Day 156: Tour de Paris

Day 156: Tour de Paris

Chantilly to Paris

Distance: 61.3 km

Time on board : 4 hours 28 mins

Average Speed: 13.7 kmh

Cumulative distance: 6897 km
Forgot today is Monday, a working day where everyone rushed to work. Woke up to see the hordes of cars rushing to Paris for work. On the hindsight, should have just skate to Paris yesterday which traffic is almost non existent on Sunday. Last night camped in the middle of roundabout. It was pretty comfortable to sleep if you can ignore the noise from traffic. Cooked my pasta for breakfast while waiting for the rush hour traffic to subside. But it doesn’t, so I continue skating, contenting the narrow road with them. Usually, they will overtake me by going on the other lane, but this time, with traffic,continuously flowing from both directions, it become a mammoth task to overtake me on a narrow lane. Soon, the traffic behind me began to pile up and it was going to be this way for 40km. No choice but to take train to Saint Dennis, outskirt of Paris.
Skating into colossal cities like Bangkok, Saigon and Hanoi is nothing compared to this. Though it may seem the traffic in Paris is significantly fewer than those in Bangkok and Saigon, due to narrow lane without any shoulder, it is unwise to skate into Paris on peak hour. In Asia, though traffic is significantly larger, but i felt safer skating into cities like Bangkok and Saigon because the roads are wider with shoulder lanes and vehicles move a lot slower  among the heavy traffic. Furthermore, they are used to sharing the road with slow moving mode of transport like bicycle and me.
Stopped at luzarches to grab a train to Saint Dennis, where I can find a safer road to skate on to Paris. Once I found river Seine, it become easy to navigate. Just follow the bike path on river Seine. First stop is stade de France, where France won their first and only World cup. Visited all other attractions including place de Bastille, Notre Dame, lovre, Effiel tower and arc de triumph. Paris was too expensive for me to stay in, since my fellow long distance skater Romain Bessiere the Globeskater with his girlfriend Maria Teresa Rabelo Rafael invited me to stay with them in Caen. Caen is located in Normandy, near D Day landing, isn’t my planned route at first. It is 250km west of Paris, so I had to take 2 hours train to Caen, where I was picked up by Romain at the train station. His girlfriend cooked me a great pasta and oysters feast. Normandy is next to the sea, thus it is famous for its seafood. 
Will stay with them for a couple of days to recuperate before moving on to Tours, where Panta Gruelon, another famous skater awaits me.

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Day 626: A ride from angel

Day 626: A ride from Angel

Chile: Saltos del Laja to Mulchen (hitched ride to Temuco)

Distance: 66 km

Time on board: 5 hours 30 minutes

Average speed: 12 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,338.7 km

Dog peed on my ground sheet I was sleeping on last night. They couldn’t leave me alone even when I am sleeping, can’t they. Of course, I might be occupying their territory in the bus stop. Now bus stops in Chile appeared to be my usual camping spot. Shelter from wind and rain or whatever elements but not dogs.

Packed up fast to leave before anyone reported me to the police. So far, nobody in south America ever done that even when they see me camping in public. Everyone just go around to do their own business without bothering me.

Yesterday was rainbow and butterfly day then today was another cold freezing prison. Day before yesterday was the same. Could there be a pattern emerging? Alternate days between bliss and suffering? Skated past a series of bus stop to be greeted by a wave of smiley Chileans surprised to see me skating.

Exited the town and continued on highway 5. Continued skating in and out of fast lane and shoulder lane without getting killed. Took the advantage of the lane closure due to construction to have whole main lane to myself for some stretch.

Noticed that terrain is getting hillier as I ventured further south. Not that flat as before. Spent several times walking up the hill. I am already Andes mountain trained, so any of these hills doesn’t deter me anymore. Slow walk that is all.

Left highway 5 to enter the Los Angeles city to replenish my food and water at Lider supermarket, not the USA Los Angeles. The Chile Los Angeles. Yes, they have a city called Los Angeles as well. I could see the impending clouds of Doom, another day of miserable rain seem imminent. There was a bike lane parallel the road to the city but it was too narrow for Tony and too sandy to skate thus I opted for shoulder again. Drizzle from clouds of Doom started to trickle. I hurried my way to Lider. Bought a couple of snack and instant noodles for my lunches. I find it easier to cook instant noodles for lunch. For dinner, I could afford the time to cook more elaborated and healthier meal.

Seeing the rain about to descend from the sky, I hurried my way out. There was a service area where I can seek refuge and cook my lunch. At the service area having my lunch, a truck driver informed me that there was a hot shower in the other building. Hot shower in the cold bittery weather is a godsend gift. Grabbed the opportunity for hot shower since eternity. After the hot shower, the rain transformed to a monster downpour. I don’t know how am I going to get through these weather. A particular smile on my face, resigning to my wretched fate, the truck driver either had telepathic superpower or he can read the looks on my face. He turned to me and offered me a ride. I would be insane to refuse a lift in these kind of weather. He drove me to Temuco where I am supposed to arrive tomorrow. Well i could do another day rest after skating 500 km over 6 days, averaging 90-100 km per day. The driver dropped me off 6 km from Temuco city centre. I still had to skate 6 km to my hotel in the rain, by then it had already subsided. Booked $20 USD hotel single room. Cheapest I could find in Agoda app. That is good enough for me.

Chile only gave Singapore passport holders 30 days visa whereas my Filipino friends can stay there in 90 days. Already 2 weeks gone, I have to exit Chile at some point and renter to renew another 30 days. Furthermore, it will be Martha, my Russian friend birthday soon, celebrating in Bariloche Argentina, might as well take opportunity to kill 2 birds with one stone. Will leave my stuff in the hotel and head to Argentina for another few days before returning to Chile to continue my journey with a new 30 day visa.

Day 625: Life without a tinge of danger?

