(Read earlier episodes here)
Episode 15: Greetings from the finish
Cusipata to Cusco (yep Cusco, we made it!)
It was immediately obvious we had made a huge mistake.
It was a miscalculation that threatened to derail our grand designs of an early run to the finish line.
A fortnight in and two "self proclaimed" skilled map readers, we were certain Cusco was well under 70km away and that it was downhill most of the way.
How wrong we were.
But to be fair, how little it mattered. We had our cross hairs trained on Cusco and like dogs tantalised by the smell of a treat we weren't going to lose the scent - it was too deep in our nostrils to ignore.
It was steep. The roads tilted to the heavens early, but that was an appropriate symbol for two cyclists in search of their Mecca. We pushed on.
The distance grew greater than we realised. We pedalled harder.
The abundant green tones of the last 100km was replaced by pushy drivers with oversized bumper bars, over-excited horns and chronically under-developed spatial awareness. We pedalled on, aware but unperturbed by the dangers wrapped around us.
The air was clogged with black plumes of smoke that spat from strangled exhaust pipes. Still our legs pushed up the incline.
The rain came, the roads now coasted with a film of dangerous slick. Doctor Nick fell but got straight back up and continued his frenzied pedal to the top until finally....
After two weeks of seemingly insurmountable cycling that feeling hit us. We had made it.
Relief, happiness, exhaustion, disbelief and a tinge of sadness now that it was over, all flooded over us. Hugs were shared, smiles were plentiful. Memories in huge abundance - exaggeration already commencing.
There were times when I was sure it wasn't possible. Moments when I desperately wanted to give in. I'm glad I didn't because I wouldn't swap this feeling of euphoria for anything. This smile will stick for a long time.
The trip in numbers
1 flat tyre
2 different countries
3 badly burnt toes
4 dollars - most costly restaurant lunch on the road
5 bathroom breaks in a day
6 cyclists met "on the road"
7pm touring bedtime
8 different camping spots
11 litres of water used each day
12 days riding
18km/h our average moving speed
20 avocados eaten
30km shortest day ridden
32kg worth of gear
33 band aids
38 hours moving time
43 hour plane commute from Sydney to La Paz
50 tomatoes sliced
56 average km a day
98 km longest day in the saddle
4,257m Highest altitude
4,659m total distance climbed
Now my feet have hit hard ground there are some people I would like to thank.
Dr Nick. As chief medical officer, translator, navigator, motivational speaker, cycling hard man, counsellor, chef supremo, crisis-averter, patient friend, and all round awesome adventuring companion.
Sarah, Al and Phil for making my unintelligible dribble accessible to the Cycling Central audience.
The fantastic team at Cell Bikes for providing me with such an awesome bike. The Brunswick was an absolute gem to have on the journey, a far superior piece of equipment to the blob sitting on top of it. I couldn't have done it without your kind support. I don't want to give it back to you!
To Oakley, Kask, Rolling Fix and SMP - thank you for making me feel safe, stylish and comfortable.
And finally to my family (Stella, dad and Pru), my friends and my colleagues at SBS for their gigantic support and their encouragement while I was over there. It made the challenging times easy to overcome.
And to the cycling lovers who read, stumbled across or laughed at this series thanks for your support. Hopefully my experience has given you the confidence to follow your crazy two-wheeled goals.