Leroy’s great escape

By Grace Jones | posted on January 12, 2018

IT’S a common occurrence to hear someone complaining about their job, about where they live, or how they want to get away from their lives just for a week or two and go on a holiday.

Albany lad Leroy Savage decided to stop talking and start doing and took it all a bit further when he landed the idea of a bike ride through South America.

Planning for the ambitious 16-month trip began in 2016 when Leroy and his mate Jono (it’s just ‘Jono’) decided they were sick of what they were doing.

“We both needed a change,” Leroy said, when he sat down with The Weekender to re-tell his epic journey.

“I was sick of my FIFO job, where I was living, and wanted to escape a bad relationship.

“We both wanted to go to South America, so we looked at buying a Kombi but decided it was going to be too expensive and too hard to cross borders.”

Luckily the trip wasn’t completely lost when the idea was floated to cycle instead.

“Jono’s cousin had recently finished cycling from San Francisco down to Ushuaia in Argentina. He’d been thinking of doing it for a while. That bloke can sell ice to an Eskimo,” Leroy said.

A quick scour on Gumtree for a bike, and $100 later, Leroy had the 1996 Marin Bear Valley SE mountain bike that would take him more than 14,000km through South America.

Leroy started his journey from Ushuaia, nicknamed ‘the end of the world’, as it is the southern-most city on the planet.

After spending some time winding through Argentina and Chile, Leroy pedalled through Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and Peru.

He said there were only a few moments when he questioned why he decided to tackle such a long ride.

“There was one moment when I was riding through San Pedro de Atacama in Chile, it was just these horrible gravelly-sandy roads and strong head winds,” he said.

“It was all desert with hardly any places from shelter out of the wind. It was getting so cold during the night that my water bottle with about 700ml in it was freezing solid.

“I was there for a week trying to ride through it. When I got to the other side I was a bit physically and mentally broken.

“The thought crossed my mind of going home.”

Despite the testing conditions Leroy continued his journey, cycling through mountain passes and jungles.

“The most disappointing part about riding through the jungle was that I didn’t see a puma,” he said.

“There weren’t even that many birds, just lots of weird insects and howler monkeys.

“I didn’t come across any live snakes, just ones on the side of the road that had been run over.

“I saw heaps of tarantulas though. I’d help them cross the road.”

Since returning to Albany in time for Christmas with his family, Leroy’s days have seemed almost slow in comparison to life on the road.

“I’ve been back for nearly a month and I’m starting to make bad habits again,” he said.

“Life at home just isn’t as free as it was on the road. All you need to worry about when you’re cycling is food, water and where you’ll camp for the night. The routine is super addictive.

“When you get home it’s all about the money, spending it and earning it.

“I don’t have a phone contract, or a license or car, and straight way I’ve started spending way less.”

Leroy continues to cycle around Albany waiting for inspiration for his next trip.

“It was the best thing I’ve done in my life so far,” he said.

“The only thing I could say to someone who is thinking of cycling for a holiday is ‘what are you waiting for?’.”