Photos

19 02 2008

I just gone through the photos Jürg and I have taken since Mendoza (the last time I upoaded a few photos). Since I’ve left it so long since the last upload, this took a while. After sorting through damn near 2000 photos, I’ve selected about 250 to upload, but this computer doesn’t like the sound of that, and is protesting bitterly. In fact it protested so much that I’ve culled harder and only 50 odd made it.

Looking, sorting and doing something will all of the photos from this trip may take a lifetime when/if I get back. Perhaps I should take a few less.





End of Carretera Austral

11 02 2008

With some disapointment we’ve completed the Carretera Austral. The scenery is truely amazing on almost the entire route, and is best viewed by bicycle (the point was demonstrated when talking to a German who we’ve seen a few times driving a tank – ok, it’s just a truck with a house on the back – who hadn’t noticed a few points of scenery we tried to discuss, you just move too quickly in any other vehicle). Perhaps a horse would also be pretty good.

Unfortunately I can’t find a few words to sum it up, and rather than resort to a blow by blow description of the last three weeks (which would likely send all of us too sleep, despite it being quite good at the time), perhaps refer to the last post until I can come up with something better.

We met more and more cyclists until we arrived at Villa O’Higgins. Suddenly there were hordes of them/us. And lots were dissapointed – the ferry from Villa O’Higgins (at the end of the road) across Lago O’Higgins was fully booked for several days (tip to anyone following, use www.villaohiggins.com to book your seat – they stick to the capacity of the vessel, 60 seats). So only 6 cyclists made it on this trip, although I know of another 6 who missed out.

We crossed, and decided to spend some more time sitting in the nice comfortable boat visit the O’Higgins glacier. And what a good decision that was. I’ll post a photo when the computer is slightly faster than the glacier. 60-80m high. 3km long. That’s pretty big. We hung around for a few minutes, and watched a few huge chunks fall off (or calve if you insist). Much much bigger than a house. Pretty spectacular.

The crossing to Argentina I’ve been looking forward to for weeks – it’s supposed to be devilishly difficult. We exited Chile on the lake shore, and headed uphill rather steeply for 15 or so km. We met two Dutch coming down who tried to freak us out about how difficult it was going to be, but really, they over-exagerated. We camped a few km into the climb (part riding, mostly walking). The land owner almost threw us out, but we charmed him into letting us stay. He was actually a nice guy, but he’s probably sick of cyclists (since you can only cross this way by bicycle, horse or foot).

At the top, as we entered Argentina, the dirt track disappeared completely (after we’d crossed a river without a bridge) and turned into a walking / horse track. Which started out reasonable, but degenerated and took us a few hours to do the 6km. Mostly walking, with considerable sections needing the bikes to be carried. Over many logs and obstructions. The final was a steep descent that really needed the front panniers of most bikes taken off. But impossible? Hardly. I managed without removing any panniers or bags, but then I don’t have front panniers. Still a challenge and something a bit different (but I think the crossing around the volcano in Ecuador was more fun, and far, far more scary).

Another lake crossing by boat, and a camp by the river (and some freshly caught trout in addition to the normal pasta for dinner – gracious Michel and Virginie!), and today we’re in El Chaltén, only a short distance from Fitz Roy. A more impressive massif than I expected.

The wind and weather until here has been exceptional. The rain still hasn’t dampened us significantly (a bit in Villa O’Higgins and some yesterday, but for Patagonia it’s been exceptional). Today the wind started. I expect it to get stronger, but as an indication we had a tail wind for a few kilometers today. On a rough, horizontal dirt road, no peddaling, the wind gusted to push me from 8km/h to 28km/h at one point (and often above 20km/h). A few times we’ve almost been blown over. Steve and Kev, remember the wind that blew Steve over in Tassie? The same, but all day. She’s strong.

I’d upload some photos, but we’re on a satellite connection (sloooow), and really I’d still prefer to be outside. Sorry. Perito Moreno and Torres del Paine are around the corner and my camera card is almost full! Ahh, the stress of a traveling life 🙂





Carretera Austral

3 02 2008

I don’t want to be here.

