Lessons from Abroad: Learning Simplicity and Boundless Gratitude

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Cycling touring is no easy business, and it certainly isn’t for everyone. It can be rough, dirty, dangerous and exhausting. This type of travel is not for the faint of heart, but for the few who dare to challenge a country (or a continent) on bicycle the rewards are endless: embracing simplicity and experiencing true solititude in the most beautiful corners of the earth without the presence of a single other human (aside from your amazing cycling companion)…. Gaining a deep understanding of your own physical strength and a simultaneous humility knowing it’s okay to push your loaded bicycle up a hill when you’ve hit your limit (not as easy at it sounds!). And most importantly a genuine appreciation for the simpliest daily rituals – a hot shower, a delicious meal, lights after dark. These little things become precious.

This entry is about a few of the lessons I have learned about myself and the world on this crazy adventure through thousands of miles across South America…

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Home sweet home. A vagabond’s life for me and my honey.

1. Most of the Things I Considered “Normal” are actually Luxuries.
I’ve never been a person that falls prey to some of the silly, superfluous things America has to offer – I tend to skip the moving sidewalks, I try to prioritize necessity over desire and have always chosen to skip the consumer madness of Black Friday. I was a pretty simple chick to begin with.

But bicycle touring South America has taken my appreciation of the little things to the next level. When you’re out camping in the wilderness, with no stores and certainly no Starbucks within a thousand mile radius of you, you learn to love the simple morning act of a black cup of coffee. Sometimes you fetch water from a stream, boil on the campstove and toss some instant coffee in the bottom of your dented camp cup and have a beautiful, peaceful, quiet cup of morning joe. That’s it. None of that extra-hot, extra-foam, 1/8th of a spenda soy latte nonsense that exists in our culture. I now feel fortunate to have milk in my coffee (sugar is a separate luxury unto itself).

Next normalcy-gone-luxury is clean laundry. The reality is stream washing your clothes just doesn’t leave that fresh, downy scent you’re used to at home. And if it’s cold and you might have to put something back on that is damp, we generally just say forget it. Clean laundry is a luxury. Probably for most people in the world, looking lovely and smelling like a sheet of fabric softener is pretty low on the priority list… Same goes for cycle tourists. Be grateful for those crispy, clean socks mah friends!

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Tent Selfie! A make-up free, unshowered happy camper!

2. Giving up Cosmetics and Re-Defining Personal Hygiene
As a chick on the road, you have to re-define what you consider necessary to “survive.” Like most girls, at home I have a least three different types of shampoo and conditioner, and an even greater number of soaps, body washes, face creams….you name it. And this is coming from a girl who can barely curl her own hair.

Visualize this: One stick of mascara (that I have used less than 15 times for lack of a desire to remove mascara without makeup remover), one stick of deodorant, a travel sized hair brush, a travel sized shampoo (doubles as bodywash) and two cheapo, disposable razors that have lasted FOUR MONTHS. The end. But you know what I realized? None of the material girly things I’m used to having at home could have improved my life experience traveling here. My life is no better with access to more beauty products. I can be perfectly content with a clean face at the end of the day and no makeup for months on end. How you look is not what makes you. I date and travel alongside a guy who agrees and still likes me when I’m a bit grimy; an indication of a true gentleman and the kind of guy you want around.

3. I am now a professional at showering without hot water.
A common reality is that the hostel you were looking forward to after five days of cycling without a shower advertised that they had “Agua Caliente!” – hot water – only for you to have stripped your dirty cycling clothes in the bathroom and be unpleasantly surprised by a stream of frigid water…that isn’t getting any warmer. Guess what? You’re too dirty to care. I can wash my hair and “necessities” in record time, in frigid water, with less than three ounces of shampoo to my name and come out feeling REFRESHED. Seriously. Nothing feels better than clean hair and ditching your cycling stench. I can also get myself clean with exactly one pot of warm water (luxury) – and yes, it’s the same pot we use for cooking. If you had proposed this to me before leaving I would have giggled at the impossiblity. But anything is possible!

My lesson from this is to reconsider your 20-30 minute showers. Sure, it’s nice sometimes, but water is a commodity that humans are quickly ruining and using up so much faster than our poor environment can handle. If you think you can’t pull of what your normal routine is in 15 minutes (or way, way less) – I am here to show you that you absolutely can! Save that agua!

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Some of the weird stuff we eat while cycling – for your viewing pleasure, Instant-Mashed-Potato-Hot-Dog with Ketchup. If it sounds gross, you haven’t cycled far enough. Best when eaten riverside after several hours on the grind. (Guest appearance: The Man Beard).

4. FOOD! 
I remember debating with my boyfriend an endless number of times on where we should go get food while living in California. In America, this has NOTHING to do with what is actually available and only with what “sounds good.” Start cycle touring and you are instantly in love with all food. Your appreciation of a hot meal is hard to express. We live on pasta, rice, veggies (when we’re lucky), oatmeal, cookies and instant soups. We even eat bizarre combinations of things, our favorite being “Pasta Sandwiches.” I guess it’s like a meatball sandwich sans-meatballs? Carbs on carbs…a cyclists favorite! In short, debating over which restaurant you want to go to and then having a WHOLE MENU to choose from is a true luxury.

During our travels we spent 11 days trapped in a cabin without enough food (See Border Crossing Blog for fully explanation of that debacle). We had to ration and for the first time in my life I was actually hungry, without a solution to my hunger within arms reach. My gratitude for food is completely different. I took that luxury so for granted at home and of all my experiences so far on this trip, this has been my most valued lesson I have learned. I can even say that my brain has possibly processed my deprivation – my whole life I have been a person that strongly dislikes raw tomatoes and even more hated than that, cucumbers. Now, I can eat both and actually kind of enjoy them. Weird how traveling can change you, eh?

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This hill was over a mile long, and followed by five more just like it. Gnarly day of hill climbs, to say the least. Those specks are our two French bike touring friends!

5. My Own Physical Strength
I was genuinely nervous about the hill climbs I knew I would encounter before we arrived in South America. I knew that none of the training I had done would even compare to the challenges that lie ahead and had no idea what to expect, and more importantly whether or not I was strong enough to hang.

What I learned is that perseverence and determination can overcome what physical strength you lack. Beyond that, you have no idea the limitations of your own body unless you push them. I have hit my wall here in South America on several occasions – I have been exhausted, tired of pushing the bike up endless hills, hungry, cold and sore all at the same time. I’ve even shed some tears when I hit this point, shouted my fair share of expletives and needed a pick-me-up from the ever patient boyfriend. BUT, I SURVIVED! I made it up those hills, I made it to my bowl of pasta every night, to my comfy sleeping bag and I pushed through the tiredness (literally).

