotopaxi volcano occasionally revealing itself.  Gradually started climbing then had a very steep section before leveling off just below the remaining snow line.  Struggled over the summit in freezing cold conditions before a fast descent to Machachi, followed by a gentle downhill to Tambillo in a torrential downpour.  Carried on to Amaguana and finished the day at Sangolqui, skirting to the south and east of Quito to avoid the city traffic at all costs.  58-miles completed (6,275-miles cumulative).

Monday 11/2/13

Another nice morning.  The road to Pifo was hilly but the road to El Quinche was very hilly and very hard work.  I thought my troubles were over as I reached the junction with the northbound Route 35.  I had intended to join it and head north east to Cayambe but was told by a Policeman that there had been a landslip onto the road (a very common occurrence apparently) and that I should head south down the Route 35, then north east at the first junction.  Got to the junction only to be told by another Policeman that the secondary road I was supposed to join was also closed by a landslide!  Having descended miles down a really steep hill to get to the junction, and with another thunder storm brewing, I decided to carry on a few more miles downhill to the small town of Guayllabamba and called it a day.  A really hard day with a really frustrating end.  Dreading tomorrow morning’s 7-mile climb back up to the junction, but quite glad I’ve got up and around Quito.  43-miles completed (6,318-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 12/2/13

Made the climb back up to the junction at Santa Rosa De Cusubamba in more torrential rain.  Continued climbing up through the rain and cloud more or less all the way to Cayambe.  The weather briefly cleared up just south of Cayambe just as I reached the marker indicating the Equator.  After a brief stop, I Crossed the Line and carried on to Cayambe, arriving in yet another afternoon thunder storm.  A bit wary about running into more road closures like yesterday, I called it a day.  Another frustrating end to a day.  It feels as if I’ve gone further vertically than horizontally today.  24-miles completed (6,342-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 13/2/13

Woke up a bit groggy this morning and noticed another slow puncture on the rear tyre, probably caused by all the glass on the roadside shoulders.  Patched up the tube and then, still half asleep, over-inflated the tyre, which promptly exploded!  Luckily, I didn’t damage the wheel rim.  Nice morning otherwise, partly cloudy but very warm.  Yet another 7-mile uphill to start the day, ending at Las Cajas.  Beautiful mountain scenery all the way.  Downhill to picturesque Lago San Pablo and then a nice ride to the town of Otavalo and onward to Ibarra.  Once again, an afternoon thunderstorm and deluge started with lightning flashes every couple of seconds so I decided to stop there and then just in case.  The weather is really beginning to delay progress now.  36-miles completed (6,378-miles cumulative).

Thursday 14/2/13

Yesterday afternoon’s deluge continued through the night but thankfully stopped around dawn.  Today turned out nice and warm with some sunshine.  Beautiful mountain scenery again north out of Ibarra and an easy start to the day for about 25-miles.  I crossed a small river bridge just after the village of El Juncal and then entered Carchi, the last province in Ecuador.  There was an immediate, very steep, 17-mile, twisting climb all the way up to a small village called Bolivar which must have taken me well above 10,000′ and which nearly wrote me off.  There’s quite a strange burning sensation in the chest/lungs in the really thin air.  I finished the day with an up and down ride into the small town of San Gabriel, with another puncture, very tired and with legs like jelly.  52-miles completed (6,430-miles cumulative).

Friday 15/2/13

Dry and cloudy all day.  Started off with a long, gradual uphill for 18-miles, passing through the small towns of Huaca and Julio Andrade.  The uphill today was plain sailing compared to yesterday’s big climb.  Then had a nice, fast freewheel down into Tulcan, the last town in Ecuador for me.  A quick bite to eat to get rid of my $ coins and a final 8-miles or so to the border at Rumichaca.  Managed to get through both border posts with relative ease despite the thousands of people and vehicles milling about.  Changed my remaining $ notes into Pesos and made my way to Ipiales to end the day.  Now in Colombia, you can sense everyone is a bit on edge with heavily armed military and police personnel very evident because of the ongoing conflict.  Literally 2-blocks from my hotel, they´ve cordoned off a street whilst investigating a suspect package.  I’m going to miss Ecuador, despite the weather, despite not being able to see for days on end and despite the never ending mountain climbs.  I took the more difficult Route-35 “Highland Road” route through the country because there´s been a lot of violent crime down in the western lowlands, especially around Guayaquile.  I think, for once, I made the right choice because the mountain country has been beautiful all the way and the people have been so friendly and welcoming.  Fingers crossed, I hope Colombia will be the same.  32-miles completed (6,462-miles cumulative).

Saturday 16/2/13

Cloudy all day.  Got through Ipiales congestion and completed a short uphill before beginning what I thought would be another routine downhill stretch.  The descent lasted 24-miles(!) down to and along the Rio Guitara canyon.  Wonderful views all the way with high waterfalls coming off the towering peaks, including the very high Cascada Humeadora.  All the time I was descending, I was thinking of and knew what would come next – another steep, exhausting 17-mile climb back up through the clouds, passing the small town of Tangua and the village of Cebedal on the way (I’m beginning to think that it’s more than a coincidence why all the climbs seem to be the around the same length?).  A little café marked the summit of the climb and I had a wonderful cuppa and a break.  Had a nice, gradual downhill into the large town of Pasto to finish the day.  The PanAm through Pasto is the worst road I have seen in South America, including the worst of the ripio roads in Chile.  Just after starting the big climb today, 2-snarling dogs appeared out of nowhere and had a go at me.  One of them has given me a very nasty bite just above the right ankle.  There’s a deep puncture on the front of my leg which I’ve tried to clean and disinfect.  The whole area is very swollen and painful at the moment and the wound won’t stop bleeding.  I really wish I’d had some CS spray to sort out those horrible things.  I had a 3-course of rabies jabs back in the UK so I hope that it won’t come to anything.  Nevertheless, it’s a bit worrying.  What a first full day in Colombia.  51-miles completed (6,513-miles cumulative).

Sunday 17/2/13

Leg wound continues to bleed and I’m beginning to think that the bite might have nicked something.  Warm, humid with occasional hot sun until it rained late afternoon.  Started with a very steep 7-mile climb up and out of Pasto followed by a treacherously fast downhill around curves and hairpins for another 7-miles or so.  Carried on through the town of Chacagui and had just got to a turn for the local airport when the PanAm once again just disintegrated into a total mess – not as bad as Pasto but certainly the worst stretch of “paved” road I’ve seen in South America.  The dangerous surface was little help when I started a 14-mile downhill into another deep canyon with huge, sheer drops on my side, and no barrier!  The scenery was spectacular though.  At the bottom of the canyon, I started a very steep 8-mile climb back up the high peak, reaching the summit at Alto Chapungo, site of the amusingly named Hotel Julius Caesar.  Finished the day with a gentle downhill into the village of Remolino.  55-miles completed (6,568-miles cumulative).

Monday 18/2/13

In a pickle last night as the promised bank in Remolino wasn’t there so, after paying for a room with my remaining Pesos, I was left with no ready cash, no food and very little water as I headed north this morning.  Crossed into Cauca Province first thing in hot and terribly humid conditions.  The scenery has changed dramatically since descending from yesterday’s final, big climb and the immediate mountains are much smaller and covered in a virtual jungle.  No big climbs today but almost continuous up and downs across the tree-lined hills.  The road surface remained in a terrible state for the first 23-miles today and suddenly became a proper road again.  My remaining water ran out with about 10-miles to go to my final destination at a place called El Bordo and, with no food either, I had virtually nothing left and “hit the wall” really badly.  Sods law, the final 5-miles today were all uphill and a pretty awful experience.  Another dog had a go at my legs today but I now carry some ready ammunition (stones) on top of my front panniers and caught it a real beaut on its head so it didn’t come back.  Also, I cycled past a black bloke in a loincloth who was having a wash in a muddy, roadside puddle outside his shack.  Next thing, he was chasing me up the road with a stick shouting something about “gringos” – luckily, I was a bit too fast for the nutter.  This was definitely one of my very worst days in South America.  I dread to think what else is going to happen in Colombia.  50-miles completed (6,618-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 19/2/13

Cloudy but not so humid today.  The day was all about 3-difficult climbs:  10-miles up to Rosas and 5 & 2-miles up to a plateau just south of the small town of Timbio, where I finished the day.  The beginning and end of the day were a series of fairly routine up and downs through lovely countryside.  No less than 9 dog incidents today, with the things all running out of houses whilst the owners just stood idly by, doing and saying nothing as was trying to fend them off!  42-miles completed (6,660-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 20/2/13

Took the western route on a nice country road to bypass the city of Popyan.  Things became a bit more difficult just before and after Piendamo as I was struggling in the humidity so I decided to have an early finish at a roadside hotel in the village of Tunia.  No dog incidents today.  36-miles comnpleted (6,696-miles cumulative).

Thursday 21/2/13

Nice, sunny morning to start but thick cloud this afternoon.  Lots of steep up and downs for the first 20-miles or so before gradually leveling off approaching the large town of Santander, where I stopped for supplies and a break.  There was a great stretch of dual carriageway north of town leading up to the first Cali junction.  I took the road to Palmira at this point as I just want to stay clear of the big cities now.  Continued on past Palmira to finish the day at a small town called El Cerrito.  The 50-odd miles from Santander were almost pancake flat on a very straight road which runs along the river plain of the Rio Cauca, just away to the west.  From Santander, there has been sugar cane as far as the eye can see.  Good day.  84-miles completed (6,780-miles cumulative).

Friday 22/2/13

Beautiful day and very hot this afternoon.  Really good road today running through beautiful countryside.  Flat most of the way, a little hillier north of Zarzal.  Passed by Buga and had a nice break in the lovely town of Tulua, scene of some FARC activity 2-days ago.  Carried on past Zarzal and La Victoria and finished in the large town of Cartago.  There have been no Army checkpoints now since early yesterday morning but the police checks still continue.  Another really good day on one of the best cycling roads you could wish for.  88-miles completed (6,868-miles cumulative).

Saturday 23/2/13

Worst conditions possible – very hot & very humid.  To make things worse, I got detoured to Pereira on Route-29 on an awful 26-mile uphill.  The steep road took me north of the city ending in a very steep climb up to a tunnel which in turn led out onto a helter-skelter road on supports wrapped around the mountain summit – very impressive.  Continued up another really steep road to about 8-miles short of Manizales when I took the Route-50 in the direction of Medellin.  From this point, I was completely lost and had no idea where I was until I reached a big river which turned out to be the Rio Cauca.  Shortly afterwards I rejoined the PanAm and made my way north before it got too dark and I had to stop.  I stopped at a place run by a Laurel & Hardy comedy act which makes Fawlty Towers look like the Ritz.  79-miles completed (6,947-miles cumulative).

Sunday 24/2/13

Followed the Rio Cauca for another 27-miles into a small town called La Pintada. Pouring rain and nothing to see in the steep sided river valley.  Had a bite to eat and a break and then crossed the bridge across the river to start a climb which I will not forget in a hurry.  17-miles straight up to the small town of Santa Barbara where I called it a day.  Some of the bends on the climb were probably 20% and the general slope was probably 12-14%.  Sorted out my kit which was in a right mess.  44-miles completed (6,991-miles cumulative).

