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Bolivia - Death Road Mountain Biking

Michael Tyrrell - Friday, December 20, 2013

The Death Road Mountain Biking, Bolivia

Key Facts:

Cost: From 400 Bolivianos to 800 ($65-$130AUD)

Start time/End Time: 7:30am/7-8pm

Distance covered: Approximately 54km

Max/Min altitude:  4670m/1160m

Last tourist fatality: Reported to be in 2010

Fatalities: Before traffic was diverted to the new road, statistics showed there were about 100 fatalities each year

Items you must take: Layers of warm clothes, particularly something for your ears (beanie) and a first aid kit

Death Road Mountain Biking, Bolivia

Where is it?

The starting point is located 4670 metres above sea level and about 1 hour from La Paz, Bolivia.

You end at 1160 metres above sea level and the drive back to La Paz is about 2.5 hours. With the La Paz traffic, the return trip often blows out to 3.5 hours.

Death Road Mountain Biking, Bolivia

Who should you go with?

There were mixed reviews for many of the tours by other travellers. Like with most things, do your research before you book to see which company is performing the best at the time you want to go. 

Who did I use?

I used Altitude. The total cost, including entrance fee to the road was 495 bolivianos (about $81 AUD). 

Death Road Mountain Biking, Bolivia

Positives and negatives

Positives

1.    The guides spoke good English and were caring

2.    The driver of the vehicle was safe. This is very important as the roads are on cliff edges and he had to deal with ice, rain and landslides

3.    Each rider was provided with a mountain bike, jacket, pants, gloves, helmet, elbow and knee pads

4.    Amazing scenery and experience going from snowy mountains to the jungle

Negatives

1.    All items had considerable wear and tear - For clothing I suppose this is tolerable. My bike was in okay condition. The brakes were a little weak and the chain broke during the ride, but hey, I survived the death road

2.    We were not prepared for how cold it was - All riders were freezing for the first 30 minutes of the ride. The worst part was the cold fingers as the gloves were summer gloves. The catch 22 is that when you descend below the clouds, the temperature heats up to 25-30 degrees. You are given plenty of stops so you can strip off layers as you descend. Check the weather corresponding to the time of year you are doing the ride

3.    The positioning of the guides - We only had two crashes. On both occasions, there was no guide in close proximity. One guide is supposed to ride behind the last person. This was not actually practiced

4.    No guide carried a first aid kit with them - Yes there are support vehicles, however sometimes they are 5-10 minutes behind. The vehicles only had basic first aid equipment and they were not well organised 

What did I think?

This is a once in a lifetime experience where you may never have another opportunity to descend approximately 3500m over 55km on a tar road and then gravel road with barely any traffic, except for the odd cyclist. Be very careful as there are some slippery sections with loose gravel and large rocks and other sections have excessive mud meaning you need extra caution. 

Which First Aid KIT should you take?

The Traveller First Aid KIT. This is a very compact KIT that is packed with a lot of the items you would need for some of the accidents that take place on this ride. 

Death Road Mountain Biking, Bolivia

Summary

1.    Many travellers expectations are unrealistic. You have to remember you are in Bolivia where government regulations are not strong and safety practices are no where near the standard they should be

2.    Ride within your limits and be very careful on the 40 odd kilometers of gravel, mud, and deathly cliff edges

3.    Take your own Survival First Aid Kit with you like I did. If you don't need it, you are guaranteed that someone in your group will. Our guide said they regularly have broken bones, bad grazes and cuts requiring stitches. An instant ice pack is a must have item in your kit

Inca trail trek, Peru

Michael Tyrrell - Sunday, December 08, 2013

Inca Trail Trek

Inca Trail

Key facts

Cost: Varies from $520 USD-$800 USD

Time needed: 3 nights/4days

Items you must take: Walking sticks, a poncho if you are going in the wet season, travellers diarrhea medication, a blister pack, tape for knees and ankles, a traveller first aid kit, hydralyte tablets to help with maintaining hydration

Where is it?

The start of the Inca Trail is about 2.5-3 hours drive from Cusco, Peru. You finish the trek at Machu Picchu which is high above the town Agues Calientes. To return to Cusco, you can take a train all the way or there are trains to Ollantaytambo where you can change to a shuttle bus. The train is very expensive and most companies will do the second option as it is cheaper.

Inca Trail

Who should you go with?

