We’ve skipped a ton of dirt roads;-( in Northern Peru in hopes of arriving in Huaraz just in time to stash the bikes, take the crazy 30-hour bus ride to Cusco(Yikes!) and meet Dang’s family, a.k.a. gear mules.
Incidentally, that calls for another round of gear purging, reevaluating what else can we get rid off, taking advantage of the chance to send old gear back home minus the prohibitive shipping fee. It’s been two years and a half since we left Toronto but we’re still tinkering and loosing sleep(I mostly do) thinking which of our gear will make the cut.
Of course we need to do the purging periodically. We tend to cling to a certain gear(like several dry bags) without even realizing it. It’s never been used for a certain number of months and arguably the sole benefit is peace of mind. But we keep holding on to it. Take the case of Dang’s pair of 501 jeans. It’s definitely heavy. It’s not packable. And it simply violates the fact that we spent countless hours in the interweb looking for light gear and clothing for this trip only at she has that Levi’s tucked in her seatbag. It was sent back to Toronto eventually after a year of convincing.
First to go this time are the Tubus rear racks. We’ve been meaning to send it back for some time now but the cost prohibits us from doing so. I only use my rack to lash the tent on top and as an attachment to my sole bike bling, an Alaska license plate. Dang’s merely holds her rain pants and our Rohloff spare parts. Good riddance to our racks. We can definitely manage without it.
Our needs keep evolving depending on where we are and the weather. Board shorts, sandos and flip-flops that are our everyday attire in Central America are now things of the past. And finally(!), wool sweater and down parka made its reappearance after being dead weight for several months in Central America.
Aside from clothing, we’ve pared down our kitchen too. Two pots became one. Cups became a cup. Since we’ve replaced our Sea to Summit folding pot with a locally-sourced metal one, we’re getting rid of our wooden spatula that we used for cooking and stirring on the flimsy pot.
We’ll be shedding our ULA ultralight backpacks too having realized we needed more robust backpacks for week-long treks here in South America. It served us well for 2-3 day treks we did in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia. These are places that might be difficult to find rental backpacks. Luckily, we kept ours up to this point.
Friends with Benefits…
We’re a bit lucky to have friends, family and acquaintances who happen to be traveling south and are willing to bring us some much needed replacements. But not everyone have that luxury. So if you were to leave on a bike tour soon, better start convincing your friends how cool it’ll be to visit South America. Even if they won’t be able to meet you, they can always leave the package in a hostel so you can pick it up on a later date. That’s the best option we’ve done so far.
Dealing with customs is one headache you don’t want to have. That is if your package even make it to the customs…Your alternative is to shell out and pay-up a reputable company like Fed-Ex, DHL or TNT. Depending on how desperate you want that package, this is your only alternative.
I’ve never done this myself but there are Mail Forwarding services in the US that caters to South Americans living in the US. My uncle in Los Angeles sends package to the Philippines thru a company similar to this. Ditto with Latin Americans that Iv’e talk to. They use these companies to send boxes back home to their relatives. It’s cheaper and priced by the box not by weight. The only downside is the parcel arrives after 6-8 weeks.
Logistics wise, I wonder if starting an Americas bike trip from Ushuaia or South America for that matter makes more sense than North America. All through Central America, we’ve been carrying all our cold weather clothes anticipating it’s use up in the high mountains of the Andes. In short, it was deadweight for several months. Also, shipping bike replacements will be more complicated and difficult the farther you are from North America. Starting in South America ensures all gears including bikes are fresh and in working order. Things including bikes start to fall apart after a year, year and half tops. If you’re heading north, by then you’ll be in Mexico or at least Central America, easier to order stuff Stateside from there based on our experience.
If starting in Alaska, by the time you set foot and rubber in South America, you’re pretty much assured bikes and camping gear are in various state of repair and in need of some TLC. But it need to be fresh and in working order, even just for your confidence, before tackling the long Cordillera de Los Andes.
Not too fast…
Before you pack up and head to Ushuaia or South America for that matter, do your homework really well first. Think long and hard about your bike set-up. It should be dialed-in right from the get go since you may not have the option of swapping bike parts and gears along the way. Shake down rides will sure help. Overnighters here and there goes a long way. A week-long ride will certainly be ideal. Some issues with my set-up and gears did not appear after several days out there. There are certain nagging issues with gear(all gear across the board have one) that you may decide are deal-breakers or just something you can put up with long-term.
Since down-sizing in Mexico, sending home our panniers, some clothes and accessories, we find our Big Agnes 3-person Copper Spur SL really big, a castle for two smallish folks. We use a Big Agnes 2-person Seedhouse prior to this trip and found both floor space and vestibule really small. But we can certainly put up with more space rather than less.
If I’ll do it all over again, I’ll probably do it on the other direction heading north instead of south. Cold weather gear(sleeping bag, down jacket, mid-layers) will be shipped back to Toronto after Colombia and reunite with us up in Mexico or the Northern USA depending on route choices. From our experience, shipping packages from Colombia and Guatemala to Canada seem far less cumbersome as opposed to the other way around.
Merry Christmas everyone!!!