Life is like a hill climb. The more you suffer, the more you overcome the doubts you have in yourself, the more you persevere beyond all odds the better the payout. The climb never lasts forever, and the harder you work the sweeter that blissful coast downhill will be.

This is just a peek into the vast expanse of lessons that can be learned from traveling. If people tell you your trip is “crazy,” you’re doing it right. Keep your chin up. The things you learn about yourself can never be replaced and you truly have no idea what’s in store for you until you’ve made it to the other side.

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Is it all worth it? Hell yeah, it is.

Beautiful Bariloche!

Before we embarked on our journey to South America, I recall having a few small apprehensions about what to expect. Could we drink the tap water? Would we stand out too much as gringos and feel vulnerable? What would it be like? Of course, an endless list of concerns had also been voiced from our friends and families but most of these were easily dismissed as “over-cautious” by our adventurous hearts.

To think that I held any nervousness about landing in Argentina and traveling to Chile, from my perspective today, is laughable. As we close our chapter in these two beautiful places, I can only think back on the countless friendly, incredible people we’ve met, the insane amount of beauty we’ve ridden through and the innumerable positive memories we will have for a lifetime. The small things that previously concerned me were all based on what fear or ignorance I had left in me. The water was perfectly safe. Not once did we encounter someone with bad intent, on the contrary we met SO many that were interested in our travels and beyond ready to lend us a hand. The drivers, albeit a little crazy at times, seem to be acutely aware of their surroundings and we were not run over during our months here! We were beyond safe and happy.

Leaving Argentina yesterday felt like leaving a second home – we’ve learned Argentine Spanish, shared mate with the locals, eaten our weight in empanadas and gained so many new amigos. It is bittersweet; we have so much more traveling ahead of us (Peru and hopefully Bolivia!) but will miss Argentina and Chile greatly.

Bariloche, Argentina
We were lucky enough to spend our holidays and New Year working at a super fun hostel in beautiful Bariloche. Bariloche is a lakefront town surrounded by breathtaking peaks and often visited as a ski resort town in the winter. By summer, it is frequented by tourists, beach go-ers and recent the high school grads of Argentina. It’s known for it’s cervecerias (craft beer! Yay!), chocolate shoppes, wine and hiking. We were happy to say the least…

We found ourselves in this great little city by way of hitch hiking. My lone unfortunate event of our travels thus far occurred south of Bariloche when an especially strong gust of wind caused an encounter between my head and the pavement with my bike in a heap at the edge of the Ruta 40. Luckily, because I always wear my helmet, I walked away with a few minor scratches, a broken brake hood and no concussion. Quite a few bike tourists out there find it fashionable to strap their helmet to their rear panniers and forget that business altogether. Perhaps they never fall. I hadn’t been planning on it either, and am grateful I stay prepared. Saved us a trip to the hospital!

Obviously post-fall, I was ready to “hago dedo” – translated as “use my thumb” – and hitch a ride to the next town. After what seemed like forever, a little truck screeched into the gravel ahead of us and offered to let us ride in the bed of his truck. We happily accepted! Panniers and cycles loaded in, we sat against the back of the cab facing the travelers behind us, feeling grateful to no longer be bothered by the Patagonian wind.

It was shortly thereafter that it started to sprinkle. We had driven up into the mountains in this little white truck, already taken farther than we could have hoped for, when Marco (our salvavida) jumped out of the cab. We were ready to start unloading everything when he explained that we needed to get in the cab so we didn’t get rained on! We moved his personal belongings (which he risked getting wet instead of us) and jumped in the front. Turns out we were lucky enough to be riding with one of the most friendly, patient and helpful Chilean truck drivers out there. Despite the fact he didn’t need to stop in Bariloche and had already been driving for ten hours, he took us all the way to our destination. He even stopped and ran into a store at some point, and emerged with juice and pastries for us. We learned about his family, his job, his life in Pucon and his experience living in Pasadena as an ice cream truck driver in the 1980’s. He was truly wonderful. We were lucky enough to buy him dinner before he headed on his way down the road.

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Marco – Nuestros Chilean Salvavida! (Our Chilean Lifesaver!)

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Moments after our arrival in Bariloche, the city came alive with soccer fans celebrating Racing’s championship win. We had no idea a game was even happening when, as we pushed our fully loaded cycles through the street, it started to fill up with exuberant soccer fans celebrating their win. We ducked into the nearest hostel to avoid being devoured by the crowd.

Bariloche ended up being filled with wonderful friends and fellow travelers. Devin met a few tourists in Monterey, California while working at his restaurant that happened to be from Bariloche. We had made plans to have dinner at their house and pedaled our way to their neighborhood. MaJo, Javi, Caro & Pali were the BEST hosts ever, fed us delicious food and ice cream and were beyond welcoming. We all shared lots of laughs, practiced our Spanish and a spent a beautiful day at the Lake with two of the brightest young people out there. It was time wonderfully spent before we headed to the hostel we would be working at for the next few weeks.

An awesome resource for vagabonds such as ourselves is WorkAway.Info. It lists different types of jobs travelers can do in exchange for a bed and sometimes food. We worked at Universal Travelers Lodge in Bariloche, a fun hostel where we had the opportunity to make a lot of new friends. We spent our Christmas Eve dinner at a table of seventeen other travelers from all parts of the world. Ruben, the hostel owner, pulled together a traditional (in the USA) dinner of turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans and all the good stuff we were missing from home. We also had the good fortune of passing New Year’s Eve at the hostel, dancing around in the livingroom-turned-dance floor while wearing sparkly masquerade masks. Working at a hostel gave us the opportunity to befriend people from Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Israel, Poland and even get to meet some rad travel-minded fellow Americans.

During our time in Bariloche we also attended La Montana Spanish School on Elflein Street. The few weeks we spent with practically private Spanish lessons boosted our confidence and ability to speak proper Spanish a great deal. I highly recommend spending the time and money taking a few weeks worth of Spanish courses while traveling if you’re serious about getting fluent.

Bariloche is known for outdoor activities. Rock climbing, rafting, kayaking, horseback rides and trekking are among the local favorites, although we were pretty busy between Spanish classes and working and didn’t have the chance to dabble in all of this fun stuff. If you are into outdoor activities, this city is perfect for you. Transportation is really easy with an efficient bus system.

