(99) Heading back
After almost 10 months at home that had gone past in a blur it was time to leave. It had been the worst 10 months of my life with losing the most precious person that I loved so dearly and yet I had been surrounded by the most incredible people that anyone would want as friends or family. These people had helped me get to where I was and believed in what I needed to do. I just hope next time I see them all I can smile a bit more and enjoy life a bit more and never ever forget the love, fun, support and laughter we all had with Sharon.
Sharon always the competitor
Tuesday 17th of Feb
With my flight not until 5pm I had the day to spend with mum and Fred, Katie, Becs,Stuart and Amanda. It was so lovely to have them there until I left but still felt strange I was actually leaving. I went through my kit on last time and still felt like I had far to much stuff in fact i probably did. We enjoyed breakfast and like when you don’t want to go time passed to fast. I was flying from Gatwick which involved a bit of a car journey which Amanda very kindly offered to take my parents and me and before long I was saying good bye. We reached the airport and armed with lots of important bits of paper I managed to check my bags on and relax with some food and a last cupper. I still couldn’t believe that I was leaving and what had happened over the last 10 months but I knew I had to return to at least start living again.
I said goodbye to Amanda who had been amazing at keeping me focused on staying fit and left me with my parents. Wanting a bit of time to just wander I said goodbye and thanked them so much all the love and support they had given me making my life a little more bearable.
My last supper with my parents
I was soon sat on the plane with and empty seat next to me. A massive wave of reality hit me and I found it hard to hold myself together. I knew what I was doing was the right thing but not how hard it was going to be.
The flight to Madrid did’t take long and soon I was sat waiting for my next flight. Checking my wallet I noticed i still had some euros from skiing so fretted myself to what I cold afford to tied me over until my flight. I rejoined the seating area for my flight and after a while asked just out of politeness are you flying to Santiago as well and with that a reply to somewhere totally different. i checked my watch and panic shot through my veins. I ran off to find a flight info board and could I find one. thinking I was already late I looked as fast as I could to find where I was sat was correct and that I didn’t need to worry. within minutes of sitting down it was time to board. we all lined up and as I was about to go through the lady asked where is my return ticket. i replied i don’t have one. She then said I couldn’t get on the plane without one. I explained I was cycling north and wasn’t going to be in the country long and she replied it didn’t matter. I went in to greater detail that I was flying to Santiago to see friends collect my bike and head north. As soon as I mentioned I was flying to Chile not Salvador,Brazil which was our first stop she sighed and let me on. I thought its ok for you to sigh you almost didn’t let me on ahhhhhhh.
finally on my last plane the hours dragged with no inflight movies and very little in the way of service I tried to get some sleep for the next long leg.
Wednesday 18th of Feb
As I got closer to Chile We flow over the Andes. I thought of all the times and effort we had put in crossing them many times times and yet now it felt like nothing. The plane started its descent and i noticed one of the climbs we had been up. what was I doing, why was I here and did I really need to put myself through all this.
Emanual, Rafael’s son came to pick me up and felt so strange to be back. he however was incredible and the stable sort of person one needs when arriving into a different country.We soon reached their home and it felt so familiar, To see Andea, Sofia and Martin was amazing and yet so hard to know Sharon was not there to be part of it.It felt like home because they all made it feel like home. Rafael came back from work for lunch and was so great to have everyone together. He asked if there was anything I needed and that my bike could be collected at any time. With nothing planned for the afternoon there was no time like the present. Emanuel and I headed off a bit after Rafael and arrived at his work.
One of Rafael’s men sealing off the end of a glass tube
He showed me around and showed me where they make odd bits of lab equipment and where they sold there goods from. I was taken to where my bike was and felt a sudden pang. how did it come to this, why was it in box in Santiago and yet I knew why and that it had been lovingly packed my Joe and Lizzie even knowing how hard it was for them to do it. We loaded it into the truck and headed back to the house. today wasn’t the day to build my bike and I did’t have the head space for it.
