Category archives for Patagonia

2008, our first real bicycle touring challenge. Going from Temuco (Chile, North of the Region of the Lakes) to Ushuaia (Argentina, Tierra del Fuego) on our bicycle!

Ushuaia: The end of the world

And after 2.5 months of cycling, of pushing the bike, of hesitating, of excitement, of enjoying magnificent landscapes, of asking ourselves “what are we doing here?”, of cursing the rain/wind/cold, of enjoying people’s hospitality, we finally made it, we are in Ushuaia “El fin del mundo”. What a great adventure were those 2.5 months and even though we are quite happy to go “home” now we will leave behind Patagonia with a heavy heart.

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The Day when we met the rain Gods

or Does a shitty day really exist?

Patagonia, with its harsh and unpredictible weather, could be the right place for experiencing a shitty day. For this you need two naive cyclotourers and some spices like “the absence of a good place to pitch the tent” (resulting in no other choice than pitching the tent next to a dry river bed as this is the only flat spot in the are) and all this taking place at spring time, when the snow on the mountains starts to melt!

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Some things really shouldn’t be said…

But the title of this article could also have been “Vera IS superstitious BUT right” or “Bikes on strike” or else “pedalling with only one speed really isn’t fun”…

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Hiking into Argentina

So, after our unsuccessfull attempt to tackle the winds on the Ruta 40, we decided to take the more rainy variant by continuing the Carretera Austral all the way down to where the road ends, at Villa O´Higgins. Except for having a day of heavy rain, on which we only got saved from freezing to death by some friendly roadworkers who offered us a roof, a fire to heat up and some food, we arrived at this little town from where the actual adventure started.

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Our Ruta 40 experience

Once in Coyhaique and after having done a part of the Carretera Austral, we had a difficult choice deciding what to do next. Our options were the following:

  1. Continue the Carretera Austral south to a place called Villa O´Higgins where basically the road stops. From there, our only option is to take a boat to the other side of a lake, where we can rent a horse to carry our stuff for a day, while we carry our bikes over an almost undoable path to enter Argentina. Sounds nice hu? Well, there is also option 2.
  2. Enter Argentina and follow the famous Ruta 40 south, known for heavy side- and headwinds and the absence of water over distances of as much as 120 km. Doesn’t sound appealing neither right?

Finally, after doubting a lot and tossing several coins (never decide anything important by tossing only one coin!), talking to other travellers and reading about other cyclists’ experiences, we decided to take option number 2, thinking that it would be a nice change to cycle in the wind instead of the rain.

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Gauchos on bicycle

If one had to pick up a word to describe Argentina, Criollo would be the one that comes first, even before football and El Diego (Maradona).

Criollo is a culture of the huge pampas where Gauchos on horse lead gigantic herds of cattle. It is also all what makes a good Gaucho: from the cloth to his emblematic knife (the fácon) and the famous asado (huge barbecue).

We found out that we are quite criollo, perhaps most than city dwellers in Argentina. We do not ride a horse but a bicycle, we have also special clothing and even an all usage knife (the little swiss army knife). And to complete our cycling Gauchos training, we made an asado!

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The Carretera Austral

About 30 years ago, Chile sensed that, if it wouldn’t do any effort to get the part south of Puerto Montt more Chilean, it would soon be a part of Argentina (especially because Argentina would be very happy to have access to the Pacific Ocean). Therefore, Pinochet decided to start one of the biggest construction projects in Chilean history: to build a road from Puerto Montt all the way south to Punta Arenas. They didn’t get all the way, because there were some glaciers in the way, and even today some parts can only be travelled by boat. Furthermore, when talking about “a road” don’t think about a modern highway like we know them in Europe, but think more in the direction of “dust, gravel and potholes”. But it’s possible to travel on this road by bike and we decided to cycle a part of it.

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It’s all a matter of perspective

It’s all a matter of perspective. That’s what old people say. “You will see, when you are old, you will think differently. It’s all a matter of perspective!” And maybe we needed a trip to Patagonia by bicycle to realize that maybe those old guys aren’t all wrong…

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