Day 625: Life without a tinge of Danger

Chile: Chillan to Saltos del Laja

Distance: 88.4 km

Time on board: 7 hours 8 minutes

Average speed: 12.4 kmh

Ascent: 220 m. Descent: 234 m

Cumulative distance: 20,272.7 km

Amazed that I can simply find any place to sleep. Bus stop is now added to my latest list of camping spots. I camped before in churches, temples, mosques, post war bunkers, roundabouts, fire stations, police stations, schools. The list goes on and on. Slept on metal bench in bus stop. Skinny me managed to sleep on the bench without falling out. I can even sleep sideways. Bus stop is situated right next to the highway, therefore it was extremely noisy. I could hear thunderous roar from container trucks passing by. Somehow I managed to get relatively good sleep. I knew cos I got some REM dream sleep.

Woke up to rainy morning. Got up extra early since this is a bus stop, commuters might be taking bus there to commute to work. Didn’t take long for me to pack up cos I only use my Marmot Sleeping bag. By 7 am, I am on my way. Didn’t bother to change my wet socks drenched from yesterday downpour. Even if I changed to dry one, eventually it will be wet as well cos my shoes was wet too. Resigned my feet to cold miserable soggy day.

You might think that every day is fun and rainbow. On the contrary, no it isn’t a bed of roses. There are days I have to skate through rain, sorching heat, gale winds. Yesterday was one of them. Cold wet miserable day. Feeling gloomy and grumpy. There will be days that I have surreal landscape, amazing people or just good weather and smooth roads to keep me in high spirits. Just as in life, we have the down days as well as days we feel like top of the world. In work, we have to grind through monotonous routine and horrible boss but there will be times where you feel you have to achieve something great. We all have to grind through monotonous stage to get to where we want to be. This journey reflected my Philosophy in life.

Usually, my morning routine involved pooing but since I am in public sight this morning, I have to skate 17 km holding my shit in. Bypass the Chillan city and continued on highway 5. Usually I stuck purely on shoulder lane, but as I approached the Shell gas station where I can do my big business, I thought i can take parallel service road direct to Shell. However, it lead to an dead end. Not wanting to go back another 1 km, I unpacked all my stuff on Tony and carry them one by one, crossing the ditch on a wooden plank. All this for pooing. Should have always stick on highway shoulder lane no matter how tough it is.

Skating good pace today. I experimented something new. As i headed further south, traffic is thinning out. I realised I could actually skate on the main lane. Though my side mirror, I glanced at the highway lane and double made sure there isn’t any traffic, turning my head to confirm. When the coast is clear, I made the switch to the smoother highway right lane. The smoothness and rush of Adrenaline prompted me to skate even faster. Cos any slower, I can be crushed by the monster traffic. I sprinted as fast as I could until I could see on my side mirror, there is massive incoming traffic. A series of speeding cars on both lanes warned me it is time to return to my bubble aka shoulder lane. The shoulder lane represent my bubble or comfort zone in my life. Skating on main lane represent the adventures and risky gambles I chose to partake. Sometimes we all need to move out of our comfort zone and venture into unknown. We could die, no one knows. But what is life living without a tinge of danger. Of course, I am not crazy to jump out of a plane without parachute and scuba dive without oxygen tank. We know our risk. As long as you know what you are doing and know to avoid the pitfalls, taking risk can be rewarding. Weaving in and out between my bubble and danger zone boost my average speed. Actually, I simply stick on main lane if I wanted to, cos the traffic had spotted me from far and gave me leeway. But I can’t keep up with my fast adrenaline moving pace all the time. I needed to move back to my bubble for a breather. Work is like bubble, boring and monotonous but safe. The fast dangerous lane represent the adventures we partake once in a while. Kept us refreshed and motivated for life.

Hit 50 km just before noon, wanted to find a bus stop to cook my lunch but there isn’t. Have to skate to 56 km before I could find a bus stop. All even better for me, meant after lunch, I have only 32 km to go. Today’s destination is Saltos del Laja. Famous for Waterfall and summer campgrounds.

Almost 90 km but I did it by 4.15 pm. I could go on further to 100 or more km with 3 hours of daylight. Camping near waterfall is an opportunity not to be missed. Though Saltos del Laja is not as impressive as Iguazu waterfall, but I can bring my stuff near it and have a photo in the backdrop of waterfall with Tony and longboard. Yesterday was tough and miserable but today skate to waterfall makes it worthwhile. Sometimes I have to grind through rough to get where I want to be. And today is where I want to be. Waterfall and rainbows formed from sun shining over tiny droplets of water. This is where my rainbow is.

Daniel, a shopkeeper in the waterfall handed me a box of strawberries, olives and drinks for free. He was awed by my efforts to skate around the world, that is why he wanted to reward me.

Now is spring season, considered low season. Most campground are closed till summer. I asked one that is still open. Quoted me 5000 pesos or 7.5 USD for camping. I ain’t paying that amount where I can camp anywhere for free. I rather pay more for a room than a camp spot. Walked away few hundred from waterfall and found a wild and free spot for me. Wanted to cook but decided not to. Since the entrance to waterfall is free and I haven’t paid anything here to contribute to the local economy. I felt obliged at least spend some money eating in a restaurant. I don’t mind spending 4200 pesos on a dinner since I haven’t spent any money today.

Wondered if tomorrow will be a boring monotonous or a rainbow fun day.

Day 624: Chill Chillan

Day 624: Chill Chillan

Chile: Linares to Chillan

Distance: 92.5 km

Time on board: 7 hours 40 minutes

Average speed: 12.1 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,184.3 km

After refilling all my water bottles and making tea, I was shocked to discover my 15 litres water bank was left to mere 2 litres. I topped it to brim yesterday when I left Itahue area de descanso. I couldn’t possibly finish 13 litres in 2 days. If this is the case, I am in big trouble when I get to Patagonia where water are scarce. Got to start conserving water. Later on, discovered a very minor leakage. The duct tape patched over the crack in Peru wasn’t sufficient in controlling the leakage. It was a very minor leakage, droplets a minute. Even droplet can amount to litres lost over 24 hours.