Thursday 19th of Feb
After a good yet warm nights sleep it was nice to have a lay in. I got up and had breakfast before making my way out to the back yard. There was my bike all wrapped up covered in dust. It had been almost exactly a year since we had stayed with Rafael and his family and yet it felt like it was yesterday. The only differences was everyone was a year older and the cats a bit bigger and yet here I was without Sharon. It all felt like a bad dream and yet it was one I wasn’t going to wake up from. Opening the box was so hard, finding pieces lovely stuck together and taped to my bike and so I slowly started to rebuild her. Dolly was looking tired and battered with flags that had taken a battering from the Patagonian wind, been blasted by sand and baked by the sun. But like any old work horse she came back to life. Apart from a broken spoke she looked ready to ride north. Along with the bike was another bag which contained Sharon’s saddle and a few other parts. I sunk on to the floor as a wave of sadness hit me. Why did she have to leave me alone, she gave me so much strength. I sat polishing the saddle like I used to for Sharon, caring for her and her bike and like she did for me. Thinking of all the places we had ridden and all the laughter we shared. The thought of riding north felt hard when I think about what I have lost. In the bag was a note form joe and Lizzie knowing how hard it wa going to be to open the box and in some ways it helped. I sat in the hammock for a bit before taking a nap to get my energy back. It was soon lunch and Andra had made a lovely spread which we were joined by Rafael. It was soon time for the traditional afternoon swim with Martin then into town to pick up a few bits.
Yes ice-cream was on the list of things to pick up 🙂
Once back from town and a few jobs done Rafael and I went for a run to stretch our legs. It felt so good to get out and blow away some cobwebs. It had been a hard day and I felt lucky to be in such an incredible environment.
Friday 20th Feb
Today was the day Emanuel had offered to take me flying in a light aircraft. I joined everyone for breakfast and noticed he sky full of cloud. normally the cloud would burn off and all would be good but with thunderstorms in the south of the city I knew it wasn’t going to happen today. Emanuel confirmed this over breakfast and so with the day free I spent it checking out dolly and seeing what needed to be done before I set off on my training ride. Rafael informed me that they were going to the their holiday house in the mountains and would need to sort out some thing to take. With the afternoon free we headed out on our bikes along by the river.
Rafael and Bella Luna ready to go
So great to see these lovely people again
We headed on around town and stopped in the park before heading back to the house after a lovely afternoon.
Some amazing art on the way home
With a plane flight to look forward to we headed home to bed.
Saturday 21st Feb
It was so nice catching up on so much sleep and with clear blue sky’s we were in for a good flight. I joined the others for breakfast and prepared a bag for going into the mountains for a couple days. We set off around 12 and arrived at the airport at about 1.30pm.
Cowburt and Dunken doing some inflight checks
It took about 40 minutes to check the aircraft and prep for flight and were soon making our way up the runway. We were soon lifting off and climbing above Santiago.
It was incredible to see this famous city spread out in front of me. The flight lasted for about 45 minutes before returning back to the runway via Saint Cristova hill, Which is a white statue of a virgin mary that looks out over Santiago.
Once past the hill we lined up for the runway and Emanuel brought the plane down with ease. once parked up he did his finally checks and then we set off for the house.
With everyone relaxed we sat and watched the sunset and enjoyed a light tea and a movie. what an amazing day.
Sunday 22 Feb
Rafael woke me at 10 and from a deep sleep. It was the second time I had dreamt of Sharon and woke sad she wasn’t with me. I found it strange I didn’t dream of her more but then I suppose it still hadn’t sunk in. I got up and saw Rafael was keen to run. We had a light breakfast and headed up the mountain. It was a narrow dusty track that followed a small steam up between the trees to the point where their water supply was taken. It was a lovely valley with a really great camp site which would be a great spot to spend a quiet weekend. We took a swim in the pool before running the rest of the way back to the cabin. We watched a bit of tv and were soon joined by Rafael’s and Andra’s parents. It was so great to see them but another reminder that Sharon wasn’t here. It was really hard not to break down and had to take myself away for a moment to pull my self together. It was so great to see them and spend the rest of the day with them, having lunch and hearing them laugh.
Spending a lovely day with amazing people
Famous Chilean corn dish
My Spanish was never great at the best of times and struggled to communicate but with the help of everyone I was told what was being said. Once we’d had lunch a few of us set off down the hill to go blackberry picking.
The compassion was on who could pick the most blackberries
There were so many and with me being taller then everyone else I could pick the ones no one else could reach. With the sun setting we watched a movie while bread was being baked and were soon sat outside eating fresh bread under a crescent moon. It was stunning and made even better by the great company. We sat and chatted into the night and were packed up by 11.30 pm and with a few goodbyes we headed back to the city. It had been such a great weekend with a flight over the city and a relaxing time in the mountains. I was starting to think maybe I’ll stay here.