Monday 25/2/13

Very hot all day.  I thought I had reached the Summit of the climb at Santa Barbara yesterday but, after a quick half-mile descent around the side of a mountain outcrop, the road just kept on going up.  Carried on through the village of Versalles and finally reached the real summit at a place called Alto De Minas, 10-miles on from Santa Barbara and at over 8,000’.  The steep slope was hard work with the last mile posted at 15%.  Descended down to Caldas and then negotiated the busy carriageway through the city of Medellin and another busy road through the city of Bello just north of Medellin.  I then followed the Rio Medellin valley for a few miles before stopping for the day, not wishing to be left in the dark on another big climb looming on the horizon.  51-miles completed (7,042-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 26/2/13

Very hot all day.  Left the Rio Medellin valley and started a 9-mile climb up to the village of Don Matias – yet another typically steep climb up into the clouds which got really steep in the last 2-miles.  More steep up and downs followed before another 6-mile climb in draining heat – I really struggled to get to the top.  More steep up and downs followed across the beautiful countryside before a final short climb took me into the small town of Santa Rosa where I stopped for the day.  Today was pretty shattering.  30-miles completed (7,072-miles completed).

Wednesday 27/2/13

I wasn´t feeling too clever this morning after yesterday’s awful day so I was quite pleased to start with 19-miles across fairly mundane countryside followed by a nice 7-mile freewheel into a small valley.  Just when I thought things were going well, the descent immediately turned into another 6-mile steep climb up to the small town of Yarumal perched high up on a mountainside.  Thankfully, this last tough uphill was to be the last really big climb in the Andes because a short while after reaching the top, I started the final descent out of the high mountains.  The descent went on for 31-miles!  The first part of the descent was through freezing cloud in zero visibility so I latched on to a lorry’s brake lights to guide me down.  I eventually got to the town of Valdivia where the cloud lifted.  The second stage was on an awful road surface down a very steep section which finished at Puerto Valdivia situated on the Rio Cauca.  I was quite relieved to have got down safely because the whole descent was very dangerous with big drops on my side of the road.  With the Andes now behind me, I decided to carry on up the Rio Cauca road in jungle-like conditions.  There was little to see except for a load of huge 3’ lizards lying in the roadside grass.  I finished the day at a place called Taraza in very humid conditions.  91-miles completed (7,163-miles cumulative).

Thursday 28/2/13

Sweltering conditions all day – drank 11 Litres of water just to keep going.  Followed the river for another 41-miles into the large town of Caucasia where I turned north west.  I was really glad to get away from the Rio Cauca once and for all as it was becoming quite depressing seeing all the poor communities along its banks.  Continued on across the rolling grasslands to a place called Planeta Rica where I called it a day.  In horse and cattle country now.  83-miles completed (7,246-miles cumulative).

Friday 1/3/13

Sweltering conditions again.  Supposedly, I’m on the northern plains but they are certainly not flat.  Rolling countryside continues with avenues of trees full of pink blossom.  Passed through small villages today where everyone seemed to be making and selling rocking chairs.  Just about managed to negotiate the thousands of motorbikes in and around the city of Sincelejo, finishing at the north end of the city.  I think every man, woman and child can ride a motorbike in Colombia with children and babies routinely carried around on them.  The same applies to bicycles where cycling is part of everyday life and a very popular sporting activity.  I think this is why the lorry drivers are so much better in Colombia than the rest of South America because they understand how vulnerable motorcyclists/cyclists are in traffic.  76-miles completed (7,322-miles cumulative).

Saturday 2/3/13

Unbearable conditions with heat and humidity at really high levels.  To make things worse, the road was very hilly.  Rear tyre punctured again and it took me ages to find a safe spot to fix the tube – rear tyre is virtually useless now with little tread left so I’ll have to get a replacement very quickly.  Snail’s pace through the small towns of Carozal, Ovejas and El Carmen before finishing at San Jacinto.  Really suffering in this humidity now.  54-miles completed (7,376-miles cumulative).

Sunday 3/3/13

Left at the crack of dawn hoping to get some respite from the humidity.  Went pretty well until about 0900 then the humidity made things really difficult again.  The northerly headwind which has been blowing since leaving the Rio Cauca was really gusting today, whipping up clouds of dust and debris.  I left the PanAm just north of Nepomuceno and joined Route-90 which thankfully became fairly flat after the town of Gambote.  Sods law, rear tyre punctured again about 10-miles from Cartagena but I could’t be bothered to fix it and just pumped it up every couple of miles or so down the road.  Finally arrived at the outskirts of the city of Cartagena in early afternoon but it took ages to follow the road around to the Getsemani area of the city to finish not only the day but the South American leg of my bike ride.  The conditions since 23/2 have been pretty dreadful so I’m quite relieved to have made it to the Caribbean coast at last.  Going to have a cold shower now and then some freezing cold beer.  70-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Monday 4/3/13

Spent today trying to get a place on a yacht or merchant ship which is sailing to Panama.  There is no road from Colombia to Panama through the impenetrable jungle region on the border (The Darien Gap) so the only alternatives are sea or air.  I’ve discounted air because of the trouble with transporting a bike by that means and also because the flight would land in Panama City, a long way from where I want to start my ride in Panama.  I’m hoping to get a sea passage around the Caribbean coast to northern Panama.  I’ve also been trying to get a new tyre because the current one is very worn and misshapen because of the excessive heat.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 5/3/13

Managed to get a place on a yacht sailing to the San Blas Islands just off the northern Panama coast.  From there I should be able to reach the mainland.  The yacht sails tomorrow evening and if all goes well I should be back on the mainland on Monday 11/3 and be able to continue the ride northwards.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 6/3/13

Spend the day getting things ready for the evening sailing.  Arranged for my Colombian exit stamp via the yacht skipper. Sailing was delayed until 2000 due to Port authorities being slow in processing paperwork.  At sea overnight.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Thursday 7/3/13

At sea.  Pretty rough weather all last night and throughout the day.  Nothing to do except lie on bunk and get up for meals on the focsle, which was quite entertaining when the yacht is at 45 degrees.  Bike getting an unwelcome salt water wash but tightly secured to a guardrail on the starboard waist, out of the big waves.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Friday 8/3/13

Very rough again last night but the wind started to die down this morning.  Now across the open sea and navigating through the tropical islands and coral reefs of the San Blas island chain.  It was nice to go for a cooling swim across to the palm tree lined  islands and stretch my legs after the cramped conditions of the last couple of days.  The little islands are home to the indigenous Kuna indians who are all very friendly, brightly dressed in traditional costume and who fly the swastika on their little fishing boats (as a good luck charm).  The Kuna have almost no material wealth and depend on the sea for virtually everything.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Saturday 9/3/13

Spent the day island hopping in the San Blas islands.  0-miles completed (7,446-miles cumulative).

Sunday 10/3/13

Managed arrange an early drop off from the yacht to the Panamanian mainland as I was getting really concerned about salt water damage to the bike.  The skipper kindly arranged for his dinghy to drop me off at El Porvenir island which also acts as the Panama border post for sea arrivals into the country.  From there, I paid a small fee to a local Kuna tribesman to take me across the Gulf of San Blas to a place called Carti, which turned out to be nothing more than a gravelled area up a mangrove creek.  I decided to clean my bike there and then with what little fresh water I could find.  A lot of WD-40 later and with a bit of oil, I decided to try and make some headway up the road as the thought of camping near a swamp wasn´t very appealing.  I had little idea that the road (Route 8601) through the rain forest over the San Blas Cordillera would be so difficult, although its nickname “The Rollercoaster” should have rung some alarm bells.  25-miles of non-stop up and downs;  short but incredibly steep hills and scary descents;  regular 20% hills with inside corners about 25%;  paved sections washed away at the bottom of some descents;  one of the two lanes disappeared down a gorge at one point having been washed away during the rainy season;  all-in-all, this was a pretty incredible road by any standards.  Having started the road in the late afternoon, I decided to carry on into the night as it was a bit cooler with no traffic.  I was very lucky to find a forest checkpoint where a warden sold water so I stocked up for the overnight ride.  10-hours after starting, I finally reached the Pan American Highway at a place called El Llano in the early hours.  Still in a bit of shock at what I had just encountered, I carried on for another 10-miles to a place called Chepo where I finished in a bit of a mess.  What a day/night.  35-miles completed (7,481-miles cumulative).

Monday 11/3/13

Late morning start and no real ill effects after last night´s ride.  Had an easy ride out of Chepo across flat countryside.  The traffic started to get very busy approaching Panama City but the real problems started when I was stopped from riding on the “Southern Corridor” by the Police.  Despite it being a quiet dual carriageway with a very wide shoulder, they deemed it “too dangerous”.  The road would have taken me around Panama City with no problem.  Instead the Police escorted me to the city centre and left me to find my way westwards through rush hour traffic on roads with no shoulders!  More by luck than judgement, I eventually got to the Bridge of the Americas and crossed the Panama Canal at its southern tip as it entered the Pacific.  Had a great view of huge container ships transitting the canal under the bridge.  Carried on for a short while and finished the day at a place called Arraijan.  I haven´t seen many cyclists so far in Panama and the locals seem quite bemused by my bike.  Really hot all day.  One of Wales´ most famous exports, the pirate Henry Morgan, once completely destroyed Panama City, killed all of its inhabitants and helped himself to all the gold that the Spanish had accumulated/plundered in Peru.  For his actions, he was knighted, made Governor of a Caribbean island and even had a rum named in his honour when he died.  No one has ever found his treasure and he died as probably the richest man in the world.  Those were the days!  54-miles completed (7,535-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 12/3/13

Not really much to see in Panama except luxury beach resorts and lots of American fast-food outlets which are a really welcome change from the rice-with-everything outlets in South America.  The American influence on Panama is still evident with out-of-town shopping malls everywhere and lots of Americans owning and buying property here as retirement homes.  Quite difficult, rolling coutryside most of the day, a bit humid at about 80% but incredibly hot.  65-miles completed (7,600-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 13/3/13

Scorching hot day.  Height of the dry season now and the countryside is parched and tinder dry with brush and verge fires everywhere making things very smokey.  Had a very strong headwind for the first 20-miles to Penonome and then a difficult crosswind into the city of Santiago.  Much flatter today but same featureless landscape apart from the Central Cordillera just to the north.  Panamanians are all very polite and friendly so far and the shopping malls are proving to be a bonus for food and supplies.  Beginning to like Panama but just hope that it gets a bit cooler soon with the rainy season not due to start until April.  83-miles completed (7,683-miles cumulative).

Thursday 14/3/13

A really bad day in scorching heat and with the road surface now in a really dangerous state.  To make things worse, there were a lot of steep climbs and a strong headwind to contend with.  After leaving Santiago, apart from the occasional house and regular brush fires, the road was empty with nothing to see until I reached a small place called San Felix to finish the day.  76-miles completed (7,759-miles cumulative).

Friday 15/3/13

After yesterday´s struggle, things just got worse again today.  Sick all last night and all today.  Just laid down on the bed in the dark with a fan feeling totally wiped out.  0-miles completed ((7,759-miles cumulative).