Had an early start at 7 am once the sun was up. Kept at constant pace 12 kmh average. Shoulder lane had 3 distinct surfaces. The smooth one where I can sprint, the medium rough where I can skate slow at 12 kmh. The last is super rough where I can only skate above 10 kmh. I conserve energy, skate slow on the rough surface and only sprint when I am on the smooth surface. My kicking style also differ from different surfaces. On the smooth, I maximize my speed, bending my quads muscles on the board leg lower in order to extend my kicking leg further for more power. For the rough, I just tap push to conserve energy.

30 km, my energy level dropped. I only had 5 slices of bread spread with peanut butter than the usual 8 as I wanted to finish my remaining loaf before opening the new one for the next day. There was Copec gas station with kiosk 10 km, thus I pushed on to the next stop for food. Bought 2 packets of chocolate cookies for 1700 pesos, only to discover the shop next to it sells 100 peso cheaper. Every peso counts when in here, everything is costly.

Pushed to 50 km by noon, and stopped at bus shelter to cook lunch. Since I had remaining 45 km to cover, I can afford to take a nap for a hour. However, passengers began alighting on the bus stop. I decided against it and continued skating on.

One lane was closed due to traffic accident, where police and firemen was there to resolve the situation. When the firemen witnessed me skating pass, they cheered and gave me an ovation as if I was about to cross the finish line at a marathon.

By 4 pm, the sky juice opened up. At first, it was a tickle, soon it began to hit hard onto me. Usually, in Peru or Bolivia, I won’t hesitate to get a hotel room when it rained cos a room is only 5-7 USD. Here, rooms are 3 or more times the cost in Peru and Bolivia, I can’t simply sleep in hotels everytime it rains. Skating wet in the rain is ok for me, but not sleeping wet and cold. Shelter became my utmost priority.

Original plan was to camp by the river, however with the rain likely to persist throughout the night. I opted in the bus stop just before Chillan city, sheltering me from the rain. Nearby there was an eatery selling sushi and fast food. I ordered hot fries and hot dog. Hopefully the bus stop will be deserted during the night.

Day 623: Home on the road

Day 623: Home on the road

Chile: Itahue to Linares

Distance: 90.5 km

Time on board: 7 hours 56 minutes

Average speed: 11.4 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,091.8 km

In order to make it to Temuco in 5 days, I have to skate average 90 km per day. Possible with long daylight and relatively flat road. Even with the rough shoulder lane, skating at 11 kmh is doable. Longer skating hours that is all.

Woke up 5.30 am. Had my hot shower at area de descanso. Shower will be a luxury for me from now on. Better to take shower whenever it is available. The cleaner lady was astonished to see me again in the morning. I have been here for 20 hours. I pointed the spot where I was camping. I placed so much faith in Chileans that I left my portable battery to charge overnight in the building. It was still left intact when I retrieved it.

Got running at 7.15 am. Another day where the sun went on a vacation. But it beats skating in Paraguay furnace and insects invasion. In Chile, day temperature is cool at mid 20s Celsius. Night temperature is chilling at 10 odd Celsius. Perfect for me. Wore my warm 2nd layer to skate. After 2-3 km, once I warmed up, it was time to remove and skate.

The scenery is usual. Mountains on my far right pointing to the Andes. No time to enjoy the scenery, have to focus on the road. Shoulder lane was littered with debris and tiny pebbles. I called them ‘Chilean landmines’. To trip over and fall in midst of fast furious moving traffic can be fatal. My eyes is all fixed on the highway.

My left Achilles heel was sore after pushing for 200 km in 3 days. I have to go slow even when the shoulder was smooth for fast skating. Kicked slowly and steadily 11-12 kmh. Time was what I got.

Always at right side, there was the parallel road tempting me to cross. It was definitely smoother than shoulder lane. Of course, the road is always smoother on the other side. Everytime I switched over, the access road turned rough or turned it into a dead end. I shall not waste time and just stick to the direct highway. At least I knew I will arrive at my destination somehow if I devoutly followed the highway.

My food ration was running low after I have to remove half of my pasta cos it turn soggy from water dripping above. Next supermarket is on Talca, 44 km. Nice distance for lunch as well. Google map proposed that I followed further south on the highway before I turn into the city. Longer route, thus I opted for another shortcut, which saved me 2 km. It was an huge error. I turned earlier to north entrance of the city. 2 km in, everything appeared fine until the entire avenue was under construction. By then, it was too late for me to turn back. I continued walking on muddy dirt road for several km. This shortcut is not a shortcut, instead it is longer route cos I have to walk instead. In life, shortcut might not be a shorter way to your destination. Sometimes, grinding the longer route can be quicker. Walking took me longer time to arrive at Lider supermarket than expected.

Again, I placed my trust in humans, leaving Tony and longboard outside Lider. Bought more greenies, spinach, asparagus and chili for my pasta Aglio Olio. I am turning Vegan. Almost. Lider supermarket is a subsidiary of Wal mart but they don’t stock Bananas. That is absolutely outrageous. How could they not sell my energy food for the road. Whole shopping costed $11 USD. Chile was not that chilled in prices.

Since McDonald was close by and it’s menu of the day is cheaper than eating out in eateries here and better value. In wealthier countries, McDonald is always cheapest food when eating out. Looks like I will be eating McDonald here often. McDonald should sponsor me for the coverage I am giving them.

Talca is relatively large city thus exiting the place was a nightmare. Congested roads left me to walk or skate on pavement until I exited the city and returned to highway 5.

