Por la Carretera! ¡Austral!

Entering a whole new world from the coastal hills of Chiloe to the mountains and glaciers of the Austral

On the ferry back to the mainland from Chiloe Island we met up with two other bikers and a couple badass backpackers. Having extra company on the beautiful boat ride helped make getting busted in the crews quarters trying to take the first real shower in two weeks a little easier to cope with. Sharing food and laughs almost distracted us from the new landscape we would soon be adventuring on with our bikes and before we knew it we were docked up in Chaiten with an incredible view of Corcovado.

we told her not to

We found out one of the two bikers we met would have a birthday the next day and it was quickly decided that we would all camp out together on the beach and have a carrete (Chilean slang for party). Gathering people on the way brought our number up to around 20 and the scene was set for a night of good times. Several tents were within sight of the powerful fire and at midnight we were able to sing to birthday boy and watch him blow out a few candles before finding sleep in the tents and around the fire.

it didn't take long to start celebrating our austral initiation

People slowly took off one by one the next day until, of course, it was down to just Kanaan and Andy sitting on the beach getting sunburned. Eventually the dehydration became overwhelming and we too decided to take off. Stoked to be enjoying what we knew would be the last bit of pavement for a while, we had a relaxed ride on our first bit of the famous Carretera Austral.

can't beat the 'scapes of 'stral

Although we were still in Chile it felt like we had crossed a border and were in a new country. Beautiful landscapes everywhere and epic mountains all around grabbed our attention and soon night overpowered the day before we could arrive at the camp spot our dude and fellow A Trip Souther Chris had previously recommended to us. As usual we found ourselves under a bridge cooking on a fire before catching our nightly zzz’s.

welcome to the ripio. gravel roads for days. ridin dirty.

We had high hopes for the next day but Life again let us know that he thought our plan was crap. Flat tires and a broken chain not only told us that our sturdy steeds weren’t as strong as we recently thought, but also helped Life shorten the total distance of the day to a very impressive 20 kilometers. It’s rare that we take the time to realize the crazy things that happen on our trip, but we shared a couple minutes of appreciation that evening. Camping in the plaza with a French couple and a German fellow while there were two groups of young adults partying with loud music, wild dogs barking non-stop at two grazing horses, and a herd of cattle mooing their way across the grass put us in our place and let us know we weren’t in Kansas anymore.

don't ask.

Life hit us hard with another right jab the next day. Kanaan’s stem broke on his front tube while riding on the worst road of the trip. Fist sized boulders as far as the eye could see was our task of the day. Well, we aren’t into that, so Andy stuck his golden thumb out while Kanaan switched in a new tube. The van ride was rough and although other cyclists we talked to later were stoked on themselves for having the miserable time riding it, we were stoked on ourselves for having the wind flying through the windows while skipping the obscene heat and awful road.

head to head in the great debate of the thumbs

When we got to Puyuhuapi the next morning Kanaan ran into three of our friends from the ferry and we decided to meet up at a glacier about 20 kilometers down the road. It was the day before Andy’s birthday and we were able to guilt them into camping with us. Stephanie, Candice, and Germany (Marlena) are three awesome chickadees and the pasta that chef Candy made was next level.

oats, granola, powmilk, nuts, pb & j in the pot surrounded by hot rocks for your 25th birthday sweets.

Waking up to 4 smiley faces and an oatmeal/peanut butter cake topped with homemade blueberry jam (from our family in Cucao) started Andy’s birthday off right. We saw the hitching ladies off and began our ride….TO THE TREASURE! When Chris, the Hinkle-Meister, finished the journey ahead of us a few months ago he sent us a list of info on what’s to come, including a hike to a special treasure he’d hidden for us. Unfortunately our lady friends were headed out as we were headed in and we found out they psyched us out hard by leaving a note at the entrance saying they had been in contact with Chris and added to the hunt.

looking good for such an old man in the enchanted forest

The hike took us up to a lake fed by a glacier resting atop a nearly vertical rock wall. The view was spectacular but finally reaching the treasure after months of anticipation was the real excitement. Of course it was a nearly empty bottle of whiskey from Chris with Max’ lovely addition of a liter of boxed wine. Spirits were high as we made our way to the trailhead and found our German buddy Dominik waiting for us to cruise down the big hill together to paved road and another bridge campout. The depression of turning a quarter century finally wore off and everyone went to bed knowing it was an epic birthday.

X marks the spot

still rock hoppin even with 25 year old knees

Somehow the birthday surprises didn’t end on the 28th. When we arrived in Villa Mañihuales the next day we headed to the casa de ciclistas and reunited with the German, who started earlier than we did, and 7 other friends we’d met along the journey. Nicolas and Tatan who we first met in Baja, Mexico and then visited in their hometown of Alta Gracia, Argentina are now biking with Candela and Devin who we met in Alta Gracia and San Martin de los Andes. Along with those four we were amazed to see that Sarah and James from the UK had finally decided to recover from 18 months of parasites (they aren’t going to like that) and even more amazed that they left the casa de ciclistas in La Paz, Bolivia (or that). Unfortunately they were all joined by the speed talking Stephanie from Quebec. It was a shock to see familiar faces constantly popping out of different spots and the night was spent catching up with everyone and eating two delicious banana bread cakes that Stephanie had made for Andy’s birthday.

our brothers of the road almost looked like brothers from the same mother. Tatan of Argentina meets James of England.

hes just so photogenic. too bad we couldn't convince them to stick with us. would have made a much better blog.

The reunion was short lived, everyone except us was heading to Coyhaique. Instead we decided to follow up on a connection in Puerto Aysen, given to us by a blog follower, Steve McGill. Within a minute of our arrival we were in the living room relaxing and drinking a cold beer. Gringo Bob and Andrea couldn’t have been more hospitable. Non-stop amazing food from Andrea, a very comfortable bed imported from the US, some great times on the water fishing, relaxing at their lodge in the campo, and their awesome company kept us fully satisfied before we got antsy for the road and took off for Coyhaique.

thats Gringo Bob with our dinners for the next couple days.

much like rudolf with his nose so bright, tio oswaldo made it all happen for us. he's definitely invited to the next reindeer games.

in the back of Bob´s pick up. who's the bad bad boy? who's the bad dog?

We didn’t get to Coyhaique until after 9PM and couldn’t get in touch with any of the three houses that said we could stay with them. Only Kanaan and Andy could screw up 3 connections at once. Eventually we got in touch with Boris and headed to his house to meet up with 10 other cyclists staying there. Nobody will be shocked when we tell you we stayed there for three nights instead of the one night we had planned. The vibes were too good and it was too easy to pretend that we had things to do before leaving. A few bike repairs, a gift box from our hitching friends, urban fruit picking, and rock climbing at the boulder behind the gas station completed the Coyhaique experience. In the evenings, insanely good flamenco guitar playing by Arom, funny stories and deciphering accents from South Korea, Germany, Chile, Holland, Ireland, Poland, and Spain kept us busy enough. But that annoying Carretera Austral was screaming at us to start moving again. So we tied up an Irish guy, Connor, and sent it back to the road as a crew of three.

a wee trek up to the base of Cerro Makay after a bouldering session with Mickey from the Casa de Ciclistas in Coyhaique

Initially setting out as three, Andrew decided to snag a ride in order to visit some friends that would be passing through Chile Chico that day. He would end up spending two days with them at the house of a friend (Camila) of a friend (Benjamin). Meanwhile, Kanaan and Ireland found nothing but good times on the road. An amazing descent from the heights of Cerro Castillo, mate sessions with Leo Riquelme Torres, epic jam tastings, home brewed beer from an authentic German, and exploring the canyons of Puerto Ibañez kept Kanaan and Connor well entertained.

the best descent of the Austral

home brewed beer with home baked bread from the home grown barley

Camila and Andy welcomed Kanaan and Ireland off the boat and into town with a sign and two bags of Kanaan’s favorite cookes, Fruttigrans, which Andy picked up on his day trip to Argentina. Later that day we strapped up and did a bit of climbing with Camila and her buddy, Daniel. Turns out Camila and Daniel are the only local climbers in Chile Chico, but that doesn’t mean that Chile Chico is limited in its climbing options. Guiding us to some incredible sport routes, we were beyond stoked to take advantage of the opportunity to rope up and get high.

