*** NEW *** Follow me on my upcoming trip from Sweden to Africa www.swedentoafrica.com

Final Thoughts & Statistics

It has now been 1 year since I came back from South America, and I felt that I needed some time to reflect before writing this final blog entry. The journey made a deep impact on me.

Travelling on a bicycle must be the ultimate freedom! You can go wherever you want, whenever you want, in whatever pace you like. You can camp, cook, and live completely independent if you only have the basic necessities: food and water. I have never felt as healthy and “alive” as when cycling day after day. I’ve come to truly appreciate simple living without the many commodities that we are surrounded by in our everyday life. Without things that we should commit to and rules that we should follow etc. Appreciating the small, uncomplicated things in life and living in harmony with nature, to me that’s life quality.

I have come to realize how much I like physical challenges and pushing my body and psyche toward their limits. Not that this trip has been very tough, but at times it’s been pretty hard, and now in hindsight I realize that I really enjoyed those moments and worked up a kind of appetite for it.

Why enjoy something as awful as 100 km/h headwind? Why enjoy gasping for breath while cycling uphill at an altitude of almost 5,000 m? Or being covered in dust and mud and not being able to shower for days while sleeping in a hot tent during the nights? I can’t say I know the answer to this, but I suspect it could have something to do with appreciating what you did after it is done, and appreciating the return to civilization.

Before my “big” trip, I didn’t think much about the consequences concerning work and not obeying to the normal life-style etc. that could impact your career. But the response I got was the opposite. I even got a job offer on my blog ☺ And whether it might scare you to get hooked on the feeling of travelling this way and have difficulties returning to a normal life, then I’d question that big time. I mean, after all, life is all about doing what you like and what makes you happy! And I think that if you can motivate whatever activity by exactly that, then what you have in mind won’t pose a problem for you in future.

I have received plenty of e-mails from people who have been inspired by my blog, asking for tips on equipment and planning their own cycling adventures. Some of them are already on the road, and this is something that makes me very happy to hear!

Even one year after my return, it’s quite amazingly not a single day without me thinking back on the time in South America. I miss waking up in the tent and feel the sun on my face. I miss the feeling of addiction when reading page-turning novels. I miss taking a nap on the ground in a random place. I miss the feeling of freedom and adventure when leaving a big city behind. I miss the simplicity of the nomadic way of living. I miss not having new places to explore. I miss being on the road and on the move.

Here are the cycling statistics for the whole trip:

  Distance
(km)
Max speed
(km/h)
Time
(h:mm)
Average speed
(km/h)
Max 163 78 7:57 22.4
Min 8 18 0:36 5.8
Average 72 46 4:44 14.6

And some other stuff:

Number of cycling days: 170
Total distance cycled: 12,436 km
Highest altitude cycling: 4,930 m (Geysers, The Laguna Route, Bolivia)
Highest altitude walking: 6,542 m (Sajama Volcano, Bolivia)
Max climbing in one day: 2,300 m (Pacific Ocean towards Cordillera Blanca, Peru)
Number of nights in tent: 99
Coldest night: -16° (North-western Argentina)
Warmest day: 41° (Southern Colombia)
Longest period without rain: 5 months (well, one day I got a few drops though, just a teaser…)
Longest period without a proper shower: 12 days (The Laguna Route, Bolivia)

Highlights and special moments:

  • See the moon appear above Torres del Paine when lying in the tent at night.
  • Sitting on a restaurant next to the sea in northern Peru, eating ceviche, having a cold Brahma beer and listening to salsa music.
  • Fishing rainbow trout in Laguna Larga in no-mans-land.
  • Recovering from my knee tendon inflammation in Bariloche for a month in the lovely family-run hostel La Bolsa del Deporte while fishing, BBQing, partying and getting a visit by my Dad.
  • Playing in the river with dolphins and the kids of the fisherman Benjamin outside of Trinidad, Bolivia.
  • The time spent in Rodeo waiting for Janne Corax at the special hotel/hostel Doña Elena and the delicious breakfasts I made, even though this was an incredibly boring town.
  • Casa de Ciclistas in Trujillo and its special atmosphere and lovely family.
  • The magical feeling on Tierra del Fuego on my second camping night, listening to Eddie Vedder’s Rise.
  • The warmth, food and dances during Christmas and New Year in Puerto Natales, Chile.
  • To push myself through the Laguna Route on the Bolivian altiplano together with Jenny and return to civilization in Uyuni.
  • Sitting naked in the hot springs of Polques with beer, Jalapeño Pringles, temperature far below zero but 38 degrees in the water and starlit sky in the middle of nowhere.
  • After a tremendous effort reaching the top of Bolivias highest mountain Sajama at 6,542 m.
  • The time at the bohemian finca with Arturo and Liliana in the Colombian mountains.

I can’t say that I have a favorite country, so here are some of the best things with each of them:

Argentina:
There is such a variety in nature. Magical Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia in general, trout fishing, glaciers, crystal clear lakes and rivers, beautiful mountains, wonderful Bariloche, asado, ice cream, wine, mate, women, indigenous people, fossils, wind, drought.

Chile:
I only got to know the Patagonian part and (hitchhiking due to a sore knee), the renown and wild Carretera Austral, which was very beautiful.

Bolivia:
The Bolivian altiplano, and more precisely the nature reserve Eduardo Avaroa, is absolutely stunning. The country is also very rich in indigenous culture.

Peru:
The Peruvian cuisine is really, really good. The mountains in Cordillera Blanca are breathtaking.

Ecuador:
A small but very diverse country that is very rich in nature.

Colombia:
The country has one of the nicest and most welcoming and hospitable people I’ve ever met, and also very beautiful women ☺

With a limited supply of music, combined with solitude and great nature, you tend to develop special relationships to some songs, and associate them to places. I would like to list the music that mean something special to me. Here it goes:

Band Of Horses – The Funeral
- Before the trip as a pep song, and at magical views. The Danish cyclist Nicolai Bangsgaard actually introduced me to this great song in one of his cycling videos from South America.

Eddie Vedder – Rise
- Most memorable camping night, the second night on Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Bliss – Quiet Letter
- Trekking in Valle del Francés, Torres del Paine, Chile.

The Tough Alliance – Keep It Pure
- Walking over the flower-covered meadows with wild horses, having Torres del Paine behind me.

jj’s album No° 2
- Patagonia

M83 – Midnight Soul Still Remain
- For loooooong downhills

Caesars – We Got To Leave
- Happily jumping around in the valley below Laguna 69, Huaraz, Peru.

John Me – Skin & Bones
- Camping at a playground together with a homeless dog in Tangua, Colombia.

Artist: Modern Talking
- Cycling up the death road outside La Paz, Bolivia (perfect rhythm that harmonizes with the lowest gear)

Genre: Reggaeton
- When needing an extra push

Another very appreciated subject during days of hard work and after days without proper civilization was food, and the act of truly appreciating food.

You tend to fantasize a lot about food when sitting in the saddle, and here’s the wish-list list that I’ve kept on adding to throughout the trip. Some bullets make sense while others don’t. Unfortunately it would be hard to translate most of it, so I’ll just write this in Swedish instead:

  • Brogyllens saffransbulle
  • Grillad korv med bröd, ketchup, grovkorning senap och rostad lök. Korven ska vara den 90%-iga som jag och Jens föråt oss på våren 2009
  • Semla med ett glas kall, svensk mjölk
  • Mossens kebabpizza Lasa (ananas & curry) med extra mycket stark sås
  • Frasiga våfflor med hjortronsylt och vispad gräddde
  • Korv stroganoff med dijonsenap
  • Nyponsoppa med mandelbiskvier och vaniljglass
  • Färsk frukt i bitar med naturell yoghurt och müsli (till frukost)
  • Min svamp- och baconpasta
  • Ingen mat, men ack så gott: Mias musk-parfym och Jonnas kola/kokos-lotion
  • Julbordet i Chalmerska huset
  • Princesstårta (kan man få med dubbla lager marsipan?)
  • Chicken Cheese Murtabak med Ice Lemon/Calamansi Tea på Rivervalley Road i Singapore
  • Mammas färsbiffar med klyftpotatis och morotstzatziki
  • Mockabakelsen i Stora Höga som jag alltid ville ha receptet på men aldrig fick
  • Mazariner
  • Stekt falukorv med Kungsörnens Idealmakaroner och knäckebröd med lagrad ost på
  • Min limecheesecake
  • Svensk pizza i allmänhet
  • Blodpudding med rårakor och rårörda lingon
  • Svenskt lösgodis
  • Judiths äppelpaj med vaniljsås
  • Kanel- och pärlsockerkringlan från Ytterby bageri
  • Kebabtallrik med pommes frites
  • Leverpastej och saltgurka
  • Räkfrossa
  • Mariekex med smör och hushållsost på
  • Rulltårta
  • Pappas ris & curry med mangochutney
  • Kanelbullar
  • Rabarberdryck, svartvinbärssaft, Festis Peach Passion, svensk mjölk
  • Pepparkakor & clementiner
  • Glass: 88:an, Piggelin, Calippo, Twister, Mjukglass med karamellströssel
  • Fish N’ Chips från Arvidssons på Marstrand
  • Kickans bröd, nybakt med kaviar på
  • Pappas panerade plattfisksfiléer
  • Marsipan/mandelmassa
  • Mjuk pepparkaka
  • Svenskt kranvatten
  • Grekisk sallad
  • Pappas dill- och vitlöksgratinerade havskräftor
  • En tjock grillad med bostongurka

And then of course I had favorite local food!

  • Ceviche (rå fisk med citronsaft, koriander, lök och chilli).
  • Argentinsk asado (grillat kött)
  • Argentinsk glass.
  • Pebre (Chilensk salsa: tomat, lök, koriander, citronsaft, lite olivolja, lite chili)
  • Empanadas
  • PIZZA
  • Salteñas (Bolivianska empanadas, såsigare, ibland lite söta)
  • Juans chorizo-, spansk pimenton- och vitlökspasta
  • Pollo a la brasa (grillad kyckling)
  • Pique Macho (Boliviansk tallrik med massa gott)
  • Chifa (kinesmat I Peru och Ecuador)
  • Encebollado (Ecuadoriansk fisksoppa)
  • Lasses kyckling- och grönsakswok

…and what did I get tired of eating?

  • Havregrynsgröt
  • Tonfiskspasta
  • Kex
  • Boliviansk standardtallrik (ris med lamakött/kyckling, ibland yucca eller majs, i bästa fall lite tomater till)

Cycling through South America was the best thing I’ve ever done (so far). I felt so alive, so healthy, (mostly) happy, and it gave me such a feeling of fulfillment to appreciate the simple things in life like food, leaving civilization, returning to civilization and beautiful nature. I am truly grateful for all the wonderful and memorable meetings with friendly locals and fellow cyclists along the road. It has mostly been my curiosity for the unknown and what was coming next that was my driving force. It was amazing to see climate, seasons, topography, flora and fauna change along the way, with your own legs being the only engine to transport you.

Many people ask me if I would like to do a new cycling tour and what my next destination would be. My answer to this is definitely, and currently I’m feeling very intrigued by the thought of crossing Africa, or cycling through the Himalayas and Tibetan Plateau.

I want to end this blog entry by showing you one of my favorite photos (that eventually got published in National Geographic, in October 2011). It was taken by my friend Brian Sing on the Bolivian altiplano and shows a crossroads where we had to make a choice, either left or right. I did another, much bigger decision, when I decided to make this journey.

Freedom of choice is a great thing. The future is in your hands.

Freedom of choice

“The best journeys answer questions, that in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask”
From the movie 180° South