56 km, I stopped at Copec gas station to replenish my petrol for cooking. Cooking frequently does burn my fuel fast. Good thing gas stations are everywhere. I entered into the kiosk to look for snacks for the journey. I thought a bunch of 3 bananas cost only 450 pesos. While queuing, the lady behind me asked if I was the one skating on the highway, I shared my adventure to them. When it was my turn to pay, I was shocked. 1 banana was 450 pesos, not 3. I am not paying USD 2 for 3 bananas. Left the queue. The lady offered to pay for my snack. Wow, I grabbed another packet of biscuits and she paid for it. What a nice gesture.

Resumed skating. Roughly 70 km, a couple of guys pulled over and waited for me to catch up to them. They offered a bottle of soft drinks. Sugar Rush for me to skate last remaining 20 km. 6 pm and 90 km, I spotted a large area beside highway. Appeared to be parking space for trucks to rest. Nevertheless, I decided to camp here, instead of skating another 2 km to camp at the roundabout. Though rubbish was everywhere, I managed to find a spot to camp. Once my bivy was set, I immediately started cooking dinner, not wanting to cook in the dark. Furthermore the cooking can take quite a while. Prepared pasta in olive oil, stir fried with garlic, asparagus and chili. Prior to that, I took photo of my camp. In background, was a large home signage. This is my home. Everywhere is my home with my kitchen, bed and everything all I need.

Day 622: 20,000 Km

Day 622: 20,000 km

Chile: Curico to Itahue

Distance: 19.5 km

Time on board: 1 hour 41 minutes

Average speed: 11.5 kmh

Cumulative distance: 20,001.3 km

What I drank last night, kept waking up to pee. Previous night, there wasn’t any peeing during the night. Usually, I would wake up 2-3 times to pee. Yesterday was exceptionally high frequency.

According to my calculations, I will achieve my 20,000 km after 18 km. 622 days to achieve this milestone. Exactly this is where the next area de descanso is. Well, exceeded by a few hundred metres. But hey, I can’t stop in the middle of highway to take photos and videos. Area de descanso is the best place to celebrate my 20,000 km. Of course it has been slower than I expected. When I planned my adventure, I was thinking of skating 15,000 km per year. I fail to take in account of all stoppages I spent in places. 3 weeks in Lima, Peru, 2 weeks in Bogota, many weeks in Mexico beach. The list goes on and on. I initially wanted to travel as fast around the world, in the end, I chill in places where I wanted to. I spent almost same number of days chilling in places as Skating days. Life is not about the finish, it is how you enjoy your journey. See where the road leads me to. Skating to me is just another mean of traveling, rather than taking bus and planes, not breaking whatever records.

Majority of shoulder lane today is horrible. Plus northbound headwind. All this make my 20,000 km even sweeter. I don’t have my odometer to prove my 20,000 km cos my Garmin fenix 3 was spoilt in central America. All my distance was lost. I had to manually add my daily distance from my new Garmin Edge 520 bought in Colombia.

Arrived at area de descanso by 9.45 am, much slower than expected. It is better to be late than never. Celebrated my 20,000 km with videos and more photos. A family witnessed me skating into the rest stop. I shared with them my achievements and they rewarded me with sandwiches and Black Dog, Chilean version of Red bull. Took opportunity to take a hot shower in the rest stop since I haven’t showered in 2 days. The shower gotten me cosy and lazy. By then, it was 11 am after all my celebrations, taking photos and videos and shower. I thought I might as well take a break from skating and camp here for the night even though I still had 9 hours of daylight to skate. Supposedly to skate 90 km instead I opt for 19 km today to revel in my achievement. 20,000 km around the world, 4 continents 30 countries in 622 days isn’t an easy feat. A day to bask in my glory all to myself.

Day 621: Blood Heels

Day 621: Blood heels

Chile: Requinoa to Curico

Distance: 96 km

Time on board: 7 hours 55 minutes

Average speed: 12.1 kmh

Ascent: 374 m. Descent: 164 m

Cumulative distance: 19, 981.8 km

I calculated if I can skate 114 km to next area de descanso in Itahue, I will achieve my coveted 20,000 km milestone. Tough, but I will try. In Chile, Sun sets at 8 pm, that gives me lots of daylight to skate. I can skate till 7 pm and set camp an hour before nightfall. Sun rise at 7 am, that is 12 hours of daylight for me.

Woke up at 6 am to prepare and set off at 7.30 am. I know I am slow in packing up. The wobbling of my trucks when I push mongo still persists. It dawned on me, I forgot to tighten the kingpin nut cos it was a new truck sponsored by Dan. Next bus shelter, I paused to tighten the nut and it worked better now.

Solving one issue, another issue arise. Tony’s brakes isn’t working well. It does slow down but doesn’t reduce much speed when descending real fast. I forgot to swap over my powerful brake pads on pushie. Tony is having the stock brake pads which was meant for jogging, not skating round the world. Furthermore, I haven’t adjust the brake cable yet. I need to find a bicycle shop before I encounter a long steep descent. Thankfully the terrain, so far is rather flat. If I was in the Andes with this brake pad, I would be long dead.

Pass by a fruit stall on highway, took the opportunity to buy Bananas. The guy don’t have the change for my 1000 pesos instead I bought another box of strawberries. Desert for tonight. A box of strawberries and a bunch of Bananas all for 1000 pesos or $1.50 USD. Chile isn’t that expensive after all.

Remain on highway 5 the entire way. Traffic kept zooming, but I remained calm and chill in my shoulder lane, not bothered by the lightning speed traffic. When Large container trucks passed me, the back draft pushed me forward, giving me sudden boost in acceleration. A series of these container trucks passed me, the continuous draft wind propelled me so much that I don’t even have to kick for a distance at all.

