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Tour of Gondwana - Stage List

Seek Out Diversity;
Appreciate Similarities;
The World is One Family...

The types of experiences that interest me above all others usually involve learning about the innumerable distinctions to be found at different locations on the grand planet on which we live.  If everywhere else was exactly the same as home, there would be no reason to ever go anywhere.  Observing the changes as a land transitions from desert, to forest, to mountains, and encountering unique plants and animals for the first time along the way, stimulates my mind more than just about anything else.  That extends to human cultures as well.  For by noticing the unique aspects of societies, be they modern, or those that disappeared long ago, it becomes apparent that we are all basically the same, and part of one universal family.  The five Stages of the Tour of Gondwana represent the zenith of my lifelong desire to achieve that understanding.

Stage 1: Australia ~Go there~

The journey begins.  The first stage takes place on that most unique of Gondwanan fragments, Australia.  Short days and cool nights of winter and spring will dominate the beginning of this section, which is a counter-clockwise partial circumnavigation of the continent, beginning in Melbourne and ending in Perth.  Hopefully, interesting side trips to Papua New Guinea and Timor Leste will also come off as planned.

Stage 2: Asia ~Go there~

The tour temporarily leaves Gondwana as the second stage traverses the Laurasian bridge that is southeast Asia on route to my next encounters with pieces of the former giant–in India and Sri Lanka.  Along the way I will get a first-hand view of the result of continental collisions, the mighty Himalayas.

Stage 3: Africa ~Go there~

Flora and fauna come to the forefront as Africa, the next Gondwanan fragment, hosts the third stage.  The route winds through the eastern and southern portions of the continent, with a return to the island of Madagascar, to see the places that I missed on my first visit there.

Stage 4: South America ~Go there~

In terms of sheer variety, no other stage can compare with the fourth stage, which meanders through South America, passing every conceivable type of terrain and ecosystem along the way.  Travel though this last piece of Gondwana begins in Montevideo, Uruguay, and, after the longest ride of any stage, ends in Guyaquil, Ecuador.

Stage 5: Central America ~Go there~

The final stage sadly leaves Gondwana behind, returning to Laurasia via the bridge to home formed by the Central American isthmus and Mexico.  Nevertheless, there are still countless interesting sights to see.  The ride begins in Panama City, and ends, along with the whole tour, in a suitably dramatic location, the Grand Canyon.


Astute observers will realize that there is one part of Gondwanaland that I will not be visiting.  I have always dreamt of seeing Antarctica, but, let's face it, that land is not exactly well-suited for bicycle touring.  Furthermore, I generally feel that unless one has a very good reason for going there, such as climate research, it's better to stay away.  Antarctica should be left to the penguins.

Worldwide Route Planning

One of the few things that can begin to approach both the fun and challenge of a tour like this one, is the actual planning that comes beforehand.   I have lost track of the countless hours that have been spent investigating possible routes, searching for the right supplies, setting a budget, determining the best dates to travel, and so on.  All the while it felt, at least a little, as if I were already out there rolling along.   In fact, I enjoy that sort of thing so much that there is a great danger of over-extending the tour plan.  For I am constantly learning of different and interesting places, and then thinking, "Well, why not go there, too?..."  If I don't I learn to ignore those thoughts, or begin the tour soon, there may not be a road left on the entire globe that is not part of the route.

In all seriousness, it's safe to assume that the longer the tour, the more one can benefit from a well thought-out plan. There is certainly great appeal to the more relaxed mode of touring, where one simply "makes it up as you go."   I enjoy that type of travel quite a bit, and, for day-to-day decisions, that is probably the way I expect to operate on this trip. However, for the major factors I think it is best to work out good solutions before the tour begins.

Probably the most important of these is to try to be in each region of the world at the "proper" time of year in terms of climate. This is much harder to do than it might seem.   Unfortunately, the Universe has not taken touring cyclists into consideration when spinning the Earth on a tilted axis. There are many competing factors to consider.  Will it be the rainy season, or the dry? Too hot, or too cold?  Will you be riding into a monstrous headwind for months at a time?  Will the length of available daylight be enough?  Will you be able to maintain a pace that will allow you to cross an entire continent during its "good weather" season?  Ignoring these considerations may find you stuck in a far-off place with only four unattractive options; try to "beat the weather" by covering more distance before it turns bad; stay put wherever you may be and wait it out, possibly for months; abandon a section of the route and skip ahead by rail, sea, or air; or struggle along through unsafe, or at least unpleasant, conditions.

None of these choices are satisfactory, and I spent many hours searching though climate databases and almanacs, trying to decide the best dates for each stage.  The challenge is that any change you make at the beginning of the tour affects the end as well.  So, if you push the start date back to get better weather at the beginning, you may find yourself stuck in terrible conditions later on.  Though I did the best I could in this regard, there are always compromises to be made.  I think the schedule is as good as it can possibly be, but not perfect.  I will be in Malaysia in rainy December, in southern India and Sri Lanka as the spring heat is rising and the monsoons approach, and Central America when it will be hot and stormy with a risk of hurricanes.  However, if that's the worst of it, I think that I can handle whatever may come.

Of course, where bicycle touring is concerned, there is no plan that is so important that it can't be changed along the way.

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