DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE
Medellín to Los Llanos wood
Distance: 70 miles
Av speed: 8.5 mph
Moving time: 7 h 33
Trip time: 12 h 30
Biking out of Medellín was slow work as we were easily distracted by all the breakfast street stalls, selling a range of deep-fried goodies and delicious coffee. Then the rain started, making it even harder to get on the road but these bikes are not going to get themselves to Cartagena. Knowing we only had one last proper climb to go made today pretty special. We have spent 125 days tackling the Andes and today we have finally completed them. Tomorrow we will drop back down to sea level and remain there until we roll into Cartagena in (hopefully) four day’s time.
Another massive achievement is that halfway up the final 1000m climb we found out we have reached our target of £20,000. Simply the best news there could have been. Both beaming we attempted some blogging to try and show as much of our appreciation as possible. This will never be able to be shown whilst talking to a phone. We honestly cannot describe how happy and proud we are that we have managed to raise such a huge amount of money for four charities so close to both of us.
After yesterday’s disappointment of not being able to find gas we had to settle for chicken rice and chips for dinner before getting back on the bike in the dark to try and find a safe place to set up camp for the night. At least we have hot water meaning we can Yerba ourselves to sleep. Big sleep needed too before a big day tomorrow!
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SIX
Los Llanos Wood to Guarumo
Distance: 106 miles
Average speed: 12.2 mph
Moving time: 8 h 10
Door to door: 14 h 7
Today started off extremely well and with bright sunshine and 50 miles of downhill ahead of us we were in good spirits! Although it was sad to say goodbye to the Andes after so many moments we will never forget, we were excited for the prospect of flat roads and easy miles. As we descended however it soon became clear that life at sea level was probably going to be a lot harder than life in the mountains. Yes, the road was flat, but the afternoon was spent battling a seriously sticky heat and the feeling that there was no air at all. Things got even better as night draw in as it rained solidly all night. Exhausted it was a real struggle putting the tent up in the rain with mosquitoes all around us.
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY SEVEN
Hell hole north of Guarumo to La Ye
Distance: 86 miles
Average speed: 11.4 mph
Moving time: 7 h 16
Door to door: 14 h 14
Last night was without a doubt one of the lowest points of the trip, yet despite lying in a pool of our own sweat covered in mosquito bites, tiredness somehow prevailed and we were able to get some sleep. With the rain unceasing all night, we were forced into having the second canopy on meaning hardly any air entered the tent and the only other option was to stand outside, completely naked getting attacked by mosquitos but at least not facing a painful death in a slow cook oven. We exaggerate but if the Catholics are right, purgatory probably resembles something to what we went through last night.
The good news was that getting out of bed was easy and we were on the road nice and early, racking up 50 miles before the Champions League final kicked off. We managed to find a TV in the town of Planeta Rica, firmly off the beaten track and the huge number of stares that came our way meant that not many ‘gringos’ must ever stop there. This was great fun as half the town came up to us, but at the same time once in the bar we hardly saw a kick of the ball as a group of blokes seemed intent in asking us so many questions and teaching us how to dance and speak to Colombian ladies. True gents though and again all expenses were paid for our troubles!
After the football we were back on the road, putting in a big stint long into the night to make up the miles, finally arriving in the town of La Ye for 10 o’clock. We would have arrived a bit sooner if it hadn't been for our boldness is discussing punctures for the first time since Cusco. It has quite rightly been a taboo area, and 10 minutes after Roo saying 'God, we haven't had a puncture in so long', the inevitable happened and we have both learnt not to tempt fate again for our final few days.
For the whole trip we have far preferred staying in the tent as opposed to hostels; we are normally in an amazing location, our sleeping mats are far comfier than any bed and of course far cheaper than a hostel. For once however we were forced to concede that staying in the tent was a horrible and miserable experience at sea level, and not wanting to ruin our final days we will be opting for motels from now on. At the same time, we would be lying if we said an air-conditioned room and a cold shower haven’t gone a long way in lifting our mood from this morning J .