as if we weren't lucky enough already, Cami's family owns the Hosteria de la Patagonia and put us up for some excellent orchard camping

Daniel is the king of Chile Chico's gorgeous walls

more than just a boulder

One day of climbing was not enough, so after another solid session, a pizza party, and some jam production from Camila´s orchard, we were off to continue the adventure south. Leaving Chile Chico with gusts of wind at our faces and steep, bumpy climbs made it difficult to get far, but didn’t stop us from appreciating the scenery. The following days would have the same difficult roads and amazing vistas, making it hard to cover much ground. Luckily the views of Lago General Carrera were outstanding, so it was enjoyable nonetheless. A full moon night ride with absolutely zero traffic and the same amount of wind put the cherry on the cake.

its almost as if he found his lucky charms

The 3rd day out of Chile Chico threw us another curveball; Kanaan’s front wheel stopped spinning. While Andy and Ireland stayed behind to slay some trout, Kanaan hitched ahead to Cochrane to figure out his bike issue. Mud getting into his hub caused the bearings to grind down and bring him to a halt. The hardware stores in town didn´t have the replacement parts he needed, but he found a temporary solution and was able to get the wheel moving again while staying with Couchsurfing hosts Camilo and Tomas. Andy and Ireland caught up the next day and stocked up for the 250 store-less kilometeres ahead. A solid night of rest in the house of Camilo and Tomas had us feeling good before hitting the Carretera Austral again the next day.

the view from the Cochrane house, with a bike that pedals dreams on the deck, asado dagger at hand

Before long we found ourselves, once again, separated. We decided that it would be better to get to Villa O’Higgins for the ferry that was leaving in three days, rather than for the ferry leaving in 10 days. Especially forceful in this decision was the fact that our brother of the road, Nico de Alta Gracia, was having his birthday party in O’Higgins the day before the ferry. Kanaan’s sketchy front wheel was also a heavy factor. After waking up in an awesome campsite we were able to flag down a truck that had room for just two, Kanaan and Connor. While those two gents scored a ride all the way to Puerto Yungay and another all the way to Villa O’Higgins, Andy was left alone and helpless. But he’s a survivor and made it to O’Higgins the next day with a combination of three rides and about 50 kilometers of hilly riding.

just your typical traffic jam in southern patagonia

time to relax for a bit after the great push for OHiggins

We hitched rides in order to make the once a week boat out of O’Higgins, but soon heard that it would be pushed back a day due to weather. This worked out perfectly, we met up with a bunch of biker friends from the road and enjoyed Nico’s Birthday without the pressure of a travel day looming. With no boat the next morning we could now celebrate properly. We coughed up the dough to spend a night camping at a hostel with everyone, and Nico made chicken for all of the 20 or so people at the hostel. The following day’s weather has as ugly as promised and everyone decided to black out the day off and we all came back to conciousness on the ferry with our bikes loaded and the crew untying the boat.

one heck of a bike shuttle

what?! three waterfalls at once?! no fair...

A beautiful 3 hour boat ride took us to the next stage of one of the more interesting border crossings of the trip. 15 kilometers of ‘road’ led to the border of Argentina, where the road ended. The departure from Chile was 7 kilometers of what could be a fun single track trail if we had different bikes and no bags. We camped halfway at the south end of Laguna Larga, a perfect wilderness campsite that even gave us a fish for dinner. Creek crossings, mud pits, and roots sticking up everywhere made for an interesting bike and hike to Lago del Desierto, the second lake of the route.

the beginning of a terrible road with ridiculously great scenary

mountains and glaciers scare her even more than trains

Another campsite at the south end of Lago del Desierto was quite pleasant until the next morning when we were rudely interupted by the police in the middle of cooking breakfast. They were furious that we had camped in a place that didn’t have a no camping sign and had made a fire on the lake shore that also lacked a no fire sign. Official “warnings” sent us on our way to El Chalten with empty bellies and a funny story of a ridiculous police officer. As it turned out our other biker friends also had some interesting run-ins with the same officer. He really wanted to make a name for himself with cyclists apparently.

the bad cop at our unmarked campsite

the good cop at our trial for freedom

A windy ride along the foot of Mount Fitz Roy put us in El Chalten, Argentina completing the odyssey that is the Carretera Austral. Known as the world capital of bicycle touring, it certainly lived up to its name. Arguably the most gorgeous leg of the trip, life on the Austral was pretty sweet. Despite technical difficulties on bikes that were not meant for that type of road, it was an unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Autumn in Chalten, the end of the Austral

El Chalten was a significant landmark for ATripSouth, as it was more than just the end of a great leg of the journey. In Chalten we celebrated the end of the Austral with a great group of friends from the road. Asados, treks in the hills, rock climbing sessions, and non-stop fiestas at Flor’s Casa de Ciclistas were great ways to enjoy a successful finish. We also celebrated the final days of ATripSouth as a group of two. Realizing our different intentions for the final part of the road to Tierra del Fuego, we decided to finish the last bit independently. Andy’s desire to get back home for summer was as strong as Kanaan’s desire to explore Southern Patagonia in winter. Therefore we agreed to go solo, much like our ATripSouth predecessors. So its like, all for one, one for all? Does that still apply? Trying to think of something epic to say to finish this blog…

Nico fighting the winds of Lago Torre, mentally preparing to cook a ton of meat.

yeah thats a whole sheep on the spit. no big deal.

no shortage of things to climb on here, chief.

not a bad place to start a pair of solo missions

February Photo of the Month

Aside

Supporting local threads. Andy models sheep hides in the plaza at Cucao, on the island of Chiloe.

So many photos to choose from this month, but the sheep hides in Cucao stood out in the end of the selection process. Our time on Chiloe Island gave us a unique view of Chilean culture, living with coastal people and learning their ways. This photo is dedicated to Aurora Projekt <http://auroraprojekt.com/> our proud sponsor of looking good with localized fashion.

Come Chiloe, Come Chiloe, Come Chiloe with me!

Gettin off the mainland, we´re island bound baby!

Feeling good about the recent preparations to our steel steeds, we left Puerto Montt. Smooth, easy riding put us past the 50 or so hitchhikers along the route and into Pargua to catch the ferry to Chiloe Island. We had contacted a Warmshowers host on the island, but with the amount of light left in the day we decided to score a ride with one of the trucks on the ferry. We got off the boat last and pushed our bikes past about 30 zombie hippy backpackers clawing at our agreed upon ride. Our friendly driver dropped us off right at the front door of our host in Ancud and we were quickly welcomed in by the seven people staying in the house.

Lican on guard for nap protection

Xavier, Theresa, and Dani hosted us in the house they were renting, a beautiful wood cabin near the beach. The next couple days we were able to squeeze in a lot of good times with some incredible people. Swimming at the beach was followed by the many hour preparation of a Curanto, the traditional feast of Chiloe. Much of that time was spent cleaning choros (mussels) and making potato-cheese biscuits. All kinds of delicious items, from poroto beans to pork sausages were thrown in the pot and cooked al vapor with the mussels. It was an epic feast that tasted delicious and gave us left overs for two days.

Curanto - Breakfast of Champions. And lunch. And dinner. And breakfast again.

sometimes its hard to wait for dinner

The next day we made a mission for the outer coast of Chiloe with Armin, Hugo, and Carla, our new friends who were sharing the house with us. The landscapes out there were stunning, and we ended up finding a beach to ourselves that we enjoyed to the fullest. After climbing around on some rocks, laying in the sun, and harvesting kelp for another seafood stew, we took off for the Pinguinero. Seeing our first wild penguins was pretty exciting, and since its prohibited to walk out to them, we swam out to where the tour boats were motoring and got a good, up close view of the penguins from the water. Shaking off the chill of the water, we stopped at a local fair to get some empanadas and then headed back home for one more night at the Ancud casa.