When touring, you have to be on your feet and patient, solving one issue at a time. This time, my green shoes is hurting my heels. To resolve this, I put on double layers of sock on both feet to prevent blisters. However, the green shoes I bought in Bolivia was a size smaller than I should wear. I chose it cos it is my favourite green. This is what happen when you let your desire rule over you. Buying shoes for skating is hit and miss gamble. You never tell which shoes works for you till you actually skate for some distance. Today is my second day skating in these green shoes. I am already hurting. The heels were rubbing against back of the shoe. By 70 km, my right heel was bleeding from constant friction. I tied shoelaces around my ankles and left my heel away from the heel portion of shoe. I don’t know how to describe in words. In short, I make it into a sandal.

The shoulder lane varies from smooth to rough. Sometimes when it is smooth, it is littered with debris, unable to capitalise on speed. Most of the time, I grind slowly on the rough surface at 10-12 kmh.

At 11 am, instead of continuing on highway 5, I opt for change of scenery, entered into San Fernando city for lunch. Used the city bike lane which is agonising slow, cos I have to swerve around curves meant to slow cyclists and Tony have issues navigating swerves. To turn, I have to stop and push my entire weight down so I can lift Tony up to make the turn. All restaurants in Chile was too expensive. Set lunch for 3000 pesos or 4.5 USD. I am too used to paying 1 USD set lunch in Bolivia and Peru. Skated to Lider, Chile’s Walmart. Had Completos or Chile version of Hot dogs. That wasn’t sufficient to fill me. I walked into Lider and bought 1/4 chicken and fries for 1000 pesos or 1.5 USD. Now I know where to go for lunch. That is what I did in Europe, head for supermarket for cheap deals.

After lunch, headed back straight on highway 5. With 12kmh speed like this on this surface, I am not going to make it to my 20 k mark today. Just have to leave it for tomorrow then. Aimed for Curico, where there is a fire station. A driver pulled over to hand me a bottle of water. I can’t say no to having more water right.

Reached Curico city, however the fire station turned my request to camp there down. My observation is I have a better chance in developing countries’s fire station like in Colombia, el Salvador and Mexico. Fire stations in wealthier countries tend to turn me away as Costa Rica and Chile. Sleeping in Chile guesthouse is out of my budget. Cheapest is 25 USD. No way I am paying for every night. I will go broke. While I searched on my phone for possible camp spots, I noticed that my longboard went missing. I panicked, could someone so audacious to steal right under my nose. No longboard meant end of my journey. Well, I can always ask my sponsors to ship a new one over but that will take time. A lady manning a hotdog stall across the street waved at me. My longboard rolled down to road while I was looking at my phone. She picked it up before any car would run over it. She waited for me to finish looking at my phone. I almost had a heart attack. Next time secured my longboard before looking at phone.

Found a possible camp spot outside the city. A roundabout on highway 5 for traffic to enter and exit the city. Large space and cars don’t bother to look at me. I camped at similar roundabouts in France. There was already someone camping at the spot. Probably homeless and i don’t know whether he is friendly or not. Not to risk it, I went to another roundabout right across. No fire station or area de descanso far away, there is always roundabout for me to camp. Tomorrow 20,000 km

Day 620: Hola Chile! Country 30

Day 620: Hola Chile! Country 30

Chile: Santiago to Requinoa

Distance: 82.2 km

Time on board: 6 hours 41 minutes

Average speed: 12.3 kmh

Ascent: 219 m. Descent: 332 m

Cumulative distance: 19,885.8 km

Behind every successful skater touring around the world, there is a team of support. Thanks to my new support Crew Ryan Porter who helped me to procure a stroller even before I flew into Miami from Sao Paulo. Left my stuff at Arthur Maniero, my Brazil support Crew while I flew to Miami to collect my new stroller. Stayed in Andrew’s guest apartment which saved me lots of money as hostel in Miami are budget busting. Can’t do without my support Crew all over the world. I have Anton van Kaam in Netherlands, over the west coast in USA, there are Cory Poole, who helped me with my first pushie and DeeJay in LA. In Miami side, there is also Brooks miller who I mailed my stuff over and helped to store my spare equipments and unnecessary stuff in his house. Together with Ryan and Andrew, they formed my Miami Support Crew.

Not to mention my precious sponsors who never hesitate to send equipment over when I needed them. Collected new set of Don’t Trip trucks from Dan for my final leg to Ushuaia and new sets of bearings from Mark of G|Bomb. They made my journey all possible.

My new stroller is Ironman triathlon model from BOB strollers. Bought it 2nd hand for $125 and it is worth the price. More storage space, I can pack more water and food. Easy to organise my equipment onto the stroller. Comes with suspension system, smoothing the bumpy roads and compact foldable. This is my Lamborghini version of strollers. I name it ‘Tony’ cos it is Ironman, get it. Tony Stark is Ironman.

In Santiago, capital of Chile , Fernanda first hosted me over weekends when I arrived in the wee morning and Felipe Salas then hosted me in his house as his house is located further south, easier for me to exit Santiago.

Chile is the wealthiest country in South America in terms of GDP per Capita and it is evident through the modern skyscraper and efficient subway transporting millions of metropolitans daily without a hitch. Santiago felt like Europe and give me modern European city vibe. Naturally, the cost of living is also Europe standard. Shopping at Lider, or Walmart for my 10 days of provision cost me astonishing $40. Eating out a simple meal is like $6 USD or more. Looks like I will have to camp and cook most of the time just as when I am in Europe and USA.

It is always a courtesy to bid farewell to your host. I waited til Felipe woke up for work. Thanked everybody in his house for sharing their space with me and set off. They advised me to grab a taxi to somewhere further with less traffic. They were right. I looked at highway 5 and the parallel roads. There was no way I can survive the rush hour traffic. Booked an Uber to take me 10 km further south where I can skate without dying. The lady driver was so friendly and chatty. Tony was easy and compact to fold and easily fitted into the backseat. She drove me to bus stop 10 km away where I can organise my stuff and start my journey to Ushuaia. At first skating on my new setup felt weird. Maybe my new trucks or Tony. When skating mongo, my board tend to steer to the right. Maybe I haven’t been skating lately, for 3 weeks since Brazil, flying in and out for my new stuff. After a while, I sort of regained my rhythm and back to my usual skating.

