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Cycling the south
By Sarah Ng

The Selkirk Journal, December 22, 2003

A year alone in South America may not be everyoneís idea of a dream vacation, but for former Selkirkian Ryan Parton it beats laying back in an all-inclusive resort any day.

"Itís not really most peopleís idea of fun. It really is mine. I have a hard time doing nothing. I have to be active," he said.

Later this month, Parton will be packing his tent, sleeping bag, cookstove and bike and heading off for the cities and backwoods of South America - alone.

"Iíve done some travelling in the past and Iíve kind of fallen in love with travelling - the more adventure the better," Parton said.

On Jan. 15, Parton will begin a year-long cycling trip in Ushuaia - the southernmost tip of the continent - and heíll end it at the northernmost point, the Guajira Peninsula.

The 26-year-old adventurer prefers to take back routes, travelling to little known locales and mixing with the residents.

Parton, a journalism graduate currently working in the hospitality industry in British Columbia, has been planning the trip since 2000.

He hatched the plan during university in Montreal, as a warm-up to another trip to Africa, but became enamored with South America.

Parton said he ended up with so many different sites and cities he wanted to see, the originally planned short trip evolved into the journey of a lifetime.

He had some travelling partners lined up, but as the trip grew over time, it became harder to find people with the time and motivation.

Parton was undaunted, admitting he prefers to set his own agenda, because he likes the freedom to stop and wander if he finds something interesting.

Another reason for heading off on his solo trip is Parton didnít want to be someone with unrealized dreams and ambitions.

While accomplishing his own dreams, Parton is also hoping to inspire others.

"Itís my way of saying ĎIím no one special, but Iím just getting up and doing it," he said. Partonís been doing some training for the trip, but also isnít adverse to jumping on a bus or hitchhiking should the need arise.

"Iím not out to martyr myself," he said.

With the eventual goal of travel writing, Parton is also planning to submit periodic updates of this trip to newspapers here in Canada, including the Selkirk Journal.

He is also looking for local sponsors, though he will be paying for the majority of the journey himself.

Over the course of 2004, Parton will cycle over 15,000 kilometres, an overage of 40 to 50 km per day.

"I figure it will take about a year. Iíve never done anything this big, obviously," he said.

Parton has cycled through Belize and El Salvador, but only for about two weeks. This will be his most ambitious undertaking by far and heís not taking it lightly.

"Iím terrified. Iím very intimidated," he said. "Everything is unknown. The closer we get to Jan. 15, the less real it becomes to me."

After four years spent thinking and planning and dreaming, Parton said he is having some trouble taking the idea form teh abstract to the concrete.

He also wonders about his personal reactions to the situations he will face.

Being alone in a strange land will pose many challenges for Parton including loneliness, language barriers, physical exhaustion and other dangers specific to South America.

Parton said he canít worry about kidnapping and war - those things are beyond his control. He said his mother worries about the dangers, but he is hoping to reassure her by being in touch constantly through e-mail.

"Anything can happen. I think with something this big, you have to be open to anything, "Parton said. "Itís going to be an experience for sure."