I mean, of course, in the internet café missing out on even one minute of the glorious weather and scenery of this place. So this will be brief. We are slightly stuck for a day (because we need food for the next, and final, part of the Carretera and it’s Sunday – everything is closed).

Highlights:

  • Glaciers. Huge, amazing slabs of ice. All over the place.
  • Mountains. But I’m getting used to those. What will I do back in (flat) Australia?
  • Lakes, like you wouldn’t believe. Really, I never knew water in a lake could have so many colours.
  • Rivers, with amazing blue/green water. It’s not blue, it’s not green; and it’s cold.
  • Camping every night. Lots of stars, almost the same as back home – but I can tell we’re far south, the southern cross is pretty high in the sky.
  • Washing in freezing cold streams. The Dutch I’m with seem to be crazy, they swim in water I can hardly stand in – it’s too cold!
  • No rain for almost 2 weeks! We are counting our blessings! Sun, blue skys and a little sunburn.
  • Cyclists. We were a group of 9 for a few minutes and have been a group of 6 for a few days now, and there are lots of others just in front of us. All relatively long distance cyclists.
  • The road. Ok, its a bad, corrugated, poorly laid dirt road, but it keeps the hordes of tourists away. And it’s not so bad if you slow down (to 10-15km/h).
  • Not being at work. Yep, I still realise I’m lucky to be away from ‘normal’ life. But I’m feeling more and more like not going back as the end of the continent grows close (5-6 weeks to go…). Where too next?

The main bad thing is there is only 230km to go until Villa O’Higgins – and the end of the road :(!





Carretera Austral Part 1

28 01 2008

North CarreteraNorth CarreteraNorth CarreteraI’m in Coyhaique, half way along the Carretera Austral. I’ve written an entry, but I’m not happy with it for now, and I haven’t managed to upload any photos.

So, I’m alive, tired, and continuing south. More details to come when I find another computer. That could take some time in this region. Maybe give me a week or two.





Daylight around here

16 01 2008

Someone should slap the Argentinians. They’ve instigated daylight savings. So now, on the western side of the country the sun rises about 8am, and sets – get this – at almost 10 at night. Add twilight to that, and you’re well into sleeping territory when the fire for the barbecue is being lit.

Which means catching a 9:30 ferry, 25km from the campsite, was rather ambitious. I don’t enjoy 5am starts, especially since this is (in theory) a holiday. But we made it, and began the touristy Crus de lagos from Bariloche in Argentina to Petrohué (or Puerto Montt) in Chile. A rather scenic, and rather expensive, way to cross between the two countries. I must admit it was rather scenic, and I’m not sure if the constant bombardment from the horse flies was part of the price, or at no extra charge just for the cyclists. The most used word is slipping from “wow” to something like “f&%$ing flies”. Really, I catch myself saying “wow” more than you could imagine on this trip – there is so much that is different from the normal – sitting in front of a computer – life. I hope that starts again soon – Patagonia is just there!

But we’re in Peurto Montt for a few days at least. Some gear needs repair, the bikes need cleaning. And the ferry is full for 8 days. Bugger. So I think we’ll ride around the inlet, and the short jump to Chaitén will instead be a ride. But there are two parks on the way, so it’ll be pleasant (if we end up going there). Not sure. Will sleep on it, and a bed for the first time in several weeks.





Lagos District

13 01 2008

Is living up to it’s name as a great tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the Argentinians have also heard of it and it is currently summer holidays. So I am meeting many, many cycle tourists each day – mostly Argentinians from the big cities (read: are city folk who don’t respond to a friendly wave or hello most of the time). The campsites are FULL and the roads are also relatively busy with mad Argentine drivers. I’ve also bumped into a few more long term cyclists – a Dutch family, a couple from Lithuania and two couples from Germany. Looks like the further south we head, the more cyclists are around!

After the comparative boredom of the highway south from Santiago to Victoria, the roads have been far more pleasant. I have also managed to drive myself into the ground with a desire to get south quickly. In ten days of riding I’ve travelled 1300km, with only one rest day. Not a bad effort if I do say myself. But now I am tired, really tired. The sort of tired I can only compare to after a hard lot of exams at uni. I don’t really know, but it’s probably not that far from the same tiredness as those with new children. My legs are buggered, and I can hardly stay awake. The best news is that I’ve caught up to Jorg and Rahel, and the next few days will involve several (relatively expensive) ferries – and not a whole lot of riding. So I’ll be back to my old self soon.

