Two brothers from Northern Ireland and an English friend have completed a muscle-tearing 10,000km cycle from the southern tip of South America to the Caribbean coast of Venezuela.
Alastair and Colin Montgomery from Limavady and David Middlemass set off from the world’s most southerly city — Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego in December.
And after seven months in the saddle — which took them up the spine of the Andes in Argentina and Chile — they continued through Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Brazil, ending their charity marathon in Caracas, Venezuela.
All three gave up well-paid jobs, Alastair with the Bank of Ireland, Colin as an IT consultant in London, and David as a teacher of English in Spain.
And this week, they basked in the sunshine of the idyllic Caribbean island Isla de Margarita before heading back to Northern Ireland.
Of course, it had to happen — within a few kilometres of their destination, one of the bikes developed a major crack — but they managed to have it welded at a local technical college and went on their way.
Alastair said in his blog: “The class of apprentices were mad keen to do the job and we soon were on our way.”
A couple of days earlier, they were cycling through the jungle, “where we saw wild monkeys, otters, toucans, macaws, a lovely old tortoise and nearly cycled into the backside of a jaguar”.
It was a happy ending to an adventure of a lifetime which — after a flight via London and Buenos Aires — saw them start off in the summer of the far south, ride up the east coast of Tierra del Fuego and take the ferry to the mainland and the city of Punta Arenas in Argentina.
The mammoth cycle then continued along the Argentina-Chile border, which took in the famous Torres del Paine National Park and the Perito Glacier.
After a week’s stay in Mondoza, the most mountainous part was the crossing of the Bolivian border, through the salt flats there and on to the city of Potosi, which — at 4060 metres — is the highest in the world. And between Bolivia and Peru, they stopped to view Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake on the planet.
On then to Peru and a trip to Machu Picchu, the world heritage Inca site, and up the desert coast to the capital city of Lima.
In his blog, Alastair said: “We had planned to cycle through Columbia, but that proved rather dangerous, so we headed east and through Brazil and the Amazon basin.”
When they entered Venezuela, they were able to watch Spain beat Germany in Euro 2008, and go on their way rejoicing. And so to the Caribbean coast — having crossed the Equator after starting off near Cape Horn in the deep south.
In the final blog entry, Alastair writes: “We have just cycled from the extreme south to the extreme north of the continent — what a strange thing to do.”
The cycling trio say they did it for themselves and for charity — and the charity is UNICEF, for which they have set up a donation site through JustGiving.com.
Full details of their adventure can|be found on their website — www.cyclediaries.com .