I’m presuming the answer is no, but if not, allow me to elaborate:
During my ‘Interim PDR’ I alluded to the fact that the South American leg was going to up the stakes in terms of adventure, pledging to seek out ever more off-the-beaten track routes. I also touched on the conundrum of balancing southerly progress and off-road exploration within the confines of ever-present time pressures.
My recent Ecuadorian dirt road foray is a good case in point; stuffed full of adventure, random encounters with friendly locals who’ve scarcely set eyes on a gringo before and a memory card maxed out with photos. This is the Andean experience I was dreaming of. These meanderings come with an associated time penalty though; taking ten days to achieve what could have been done in just two had we taken the direct, yet woefully dull Pan-American highway.
And so we return to the dilemma of what is more important; riding every inch of South America and forsaking some cracking dirt-road routes, or riding the good stuff and accepting that an occasional hop on a bus will be required? Up until recently I’ve been perched uncomfortably on the fence when it came to this predicament. I’d originally fallen in love with the idea of a continuous route and the ‘prestige’ it held, but at the end of day no one’s handing out medals and in reality the only person that actually gives a sh*t is me. The decision therefore finally came in the form of my recent bus trip from Riobamba to Cuenca in Ecuador. At a mere 250km it’s a positive drop in the ocean relative to the overall journey, but it marks the crushing of a mental barrier and the start of a fresh approach. Before you click ‘Unfollow’ in outrage though, let me reassure you that I’m not intending to bus it down half the continent. Just that every once in a while I may press fast forward and forgo some uninspiring highway riding for a helpful nudge in the right direction.
Which brings me to my set of rules for: “When, and when not, is taking a bus acceptable on a bike trip?” (Disclaimer: completely personal opinion)
You’ve committed to meet friends/family within a wildly misjudged timeframe (Pretty obvious, you can hardly tell an eager mum and dad that you won’t actually be there, but to have fun anyway)
It’s a notoriously dangerous stretch (I’m talking genuine intel here, not the ”Skip Mexico at all costs” type advice commonly received from the scaremongers Americans).
If skipping a dull stretch can buy you the time you need to ride some really good stuff you’d otherwise miss out on (Case in point)
Emergency situations (Bike mangling itself past the point of roadside bodging, bad crash, sudden illness etc)
It’s a ‘difficult’ stretch (Man up)
The distance is so far that you lose the ‘flow’ of the trip (The beauty of bicycle travel is that you experience the gradual changes in landscape and culture, jump too far and I fear this could be lost)
There’s a bus full of hot girls (That’s no place for you. You gave up on all that as soon as the deodorant was cut from the kit list)