Don’t take this post the wrong way, this is not a moan, it’s our observations on a very real part of this type of travel and before we left UK we promised ourselves our blog would always be honest. We consider ourselves to be incredibly fortunate to be doing this trip but we’ve been asking ourselves recently, ‘when did this trip suddenly get so much harder’? Because it has. Looking back over our blog posts it would be easy when reading them from a distance to think it was all sunshine and roses. So when did it change? Was it on the long straight roads of Patagonia with their strong winds in Southern Argentina that it became harder work? What about the rough ripio roads of the Carretera Austral in Chile or the Atacama Desert further north with its extreme dry heat? No, none of the above. It seems to us that it was when we got into Bolivia and Peru. It has to do with a variety of factors and perhaps it’s useful to write about it for others embarking on a similar trip. We crossed into Bolivia (& then Peru) after about 3 months on the road. In that first three months in Argentina and Chile we never really got fatigued other than a bit knackered at the end of a particularly hot days ride. However things have changed a bit.We’re not youngsters anymore (just like to think we are) and the altitude has affected us as has the heat and humidity on the coastal plains & cities – it’s one or the other at this time of the year in Bolivia and Peru. Perhaps we underestimated fatigue as part of ‘Adventure Travel’; actually I don’t think we ever really considered it. It seems to us that the thing that gets to us is keeping the daily routine going.
So what exactly is this daily routine that is exhausting us: Get up, don heavy hot bike gear, eat breakfast (or try to find a café that sells breakfast), check the room carefully to ensure nothing is left behind, pack everything back into your bags, load the bike then it’s away – maybe tarmac, maybe not, usually hot and sweaty and boy is that sun bright! Try to find somewhere to get lunch (not as easy as it sounds especially in Bolivia in small poor villages in the mountains unless you want Fanta or Coke), arrive in next town between 2 pm and 4 pm in the heat of the day, try to find the hostel you looked at on the internet the night before (if you had internet) and in Bolivia and Peru the street level satnav mapping isn’t good anymore so just finding it is a challenge. Has it got safe parking and is it clean and cheap.If the first hostel is not good ride around town to find another in the heat and traffic trying not to get wiped out by a mad taxi driver. Either park the bike easily or all too often, wrestle it into a hotel foyer or up a big kerb and through a few obstacles into a courtyard. Unpack the bike again, get covered in the dust and dirt that your bags are covered in, lug your stuff up at least one flight of stairs, collapse on the bed and then rouse yourself for a shower. Where are we going to eat? Into the town that you don’t know and try and make up your mind (between 2 of you!) what you want to eat (toss up between pizza and chicken/rice) when in fact you actually don’t really feel like eating. If there’s a kitchen in the hostal it’s off to find the market to buy stuff then cook it. Eat, quick walk around the town, back to the hotel/hostal/backpackers and put helmet intercoms, cameras, laptop etc on charge. Download the day’s photos/video, maybe prepare a blog post. Look at map, choose destination and route for the next day, have a quick look on wifi (if it isn’t too slow) for at least one hostel to start off with when you arrive, go to sleep (if the constant traffic noise and tooting of horns allows it). Repeat. Not every day is like this but you get the picture. The heat is a major factor, it drains you. Also in Bolivia and Peru (when outside major tourist centres) everything is just a bit more difficult than in Argentina and Chile. So that’s travel fatigue for us. Nothing to do with being fed up seeing new things & meeting nice people but a combination of factors revolving around the daily routine – the effects are not to be underestimated. Long distance adventure biking is not like going to Europe for a couple of weeks camping or on an organised tour with comfy hotels at the end of the day. It is more of a way of life that after the initial freedom rush wears off and takes time to adjust to. After all, if it was easy it wouldn’t be ‘Adventure Travel’. Would we swap it, no. Have we actively considered the easy option of returning to UK and our comfy easy home life, yes, more than once. Will we, no! So we keep riding, ever northwards, and we keep looking after each other; that’s really important. The Central American countries with their notoriously difficult border crossings are fast approaching so we brace ourselves and make 20 copies of every document we have with us! Now, let’s have a look at booking.com – where can we stay tomorrow night and what’s for lunch – Fanta or Coke?