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Cerro Campanario – An absolutely stunning must-do hike in Bariloche.

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Llao Llao

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Had lunch on the lawn of beautiful Hotel Llao Llao with this lovely view.

Information for Travelers:
Taking the Bus: Taking the bus is the easiest way to get around in Bariloche. One must purchase a tarjeta (card) for the bus at a kiosko. You pre-load it with pesos and when you get on the bus you let the driver know where you are going and he will deduct the appropriate fare. Very easy.

EVO SPORTS Bicycle Shop – Best bike shop in town. Matias and Rebeca speak both Spanish and English so you can find help here if you are not bi-lingual. Matias special ordered a part for my bike, prices are fair and the store itself is very clean and well-organized. Specializing in Mountain Bikes but a good place for bike tourists, as well. Plus Matias and Rebeca are awesome people.

Universal Travelers Lodge: Good accomodation for a fair price $AR 180 for dorms. Reservations required (Hostelworld.com or Hostels.com). Breakfast included with access to backyard, BBQ and heated pool. Positions usually available for work exchange (4-5 hr shifts in exchange for a bed and breakfast) – see WorkAway.Info.

Backpackers Hostel Bariloche – Centrally located near the Centro Civico. Walking distance from literally everything you need, this music-themed hostel has a fun vibe, is clean and run by a multi-lingual owner, Hugo.

Manush Cerveceria – One of the most popular cervecerias in town with an excellent range of Craft Beer (we recommend the “Honey Beer,” or “IPA.” Happy hour from 6-8pm with a great half off deal on pints. Make sure to try the Papas Fritas Super Manush – DELICIOUS!!

Antares Cerveceria – Just down the street from Manush with equally good beer and a happy hour as well.

El Boliche Parrilla – You can best get the best steak or filet mignon here for a great price. Highly recommend stopping here if you want some excellent Argentine Parrilla.

La Montana Escuela de Espanol – Classes are offered on a weekly basis for about $180/week. We found this to be a competitive rate. The teachers are friendly and helpful and the group sizes are usually less than five people, which is perfect for practicing but also getting the tutoring you need.

The Best Things In Life Don’t Come Easy – The Carretara Austral, Chile

DSC00727 As a bicycle tourist in South America there are four elements that can make for a challenging day of cycling: Rain, gravel, hills and the infamous wind. On any given day one or more of these can rear it’s ugly head to test one’s patience and strength and in the end, build a tougher person than the one that arrived on this continent to begin with. The Carretara Austral is notoriously prone to all of these elements rendering it tremendously challenging, and still one of the areas most popular cycle touring destinations – and with good reason.

The Carretara Austral truly brings new definition to the saying “the best things in life don’t come easy.” Hours will be spent grinding up loose gravel roads (sometimes in the rain), until our little fingers are numb from the cold and our patience has all but run out, to be delivered to the world’s most unknown and spectacular sights. In one moment of being awestruck with the glory of nature, with the vast greenery of a snowy rainforest or the endless waterfalls of a magical Chilean paradise, the entire difficulty of the day is forgotten. And more importantly, absolutey worth it! This magical route through Chile is a must-do in your South American cycling adventures. DSC00688

Villa O’Higgins to Cochrane
We rolled out of Villa O’higgins after a night spent celebrating our freedom from Candelario Mancillio. Eleven days spent cramped into the cabin had us more than ready to stretch our legs and get back on the bikes. It felt incredible to be back on the road, fresh air in our lungs and finally with the ability to move forward with our travels. From the start, the Carretara Austral has you at a loss for words. I spend so many hours on the bike pondering if it’s even possible for me to do the scenery any justice through description. To say that is beautiful, endlessly green and vast beyond comprehension is to barely skim the surface of what this terrain holds. It has the allure of a fairytale world, like we have somehow slipped into JRR Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

DSC00684 The ride out of Villa O’higgins is on a gravel road, through mountains that receive so much rainfall that you can look up and see up to twenty waterfalls cascading down the mountains in one stretch. An incredible sight to see (especially for some drought-ridden Californians!). We were in a frozen rainforest for all effective purposes – surrounded by the chorus of millions of birds, some of which howl like monkeys, adding to the feeling that you are cycling through the jungle. The first half of the ride out of Villa O’higgins before reaching Puerto Yungay starts out quite nicely and turns into some serious hill climbing by the end of the day! It’s not terribly easy but it’s absolutely worth it and regardless of where you head on the Carretara Austral, it’s perfect training for what lies ahead.

DSC00694 DSC00690 DSC00698During the four days it took us to reach Cochrane, we took in some truly breathtaking scenery. How this place is basically undiscovered by most South American travelers is bewildering, but also fantastic because you share this place with so few people. We were fortunate to have the company of two French cyclists, Fred and Lucy, and two German cyclists, Christoph and Rene, for this stretch of the journey. Because we were moving at similar pace with the same destination, we often crossed paths with these lovely folks throughout the day and at some point even camped at an abandoned schoolhouse together.

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View of the beautiful mountains from our wild campsite for the evening.

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Home sweet home for the night is even better when my survivorman rustles up a fire for us!

We fell asleep on our second night out of Villa O’higgins at the foot of snowcapped mountains, surrounded by arid rainforest with a view of several waterfalls. We wild camped up a lightly used dirt road, which opened up into a perfectly flat spot for camping. We were close enough to a river to hear it quite clearly, but when we ventured for water we literally became engulfed in the most fascinating, vibrantly alive little world under the canopy of the trees. Strange mushrooms protruded from tree-trunks, drooping moss dangled from every limb and tiny ferns sprang up from everywhere. Small flowers sought sunlight in little patches and the birds sang their little hearts out. The world under the trees is very, very much alive. We are lucky to have experienced it.

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We saw these guys a few days before Thanksgiving…They’re quite lucky we didn’t want to carry an extra ten pounds of bird on the bicycles 😉

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We were very excited to reach Cochrane and it’s large, fully-stocked grocery store. Cochrane itself it is growing mountain town, stretching out into the hills from the Plaza de Armas at the center. The Plaza itself is almost always filled with children, racing around the whole square on bicycles and go-carts. It has all the familiarity and peacefulness of a small town, where people don’t need to worry about the whereabouts of their children – all they need to know is that their kids are out having fun in the sun. Cochrane even has it’s own Hollywood-esque sign reading “COCHRANE” perched on a nearby hill and visible from all parts of the city. Towns like Cochrane, despite being thousands of miles away from what we consider “familiar,” have so many elements that replicate home…Highschoolers having a car-wash to raise money, giggling and waving “Car Wash” signs around on the street corner, the town coming together on the weekend in the town square to listen to live music and chat. Life in Chile is quite the same as life anywhere else.