Highway 5 is a freeway where traffic sped 100 kmh, fortunately there is a parallel road next to it connecting to the towns. Followed the parallel road in and out, entering the highway 5 at times. There came to a point my parallel road ends completely and I have no alternative but to skate on highway 5. Prior to that, I have lunch outside a Salvation army building. Cooked my instant noodles, quick and simple. Skating the highway 5 was terrifying. Stick on road shoulders littered with debris. Treaded carefully not to trip over debris and into furious traffic.

Found a shorter and safer road H-10 which Google map and maps.me never proposed to me. But the road is a narrow lane which meant traffic have to slow down and wait for opportunity to overtake me. Skated on this road all way till I reconnected back to highway 5 for last 10 km to a rest stop for cars and trucks. Asked the staff at the rest stop if I could camp. He pointed me to a grass area. The rest stop was a blessing. Comes with toilets, shower. Tap water in Chile is safe to drink, that goes easy on my wallet. I suppose the rest stops in highway 5 will be my best friend.

Day 598: Adiós Paraguay! Ola Brazil! Country 29

Day 598: Adiós Paraguay! Ola Brazil! Country 29

Ciudad del Este, Paraguay to Iguazu, Brazil

Distance: 19,803.6 km

Time on board: 3 hours 40 minutes

Average speed: 10.2 kmh

Ascent: 321 m. Descent: 384 m

Cumulate distance: 19,803.6 km

Moved my sleeping area to the staircase landing cos the porous shelter at motorcycle parking wasn’t sufficient to block out the rain during the night. The rain lasted till late morning. Woke up at 6 am but couldn’t set off due to never ending rain. Loitered around the kiosk in gas station. Ready to set off, the second wave of rain invaded again. Delayed till 9.15 am when rain finally subsided. Have my last sip of terere, Paraguay’s cooler version of Argentina’s mate. Argentina mate is hot whereas Paraguay terere is colder and soothing to the throat. No offense to my Argentinian friends, terere should be the way to drink yerba mate. Who drinks hot mate in freckling hot climate. Cold icy terere is better suited for this topical climate.

Paraguay scenery is like Argentina chaco region except it has more rolling hills and more towns. Drenched in wet road, water sprouting around my legs. The another round of rain came pouring down after 13 km. Tried to ignore as skate through the rain. But visibility was almost zero, traffic might not spot me. For safety sake, I seek refuge in the nearby bus shelter. Waited another 20 minutes for rain to clear up before resuming. After every descent, have to pull on by the shoulder to readjust my brake caliper. Twice, a bus driver drove by my side to scold me. Warning me to use the shoulder lane instead of main lane. I would use shoulder but it was in dismaying condition. Speed humps every 50 metres plus debris. Why they placed speed hump on shoulder? To deter cars from using it or slow down motorcyclists. Skating on main 2 lane highway is safer than me skating this shoulder. Risk of accident on highway was low cos cars can overtake me easily, but when accident does happen, consequence will be dire. Consequence of me falling in the shoulder is less severe, at most few scratches but chances of it occurring is higher. Thus I took risk of skating in highway lane.

Reached the border city Ciudad del Este, Paraguay’s second largest city. Mega shopping malls sprawled by the highway. Comparing it’s Glamorous glittering malls make Asuncion, the capital like a ghetto. Ciudad del Este isn’t Paraguay. It looked too luxurious to be in one of south America’s poorest nations. The city have been the focus of international attention as the hub of distribution of counterfeit and pirated products. It is said that it is one of the largest black market for cheap knockoff counterfeit electronics. The city’s economy is reportedly based in large part on the trafficking of counterfeit and infringing goods.

Last 2 km before the border, the traffic was halted to a standstill. Major Protest blocking the roads. Thousands of people filled the streets to protest the corruption. Protest and riots in south America is like drinking water, they happened all the time. Protesters launchingb thunderous fire crackers into the sky while the riot police attempted to keep them under control. There, I spotted a window of opportunity. Once I sneaked past the crowd, the entire road was mine to rule. No traffic but just me. Thanks to the protest. Skated to the border bridge where the traffic become congested again. Got my exit stamp without any hassle. Now to cross the river Parana to Brazil.

Parana River is of great significance to me. You see I used to be a practitioner of Capoeira, Brazil dance martial art. Singing Paraná e during Capoeira Ronda. The song Parana referred to war of alliance where Brazil ganged up with Uruguay and Argentina to invade Paraguay. Gangbanging style. At last, I get to see the river Paraná in person, experiencing the Capoeira spirit within me. Ginga time. The bridge was a single congested lane, thus I have to walk on the narrow pedestrian lane.

At Brazil immigration office, entering Brazil was simple and efficient affair. No question asked. In matter of minutes, I am in Brazil, 29th country. Had my lunch, Plato feito. After spending ages in Hispanic countries, now I have to readjust to Portuguese. Portuguese language is similar to Spanish, thus reading the words is easy. But when it come to listening and speaking Portuguese, it is a whole different affair. Portuguese sounded like deep throated Spanish with lots of intonations. Brazilian can understand my Spanish but i cannot understand their Portuguese. I am completely stumbled. Skated to my hostel Mandala. Only 38 km, I was completely knocked out by the rain. Went to bed entire afternoon.

Iguazu is home to world famous waterfall. Tomorrow, I will be there plus another sights. I have to plot my next move now. Definitely have to replace pushie. Whether to fly to Miami to collect my replacement or have it shipped. I will consider the costs.