After Victoria the road I’d chosen headed straight at Volcano Llaima. The military control informed me that this one was, indeed, the volcano that had erupted on 1 Jan this year. So? Well, the lava had flowed far enough down the volcano to cut off the road. Ahhh. Change of plans. In a burst of usefulness, the soldier told me about a similar dirt road that went more to the west, and had (so far) been outside the lava flow, and more importantly was open to traffic. It followed the “Ruta Interlagos” a sort of ‘tourist drive’ (and wasn’t on my map). So, rather than go back the way I came, I took it. The road deteriorated. and then seemed to hit a cliff. I rarely have to walk, but this road was steep. Lock the bikes brakes on, take two steps, haul on the bike, lock the brakes on. Repeat. Was real fun at the end of the day. Someone (on horseback) told me about a lookout at the top that would suffice as a campsite, so I kept looking out for the top. After a while I noticed I could again see the volcano, only 15-20km away. I didn’t hear anything, but suddenly there was a significant cloud of smoke. Another eruption. No danger, but a pretty special occasion.

I camped within sight of the top hoping for a lava show after dark – but the clouds had better ideas and instead sent me to bed early.

I continued to follow the Ruta Interlagos for the next day, since I had no better offer, and it continued to head toward Villarrica (the right way anyway). The dirt road, lakes, views of volcanoes, trees, green farms, flowers… just kept coming. Pretty nice stretch.

In defiance of the blue skies, I performed a (successful) rain dance by washing my cycling gear – while camping, alone, at a great spot by a river. Not even any bugs – sometimes you just get lucky. The next morning, everything was wet, but I was prepared – I have a second set of clothes now. So no real drama, the rain cleared in the afternoon, and I though that might have been it. The next night I camped next to a waterfall, much higher in the mountains, as I was heading back toward Argentina. Again, nice campsite. Again rain in the morning. Except this day, the rain was more like a bucket of water had been emptied over me, more or less continuously. The whole day I only managed 80km, and a two hour ferry ride. I was cycling along the edge of the lakes, but occasionally though maybe I was in one of them. It was wet!!! Pity that my rain coat really is too old. So I got cold and wet. Remember the washed clothes? Well, the main set were wet, the spares were wet and it was still raining – not so comfortable now. But I did avoid the snow that I later found out was only a little way south. Of course snow always looks great in the mountains, and huge forests cannot survive without rain – so you take the bad and hope that the good is better. The forests and terrain around here are worth a day or two of discomfort. It’s just a pity that I kept going through the bad days – if I’d stopped I could have been reasonably comfortable in a campsite somwhere and seen the views after the weather cleared. One lives and (hopefully) learns.

So after many miles of grinding my chain away (rain does wonders to the dirt roads, and doesn’t assist in maintaining a clean bike), I arrived in San Martin, and another two days (one of more exceptional views of lakes and mountains, and dirt roads, one of wind) took me to Bariloche. From here, there are several options, but Jorg, Rahel and I narrowed it to two. Take the asphalt road in Argentina for several hundred kilometers past more lakes, but on a road that essentially looks, err… long and cut out some of the Caraterra Austral, or take a reasonably expensive ferry back into Chile and head toward Puerto Montt and the start of the Caraterra Austral. The views promise to be worth the ferry (and legs took a small part of the vote – moving without further killing the legs seems like a good idea right now).

So we’re on the edge of Patagonia. The weather has already given us a taste of what is to come. The cyclist heading north haven’t yet scared us off (100km/h wind – pah!). The scenery is just getting better. I think I’m getting to the good bit 🙂





Volcanoes

7 01 2008

Always seem to provide the most excitement. This one (Volcano Llaima) is currently errupting, so the police wouldn’t let me get near. Again helping to save me from myself. Pity though, the road I had planned to take was cut, and the only alternative is horribly steep. And dirt. But scenic. So I took it.