Free Willy would love it here

cuttin kelp with rock knives

From there we mounted our beastly rigs and headed for Castro. Our idea was to figure out the ferry schedule there and then see what Cucao, on the west coast of the island, was all about. It was a bummer to find out that the ferry to Chaiten only operates on Sundays and Thursdays and that the next two ferries were booked. That meant we would be spending an extra week on the island. But, like always, we tried not to let the kink in the plan lower our spirits and took off towards Cucao. A flat on the way followed by tire replacement put us 20 kilometers out of Cucao and under a nice bridge, which is fitting for our current appearances.

pretty much sums up our feelings about Castro after trying to get ferry tickets

The next day brought us into our home por la proxima semana. We spent a lot of time chowing down on WAY too many macha empanadas and watching hundreds of hippie zombies stumbling out of the recently finished Festival de la Luna to try to find rides and free food. Our hitchhiker buddy, Seth, had 4 days off from his hostal work in Valdivia and made a trip to the island to see us bearded fellas. We were able to check out a national park and do a hike out to Cole Cole together before he had to hop on a bus back to the working world. We had a blast exploring the area together and relaxing in beautiful spots, which seems to be something that the three of us are really good at. We gave Seth an honorary ATripSouth birthday on his last day with us, since it would probably be our last visit together. He chose to be 22 years old that day. It was our 5th country together and although it wasn’t as epic as the goodbye in the San Blas Islands, where he swam to shore to wait out a cheaper lift to Colombia, it was still a good time.

seth on the bluff, scoping what we thought were free camp sites. epic nonetheless though.

mate and birthday breakfast down the rabbit hole

seths last dance with the beach boys

Besides one last hoorah with our good friend, our time in Cucao was occupied hanging out with an awesome family. Sergio, Julia, Camila, Daniel, Anai and Benjamin were excellent hosts during our time spent in town. Each member of the family had their own skills and hobbies which they were happy to teach us. We learned how to cure sheep hides, make marmelades, harvest local plants, cheat at dice board games with the kids, and live like Chilotes. They let us camp in their yard and cook food over a fire, fed us mean food, let us stalk their lives for some video footage, and watched our bikes while we played around the area.

Sergio sheeping out

getting the local flora tour from our young friends. This multo was picked for a medicinal tea.

hustlers and horse gamblers

A rough side ride to Muelle de la Alma for a nasty vantage point and it was the end of an extremely fun week of waiting. Leaving with several new friends and a couple jars of freshly made jam, we were on our way. For one of the first times on ATripSouth we retraced our steps and made it back to Castro with about 5 kilos of blackberries in our bellies.

the blackberries popped just in the nick of time for our visit

One last preparation session at the supermarket filled our bags to the brims with provisions for the great task ahead. The following morning we loaded a ferry for Chaiten to start the Carretera Austral, that famous road which has long been the most anticipated part of our journey…

January Photo of the Month

January took us down the coast of Chile, across the dry interior of the thin country, and into the Lakes Districts of Chile and Argentina. The diversity of environments we encountered gave us plenty of opportunities to use the gear that Nugget Alaskan Outfitter helped us acquire. Thanks so much NAO for making our camping lifestyles comfortable! We couldn’t imagine this trip without your support.

From dirt roads to ferry crossings, riding in the Lakes District is far from monotonous

Chile is Chill

The last face we saw in Argentina

Down to two. Just a pair of dirty, up to no good, strange looking in any country guys left. Kanaan and Andrew, the Bash Bros. This wasn’t our first time entering a country as just two punks. The other time was going from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, and it went a bit better. Not to say this one went bad, just… not as good. When you’ve had the awesome life that we have had for over a year and a half, it’s easy to find things to nag about. Like having to both go into a private customs office together while leaving our bikes unattended as everyone else goes to the public windows. Or having to fill out the exit form for Argentina twice because we had to throw the first one away when they wouldn’t believe that our middle names weren’t part of our first names. Or the entry stamp to Chile being on a page that’s already full in our passports and not dark enough to read. We’ll see if that works out down the road when we try to re-enter Argentina further south.

No bikes allowed! Loading the van for the border crossing through the 2 km tunnel.

That’s all the whining we’ll do for now, we realize our lives are a dream come true. And if we didn’t, the downhill from the border definitely reminded us! We were at the top of an immense valley surrounded by massive snow-capped mountains, known as the Andes, looking down on a constant flow of about 20 switchbacks. We start our descent. This is why we climbed for three straight days against headwinds. The top is cold but soon we find ourselves shedding layers, pausing to take in the scene. We continue flowing down the non-stop switchbacks. Because we were on bikes, we were allowed to pass a line of cars and trucks, about a kilometer long, all waiting for the go ahead from the construction workers. The road is ours, 6 kilometers of incredible non-stop switchbacks, all to ourselves!

Chile looks like its going to be fun

Other than the cat calls from the road crews (how degrading) nothing interrupts our exhilarating descent except our own hollers and cheers. When we switch the last of the backs we’re nothing but smiles and laughs. Luckily there’s another surprise in store for us. The downhill continues for another 30 kilometers! Then another easy 30 k’s to Los Andes.

Jumbo is the new Chuckie Cheez

After putting in so much work to get over the epic height of the mountain range it was good to get the paycheck, finally making some distance. In the Jumbo Supermarket we found things to make the day even better, things we haven’t seen for several countries, some maybe since Mexico. Tortillas, salsa, peanut butter, refried beans, and one of our favorite fruits: chirimoya. After getting a few stats on what lies ahead from a curious taxi driver and some new fancy cash money from the ATM we headed to the centro for lunch and a siesta. The weather was still much warmer than the warmest day Juneau has ever seen, but it was a good time with different scenery than we’ve seen. The mountain sides were covered from one end to the next with crops of grapes for winemaking. We know this kind of stuff after graduating from the Mendoza Ashley & Shane Academy of Wine Professionalism for Rookies (read the last blog). Anyway, as the sun decided it was done for the day we were riding past a cool looking town, Llay Llay. With a name like that, how could we not stay?!

The next day was filled mostly with anticipation. It had been 4 ½ long months since our departure from Montañitas, Ecuador and the Pacific Ocean. The goal was to reach Viña del Mar and head straight for the ocean for that salt water bath that would wash the multiple days of heavy sweat from our crusty bods. Unfortunately the way the city is laid out on the hills didn’t make that an easy feat.

The great cities of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

A few days prior we were taking turns watching bikes outside while waiting for each other to supply at a market in Mendoza when a curious passerby inquired about our goofy looks. “Hey?! You speak English, Man?” Forty minutes later we left town to bike westward toward Chile with this guys’ contact info. Originally a Canadian from Victoria, Dave is now living in Viña Del Mar, Chile and invited us to stay with him when we got there. Well…here we are. Within an hour of calling we were inside his house drinking Arizona Ice Tea followed by cold white wine. Welcome to Viña I guess!

Dave gave up his Chevette in Victoria for his bicycle in Viña. Hence the great legs.

The rest of the night was spent on the outdoor patio eating pasta, sharing stories and pictures, and sampling the local Chilean wines.  Hot water showers and it was off to our own beds. Who knows how long we slept the next morning, and who cares. It felt amazing. Dave and his girlfriend Daysi (the owner of the house) had quesadillas, tea, juice, and coffee ready for us when we walked downstairs. How do we get so lucky all the time? It seemed like no time had passed and we were sitting on the patio eating curried rice, grilled chicken, and drinking wine. What a life!

zapallitos rellenas a la Daysi. there ain't no better.

A couple hours of conversation and it was clear what should happen for the rest of the day, we had to go to the beach. Golly gee it was good to get back into the water after so much time away. It’s chilly water (literally, Chile water) and Dave thought we were crazy, but we think he’s crazy so it all works out in the end.

