Below we’ve put the answers to a few questions we often get asked. Want to know more? Drop us an email and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Where did the idea to cycle around South America come from?
Laura suffers from wanderlust and began hatching plans for the next overseas adventure after returning from working in Kenya in 2008. Having backpacked a lot in the past she was looking for something a bit different and hit upon the cycling idea as she knew it would grab Paddy’s attention. She chose South America as a destination as that was the one place Paddy had always wanted to go. Paddy didn’t need too much persuading once he realised she was actually serious.
Have you done anything like this before?
We’ve never done anything quite so extreme, but we’ve done lots of shorter cycling trips. Paddy started the trend when he did Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2008 with friends. Since then together we’ve cycled over 1,000 miles of the North Sea Cycle Route, the Coast to Coast in the UK and the Dunwich Dynamo. Laura backpacked around east and southern Africa on her gap year and we’ve both done a lot of other travelling not by bike.
How long do you plan to be away for?
We started in May 2011 and want to be back in time for the London 2012 Olympics which start in July. We think it will take us 12-15 months to do the whole round trip of South America.
Can you do it all in that time?
We’re going to give it a good try. By our calculations we need to average about 40 miles a day to complete the 15,000. Some days we will go further, some less and we also need to factor in days off for recovery and sightseeing, so our daily distance will change. We’d love to cycle 100 per cent of the route by bike, but we expect at times we might need to hitch a ride on a local bus for safety reasons, logistics or even to make up time. We’ll be disappointed if we have to do that but we won’t beat ourselves up over it.
Why go now?
We will both celebrate our 30th birthdays whilst we’re away (Laura – September, Paddy – March). Laura tends to freak out about getting older, and we are anticipating turning 30 will hit hard, so thought it was wise to get away from it all and pretend not to be grown ups for a while.
What about your jobs?
Laura’s just finished working for the homeless charity, Crisis. Paddy is a Catastrophe Modeller for a Lloyds of London insurance syndicate, he’ll be working up until we leave and is very happy to be able to go back there when we return.
How did you meet?
We met whilst at university in 2001 when we got placed in the same section at the University of London Officer Training Corps. Paddy helped Laura to get over obstacles courses, run and to jump out of planes. We got together in 2007 and have been pedalling about on lots of different adventures ever since.
Where are you most looking forward to visiting?
So many things stand out to look forward to especially as neither of us has ever been to South America. The beaches and the Christ the Redeemer in Rio; the wine lands of Argentina; and the beauty of Chile which we’ll see at the start of the trip. Then the salt plains in Bolivia, the culture and dress in Peru and Machu Picchu of course, and Colombia for its fantastic cycling roads. The section from Guyana to the Amazon will be an adventure too as we know so much less about it.
Where are you worried about visiting?
We’ll be keeping an eye on the security situation in Colombia in particular as we go along, but from accounts from other people who’ve cycled through as long as you avoid certain areas it’s fine. Laura isn’t that keen on the idea of sleeping in the Amazon with snakes and creepy crawlies, but she’ll just have to deal with it.
What practical problems do you expect to face?
We imagine that we might have back wheel problems with the weight we are carrying, especially on Paddy’s bike. But we’ll pack all the spares we think we might need and can carry. Improving our bike maintenance skills is definitely a priority before we go.
What do you think will be the most difficult part?
Initially we thought it would be the cycling, with the climbs in the Andes and the strong headwinds, but we know from experience that although unpleasant we can handle difficult cycling. The one thing we’re unsure of is how we’ll handle being together constantly for a whole year, in sometimes stressful situations and living in a tiny tent. Paddy tends to go silent when tired whilst Laura likes to talk/moan about it. We’ll have to learn quickly how to deal with that.
Can you speak Spanish or Portugese?
We would have liked to cleverly respond in Spanish here, but er, we can’t. If you’d have asked Paddy in Spanish what he’d like to drink he could have used his GCSE Spanish to order two beers. Laura would have looked at you confused. Let’s just say we have some learning to do.
Where will you stay?
We’ll mainly be camping but will stay in guest houses, hostels and lodges where we can.
How will you afford it?
We’ve been saving since late 2009 when we decided to go and that will pay for us whilst we’re on the road. Most of the kit we’ve been buying here and there to spread the costs out, and we were incredibly lucky to get sponsorship for our bikes.
Can I come and cycle with you?
We’d love to have people come out and cycle with us on route or even meet up with us in towns and cities when we’re on a rest stop. If you’re interested send us an email saying where you’d like to meet up and we’ll get back to you.
How will you keep in touch when you are on the road?
We’re taking a few gadgets (Paddy’s addiction) on the road so we can hopefully keep in touch when we’re away from civilisation. But we’ll be using breaks in towns and cities to get online and post blogs, tweet and put up our latest pictures.
What support have you had for your trip?
We were really lucky to get sponsorship for our bikes from Ark Underwriting, Paddy’s work, which really helped us out. Huge thanks to them for their support of the whole thing.
Also, massive thanks go out to DoGood Advertising who designed our logo – thank you guys!
Friends and family have been hugely supportive, particular mention to Pontus for website tips, Lizzie for first aid lessons and some excellent pharmaceuticals, Steve for endless essential kit advice, Linda for advice on how to keep our legs in shape and everybody who has provided help and support along the way. Thank you all.