Saturday 16/3/13

Felt much better this morning after drinking gallons of water yesterday and overnight so decided to give it a go.  Similar day to Thursday.  Had a huge lunch in the city of David having not eaten for over 24-hours.  I was going to find a cheap hostal to stay the night but everywhere was fully booked.  I was told by a local Panamanian lady that, apparently, there had once been quite a few more hotels in David but the Americans bombed some of them when they deposed General Noriega in 1989.  With nowhere to stay, I carried on to the town of Concepcion and got permission to camp in someone´s garden.  72-miles completed (7,831-miles cumulative).

Sunday 17/3/13

Had a terrible night last night and got no sleep with the tent like a sauna and with a punctured airbed.  Started early and had an easy 24-miles to the border posts at Paso Canoas.  The town was a bit of a mess but the border posts were even worse.  Crossed into Costa Rica and there was an almost immediate change in the landscape to lush, green, tropical rain forest.  Still scorching hot but some overhanging trees gave some welcome shade.  The small towns don´t seem as organised as those in Panama and general items seem a lot more expensive.  Clocks went back 1-hour on entering Costa Rica and should now remain the same for the rest of Central America.  Drank an awful lot of fluids today just to keep going and finished the day at Palmar Norte.  84-miles completed (7,915-miles cumulative).

Monday 18/3/13

Decided to follow Route-34 along the coast in order to avoid the lorries and in the hope of some cooler conditions.  Had a bit of a fright when I saw a deadly Fer-De-Lance snake on the shoulder.  Also saw loads of beautifully coloured birds along the route.  There were quite a few American and Canadian tourists along the coast and up in the rainforest canopy hotels.  Still scorching hot even though I´m near the coast.  Finished the day at a place called Quepos.  Beautiful country or not, Costa Rica really is proving to be a tourist rip-off with some unbelievable prices being charged for routine things like water and food.  If the tourist bubble bursts, they´ll only have themselves to blame.  66-miles completed (7,981-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 19/3/13

Had another very early start along mostly flat roads up to the town of Parrita where I had a huge breakfast.  Carried on through some small villages until I reached the coastal town of Jaco which is about the nicest and cleanest place I´ve seen in Costa Rica so far.  A very difficult climb out of Jaco in terrible heat followed and then a short downhill into the coastal village of Tarcoles to end the day.  Really struggling with the heat now and just can´t seem to get enough fluids down my throat.  58-miles completed (8,039-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 20/3/13

Late getting started and then had an immediate puncture which took ages to fix because I couldn´t find any water to check the tube.  Eventually got underway again and crossed the Rio Tarcoles which was full of large crocodiles!  After a bit of climbing, I headed west on Route-27 towards Puerto Caldera.  Got another puncture shortly afterwards so frustratingly called it a day at a place called Boca Barranca.  Not the best of days.  30-miles completed (8,069-miles cumulative).

Thursday 21/3/13

Left the coast at Barranca and shortly afterwards joined Route-1 which is the PanAm west out of the capital city, San Jose.  Very difficult, single land road with no shoulder and continuous up and downs for about 40-miles followed before arriving at a place called Limonal.  Had a quick sandwich and topped up with some water and then carried on across a much flatter section of parched countryside, very much like Panama.  Got another puncture just as I arrived at Canas which was a bit of a bind and then had roadworks all the way up to Liberia, where I finished the day.  Another tough day but I did manage to see a pair of beautiful Scarlet Macaws fly out just in front of me at Liberia.  81-miles completed (8,150-miles cumulative).

Friday 22/3/13

Headed for the border up through the Guanacaste National Park with a string of volcanoes in the Guanacaste Cordillera just to my east.  Had yet another front wheel puncture at La Cruz before reaching the border at Penas Blancas.  Chaos at both posts:  5-mile lorry jam on the Costa Rica side and a 3-mile lorry jam on the Nicaraguan side.  Managed to get through the border posts by guesswork really (there were no signs) but got charged US$12 for the trouble.  Immediately evident that Nicaragua is a poorer country than both Costa Rica and Panama but has a lovely road unlike the other two?  Had a nice ride up to Rivas along the western shore of Lago Nicaragua with Isla de Ometepe in clear view across the water with its two large volcanoes (Madera & Concepcion) towering over the lake.  73-miles completed (8,223-miles cumulative).

Saturday 23/3/13

Had a nice, easy ride across flat countryside to the town of Nandaime where I stopped for a quick bite to eat and a break from the sun.  The road then went gradually uphill all the way through Jinotepe and Diriamba before topping out at a small village called Casa Colorada.  Really poor communities evident all the way today.  Finished the day with a nice downhill out of the highlands to just short of Managua with Lago Managua just down the road.  Boiling hot again.  66-miles completed (8,289-miles cumulative).

Sunday 24/3/13

Managed to avoid the Managua traffic by joining Routes-28 & 12 towards Mateare . Nice ride along the southern shore of Lago Managua with Momotombo volcano on the far shore.  Carried on through Nagarote  and La Paz but very little to see now except parched countryside.  Finished with a difficult ride into the wind before reaching the city of Leon.  60-miles completed (8,349-miles cumulative).

Monday 25/3/13

Headed north west to Chinandega with yet more volcanoes just to the north of me.  Topped up with water and then had a long, hot ride through empty, featureless countryside up to a ramshackle town called Somotillo, just short of the Honduras border.  Not much traffic today but desperate poverty evident in this part of the country.  Rear tyre punctured despite me only fitting it in Cartagena.  It´s proving really disheartening now with all the punctures but it´s been so hot for so long (high 90´s, sometimes topping 100) that the tyres just can´t cope with the even higher road surface temperatures.  It was so hot today that the crayon in my puncture repair kit turned to liquid.  If I can make it to America, the first thing I´m going to buy is 2 x new tyres!  70-miles completed (8,419-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 26/3/13

Up at first light to get to the border before the morning rush.  Shambolic state of affairs as usual but got through both posts in pretty good time.  Honduras appears even more poverty stricken than Nicaragua with its main road a complete mess.  I passed a huge pile-up on a crater strewn stretch involving a coach and an unfortunate motorist for whom it didn´t look too good.  It was pretty evident that the road surface, or lack of it, was a major factor in the crash.  The local TV crews were around the scene like vultures.  The locals seem pretty friendly but there are some decidedly dodgy looking characters lurking in the background.  Armed police and security guards are everywhere (the petrol station attendants even have guards with pump-action shotguns!).  For this reason, I finished early at a place called Choluteca, not wishing to be stranded in no-man´s-land in the dark.  34-miles completed (8,453-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 27/3/13

Hot, windy and hilly all the way to the border.  Had an easy crossing from Honduras into El Salvador and even had the welcome sight of some charming, young women in long, white dresses to greet me as I entered El Salvador.  Much as I wanted to stop, I carried on for a while before finishing at Santa Rosa De Lima.  66-miles completed (8,519-miles cumulative).

Thursday 28/3/13

Carried on through quite pretty countryside to the city of San Miguel, which sits in the shadow of its namesake volcano.  Then headed south and west to the very busy city of Usulutan on a lovely road with quite a bit of shade.  Had a quick snack before completing the day with a tiring ride through flat, empty countryside to finish at the city of Zacatecoluca.  Really hot and windy this afternoon but a good day really.  98-miles completed (8,617-miles cumulative).

Friday 29/3/13

Very strong crosswind all the way to a place called La Libertad which seemed to be the beach resort favoured by people from San Salvador, which lies just to the north. The road west from La Libertad was very difficult as it followed the coastal contours and included 5-tunnels.  It was very sparsely populated until it headed away from the coast about 20-miles short of Acajutla, when it began to run through green pastures. Struggled to find a place to stay in the instantly forgettable port town of Acajutla but found a little hotel just outside town instead.  92-miles completed (8,709-miles cumulative).

Saturday 30/3/13

Had an easy 30-mile ride up to the border town of La Hachadura.  There was hardly anyone at the border and virtually no traffic so I passed through very quickly with my CA-4 Visa (which allows 90-days visiting across Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador & Guatemala).  Quite sad to have left El Salvador as the people there were amongst the most friendliest and welcoming you could ever wish to meet.  Entered Guatemala and the whole country seemed to be on fire and covered in smoke.  Finished the day in scorching heat with a 15-mile hilly stretch into Chiquimulilla.  61-miles completed (8,770-miles cumulative).

Sunday 31/3/13

More parched, burning countryside all the way up to the city of Esquintla which lies below 3 enormous, 12,000´ volcanoes:  De Agua, DeFuego & Acalenango.  I had planned to head north from Esquintla to Antigua which would have got me onto Route-1 heading into the western highlands.  It would have been much cooler and I would also then have been in a good position to enter Mexico for an eastern transit of that country.  Unfortunately, current FCO and local security force advice is to stay out of the western highlands so I had to carry on westwards on Route-2 in scorching heat through Siquinola before finishing at Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa.  64-miles completed (8,834-miles cumulative).

Monday 1/4/13

Awful day.  Really dangerous road with no shoulder all the way to Mazatenango.  Worse still was having to contend with old, clapped-out American school buses which have been shipped into the country for use as public transport.  Emission controls are quite liberal in Guatemala so I was constantly covered in thick, oily, choking smoke which turned me and my clothes pitch black.  The road onwards to San Sebastian wasn´t much better but the traffic died down after that.  Finished the day with a  very long, uphill slog and a short descent into Coatepeque.  Sugar cane plantations all the way today.  82-miles completed (8,916-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 2/4/13

Nice, quiet ride up to the border town of Tecun Uman.  The town was a bit of a maze but I eventually found the Guatemala border post up a side street and then crossed the bridge into Mexico and a state of the art border facility at Hidalgo.  Hot ride northwards through miles of banana plantations before reaching the city of Tapachula.  It was a bit of a struggle getting through town but I eventually found Route-200 again and carried on to Huixtla to end the day.  With all the current troubles, safely navigating through Mexico is going be a bit hit and miss.  75-miles completed (8,991-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 3/4/13

Continued north west up Route-200 riding just below the Sierra Madre De Chiapas mountains.  Passed through the small towns of Esquintla and Mapastepec before a final slog to Pijijiapan to finish the day.  Nothing much to see except trees, brush and heat haze with another day over 100F.  Finding that there is just empty space between the towns now so getting & carrying enough water is becoming a big factor again.  The people seem OK so far.  I´ve now had 5 separate Passport and luggage inspections at roadside checkpoints since leaving Hidalgo yesterday.  The heat was just terrible today.  67-miles completed (9,058-miles cumulative).

Thursday 4/4/13

Had a bad start just a few miles up the road with another annoying puncture.  Got going again only to be delayed just a couple of miles further on by another Army checkpoint where they went through all my belongings again (only 3 checks today though).  Finally got going again but today was just another slog through the foothills of the Sierra Madre, made worse by the ever-present north westerly headwind.  The countryside is just scorched, empty brush at the moment and, much like the rest of Central America, is ablaze with wildfires.  Finished at a small town called Arriaga.  64-miles completed (9,122-miles cumulative).

Friday 5/4/13

Blustery headwind all day and very difficult to stay upright on the bike for any length of time.  Passed through towns of Tapanatepec and Zanatepec before stopping for the day at Niltepec.  Also passed from Chiapas into Oaxaca Province.  Some huge brush fires fuelled by the gale meant that smoke, ash and burning embers were in the air all day.  Just one Army checkpoint today but literally hundreds of balaclava wearing, paramilitary police now patrolling up and down the highways in pick-ups with mounted machine guns.  Heat and wind getting really difficult to cope with now.  65-miles completed (9,187-miles cumulative).