Waking up to another great breakfast made it an easy start to the day. A few stories later let us know that Dave is friends with our buddies at the Seaward Kayaks factory in Chemainus, BC. He pulled out two business cards from the owner and told us he has an engine stored on their property. What a small world.

typical Dave and Daysi poses

After we ate breakfast the next day we took a bus to meet up with one of the guys working with a local surf program: the Valpo Surf Project. We had heard about this program and these guys through a mutual friend, Wes Farnsworth. As it turned out, most of the VSP crew was out of town for the holidays. But our new buddy, Billy, was there running the show and holding things down. Once we met him, we immediately knew the vibe was a chill and relaxed one. Maybe too chill and too relaxed, we ended up spending nearly two weeks bouncing back and forth between the Valpo surf house and the Viña expat’s house. Not that we’re bummed about it. A full selection of boards and wetsuits to choose from, surfing at six different spots, meeting several new friends, camping, climbing, learning Chilean slang, and unlimited access to a grilled cheese maker. It was a good time.

Tio Billy ready to fire it up at Papa gallo's

The Valpo experience would have been half as awesome with out Nelson and that pretty new van

watermelon celebration with the inaugural van session crew at Punta de Piedra

Nasti-J gettin nasti on the coastal boulders

Once we finally pulled ourselves together to leave Dave, Daysi, and Viña behind, it was 8PM and there was only 1½ hours of daylight left. But we only needed one hour of light to get to the surf house in Valpo, so off we went. We spent the last night in Valpo with our two friends, Billy and Natasja, hanging out, watching Youtube clips, and drinking beer. It would be nice to say we were out of there bright and early the next day for a full day of biking, but let’s get real. We slept in, used the grilled cheese maker, drank coffee and mate, hung out with Billy & Jon, and dilly-dallied on the patio looking at the city.

Valpo's finest gentlemen at the VSP house

When 5PM rolled around we figured we would be safe from the days’ heat (it was overcast and not at all hot at any part of the day) and able to leave. The new friendships and experiences from Viña and Valpo were some good ones and it’ll be a good day when we run into our friends again in the future.

The next morning we started at different times, and didn’t see each other again until San Antonio, many hours later. Separating while biking seems to come very natural for us. Kanaan took the more direct route to S.A., while Andy took the coastal route, which is about 25 kilometers longer. Both of us knew S.A. was probably as far as the other would go before meeting up and decided to check in via the interweb. The stars aligned and somehow we both found the same place to use internet in the large city of S.A. Flor Flai, Weon! (Right on, Man!).

familiar faces in the largest port of Chile

After a bit of internetting and learning about each others’ days, we decided it was time to get on the bikes in order to get out of the city to camp. Andy took his bike out of the small internet café and Kanaan moved next door to the Polleria to grab his. Thanking the people that let us store our bikes led them to ask the question, “where are you staying tonight?” To which we replied ‘No sabemos. Vamos un poco más hacia el sur para acampar’ or ‘We don’t know. We’re going to bike a little farther south to camp.’ Well, the lady working at the Polleria, Noemi, was not at all interested in this answer. It was Christmas Eve and we were staying with her family. Good fortune strikes again.

quality people makin some mighty fine chicken

Noemi got off work an hour later and we two neanderthals followed her car with our bikes until we made it to her house. Once there we met her two sons, Domingo (Mingoku) and Chino (don’t know his real name). Followed by Mingoku’s son, Noel, his two cousins, and their mother. Noemi told us she was tired of cooking the foods usually associated with Christmas and opted to make Chinese food instead. That sounds better than our typical biker-burrito.

Here, presents get opened on Christmas Eve and after dinner the kids went to town. Each of the two boys came away with a PlayStation 3 and the girl scored a PlayDoh play kit. They were beyond stoked and it was a good idea to give them a little space for a while until they came down from their gift wrap high. Mingoku and Chino took us outside for a couple of beers and some laughs. Before long our new road mother, Noemi, came out with two more gift wrapped packages for the bearded ones. We were caught off guard and at the same time super pumped to get to unwrap something. Inside the brightly colored wrapping we found socks, foot cream, and deodorant. Okay…we get it, we’ll go take showers now. Kanaan went first while Mingoku & Chino took Andy on a mission for adult beverages.

Mingoku at home

Soon we were both showered and sitting outside relaxing. Good times were had before Chino had to leave and we were down to three. As time went on, and more drink was consumed, the hobbies and talents of Mingoku slowly began to unfold. A couple self written songs on the guitar. A keyboard with an air hose connected to it so that you have to blow into it to make sounds. A bow with a coconut at the base that you play with a rock. He also practices Brazilian Capoeri martial arts and showed us videos of him in action followed by a live show of a couple acrobatic flips. But, Andy’s favorite part of the night came after Mingoku beat Kanaan at arm wrestling (both left and right hands) followed by a live demonstration of how to do a proper high kick. For this he needed a volunteer from the audience of two, and when he couldn’t find one he was glad to hand select Kanaan. He showed Kanaan how to brace his arm for the upcoming impact and followed up with a powerful kick to Kanaan’s shoulder. But he didn’t think we watched the form enough and had to demonstrate once more how the all the power comes from the legs. After the second showing of this amazing performance, Andy said he missed part of the form and needed to see it once more. The laughing quickly gave him away and Kanaan wasn’t having it. Shows over, folks.

Before leaving the next day, we walked around the city with Mingoku and got a casual tour. One more visit to the casa and we thought we were on our way. Yeah right. The next stop was the Polleria to say goodbye to Noemi and Noel, who we had just said goodbye to on our city tour. But she’s awesome so we were glad to see her one more time. The chicken she gave us por el camino (for the road) was a good way to be sent off. Mingoku led us out of the city on his motorcycle and we exchanged hugs and said our goodbyes. Ciao Hermano.

we wanted to take him along for the ride but Dadgoku wasn't havin it

The end of the day took us down a fat hill into the quaint pueblito of Rapel. Walking past several ‘no camping’ signs put us at a relaxing spot on the river where we set up for the night. In the middle of our scorching 90 kilometer ride the next day we came across a Brazilian cyclist heading the opposite direction. Thirty minutes sitting on the side of the road, an exchange of coca leaves and a bomberos ball cap and we were on our way.

no shortage of bikers in Chile, cheif.

Once in Pichilemu, the vibe was that of a small, relaxed surf town. Our compadres in Valpo had given us contact info for a couple of their buddies who live there, but after failing to get in touch we decided to sit down at Dokas and chow down on a shawarma. The restaurant owner, Oscar, was pumped on how heavy our bikes were and brought out a couple cold ones to finish off our meals. Now it was time to camp. Right on the beach we found an abandon work trailer covered in graffiti with a nice platform to put our tents. The splashing waves soon had us happily dozing.

When we woke up the next morning we packed our bikes and headed back into town to find internet in order to find our local pitutos (contacts). Again, No luck. However, our German biker buddy Thomas happened to be in town and saw our bikes sitting outside the ciber we were at. After a while of catching up, Kanaan and Andy knew they needed to do what they were in town to do- surf. The three of us headed to one of the surf shops where Thomas was able to use internet while Andy and Kanaan got suited up and sent it to the Pacific Ocean with boards in hand.

Infiernadillos Surf School is the chillest pad in Pichi

Pichilemu has several breaks with consistent waves. Even though there were a lot of people in the water, the vibe was good and nobody had any trouble scoring a few rides. A couple hours later we were satisfied with the day and sufficiently cold. When we got changed into warm clothes we grabbed Thomas and headed for the center of town. Stumbling onto the scene of some live street music, we chose to park our bikes against the wall, grab three cervezas and take a seat on the corner across the street. The music was good and we were having a good time enjoying it and talking to some punk biker kids that stopped to talk to us.