There are many different companies to choose from. If you want luxury, then pay a little more to get better quality meals and a private tent toilet for your group!

I went for a cost effective option and paid $520 USD with Info Cusco. The food was still great and the guide and porters were solid.

All the porters and guides compete against the other groups to try and maintain high standards.

Should you book your trek in advance?

If you have time to wait around in Cusco, then you could risk waiting. I didn’t have this luxury.  I heard a lot of from travellers that you must book your trek months in advance. If you are going in the high season, then this is a must as there are only 500 permits per day granted with 200 of these for tourists and 300 permits for porters and guides.

I saw tour companies advertising treks with spaces left for cheaper than what I paid, however I was unsure of the quality of these and whether it included your train ticket and entrance fees to Machu Picchu.

What other options are there?

The Inca Trail trek is the only trek that walks the Inca trail and passes through Sandgate to enter Machu Picchu from above. All the other alternative

Inca trek options finish in Agues Calientes and you then must walk up to Machu Picchu (a 45-1.5 hour strenuous walk) or catch a bus with the other tourists.

The alternative treks are cheaper and involve some trekking and outdoor activities such as rafting and zip lining.

If you have always wanted to visit Machu Picchu and wanted to walk the trail, then you must do the proper Inca Trail. It far exceeded my expectations.

What to expect?

Day 1: I left Cusco at 5am for Ollantaytambo where you can get breakfast (at your expense). From Ollantaytambo it is a further 1 hour drive to the starting point of the trek. You walk about 10km on the first day which is relatively flat compared to your next 2 days.

Inca-Trail-Altitude

Day 2: The porters wake you early ready for a departure between 7-8am. The first 3-5 hours is all uphill (depends on your fitness levels) as you make two passes at high altitude. After crossing the highest pass, you head downhill for 1-2 hours to the campsite for the night.

Day 3: Begins with a bit of uphill and downhill followed by more uphill to a view point where you see Agues Calientes. From here it is all downhill to the camp site. This is very hard on the knees and if it rains like it did when I was there, it will be extremely slippery. This is where the walking sticks really come in handy.

Day 4: Involves a 3:30am wake up. Why? The porters need to have everything packed up so they can get an early morning train back to Cusco. You then walk 5 minutes to the guard check point and wait there until 5:30am when they open up the check point. You then walk about 30-45 minutes to reach Sandgate and then you begin your tour of Machu Picchu.

Inca-Trail-Mountains

Which first aid KIT should you take?

To save on space if you carry your own bag, you can get by with your Handy first aid KIT.

Make sure you have it stocked up with added items such as the blister pack, spray on plaster, blister prevention spray and antiseptic liquid. You should ensure you also have the new SMART snake bandage for any contact with snakes or need for compression.

A lot of travellers were sick on this trek so ensure you have appropriate medication that your doctor has advised.

Summary

  1. This trek lives up to the hype, it is an amazing experience walking down to Machu Picchu after 4 days of hiking
  2. Altitude and wear and tear on the body will be your biggest concerns. Make sure you have at least your Handy First Aid KIT and custom pack it

First Aid in the Workplace

Michael Tyrrell - Thursday, December 05, 2013

A good read on the WorkCover NSW website to explain First Aid in the workplace and your responsibilities as an employer.

Check out: http://www.workcover.nsw.gov.au/newlegislation2012/general-risk-management/Pages/first-aid.aspx

Cheers,

Mike

Surfing Peru, Chicama - The Longest Left Hand Wave in the World

Michael Tyrrell - Thursday, November 28, 2013

Surfing Peru – Chicama

Chicama Sea

Where?

Puerto Chicama has one of the longest left hand waves in the world. It is located about 70km north of Trujillo city. It is an easy 1.5-2 hours bus ride and it will only set you back a couple of dollars.

The town

The town seems deserted. There were only a handful of surfers in the water which is a great thing. Finding suitable accommodation is a struggle as you can pay top dollar for something which is not really worth it or there were some poor options available. Hostel Iguana and Surf Hostel seemed to be the best options out there.

Hostel Iguana

The wave

This wave is incredible. Local surfers said that when the swell is right, you can surf from the point all the way to the pier. This would be about a 2.2km long wave.

Sun

You can surf around the point up another bay. Unfortunately the wave does not link up all the way to the point. If it did, you would be in for a 4km long wave.