Saturday 6/4/13

Reached the top of a small hill 6-miles west of Niltepec to be met by the sight of a large, flat plain with wind turbines as far as the eye could see.  Trying to ride across the plain was equal to Patagonia at its worst with a frightening crosswind and if there hadn’t been such a wide shoulder I would have had to get off the bike and push because the bike kept sailing towards the busy carriageway.  The wind farm was about 18-miles long and about 1-mile deep spanning both sides of the carriageway.  Last night’s TV news had shown a riot a bit further up the Pacific coast which had closed a number of major roads so, with this morning’s terrible winds on top, I decided to leave Route-190 and move inland away from the Pacific and across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec towards the Gulf of Mexico.  After an initial, gradual 9-mile uphill, the road flattened out a bit with the wind reducing the further I went.  Stopped for some cash at a dodgy place called Matias Romero where I was given an alarming and pretty stark warning by a lady not to be out on Route-185 after dark.  With this in mind, I called it a day at a small hotel a few miles further up the road as I had no hope of reaching the next town before dark.  Quite a day.  54-miles completed (9,241-miles cumulative).

Sunday 7/4/13

Cloudy with no wind first thing but the afternoon became very hot again.  Nice road through green countryside all day.  Passed through small towns of Palomares and Sayula (which must be the speed hump capital of Mexico) and finished at Acayucan.  Much better conditions today though.  Passed into Veracruz Province this afternoon.  84-miles completed (9,325-miles cumulative).

Monday 8/4/13

Joined Route-180 heading north west out of Acayucan through continuous hills and roadworks as the whole road had worn out and was being replaced.  Had a very long uphill climb up to and past a small village called Santa Rosa before a nice downhill stretch into the small town of Catemaco which sits on the shores of a big lake.  Carried on a bit through more hills to finish at San Andres Tuxtla.  Scorching afternoon.  62-miles completed (9,387-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 9/4/13

Continuous up and downs before a short, very fast descent out of the mountains down to the plains and the small town of Tula.  During the descent, something flew down my shirt and stung me twice but I couldn’t do anything about it as there was no shoulder on the twisting road and I was doing 40 m.p.h. at the time in busy traffic.  I’ve now got two big, red welts for my troubles.  Carried on past some inland lagoons and a large range of grassy, coastal dunes to the little town of Alvarado on the Gulf coast.  Finally across the isthmus, I carried on up the coast to just before the junction for Los Robles.  Still scorching hot.  82-miles completed (9,469-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 10/4/13

Started off the day with a short ride up to the impressive coastal city of Veracruz which looked a picture in the early morning sun.  Had an easy ride up to La Antigua and the pretty coastal towns of La Mancha and Farallon.  The road then became quite hilly again so I carried on up past the Laguna Verde nuclear plant and finished at a small place called Palma Sola.  72-miles completed (9,541-miles cumulative).

Thursday 11/4/13

After four fairly benign days the wind returned with a vengeance along a tricky road with no shoulder heading up the coastline to Vega De Alotorre and Nautla.  Just north of Nautla, a lighthouse marked the start of the Costa Esmerelda which turned out to be a 17-mile, arrow straight road along the beach to La Guadalupe with hundreds of little hotels and RV parks all the way.  Moved inland a bit at La Guadalupe and finished for the day at Gutierrez Zamora.  Arms like lead from having to grip so tightly all day but glad to have got past that difficult section of road.  72-miles completed (9,613-miles cumulative).

Friday 12/4/13

Started up an another difficult stretch of road with no shoulder so decided to join an almost deserted toll road about 8-miles before Papantla.  Much better road through miles of hillocks covered in orange plantations which took me around the town and also around Poza Rica to the outskirts of Tihuatlan which has a large statue of Jesus overlooking it.  Contined north through Alamo and El Alazan before finishing at Cerro Azul.  Coolest day since Ecuador with an early afternoon temperature of 26C, almost 11C cooler than it’s been the last month.  87-miles completed (9,700-miles cumulative).

Saturday 13/4/13

Cloudy morning but hot afternoon.  Easy ride up to Ozuluama across open, cattle country.  Stopped for a coffee at a petrol station café and saw a young bloke in his new Dodge Ram pickup speed across the station forecourt but fail to stop in time before hitting the side of the café’s disabled access ramp!  The locals all ran outside laughing and started taking photos and the driver was left a little bit red faced with a big repair bill.  A bit of a struggle through some hilly country after that as I slowly made my way back to the Gulf, finishing at Tampico Alto with the coast just coming into view away to the east.  79-miles completed (9,779-miles cumulative).

Sunday 14/4/13

Routine ride into the large port city of Tampico where a lot of oil and gas rigs were being built and assembled.  Difficult ride through the city on a bad road before joining Route-80 north to Altamera.  Witnessed the paramilitary police dragging a lorry driver from his cab and throwing him face down on the road while they swarmed over his lorry (seconds earlier the same guy had nearly wiped me out with his dangerous driving!).  Just 5-minutes up the road, the police were dragging a handcuffed and bloodied bloke into the back of another pickup; all very surreal.  The road up to Manuel was across parched plain and I then re-joined Route-180 for the last 21-miles into Aldama.  Very hot and dusty conditions all day.  Now in Tamaulipas Province.  82-miles completed (9,861-miles cumulative)

Monday 15/4/13

Started the day in thick fog and high humidity but the sun had burned away the fog by mid-morning revealing lovely countryside.  Reached the small village of Los Lavaderos after 46-miles and then had a fairly easy ride up to the town of Soto La Marina to end the day.  I think I crossed the Tropic of Cancer somewhere today but I don’t know the exact position as there were no road markers.  Feeling a bit nervy about Soto La Marina because there’s obviously something untoward going on here with the army commandeering buildings, sand-bagging the windows and turning them into machine gun nests.  In addition, everyone seems to be on edge here and I’ve got the feeling that I’m being scrutinised very closely by the locals.  74-miles completed (9,935-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 16/4/13

Road north was completely deserted with almost no traffic and no houses or people.  Saw quite a few road-runners, comical birds whose legs are a complete blur as they run across the road – just like in the old cartoons.  Reached the village of Ojo Del Agua which turned out to be a ghost town.  Left Route-180 for the last time at another deserted place called La Coma and joined Route-101.  There was a major army checkpoint just past the junction.  Reached 10,000-miles at a petrol station in the small town of Las Norias so decided to have a break in the station café.  Witnessed yet another incident when 2-SUV’s pulled in and parked up outside the café only to be immediately boxed in by an army APC with machine gun cocked and ready.  The SUV occupants got out of their vehicles at gunpoint and didn’t seem to appreciate being forced to lie down on the ground in their designer clothing.  Carried on up the road with the intention of stopping at San Fernando but I must have been daydreaming because I somehow missed the turn-off.  Carried on to just past Villa Fransisco where I found a hotel just before a major junction.  The hotel has been commandeered by the police and is a virtual barracks.  A long day.  104-miles completed (10,039-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 17/4/13

Eerily silent last night with the hotel and the highway outside under total lockdown.  Left at first light to find a huge x-ray scanner had been erected on the road to check vehicles as they passed.  Very hot with a very strong crosswind all day.  Pancake flat crop land all the way up to the large border city of Matamoros.  Very little traffic again except for the regular military and police convoys.  From Soto La Marina up to Matamoros nearly every business, restaurant and petrol station has been closed and boarded up as well as hundreds of houses.  Found my way to the city’s historic district and used up my remaining Pesos.  Mexico has been very tough but the ever-friendly people and great food has made the ride across the country so much easier.  74-miles completed (10,113-miles cumulative).

Thursday 18/4/13

Got charged $25 to leave Mexico and then underwent an understandably thorough check before entering the USA at the city of Brownsville.  Now in the “Lone Star” State of Texas, the 2nd biggest State in the Union.  To finally hear English being spoken was such a relief:  no more blank Homer Simpson stares when I say something in Spanish; no more having to listen to people wittering on at a million words a minute; and, it means I can finally get rid of my hundreds of scraps of paper with Spanish words and phrases written on them.  No problems getting through town and I quickly joined Highway-77 north through Olmito, San Benito and Harlingen.  Carried on to Sebastian by which time a strong northerly headwind had started.  Stopped to buy some apples at a roadside fruit stall and talked to a lady who was interested in how I’d managed to get through Mexico on a bike.  When I told her about missing my turn for San Fernando on Tuesday she said that I was really lucky I did because she has family living there who hardly ever leave their house because the town is one of the most dangerous in the country.  Carried on north and the wind got so strong that, by Lyford, a huge dust storm had blown up, stripping the dry topsoil off the flat plains.  Got so bad that the local Sheriff stopped to ask if I wanted to take shelter in the police station!  Finally got to Raymondville looking like a chimney sweep.  On TV tonight, the Weather Channel said that a large cold front had passed over the area with 50 m.p.h. winds whipping up the dust.  60-miles completed (10,173-miles cumulative).

Friday 19/4/13

Still blowing hard this morning so headed west on Hwy-186 hoping to get further away from the coast where it would be less windier.  Got to Liss and then went north on Hwy-281 through empty ranch land with just the occasional house.  Passed through a big Customs & Border Control checkpoint north of Encino where a sign said that, since 1/1/13, they’ve detected 47-tons of illegal drugs and 2,350 illegal immigrants (it’s easy to guess where from).  The wind died down in the afternoon leaving warm sunshine and a cloudless sky.  Finished the day at Falfurrias.  78-miles completed (10,251-miles cumulative).

Saturday 20/4/13

Beautiful sunshine but very chilly this morning.  Saw quite a few deer and a coyote early on.  Continued north through Premont and tiny little places called Mae and Ella before reaching the village of Ben Bolt.  Both my knees started to feel very stiff shortly after so I decided on an early finish at the town of Alice to rest and catch up on some sleep.  40-miles completed (10,291-miles cumulative).

Sunday 21/4/13

Very flat countryside continued until about 20-miles south of George West when I entered what is known locally as “Hill Country” – low, rolling, tree covered hills.  Carried on up to Three Rivers, a small town in the shadow of, and perilously close to, a large oil refinery.  Turned west onto Hwy-72 along the southern shores of Choke Canyon Reservoir, passed the local federal prison and finished at another small town called Tilden.  There is no mistaking that this part of Texas is oil country with nodding donkeys and gas flares everywhere.  77-miles completed (10,368-miles cumulative).