Once in a while we would look at someone and play one of our favorite games, ‘who does that look like?’. Andrew is the all-time winner because he saw a girl crossing the street and said ‘Kendra Buerger’, a friend from home. He became extremely frightened when she started running at him full speed, but settled down when he realized that it was actually, indeed, Kendra Buerger. She, her boyfriend Craig Kasburg, his sister, Deborah and his brother-in-law, Alex were on their first day of a Chilean vacation and had just arrived on a bus from Santiago. Our minds were blown and for a while it was a little difficult to put words together that formed sentences. They were exhausted from a full day of travelling in planes and busses so we all made plans to meet up and surf the next day.

look what the cat dragged in

After a quick bite to eat with the whole gang the Alaskans headed for the waves. A couple good hours on the water and it was back to the surf shop to grab our gear. The short term vacationers headed to their lodging to get showered up and changed before we three long termers arrived ready to share a round of mate and conversation.Once the mate dried up and everyone became restless for some grub we headed back to our favorite restaurant, Dokas. Shawarmas all around. But tonight was special, dinner AND a show! It started with a guy, wearing a backpack both on the front and the back, speaking heatedly with a girl. Fifteen minutes later she decided she’d had enough and stormed away. Needing a new source for his anger, he found a guy nearby on the sidewalk and started another heated debate. Then he threw a punch. Bad move. The new guy wasn’t very tolerant of the double backpacked man taking a swing and let loose a flurry of fists, quickly sending the apparent instigator to the ground. Even though we all said we wouldn’t get involved, the clearly one-sided fight was too much to watch. We pulled them apart. Once separated it took at least thirty minutes to calm them down. One of the waiters at the restaurant finally had to give the fired up champion a solid shove to let him know he meant business and that he needed to leave. But, thirty minutes later, the hoodlum returned to throw a rock into the restaurant, aiming for the waiter but hitting an uninvolved guy instead before sprinting away. The waiter wasn’t pumped on this and the chase was on. We didn’t see them again that night. The rest of us decided that was too much action for one night and went our separate ways.

party boys and party girls

The next day brought more sunshine with it and we decided to have another good day relaxing. During the day we ran into another cycling buddy, Johanna, and nighttime once again brought us all to Dokas. Opting to sit inside this time we took over the back room. We ran into the waiter and he let us know that he found the rebel rouser from the previous night and had ‘won’. To celebrate he poured fiery cucaracha (cockroach) shots for Kanaan and Andy, on the house.

now thats a mean gang of hoodlums

Alex & Deborah chose to take a bus ride south the next day and it was minus two from then on. The other six of us decided to take a six km bike ride to the world famous Punta de Lobos, well known in the surf world for it’s epic left-hand break. Again, just the Alaskans decided to get in the water and we decided it was more economical to get just two boards and switch out once cold or tired. We all had an awesome time but eventually had to begin the ride back to our homeland, Pichilemu.

craig thought that it would be funny to try to catch a wave without the wetsuit

andy thought it would be funny to catch a wave in a wetsuit

We got cleaned up and rallied in Kendra and Craigs room to get ready to welcome in the New Year. Kendra and Johanna were a couple of dolls and volunteered to put braids into our beards and hair, making us a couple of regular beauties. Once we felt good and ready for the night we left the room and joined everyone in the streets flooding to the beach, where the fuegos artificiales (fireworks) were about to make a boom.

kings of the bongos bonging in the new year

In front of the ocean, covering the sand were thousands of people of all ages. Everyone was there for the same reasons: to have a good time and see some colorful bangs. One of our party of friends was probably the only person at the show that was having a bad time. Thomas dropped his iPod into the sand and would never see it again. Aside from the sulky German, there was dancing, fires, and a lot of people with drums getting everyone riled up. The good and bad news is that the party never ended. Meaning our previous campsite was occupied through the whole night and we needed to resort to other options.

partied out

never seen a beach scene like that before: Chilean People of the New Year

Everyone eventually found one another the next day after catching a few extra zzz’s (minus the depressed German, who decided to bus to Santiago for a new phone). Kendra, Craig, Baus and Andy had a solid couple of hours relaxing before finding a decent restaurant (Dokus wasn’t open). After that came the good part. A couple “he’s not going to do that”s and “no he didn’t”s later from an amped up Craig and we found ourselves halfway through a circus. Some impressive acts were seen (just ask Craig), and plenty of laughs were laughed before the curtain closed and another day had terminated.

no! he's not going to! HE'S DOING IT! he didn't...

Sadly, we had to bid our last two Juneau friends goodbye the next day, but that also meant we were finally going to be on the move again! Or did it?! When heading out of town that day we stopped 6 kilometers away at that epic Punta de Lobos lefty to check the scene. We could always bike after a bit more surfing, right? Kanaan tortuga’d his way to the water while Andy chose to sit this one out and enjoy some mate instead.

punta de lobos is da bomb.com

While Kanaan was splashing about and getting ripped up by the massive Pacific Ocean, Andy realized his jacket, that Patagonia was nice enough to give each of us when we visited them in Ventura, was missing. When Kanaan got out of the salty water we went back to Pichi to check the spots we’ve frequented. After thinking about our time in Pichi and not remembering Andrew ever wearing the jacket we decided to phone our Christmas host family and see if it was left behind. Sure enough, it was there. However, they said tomorrow was a bad day to come (we later found out their floor was being torn out that day). So the next day we decided to bike a bit, but not so much that it would make the following days hitchhike too hard. We ended up in Bucalemu, camping at a cancha de futbòl (soccer field). In the morning Pepe was setting up for a game that would happen in the afternoon and in conversation said it would be fine to store our bikes in his shed while we did the side mission back to San Antonio. The only thing that sketched us out about Pepe was that he told us the best spot to hitch from was next to the Carabineros (police), making their routine traffic stops of cars passing the bridge. But he insisted he was telling the truth and that hitching wasn’t illegal in Chile, so we went to the bridge. A few of the typical ‘where are you from?’ and ‘how long have you been travelling?’ questions later from the carabineros and we were asking every car they stopped for a ride. When we got a ride up the big hill leaving Bucalemu we saw our German friend, Thomas, biking down it. He must have woken up pretty early to be this far already. It ended up taking six rides to get to San Antonio and we had to walk the last 5 km’s to arrive at our X-mas home as the sun was setting.

back in San Antonio

Our awesome family immediately sent us to our old room and had us get comfortable. Soon after we were sitting at the table sharing another great meal prepared by our mother, Noemi. Later on Mingoku invited two of his buddies over and we spent hours learning new, Chile specific, slang words. We were with Mingoku so we obviously stayed up later than we should have, meaning the next day we slept later than we should have. Another silent agreement was had that we should stick around for the day. After-all, there’s futbòl americano on today. It just so happened to be Kanaan’s San Francisco 49ers, versus Andrew’s Green Bay Packers. Unfortunately the game ended on a bad note and Andrew was barely able to have a good time playing pool afterwards. Luckily his spirits were brought up when they went back to their home and had another dinner waiting for them. Too tired to stay up all night again, we headed to bed.

as if he didn't have enough talents, Mingoku also taught us a new way to play pool

Breakfast was coffee, papaya juice from their yard, and a cake that Noemi made JUST for us. We love this family but we needed to get that jacket and get the heck outta there. We said our goodbye’s to Noel, then Mingoku shuttled us on his moto to the Polleria to say bye to Noemi. Of course she had us come inside and eat humitas before we could leave. Then prepared chicken sandwiches for our day of travelling. Final Chilean jokes were told and we were on our way. After six more rides and 180 kilometers we arrived back in Bucalemu just as the red sun was dunking its glowing head in ocean for the night.

Getting back into bike mode after so much relaxing turned out to be quite the endeavor. If sloth is a sin, as the good book says its so, we were certainly punished on our first day out of Bucalemu. Some of the steepest hills we’ve biked, a few of them sandy gravel, greeted us at the door and let us into the house of pain. We worked our butts off making slow progress and couldn’t stop saying ‘seriously?!’ We must have been guilty of all 7 of those dang sins on our month of Chillin on the coast because we got punished with “La Cuesta de Siete Vueltas” (the hill of seven turns). It turned out to be a bonus package with at least nine steep hairpin cut backs. Even the downhill on the other side was a bit too steep to enjoy.

This sinner is pretty stoked about having just scored the third item on the menu

We woke up under a bridge outside of Licanten and soon set out for a day on the bikes. It was another scorchingly hot day but the scenery was of a high enough class that we didn’t care how many ounces of sweat fell from our bodies. that afternoon put us in the large and ugly city of Constitution, where we ate lunch. Right out of the city was a huge hill. We thought nothing of it, but within seconds a truck pulled over and insisted to give us a ride to the top. A sketchy ride with two strangers urging us to go with them? Definitely! (Don’t let your kids read our blog). The hill ended up being long like they had said and we were glad to get dropped right at the top. Both of us were sleepy and hot so 15 km later we found a nice shady flat spot on the side of the road to take naps and play cards. A refreshing dip into a pond right by the ocean and we called it a day, stopping to eat in Las Cañas before finding a vacant lot just outside of town.