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Just outside of Cochrane, Chile.

Cochrane to Chile Chico – Ruta 265
We wanted to spend our Thanksgiving holiday in civilization so we chose to veer off the actual Carretara Austral and head over to Chile Chico. The days spent inbetween these two towns were definitely the hilliest days of our ride. The road is entirely ripio and as you get closer to Chilo Chico, the road greatly deteriorates in quality. The route itself is stunning and we enjoyed views of a gorgeous lake, islands and adjacent forest from the cliffside overhanging the lake.

Truth be told, this was the toughest stretch in terms of cycling we have encountered so far. We would finish conquering a massive mile-long hill, only to rush to the bottom on the other side and begin the endeavour over again only minutes later. The wild camping options along this stretch are more limited due to the cliffs on either side of the road. This road is also much more frequently used than the previous parts, and by people driving much faster than the speed limit. We did manage to find decent spots to camp every night, still accompanied by our French cycling friends.

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The view is worth the climb!

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One of my favorite wild camping spots so far.

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This tree lives in a waterfall!

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Fred and Lucy, our French cycling amigos.

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We spotted this little guy in our campsite, luckily it was as we were packing up our stuff to leave!

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Super scenic lunch break – Ruta 265, Southwest of Chile Chico, Chile

Chile Chico was a welcome sight, as we were ready to have a full-blown Thanksgiving feast. Fred and Lucy (being French and all) had never experienced a Thanksgiving dinner, so we shared our ridiculously huge meal of Oven-roasted Chicken,  mashed potatoes, salads, chips & guacamole, garlic bread and glazed pumpkin for dessert. It was a welcome change of pace from the ol’ pasta and sauce routine. We caught the ferry across the lake the next day and continued on our journey!

Chile Chico to Coyhaique
We jumped off the ferry fairly late in the afternoon and decided to camp right outside of the town of Puerto Ibanez. We found a dirt maintenance road where a watertank resided and a lovely flat spot beside it that made for a perfect wild camping spot. From here we were overlooking the whole town and the mountains behind it, putting us at the perfect vantage point for an awesome sunset.

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Wild camping with Fred & Lucy outside of Puerto Ibanez, Chile.

One cool dynamic to bicycle touring is that you never really know what the next day will be like for you. Sure, maybe you read some blogs or have some vague idea of what the terrain will be like but in reality, everyone defines difficulty, hill climbs and ripio differently. On this particular day after setting out from Puerto Ibanez, we took our lunch break at the foot of what we could see would be a challenging hill. Once conquered, however, we were blessed with EIGHT MILES of descent through Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo. Literally unheard of in bike-touring land. We were so pleasantly surprised when at almost every turn, the road continued to cruise downhill. It was an incredible, fun and beautiful day. We even had the opportunity to see the elusive Huemul, a Patagonian deer that is in danger of extinction. Ironically, he was standing directly in front of a sign that said “Huemul Crossing.” He was not bothered by us and allowed us to snap a few photos before he strolled back into the forest.

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The Huemul – an endangered species of deer indigenous to this region of Patagonia.

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Down, down, down we go! Eight miles of downhill is unheard of in bike touring. A lucky day, indeed.

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Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo

When the wind started to pick up in the late afternoon we thought it would be a good idea to approach an estancia for permission to camp somewhere that could block some of the wind for our tent. Lucky for us, the first estancia we approached appeared to be out-of-use and we easily snuck our tent behind an old, creaky barn for the evening. The only ones to watch us arrive and depart the following morning were the herd of cows in the nearby field. Cows strongly distrust our two-wheeled, cow-eating-machines (as far as they are concerned) and generally try to escape from us a quickly as possible. On some occasions we have to ride through herds of cattle that have decided to graze on either side of the road – we hoot and holler and herd the cattle with the bicycles and it is quite an excellent time indeed.

We awoke to a fairly strong Patagonia gale. The winds here are unpredictable and fierce, sometimes they taper off in the afternoon and sometimes they hit you twice as hard. This was one of the days where even going downhill was incredibly difficult with the force of the wind so we decided to stretch our thumbs, hope for the kindness of the passerby and hitchhike!

Within a few minutes a smiling, younger Chilean in an SUV pulled over as soon as he saw us throw our thumbs out. Despite our bikes, baggage and the time it takes to disassemble the rigs to get them into a vehicle, he smiled, asked questions about our trip and was more than happy to wait for us to squeeze our endless panniers into the car. We talked (yes, in Spanish!), the whole way into Coyhaique as he explained to us that the drivers were bad in Coyhaique, that he was on his way to a soccer game with his friends in a different city and that the country had indeed planted a non-indigenous pine tree all over the mountain sides. We had been seeing neatly ordered rows of Pines all over the mountains, hillsides and even fields and had been wondering how they had come to be there. He told us that it was the government’s attempt to correct some of the mass-deforestation that had occured to support their growing livestock industry. They look quite out of place in perfect little rows and are not indigenous, but breed faster than their Chilean Pine-relatives. An interesting twist to the scenery.

Coyhaique is a busy, fairly large city nestled in the mountains. We stocked up on food here and  continued on our journey. The days that followed are probably my favorite of the tour so far. The sun was shining and we were comfortably riding in shorts and t-shirts for one of the first times, the wind was in our favor (basically never happens when traveling from South to North) and we happened to arrive in this region as all of the Purple, Yellow and Pink Lupines were in bloom. We rode for over twenty miles on roads lined with blossoming flowers, down a canyon that fringed a river. If I died and went to heaven, it might look something like this! Absolutely surreal and astonishing. There are no big buildings on this route, only small farms and estancias that appear to have been there for decades. We camped in a bed of flowers within earshot of the river and thoroughly enjoyed our days spent in this little paradise.

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Twenty miles of these beauties lining our path.

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Sheep in a playground…totally normal here.

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Relying on the kindness of others is not as scary as it may sound. What you generally find is that people want to help you far beyond what you’re asking for and have a level of warmth, friendliness and selflessness that I think hardly exists in America. We tend to shy from strangers, in the event they are trying to deceive us. Not here. They welcome you with open arms, offer to feed you, to let you camp on their property, to drive you farther than you were hoping for. Lots of love out there in the world.