Warning: 600km of boredom ahead

6 01 2008

street-sign.jpgOr the sign should have said that. The main road south of Santiago is a thumping great two lane divided highway, and I’ve seen little else for four days. At least the surrounding land is irrigated, so it is green and ocasionally some trees grant some shade. But it is, in essence, dull. The great, almost flat road, makes for fast riding though; I’ve cracked just over 600km in 4 days. Ushuaia here we come!

About 100km before Victoria (the turn off as far as I was concerned), around Los Angeles – hang on, did I take a wrong turn somewhere and end up in california? – the road started to undulate more, forests appeared and it wasn’t quite so boring. I passed through Collipulli. Similar to Collie, Richard. They have a thumping great bridge across a valley, possibly the only thing of note about the town. It is a big bridge.

But, since Victoria, on the 50 odd km road to Curacautín, everything has changed. The summer flowers are blooming amongst the grasses in the fields. The smell of the grasses, is well, summery. The trees are big. The valleys are also deep, but that doesn’t matter – the views are worth the climbs. Oh, and the sky is blue. Blue like it should be, no smog anywhere.

The next part is into the lakes district, and if it is like this, it’ll be very pleasant. Past a volcano or two. Possibly the odd lake. If you are stuck in an office, hope you enjoy it 😉 I’m out here, loving it!!





Solo again

3 01 2008

After a week in Santiago, culminating in the New Years thing (with mucho fireworks), we saddled up and headed south once again. It was expected to be a little boring – mountains on one side, desert on the other, and a thumping great motorway full of cars, trucks and buses to follow. And it was exactly like this. Except the desert is actually green farms – there is a lot of irrigation here, and lots of wineries.

But it was still boring. Same ol’ for a long way. So Jörg and Rahel talked themselves into a rapid cycling day, which will see them riding about 450km south in one hit (riding a bus perhaps). The real reason we wanted to speed up a bit is summer is advancing, and Ushuaia is still a long way away. I, being a little crazy, would like to ride the whole way, and so I’m riding the boring bit. I hope to catch up to Jörg and Rahel in a week or so, when we get to the good stuff again around the Siete Lagos (7 lakes), or possibly in northern Patagonia. Depends on how speedy we are.





New Year

1 01 2008

Another day in Santiago. We woke up, began packing and realised how much we had unpacked in 6 days, and so taking another to put it all together. Tomorrow, for sure, back on the road.

So I’m killing time on the internet. Seriously killing, lots of time. For example, finding innane things on Youtube.

“Travels around and around and back again” has been replaced by Adventures of Stephen. The round and round is missleading, I’m just going south for now 😉 Also the back again seems to be in the distant future.





Santiago. Buying

31 12 2007

I’m in a bit of a purchasing mood. The day after we hit Santiago we bought a new tent each. Yes, thats right folks, in a period of only a few hours I viewed, selected, ummed and ahhed and actually broke out the plastic to buy another tent. That brings the tent count to three and a hammock, but only one here, where it counts. I think there’s room for a few more. If your interested, it’s an MSR Hubba Hubba and I got the two person version in case I meet a stranded chica somewhere in Patagonia.

You can stop laughing now Jess.

I have since lashed out on a new pair of shoes – the Peru brand I bought just before Cusco have now officially died – they have been very sick for several weeks. So I went for brand name this time (since it is available in Santiago, the city with 7 million people and every consumer good known to man). More cash, but hopefully more life. We’ll see.

I now look more like a cyclist again. New shirt and pants. A photo will no doubt capture the garments in the not too distant future. You’ll just have to wait for it.

And my Christmas present to myself is a domain name. If I can make it work, this site (or a new one hosted somewhere if I can get round to doing it) will be accessable by the URL:

www.gray-matter.org

.com and .net were taken, but I look forward to messing with the subdomain names: whereisyour.gray-matter.org, etc. 

Happy New Year. I imagine there will be a party in Santiago somewhere, and it is likely that I’ll be behind in sleep for at least a week (we’re planning on leaving on 1-1-08 to continue south). So please don’t expect anything sensible from me. I’ll be either busy bouncing around my new tent, or sleeping in it.





What I did for Christmas

29 12 2007

And my birthday.