Asesino greeting us from our swim

At this point we knew Kendra and Craig had returned from the deep south and would spend their last few days of vacation in Cobquecura, a coastal town not far south of us. We were excited to know we would have two sessions with them and knocked out another demanding 90 km’s the next day, stopping 12 km’s and two big hills short of a reunion. Camping on the beach, Mario approached us with hot water for mate and fresh fry bread. Quickly mowing the fry bread and slowly working our way through the mate we knew we needed to get clean before bed. With no more sun left in the day it took a minute to build up the courage for the impact the Pacific would hit us with. But we built it up and rushed full throttle into the frigid waters. A game of cribbage followed our cold water crusade and we hit the sack. When we conquered the two big hills the next day we headed to the only spot in town with internet on public computers and let our lovely friends know we made it to town and would wait in the plaza for them. Kendra and Craig showed up not long after with nothing but smiles on their faces. Informing us their hotel was within two blocks of the plaza, we followed them to their temporary home. In truth, we don’t even like these guys, we just like having a place to put our bikes and showers. After an awesome tour of their hotel the 4 of us sipped on mate and began hatching plans for what the day would bring.

Aren't they lovely?!

The idea was to surf, but the only surf shop in town was out of decent tablas (boards) for the day. So we went to the beach anyway and body surfed. Craig was easily the most committed person in the water and would anxiously ride each wave until a sandy-stomach-slide would bring him to a halt.

teets are for tots

Showers all around and it was time to get the night started. Between la playa y el hotel we had picked up the things necessary for an asado (barbeque). Our new friend Sarah had joined us and we were all soon eating like kings. Fully fueled we left the hotel and hit the plaza, where a concert was in full swing. Quickly finding our groove we found ourselves dancing all out with girls, guys, grandmas, kids, and anyone else in sight (later two guys came up to Kanaan and said they’d seen him dancing with their moms). The music was excellent and the night was an epic one we would not soon forget. Andy and Baus planned to camp on the beach and off they went, hitting one of the many beach bonfires on the way to bed.

Master that grill!

She's not too stoked on dancing

'Stop this crazy dancing!'

A lazy morning and it was off to the hotel to meet up with the two Juneauites. Everyone was hungry for food and waves so we grabbed some chow, some boards, and hitched ten km’s to Buchupureo, the closest good break. A small beach nestled in a cozy cove was home for the next few hours. Alternating between surfing and resting on the beach was a good way to spend an afternoon. We got sloshed around for a while and it was time to return the boards, so we stuck out our thumbs and got dropped off right in front of the surf shop. Again, showers were had by all while Kendra and Craig packed their bags. We all headed for a restaurant to eat, but Kendra and Craig barely had time to get their to-go empanadas before they had to scurry off to catch their bus to Santiago. They were awesome to have around and we had a lot of good times together. Thanks guys!

why aren't we getting picked up?! could be those not-very-concealed items in hand...

Will you sponsor us Surfline?

It’s a bummer they couldn’t stay just a bit longer. The night got pretty exciting. While at the restaurant we met up with a surf buddy from Pichi and his buddy. When we were done eating we headed to the Plaza, where we knew there was karaoke going on. We arrived and immediately saw that the scene needed some help. Little kids shyly singing bad songs is cool for their parents…but that’s it. Luckily Kanaan owed Andrew a dare from a previous cribbage game and Andy was more than happy to dare Baus to sing some karaoke. Soon enough Kanaan was on stage getting down to Queen-Bohemian Rhapsody. Andy was down in the crowd trying to get people pumped, not that anyone needed help. Once people saw one of the crazy gringos from the prior night dancing they went insane. To say Kanaan put on an epic performance would be an understatement. Freddie Mercury would blush. Andrew couldn’t stop laughing and smiling for hours. Our French and Irish surfer friends decided they couldn’t take anymore and turned in for the night, leaving just us two. The karaoke immediately went back to shy children so we made our way to the beach to check out another bonfire before getting too tired and calling it a night.

The next day, the road was calling us. But so was playoff football. We were able to find a restaurant that was playing the 9ers vs. Panthers and Broncos vs. Chargers, so we postponed our takeoff. After we saw a successful result of the first game and the first half of the next game going the way we wanted it to go, we knew if we wanted to leave that day we would need to catch the last of the day’s light. So off we went, getting constant hollers on the way out of town. Cobquecura was an incredible spot to spend a couple days and we have tons of good memories from there! But it was good-bye to the coast…for now!

Keep it real, Blue

During the next 25 kilometers into the next day we had a couple of awesome downhills and before long had made it to Quirihue. While there we shopped for food and really took our time leaving; Kanaan’s stomach was bothering him. 10-15 km later we took another rest, napping at our favorite of places, a bus stop. Kanaan was still not doing so hot but said the 25 or so km’s to San Nicolas would be doable. We arrived in the scorching heat and played a game of cards before Kanaan passed out on the ground for another nap. It was pretty clear, we should stay in San Nicolàs that night. After a few hours of plaza resting, complete with free showers, we went to the town’s cancha de futbol and called it a night.

Although  we woke up to another blue bird, beautiful day, it wouldn’t end up being that hot for Kanaan. He hadn’t slept all night from stomach pains and the days first order of business was going to the Clinica de Salud (health clinic). Immediately upon entering everyone assumed we spoke zero spanish and fetched a beautiful, young, english speaking female doctor in blue jeans and a tank top. Okay…No hablamos español!

Maybe he was faking it

A couple of quick questions and an IV later and Kanaan was napping on the bed in Ms. Doctor’s office. After a couple of hours he was feeling a bit better and we moved our show to the plaza. As time passed he began feeling worse and worse until it was clear that we needed to go back to the clinic. To Kanaan’s pleasure, our favorite doctor did another quick examination, but couldn’t figure it out. She said we needed to go to an actual hospital and arranged an ambulance to take us to San Carlos. Our driver and EMT were very relaxed and one of us had a great time hanging out with all of the toys in the back. Bausler was not the one that had a great time.

Fiesta de Ambulancia!

Between our arrival and departure Kanaan had a couple of tests done and received another IV. In the end we were told he was taking expired antibiotics and sent him away with a bunch of new magic pills that would make him all better inside. The awesome ambulance picked us up around eleven to return us to San Nicolas and our bikes. Everything involved with figuring out what was wrong with Kanaan and the follow up medications was free of charge. They let us shower and we were soon asleep at our cancha de futbol.

Kisses for our happy camper

While Mr. Stomach Pains was napping at the health clinic the previous day, Andy-Boy ran off to use the internet. Amongst other things he discovered that a friend we had met in Cobquecura, just four days ago, lived in the nearby town of Ninhue. When evening rolled around and our friend, Mari, was done with work for the day we decided to hitch there and check out Ninhue, stashing our bikes at a restaurant where we had eaten a few hours prior.

It ended up being a pretty fun night at our Mari’s house. Most of the time was spent talking, listening to music, and attempting to learn different dances from our awesome teachers. Slowly the scene settled down and it was time for bed.

Dance partners

After we woke up, Mari’s brother, Pedro, who we hung out with the night before, picked us up for a drive we’d talked about doing. But first we went to his house for coffee and doughnuts. Soon after we were all loaded up in his truck. Pedro and his two sons up front and us two dogs plus his dog in the back. We were taken up and up and up a logging road and ended up getting out next to a patch of forest. Karate moves, tree climbing, and hitting pine cones with sticks while yelling ‘touchdown’ (instead of home run) were a couple of the highlights of our time on the mountain. One of the kids rode in the back with us on the way down and it was a great time, although his hat flew off twice.

droppin logs as usual

Papa Pedro blending with nature

As punishment for losing his hat we splashed him and his brother like madmen in the above ground pool at their casa. Everyone in Chile is a tio/tia (aunt/uncle) and the boys were soon begging us to stop, but the Bash-Bros take no prisoners and we continued to dominate. (In real life the kids whooped us). Pedro told us he was heading to Chillan soon and asked if we wanted a ride. Yes please. We hopped in the truck and off we went. During our pit-stop to pick-up our bikes we thanked their keeper and finished off the flat, hot truck ride with Pedro. He ended up dropping us off past the city at the Chilean mega gasoline provider, Copec. We found a futbol field nearby and decided to crash there for the night.