Monday 22/4/13

Left Tilden and turned north on Hwy-16 to Jourdanton.  Hadn’t had a puncture for quite a while but had two in the first few miles this morning.  Turned north west on Hwy-173 passing through Devine before finishing at Hondo.  Beautiful, green countryside all the way today with wild flowers and cactus in bloom, a big difference from the dust bowl conditions north of Brownsville.  Now far enough north into Texas to start thinking about heading in a more north westerly direction with the aim of reaching the Oklahoma pan handle.  At this time of year, I want to be as far as possible from north/central Texas and central Oklahoma to reduce my chances of running into tornadoes and severe thunderstorms.  Cloudy this morning but a glorious afternoon in the low-80’s.  82-miles completed (10,450-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 23/4/13

Straight north on Hwy-173 to the small town of Bandera, which modestly promotes itself as “The Cowboy Capital Of The World”, and then on to the city of Kerrville to finish the day.  Much hillier today.  Cloudy, cool and humid first thing, windier in the afternoon and, for the first time since 24/2, I saw rain.  Loads of deer in the roadside trees this morning.  57-miles completed (10,507-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 24/4/13

Joined Interstate-10 heading north west out of Kerrville.  Continuous hills, surprisingly cold temperatures and a 30 m.p.h. headwind all day made progress difficult (today’s temperatures were a record low for this part of Texas but the wind chill made it feel even colder).  I-10 was a great road with a smooth surface and very little traffic but totally empty and I didn’t see a soul until the truck stop at Segovia after 42-miles.  Finished at a place called Junction, numb and wind burned.  A hard day.  57-miles completed (10,564-miles cumulative).

Thursday 25/4/13

Still cool, cloudy and breezy this morning but it warmed up to about 70F this afternoon.  Joined Hwy-83 north through the small towns of Menard, Eden and Paint Rock.  Hills, trees and limestone outcrops gradually changed to fairly open and much flatter ranch land just south of Eden as I left “Hill Country” and entered “Big Country”, Texas.  Ended the day at Ballinger.  91-miles completed (10,655-miles cumulative).

Friday 26/4/13

Passed through small towns of Winters, Bradshaw (virtually deserted), Ovalo and Tuscola before heading north to Abilene (coincidentally, “North To Abilene” was the first book I ever read).  No problems getting around the city and then turned north west back across the grassy plains through Impact and Hawley before finishing at Anson.  Cloudy morning but sunny and hot this afternoon.  82-miles completed (10,737-miles cumulative).

Saturday 27/4/13

Difficult start into a northerly headwind across flat, empty farmland.  Hardly any traffic all day.  Straight through small town of Hamlin and had a break at Aspermont where I met a nice couple from Austin, TX.  The young girl was an aid worker who had just returned from Uganda where she worked alongside some people from Cardiff.  Carried on north to the little town of Guthrie and finished off with a hot, afternoon slog up to Paducah.  There are thousands of little birds flocking around every bridge across the dried up creeks and rivers chasing insects.  Found a tortoise wandering along the shoulder this afternoon!  Very tiring day.  101-miles completed (10,838-miles cumulative).

Sunday 28/4/13

Easy ride up to the city of Childress.  This whole area of west Texas is in the middle of a severe and prolonged drought with rivers like the Red River,  just to the north of Childress, reduced to a trickle – local farmers seem to be taking a real hit.  Stopped for a cuppa at the small town of Wellington but nodded off in the café so I decided to call it a day to catch up with some sleep.  Beautiful day but very hot again this afternoon.  62-miles completed (10,900-miles cumulative).

Monday 29/4/13

Record setting temperature for this time of year at 94F.  Just for once I got a strong tailwind from the south west and flew up the road passing the towns of Lutie, Shamrock, Wheeler and Canadian.  North of Shamrock was virtually all grassland covered with oil and gas tanks.  Spotted a big wildfire which was heading for some tanks so did my good citizen bit and raised the alarm with some oil workers who were very grateful and called the fire brigade.  A couple of miles up the road, an official from the Sheriff’s office caught up with me to also say thank you.  Got to Canadian, had a break and saw a pretty awful weather outlook for the region on TV so decided to make the most of the sun and favourable wind and pressed on up the road.  Quite difficult last leg as the wind became more of a crosswind and it got much hillier.  Finished at the town of Perryton, very tired and very thirsty so I called in at a petrol station for a can of cold beer to end the day.  Unfortunately, Perryton is in Ochiltree County which is dry (alcohol sales banned)!  125-miles completed (11,025-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 30/4/13

Another 94F day with a strong tailwind.  Headed north and within a few miles had left the Texas Panhandle and crossed over into the Oklahoma Panhandle.  Within feet of crossing into Oklahoma, there were signs advertising beer for sale (obviously aimed at their southern neighbours).  Quick ride north through the narrow OK Panhandle with only the small town of Turpin to see before I left OK and crossed into Kansas near the border city of Liberal (home of Dorothy).  With bad weather confirmed for tomorrow onwards, I decided to get as far north as possible so rode on to the small town of Sublette to end the day.  The wind direction was already changing near the end of the day as a huge cold front comes down from Canada bringing a blast of arctic air.  Saddle sore; cycling kit and trainers falling to bits;  bike chainset in a bad way;  bad weather on the horizon;  all a bit of a struggle at the moment.  86-miles completed (11,111-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 1/5/13

Impossible to ride today so I’ve taken refuge in a lovely, warm, motel in Sublette.  The promised bad weather arrived on cue with a freezing cold gale from the north and a temperature of just 25F – an incredible 70F cooler than yesterday!  Today is a record low temperature for this time of year and it’s forecast to get even colder over the next 2-days with snow also forecast.  The U.K. is so lucky to have the Gulf Stream offshore.  0-miles completed (11,111-miles cumulative).

Thursday 2/5/13

Still blowing a gale from the north so decided to rest and heal up.  Checked the bike over and think that my bottom bracket may be on its last legs with some worrying lateral movement on the cranks.  0-miles completed (11,111-miles cumulative).

Friday 3/5/13

Said goodbye to the wonderful motel staff in Sublette (“Ging, Winbert & Dante – thank you so much”).  Still freezing cold this morning after yet another record low last night.  The northerly headwind was still blowing quite hard but I decided to give it a go.  Slow but steady progress across the plains with only the sight of an occasional pheasant to break up the monotony.  Nursed the bike up through Garden City and, in increasing wind, up to Scott City to end the day.  The High Plains of Kansas are proving a real test.  74-miles completed (11,185-miles cumulative).

Saturday 4/5/13

Last night I noticed that the bike cranks had vertical movement, as well as lateral, so had no option but to change the bottom bracket (I’m glad I brought a spare).  Bearings in left and right cups were in a mess with bits of metal and filings everywhere!  Another bitterly cold day under a cloudless sky.  Wind still blowing quite hard from the north but manageable.  The pancake flat plains gave way to rolling hills not far north of Scott City but the grasslands remained empty apart from an occasional farm or nodding donkey.  The wind started to get stronger the further I went and after about 20-miles I began to struggle.  Too late to return to Scott City for shelter, I carried on into what quickly became an awful gale (the remnants of winter storm Achilles which hit the area earlier in the week).  With nowhere to shelter, the last 25-miles up to Oakley were a complete nightmare.  Really dread days like this.  Wiped out.  46-miles completed (11,231-miles cumulative).   

Sunday 5/5/13

Weather same as yesterday but the headwind reduced to about 20 m.p.h.  Passed an impressive bronze statue of William F. Cody on the way out of Oakley which commemorates his 1868 contest with William Comstock for the title of “Buffalo Bill”.  Crossed over I-70 and continued north for a few miles before leaving Hwy-83 for good and heading west on Hwy-24 to the town of Colby.  Dog legged north onto the rolling Hwy-25 before finishing at a quiet little town called Atwood.  60-miles completed (11,291-miles cumulative).

Monday 6/5/13

Much calmer today with warm sunshine and temperatures up to 72F.  Headed west on Hwy-36 through the very small towns of McDonald and Bird City.  In McDonald, a lovely woman saw me riding past and invited me into the senior citizens centre for cake and coffee which went down really well.  Carried on to St. Francis and then headed north onto the rollercoaster Hwy-27.  Crossed into Nebraska and entered the small town of Haigler where I stopped for a break at a lovely little diner called the “Country Café”.  Great food and service and the blueberry pie was sensational!  I then headed west into Colorado and at the town of Wray decided to make use of a strong southerly tailwind which had blown up in the afternoon.  Headed north on Hwy-385 (High Plains Highway) and after another hilly ride, reached the pretty little town of Holyoke.  Carried on for a few more miles and eventually found a place to camp for the night.  A good day.  126-miles completed (11,417-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 7/5/13

Very cold this morning but much warmer this afternoon.  Carried on north to Julesburg and then turned west onto Hwy-30 (Lincoln Highway).  Re-entered Nebraska a few miles later and then rode alongside the Union Pacific railway line for the rest of the day through a very nice town called Chappell and tiny little places called Lodgepole and Sunol.  Finished at the city of Sidney with threatening clouds overhead.  75-miles completed (11,492-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 8/5/13

North on Hwy-385 (Gold Rush) through small farming towns of Gurley and Dalton.  Beautiful, rolling countryside before joining Hwy-92 and heading west into the large town of Bridgeport.  Hwy-92 follows the exact route of the mid-nineteenth century pioneers who headed west on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails.  The road passes by famous geological landmarks called Courthouse & Jail Rocks, Chimney Rock and Scotts Bluff National Monument.  Went through some tiny towns called McGrew and Melbeta before another puncture ended my day at the town of Gering sitting in the shadow of Scotts Bluff.  Foggy first thing then warm sunshine until thunder clouds and strong northerly winds took over in the late afternoon.  75-miles completed (11,567-miles cumulative).

Thursday 9/5/13

Crossed the North Platte River into the city of Scottsbluff and then followed Hwy-26 north west through Mitchell and on to the border town of Henry.  Crossed into Wyoming and shortly after reached the town of Torrington.  After another 10-miles I reached a pretty little town called Lingle and turned north onto Hwy-85.  The hilly road was virtually empty apart from the tiny village of Jay Em.  Wide open countryside now with songbirds and deer all over the place.  After 47-miles I reached the town of Lusk with thunder and lightning flashes overhead.  94-miles completed (11,661-miles cumulative).

Friday 10/5/13

Beautiful high prairie landscapes stretching out to the horizon in all directions.  The road north to Newcastle was empty apart from hundreds of white tail and pronghorn deer.  A very strong northerly headwind made progress very difficult and just south of Newcastle a strong gale blew up as thunder clouds gathered in the north.  Got so bad that it took nearly 4-hours of riding and pushing to complete the last 15-miles into town.  Shattered after that.  81-miles completed (11,742-miles cumulative).

Saturday 11/5/13

Glorious day with a cloudless sky and temperature around 70F.  The persistent north west headwind was a lot easier to cope with today.  Went through the Osage oilfield and climbed up through some ponderosa pine to Upton.  Saw a porcupine in the trees just outside of town.  Could clearly see Devils Tower National Monument (an 865’ high, eroded volcanic plug) 35-miles to the north east as I entered the town of Moorcroft.  Left Hwy-16 and joined Hwy-51 all the way into the city of Gillette to end the day.  Rode alongside the Burlington & Northern railroad all day.  Saw thousands of swallows nests in the underpasses on I-90 which ran alongside Hwy-51 into Gillette.  Despite the northerly winds, I’m glad I bypassed the Black Hills of South Dakota as the endless tourist traffic heading to the sights was terrible with RV’s, caravans, campers and, worst of all, thousands of Harley Davidsons in endless convoys.  At this time of year it seems every bandana wearing, Rob Halford lookalike heads to the Black Hills culminating in the Sturgis Rally in early August when tens of thousands of HD’s clog up the roads.  82-miles completed (11,824-miles cumulative).

