Shedding Skin

after a year on the road

I wrote this entry around one month ago, but have had no internet access, due to, well, riding my bike in the wilderness.

I used to think about how when it came to the point of marking my first year road anniversary I would make this really tangible list of everything I’d learnt, and the best things that had happened, but the closer it came the harder it seemed to pin down, and I sort of forgot about the idea in its irrelevance.

Then it came to me, this feeling, almost exactly one year to the day that I’d been on the road. My head was spinning with excitement and wonder, for all of the things that had happened, were happening and that I hoped were going to happen. I had gained a sense of freedom and adventure that made me feel incredibly present, I’d found my flow.

I have now reached a point in my journey where I’m not concerned about crossing borders, or how far down I am on the map, or getting home for Christmas (Although trust me, I would love to have Christmas at home).  On my bike I used to spend full days in elaborate day dreams about the past and hypothetical situations in the future, but that’s shifted recently, I think because the routes I have been taking are so involved.  I´m more concerned about experiencing such quiet beauty, and pushing myself physically to experience places I’d never imagined I would be.  I’ve been taking more remote trails on unpaved roads, wild camping, taking water from streams and waterfalls, the way dotted with occasional small villages.  These routes are so rewarding, and I didn’t want the fun to stop.

Jo, who I’d been cycling with for the past 5 months wanted to make a change too. She wanted to head to the flat coast to speed up, and take a break from the mountains. And with this we came to our natural end as cycling buddies. Jo is a sweet, kind sensitive girl who I’ve loved cycling with. I’d been chatting to Leah (who I’d cycled with for the first 6 months of this trip), and her pearls of wisdom always ring so true,

 “it’s a living, breathing thing this road we’re on”

….and that’s the thing, on this journey every day of our life is different, each day we never know who we’ll meet, what we will see, where we will end up, or where we will sleep, and to live this sort of life gives you courage to embrace change.

The Plan
I would continue with Jukka (Finland) on a route named The Great Peru Divide, aka The Mining Route. This trail was blazed by The Pikes on Bikes (UK), on their site they give a clear guide of GPx way points as many of these roads don’t even feature on google maps, let alone the paper maps we are carrying. They give such crucial info as when to stock up on water, and where to find food, oh and how brutal the climbing is! This is the kind of route that local people list on one hand the amount of Gringos they have ever met in their village, and they can tell you exactly who has passed through on bikes- most of whom we already know through their blogs. Nathan (UK) who we’d met at Santiago’s House in Huaraz was planning to take this route, so we all decided to shred the ripio together.

Read about the Pikes account of the route here, part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4.

The route will involve the most off roading I’ve ever done, the highest altitudes of my life, the biggest climbs, the coldest nights, and more adventure and beauty than I can imagine, oh and did I mention it’s all on unpaved roads?

Going light – I would only be taking the barest essentials. The rest of the kit I didn’t need would be ‘incomienda-ed’ (you can pay bus companies to send your stuff on for you to another town where they hold it for a month, you key in a 4 digit pin number of your choosing when you drop it off,  which you then need to retrieve it on the other side, completely genius way of couriering big loads across the country).

I was taking just one outfit to cycle in, warm clothes for cold nights, sleeping bag, roll mat and tent, and almost nothing else. I’d was taking just the essential toiletries in a zip lock bag,most of which came in sachets, here in Peru even sunblock does! (I keep joking I will turn into a crazy obsessed sachet lady, I get excited by sachets of jam for god sake!). The boys were carrying stove and fuel so I didnt have to. was sending 15kg (33lb) of stuff on, and only taking 12kg (26lb) with me. Nothing more, nothing less, see the Pikes packing list here.

When I started this bike tour I was in no way concerned about the weight I was carrying, I had the attitude of ´just one more thing doesn´t  make any difference´ and I thought going light was for bone-head guys obsessed with speed.  But when going light means being able to ride up a mountain or take a route that would otherwise be too difficult, it gradually starts to make sense. So, when you say ´just this one thing´about 10 things you see it all adding up.

 This process of wanting to shed weight had begun at the beginning of Peru, I was now carrying less non-essentials than at the beginning of the trip but not any lighter as the cold nights meant carrying warmer, heavier clothes.  I wanted to make my life easier and certain trails just are not possible with so much stuff. I´d already ditched an outfit, a book, mv massage stick, bowls (I can eat from my pan), and just dug deep in the bottom of my panniers and got rid of lots of odds and ends  (even this saved me about 1kg). A few weeks later a further cull  saw me loose a few more pieces of clothing, a book and my broken iPod and decanter spices, potions and lotions into much smaller containers in only the quantities I really needed. I´ve even cut my towel in half.  Already it feels liberating travelling so light, and I hope when I retrieve my stuff at the other end of these trails that I know exactly what I can survive without- (a heavy duty lock I’d use for the mean streets of London, and some more clothing are top of the list.)

One year ago this would not have been possible, I was too used to the life I was leading, I thought at the time I was going so minimal, that the 2 facial moisturisers (day and night), the foot pumice, the ´capsule´ make-up collection, 2 nail varnishes, the 3 books, the espresso coffee kettle, the cute shoes and cardigans, the massage stick were all so essential.  

And I guess that is just one tangible way that my life and I have changed over the last year, less stuff and more living.

 how I started out in Baja California, Mexico, I could never close my panniers,  plus I had 2 at the front brimming full

cherry

and how I hope to go…..

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3 thoughts on “Shedding Skin

  1. Penny

    Thoroughly enjoyed your report and you made me laugh about discarding the important items that now you find are no longer required. I am a terrible hoarder so I am going to take a leave out of your book.I shall ride my bike more and go up Amberley slope and pretend its a mountain.
    As I have said before I am so interested in your adventures. So please if and when keep the reports coming because you are so descriptive I feel I am there with you.
    Good luck on you next leg and congratulations on being on the road for one year.

    1. Cherry Post author

      Glad you enjoyed it Penny. Ha, yes how funny that Amberley Slope is the mountain of Peterborough. I always think it is funny that I am a girl from the Fenlands constantly at such high altitude.

  2. Aurora

    Love it! Headed out for my first bike tour this weekend — in hopes to be where you are in the near (eh, not so near…) future! Take loads of pictures of those beautiful mountains!

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