Morning came quickly and we found ourselves inside the Copec dining area eating desayuno (breakfast) before sending off for the day. Soon we came upon two Spaniard tourers fixing a flat. The typical side-of-the-road biker convo was had and we convinced them to come check out Saltos del Laja, a large waterfall we had heard about from Pedro and Mari. We swam around in the groovy rock features and in the flow of the falls before deciding it was way too touristy for the possibility of free camping. Our Spanish buds opted to stick it out at a campground for the night and we bid them farewell.

Fallin' all the way down

We planned on stopping to camp before reaching the next big city, but the 25 km’s snuck up on us and we found ourselves at the heart of Los Angeles. In this city of 180,000 people we decided to resort to one of our old tricks, asking the police (Carabineros in Chile) if they had a safe space. They said no, but after a bit of brainstorming they decided to escort us via moto to the fenced in public high school/park/pool. The night guardsman said it was chill and we exchanged goodbye’s with the pacos (cops). We were shown the options of where we could put our tents by one of the extremely Chilean speaking guards (Chileans speak very fast, shorten words, and use tons of Chile specific slang). Then we asked if there was a shower. Every pool we’ve ever been to says to shower first, before entering. Our new friend said they had no shower. Instead, we should just jump in the pool to rinse off. Damn, our lives are fun!

Morning came early again (the biker motto is ‘always tired, always hungry’) and we set out to see what the world had in store for us today. We knew we had to make some distance in order to get somewhere the following day for futbol Americano. Collipulli was the goal. Midway through the hot highway ride we re-encountered yet another long lost biker bud, Stephanie from Quebec. We ate together at a busstop and ended up camping a little past Collipulli, next to some train tracks. Soon we were exploring a train wreck close to our temporary home.

Trying to understand what shes talking about (heavy French Canadian accent)

She's praying to that banana because she's deathly afraid of trains

The big NFL conference championship games that day inspired our goal of reaching Temuco the next day and 100 km later we were there. We tried our old bomberos trick, but they told us to go to the hotel of a fellow bombero and see if he could help us. While searching for it we met Pablo. Not long after we were in his home with our gear safely stowed trying to find the best option for the games.

Steph and Pablo aren’t from the only country that’s crazy about football and took off within an hour, leaving the excessive hair crew to do our thing. Both games were awesome to watch, but watching Seattle beat San Fran was epic. By the time Seattle caught the game winning pick we had been joined by a handful of other people. After the exciting finish to the game we started talking more and found out two of them are involved with getting football off the ground in Chile & Brazil, recently having sent the first Brazilian, Leandro Veal, to the NFL. They’ve also been able to get the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch and Sidney Rice to commit to a football camp coming up soon in Rio, which was incredible to hear about right after we watched them help their team to the Superbowl. The rest of the night was full of great exchanges of laughs, stories, and information. The whole crew was a blast and it was a pleasure to learn about the awesome stuff they are doing in South America. Here’s a link to a partner project: Chilean football

The Seahawks game was on west coast time, which is 5 hours behind our current time zone. Needless to say Stephanie beat us out the door the following morning. It ended up being a good thing though. Pablo thought he would be busy with school that day, but was able to sneak away from exams early enough to catch us as we were heading out. This crazy fella decided he wanted to bike with us to Villarrica and was soon ready to hit the road. A mix of rain and sun and the first blackberries in a long time was the ticket to helping us arrive at our destination. A lake swim with beautiful surroundings and too many good jokes were had before we sent this awesome guy home on a bus. Thanks so much Pablo, we look forward to seeing you in Juneau one day!

NO RULES!!

celebration swim for reaching our first lake of the lakes district!

It didn’t take long the following morning to get kicked out of our campsite. The vacant lot we chose was pretty visible and we definitely lasted longer than we thought we would. At around 9 o’clock the carabineros (police) showed up, woke us up, and took down our names and passport numbers. We ended up joking around and having a good time, but still, we were in the books. We spent the day lounging around with Stephanie and not much more. At night we knew we had to find a new location for tents and began the search. Barely into the mission a car pulled over and asked us if we wanted to stay with them. Duh, let’s go. We loaded our bikes into the back of their van and drove the 8 dirt road km’s to the home of Maca and Juaco. Their house was amazing and we ended up eating a very good pesto pasta and salad for dinner, all from ingredients straight from their garden. Very welcoming beds topped off the night and we were extremely happy to not be spending another night in the rain.

The hosts with the most

A dope breakfast of homemade bread complete with all the possible spreads (including honey, jam, and dulce de leche from the neighbor’s bees, berries and cows) started the day with a positive vibe. This most excellent couple dropped us off in town and we were excited to have a day biking in the rain.

Their puppy likes the taste of Andrew's sandals, luckily Maca is a crafty kid.

Many rain drops later we were in Lican Ray, eating fries and playing cards in a dry café. We knew the rain wouldn’t let up anytime soon and we were in a good position to make our goal (Juaco’s parent’s house) the next day. So we set out to find our nights home. Naturally the bomberos said no. We debated the covered public basketball court but decided we didn’t feel like being woken up by the carabineros again. We went to the store we stopped at when we arrived and asked if we could setup under their awning. She said yes of course and we were covered for the night. Our host, Katy, was very friendly and gave us bread and jam in the morning while we hung out with Aceo, her 8 year old son.

Three rascals under a much needed dry roof

Starting out cold we were not overly excited about the rain this time, but we set out anyway. But the minute we started riding the rain stopped and within 30 minutes the clouds were parting. We had a beautiful ride among the trees along a couple different lakes. And encountered the first spruce trees since Oregon.

When the couple from Villarrica invited us to stay with them, Juaco ended up giving us the address of his family’s vacation home on Lago Neltume, right on our route. We stumbled upon the correct house and some of the first words from our host mother, Monica, were that we have total freedom while we’re there. We tossed our bags into our hostel style bedroom (5 sets of bunk-beds) and got comfortable. While moving our stuff the four staff of the house had prepared a plate of food and a beer for each of us. Fueled up on food we walked down to the lake and hopped into a couple of kayaks. Immediately finding our rhythm we began exploring the surrounding river and various cliff faces. It was great to be back in kayaks after so long and Lago Neltume proved to be the perfect spot to have a paddle in hand.

Monica Manzano with her friend Monica at the Manzano castle on the lake

When we first were talking to our Monica’s they had joked about us being ladrones (thieves) and we joked back saying we were ladrones de comida (food thieves). At dinner we showed them we weren’t lying and cleaned up each dish. Afterwards they said they were going to lock the kitchen at night.

The reason for the excessive bunk beds soon became apparent after dinner. About 20 of Juaco’s 50 cousins and their friends came to the house and showed us Monica meant it when she said ‘complete freedom’. All of us were out on the patio sipping down piscolas until us old guys could no longer keep up and headed for our dorm.

Thor, Loki, and their minions

Sad to have to leave such a beautiful spot where we were treated so well, we sulked off on our bikes the next morning. On the 20 km dirt road ride we met up with the Spaniards again and many bumps later we were all in Puerto Fuy. Unfortunately we had barely missed the ferry that is necessary to cross the lake and get to the Argentina border. The next one wouldn’t be for 5 hours so we got cozy.

staring at the fresh snow on the volcano kept us from reaching the ferry on time

The open deck ferry ride was beautiful and the ride was quite enjoyable and the two hour ride passed pretty quickly. Soon enough we were in Puerto Pirehueco as the sun began to set. Our group of four found an excellent campsite next to a nearby river and soon we were relaxing and eating dinner around a small fire. We went to bed happy that night, knowing that tomorrow we would be returning to the amazing country of Argentina!

the first sunlight that hit our chilly final campsite of chile

Rising to cold air coming off the river put a hop in the step, and got us on our way for our return to Argentina. The bumpy dirt road chattered us through the borders and we knew we were back on familiar ground when we saw the customs agents all sipping mate. A couple kilometers of washboard gravel shook us up enough, and when a bus came up behind us we had no problem sticking out our thumbs to catch a ride for the next 40 kilometers of ‘ripio’ (dirt road).