Monday 23 Feb
After an amazing weekend it was nice to have an easy morning. I joined Andra and Sofia for breakfast and took it easy. Wanting to help out I started to cut the lawn with some shears. It took a while but with the sun getting hotter I had to get in the pool. Rafael soon arrived for lunch and once he had headed back to work we went into town to get food so I could cook for them and also get supply’s for my ride over the Andes. I had forgotten how heavy food was and thought about the climb ahead. It took a while to get everything I needed as I was starting from scratch plus this was the job Sharon would do. Not because she had to but the fact she enjoyed it and was good at it. It made me sad she wasn’t there to stop me loading the trolley with biscuits and chocolate and all the other thing that were expensive and I even stopped my self buying things because I know I would normally have to put them back. We headed back to the house to unload the shopping and wasn’t long before Rafael arrived back from work to take us to his brother and best friend for tea.It was such an amazing evening eating with everyone not understanding that much but sitting watching the tv as they looked at pictures and videos of past trips together as a large family and seeing how happy they were. What they had was incredible and I loved the fact they were so close. It meant more to them then anything else and was how it should be
Tuesday 24th Feb
Waking up late was starting to become a habit I shouldn’t get into but it was nice to have a lay in. Today’s job was to try and loosen my seat post that had seized in over the last 2 years. I had brought a blow torch head to add to a gas bottle but with the thread being different Rafael had sorted another. I set about heating it up and cooling it down to get the different metals to expand and contract at different rates but after an hour things weren’t looking great. I tried to heat and cool quickly but all that seemed to be happening was I was wreaking the seat post. I turned the bike over and as I did I accidentally snapped the end off my e-werk USB charger. It was so annoying to break something after trying to fix something else. I spent the next hour dismantling the small unit, finding a replacement part to fix it and after all that I was still worse off then when I started. Thinking I would leave It for now I fixed the front mudguard and fixed a go pro bracket to my helmet just to make myself feel better.
Along with a couple other jobs that needed doing I set about sorting kit for my 10 day ride over the Andes. Being my first ride over 3,000 metres for 10 months I reduced my kit by a third and tidied the rest away. It felt good to sort through a few things but with the seat post still being a pig I would wait to see if Rafael had any ideas. He came back around 6.30pm and we set off on our 4 mile run through the park. It felt good to get out and blow away the days frustrations and was just what I needed. Once back we tried a couple things to see if it would make any difference but would only find out in the morning. We spent the rest of the night chatting and I started to sort out the GPS and try and get maps sorted for the north but his was going to take longer then I had hoped and would have to wait till tomorrow.
Wednesday 25 Feb
Feeling a lot more rested I woke a bit earlier, spoke to home and made a couple calls before getting up to prepare dinner. I had offered to cook a roast,something I had never done before on my own and on top of that I was also going to make pizza and apple and blackberry crumble. Feeling a bit out of my depth in someone else’s kitchen let alone my own I prepared the veg, defrosted the joint and made the pizza dough. With plenty of time I headed out to the yard and heated up the seat again to see if I could budge it. After a couple attempts I headed back to the kitchen to do some more. Rafael was due home at 3 pm so I had some time and once everything was ready I made a start on the crumble. All was well until I mixed the salt pot with the sugar pot. After a few strange faces realising what I had done I tipped it in the bin and started again. I was pleased how it turned out and everyone was either enjoying it or they were very polite. Deciding to have the cumble for tea we cleared up and I set about trying to free my seat post again.
I was quite pleased how these turned out
I showed Rafael a Video on Youtube showing how we could use caustic soda and water to dissolve the seat tube out of the frame.
Enjoying another Crumble 🙂
Being a chemical engineer and something he sold he said he would return with some and we would give it a try. Not being able to do anything until he returned I set about sorting out a few things and writing the last blog in which Sharon had been killed. It was horrible task for me to do and wasn’t really sure why I was doing it. The only reason I could come to terms with is for others to have a tiny insight into what it is like to lose someone son close and who was so much part of my past, my present and what I had now lost for the future and writing this post was something I needed to to be able to come to terms with it.