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY EIGHT
La Ye to Playon Motel
Distance: 95 miles
Average speed: 11.7 mph
Moving time: 7 h 51
Door to door: 11 h 21
As the penultimate day of the trip, today was all about putting in a big shift so that we have more time tomorrow to enjoy our final pedal strokes and finally touch down in Cartagena by roughly 3 o’clock. It feels so strange even writing this and completely surreal. Roo’s parents have already arrived and are waiting in Cartagena for us, and something we have long dreamt about but that has always felt so far away is finally becoming a reality. After 7,450 miles and so many hours cycling, seemingly always long into the night, our tired bodies and minds and minds only have 150 miles left and finally we can catch up on some sleep after 25 days without a rest day.
Back to the cycling and another day of highs and lows cycling at sea level in Colombia. After an ominous double banana for breakfast, we again struggled with the heat for most of the day which was then replaced by a huge rainstorm that must have lasted for three hours. With many miles to go we just had to plough on through it (although no day time mosquitos in the rain :) ). Roo’s bum also ended up playing a heightened role in today’s misery, and despite endless reapplication of the trusty chamois cream things only went from bad to worse.
On the flip side, we were kept fully fuelled once again by the vast availability of deep-fried goods and watermelon juice at every village, as well as several locals on mopeds slowing down, offering the usual amount of shock and disbelief and then some kind words to keep us going. After three hours of getting soaked, we were then treated to one of the most incredible sunsets of the trip on quiet roads before eventually settling for a motel 50 miles from Cartagena. Extremely excited for a cold shower and some aircon the two hour power cut when we arrived was a bit of a shame but we are so excited for tomorrow that it doesn’t matter. Unfortunately for Jim, he is again a little bit too excited and much like our departure from Gatwick, has just spent 20 minutes throwing up his last minute nerves!
DAY ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY NINE
Playon to... CARTAGENA!!!!!!!!!!!
Distance: 55 miles
Average speed: 12.4 mph
Moving time: 4 h 20
Door to door: 6 hours
WE MADE IT!!!!!
At the time of writing, we are sat around a swimming pool, cold lager in hand, pinching ourselves that it is all over – we actually cycled the length of South America, in the time limit we set ourselves and have raised such an incredible amount of money for charity. Words cannot really do justice of how we are feeling right now, and perhaps it is easier to first describe our final few hours on the bike after nearly four and a half months of riding a bike every day.
Already yesterday’s events seem a million miles away and it is as if we have stepped through a door into another world, so contrasting are the two timeframes separated by 24 hours. We woke early, hoping to get to Cartagena for 3 o’clock where Roo’s Parents and his girlfriend Claire awaited us. The early morning sun greeted us for one last time, and we couldn’t wipe the smiles off our faces with the excitement growing with each pedal. No saddle sores or mosquito bites could dampen our mood, nor could the sheer exhaustion we had been battling with for the last few months. Speakers on loud it was full speed ahead to Cartagena!!! Despite the heat, it was the perfect day in Colombia, as the usual village pit stops provided us with delicious fuel and the locals beeped and waved as we sped on by. Realising this would be our last time, we stopped in a petrol station on the edge of Cartagena to savour one last ice cream and reflect on how many times we’ve taken refuge in petrol stations over the trip and all the fond and crappy memories we have of them. Continuing on, we arrived on the outskirts of the city, both beaming and trying our best to savour every moment and our final few pedal strokes as the buildings became more and more built up. With just half a mile to go, we glimpsed the old town of Cartagena de Indias standing tall in front of the shining Caribbean Sea. A magical sight we will never forget and one that surpassed all our wildest imaginations over the past four months.
