Local Cyclists take on the Andes

Epic sponsored ride for mental health charity has highs and lows


Kristian and Nick's web-site

Mind in Ealing and Hounslow

Wandsworth Mind

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Kristian Moller Butcher from Chiswick and Nick from Southfields, London have just completed a six month self organised charity challenge raising money for Mind, a UK mental health charity. The challenge was to cycle through 10 Latin American countries and climb some of world's highest peaks.

The cycling took them through all eight mainland Central American countries as well as Ecuador and Peru in South America. Their route zig zagged between the Pacific and Caribbean crossing the Mayan Verapaces five times and then followed the spine of the Andes. Often they climbed between one and two thousands metres several times in one day.

This route enabled them to see most of the greatest sights the countries had to offer. The Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala entwined in tropical jungle and the tranquil beautifully landscaped ruins of Copan, Honduras as well as Mayan Tulum, Mexico with luxurious back drop of idyllic white sand beaches. Also mystical Machu Picchu, Peru which was the religious capital of the Inca's, hidden deep in the mountains.

Almost everyday they cycled through breathtaking landscapes. Crystal clear mountain lakes to dense humid tropical jungle. They also managed to surf the crashing breaks of the Pacific including one of the best point breaks in the world Libertad, El Salvador.

They scuba dived with 20 Caribbean reef sharks in the paradise Bay Islands of Honduras and experienced the wonders of the Galapagos, saw lava rocks flow down the active volcano Arenal, Costa Rica, and relaxed by many beautiful lakes including one of the largest in the world, lake Granada, Nicaragua. They hiked in the Peruvian Andes and climbed three of the world's highest peaks in Ecuador; Iliniza, Cotopaxi and Chimborazo.

Cotopaxi is the world's highest active volcano at 5897m and Chimborazo is even higher at 6310m and they both found reaching the summit extremely difficult and painful. The altitude made Kristian vomit and after finishing the climbs he was coughing up blood.

It wasn't all easy riding, sometimes they cycled up hill for hours on end in torrential rain on roads made of rock, tedious and draining. In Peru they spent three consecutive days climbing from sea level to 4255m, cycling uphill on unmade roads all the way.

With the prevailing winds against them they often cycled the whole day with the wind in their faces doubling their cycling time, very disheartening. One day they were disgusted to see a dog get run over by an articulated lorry. They were sitting by a roadside shack where they had just bought a soft drink and were watching the dog meander casually toward the road. A queue of lorries were thundering slowly uphill and one caught the dog with its first back wheel spinning him around and the second back wheel left the dog ripped in half. This was especially off putting as the same lorries were passing them day in day out, some so close they got dragged in.

Another day they were the only witnesses to a motorcycle ploughing into the side of a cow. The driver and pillion wore no helmet and lay motionless in the road both covered in blood with head injuries. The cow lasted five minutes before it gasped its last breath. They flagged down the next passers by for helped and drag the cow out of the road. Just imagine cycling uphill for hours on end on a day you are so ill you find difficult to get out of bed, to meet there tight schedule this is often what they had to do.

They constantly met people who had never seen a westerner and always received the kindest welcome. In San Pedro, Guatemala one talented family treated them to a musical extravagance in their front room. Another family in El Salvador offered them their home for a year, they managed to leave gracefully by agreeing to try a typical snack, pupusas, a horrible maize pancake with filling! One chap in Honduras offered them the biggest mango they had seen in their lives!

The average cycling day was 60 miles and the longest was a staggering 139 miles taking over nine hours. In the end they cycled an amazing 4790 miles and still they say they had the time of their lives!

January 22, 2004