Thursday, March 10, 2011

Tuesday, Wednesday 8-9 March : game over man, game over!


A vacation DNF?

We've had a couple of tough days, which have led to some hard choices. After a day and a half of closed-shop frustration (very reminiscent of our days in Puerto natales, at the other end of our trip), we finally got the rear wheel disassembled to a point we could assess the damage. The news was not good. Not only were the bearing races very worn, but the axel itself is badly damaged. Of course, the axel is longer than that of a standard bike and so getting a new one would take at least 6-10 working days. This would leave us with too little time to do anything beyond prepare to fly home. This left us with 3 broad options :

1 - ship the bike home now, buy some rucksacks and spend the next couple of weeks backpacking

2 - leave the bike in Mendoza for a couple of weeks and go backpacking (or car rental), returning to Mendoza to fly home

3 - arrange to get ourselves and the bike home as soon as practical.

There are actually a number of hybrid options too, but all fundamentally depend on us being able to get the bike out of Mendoza - and neither of us are confident that it can be safely ridden anywhere with a worn axle (and especially after the tender ministrations of the 'friendly' bike shop mechanic this morning), which means bus and air are the only options. By disassembling the bike, we make it more likely that a bus company or airline will carry it, but it also increases the chances of it being damaged in transit, and increases the amount of packaging we need to find. In a major city which seems to contain less cone spanners than are currently sitting in our garage, this could be a problem. The other issue is that we both desperately wanted to cycle a 'proper' Andean high pass. That is to say, something more than you find in Europe, or anywhere outside the Himalayas for that matter. In fact, one of the reasons we didn't do the ripio pass over Cristo Redentor was that we didn't feel the need to knowing we had big plans on cycling the Agua Negro pass, as our last big experience which in many ways the rest of the tour had been planned as a build up to. Doing anything else now feels like we would simply be filling the time merely for the sake of it.

So, since I started writing this, we've now decided to try and fly ourselves and the bike home in the next few days. After an afternoon trying to organise all the different options, it seems like the sensible choice. It may yet be something we'll look back on as the wrong decision, but given we've known for a couple of months that we want to come back to South America one day, it doesn't feel so bad.

So, this evening was spent dismantling and preparing Dobbin for a couple flights on an airline that doesn't take tandems (!), drinking wine, and using up some of the food and fuel we'd been stockpiling for our final expedition up to the remote, 4700m altitude Andes pass. A more relaxing end to our trip in some ways, but leaves some significant unfinished business. We've learnt a lot about the tandem, our equipment and ourselves over the last 2+ months. Next time we will be even better prepared, both in terms of expectations of our equipment and of ourselves.