Ruta del Fin del Mundo (SA Vol 6)

I flew back to the Florida from Santiago ten days ago. I’ve been spending my time visiting family and friends, watching baseball (spring training and little league), putting off filing my taxes, and drinking beer with lots of hops in it. My insatiable bike appetite has disappeared and I’m worrying less about my post-tour transition. I reminisce about mountain view campsites as I revise my resume, almost exactly two years since I left my job to hit the road.

20170206_120219.jpgOn February 6, I wake up in the dark to ride the ten km from town to the Lago O’Higgins ferry. The Canadians and I board the Alberto Lorenzo, the smallest and cheapest of the three bicycle-full ferries departing today. I chat with the other passengers, drink my ferry beer at 9 am on the “deck”, look at the pretty mountains. The first three hours are quiet, but I spend the last twenty minutes trying not to puke as we leave our protected channel and cross against the wind and waves. My mind reminds my stomach that that this is LAKE. A bright blue one. The Canadians and I unload our bikes in a hurry to beat the crowd to the Chilean exit customs up the hill a bit, and continue on up the gravel grade in perfect sunshine. I see more walkers than bikes…but no cars!
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We cross to Argentina and the gravel turns to singletrack. I’m happy the trail is dry, but I take my time and walk my bike through much of the beautiful mature, silent forest. I am passed by a bicyclist riding a downhill mountain bike with a BOB trailer, and two backpackers on foot. At the bottom of the hill I pass through Argentinean customs and camp with twenty others, yelling out whenever Fitz Roy reappears from the cloud cover.

The next day starts with a leisurely ferry across the next lake with the Canadians, new friends from Bend (one of whom used to live in Fayetteville WV, I later discover), and Mike, the Austrian with the downhill bike and trailer combo, who has ridden all the way down from Anchorage. I learn that he’s on his third trailer of the trip. The twenty five miles to El Chalten are rough and slow, but the scenery cannot be beat, so every time I feel punished and discouraged by the washboards, I stop and enjoy the panorama. It seems I’m always grinning and happy, so lucky to camp among these beautiful mountains and hang out with my new cycling friends for weeks on end.

I spend three nights in El Chalten. The first day I hike to stretch my legs and catch a glimpse of Cerro Torre, but am unsuccessful as it hides behind the clouds. The Germans arrive into town and we splurge on huge steaks and good beer. I bid farewell to Mandy and Tony as they board a hideously expensive bus to Bariloche. I think I’ll see Crystal and Josh again down the road but never do – guess I’ll have to stop in Bend sometime to say hi instead.

El Chalten marked the start of the haunting Argentinean gales. One night it was so windy at the in-town campground I thought my tent poles might snap. It’s two days to Calafate across the pampa – the first day I push an easy century and camp contentedly on the banks of Rio Leones to watch the moon rise. On the second, I scream into the headwind for the four hours it takes to spin 20170210_115248.jpgout twenty miles. But I still love this landscape. It takes me back to my days in the desert, across lonely swaths of NM and AZ and the continental divide eleven months before. I’ve come a long way since I was learning to ride clipless into the crushing westerlies west of El Paso. Here, as there, you watch your water and double check the mileage to the next source before you ride out of town.
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(In my diary, I compare the wind I encountered into Calafate to the soul crushing westerlies I experienced near New Iberia, LA almost exactly a year before. HEADWINDS CAN SUCK IT).

Calafate is a goofy and expensive and touristy, but I’m too tired to continue, so I stay in town and enjoy the campground wifi (never did bother buying an Argentinean SIM card). It’s 30 bucks for the bus to the park, so I ride out to Glacier Perito Moreno and enjoy the scenery and fun winding ride through the park on another beautiful day (I started at dawn to avoid the headwinds as much as possible).  I’ve not seen much of glaciers, so Perito Moreno BLOWS MY MIND. Blue and clear like the ends of the ocean. Clouds roll in as I sit and wait for it to calve, and I’m glad I brought so many layers with me on the short hike from where I left my bike. I watch a crooked splinter finally creak and collapse, with a loud boom and explosion of blue ice water.

