The one with all the numbers in.
We are right back where we started after a year on the road, Vejer de la Frontera in Andalucia, my computer finally died, but we have resurrected Sylvia’s computer which has spent the last year here waiting for us to return, so I can finally get around to trying to sum up our year.
Two months of living in a house now, enjoying all mod cons, like a roof, bed, settee etc. Sylvia is happily playing with the washing machine and I am being retrained in the use of an iron.
So, how to sum up a year of cycling? Not sure. Let’s start with some maps.
Our first six months was spent mainly in Spain before making our way up to Rotterdam.
A lap of Andalucia followed by the Camino (Via de la Plata) from Seville to Santiago de Compostela. Then the Galician coast and the meseta of northern Spain before leaving Spain near San Sebastian.
This took from the middle of March until the middle of July, then it was a quick trip up through France, taking in the Atlantic coast, the Loire Valley and Burgundy, before a bit of Belgium and finishing off along the Rhine to Rotterdam.
We arrived in Rotterdam in late August, and spent a month visiting family and friends and preparing for the next part of our trip.
Then we took our big step; European cycle touring is fine, but South America would stretch us, and it was with some trepidation that we boarded the flight to Buenos Aires in late September.
A 22 hour bus journey then got us to our starting point, Salta, in the north west corner of Argentina. We spent five weeks cycling in this amazing landscape of deserts and mountains before we climbed the Andes and dropped down into Chile.
Chile was divided into two parts for us, the gentle north around Santiago and the coast, and then a bus link down to an area of rugged lakes, forests and volcanoes further south.
We crossed the Andes once again and then spent Christmas in Bariloche. A bit of time off the bikes followed as we were joined by our daughter Tavia for a trip to the south of Patagonia.
Then it was another 22 hour bus trip up to Cordoba in the centre of Argentina and our final part of the bike ride, taking in the vast plains of northern Argentina and the coast line of Uruguay.
If you have been following us you will have read all the stories of the various bits, if not, it’s all in the archived posts at the bottom of the page.
But back to my question, how to sum it up, the maps are done, now for some numbers.
We just reached the 12,000km mark at the end of our tour, broken down as
- Spain 4872km
- France 1643km
- Belgium 243km Europe 7100km
- Holland 339km South America 4900km
- Argentina 3129km
- Chile 1013km
- Uruguay 744km
The extreme pedants among you will add the numbers up and find that it comes to 11982km, but we probably missed a few from our records.
It was almost exactly 12 months from setting off from Vejer to arriving back in Buenos Aires. There were two blocks of a month each “off the bikes”, a month between the two parts and a month in South America, resting around Christmas and then traveling with Tavia.
So it was 10 months of cycling, and in that time we spent 222 days on the bikes, 126 in Europe and 96 in South America.
We set off with a rough plan to cycle for 6 days then have a day off, all subject to how we were feeling, where we were visiting, and what the weather was like.
Roughly, 222 days in 300 is one day off in every four. there were more rest days in South America, partly because it was tougher, and also perhaps we (I) had become a bit more relaxed, and not so determined to eat up the kilometers.
So, the obvious sum from the above will tell you that our average day on the bike covered 54km.
Not a crazy distance, but a nice day’s cycle touring. Sometimes we would have a big day, maybe 80 to 100km, either because the cycling was easy, or we had to get somewhere.
A few other days it might be only 20km or less, a relaxing day, or a short distance between two places of interest…….
But simple figures like this cannot tell the full story. We will not forget the “only 22km”day when we pushed our bikes up the Andes into an incredible headwind, one of the most exhausting days we had.
Or the day we covered a “below average”distance of 44km in southern Chile, up mainly unrideable “ripio” -rough track – to a wild camp high up by the volcano.
211 nights in a tent
Perhaps more challenging than cycling for a year is spending your life predominantly living in a tent. As long as the rain held off, which it did except for one or two notable exceptions, we loved it. It is a simple existence, and probably taught us both a lot about how to live a simple life.
When we were not spending the night under polyurethane coated nylon (that does not sound as romantic as “nights under canvas”, but it is a lot lighter) we stayed at small hostels, often for weather related reasons. Also, when we followed the Camino in Spain we spent twenty or so nights in the pilgrim albergues.
We are now incredibly well drilled in setting up camp. After a couple of hundred practices, and lots of little tweaks, it must be an impressive sight to see us roll up on our bikes at a campsite and, about 14.5 minutes later to be relaxing in our chairs with everything set up.
A highlight in South America was wild camping. Often the distance between towns was too great, or there were no campsites available, so we developed our skills at finding alternatives. Generally this was some hidden spot in a remote area, or, as in the picture above, a truck stop or a petrol station car park.
Is about the weight (not including the bikes) of all the stuff we lug around with us. (This figure can go up quite a bit when we need to carry extra food and water)
Probably at the higher end of cycle touring loads, but we have carefully considered this, and each piece has been evaluated and had to earn it’s place in our kit list.
It would be a lot different if we were off for a three week tour in the middle of summer; our pack would be a lot lighter.
But this has been our home for a year, and a balance needs to be struck between what you are prepared to haul up a big hill, and what comforts you would like to have when you get to the campsite at the top of the hill.
However I have never complained at the wonderful meals she cooks for me every evening. And she has used every single bit of kitchen kit.
6 punctures (and other bad things)
Or maybe seven, we didn’t keep a record. But this is often the first question we get asked. Another question, mainly regarding South America is “what bad things happened to you?”
But, generally speaking, nothing bad did happen. Of course we had a few testing times, but I am sure that if we had stayed at home for a year we would have had some problems as well.
As far as the bikes and kit is concerned, a handful of punctures, a couple of minor mechanical issues, a few things lost or left behind, but nothing major.
We got flooded out of a campsite in an incredible three day storm in Argentina, and then spent a couple of days in a hostel drying everything out.
In France we had one moment of high drama, when a young Frenchman managed to drive past me and then crash in the 40m before he reached Sylv, with Sylvia falling off in the middle of the road as she swerved to avoid him. All over in the blink of an eye, but a powerful reminder of how vulnerable we all are.
Memories (and photographs) – too many to count
We certainly won’t forget our year on the road. However we will have ample opportunity to reflect on it as we sift through the hundreds of photos, attempting to compile an album that tells the story for us to look back on.
But we had better get a move on, as in less than a couple of months we will be back on the road. Not really sure where we will be heading, but we are both looking forward to it.
If you have been following us on our travels, thanks, those of you who have occasionally commented have been a welcome connection with friends and family. Hopefully you can travel with us again soon.
Here are a few of those myriad photos.