We stopped to ask a family if we could simply cook our late-lunch somewhere with a wind-break. They happily offered to let us cook inside of a retired tour bus that had been parked in their yard. It often happens that tour buses on this route cease working and are just abandoned at the location of their death – perhaps that was the case of this bus. Regardless, we jumped inside and were beyond stoked to have a break from the wind. We cooked lunch and as we were gathering our things, the father Lulo, offered to let us camp on the property. His daughter cruised around us excitedly showing off her pink bicycle and there was a perfectly grassy spot next to our Magic Bus to camp. We decided to stay in Villa Manihuales for the evening and Devin, at the advice of a friendly local, went down to a laguna to fish. Lucky for us he caught a MONSTER of a rainbow trout! Dinner that night, in the shelter of the bus, was amazing.

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Lulo Mesa, our kind hosts in Villa Manihuales.

After Villa Manihuales there is more beautiful scenery. However, the pavement comes to an abrupt halt and this is where a multi-stage road construction project begins. Road closures interupt your day, not to mention the noise of machines and the endless trucks and tractors blasting their way up and down the road. If you’re planning to ride this, you will have to cater your schedule to road closures from 1pm-5pm every day. They are literally blasting the mountainside apart with dynamite so occasionally you can even hear the boom and echo of tons of granite exploding. The road condition here is quite abysmal since some of it is only halfway processed – basically expect to spend some time riding in sand… On the bright side, you have enormous nativ Nalca plants to keep you distracted. They are HUGE and definitely look like they belong on the set of Jurassic Park.

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Okay…so we need to…defy gravity?

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Futalefu, Chile.

DSC00777Ending our time with the Carretara Austral was bittersweet. It offered us the most spectacular, unusual and scenic days of our tour so far but also gave us a solid challenge. The scenery has continued but our route has veered back toward the Ruta 40, the Pan-American Highway, and our travels have found us living in Bariloche, Argentina for the holidays. We are also taking this opportunity to work on our Spanish fluency with a few weeks worth of Spanish courses. Stay tuned for our next update covering our adventures in Bariloche and San Martin de los Andes!

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Information for Travelers:
-Shelter for camping exists at 35km out of Villa O’Higgins. Free and very basic. Wild camping is also possible, with excellent spots along most of the route.
-Shelters on both sides of the lake that are possible to camp in, with bathrooms and running water.
-Boat is free and on-time every day.
-Be prepared for some good hill climbs, all totally worth it for the views!

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-Excellent Supermercado selling everything from tools to boat parts to cookies to bread.
-Free wifi in the town square – works well enough to Video Chat.
-Hospedaje & Camping half a block off of the town square. Patty, the owner, is friendly and helpful. Inconsistent hot water is made up for with hammocks and a lovely outdoor dining area. CH$3000/person/night in November.

Chile Chico
Access to all types of facilities – grocery stores, farmacias, hardware stores, etc.
-Daily Ferry to Puerto Ibanez, fairly inexpensive and very large – Approx. 2 hour ride.
-Be prepared for even more hills on your way into Chile Chico.

Puerto Ibanez to Coyhaique
-Took us two days to ride from Puerto Ibanez to Coyhaique, with a quick hitchiking stretch due to the wind.
-Reserva Nacional Cerro Castillo is beautiful, from South to North you have eight miles of downhill that is a total blast. In reverse, you have a good workout!
-Possible to camp within the park but not for free! Pay, stealth camp or camp outside the borders – up to you.

Coyhaique to Villa St. Lucia
-Small stores are all along this route, so don’t worry about stocking up on too much food. Basics like pasta, papas, eggs and pan are easily accessible.
-Most important thing to be concerned about on this route is the CONSTRUCTION! There are 5-6 different places with construction projects going on that close down the road from 1-5pm daily. This begins south of Puyuhuapi.
-If you have more specific questions about the Carretara Austral, don’t hesitate to email us at AllisonMSouza@gmail.com or CASupertramps@gmail.com!

Our trip to Torres Del Paine National Park

After a few wonderful days becoming acquainted with the adorable town of Puerto Natales, we continued our bike tour with a trip up to Torres del Paine National Park.

With the weather on our side we rode out of the town, past it’s tiny asphalt strip of an airport on the outskirts and straight toward the mountains. Off in the distance snow had been falling on the peaks and they were freshly frosted white, leaving a chill in the morning air.

We had heard about the famous Milodon, a pre-historic sloth bear-looking mammal whose archaeological remains were found outside of Puerto Natales, from a local and wanted to check out the Cueva de Milodon (Milodon Cave) where these remains had been discovered. The extinct animal is basically the town’s mascot, it’s silhouette printed on most of the street signs. After a detour caused by some misleading road signage, we popped into the cave. Sadly, the Milodon remains have long since been removed, but there is a full sized Milodon statue to see at the cave.

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Out trek continued down a dirt road that wound down a valley, often crossing rivers, weaving in and out of forests and lined on both sides with formidable peaks. We rode for about 35 miles and found a place to camp on a lakefront. A huge waterfall gushed down the mountain across from us, surely fed by the endless amount of snow at the summit, and poured into the lake on which we camped.

The next morning we left for Torres del Paine. After a challenging, hilly ride (not made easier by the dirt road) we reached a pinnacle from which we could see a beautiful, crystal blue lake and the jagged spires of Torres Del Paine off in the distance. It certainly made the day of uphill grinding worth it. We camped within the park at Rio Serrano, and because it is still before peak season, were the sole occupants of the campground. We took several evening walks to survey the distant peaks and scan the wide, rushing expanse of the Rio Serrano in search of signs of fish.

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Our final day of riding before reaching the feet of the gigantic towers was a particularly grueling one. Loose gravel, a consistently nagging head-wind and steep hills through the park made for difficult day for myself. Devin is a much stronger cyclist than I, so this was no problem for him as I struggled and pushed my bike up the rugged hills. Long story short, “It builds character” (as my Dad would say!) and I survived.

The height of row of towers is staggering. They can easily been seen from upwards of 30 miles away and from their foot, all else is dwarfed. The clouds, despite their elevation, get tangled at the upmost peaks and undoubtedly snow falls most days of the year at their tips. We camped in a magical spot close to their bases, along a frigid, cool blue lake.

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At Camping Pehoé, where we stayed for the evening, we happened upon our first two fellow cycle tourists for the trip, Ava and Francois! Needless to say we were excited to meet other cyclists (we had yet to see a single one!). These two lovely French cyclists had been on their bikes for the past 11 months, coming all the way south from Panama. We had caught them weeks away from the end of their South American bike tour – a surreal time as their adventure on this continent wound to an end.