I spy bicyclists camping at the roadside next to a bridge just outside the park boundary and meet Michiganers Torie and John, and friend Steve, on enviable Surly 29+ bikes. And who would appear just before sundown but bike trailer Mike! The next day I head east, the best highlight from the day a FANTASTIC LUNCH in Calafate. And some traffic program/stop at the highway junction, where I was handed a bright orange vest by the cops, and posed for a photograph at the side of the road. Hay un problema? No? OHHHHHHH, esta un regalo? Bueno, vale (and I forget to later discard the super-sized vest, and eventually carry it all the way back to the states as a useless souvenir). I camp by the only river crossing for a hundred miles. Mike does the same but he’s a few hours later and chooses the downstream corridor, out of my sight and apparently hearing. I catch him in the morning and we roll along up a climb and then atop a plateau of pampa, accompanied by guanacos (like alpacas, kinda) and aveztruz (ostrich look-a-likes. One raced me on the roadside as I sped along in a tailwind the afternoon before). More pampa, some gravel, and some cold rain on the road back to Chile at Cerro Castillo.

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We meet the Germans, and new Germans Vera and Richard, in Cerro Castillo as they roll up to our hostel/campground. Then onto Torres del Paine, the picturesque National Park of Southern Chile, on a day of rain and shitty visibility. They’ve changed the camping rules in the last year to require reservations, and it’s a bit of a clusterf (ok, a major clusterfuck). The now-5 Germans and I camp outside the park as Mike tries his luck at hiking the W, the popular 3-5 day hike (he does it two naturally). The rest of us dayhike in fortunately clearer weather. Vera and Richard layover at camp and photograph the only camp pest I’ve encountered on the trip thus far (and overall, besides a second armadillo the next night).

Another day in the park, and I get a little bit of adventure on the road to Puerto Natales in the form of some cowfields double track and views of a fjord. Folks pick calafate by the roadside and I join them (like blueberries, kinda). The riding is prime and I savor every quiet mile.

I spend three days in Puerto Natales, too, enjoying sleeping indoors with a woodstove in the hostel hallway. My southbound journey is almost complete and I want to spend more time with my friends in town, eating huge portions of fish and drinking beer (there’s a20170221_203255.jpg decent cheap brewery in PN). Horst and I chat about punk bands and I watch Vera snag breadcrumbs off the table before any of the other cyclists see them. Frank and Kersten joke about the renovation of their 1930s countryside home and its original owners. Richard and Horst tell me stories about climbing at Yosemite when camp 4 was a summertime free for all. Mike brags so much about sneaking into campgrounds and parks I wonder if he’ll ever be able to return to the Americas. My friends graciously continue conversation in English so I don’t feel left out.

Oh! I forgot. Frank and Kersten and Horst have a blog – THE IRON WHEELS. They take much better pictures than I so you should check it out and google translate from German. Iron Wheels Post from El Chalten

20170222_195232.jpgEventually I return to the road, with only three days of riding left to the south. I follow Route 9 to Punta Arenas – Ruta del Fin del Mundo. This country is full of estancias, more than I’ve seen since Cerro Castillo (the FIRST one, four weeks back near Coyhaique) – it may be tough to earn a living this far south, but the landscape is far from empty, especially if you count the cows. I search out an isolated campsite 20170224_084417.jpgbeside the basalt volcano cone at Cerro Morre but have to work for it, walking my
bike through soggy ground to find the right spot. I’m already too sentimental at the end of my trip to be satisfied with a purely practical camp – I need my vistas and solitude, too. The next day it rains, but I leave the pavement in search of a beach route described on the interwebs (velofreedom and others). In the dry country along the sea, I fill my bottles with bleach water at Rio Verde town site and hope the smell/taste/oxidizing potential will fade after ten hours, ‘cause I’ve got no alternative water source. The beach route is everything I could ask for, with weather warm enough to swim (well, splash bath). I dally and stretch in the sand, and don’t see another soul all day.

