Chris Blog

Chris's Cycle Challenge Blog

The challenge.
Organised by Charity Challenge, with whom I cycled from Saigon to Angkor Wat in 2012, The cycle from Machu Picchu to the Amazon involves high altitude, steep hills and sleeping under canvas at near zero temperatures.

Picture courtesy of Charity Challenge

Since the Amazon is lower than Machu Picchu, there will be more downhill than up but there are still some stiff climbs, as this excerpt from the itinerary for day 6 indicates:
"You will spend the night, camping at 3950m where the vista is fantastic. The ride today has an ascent of 1150m and a descent of 600m. The average cycle time is 7-8 hours"

Thursday 25th September 2014. One week to go.

When I have undertaken previous challenges, I have attempted to blog updates to training and from the challenge itself.
It hasn't been so easy this year. In the run up, I haven't kept to the training schedule as I would have liked as, following my Collis-Nissen fundoplication revision surgery at the end of April, I have had recurrent bouts of discomfort, known by the unglamorous name of "Dumping Syndrome", when I've preferred not to be in the saddle.

I'm hoping I'll be OK for the trip.

And, instead of the 30 mile Winchester loop daily (which has some nice hills), I have contented myself with the easier 24 mile Romsey loop a couple of times a week.

During most of the trip itself, we're unlikely to get a mobile phone signal let alone wifi, so most of the reporting will probably have to wait until I return.

Meanwhile, thank you to all those who have sponsored me so far. As I write this, I'm 90% of the way to my target. (And, as with my 2012 sponsored cycle, I'm happy to exceed it!)

1st October - starting off tomorrow

Was up early this morning for an interview on BBC Radio Solent.

Off to Ferndown to host a drop-in this afternoon.
Fly off tomorrow and back on Sunday 12th October.
Monday 13th October I'm at Westminster for the OCWC rally.
And Radio Solent have asked me back on Tuesday 14th October for another interview to say how it went.

My itinerary:
Day 1: Thursday / Friday: Fly Heathrow Terminal 5 - Madrid - Lima - Cuzco - overnight in hotel
Day 3: Saturday: Guided tour of Machu Picchu - overnight in hostel
Day 4: Sunday: Cycle along Sacred Valley to Pisac (mainly flat 4-5 hours) - overnight camping
Day 5: Monday: Ascent & descent in the Andes (6-7 hours) - overnight camping
Day 6: Tuesday: Descent to Paucartambo & challenging climb to Tres Cruces:
"You will spend the night camping at 3950m where the vista is fantastic. The ride today has an ascent of 1150m and a descent of 600m. the average cycle time is 7-8 hours.
Day 7: Wednesday: Descent into Cloud forest (4-5 hours) - overnight camping.
Day 8: Thursday: Cycle deeper into the rainforest (6-7 hours) - overnight camping.
Day 9: Friday: Transfer to Cuzco - celebratory dinner and overnight in hotel.
Day 10: Saturday / Sunday: Return flights to Heathrow.

Day 1: Thursday 2 October
Bags packed. Main back pack weighs about 12 Kilo including sleeping bag and I've had to fill my day rucksack/hand luggage with my cycle helmet. Driving to Heathrow in an hour.

Day 2: Friday 3 October
Arrived in Cusco after 3 flights: London to Madrid (2
¾ hours), Madrid to Lima (11 hours) and Lima to Cusco (1 hour).

At 12,000 feet everything seems like hard work but we walk around and explore the city - which involves climbing lots of steps.

Day 3: Saturday 4 October
Up early to be bussed a couple of hours to Ollantaytambo to catch the train to Machu Picchu.
The ride was fast and hairy - but all Peruvian drivers seem to drive the same way.

The train ride was good in an observation coach with glass roof to view the mountainsides and the river valley the route follows.

Then there was another bus up the steep hillside to the ancient Inca ruins. And eventually we reached our destination - this incredible city built 600 years ago on terraces fashioned out of the rocks atop a mountainside at 8,000 feet.
Then back via bus and train to a hotel in Ollantaytambo, dinner and a good night's sleep because tomorrow we start our challenge.
Day 4: Sunday 5 October

Today is the first day on our bikes. - an acclimatisation ride along the Sacred Valley to Pisac on fairly good roads without too many gradients, though ascents made difficult by my bike's refusal to get into first gear! I did find it hard going and this was meant to be the easy cycling day! It ended with a long downhill to our campsite awaiting us. I'm sharing a tent with Robert who was my room companion on my Saigon - Angkor Wat challenge. The support crew cook us a fantastic meal but, still experiencing considerable discomfort after eating, I cannot eat much and ask the cooks to only prepare me half sized portions in future.

Day 5: Monday 6 October
Today we cycle out of the Sacred Valley.

The views are spectacular as we start to climb
although, overall we end the day at about the same altitude as we started.

Day 6: Tuesday 7 October
Today starts deceptively easily. It is a downhill run into the town of Paucartambo where we have to cross a river at just 1000 feet.
It's an interesting and colourful town with interesting modern statues and some of the residents dressing up in masks for a festival.

But now we reach the hardest part of the journey.- the long, steep uphill cycle to Tres Cruces at 15,000 feet on very rough roads.

The views along the way are stunning as we get higher but after some hours, we eventually arrive through cloud and rain, cold and wet at the campsite. Fortunately there is a large cabin here where we may eat in the dry and there's soon a large log fire burning to warm us up. As has become our norm over the last couple of days, we turn in early (about 8:00pm) so we can be up to see the sunrise which we've been promised is spectacular. It has stopped raining and the full moon shines like a floodlight.

Day 7: Wednesday 8th October
So we're up at 4:00 am to see the sunrise and the views are certainly everything that was promised with mountain range after mountain range gradually getting more distinct and paler blue into the far distance and a "sea" of clouds between them looking like a turbulent lake.

Now we leave the campsite and begin the downhill section of the route into the cloud forest and rain forest of the Amazon basin.

Cycling downhill may have been easier on the leg muscles but it was no easy freewheel. The road is made from rocks and boulders and at times there is a sheer drop beside the road for hundreds of feet. It tok great care and concentration not to hit a stone awkwardly that could catapult us over the edge.

Day 8: Thursday 9th October - the final descent to the Amazon

Day 9: Friday 10th October
Having spent our last night under canvas we returned to Cusco by minibus, taking all day to retrace the route we had taken. It was amazing to see how far we had cycled - iand how treacherous the road was!

Back in a hotel it was great to have a hot shower, a proper toilet and a good bed - after a celebratory dinner, of course.

Day 10, 11 and 12, Saturday, Sunday and Monday 11th, 12th 13th October - The long journey home.
A mechanical fault with our flight from Cusco resulted in our missing the intercontinental flight from Lima so our travel plans were delayed by 24 hours. It meant I missed the Westminster meeting but I was home in time for:

Tuesday 14th October Up early for another interview on Radio Solent - having only arrived home at 9:00pm last night.

The challenge was much tougher than expected - perhaps I wasn't as fit as I'd thought following my Collis-Nissen fundoplication revision surgery a few months previously - but had some great experiences which I am happy to share as an illustrated talk if anyone wishes.

Tough bits: 2 days of continuous steep uphill climb and 2 days of concentration on steep downhill boulder track.

Principal highlights: Machu Picchu, camping above the clouds at 15,000ft at Tres Cruces and swimming in the Amazon when we reached it.