As they were also riding back to Puerto Natales, we decided to join up for a few days of cycling. It was so fun to hear some of their stories from the road about their adventures and the variety of people that they met. They definitely reminded me of all we have in store ahead of us and fueled our excitement for the next five months on this continent. Thanks to Ava and FX, for being the first of many amigos on our South American trek – wishing you both the best!

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Next stop for us…Camping in El Calafate, a trip to the epic Perito Moreno Glacier and the Giant’s World Series!

Information for fellow travelers:
Puerto Natales to Torres Del Paine:
-Mostly dirt road but in good, rideable condition until you get into the national park.
-“Road Closed” signs do not mean the road is closed. Cruise right past them (most likely they have already been moved out of blocking the way).
-Cueva de Milodon cost is CH$4000 for extranjeros.
-No wild camping within the park, but outside is no problem.
-If the weather is poor, clouds will block your view of the Torres altogether.
-Camping Pehoé has a campground and restaurant where you can buy your well-earned cervezas at the end of the day. Also hot water for a shower and wind blocks for your tent!
-Rio Serrano campground is beautiful, has wind shelters, plenty of river access and offers free firewood – CH$5000/night/person.
-No bus tickets are available for purchase in the park. (Must be purchased in Puerto Natales).

Trapped in Paradise: An Eleven Day Border Crossing Into Chile

This entry from South America is the product of eleven days stranded on the shore of Lago O’Higgins, waiting and wishing for a boat to arrive from the mainland, comfortably sheltered by an abandoned one-room cabin with a little wood-burning stove and the companionship of an English cyclist.

The story of how we arrived here, rationing our ever-dwindling supplies and crossing our fingers for a boat to arrive at the dock outside of our doorstep, should probably begin with a roadside lunch break on the Ruta 40 about a week ago. As Devin and I were snacking on apples and peanuts (a Supertramp favorite whilst on the road), a fellow cycle tourist appeared out of thin air. Dan, an English bike tourist at the very beginning of a world-wide tour for charity (www.CycleEarth.co.uk), became our cycling companion for the stretch of tour into El Chalten. There we had planned on taking a day off and hiking around the famous Mount Fitz Roy and then continuing the journey together over the notoriously challenging mountain border crossing from Argentina to Chile.

El Chalten
The three of us camped en route to El Chalten along the roadside, amidst miles upon miles of desolate pampas bordered by steep, earth-colored plateaus that are reminiscent of the Grand Canyon’s gradually corroding walls. The terrain here constantly draws the mind to ponder geology and question how this magnificent place was formed by the sheer force of nature.

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Lunch break with our new friend, Dan

We rode on and occasionally a startled herd of guanacos would with scramble away from us into the hills. The road to El Chalten is a smooth, rolling stretch of pavement that fringes one of the regions innumerable lakes, gives you a direct view of a mountainous glacier and then delivers you to the base one of the areas most photographed peaks, Mount Fitz Roy.

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El Chalten, Argentina in the shadow of Mount Fitz Roy.

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We rolled into the tiny town after a fairly easy day of riding. The Patagonian winds had miraculously subsided for the afternoon and we had a remarkable cloud-free view of Fitz Roy. We celebrated conquering another stretch of touring with a few liters of beer and then heard some unwelcome news…a storm was coming in Wednesday through Friday.

Let me preface this newfound problem with an insight to the boat/border crossing system here in Argentina….No concrete information is available via the internet, every person you talk to has a different notion of whether the trail is passable (let alone passable with a bicycle), how much the boats will cost and whether or not the boats are even running. When you inquire which day of the week the boat will arrive, we have literally heard almost every day of the week named as an option. It’s quite laughable to try to extract an updated version for planning purposes! Based on our vague knowledge of the boat schedule, we deduced the more important of the two boats (the one crossing to Villa O’Higgins) arrived either Friday or Saturday. In order to dodge the storm, and arrive in time to catch the boat we would need to leave the very next day. An unexpected change that we happily took in stride… We stocked up our supplies at the local supermercado and took an extra few days worth of food in case there was a delay with the boat – a decision we would be endlessly grateful for in a few days time.

In order to cross into Chile from El Chalten one must ride 37km to the shore of Lago Del Desierto, an absolutely stunning lake that lies in the shadow of Fitz Roy and is surrounded with densely forested, steep and beautiful mountains.

We left in the afternoon and within an hour had ran smack into the fiercest yet of the Patagonian winds. At some point in an especially wild gust, I had my head tucked under my arm to shield my face, my body braced stiffly against my bike and I recall coming out of the moment remarking I had got sand blasted into my teeth. More laughable cycle touring moments!

Lago del Desierto
From the edge of Lago Del Desierto you have two options: do the insane, barely passable 4-6 hour vertical trek around the lake or pay to be shuttled to the other shore. Due to the bikes and gear, we opted for the easier of the two. However, as of November 2014, the trail around Lago del Desierto has been cleared by the Lodge that maintains it. If you dare and are up for the incredible challenge it is supposedly possible to remove your panniers, taxi them up a remarkably vertical stretch, return for your bike, push that beast up the same stretch of hillside and repeat this until you have succeeded in exiting Argentina. We were told by Martin, the bombero caminata we met earlier and who had walked to Chile from Mexico, that the hike around the lake “would be a great bonding experience.” Perhaps that may have proven to be true, but so is being trapped in a one room cabin for eleven days… (I’m literally giggling from our makeshift sleeping-pad “couch” in the cabin as I type out this entry).

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At the edge of Lago del Desierto.

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In the end, the boat cost us $400AR, but might be more affordable when more people are trying to make the crossing instead of just three cyclists. To our understanding the boat runs every day after November 1st to support the peak season of tourists but the times vary. Please send us pictures if you end up venturing around the lake with a bike! We would love to see them and genuinely commend your effort! I have to shout out Matt Smith, a fellow velotramp heading up the continent, for not only conquering the nearly impossible feat of trekking around Lago del Desierto, but also doing it in the rain…solo. I’m glad he survived to tell the tale!

The Mountainous Trek into Chile
After getting our passports stamped, we made camp on the shore of the lake at the Border Control. Devin finally got to utilize the fishing pole has has been dutifully carrying on his bike and was the hero of the day when he hooked his first rainbow trout in South America! We shared some delicious pan-fried fish with our new British friend, watched the sun set from our camp and fell asleep with the rain falling gently on our tents.