The next day I head towards Punta Arenas, hopping the requisite two gates near the abandoned coal mine, and don’t bother venturing to the Seno Otway penguin colony (no penguins this year! Boo). OH and on the way into Punta Arenas, around the mine, I finally encountered bike-stopping mud. It was my first time, and I didn’t know what to do, surprised as hell when my tires were too choked with mud to turn. Too clogged for me to even walk the bike forward?!? Fuck. And tires too muddy to turn add significant weight, making it MUCH more difficult than usual to even carry the bike through the quagmire. I eventually ended up walking Charlie like a quarter of a mile along the brush at the side of the road until the surface conditions improved, and felt lucky (not to mention, I was out of water til town).

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I’ll take a dozen locked gates to lift my bike over, over that mud nonsense any day. I eventually continued along for a long slog through wind into town, and stopped at a bakery to fill up and chat.

Punta Arenas is an interesting place. It’s the largest city by far I’ve encountered since Santiago. It’s not exactly warm or sunny in the summertime, and I sense it may be a little dreary for the rest of the year.  I hang out with my bike friends for a few more days and meet my cousin’s husband’s brother – Francisco arrived in Punta Arenas a few weeks before to begin his three-year deployment on location. He’s a triathalete and is nice enough to not make fun of my beat-up bike. After a final night out with my friends, I box up Charlie for her seventh flight in a year, back to Santiago.

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Ruta del Fin del Mundo (SA Vol 6)

The carratera continued (SA vol 5)

Ack another draft post eaten by wordpress..here’s a recreation. In ten days, I rode from Coyhaique to the end of the road, in O’Higgins…Jan 25-Feb 5, 2017.

In Coyhaique I found a hostel with a computer and friendly staff, and with their advice was able to source a used samsung for 75 bucks, in a reversal of my recent communication fortunes. Coyhaique is the regional hub of Aysen, and I completed an astounding number of errands in one day off the bike. I rolled south out of Coyhaique , back on the grid, the next day under sunny skies with a hint of a tailwind. The weather stayed clear for the climb headed towards Cerro Castillo, for great views of the nearby craggy peaks. The small town was preparing for a festival on Saturday morning, but I didn’t feel like stopping for longer than lunch.

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The pavement ended outside of town and I entered a new landscape of basalt flows reminiscent of eastern Washington. Then a twenty-mile stretch straight into the strong westerly winds as clouds began moving in. The rain continued off and on for two days – I reached the surreal bright blue waters of General Carrera Lake and the village of Rio Tranquilo on a cold, rainy, blustery morning, and decided to take the rest of the day off, with new cycling friends, henceforth referred to as the Canadians and the Germans. The Germans (Frank, Karsten, and Horst) invited me to share their cabin and I was so excited to spend the afternoon warm and dry, relaxing by the woodstove. Later we all went out to the brewery (best beer I found in Northern Patagonia) for Horst’s birthday, so much fun!

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I’d met and hung out with the Canadians at our hostel in Coyhaique a few days before, all of us enjoying a day off the bike in town. They were just about the only folks I met with bikes older than mine- 30-year old custom rigs they’d ridden in 1988 from the UK to Hong Kong, now updated with framebags, seatbags, handlebar rolls for the complete bikepacking experience. The carratera is full of other cyclists, but most folks you meet only once, a few times, here and there. It turned out, however, that the Canadians and Germans and I shared the same cruising speed, a cohort of cyclists moving south.

The skies cleared again the next day, with little wind- perfect for a morning cruise to the local tourist attraction of the marble caves. The afternoon ride was also perfect, along the lake, then through Puerto Bertrand to a prime campsite along the Rio Baker. Beautiful. Followed by a quick hike to the confluencia of Rios Baker and Neff and easy ride into Cochrane the next day.