When I was there the surf was small and the main point wasn’t working. The next bay was and it was an incredible wave. I had the longest waves of my life, a total of 700metres. The 30 minute walk is worth it and the run around after each wave is also worth it. You will spend more time out of the water than in!

Be warned. The water is cold! You will need a steamer at the minimum. 

Need a Steamer

Which first aid kit do you need?

First Aid Components

You are always at risk of accidents when on a surf trip. This wave had a crazy rip running and some sharp rocks to get through. You are always at risk of slicing yourself getting in and out of the water along this part of the coast. I managed to slice my hand and feet open. Being in a remote part of Peru, there is not much available to care for any wounds.

I had my handy first aid kit with me and I topped it up with Manuka honey and antiseptic liquid. I always travel with spray plaster which is a waterproof spray that acts as a bandaid. It is perfect for travel in remote spots where infection risks are high. I would have preferred to have had the traveller kit with me as I went through a lot of my first aid components within the 4 days we were surfing.

Infection is always a risk so wound care is a high priority. Make sure you take the handy kit as a minimum and preferably take the traveller kit if you have more space. If you are travelling with a group, I recommend taking the Home First Aid KIT.

La Ciudad Perdida – ‘The Lost City Trek’ – Colombia, Carribean Coast

Michael Tyrrell - Monday, November 11, 2013

Lost City

Key Facts

Cost: Approximately 100,000 Colombian Pesos (COP)

Time needed: 4 nights/5days or 3 nights/4 days if you are keen

Items you must take: Lots of DEET, sunscreen, waterproof wetbag, garbage bags (to keep things dry) Traveller or Handy First Aid KIT with SMART snake bandage and antiseptic liquid

Where is it?

You depart from Santa Marta or Taganga which is in the north east of Colombia. I opted for the 1 hr flight from Bogota instead of the 20+ hour bus. You then have about 3-4 hours drive to the starting point of the trek. Some of this is on the main highway, the rest is on a bumpy and muddy trail.

Lake

Who should you go with?

There weren’t too many options to chose from. All tours do the same route and stay in the same spots. I went with Magic Tours and the guides, Elber and Freddie were incredible.

Positives and Negatives

Positives

- Incredible diverse scenery

- Swimming in natural water holes, rivers and under waterfalls

- The walk itself is truly spectacular and in my opinion is better than the actual city at the end

- Seeing the local indigenous people living the traditional way

Negatives

- Be prepared for a lot of rain, which actually is pretty refreshing
- High humidity
- Plenty of mosquitos
- There was no first aid kit carried on the trip by the guide
- Blisters
- Chaffing 

What should you expect?

You have to carry your own bag so pack smartly. I ended up wearing the same clothes each day for trekking and had one change of long loose clothes for the evening. You are constantly swimming and crossing rivers so your trekking clothes are always being washed.

Expect to get wet. Take garbage bags to waterproof the inside of your bag and if you have a waterproof bag, take it. You only need a small daypack sized bag.

At night, you stay in a covered but open space with stacks of hammocks. Surprisingly, they are really comfy to sleep in, even if they are a little smelly.

The walking is hard. Some days there are a few hours of up followed by a lot of downhill on muddy and slippery terrain. It is not easy. However, at the end of each day, you feel very rewarded for your efforts and finishing each hard day with a swim is ideal.

Lost City 1

Which first aid KIT should you take?

If you are able to carry a slightly heavier kit, I recommend taking the Traveller First Aid Kit. If you are worried about weight, the Handy First Aid Kit should be your kit of choice. Make sure you add extras like blister protection, water purification tablets and something to assist with chaffing.

Summary

- This is simply an amazing experience and one of the highlights of my South America journey

- There is a high risk of injury on the trek and my first aid kit was used many times by myself and others who were not adequately prepared

- Because I had low expectations for the lost city when we arrived, it was actually better than expected

- Pack smart and light


Lost City 2

New Website is LIVE!

Michael Tyrrell - Monday, November 11, 2013

Hi everyone,

Welcome to our new website. We hope we have created something that enables you to access information more easily on WHS First Aid compliance to ensure that you're upholding WHS laws and regulations in the workplace.

Our 2014 range of WHS First Aid Kits are second to none and we are sure that you'll love them just as much as we do!

Please feel free to get in contact with us and let us know what you think of the kits and our website.

Cheers,

Mike


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