Last October, when I first started mastermining this trip, my first step was to research the route (see itinerary), determine the best time of year (reverse seasons), and the feasibility of doing it alone (Yes! Well sort of). I found all the answers to my many questions on biker blogs like “crazyguyonabike” and the Lonely Planet’s Thorn Tree forum. I swear bikers are the nicest people. No competition. They pay it forward!
After I felt confident about the route and feasibility of the plan (and at the same time totally freaked out!), I started thinking about equipment. I kept reading about 26in. wheels being the standard in SA. Of course my old Trek 520 has 700c wheels. This probably wouldn’t be a problem for most folks, but I don’t know how to fix this shit if it breaks down, and my Trek is ancient (I bought it for $200 about ten years ago). Finally, I decided to put my old stead down and invest in a new youthful ride (the fate of all bikes!). I decided on a Surley Long Haul Disc Trucker because by all accounts it seems worthy and, more importantly, I’m just not that into equipment. I want what works but can’t get all crazy about the minutia (don’t judge!).
After my bike, I researched panniers, racks, lights, stoves, iPads, tripods, cameras, and tires. Every thing takes time because I want things to be durable but at the same time affordable that means waiting for sales, discounts, gifts, craigslist, buying, taking back and finally deciding. Like a stove, for example. I have to consider what kind of fuel I’ll find in the countries I’ll be traveling through. Chile has white gas but Bolivia most likely doesn’t. Argentina is very limited in the areas I’ll be in. Mostly I’ll find only petrol for cars. This is doable but very hard on your poor little camp stove not to mention your pots and pans. So, what do I buy that can accommodate all these different needs? Still pondering the answer to that question! Water purifiers pose a similar conundrum. If you get water from mostly rivers and streams you might need a filter. On the other hand, if you’re getting your water from a tap you don’t have to filter, but you will want to get rid of any viruses it might have. I should know. I drank un-purified water in Potosi last time I was there and got typhoid fever. In the end, when it’s your first time out of the starting gate, there are a lot of little factors to consider if you want to begin on the right peddle. Getting all crazy with gear is a first for me. Usually, I start out with whatever is in the back of my closet and go from there!
Sometime around March, I read a very vivid detailed description of the SW corner of Bolivia where I will be riding during my first month of travel. Words like remote, desolate, barren, otherworldly, little oxygen, hot days and icy evening, nonexistent signposting and sand surfaces started to play head games with me. I imagined my skeleton out there next to a bike with a flat tire and empty bottles of water. Suddenly, I thought it might be nice to have a companion for this leg of the journey until I get my “bike legs” on.
I put an ad on the bike blog, “crazyguyonabike” for a companion for the Salar de Uyuni portion of the ride. I was happy that people were interested. I probably got about ten serious replies from people in places like Indonesia, Ireland, Germany, Holland, France and the United States. At the end of the day, Dana Hansen from Greenbay, WI. decided to answer the call to adventure. Dana came out to visit me in May so that we could talk in person and decide if it would be a good fit and a feasible idea. Probably against his better judgement, after going home and pondering it a while, Dana agreed to this zany ride. Thanks Dana! I promise you won’t regret it!