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True to the 2-days nice, 1-day rain pattern of the Carratera Austral, the weather changed the next afternoon and I rode through an increasingly-wetter old forest on the way to Tortel. Stumbled upon an abandoned ferry terminal with a covered porch for shelter… and watched the Canadians roll up out of the rain just as I finished my dinner.

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A short spur the next day brings us to Caleta Tortel, a little port town near the mouth of the Baker. It’s famous for its network of boardwalks and stairs – built upon the slopes above the harbor with no flat surfaces for roads. The walkways are slick in the rain as I join other tourists ambling along, taking in the unusual setting. Like many of the towns in this part of Patagonia (well, really all of Patagonia), it was settled only within the last hundred years or so, and I imagine it’s a rough place to ride out the winter.

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The next morning I’m up and out of town early – it’s 20 miles to the Puerto Yungay ferry and I’m determined to make the noon crossing. I push hard back down the spur road, then up a steep climb to the pass in three hours of riding with no breaks. To be honest I enjoyed the challenge, racing myself for a few hours. Fortunately the road surface is fresh and smooth, and the scenery is continually epic…I’m about ten minutes late, but luckily the ferry is running even further behind.
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Since Coyhaique, the road traffic has steadily decreased, and on the other side of the ferry the roads are quiet. Villa O’Higgins is the end of the road, the southern terminus of the Carratera Austral. A dead-end, any travelers going further south by car, bus, or motorbike must divert at General Carrera Lake, through Chile Chico and east into Argentina. The last day and a half to O’Higgins are delightful for riding. Empty ripio roads, fantastic scenery, and clear skies. I camp alone on the gravel and sand outwash next to a glacial river with mountains in view in every direction.

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I catch up with Mandy and Tony (Canadians) again on the ride into O’Higgins – beautiful day, and we arrive to town JUST IN TIME to nab three of the last four spots on the morning ferry across Lago O’Higgins. Although all vehicular traffic must backtrack from this point, a singletrack route into Argentina entices cyclists and pedestrians further south. And it’s popular – at least fifty cyclists are camped in town waiting for the ferry. We join them, and wake in the dark to ride the final 10 km to the boats.20170206_072827.jpg

The carratera continued (SA vol 5)

Incomunicado (SA Vol 4)

Get ready for a wordy post with no pictures! I’ve been joking that I accidentally drowned my phone the day of the inauguration, subconsciously intentionally, to avoid all news…sigh. Im a little (a lot) behind on the blogging now, but here are my route recollections and reflections on riding sans phone, for the five days from Futaleufu to Coyhaique. Excuse the tardiness…been too busy having fun to write.

One hurdle was navigation- I store ALL my maps on my phone. Carrying paper maps of sufficient resolution is a ridiculous hassle when you move 40-80 mi a day. Ive been using map app OSMand, with its capabilities of offline contour maps and routing. But the carratera austral is a friendly place for nav- I hit ruta 7 that next afternoon and all I had to do was ride south. In the end, my no-phone discomforts were purely preferential. Turns out, you can get anything you need on the road – the weather report and kms to the next town from the woman working at the teeny almacen, etc. Probably did me good, not checking my map to see how long this climb was, how long the rain is gonna last – just ride, and look, and ride. I do regret the lack of photos. Somehow the scenery just improves as I ride south, and this stretch was truly stunning.

It took me most of that first day to reach the carratera due to extremely poor road surface through Puerto Ramirez and beyond. Got a flat and spent a sweaty hour patching the tube (unsuccesfully), then putting on another old tube which promptly blew out, then resorting to my sole new tube. Five days sans phone AND spare tubes. Needless to say I was ecstatic to discover that the first fifteen miles south out of Villa Santa Lucia were PAVED. another ten miles and i fell in with another cyclist, also **gasp** rolling solo. Vivi is from Sao Paulo and has been touring South America for over a year. Fun riding and camping buddy! 

vivi sent me this pic later:​

The next night, I found a pretty little lakeside site in a free camping area- along with a backpacker from Leipzig, helped Ben from St. Louis dig his volkswagen out of a ditch and then enjoyed another delightful evening with company at camp. And beer and wine, and music! Ben had a guitar and shares my taste in tunes…stayed up late, singing harmony.