Mendoza to Santiago isn’t all that far. On leaving Mendoza, the road starts out heading south, before curving back westward to the north and heading into the Andes once again. The map (lying, cheating, stealing map) suggested that there might be a secondary road that ends in the same place just south of Mendoza. So we took it. Unfortunately there was a thumping great river not on the map, without a bridge. Turns out it’s impossble to cross at the end, so we burnt 30km retracing our steps. Not happy Jan.
But we found a train bridge, and after several goes asking for directions from the police, we got across – not the train bridge, but a dam wall. Just down stream. The nice river valley, complete with trees and nice temperature, gave way to desert, an oil refinery and an industrial sector. So we pushed on, up the beginning of the Andes to Potrerillos. I was a bit frustrated at the days outcome, we’d traveled around 37km as the crow flies, despite riding all day. It turns out I haven’t relaxed into the “travel today and we’ll see how tomorrow turns out” mentality totally, yet. But it was the first day with a bad direction decision – and we escaped Bolivia without the normal touring cyclist outcome of having to follow a train line at some point, so I can’t be too unhappy.

Up in the mountains again, the scortching heat of Mendoza fell away. It’s asy to see why it’s popular up here in the summer – you can sleep at night again.

The next day had no difficult roads to chose, just the main one toward Chile. We followed the river Mendoza, and at times watched the rafters below us hurtling downstream. To be honest it looked like more excitement on the road, but the kayakers supporting/guiding the rafts looked like they had fun. We got held up in Uspallata, by talking (phone and other tourists) and buying food for the next days (this was the 23rd and we expected a general closure of shops around Christmas).

So from Uspallata there was a relatively simple matter of climbing to the top and rolling down into Chile. So we split it into two days. The first (24th December) we rode up a valley aided by a super tail wind. The valley narrowed and the rocks started to display all sorts of colours. The land also had green grass (kept green by the rediculous amount of snow they get here each year). So we had colours ranging from green to reds, yellows and browns of the rocks, and an impossibly blue sky, with some white fluffy clours as well. And towering mountains everywhere. It was pretty hard to deal with (especially since I like mountains – if you hadn’t worked it out).

On the way up we met Doreen, a German out practicing for a Caraterra Austral ride beginning in late Jan. She was planning to ride down in 2 days what took us 4 to come up. I gather she made it since she’s back in Santiago now.

We had a Christmas Eve / 30th Birthday lunch in a basically close skiing resort in Argentina, and continued up to Puente del Inca (a natural bridge across the river Mendoza – flowstone out of a cave, a bit strange). Decided that this was a pretty poor place to overnight, and rode up to the entrance to the Aconcagua national park. The park ranger wouldn’t let us camp in the park, but we snuck around the corner and camped in a small clearing on gloriously soft grass (just outside the park). Luckily the grass was soft, because there is an absence of trees at this altitude, and the hammock was (again) used as a hutchy / tarp tent. It works, so long as the weather is fine (no wind OR rain).

For birthday dinner we cooked a special pasta and tomato salsa. Ok, so it was basically the same as all the camp food we cook, but I got a special big serving as Rahel wasn’t hungry. Yumm! The stars came out, we were almost in the shadow of Aconcagua (we would have been if the sun set to the north – we would also have been in all sorts of trouble if the sun setto the north…) – what else could you want from a birthday campsite?

So the next morning I did what all children do on Christmas morning, woke up before sunrise to unwrap my presents. Except I misjudged sunrise – by anhour or so, and I sent myself back to sleep for a while.

But still before sunrise I jumped up, grabbed all the warm clothes I could lay my hands on (cleverly all made ready the night before), and rode back to the park entrance and lookout for Aconcagua. I was rewarded with a brief glimpse of the first rays of sunlight hitting the top of the big mountain, through the clouds, before the clouds moved in and covered the top for the next hour or so I stood there, camera in hand. Perhaps the altitude again, but another ‘take your breath away’ moment.

“Wow” was generously used. The Austrians we met yesterday, who claimed they would brave the overnight temperatures in their car were not to be seen. I was cool in my sleeping bag. Perhaps they froze, or chickened out and headed for warmer climes in the night.

I went back to the campsite and fell asleep in the sun, waiting for Jörg and Rahel. The cold night had given way to a beautifully warm morning. Just right for a Christmas breakfast of stale bread, and half a teaspoon of honey. Travelling with style!