One of the reasons why I was back here was to face the fact that Sharon was gone and to try and get my head around it. I knew it was going to be a long journey but I had to do it. Being interrupted whilst writing was good and brought me out of feeling low and get down to doing my jobs. With everyone now home I made the pizza and warmed up the crumble. It was so nice to have everyone there and to smile and laugh I just wish Sharon was with us to enjoy it. The rest of the evening involved Rafael and I stripping Dolly down and preparing her for the caustic soda. Once we had removed the headset and the bottom bracket plugged all the holes we mixed up a solution. We had done a test piece to see what would happen putting steal in the solution and then Aluminium in the same solution and all looked good. We started to poor and the action started. It bubbled away giving off hydrogen gas and slowly but surely started to eat into the aluminium. We stuck at it for about an hour before getting bored and putting a hose on the seat ride to stop the bubbles running down over the frame. We would just have to see what it’s like in the morning.
Dolly under going her delicate operation
Thursday 26 Feb
With my test ride day coming up fast and the seat post stuck in the frame I got up to go and check. There was no more reaction and so drained a black sludge out of the frame.
The seat post had reduced to about half the thickness and so I made up a new mix and started to pore into the frame. It was working but would it be done in time. I joined Andra, Martin and Sofia for breakfast and pretty much spent the rest of the day refilling the frame and making sure I kept the outside as clear of Soda as possible, I would just have to see what one more evening and night would do to release the remaining piece but what I did know was it was a great experiment. With the evening free I was informed there was a birthday in the family and so off we went for another amazing evening which involved singing happy birthday as bad as possible and having lots of fun.
If only you could hear the singing
Friday 27th Feb
I struggled to wake before 10 but with so much to do before we set off tomorrow afternoon I had to get up. I had a quick breakfast and went out to check the bike to see if the seat post was fully out. I removed the tube and found the last of the aluminium clinging to the inside of the down tube and with a length of threaded bar I cleaned off the rest. It felt so good to have it clear when it could have gone so wrong. I unhooked the bike and set about cleaning it inside and out getting rid of any caustic residue so the bike didn’t fall apart while I was riding it. I cleaned each part as I refitted it and soon Dolly was back to her former glory. She looked great all be it a little heavy.
Dolly all ready to go
With the bike now made up I went in to have lunch with everyone and then set about trying to get maps on to the GPS. It was becoming a nightmare with the old micro SD card making the GPS do funny things we had to resort to buying a new one. Then found the program was putting good maps on of the north of Central America but not of Chile. I tried all different ways but not really knowing what I was doing I was gonna have to stick with what I’d got.
All loaded and looking good or do I mean heavy
I started to load the bike leaving a few things off that I wouldn’t need like maps of Peru up to Mexico, the laptop, spares box and a few clothes but even leaving that off the bike weighed more then I had hoped. I would have to get used to it and was at least better then starting with everything. We loaded the bikes around 5.15pm and set off around 5.30. It was later then I’d hoped but would be better to start with a short day to get used to the weight and not over doing it before the big pass.
All set for our first ride
We reached the junction we were looking for and unloaded the bikes from the truck. It was good to start out of the city and away from the rush hour traffic. being a new start it wouldn’t have been the best combination. We set off towards the Chacabuco pass and we turned off along a short cut that Sharon and I had been on when we had come the other way. After a few miles something didn’t feel right, it wasn’t our shortcut, we turned around and made our way the few miles back to the highway and continued on towards the main route north. About a mile before we reached the highway we found the right shortcut that looked exactly the same as the last. It was much longer then I remembered and this was before the climb.
Bella Luna now in charge of navigating
We started the climb around 7.15pm but being so loaded down with food and water and equipment it was slow going. The light started to fade and after climbing a third of the pass we found a good spot off the road. I put the stove on which felt strange as it was normally Sharon’s job and started to put my new tent up. I was pleased how well it went up but everything felt strange. Rafael was great company as we sat and ate talking about past trips and future plans. He also tried to find holes in the ground where the Chilean tarantulas live.
Our camp for the night, full of ants and according to Rafael Chilean Tarantulas
The last couple weeks had been really hard at times but being made so at home and made to feel so welcome it was hard not to feel held by everyone. I would continue to have company for the next couple days during my ride and then I was on my own, something I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope, it was strange enough without Sharon and add to this I would be riding the same road would be hard but only time would tell.
Thanks for reading xx