I learned quickly that the Caraterra Austral is a superhighway for cyclists. Mostly heading south, for a slight advantage in prevailing wind direction, but more than a few going north as well. It’s like a PCT-style party on two wheels with cyclists from all over the world and a wide variety of equipment and experience. Nationalities substitute for trail names as we leap-frog along and swap stories. The social scene is a fun change from my previous tour, during which I seldom encountered other cyclists for longer than an afternoon on the road or an evening at camp.

Much of the route in this stretch was paved, with a few bits of ripio, and some road construction. I had one day of poor weather, which unfortunately coincided with the most epic scenery of the route, through Parque Quelat with its famous enchanted forest (rainforest hike, skipped when encountered at seven pm in pouring rain on a bone chilling ripio descent) and the classic famous hanging glacier hike (also skipped, since visibility was too poor to actually see the glacier). I rode with Vivi most of the day, and it was a good day indeed for company on the ride. Coming into Puyahaupi, thought she was still behind me, but learned from a cyclist hitching to Coyhaique with a busted freewheel that the Brazilian woman traveling alone had passed an hour before. So I churned through the road construction passages along the fjord, through worsening rain, to catch Vivi before we left the water. 

The rain and ripio made us feel utterly alone riding up and up the switchbacks to the pass, then freezing on the descent- although I later met at least eight other cyclists who’d climbed thru Quelat that day. well, it was a crazy day that ended with a dry tarp-tastic campsire, and an amazing dinner thrown together from my and Vivi’s combined stores. Seriously- a chicken soup starter, lentils with fresh carrot and onion, rice with butter, and colcannon (well, instant mash with dried spinach thrown in). Viv later sent me this pic to sum up the day:


The next two days to Coyhaique were pretty and warm, with another stellar solo riverside camp. Felt so fast to pound pavement for a while, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, knowing the smooth surface would not last.

Aside- been rocking a revised cockpit with Charlie. The half-assed water bottle holder on the front is wildly exceeding my expectations of its longevity.

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Incomunicado (SA Vol 4)

Highs and Lows (SA Vol 3)

As recounted from my journal, 1-20-17, what a fuckin’ day. With a great ending, though – a private waterfront campsite along the Futaleufu River, next to a sweet little Class II (comforting river soundtrack, but not too loud), and a prime view of the forested gorge and snow-capped peaks beyond, downstream. Top ten campsite, one of many along this trip so far- and I thought I was spoiled for pristine, scenic, solitary camps already.

I finally left the town of Futaleufu, having spent three nights there – more than I’d planned, but was knocked out by a combination of a snotty headcold and GI unpleasantness severe enough to require antibiotic assistance. Mid afternoon, following a substantial lunch, determined I had enough energy to venture on, amidst the mountain valleys and under sunny skies. Maybe I was riding a little too optimistically, happy to be back on the road…because less than five miles out, I hit a patch of sand cruising about 15 mph downhill and suffered a skidding slide on the gravel. Ow. Broken bone / broken bike check, ok – although for a few minutes i thought I’d bent my non-drive-side crank arm (fortunately, not, or only a little). Cleaning up in the Espolon river (wondering how one simultaneously suffers road rash on the outside AND the inside of an elbow), I contemplate backtracking to town for another night in Anna’s annex/hostel.

But I hate backtracking. So I eventually continued on my way, verrry slowly. Biggest problem was the bruise and significant swelling in the palm of my right hand- tough to brace and impossible to pull the rear brakes. But by the time I’d settled into my prime river camp I was feeling better, figuring I’d weathered the past few days well and was ready to really crush it as I cycled towards Coyhaique.