The tunnel (and the top of the pass) was close, so we didn’t rush. Except I got it into my head that I should go over the top instead of the easy way, through the tunnel. So I left Jörg and Rahel on the nice concrete road, and headed up and over the 8km and roughly 1000m climb pass.

Why? Don’t know. Why didn’t I turn around when I started to snow? Don’t know. Are you crazy (like the English couple I met in a car on the way up suggested)? Don’t know. Has your brain frozen, since it got down to 1°C with a pretty strong wind, and was about 4000m? Don’t know. What day is it? Don’t know. Must cycle. My fingers hurt. Why can’t you talk properly? Jaw is really cold. Stop bugging me with questions, the top is only just there – I can see it.

I was hoping that the snow and clouds would clear as I approached the top. The thunder reminded me that it probably wouldn’t. But after 2 hours of freezing fingers and toes (the rest was fine under several layers of high tech clothes) I got there, and rode down the other side. The view was, contrary to the suggestion of a Norwegian I met a few days ago, poor. Lots of mountains, I assume, behind the thick cloud. The weather really changed quickly – but that should not be surpising, this is the mountains. Real mountains, not that stuff we have in Australia.

My 2.5 hour, err, stupidity had take Jörg and Rahel 15 minutes, so they were understandably ready to get out of the cold (and a small amount of snow) when I met them on the other side. So we rode down hill into Chile. Having a Merry white Christmas.

The Chilean immigration was a total farce. It must have taken us two hours to get through, and I lost my patience with one of the officials, which is generally not considered wise when wishing to enter a foreign country. I would explain the saga, however it would involve several expletives and possibly get quite detailed. And make me angry again. Lets just say there were several improvements I could suggest, and indeed did so, but they were taken the wrong way. The upshot was we ate Christmas lunch / dinner in the customs station of two sticks of metwurst and the last of our stale bread (suppliment by some fresh bread things that Rahel managed to find).

Chile didn’t dazzle us with it’s initial impressions (as Argentina had done). There was talk of just going back.

But we proceeded, rolled down the biggest set of switchbacks so far and were battered by a rediculously strong headwind, and a horribly cracked concrete road. Did I mention we weren’t impressed by Chile initially? It continued when we got to Los Andes (quite a long ride later). Ordinary, expensive campground, everything closed (we didn’t actually make it to the city we found out later) and no vegetables to cook with! But we cobbled together a pretty tasty pasta concoction with TWO bags of salsa (a real treat, let me tell you). Cooked extra spaghetti (hey, it’s Christmas!) and ate standing around a table in the camp ground while fixing a flat tyre.

Couldn’t be better 🙂

Riding into Santiago meant following an autopista (#57), with frequent “no bicycle” signs, but there was no other option. The only time the authorities actually cared was going through a 2km long tunnel – they wouldn’t let us ride, and took us through by car. First car ride for me since Cusco. We braved the city chaos, and jumped into central Santiago. Looks like we’ll be here for a few days, so we took a nicer hostel, slightly more expensive, but worth it I think. It is also around the block from a Massive supermarket, so we may have found some Black Forest cake to celebrate a(nother) successful Andes crossing, a Birthday, Christmas and my six months in South America. And just becase it was there.





Merry Merry and Happy Happy

23 12 2007

Mendoza is a lot bigger than I thought. Three MacDonalds that we saw. 😉

Today I have internet access, but no phone (and will have none for a few days at least), and only for a few minutes – so this will be brief.

To those at home, on the road, and well elsewhere: Happy New Year. And Christmas stuff also. The party at Julie’s I hope goes well 🙂 Sorry I can’t phone in. Make sure you celebrate my birtrhday appropriately. Drink lots of wine for me.

We turned right at Mendoza to head at Santiago via Aconcagua (as per Richards suggestion). Hopefully tomorrow we get a decent view of the mountain.





Photos

21 12 2007

I’ve uploaded some more to Flickr. Not sure if I should continue to do this… 3 hours of effort required for 50 odd photos (after the computer crashed twice). Frustrating.





Mendoza

20 12 2007

Some more desert. The last forty kilometers into Menoza was much better, being a winery district.