Taking a few moments to compose ourselves we then headed through the old town city walls and followed the signs towards Plaza San Diego, still struggling to believe this was all real. We followed a street for a few minutes, slowly peddling past ancient and brightly coloured houses, amazed at how still and quiet everything seemed. Suddenly the silence was pierced by the cheers and waves of a huge crowd of people to our left as we entered the plaza. Having both just expected a cold beer and a few hugs we were completely shocked, wondering if this reception was even for us, before spotting Roo’s parents in the middle of the crowd. Following the road up and around into the square the other way we crossed under a chequered finishing line and fell, disbelieving, into the arms of Billy, Stephen and Claire. The hour that followed already feels like a hazy dream as we were hugged and congratulated by hundreds of people, popped a bottle of champagne each on a handmade podium and danced to the tunes of a traditional band. Words really can’t do our Cartagenan welcoming party justice, it simply blew us away and was the perfect way to finish something that has been so immense from start to finish. We highly recommend watching the video on our website homepage that captures the afternoon better than we ever could.
Eventually the crowd of people dispersed (we later found out that Roo’s mum had simply gone around the hotel asking people to come out and then the crowd grew from there as tourists and locals came to see what all the fuss was about), and we parked our bikes for the final time before sitting on the sea wall, arm in arm reflecting on what the hell had just happened and all that we had achieved. The chance to be clean and to wear different clothes then became too much and we spent the rest of the day enjoying all the luxuries we have missed for so long, followed by an obscene amount of food and a few drinks later on. The perfect day and one we will never forget.
We now have a final few days together to relax in Cartagena before Jim leaves for an Elton John concert and Roo stays on for another week. Already not sharing a room with each other for the first time in 128 days feels strange enough but when we eventually say goodbye it will probably sink in that this is all over.
Throughout the past four and a half months the prospect of finally putting our feet up and sharing a celebratory beer has always been enough to motivate us during those trickier moments when we’ve really just wanted to throw the towel and stop for the day. It is however with a heavy heart that we sign off our journey log one last time and come to terms with the realisation that this is all really over. Our long journey North has been the best four months of our lives and despite the hardships, there have been far more highs and so many days when we have felt like the luckiest people alive. From travelling the mind-blowingly beautiful Caraterra Austral, traversing the Andes for the first time, cycling across the world’s largest salt flats, reaching new highs in Peru, seeing Volcanoes in Ecuador and meeting some of the kindest people in the world in Colombia we have always felt extremely privileged to be on this journey, a trip of a lifetime, which has been made even more special by the fact we have raised so much money for our chosen charities. That was always the primary aim of this journey and thank you so much to those of you who donated and were there with us the whole way. The tangible difference the money will make is huge and to have something so positive come out of this trip means the world to both of us.
For those of you who are eager to hear more, we are in the process of putting together all of our badly filmed footage with the help of one of our good friends in the hope that some kind of film can be put together. On top of that, we are hoping to hold one big talk in early 2019. Thank you for being with us this whole time and you will hear from us soon!
Some final words...
Whilst finally being able to put our feet up after four months of riding a bike every day has been easy, finding the necessary words to do the trip justice has been much much harder. How can we even begin to sum up a journey that has been full of so much. So many personal battles, so many kind hearted people, so many vastly contrasting geographies, so many moments that we wish could never have ended, so many laughs, so much sweat and a few final tears.
An easier way is maybe to give a few numbers that show what we’ve been up to for the past 129 days.
Days on the bike: 118
😴 Rest days: 11
🚲Total distance cycled: 7,579 miles / 12,126 kms
💪🏼Biggest day: 145 miles / 232kms
🛣Biggest week: 808 miles
🤙🏼🤙🏼Days over 100 miles: 17
🔋Average ridden per day (not including rest days): 64.2 miles / 102.8 kms
⏱ Total moving time: 660 hours
⏱⏱Total trip time (door to door each day): 1,024 hours
🗡🗡Longest day: 15 hours 24 mins
🏔 Biggest ascending altitude in a day: 3,600 m
🏔 🏔Highest point: 4,818 m
🏔 🏔🏔 Total metres ascending: 142,000 m
🌌Days that we ended up cycling in the dark: 56
🏕 Nights in the tent: 86
🏨 Nights in a hostel: 35
🏠Nights in Casa de Ciclistas: 6
🐑 Nights in shepherds hut: 1
🇦🇷 Grams of Maté: 16,500
🐕 attacks: 80
🐕 bites: 1
🐶 Puppies: 35
⚔️ Episodes of Vikings: 30
🙊Tubs of ass cream: 1
👨🍳 Bags of pasta: 160
🐓 feet soup: 2 (and never ever again)
🍦 Kilos of ice cream: 21
💩 with a view: too many to count!