Sunday 12/5/13

Headed north on Hwy-59 passing by a series of opencast mines just north of Gillette and then empty countryside and the Thunder Basin grasslands up to the Montana border.  The only roadside building up to Montana was an isolated little school beside the Little Powder River about 12-miles south of the border.  Saw hundreds of prairie dogs darting between their burrows as hawks hovered overhead.  Hwy-59 became a difficult gravel road as I entered Montana due to roadworks but the paved road resumed as I entered a little village called Biddle.  After a short break I ended the day with a 26-mile up and down into the town of Broadus.  Very warm afternoon at about 80F and the awful north westerly just won’t go away.  95-miles completed (11,919-miles cumulative).

Monday 13/5/13

Another day in never ending wind.  Very hilly today and temperatures reached a record 94F this afternoon.  Empty grassland and buttes all day apart from a one-house town called Volborg.  The house also acts as a Post Office and grocery store and also had a beer and dance hall in the garden!  Gearing problems now.  Finished at Miles City.  Very tired at the moment.  84-miles completed (12,003-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 14/5/13

Glorious day, cloudless sky and 74F.  As forecast, the north westerly headwind was an impossible 45-50 m.p.h. so I decided to have a rest day.  Did some work on the bike and bought a new brand of tyre in the hope of ending the endless punctures.  Also got some new trainers in Walmart as the soles finally fell off my original pair.  0-miles completed (12,003-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 15/5/13

Crossed the Yellowstone River out of Miles City and headed north west on Hwy-59.  Hardly any traffic all day and nothing to see except prairie grassland, with the exception of two very isolated Post Offices at places called Angela and Cohagen.  Made slow but steady progress into the customary northerly headwind but progress became really difficult about 40-miles south of Jordan when the road surface suddenly deteriorated.  Deep, lateral cracks on the road (ice damage), running from shoulder to shoulder, at 5-10 yard intervals, made sitting on a bike a very unpleasant experience.  Finished at a small town called Jordan and just about managed to dismount.  85-miles completed (12,088-miles cumulative).

Thursday 16/5/13

After quite a bit of thought, I decided to go east on Hwy-200 and then north on HWY-24 in order to get around the large obstacle of Fort Peck Lake.  Enclosed by the world’s largest earth filled dam, the lake is 134-miles long with a 1,600-mile shoreline.  The dam was built on the Missouri River by U.S. Army engineers in the 1930’s.  Spent most of the day in the geological formation known as Hell Creek with the landscape changing from grassland to endless outcrops of sandstone, siltstone and mudstone.  This area is famous for dinosaur fossils and most of the world’s T. Rex fossils were found in this part of Montana.  Both roads were rollercoasters with little traffic.  Calm conditions with a bit of sun but heavy rain in the late afternoon.  Had a short descent out of the rocks down to Fort Peck Lake, rode across the dam and finished back in the grasslands at the town of Glasgow.  114-miles completed (12,202-miles cumulative).

Friday 17/5/13

North west on Hwy-2 with the Milk River nearby for most of the day.  Passed through the farming towns of Hinsdale and Saco before finishing at Malta.  Another calm day with sunshine and clouds before heavy, thundery rain returned in the afternoon.  72-miles completed (12,274-miles cumulative).

Saturday 18/5/13

Pouring rain all morning but dry and cloudy in the afternoon.  Hwy-2 paralleled the Milk River and Amtrak railway all day.  Passed through farming communities of Dodson, Harlem, Zurich, Chinook and Lohman before finishing at the city of Havre.  Also went through the northern part of Fort Belknap Indian Reservation – it was very sad to see the state of things.  Not sure what’s going on in this part of Montana but in the fields from Malta to Havre I think I saw more scrap metal in the shape of discarded cars, farm machinery/buildings and general items than the rest of America combined.  92-miles completed (12,366-miles cumulative).

Sunday 19/5/13

My back isn’t too good at the moment having taken a bit of a hammering on the ice-damaged roads over the last few days.  Didn’t want to aggravate it so I decided to have a rest day in Havre before moving north.  0-miles completed (12,366-miles cumulative).

Monday 20/5/13

The rest did my back some good so I set off from Havre into yet another strong northerly headwind which lasted all day.  Luckily dodged some enormous thunder clouds whilst heading north west along Hwy-232 to the isolated Port Of Wild Horse border crossing.  No problems at the empty crossing and chatted to two very friendly and welcoming Canadian officials for a bit before setting off again on Hwy-41 (Buffalo Trail) into southern Alberta.  A gradual uphill through vast, prairie grasslands eventually gave way to a series of very steep up and downs.  Finished the day in glorious sunshine with another very steep climb up into the beautiful Cypress Hills where I found a place to camp alongside Elkwater Lake.  An awful struggle into the wind this afternoon and evening.  Got eaten alive by insects this evening.  97-miles completed (12,463-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 21/5/13

Up early to avoid the biting insects and carried on north up Hwy-41.  Reached Hwy-1 (Trans Canadian) and turned west through the small town of Dunmore before finishing early with a bad left knee at the city of Medicine Hat.  40-miles completed (12,503-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 22/5/13

loudy with a blustery wind all day.  Continued north west on Hwy-1 through largely empty grassland with only the occasional nodding donkey to break up the scenery.  Stopped in the village of Suffield and had a lovely cooked breakfast courtesy of two very friendly women who ran the local diner.  Suffield lends its name to the nearby Canadian Forces Base which, at over 1,000 Square Miles, is pretty big!  Ended an uneventful day at Brooks.  73-miles completed (12,576-miles cumulative).

Thursday 23/5/13

Continued north west on Hwy-1 to the small town of Bassano before leaving the TransCan for good shortly afterwards and heading north up Hwy-56.  Passed by the town of Hussar on the shores of Deadhorse Lake and up through the tiny village of Dalum and the town of Rosedale before finishing at Drumheller.  Flat grassland most of the day but became quite hilly as I entered the heavily eroded Alberta Badlands south of Drumheller.  Very windy all day with afternoon crosswinds making it difficult to stay upright on the bike.  Blustery, heavy downpours all day.  This part of Alberta is world famous for its dinosaur fossils.  90-miles completed (12,666-miles cumulative).

Friday 24/5/13

Made the steep climb out of Drumheller in atrocious conditions with torrential rain and a freezing cold north easterly wind.  As the road levelled off, conditions got so bad that the road became covered in surface water.  After a couple of close calls with oil tankers near Munson and with things just getting worse, I decided to return to Drumheller.  This part of Alberta is currently in the throes of a slow moving, winter storm, with Calgary swamped and snow falling just to the west.  Both Americans and Canadians are really bemoaning the endless winter.  20-miles completed (12,686-miles cumulative).

Saturday 25/5/13

Still raining with a freezing wind this morning but decided to give it another go.  Climbed up onto the waterlogged prairie to find roadside ditches and fields all flooded.  Went past the small villages of Munson, Big Valley and Fenn before finishing at the town of Stettler.  Trees slowly beginning to appear across the rolling landscape now.  61-miles completed (12,747-miles cumulative).

Sunday 26/5/13

Headed north on Hwy-56 past the village of Meeting Place and the Swedish settlement of Edberg, sitting alongside the oddly named Driedmeat Lake.  Briefly turned east on Hwy-26 before turning north again on Hwy-834 through the small villages of Round Hill and Tofield before a final turn north west on Hwy-15 into the town of Lamont.  Cold and frosty first thing but things warmed up to 19C under a cloudless sky in the afternoon.  Conditions were perfect today apart from the mosquitos and flies which appeared out of all the standing water in incredible numbers.  Unable to stand still for even a second without being covered in mosquitos, conditions quickly became unbearable – the worst I have ever experienced.  Lost a lot of blood today!  112-miles completed (12,859-miles cumulative).

Monday 27/5/13

North on Hwy-831 past Star, Waskatenau and Boyle in cool conditions and under a cloudless sky.  Continued north on Hwy-63 for a few more miles before a final turn west on Hwy-55 for the last 20-miles into the town of Athabasca.  Prairie grasslands and farmland have now given way to forestry.  Mosquitos and flies everywhere but I got changed into head to toe clothing near Waskatenau and only had a few bites today.  As beautiful as Canada is, I have to take my hat off to Canadians who can endure 6-months of snow only to be met with 6-months of insects.  90-miles completed (12,949-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 28/5/13

Left Athabasca heading north west on Hwy-2 (Northern Woods & Water).  The road was very quiet through heavily wooded countryside with only the small village of Island Lake to see.  Stopped for a coffee at the village petrol station and was told that they had just had one of the snowiest winters in living memory.  Carried on over long, rolling hills before hitting the junction with Hwy-44.  The road then changed to much steeper hills with a lot of lumber trucks for company all the way up to the town of Slave Lake.  Got within about 20’ of a white-tailed deer grazing on the roadside (I was downwind of it as I approached).  It finally turned around to see me and jumped about 6’ in the air before panicking and crashing head first into the roadside trees.  Quite cool today so there weren’t so many mosquitos around.  Made the mistake of not putting long clothing on and paid the price when I got bitten by a “black fly” (notorious pests in Canada).  I got a real belter on my leg and won’t make the same mistake again.  85-miles completed (13,034-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 29/5/13

Leg still painful and swollen from yesterday’s bite so decided to have a rest day.  Spent most of the day sorting out my bike and kit before what looks like a tough stretch ahead.  0-miles completed (13,034-miles cumulative).

Thursday 30/5/13

Continued west on Hwy-2 through a never ending avenue of trees lying just to the south of Lesser Slave Lake.  There was still a lot of evidence of the huge wildfire which tore through the town of Slave Lake and surrounding woodland in 2011 and which caused a mass evacuation of the town.  Passed by little hamlets and villages called Widewater, Canyon Creek, Kinuso and Faust before reaching the Cree First Nation Reservation at Driftpile.  The scenery opened up a bit near the farming community of Joussard and I finished the day with a straightforward ride up to High Prairie just in time to beat a big afternoon thunderstorm.  Deer were everywhere this morning.  73-miles completed (13,107-miles cumulative).

Friday 31/5/13

Overcast day into a stiff south westerly headwind.  Flat countryside for most of the day except for a steep descent into and climb out of the Little Smoky River valley.  Continued west on Hwy-2 and Hwy-2A before reaching the junction with Hwy-49.  I could see that the forecast, heavy thunderstorms were already flashing away on my planned route to the north and west so I decided to head south and west instead.  Fairly quiet roads again and not much to see apart from a large herd of bison alongside Hwy-2A.  Stopped to have a look at them and almost immediately all the adult bison ran inwards and grouped together around the young bison calves – they obviously thought I was a danger to them.  Finished a tiring day at a little place called Valley View.  57-miles completed (13,164-miles cumulative).

Saturday 1/6/13

Another miserable, rainy day into a strong westerly headwind.  Brightened up a bit in the afternoon apart from regular, thundery hailstorms.  Not much to see today apart from isolated farms at places called Calais, Sturgeon Heights, Crooked Creek, De Bolt and Bezanson.  Followed Hwy-43 into the city of Grande Prairie, the last big outpost in Alberta.  Had some bad luck today – saw that a huge oversize load (mining truck) was coming up behind me, just as I was passing through an area of road works.  To avoid the overhanging load, I had to step right off the shoulder onto what looked like solid ground but sank nearly up to my knees in mud.  Worse still, so did the bike, with chainrings and cassette submerged in a gluepot.  Took ages to get the bike out and couldn’t clean the gearing properly so had to carry on in a very low, grinding gear for the last 20-miles.  One of my panniers filled up with muddy water.  73-miles completed (13,237-miles cumulative).