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Camping on Lago del Desierto.

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What followed was by far the most difficult, hilarious, challenging and rewarding trek yet to occur in our existence as cyclists. The trail over the mountains into Chile was absolutely meant as a hiking trail and at points it is marginally wide enough to push the bike with panniers. Combine this with a steep grade, roots, rocks, you-name-it blocking your path, sixty pounds of gear and the slippery surface of freshly dampened dirt and you have yourself an epic day of hiking! I can’t say cycling, as my butt was in the saddle for a one-sixteenth of the day.

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Dan making the push over the mountain pass.

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Super stable foot bridge…

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Fellow travelers, be not deterred! The forest is the most lush green, dense and being under it’s beautiful canopies is not something I will soon forget. From the top of the first hill out of Argentina, you can see Fitz Roy directly across the crystal blue of Lago del Desierto and all in all, this was one of the most wild, free and untouched areas I have encountered in my life. A truly stunning terrain. The trail crosses six rivers or streams in total, a hilarious/sketchy enterprise that will leave you laughing and most likely with wet shoes. We crossed some of these on make-shift bridges of fallen tree branches strewn across the water (yes, they are as stable as they sound). If you do indeed somehow survive without drenching your feet for the first half of the hike, this will all be for naught when you cross an impossibly swampy stretch (at which point I bailed on my shoes altogether and laughed hysterically as I sank ankle-deep into mud that sucked at your feet as you trudged along). Together, the three of us pushed, dragged, carried, grunted, groveled and struggled our way to the edge of Chile (a welcome sight) where an unmaintained dirt road began. I have never been so grateful to be on crappy ripio! Ripio is a road made of dirt, gravel, rocks and other non-sense that is challenging but mostly rideable and at the end of that strenuous trail it was quite an upgrade.

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The drizzle we had easily endured turned into cold raindrops as we crossed the unmanned border and the wind picked up as we started down the road. The dirt road descended through the forest, past a smaller lake and eventually delivered us to the edge of Lago O’Higgins, the bluest of all of the incredible lakes we have had the privilege of visiting. We had been told there was a tiny cabin by the dock that could house 3-4 people and contained a small wood stove at the edge of the lake. Might not sound like much, but after a grueling, wet day the sight of our free little cabin resulted in a happy dance and high-fives all around! It came complete with a stack of dry firewood, a completely dysfunctional restroom (including a small deceased bird) and several bottles of mystery fluids on the cupboard shelves. But the stove was warm and the rain was falling outside of our four little walls, so Dan, Devin and I made ourselves at home. Little did we know it would be our shelter for almost two weeks!

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Home sweet home.

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Our saving grace, the wood burning stove.

We learned quickly that due to the endless rainfall and gale force winds the boat was not expected to arrive for another week. Passing back into Argentina in the rain sounded like an endlessly difficult mission, so we decided to wait out the boat from our small shelter. In the beginning of being “stranded” we stretched five days worth of food to last over a week (which means smaller meals – a harsh reality for hungry cyclists) and bought eggs and bread from the only small farm up the road. I laughably considered it the “Villa O’Higgins Diet.” Tip for people planning this crossing: buy the extra bag of pasta! Haha! The carabineros, or guards, that run the border patrol were beyond generous and helpful by giving us bread, stew, letting us charge our variety of electronics and even allowing us send emails to our families to let them know we are just fine (albeit stuck here). We are again grateful for Chilean hospitality and kindness. In our experience so far, whether you find yourself cycling in the snow or hungry at a border crossing, the Chileans will happily come to your aide with a warm smile on their face.

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Trapped in paradise.

Waiting and Wishing for a Boat
In our time stuck waiting for the boat we: gathered wood, read books, filtered water, played cards, gathered more wood, cooked pasta, slept as much as possible and waited for the rain to stop (repeat daily). The boys also decided, for bathing purposes, to jump off the dock into the freezing water. I had resigned myself to being stinky until we hit a hostel (there were literally chunks of glacier floating in the lake – no, thanks!) but with some luck and more kindness the Chilean carabineros offered to let us shower and we washed our clothes in their building. Perhaps after dealing with our stink on our daily trips to their office to inquire about the boat, they decided it would be in everyone’s best interest to let us clean up!

Waiting for a boat to arrive while feeling stranded (the trek back was difficult enough to make it feel like we were on an island) and running terribly low on food was an incredible learning experience. Every day we would hear a different possible day for the boat to arrive – making it hard to even know how long we would need to string out our rations – and triggering an emotional rollercoaster of relief and dismay. Luckily we had the comic relief of Dan and Devin’s “Survivorman” personality to keep us afloat. Devin even supplemented our waning food supply with several fresh fish caught in the lake. In the end we all left Candelario Mancillo with a much greater appreciation for just about everything – a reminder to be diligently thankful for the ease with which we live.

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Mountain man Devin supplementing our diet with fresh trout.

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And finally, the boat arrives…

Devin and I seriously debated turning around and going back over the mountain pass on a number of occasions. The combination of boredom, hunger and confinement to the cabin (it rained A LOT) even had me convinced we should just suck it up and turn around. Luckily I was able to catch a glimpse of an email from my Dad (who is basically always right) saying “The ferry would come eventually. Just stay put.” So we took his advice and settled in for the long haul. The boat arrived the very day after we had planned to depart. Thanks, Dad 🙂

Freedom, Sweet Freedom
By this point in time the number of trapped travelers awaiting an “imaginary” boat was at a total of nine people. When the tiny, overhauled fishing boat finally pulled into our dock we were overjoyed to say the least. We jumped up and down, took some victory photos and said good riddance to our little cabin. We watched as the crew precariously strapped our eight bicycles together as if we were down battening down the hatches for a storm, and all stood out on the deck to catch some fresh air as we embarked across Lago O’Higgins with big, naive grins across our faces. In the three hours that followed, the dingy of a boat lurched across ocean-like waves that sprayed ice-cold water up and over the top of the boat. More than once we exchanged glances and mumbled a variety of expletives as the boat soared up and down with turbulence. Within the hour everyone was huddled inside the small cabin hiding from the consistent spray of water. Everyone but me and Rene, that is. The captain of this boat was incessantly smoking cigarettes, filling the cabin with a combination of smoke and the fake floral-chemical scent of over-used restroom air freshener. This combined with the frying of little greasy sausages was more than our stomachs could handle (I tend to get seasick regardless). So I simultaneously celebrated our freedom (on the inside – on the outside I’m quite certain I had a greenish tint) and kept my lunch from re-emerging onto the deck of the boat for the better part of the trip. By the end Rene and I were soaked, shivering and seasick. But, WE MADE IT TO VILLA O’HIGGINS!