Day 597: Crazy but not Rich Asian

Day 597: Crazy but not Rich Asian

Paraguay: Asuncion to Mingua

Distance: 65 km (excluding 216 km of bus and back on truck)

Time on board: 6 hours 30 minutes

Average speed: 10 kmh

Cumulative distance: 19,765.3 km

Day 590-596

Asuncion, capital of Paraguay may seems uninteresting place to tourists. There isn’t much tourists in Paraguay. Most would bypass this unassuming place for more glamorous Brazil or Argentina. But you explore deeper beyond its surface, there is alot more to see. Trust me, I have stayed in Asuncion for a week. There is alot to do here. Took a free city walking tour by tourism board. Unlike most ‘free walking tour’ where you are obligated to pay tips, this one you are not. Rendezvous with the polish hitchhikers whom I met in La Paz Bolivia. Never expected to meet them again since they were expected to be faster than me on my snail transport.

On Wednesday, I went on movies watching spree. 50% discount for all movies. I haven’t watched a single movie since Lima Peru cos in Bolivia, all movies were dubbed in Spanish. Watched 4 movies in a go. Megalodon, Predator, Johnny English and Crazy Rich Asian. Watching crazy rich Asians set in my hometown Singapore, does bring back the feeling of Home. Now I can tell Paraguayans that the place is my country Singapore. Now you know what is Singapore. And we are the one of wealthiest nations in the world. The extravagant locations is no joke. We have marina bay sands and chimes church. It is all real. Except I am not rich. I am Crazy Asian but not rich Asian. Then again, I am considered quite affluent traveller among my bicycle traveller friends. Staying in hostels, eating out. My French cyclist friends have to scrimp and scrap for travel.

Other days, met lovely Martha from Russia in the Hostel. Together we explored Asuncion for 2 days. Watching cultural music and dinner and me getting drunk. Did I mention she worked in recent World cup as liaison officer to the teams. World cup is over therefore she is traveling now. Then when I wanted to leave, it was Saturday, the hostel was showing the matches on TV. Another day extended. Sunday, when I wanted to leave, it rained heavily. Leaving me to exit on Monday today.

Missed opportunity to skate on Sunday where streets were void of traffic. Had to contend with congestion in the morning. That was when everything started to go wrong. My pushie was so slanted to the left, once I clutched my brake, the brake was misaligned and the left brake pad was still rubbing against the rim even when I released the brake. After every downhill, I have to stop and readjust the brake caliper manually, if not I will be expending precious energy skating with brakes on the entire time. Paraguay isn’t flat, filled with rolling hills. Countless time wasted stopping to readjust the brakes after every downhill.

8 km, at highway 2, entire traffic was rerouted from the construction. Not wanting to detour which I don’t know where it will lead me to. I took the risk to walk on the construction sites, assuming that it will be a short distance. Big mistake, the entire highway 2 in Asuncion was up for construction. They were constructing a brand new bridges. That cost me to walk for 4 km. Spent a hour walking out of construction sites. After which I have to contend with countless traffic lights and congestion. By 10 am, I only covered 20 km from just 3 hours of skating. Not making my destination 81 km away. Temptation to take bus seduced me again as I passed by the bus terminal. Grabbed a bus to Caaguaza, 150 km away where I resumed again.

Grabbed lunch at a restaurant in Caaguaza. 20,000 GS (3 USD) rather expensive for this crazy Poor Asian. Having difficulty skating further with my pushie. I can see it has almost reached the end of its lifespan. Pushie was so slanted to the left, the support beam was almost rubbing against the wheel, just half inch away. Once that happens, that is the end. I am having difficulty steering pushie straight. Expended much energy steering to centre. Pushie kept steering to left. My stuff on pushie kept rubbing against the wheel cos of the slant. Ever since the accident in Panama, it was already doomed one day, but I never expected to be so soon, 4000 km away from my end destination Usuhuia. At this rate, I couldn’t make it to Santiago Chile. As I skated on, I weighed my options. This stroller with brakes is only available in USA. South American couldn’t afford it. Either I get my friend to buy one on Craigslist and courier to me in Santiago or I have to fly back to USA to buy one. The courier option was too costly. Flying to Miami from Rio de Janeiro Brazil sounds much affordable option. I can easily grab a bus to Sao Paulo once I skate over to Iguazu, just 120 km from where I am.

Skated 45 km after Caaguaza, about to reach a town where I would camp in Fire station. Another truck pulled over to offer me a ride to the border. I can save 2 days to Iguazu and the agony of skating with pushie. The workers dropped me off 30 km from the border but it was already too dark to continue. Mingua was a tiny town in middle of nowhere. I didn’t expect to stay in Mingua, thus I haven’t done any research. There wasn’t any fire stations for me to camp. I asked around for a hotel, locals directed me to one, a km walking in the darkness. Only light illuminated from headlight from the traffic. A km after, there wasn’t any sign of hotel, I asked a gas station. The security guard confirmed there wasn’t any. Thus I asked him if I can camp in the gas station. Sure, he pointed me to the sheltered motorcycle parking. As I cooked my simple instant dinner at the parking, a car drove over. The guy handed me 20,000 GS. Para Comida, he said. For food. Probably he took pity on me cooking instant noodles. Is not that I couldn’t afford to pay for food, I am simply too lazy to walk back 1 km to town centre to have dinner. I am not poor Asian , I am Crazy Lazy Asian. Anywhere I accepted his goodwill and thanked him. Locals in Argentina and Paraguay loved to give me cash to show their support for me. Tomorrow, another 40 km to Brazil. Subsequently I have to find my way to Miami for my second Stroller.