That nice feeling of satisfied optimism was a mistake. Sometime in the early morning hours I awoke, disorienting, to my phone vibrating…what? No alarm had been set, no service here…they were its death throes, as my phone sadly, slowly drowned beneath a leaking water bottle (must have cross-threaded the top after taking a drink during the night) in my otherwise bone-dry tent. Fuck. The amount of water draining from the home button as I took immediate countermeasures convinced me it was a goner, and after I bagged it in rice I struggled to sleep, contemplating my future of at least five days of riding to Coyhaique without maps, notes, camera, or communication.

This post summarizes the week of 1/14-1/20, with an itinerary of El Bolson (ARG) – Los Alerces – Trevelin – Futaleufu (CH). Please excuse the dearth of pictures in this post, and the next, beyond the ones backed up with wifi in Futaleufu.

Early out of camp along lake Guillelmo, met cyclist Jo from the UK. Oh my word, are you traveling alone, aren’t you scared? We joke, and then ride along together for the day. For anyone thinking my route is remote – Jo started in Bariloche, a week farther south than I, but otherwise is following an essentially identical itinerary to mine. Beautiful sunny day for cycling with a friend along Argentina’s Ruta 40. Mountain scenery is epic – I keep repeating this, but it’s true and still insufficient to describe these vistas.

El Bolson is crowded on a Saturday, hippies and hitchhikers. We camp together in a busy campground with spotty wifi. Jo takes a day off and I continue south. Nice brewery stop run by a Scot in the early afternoon, and then I goof a bit, failing to take proper note of the dry plateau I ride across (after so many days of frequent rushing mountain streams) and end up having to push 25 miles without water. Wups. At least the wind was at my back for the afternoon!

Pretty lakeside camp just shy of Los Alerces park. I wake to rain with poor visibility for my ride through the park. At least it keeps the dust down as cars pass too fast on the challenging washboarded ripio.

The skies have cleared by mid afternoon- I stop in Trevelin for a few supplies (not many, since I can’t bring fresh food into Chile), and fight a headwind til dusk to camp near the souce of the Futaleufu river. I look forward to an easy day to the town of Futaleufu in Chile tomorrow, which was again, a mistake – I walk my bicycle at least 10 of the 25 flat miles to the border, in headwind so severe I have to stop moving to brace against the gusts. I wonder if the sand blasting will scrub the peeling skin from a week old sunburn.

I cruise pavement to town and find a big lunch (at 4, it’s still lunch) and a cheap “hostel”. Make friends. Window shop rafting companies, trying to find a trip on the Canyon section with a paddle raft. No luck – nobody will schedule a canyon trip for one person, and everybody runs stern mount oars here. Oh well. The next day I feel weak and decide to hike instead with Carolina and Francisco. A four-hour hike crushes me and I nap, then sleep, then sleep.

The next day I’m still weak but suck it up for some river time. Class IV stretch with a couple fives at the end – big water, non-technical at this level, fun wave trains and a couple decent hits and dump trucks. Reminds me a little bit of the lower gauley with fewer obstacles and undercuts. Cold water and 5 mm sleeved wetsuits. Feels good to get out on the water but again, it wipes me out for the rest of the day. I sleep for twelve hours and let the antibiotics work their magic. Eventually I feel well enough to continue, or at least well enough to try. Life is good.

Highs and Lows (SA Vol 3)

The lakes (SA vol 2)

A week ago I was waiting in the santiago bus station, ready to take the bus south and finally start on the bike. Tonight is two nights past the full moon, and I await darkness well fed and in total comfort, watching the evening colors fade across Lake Guillelmot and the peaks beyond. The continuing sound of wavelets lapping the shore will lull me to sleep later.(this was now a week ago….been struggling to get the post and pictures uploaded on spotty wifi).

I arrived in temuco sleepy and disoriented. Charlie was ready to ride- hadn’t even needed to remove the wheels for transport- just rolled her into the underbus compartment as is. A charge of 3000 pesos ( about five bukcs) was collected for the bike. Speaking of charlie- she got a few upgrades during the break. New rear panniers picked up in malaga, new bar tape, a new cockpit setup, and a set of knobby tires for some dirt and gravel. Incidentally, the same tires that came with the bike when I bought it last year- old cliffhangers I am pretty positive are the stock tires that came installed on this bike in 1994. Not dry rotted as far as I can tell…

After a fruitless hour wandering aimlessly around temuco in search of breakfast (a tough errand in chile), I gave up and left town. Due to a road closure I ended up on the shoulder of route five, the min freeway, for about fifteen miles. Nbd. And I got to go through my first toll  both on bike- the operator laughed at me when I rolled up and asked “cuantos cuesta?”

