Saturday, 22 October 2011

Mysterious illness strikes down cyclists one by one

Well here we are again on another rest day, this time in Coquimbo, Chile.  For the last 5 days we have been heading due north from Santiago, most of the time on the Pan American highway.  Luckily for us the hard shoulder is pretty wide on the Pan American highway and we can keep a good distance from all the speeding trucks.  The only problem is the large amount of debris lying in the hard shoulder that can cause a puncture or two if you don't watch where you are cycling.  The first few days we were heading very close to the coast and we got to spend 2 nights camping directly on the beach, which was wonderful.  A few of us even braved a dip but it was just that, a dip, as the water was freezing cold.

Distance wise we have now gone over 2,000km so the distance is really clocking up bit by bit.  I am doing just over 5,000km of the tour by the time I leave it in Cusco, so soon I will be approaching half way.  My body seems to be coping just fine other than some aching muscles, and after 4 weeks of some pretty serious cycling I am sure my body has made numerous adaptations.  Certainly my legs are looking a lot more defined, and sinewy.

There has been a mysterious sickness going around the camp, and touchwood so far I have avoided it, but around half the group have already been struck down.  It leaves the victims ejecting fluids from every orifice and struggling to keep anything down.  It seems to last for between 4 to 6 days, and only one person so far has managed to cycle through it.  Despite trying to ensure better camp hygiene nothing seems to be able to stop it's spread.

This is the first rest day that we haven't had a hotel provided, and most of us opted to pay a bit extra and get a cabana rather than to camp.  The main issue is security as we are staying on a busy campsite and what do you do with all your stuff when you want to go exploring if you are staying in a tent.  There were cabanas for 4 people and cabanas for 6 people and luckily there were just enough to accommodate all of us who wanted one.  I opted to pay a bit extra to secure the double bed, which is in a separate room.  I was hoping this would allow me to get a good nights rest, but I was wrong.  Some local sociology students were also staying at the same campsite and last night I think they were doing some kind of sleep deprivation experiment.  They stayed up the whole night playing drums, and only finished at 6am this morning.  A few lucky people managed to sleep through most of the noise, but quite a few including myself didn't.  We will complain to the campsite manager and see if we can get some money back, although I am not sure how much they will care.  If the same thing happens again tonight though, some of us are planning to steal their drums and to give them back when we are ready to leave.  I did hear on the grapevine that they are leaving today though, so I am hoping that rumour is true.

The next 5 days I think we are leaving the main highway and heading off into some remoter areas.  One night we will be camping in a ghost town, which should be pretty interesting.  Two of the days we will be cycling around 160km each, and not all of that is nice paved road, so we have been warned to prepare ourselves for some tough riding.  To be honest the tour has not been so tough till now as I was expecting, so maybe the next few days will be what I was expecting all along.  Bring it on is all I can say.  Now it is time to enjoy the rest of my rest day, to catch up on last night's lost sleep, to do some washing and service to bike and to enjoy eating copious quantities of food.  Wherever you are in the world, enjoy your weekend and I will post something again on the next rest day.