🤢 Times Jim threw up: 12
🏥 crashes: 1
🏥 🏥 💩 Illnesses: only 2
😊😊 times we felt like the two luckiest people in the world: endless!
Looking back there is so much we are proud of, none more so than the incredible amount of money we have raised for our four chosen charities. Now standing at over £30,000 (including gift aid), it is an extremely heartwarming to think how much good can now come from this trip. ⠀
With the number one aim of our bike ride being to raise as much money as possible for charity, the second aim naturally became a physical one as we set the target to cycle the length of South America in 120 - 130 days. We had no idea if this was possible but knew that as long as we kept our average at around 65 miles a day we would arrive on time, although it is probably no surprise that things were never that simple. Howling headwinds, unceasing mountain climbs, crazy high altitudes, bumpy dirt roads, sweltering heat, freezing cold, endless rain, swarms of mosquitoes, and so much more, South America definitely did her best to slow us down. Trying to keep to our time schedule was so much harder than either of us ever imagined, meaning fewer days off the bike and so much time spent cycling in the dark. We are both extremely proud to say we made it to Cartagena on time and smiling the whole way!!
It would, however, be wrong to credit just ourselves in this achievement as we owe so much to one person in particular, Roo’s cousin Rafi. He is a 🧙♂️ in everything he does and was able to build two bikes that never once let us down and were such a pleasure to ride, constantly amazing us at how much of a battering they could take on bumpy dirt roads, whilst also being able to fly along on paved ones. We would never have made it to Cartagena on time without them so thank you so much Rafi at Ra Bike for everything you did and for building two of the sexiest touring bikes that have ever lived!
Whilst there were the obvious times when we wished we were doing anything but cycling, the past four and a half months have been by far the best experience of our lives and we felt so lucky each day to be waking up in a new place, ready for another day of adventure in one of the six stunning countries we had the pleasure of travelling through.
No two days were the same and there were so many moments that we will never ever forget; being blown away by the pure beauty of the Patagonian glaciers, flying high up in the Andes for the first time, teleported to a new planet on the Salar de Uyuni, the sighting of so many mountains, llamas, volcanoes, parrots, wild horses, never ending fields of quinoa, green as we have never seen it and so many other times we were reminded each day how incredible this planet is. We will never forget all the new cultures we encountered or the endless generosity we received on the road from our first day to our last, from sweet old ladies who treated us like their own sons to all the people who came up to us to ask us questions about our trip. We wish we had recorded somehow the shock and disbelief on people’s faces every time we told them how far we’d come, all on bicicleta! South America, thank you for everything, for now, we will miss you and think about you everyday until hopefully one day we will be lucky enough to explore here on two wheels again. ⠀
And finally, what really did make this trip complete was the feeling that we were never alone, with a small army of people back home willing us on the whole way - something we had never expected. A million thank yous to everyone involved for your incredible messages of support that lit up our day and kept us smiling and your immense generosity that kept those pedals turning and helped us reach our fundraising goal.
We are still struggling to believe it’s all over, suffering from two fairly severe cases of separation anxiety and greatly missing discussing the day, maté in hand, safe and warm in the tent that looked after us so well.
We say goodbye with a heavy heart and a few more tears, to South America that amazed us and challenged us every single day, to all of you who were with us the whole way, and finally to the simple life of riding a bike everyday with your best mate with nothing but the open road ahead of you.
All the love in the world
Roo and Jim