Menoza, like Salta, and to a lesser extent, San Juan, is a big place. I’ve found the second MacDonalds of the trip here (not a good thing), but it gives an idea of the size of the city. They have everything here… good food, wine, a siesta, hot weather this time of year… Seems like a good place to me (after only two days).

We’ve cracked 32° South (Ushuaia is at around 54°S), which puts us more or less on the same latitude as Perth (north of Bunbury… ahhh, Bunbury…), Port Augusta and pretty close to Newcastle. There is growing danger that I may actually make it to Tierra del Fuego (the southern bit of South America).

But first I need a new tent. The hammock just isn’t going to cut it in Patagonia. I think I’ve done pretty well to get this far!





Current plan

17 12 2007

For those that are interested, the plan for the next few days is:

San Juan today (17th)
Ride to Mendoza (18th and 19th)
Spend a few days in Mendoza (20-22 maybe)
Ride to Santiago de Chile, over another pass (23, 24, 25)
Spend some time in Santiago – maybe as much as a week (26-next year). A few things we need to get there.

So it looks like I’ll be away from chaos for Christmas.





Last two weeks.

17 12 2007

Desert. Boring.

In an effort to get through it and find the more interesting parts further south, we’ve gone almost 1600km in 13 days. I think I went a bit too far yesterday – we completed 165km in the heat to get to San Juan and afterwards Rahel wasn’t speaking to me and Jörg was also tired. Opps, sorry. So we’ll shack up here, in the airconditioning if possible and spend at least a day… perhaps shopping!





I’m getting old.

17 12 2007

Really. I didn’t think it would happen quite like this, but it seems to.

I may have mentioned that there was a late night soccer game a few days ago. I was tired the next day, but I thought that might be normal. Also the muscles started complaining after 100 fast kms. Some guy tried to interview Jörg and I about our travels for his radio program. I think I may have sounded incoherent. I never knew – the broadcast was at 6 am the next day, and as it was our ‘rest’ day, I wasn’t getting up for that! The rest of the day I felt pretty normal, I guess that is because we spent most of it at the internet. Nut on returning to the campground… Oh dear! I felt like a cripple! I could hardly walk from the tent to the chair! For some reason my chest felt like I’d broken a rib. This has continued or several days.

Jörg and Rahel assure me that by the time I am forty I’ll get used to the pain and be able to move almost freely again. What do I do between now and then? And I’m not even thirty yet! (a few days away, but not there yet). What oes this mean for my adventure racing days? And Rogaines…..!

Is this why old people are grumpy all the time?





Photos

12 12 2007

Sorry, no new photos just yet. This computer doesn’t understand ‘USB’ or ‘DVD’. Perhaps it’ll be done by Chistmas.

<later, much much later> But it does understand ‘facebook’ – and hence I have just spent wasted errr 4 hours on the computer. Luckily it was too hot outside to do anything anyway…





North Argentina. Apologies to Vegetarians.

12 12 2007

What happened there? I’ve been going relatively hard the last week or so, first to catch up to Jörg and Rahel, and then to keep up. 1200km in 11days. That’s why there have been no posts here. The map looks a lot better, looks like I’m starting to make some progress!

After the excitement of spending the best part of a week curled up in bed in Tupiza (and a few days talking to Mikkel, Motorcyclist from Denmark), and then finishing off in Bolivia, I finally hit the land of the long red steak. Not before time. For a few days I couldn’t eat steak, but that is currently being rectified – two nights running we have had asado (BBQ), and last night I got the fire just about right – the meat was (almost) perfect!

I’ve already crowed about my first long distance day. This ended in Tilcara, where I met two Belgian cyclists who are going north (Carl-Eric and Adrian). I camped, and the storm I hadn’t noticed broke just before I got the hammock sorted out at 10:30. Around 3am I could get to sleep, because the rain and lightning/thunder stopped. Wasn’t an ideal sleep. Well, the next day was slightly shorter, only 180 odd km. I did make it to Salta that day, riding along a thin and winding Ruta 9 between Jujuy (pronounced Hoo-hoo-yee), over a pass and loving it. The road surface was nice and smooth, there was a bit of a pass, but the trees everywhere made it feel like I was in a tropical forest – which I guess I was. It was so different to the last few months, and I really enjoyed it. So despite being tired (almost 400km in two days), I flew up the hill, and caught up to another long distance cyclist/mountain climber, Reinhard from Austria. Yes, Argentina could be called the land of cyclists – we seem to be bumping into them all over the place.