Weather turned poor as I left the freeway.  I took a Lil detour on the way to villarrica, twenty miles of low traffic dirt. And a ferry- a low-energy affair that could only fit one vehicle at a time.  Got a bonus free brew from a couple dudes wait in in the covered bus stop by the ferry, thanks amigos. Rolling hills sapped my strength in the rain but I had good motivation to continue – some new friends, met at the wedding,  had invited me to crash at their rental cottage near villarrica. The rain, and the projected rain the next day, pushed me through an 80 mile ride with a fair share of hills to meet Oscar and Josephine.

Had a great layover day with Oscar and jo, watching it rain outside while drinking tea in total comfort with excellent conversation. Thanks so much! Monday morning I thanked the Scots (they live near glasgow) for their amazing hospitality and headed out in spitting rain. The rain continued as I rode east- never did gt to see the villarrica volcano. Spent much of the day watching waterfalls on both sides of the mountain gorge, and getting splashed as cars passed too close and too fast thru the muddy potholes in the gravel road. By the time I finished my lunch in liquine the weather cleared, so I could climb to Argentina without hassle.  The carirrine pass was no joke. Hit chilean customs around 7 pm with mas subiendo ahead- desperate for a break, I camped about a km shy of the border in a soggy temperate rainforest, monkey puzzle trees overhead and waterfall soundtracks.  

The next day was one of my best yet on the bike. Sunny skies and dirt roads, cruising along through the Argentinean countryside. The landscape changed throughout the day, forests and mountains into drier grasslands and rolling hills. Topped off with a gorgeous lakeside camp ten miles shy of San martin de los andes. 

San martin was a bit of a struggle, crowded, touristy, pricey. Took me ages for the simple tasks of, get Argentinean pesos, groceries, wifi stop. Finally broke free and started climbing out of town. About halfway up the grade came across two Australian cyclists headed the same direction. Had a fantastic day with Ben and Tom, including an afternoon beer stop at the only place around, and later they served me up some gourmet campfire cooking! Full moon, another stellar lakeshore camp, and good company.

The last two days have been excellent. Sunny weather (nose got a little fried), good riding, and the scenery is truly indescribable. The wind here is strong and sometimes a significant challenge. Switched onto pavement for a bit, and Argentinean drivers are both friendly and dangerous as hell. I’ve seen more hawks in the last week than the rest of my life. Life is good. 

The lakes (SA vol 2)

Departures and arrivals- (South America Vol 1)

After a lovely Christmas with the Florida Morans, we all flew from Miami to Calama, a 24-hr endeavor. My cousin lives in Calama with her husband- they’d gotten hitched in the states in november,  but around 25 gringos made the trek to Chile to witness the Chilean ceremony on new years eve. 

We spent a few days in the surreal atacama, hiking to hotsprings, trying to avoid sunburn, sightseeing volcanoes and evaporative basins, catching up with family and making new friends, and drinking pisco sours. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a “group” vacation and it was a fun change to my normal solo routine.

The wedding ceremony was held in nearby chiu-chiu, at the oldest Catholic church in Chile. 

The reception which followed was predictably epic (I finally caved and crashed around 5) and included Chilean new years traditions, such as setting alight a huge wooden nutcracker. I want to bring that custom back to the states…

The party continued in the south with a shrinking number of gringos,  as folks flew back to the states. Drinking and sightseeing Valparaiso and santiago soaked up a few more days. 