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That is one happy face.

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Twas a damp boat ride…

 

We pretty much went wild in the first grocery store we stumbled in to, piling the counter with cookies, candy, beer and wine – I mean what else do you need when you come out of survival mode, right?!

Together we celebrated over cervezas, a multi-lingual game of “King’s Cup,” and endless rounds of cookies. We rented a small cabin (with a functional restroom, no dead animals and a HOT SHOWER!) and spent the evening drinking and laughing surrounded by fellow cycle tourists – Rene & Christoph (two Germans), Matt (a fellow American), Miguel (a hitch-hiking Peruvian) and our roommate for eleven days, Dan. It was the perfect ending to a challenging week and the perfect beginning to the next chapter of our crazy adventure…conquering the Carretara Austral!

Be Grateful
My lesson from the road for the day – If tonight you go out to dinner, take a shower, sit in a jacuzzi, have a beer, laugh with your friends, drive a car, hug your dog, sleep in clean clothes or eat until you’re full…don’t forget to take a moment to feel appreciative of what you have. Embrace your fortune with gratefulness. This experience has not been truly challenging; in truth it has been more funny than anything else and a good exercise in what it feels like to ration food. However, it opens a window to the reality of hardship that some people in the world face in regards to hunger or lacking resources and has served as a beautiful reminder to feel gratitude for every last little thing we have – particularly as Americans where everything we need to survive comes so, so easily. Don’t take anything in life for granted, don’t convince yourself that your life is difficult when it really isn’t…choose to be happy, fulfilled and to give thanks for whatcha got every single day amigos.

Cheers and love from the Supertramps in Chile!

Information for travelers:
El Chalten
-Has one ATM that sometimes runs out of money from over-use. Located in Bus Station.
-Camping at Hostal Lago del Desierto is inexpensive and the staff is incredibly friendly. Hot showers, full use of kitchen and wifi included with camping $50AR/person/night.

El Chalten to Lago Del Desierto: 37km
-Campground on the way for $60AR/person/night, also possible to wild camp.

Lago Del Desierto to AR Border Control
-Boat daily in peak season, AR$400 but it seems like they pick a price on the spot.
-Option to do crazy trail around the lake (4-6 hrs) for free – recently cleared but still very challenging!
-Possible to camp at border control for the night if you ask – one of the most beautiful campsites with no dent in the budget – we love it!

Trail to Chile
-Strenuous and absolutely beautiful
-4-6 water crossings (wear shoes you can get wet/muddy) and don’t forget to bring your sense of humor

Boat to Villa O’Higgins
-Does not run in poor weather and the boats frequently have mechanical problems – plan on waiting extra days or weeks!
-Cost is CH$40,000
-Family sells eggs, bread, pasta but not for cheap!
-Possible to pay to camp or stay with Ricardo and Justa – CH$3000/tent/night.
-Small one room cabin (out of use by the carabineros) with a wood stove that is possible to stay in. Very basic but it seems other cyclists and travelers often use it for shelter.
-Bring Chilean pesos! No ATM at Villa O’Higgins but possible to pay for boat by credit card.
-One mercado at Villa O’Higgins accepts credit cards.

The San Francisco Giants win the World Series! – El Calafate & Perito Moreno Glacier

El Calafate was home for us for almost a full week as we anxiously watched our Giants in the MLB World Series. Standing in line at the busy grocery store one afternoon, I turned around to realize someone with a SF Giants Post Season 2014 hat was standing directly behind me, so of course I instantly introduced myself. Thousands of miles from home, we had found another Giants fan! We decided to watch the remaining games with our new amigo, Kyle, who was from Sacramento, CA.

The first game we watch together, huddled together around pints of beer at Pietross Cafe, was a miserable 10-0 loss. We left nervous for the final game but excited for the opportunity to watch the Giants go all the way.

With the beer flowing, we watched the final game. By the final pitch, with Mad-Bum back in for the final innings of the World Series, we were out of our chairs screaming and cheering in the closed restaurant. As the servers swept the floors, we cheered, danced around and exuberantly high-fived one another in disbelief that after such a rough season, we had done it. GO GIANTS!!!

As for our travels we also visited the magnificent Perito Moreno Glacier while in El Calafate. On a perfect day we took the bus out to the glacier’s edge and walked its miles of boardwalks, watching huge chunks of it break off with a thunderous CRACK! and tumble off into Lago Argentino.

Supposedly if somewhere were to attempt to walk from the front edge to the end of the glacier, it would take over two months because of all the crevasses and wide splits in the ice. It is also one of the region’s only glaciers to not have been impacted by global warming – the rest are disintegrating yearly and some are sadly anticipated to disappear altogether.

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We left town once the Giants had claimed their World Series title. The road out of El Calafate had only mild rolling hills and we easily covered enough ground to get us some miles down the famous Ruta 40. With snow-capped mountains as it’s backdrop, El Calafate shrank out of view and we headed into a beautiful desert terrain, scattered with boulders and high-rising plateaus carved out of the earth by cobalt blue rivers that rushed rapidly at their feet.

The Ruta 40 will be our road companion for a great deal of this South American adventure, as it’s pavement covers the vast majority of the vertical mileage of the continent. It is also known as the Pan-American Highway. But first we must conquer the Carretara Austral, a particularly wild, isolated and beautiful stretch that begins, for us, in El Chalten.

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Information for fellow travelers:
El Calafate:
-Numerous affordable options for camping and hostels. We stayed at Camping El Ovejero – centrally located, mostly hot showers, basins to hand wash laundry/dishes, book exchange, on a creek – AR$60/person/night.
Perito Moreno Glacier
-A few options to visit the glacier: book a bus trip, get there before 8am (hitch hiking or otherwise) and it’s free or ride in by bicycle. We chose to take the bus (more expensive option but more convenient for the sake of time), if you cycle in there is no wild camping allowed in the park (they are adamant) but a friend has also told us that they go home in the evening so there’s no one there to check. Your call.
-Panaderia Don Luis has the best, cheap empanadas around from our experience. AR$10/empanada – make sure to try the choclo y huevo (corn and egg)!
-Pietross Cafe has great pizza, great service and reliable wifi. Also wonderful if your favorite sports team is playing the most important games of the year and you must absolutely watch them…highly accommodating folks 🙂