But I got a rest day in Salta. The other cyclists I knew were at the Casa del Ciclista, and Ramon and his family took me in as well. Unfortunately, most of the party had departed that morning, only leaving Jörg and Rahel and Jose (from Spain). But still I had a full dose of Argentinian hospitality. Big dinner (BBQ one night), and made to feel very welcome. It was a pretty special experience – possibly more so by me being semi comatose after the long few days cycling. Having dinner begin around 10pm, with bed about 2am doesn’t help recovery, but it is a pretty good way to live. It suits me anyway. It doesn’t suit cycling though.

Salta was a bit of a blur. The first big city since Cusco, but a completely different world. In some parts it looks like any other city, with big shopping malls (and prices to match), almost everything is available. I wouldn’t have minded exploring a bit more – or maybe I was just enjoying the chicas (there are some very fine looking women in Argentina, let me tell you…).

From Salta we have gone more or less directly south for 750km, on almost exclusively paved road (except for 30km which is inexplicably dirt road – I don’t know why, maybe they haven’t got round to it yet?). It has been mostly riding through desert, with little oasis where they put the towns. There has also been a fair amount of irrigated land, and a lot of it is used for grape growing. So they make wine, which also means they have pretty good food – one seems to go with the other.

I have finally relented and agreed that my front tyre was dead. Since there was almost no tread, the sidewall was cut twice and the inside had separate from the tyre frame, I guess it had reached the end of its life. 6120km. The other one (on the rear) is still going – but not for much longer I suspect.

Just before Cafayate we passed through an amazing gorge with red cliffs and a few very narrow and oddly shaped side gorges. The views were great, the sun was shining, we were going downhill with a strong tailwind. Life is good. The valley was well worth a visit.

The next few days are a story about wind, heat and desert. A strong tail wind turned into a strong cross wind as we approached Amaichá del Valle. The first day toward Belén was pretty good until about 1pm, when a fierce headwind sprung up, straight out of Patagonia we feel. The wind stopped us from going as far as we wanted, so we camped in a bus shelter for the night (to try to avoid some of the wind). Second day to Belén saw us get up at sunrise to try to avoid the wind. A patch of dirt road slowed us down, then the headwind came in to deliver the knockout. Luckily we ducked, and got into Belén. Then we thought maybe we should leave earlier (after eating with the Argentinians at 11pm). The wind thought the same thing, and at 10am the headwind came in. The wind meant that we were riding at full power and getting about 9 to 14km/h. Sooo slow! So we stopped for a siesta, got sand blasted in the heat, and stopped for the day 10km later in San Blas. Turns out to be a really nice campsite there, run by Herbert. For some reason I thought that I could play football (soccer) with the Argentinians for an hour until after midnight in borrowed (too small) shoes after cycling 100km. Two days later I am still tired and can hardly walk. The following day we again rose before sunrise and left early so in addition to the wind, I had the added enjoyment of trying to stay awake (and stiff and sore all over).

I haven’t mentioned the heat. It’s been hot, over 45°C in the hottest part of the day. We are trying to work around that part of the day, as do the locals, but cycling at night is still not appealing. Perhaps when the wind gets really strong in Patagonia we’ll give that a go.

Cycled yesterday with a Dutch couple, Maurice and Miranda (edit-for some reason I had Miranda’s name as Anna, until July 2009!) (who live in Belgium). So of course it was a pretty late night, with another big asado. Meat here is ridiculously cheap, you can get a kilo of prime BBQ steak for 12 pesos and Lomo (the best steak they have) for 15 pesos (4 or 5 dollars). So we cooked 2.5 kilos for 5 people – a crazy amount of meat for the Europeans, and still pretty big for me. I managed to finish it all though (it just tastes so good!). I suspect I’ll get bored of the red meat diet before Ushuaia, and I’ll work on making ths the case. Perhaps I can be a vegetarian later to compensate.