Sunday 2/6/13                                                  

Spent most of the day struggling to get my gearing working properly and cleaning my muddied clothing.  Stocked up with supplies.  A bit of a wasted day considering the lovely sunshine.  0-miles completed (13,237-miles cumulative).

Monday 3/6/13

Headed north west up Hwy-43 past the village of Wembley and through the small towns of Beaverlodge and Hythe.  Grey and overcast all day with a little bit of drizzle.  Hwy-43 became Hwy-2 as I left Alberta and entered British Columbia.  Carried on through the village of Pouce Coupe and finished at the city of Dawson Creek.  The city is sometimes known as “Alaska Highway Mile-0” and it’s going to be the largest place I see for a long time to come as I head north.  Quiet, tree-lined roads for most of the day.  84-miles completed (13,321-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 4/6/13

Beautiful, cool, sunny morning as I headed to the north end of town and joined Hwy-97 (Alaska Highway).  The start of the road (Mile-0) was marked by a small roadside monument.  Made slow but steady progress up the hilly road before a fast descent down to the Peace River and the nearby town of Taylor.  There was a long, metal-decked bridge across the river.  The decking was mesh so I decided to cross using a raised walkway – glad I did because I got a better view of countless sharp metal edges on the mesh which would have damaged my tyres (lorries cross the bridge in winter still chained-up from the steep descent and probably damage the mesh).  After a steep climb up out of the river valley and a few more miles across the flat, I finished at the large town of Fort St. John.  If today is anything to go by, this road isn’t going to be easy.  50-miles completed (13,371-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 5/6/13

Got a mile up the road but had to return to town to get a battery for my bike computer which was on the blink.  Eventually found a shop which had the correct type and set off again.  The road was up and down all the way through dense forests.  Passed a couple of little hamlets called Shepherd’s Inn and Wonowon before finishing near an oil & gas work-camp just as the regular afternoon thunder showers started.  58-miles completed (13,429-miles cumulative).

Thursday 6/6/13

Warm and sunny all day but a swirling wind blew up in the afternoon.  Hills all day with some very steep climbs on the way up to Pink Mountain.  There was a little grocery shop at the top and even a pub, The Buffalo Inn.  After passing a little diner at Sasquatch Crossing, the climbs continued again until a very steep descent into the Sikanni Chief River gorge.  There were numerous signs warning truckers to check their brakes before descending but a petrol tanker still managed to lose control on the way down – the driver was really lucky his cargo didn’t roll over.  After another very steep climb up and away from the river, the road just rolled along until I finished at a place called Buckinghorse River.  73-miles completed (13,502-miles cumulative).

Friday 7/6/13

Cool and overcast all day with just one heavy shower this afternoon.  The Highway continues to wind through endless forests.  Went through a First Nation village called Prophet River which was a bit of a mess.  Decided to get as far as possible today and finished at Fort Nelson, a small town founded by the Hudson Bay Company in 1805.  It was named after Admiral Horatio Nelson who defeated the French at Trafalgar that same year.  Like most towns in Alberta and British Columbia, the town is overrun with oil & gas workers.  I doubt I’ll be going this far again as the road gets increasingly difficult from here.  112-miles completed (13,614-miles cumulative).

Saturday 8/6/13

Left Fort Nelson, the lowest point on the Alaska Highway, and headed westwards into the Northern Rocky Mountains.  The highway got hillier the further I went culminating in a very steep 5-mile climb up through the clouds to the summit of Steamboat Mountain.  After a fast descent and more short, steep climbs, I reached a place called Tetsa River to end the day.  The road surface is surprisingly good considering the weather they get here with only the occasional frost heave to negotiate.  This area of Canada is wilderness and home to all sorts of animals.  Today I encountered 6-bears – both times a Black Bear mother with 2-cubs.  Passed about 20-yards from the first family just west of Fort Nelson.  The mother briefly looked up but carried on eating dandelions (a local told me that bears get stoned eating them!).  I passed the second family as they stood on one roadside shoulder and I passed on the other, about 20-feet away.  Trying to keep your wits and avoiding eye contact is not easy when they’re that close!  There was a little coffee shop at Tetsa River which sold fantastic cinnamon buns.  73-miles completed (13,687-miles cumulative).

Sunday 9/6/13

Poured down last night and the rain continued on and off until mid-afternoon.  Slow, steady climb up through the Stone Mountains to Summit Pass, at 4,258’, the highest point on the Alaska Highway.  It was eerily silent as the road went around Summit Lake.  Came down the west side of the mountains and the scenery changed to stunning mountain landscapes.  Finished at a small village called Toad River on the banks of Reflection Lake.  No bears today.  48-miles completed (13,735-miles cumulative).

Monday 10/6/13

Beautiful day in warm sunshine.  The road headed south west along a canyon just a few feet from the Toad River before turning north and climbing steeply up the side of Peterson Canyon.  A fast 40 m.p.h descent down the north side and a few miles later, I arrived at beautiful Muncho Lake with its azure and turquoise glacial waters.  Carried on north alongside the Trout River before descending to the huge Liard River.  Finished at a place called Liard Hot Springs which has 2-very warm, volcanic pools for bathing.  Stunning scenery all the way today.  Saw some rare Stone Sheep near Muncho Lake and even rarer Wood Bison grazing alongside the road (there are only 250 of these bison in BC).  At one stage I had to wait for about 20-bison to get off the road and as I was waiting I saw a black bear appearing out of the trees about 20-yards to my right – I followed the recommended drills and, after what seemed like an eternity, the bear lost interest and went back into the trees.  Bit of a close call but what a spectacular day.  75-miles completed (13,810-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 11/6/13

4-bison walked into the campsite this morning just as I was setting off.  Followed the Liard River up to Coal River along another scenic stretch of road.  The road then became very hilly with one real lung-bursting climb just north of a road depot called Fireside.  After many more up and downs I finished at a place called Contact Creek which is where the northbound and southbound U.S. Army Engineering teams met to complete the highway.  About 5-miles south of Contact Creek, I left BC and entered Yukon Territory (YT).  Had to negotiate another black bear this afternoon and, for the first time, had to pass 3-grizzly bears (a mother and 2-yearling cubs).  The sight of grizzlies a few yards away on the roadside really does concentrate the mind but I’m just trying to keep calm and remember the drills now.  Quite a day.  90-miles completed (13,900-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 12/6/13

There was a wolf (wolves) calling near my campsite last night – the howls were coming from the direction of where I’d hung up my food in a tree about 200-yards from my tent.  Re-entered BC near Iron Creek and passed a First Nation village called Lower Post after which the road became gravel for 5-miles due to resurfacing work.  Shortly after, I re-entered YT and Hwy-97 (BC) became Hwy-1 (YT).  Terrible road surface up to the town of Watson Lake with a lot of potholes but the thing that immediately worried me was that the roadside undergrowth and saplings had been allowed to grow right up to the roadside, meaning I couldn’t see what wildlife might be ahead.  I didn’t spend too long in Watson Lake and carried on up to a campsite just past the junction with Hwy-37.  On a downhill stretch just west of Watson Lake, I flashed past a grizzly about 10’ from me – I had no idea it was there because of the undergrowth and I got the fright of my life because surprising bears is a recipe for disaster.  I was very lucky this time because I don’t think it saw me due to the speed I was doing.  56-miles completed (13,956-miles cumulative).

Thursday 13/6/13

A bit hard to get a good night’s sleep now with near 24-hour sunlight.  Got up at 0400 in bright sunlight, had some rolls and soup and just watched 2-woodpeckers working away at a tree about 10’ away.  I also saw a wolverine for the first time just ambling by through the trees about 20-yards away – what a place.  Tough hills all day with a lot of gravel stretches where re-surfacing work is taking place.  There was a strong headwind and freezing rain coming down the valley from the snow-capped peaks and glaciers this afternoon but the evening was glorious sunshine.  No bears today.  Finished at a campsite called Continental Divide.  72-miles completed (14,028-miles cumulative).

Friday 14/6/13

Crossed the Continental Divide Watershed just west of the campsite.   Went through a deserted village called Swift River, briefly re-entered BC again and then followed a hilly road back into YT before finishing at a little village called Teslin, sitting alongside Nisutlin Bay and the 92-mile long Teslin Lake.  Lovely sunshine until mid-afternoon and then a series of torrential downpours until early evening.  Highlight of the day was meeting an inspirational, 80-year old, Canadian gentleman called Dan McGuire.  Dan was cycling across Canada in aid of Parkinson’s Disease research.  The courage and determination of this man is quite unbelievable – the breakfast provided by his daughter and son-in-law wasn’t bad either!  78-miles completed (14,106-miles cumulative).

Saturday 15/6/13

Warm and sunny all day.  Rode to the northern tip of Teslin Lake which is a renowned spawning ground for Chinook Salmon.  The salmon travel upstream for 2,000-miles from the Pacific Ocean to spawn each August and then die completing a life-cycle which began when they swam down the same rivers to the Pacific as young smolt.  The road turned west at a junction called Johnson’s Crossing and then north west at a junction called Jake’s Corner.  The road surface was very bad from Jake’s Corner to the finish at Marsh Lake.  Really difficult headwind all day.  Not much wildlife around at the moment.  85-miles completed (14,191-miles cumulative).

Sunday 16/6/13

There’s no respite from the voracious mosquitos, black-fly and other biting insects and they are becoming a real nuisance now.  Left the Marsh Lake shoreline and headed north west into the wind along the rolling road to an early finish at Whitehorse, the capital of Yukon Territory.  The town seems to have a bit of a bohemian feel to it and seems to have attracted quite a few “free spirits”, some of whom had obviously been on the spirits.  About 23-times bigger than Wales, YT has a population of only 34,000 and 27,000 of those people live in Whitehorse.  37-miles completed (14,228-miles cumulative).

Monday 17/6/13

Been nursing the bike’s worn drivetrain for quite a while now but after sinking in the mud near Grande Prairie, AB a couple of weeks ago, the parts have now virtually worn out.  Chain “stretch” was causing chain “skip” and becoming quite dangerous so I decided to work on the bike today.  Replaced the worn chain and worn cassette with spares I was carrying and bought a new middle chainring and a lightly used big chainring from a bike shop in town (my small chainring was only slightly worn).  Keeping my fingers crossed that this works because although I’ve got the tools, I’m now virtually out of spares.  Really was blowing a gale today which doesn’t bode well for the next few days.  0-miles completed (14,228-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 18/6/13

After a short climb out of Whitehorse, I headed west on a relatively flat, featureless road.  After a short break at a petrol station near Canyon Creek, I carried on past the Dezadeash Range to a small village called Haines Junction which sits in the shadow of the Kluane Range.  The Range is part of the larger Saint Elias Mountain Range and is the gateway to Kluane National Park, itself part of the largest non-polar icefield in the world.  Cloudy all day but the wind was much calmer today.  98-miles completed (14,326-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 19/6/13

Headed north west paralleling the Kluane Ranges to the west with the Ruby Range away to the east.  This south west corner of the Yukon contains Canada’s highest mountains.  There was an immediate 12-mile climb up the Alsek Valley followed by a series of long up and downs to the southern tip of Kluane Lake.  After a pretty tortuous hour into a gale coming down the Slims River valley from the high glaciers, I finally rounded the south west corner of the lake and then followed its western shoreline past a little camp called Cottonwood and the tiny village of Destruction Bay before finishing at another tiny camp called Burwash Landing.  Beautiful weather and stunning scenery all day.  Saw quite a few bald eagles, a coyote and countless huge, black ravens today.  78-miles completed (14,404-miles cumulative).

