“Who’s more foolish, the fool, or the fool that follows him”. When thinking about the second edition of the South American Epic, it is this salient quote from the great Obi-Wan Kenobi that best sums up the anticipation for this tour. The 2015 edition was legendary in its very existence. An audacious journey from Cartagena in the warm shores of the Caribbean coast, to Ushuaia in the inhospitable region of Patagonia at the southern tip of South America. It surpassed the indomitable Silk Route in both length and elevation, soon becoming the most talked about and highly anticipated new tour.
On paper it was a tough trip, but the reality exceeded this – crazy Colombian roads, extreme climbs in Peru, off-road in Bolivia – and then – there’s Patagonia. “Finishing in Patagonia was like doing the Silk Route but finishing in Mongolia”, explained chef, Mark Lutz during the Silk Route tour. With memories of the cold and windy Mongolian steppe fresh in my mind, I begin to worry about the adversity that lies ahead – not only is the South American Epic the longest tour, it also finishes in one of the more inhospitable places on the planet!
With the fore-knowledge of these challenges, riders of the second edition of the South American Epic are admirable in their undertaking of this adventure. However that is not to suggest it will all be hardship and suffering. The diverse cultures, landscapes, and climates of South America will provide a spectacular backdrop to over 5 months of cycling. Whether it is visiting some of the best cities in Latin America, or small Andean communities, the South American Epic traverses not only the geographical but also the cultural extent of this continent. From the coffee growing regions in Colombia, to the vineyards of Chile and Argentina, and the range of local cuisines – there are endless new sights, smells and tastes waiting to be experienced.
For some riders, merely getting to Cartagena was a challenge in itself. Veteran TDA rider, Lloyd, was turned away at the airport with his cardboard bike box – being forced to miss his flight! Lloyd had to return home and bubble wrap his bike, then rebook a flight for the next day. To add insult to injury, his airport pick-up in Cartagena didn’t arrive! Besides all of these setbacks, he still made it to Cartagena in good spirits – showing the right kind of attitude needed for several months of unpredictability on the road.
As we sit a stones throw from the Caribbean sea, It is difficult to comprehend the changes of scenery and challenges that lie ahead, but soon enough – day by day – they will become a very vivid reality. Our route through Colombia will take us through the cities of Medellin and Bogota, before heading south towards the border with Ecuador. With plenty of climbing and epic descents thrown in for good measure!