Day 589: Adiós Argentina! Hola Paraguay! Country 28

Date of entry: 23 September 2018

Day 589: Adiós Argentina! Hola Paraguay! Country 28

Formosa, Argentina to Asuncion, Paraguay

Distance: 163 km (skate 55 km Hitchhike 108 km)

Cumulative distance: 19,701.3 km

Day 588

Perked up to leave town, all set to enjoy insects and oven heat, in a sarcastic tone. My pushie suddenly became almost dead weight to push even though the road is paved. Is it my 15 litres water bank that was so heavy to push? I looked down to the left. Puncture! My left wheel suffered a puncture. Stopped by the roadside to replace the tube. My Schwab marathon wheel had never suffered a puncture since I bought them in Miami. This is the first time it ever happened. I always wondered when will I get a puncture. Now I know the answer. My last puncture was in Baja California Mexico, eons ago. Removed everything from my backpack to search for my wheel fixing equipments, spare tube, tire lever and pump. They were buried deep beneath the abyss since I never use them for long time. Fortunately I haven’t forgotten my ability to replace the inner tube. Barely left town when the puncture occurred. Returned back to town to replenish my spare inner tube. After several hardware shops, found a rare 16 inch tube. I pondered is it the leaning weight from slanted left side of pushie that caused the tube to burst as I inspected the tire, there seem it didn’t have any thorns. If so, I am in big trouble. Will have to constantly replace my tube and possible signs that pushie will crumple before the end of my trip.

Passed by the bus terminal, that is the sign. I have enough of this region. Burning hot, monotonous, boring landscape and the irritating insects. Only the friendly and generous people here make this place even tolerable. It is time to skip this place and grab a bus to Formosa.

At the bus terminal, a Colombian couple in bicycle alighted from the bus. Andres and his girlfriend had enough of the region as well. Heat and all. At least I don’t have to feel any guilt or shame in taking bus. Even cyclists couldn’t take this region. They were the rare cyclists I met in this region, cos cyclists would head straight to Patagonia rather than Chaco. Since they will be traveling up to Bolivia, I handed them my 100 Bolivianos, equivalent to 12 USD, as outside Bolivia, nobody accepted or changed them, no point hoarding it. Might as well give it to them for future use. It is time I do the giving.

Formosa is the capital of its name’s province. For the first time, I visited Carrefour, French chain Supermarket in South America. Bought more insect repellent, which is vital to my survival in humid Chaco region.

Day 589

Scheduled 2 days to Paraguay, my 28th country. 135 km to Asuncion, capital of Paraguay. Planned to skate as far as I can for today, and finish the remaining the next day. My hotel breakfast in Formosa was pathetic. To think I paid 800 pesos for a room. Simply biscuits and tea. I could have woken up earlier to have my peanut butter sandwich instead of having to wait till 7.30 am for breakfast.

Set off at 8.30 am. Being Sunday, I had an easy exit out of Formosa. Went on highway 81 till the police checkpoint after 11 km. Police inspected my passport and bought it with him to the office for whatever reason. I sat down at the checkpoint waiting for my passport and chatted with other officers. 15 minutes later, I was cleared to continue. Left highway 81 to get on highway 11 to Paraguay. As usual, heat and direct headwind. Should have stuck to skating to my original route to Paraguay, at least I would only have crosswind. But I am glad to have headwind as it acts as a giant fan to cool me in 40 degree Celsius.

Settled under a giant tree for shade and cooked my simple quick instant noodles. Have to select my sitting ground cautiously cos I could be sitting on cactus. Jumped to the sky when I miss a spot and sat on prickly cactus.

After lunch, my nightmare began. The road works ripped off the top layer of asphalt, leaving me to rippled road. Skating rippled road was torturous, coupled with searing heart and headwind. For next 20 km, skated in this condition for 7-8 kmh. Imagine almost 3 hours of grinding on this road. I view it as playing MMORPG. You know where you have to grind the boring segment by killing hordes of monsters to level up and get to the interesting segment. Similar, after having fun in Altiplano, now I have to grind through Chaco region to get to my next interesting part, Iguazu water falls in Brazil. It is going to be a long grinding process.

Going at this rate, arriving in Paraguay next day seemed doubtful. I don’t know how long this rippled road condition goes for. I took my hourly snack break at 55 km. While eating, I thumbed up for a hitch whenever there was an occasional vehicle driving past. When all hope seemed lost, no cars was stopping for me. I sought to continue skating after finishing my snack. A white pickup like angels in chariot coming from opposite direction. The pickup did a U-turn. I asked Anicita and Marty if they could give me a lift to Paraguay. First time, I thumb up for a ride since ages. I couldn’t recall when I last thumbed up to Hitchhike. Usually, the drivers simply offered me a ride. Happened that Anicita, Marty from Argentina and their Ecuadorian friend, Peronika were traveling to Paraguay and beyond. Marty helped me to load up my pushie at the back. Off we go! Anicita happened to work as civil engineer. The highway 11 was scheduled for repavement, explaining why I had such horrendous condition. Highway 81 was recently completed after 2 years of works. I get to enjoy the smoother 81. To re-pave highway 11 will take another 2 years. I cannot hang around for 2 years for this road. Fortunately, I met the trios.

Decided to join them to Asuncion all the way, giving me another day of rest in Asuncion. Regained my original schedule after losing 5 days to illness. Back on my original schedule to arrive in Brazil before October. At the border, ran into hiccup. The Paraguayan immigration officers claimed I needed a visa to enter. My Singapore passport, the world’s most powerful passport. I did my research prior, Singapore don’t need a visa to enter Paraguay. They couldn’t find the information on their computer. Anicita tethered her hotspot for me to show the visa information on my mobile. They insisted on checking. Today was a Sunday, calling their supervisor on weekend was impossible. Anicita pressured them into trying. Usually, situation at the border happened cos no one know where in the world is Singapore. Usually, am very chilled waiting. Today i was accompanied by friends. The wait was too long, I asked Anicita and Marty to drop me here at the border as I don’t want to delay their time waiting for me. But they refused to give up on me. After eternity, Paraguayan officers received their answer, yes I can enter Paraguay, country 28.

Continued to Asuncion. They dropped me off at hostel normada. Before leaving, the couple handed me 200 Argentina pesos and 14000, Paraguay currency. I really loved Argentinians, they were generous in their hearts. Can’t wait to return to Argentina which I will. Will zig zag in and out of Argentina, crossing several borders to get to my final destination Usuhuia.