Thursday 20/6/13

Freezing cold last night, cloudy all day and a nice tailwind this afternoon.  After a few miles I left the shoreline of Kluane Lake and carried on north west up into some huge glacier carved valleys.  Crossed the Donjek and White Rivers and finished at a place called Beaver Creek which is Canada’s most westerly community.  From Destruction Bay yesterday to Beaver Creek today, the road has been a right mess because of huge frost heaves.  The big, snow covered mountains seem to be behind me for now with much lower, spruce covered mountains replacing them.  107-miles completed (14,511-miles cumulative).

Friday 21/6/13

Eventually got up this morning but felt very tired setting off.  Just north of town, I quickly completed Canadian border formalities (because there weren’t any!).  The 20-mile stretch of road up to the US border was the worst yet with loads of vehicles “bottoming out” in a shower of sparks due to continuous frost heaves.  Got through US customs in good time, put my watch back 1-hour to Alaska Time and carried on up to a little petrol station called Border City for a break.  From there, the road north became very hilly, made worse by a very strong headwind.  The road borders the huge Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge, a really beautiful place.  Finished at a camp called Northway Junction.  63-miles completed (14,574-miles cumulative).

Saturday 22/6/13

The sun didn’t set last night and it’s now 24-hour sunlight.  The non-stop hills continued for over 30-miles up to the Tanana River after which the road levelled off for an arrow straight ride into the small village of Tok to end the day.  Glorious sunshine again but the wind is pretty unforgiving at the moment.   Got bitten on the leg by a Deer Fly this afternoon – painful isn’t the word.  50-miles completed (14,624-miles cumulative).

Sunday 23/6/13

Road not as hilly today with a lot of long, arrow straight sections through the spruce forests.  Crossed the Robertson and Gerstle Rivers which still had ice floes in them coming down from the Alaska Range.  Mixture of sun and cloud with a light breeze but close and thundery.  Went through one tiny hamlet called Dot Lake (Population: 13).  Finished at Delta Junction which is also the official end of the Alaska Highway.  It seems an age since I left Dawson Creek, BC on 4/6 and the 1,413-miles have been quite memorable (the road length is supposed to be 1,422-miles so I don’t know what happened to the other 9-miles).  110-miles completed (14,734-miles cumulative).

Monday 24/6/13

North out of Delta Junction on the Richardson Highway which runs from the port of Valdez the south to Fairbanks in the north.  Fairly routine ride through spruce forests passing through a small community called Solcha and also passing by the Eielson Air Force and Fort Wainwright Army bases.  The air was full of cottonwood seeds all the way today.  Finished at Fairbanks which is Alaska’s second largest city.  109-miles completed (14,843-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 25/6/13

Decided to have a rest day and prepare for what could prove to be the toughest stretch of the whole ride – the journey north up the Dalton Highway.  There are virtually no services on the road and it is nearly all rough gravel through the mountains and tundra of northern Alaska.  Anyone who has seen the series, “Ice Road Truckers”, will know that the road is a pretty daunting task.  0-miles completed (14,843-miles cumulative).

Wednesday 26/6/13

Climbed north east up the Steese Highway before descending into the village of Fox, lying about 12-miles north of Fairbanks.  I then joined the Elliott Highway (Hwy-2), heading north west up into the tree covered White Mountains.  The road became very hilly with a series of short but steep climbs at regular intervals.  Passed Olnes City (Population: 1) and also crossed the Chatanika and Tatalina Rivers and a few other large creeks along the way before finishing at a little craft shop called Arctic Circle Trading Post.  The Post was run by a lovely couple called the Carlson’s and they kindly let me pitch a tent on some nearby grass.  They are quite a couple, having raised 23-children, 18 of them fostered.  Encountered a moose on the road today which just would not move until a big truck came thundering by to scare it off.  Quite hot and humid today.  Mosquitos getting even worse.  62-miles completed (14,905-miles cumulative).

Thursday 27/6/13

The road continued up and down for the next 24-miles before I reached the junction with the infamous Dalton Highway (Hwy-11).  It immediately became apparent that this is a road apart with non-stop very steep climbs and descents, alternating between paved and gravel sections, with numerous tricky curves and bends.  There was no let up today and the road is already proving to be a bit of a beast.  There was also quite a bit of Summer roadwork going on and this only added to the problems.  A very long and exhausting day ended a few miles after I had crossed a steeply sloping bridge across the mighty Yukon River, at a gravel area which had once been home to some of the Alaska Pipeline construction workers.  Luckily, there was an artesian well with cold, clear water near my campsite.  Very worried about my bottom bracket bearings which may be on their last legs.  Mosquitos worse than yesterday!  84-miles completed (14,989-miles cumulative).

Friday 28/6/13

30-miles of gravel road to start, with some very steep hills, including a ½-mile climb up Sand Hill which was immediately followed by an incredibly steep ½-mile descent into, and ½-mile climb up, the famous “Roller Coaster”.  There was also a very steep 1½-mile climb up Mackey Hill and an equally steep 1-mile climb up Dall Creek with the pipeline close by.  The landscape changed dramatically near a place called Finger Mountain with the trees disappearing and being replaced by tundra covered in blueberries and cranberries, in amongst a lot of rocky tors.  Passed over the Kanuti River, made a quick descent down the “Beaver Slide”, crossed Fish Creek and finished at a campsite situated on the Arctic Circle itself.  Now even more worried about my bearings grinding away and making the steep hills even more difficult.  Mosquitos worse than yesterday!  57-miles completed (15,046-miles cumulative).

Saturday 29/6/13

Got woken up by the sound of swarms of mosquitos buzzing in and around the tent this morning – it’s hard to describe the absolute misery of these conditions and even Alaskans are saying that they’ve never experienced anything quite like this season.  Another day of big hills starting with a 2-mile climb just west of the campsite followed by Paradise Hill which has a treacherous curve at the bottom which truckers call, “Oh Sh*t Corner”, because so many of them have lost their loads over the side at that spot.  There was a tough climb up to a place called Gobblers Knob, from where I could see some big wildfires ahead near Prospect Creek.  After a quick descent, Pump Station No. 5 came into view and this is near to where a place called Prospect Camp used to be.  Prospect Camp holds the record low temperature reading for Alaska and the USA :  -80F / -62C in 1971.  The next 20-miles were fairly easy but just past the South Fork Koyukuk River there was an impossible 1½-mile climb so I just got off and pushed.  Less severe up and downs followed for the final 17-miles into Coldfoot Camp.  Eaten alive by mosquitos today.  63-miles cumulative (15,109-miles cumulative).

Sunday 30/6/13

I was tempted to get a truckers room in the Camp last night in order to get away from the mosquitos – when the bloke said the portacabin rooms were $200 a night, I politely declined!  I’ve decided to change tack instead so, with guaranteed 24-hour daylight, I am now going to night ride in the hope of cooler conditions and more wind which might hopefully blow away the mosquitos.  Topped up with fresh water, got on the road in the early hours and headed north in murky twilight up a good stretch of road with the Dietrich River nearby.  Passed Marion Creek and the turn-off for Wiseman Village before the impressive Sukapak, Wiehl and Poss Mountains came into view through the murk after about 20-miles.  The road was in pretty good condition and surprisingly flat as it made its way up the valley but after about 60-miles, the road began to climb steeply up to a place called Chandalar Shelf in the Brooks Range.  The climb was about 2-miles and the trees disappeared the higher I went.  After slowly descending the shelf, the road settled down for a couple of miles before another very steep 2½-mile, 12% climb up Atigun Pass.  This is the highest road in Alaska at 4,800’ and it crosses the Continental Divide at the summit.  I saw some Dall Sheep near the top but they quickly scarpered when they saw me.  The descent down the North Slope of Atigun Pass was very dicey on a rough, pot-holed, gravel road so I was glad to get through that stretch in one piece.  I carried on for a few more miles before finishing at a gravelled area near a bridge over the Atigun River.  Little relief from the mosquitos and they are now the biggest I have ever seen.  79-miles completed (15,188-miles cumulative).

Monday 1/7/13

Managed to get some sleep today in the shade of the mountains and set off in the late evening.  The road was a bit rougher but I managed to find some smoother spots at the edges.  Passed Pump Station No. 4 after about 16-miles and about 5-miles later I detoured off the highway to Galbraith Camp to collect some water from Camp Creek which is the last “recommended” water supply on the northbound highway (I will still have to filter and boil this water because nearly all non-potable Alaskan water contains the nasty Giardia bacteria).  The road then went past Toolik Lake as I slowly moved north of the Brooks Range with the Philip Smith Mountains appearing on the western horizon.  The road became quite hilly around a place called Slope Mountain and further up the road at places called Oil Spill Hill and Ice Cut.  The road was in a right state later on and resembled a washboard but, luckily, there were much smoother sections at the edges which I could use.  Decided to stop opposite a road construction depot called Happy Valley.  Mosquitos are now huge and like something from a horror film, completely covering you if you stop for anything.  Apparently, by August, they will all be gone, having either been eaten by dragon flies and birds or back in hibernation (they have an anti-freeze mechanism which keeps them alive in extreme cold until the next summer).  81-miles completed (15,269-miles cumulative).

Tuesday 2/7/13

Set off a bit earlier this evening.  The road was still really rough as it made its way very gradually uphill for about 20-miles until it reached a gravelled area at the top of a small hill.  From there, I got my first glimpse of the pancake flat Arctic coastal plains which were covered in banks of thick fog.  Got down onto the plains proper and carried on past Pump Station No. 2 and rode alongside the waterlogged tundra for what seemed like an eternity.  Conditions became much colder once on the plains.  Saw so many owls along the road tonight that I lost count – they were a stunning sight.  Also saw a pair of moose swimming in a distant lake, obviously trying to get away from the voracious mosquitos.  Carried on across the endless plains for about another 50-miles before finally reaching the end of the Dalton Highway at an industrial site called Deadhorse.  I think the word “bleak” may have been invented for this place; cold, damp, windy, muddy and with very few people at this time of year.  With nowhere else to go, I had a quick cup of coffee in a portacabin, feeling quite relieved that the bearings on the bike had held out until the end.  I then went straight to another portacabin to get on a flight.  The Dalton Highway itself was very tough although it’s fair to say that it got a lot easier the further north I went, especially after Atigun Pass.  Conversely, the mosquitos got bigger and even more numerous the further north I got.  81-miles completed (15,350-miles cumulative).


After 247-days’ riding and 15,350-miles travelled, I have now finished my ride – it has been quite an experience. 

The End.







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