But after ten days I was ready to sober up and spend some quality alone time in the mountains. Following one final day of prep in santiago, which included some inexpensive and fortuitous tune-ups at one of the dozens of bike shops on San Diego avenue, charlie and I boarded a southbound overnight bus for temuco.

Departures and arrivals- (South America Vol 1)

Back through the UK (Europe Vol 4)

Merry Christmas! This post is clearly overdue – I cycled back through the UK in July. I originally waited to post this summary because I wanted to include a longer discussion on traveling solo on the bike, but as computer access grew spottier I just didn’t prioritize finishing the post. So, this post is short, just documenting my few final days in the UK. The points I wanted to make about traveling solo by bike were pretty simple, anyway:

  1. Traveling alone by bike rocks. To quote the drunk Coloradan rowing a mini-me (tiny raft) down the Grand Canyon on Halloween, 2015 – I go where I want, when I want.
  2. Something you should NEVER SAY TO A WOMAN TRAVELING ALONE, after you say, “wow, you’re traveling alone?” is “aren’t you scared?”. No. Move along. If I had a fucking nickel…
  3. These questions should DEFINITELY NEVER be followed up by, “no, I mean as a woman, aren’t you scared?”. Like, now I don’t even want you to pay for this beer. I mean, if you do I’ll still drink it, but then I’m gonna bounce.
  4. Nobody really cares where one cyclist, with a teeny tent, camps. Nobody cares! I can camp anywhere!
  5. It cracks me up, to ride up to a little town in the middle of nowhere in the mountains, to be asked- no, but really how did you get here? where did you come from?
  6. Traveling alone by bike rocks.

Summary complete.

Today I boxed up Charlie in my aunt and uncle’s garage in Florida – despite Mike’s comment of, isn’t boxing day Tomorrow? Tomorrow I fly to Chile.  I’m excited to get back out on the bike. Knobby tires loaded up for some serious dirt and gravel roads in the Andes! Anyway.

Back in July sometime, I cycled from Edinburgh to the Lakes District in the north of England. The Scottish Borders region blew me away – I had no idea how pretty those few days cycling south back into England would be. I was greeted at the border by a rapidly-approaching squall line, before 8 in the morning. I’d hoped to make the next town but was still a few miles out when the winds turned into gusts and sheets of rain… I was EXTREMELY lucky to find a food truck parked on the side of a 2-lane road, whose friendly owner let me in to ride out the storms while making me an English Breakfast. Score.

The storms were followed by decent weather as I cycled towards and through the Lakes District. Pretty mountains and lakes, with a couple steep climbs, some mobbed tourist towns, and a pair of stellar small-town pubs. Two nice lonely camps with fantastic views and a tolerable level of sheep shit.I skipped ahead on the train from Lancaster to London – three hours instead of three days on the bike. I arrived in downtown London at 1715 on a Friday with a 12-mile ride ahead of me to the hostel. Riding through London rush hour was SO MUCH FUN. I hadn’t had an opportunity for city riding since Sydney and was pumped to thread in with the bicycle commuters bouncing through the lanes of traffic. Made me nostalgic for riding with my buddies in Baltimore.

I stayed two nights in London, and spent the whole day off cycling around with a light bike. It’s a clean, pretty city, and not so expensive if you don’t buy anything! Saw the sights, from the road, mostly (I did go into the National Portrait Gallery Museum or some such, couple Van Goghs and some other nice paintings). Visited the Royal Observatory where GMT was established (nerd alert). Read half a book in a park with a tallboy. Hardly talked to anybody all day, but fully enjoyed a wandering route through the city in pretty sunny weather. The worst thing that happened to me all week was the meal I ate in Camdentown – my last pie in the UK, and it was so awful I could hardly finish it. The only bad pie I ate on my entire trip!

The day I left London, I biked 80-some miles to Harwich to catch the ferry to Holland the following morning. My last meal out in the UK was a delightful English Breakfast (of the many breakfasts I sampled almost daily for five weeks, I must say my favorite iteration remains the Five-piece Ulster Fry Up). Here are some pictures from London.

Back through the UK (Europe Vol 4)