Dec 022014

Warning: This post contains references to distances and co-ordinates!

My face was a picture as my bike in it’s trusty cardboard box came round on the luggage carousel.  It was one of the last items out, most passengers had left already, and it was clearly the most damaged.  The box was open, upside down and pretty much destroyed.

I thought I was surprisingly calm about this, I surprised myself.  I looked inside the box, easily done when it is ripped open.  There was my bike and critically my cycling shoes which were loose inside the box.  All disassembled parts of the bike were securely attached to itself so as long as nothing was damaged it would be ok.

I have underestimated how hard, or impossible, it is to get hold of specific bike parts in Argentina.  Therefore losing my cycling shoes would have been a massive hurdle to overcome.

Confidence in my ability to get through at least the first part of this trip has waned.  I put this down to a lack of time on the bike since I left Spain and the experience of learning Spanish which began well but deteriorated rapidly towards the end.

Therefore small issues to resolve are now being built up in my head to be much bigger, I’m creating my own excuses.  Part of my brain is looking for a way out of this as it clearly feels this is a very bad idea.

Welcomed into Ushuaia by a blowing gale did little to dispel my fears that the wind is going to be a big problem cycling and camping.  The freezing rain didn’t help either.

With this mind-set I tend to fall into the trap of looking at the numbers as a way of framing the enormity of the challenge, the numbers in relation to a bike ride aren’t really comprehensible.  They are merely just a way of putting something into context.  A little context, to frame my lack of confidence, then is as follows:-

Ushuaia, Terra del Fuego, Argentina
The Southern most ‘city’ in the world.
54 degrees South
68 Degrees West

Deadhorse, Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, United States of America
The Northern most ‘city’ accessible by road in North America.
70 Degrees North
148 Degrees West

To travel between them I need to cycle 124 degrees in a northerly direction. For those that struggle with co-ordinates, there are 180 degrees between the South and North Poles.  So around two thirds of the way up the planet.
I also need to cycle 80 degrees West.  That’s nearly a quarter of the way round the world. Forget going a long way north to south I also need to go a long way West.  So that’s why people tend to take this route North to South….

I have the total distance to cycle at somewhere around 25,000 kilometers (15,000 miles).  I honestly don’t know if that is correct but it’s the best stab I’ve managed to work out.  If I’m within 10% I will be impressed!

Here is the handy picture of the globe showing the start and finish of my European route as well as the Americas.


Luckily I still can’t really comprehend the above facts and figures.  However the numbers that I can comprehend, and are playing on my mind, are the distances between the ability to buy food in Terra del Fuego/Southern Patagonia.

100km (60 miles), becomes 250km (150 miles), maybe as much as 350km (210 miles).  Not so much as a banana available because there are no shops, there are next to no people living here outside of the few towns.  There are estancias (farms) in this area so there are people so if all goes wrong I can head to one of them and ask for help.  If they are in.

Slowly but surely as I get the bike and all my gear as it needs to be and ready to go, the confidence is coming back.  This is good timing as I’m planning on leaving in two days.  I know what I need to do, I know how to do it, it’s merely a succession of hurdles to overcome.  As a good friend said, if it was easy you wouldn’t be interested in doing it.  (Ask me again in a month or two…)

They have a good word, for what I need to remain, in this part of the world.  I doubt I need to translate it for you.


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  17 Responses to “A Little Context”

  1. Looking at the map is a long way but you have time. Good luck. See you in Chicago!

  2. Hi Denners,

    So the end of the beginning, the fun starts now.

    We had a sports psychologist give a talk once to the team some time back.

    When the peeps said the workload always seems too excessive.

    In reply he asked the question ‘can you eat an elephant ‘ ,he said off course you can but only over a long period of time.

    Best of luck


  3. I’ll say it again, you are incredible! Keep believing!

  4. What an amazing journey you are about to embark on! You are an achiever and I know that you will not let this defeat you, come wind, rain or anything else that is thrown at you. I hope this journey brings you wonderful memories and once in a lifetime experiences. Take care and look forward to reading all about it!

  5. All the very best to you Iain. Thinking of you. Roger & Mary

  6. Good luck buddy, we are thinking of you.
    You’re going to smash it.
    Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day but little bits of it were.
    take care,
    M, P and C xxx

  7. P.S. when you’re feeling low, just think…you could be in the jungle with Edwina Currie…

  8. Mate…! Have a great trip, loving what you’ve taken on with this challenge and I’ll be following you from my moderately sized house with all the trappings of modern society in New York. ; )
    If you get in a tight spot drop me a line, and I’ll mobilise the extraction team!

    Cheers and peddle safe.

  9. You’ll have to peddle if you want food down there ; )

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