Interestingly the bus picked up three more bicycle tourers about 30 seconds after we got on, a crew of Argentineans doing their duty to their country and cycling the siete lagos (7 lakes). Turns out this is a very popular thing to do for Argentineans, we ended up meeting tons of groups on short two or three week bike trips through the lakes. These guys were super pumped up, and ended up being the main mechanics when the bus driver hit a rock that knocked out the brake line. Not sure if it was their technical skill or just their enthusiasm that won them this position but we made it to San Martin de Los Andes nonetheless.

stranded momentarily on the wayward bus by John Steinbeck

We stashed our bikes with the only warmshowers host in San Martin, an awesome dude named Cristian, and found an epic campsite above a cliff overlooking the lake. San Martin ended up being King Arthur’s round table for the knights of our trip south. Aside from being the one place where we saw probably the most bike tourers we’ve seen, it was also where many of our good friends from the road all came to meet at once. The legendary Argentineans Nick, Tatan, Candela, Mika and Augustin found us in the park, Madame Stephanie the Canadian came in a day after the Spaniards that we ditched for the bus ride, Noble Sir Seth the Great from Arizona came over from Valdivia for our fifth encounter, and the lovely Princess Nastasja came down from Valparaiso to keep her passport stamps legitimate. On top of this we met two awesome dudes, Gato and Negro, from Buenos Aires at our campsite who ended up hanging with us for our nights on the cliff. It was a little overwhelming to have so many great friends all in one place and wanting to spend time with all of them, but it was tons of fun and we ended up hanging there for about a week in total. Hiking, climbing, and swimming around the lake, sipping mate in the plaza, and chowing epic meals around the campfire were all daily chores to accomplish.

Having real Argentinean friends really helps us look more Argentinean

Gato y Negro, chefs extraordinarios with fresh bread off the fire

watch where you point that thing princess

After San Martin, Nastasja accompanied us to Villa La Angostura, where we spent a couple days taking in the town before she had to send it back to Valpo for work. Steph, Nick, his buddy Devin from Oregon, and two Germans bikers from Steph’s hostel joined us for the Superbowl at the Ruta 40 bar. Turned out to be a blow out but at least the Seahawks won and it was cool to see that defense tear it up so impressively. The next day we decided to head back to Chile since the ferry from Bariloche looked to be crazy expensive and we wanted to go to Puerto Montt. So after a short stint of Fruttigrans and funny ways of saying ‘puedo llenar mi botella con agua?’ it was time to get back to the skinny country.

the forests of the siete lagos alone were worth the detour. back to the west side of the hills!

The border crossing was cold and wet and beautiful. We had to get over the Andes again, but the pass wasn’t too extreme. Lots of up and a good long ways down but a good day’s ride put us just past the Chilean customs. They were much more official this time, actually making us fill out paperwork to claim our produce. The threat of a fine made us tell the truth, and so we were forced to chow our freshies before crossing the line. We found a gorgeous campsite by the river soon after, and spent the night drying wood and our feet around a pleasant fire.

stay safe kids, make a salad before crossing the border

the parks ranger said they were hosting a crosscountry race on this bridge next week

Another nice morning fire got us going the next day, and we waited for the rain to let up a little before hitting the road. About 20 km down, Kanaan stopped by the side of the road to hide his shirt from the rain. A sudden, unexpected and unexplained explosion told him that it was finally time. The first flat on the tires that he put on in Colombia turned out to be a nasty one. The bead had worn out, allowing the tube to poke through, exposed to easy pinch or puncture. Also, one of our pumps had gotten stolen back in Chillan, and since Andy loves getting flats, he had the only pump and was already ahead. There was no option but to stick out the thumb.

it was a long day for tires

A friendly candy maker from Santiago picked Kanaan up, and after catching up to Andrew to tell him the situation, took Kanaan to Entre Lagos and dropped him at a tire service station. The attendant, Miguel, crafted a specialized tire boot for the repair and then invited Kanaan into the house for coffee. After meeting the family, we were invited to stay the night in the house, which was a real relief because by then it was raining like the dickens. Miguel and his father and brothers and sister and nephew were all happy to share their home with us, and we stayed up late playing video games and having drinks and listening to metal and playing jenga.

And Jenga For All... Ride the Jenga. Master of Jengas.

The next day we were a bit tired out and it was raining hard. Carlos offered to give us a ride to Puerto Varas the next day so we decided to chill out and get some bloggin done (thats this stuff your readin right now!). The next day was Miguel’s 24th birthday, and his mother came home from working Santiago and made some epic feasts for us. Carlos decided it would be best to wait another day, so we helped celebrate the birthday by taking a live pig and a brand new human to the grandparents house and accepted the invitation for a third night in a cozy bed. The next day we finally rallied after feeding the family their first quesadillas ever, and loaded the truck. Carlos let us know that he could actually take us all the way to Puerto Montt, if we wanted. There was really no reason why not.

you really can't get more Metal than stuffing a pig in a bag

Pork roast: the family feast for our boy Miguel

After a few scenic detours we arrived by truck to Puerto Montt, the end of Chile’s main freeway, Ruta 5. It marked the end of a major leg of the trip, the Central Chile (with a sprinkle of Argentina) section. Knowing that the upcoming Carretera Austral would be a world of its own, we lined up a couchsurfing host in Puerto Montt to prepare the bikes and finish this blog. Juan Carlos and his family graciously hosted us for three nights, sharing some awesome meals (including the first fresh salmon since Canada), and showing some of the sights around the area. Comfortable couches and good people seemed to be quite a symbolic end to this leg of the journey. Chile has been one of the friendliest places we’ve visited, and the beautiful landscapes and comfortable climate have added to make it an easy favorite among the top locations of ATripSouth. Our two main SouthTripping partners, Chris and Max, both jumped ahead specifically to spend more time in this next upcoming section, and both reported amazingness, so we know that we’ve got a lot to look forward to real soon here.

Juan Carlos presents the mountains of Patagonia. Adios to a great set of lakes!

December Photo of the Month

December was a time of celebration. Well, ok, maybe November was too. And October. But we finally made it back to the Pacific in December after having been gone from the ocean for over four months. Our time in the jungle, mountains, altiplano, and deserts were awesome, but there is nothing quite like coastal living. This photo goes out to the good people at Art Sutch Photography and all the other ocean lovers out there.

Back on the ocean and loving it

November Photo of the Month

Aside

Wine and bicycling. November in Argentina was all about riding through the desert and celebrating the Argentinean way of life. We made sure to immerse ourselves in the culture as best as possible. This photo is dedicated to the Alaskan Brewing Company, a local proponent of good times.

Enjoying the finer things in life with a bottle of torrontes at the lake

Don’t Cry For Me, Argentina!

We had been hearing about the winds of Argentina for the entire trip. A lot of the stories of 200 km/hr gusts, riders getting blown off their bikes, etc., came from the southern Patagonia region, so we were not expecting the north to be much of a problem. Well, it turns out that all of Argentina is windy. Its just a breezy country.

the end of the altiplano in Argentina

Our first couple days from the border of Bolivia at La Quiaca we had a nice tail wind that pushed us along the Altiplano at a rapid pace. But as we started to drop down to the lower elevations the wind shifted to southerly and made things quite a bit more difficult. The terrain started to lift up around us in waves of multicolored rock layers as we descended to the desert. Its always a drag when the wind forces you to pedal even when going downhill, but the beauty of the surrounding landscape made it enjoyable enough.

wild geological layer cake

We met a handful of bike tourers in the northern Jujuy region. Just outside of Humahuaca we met two French dudes who let us in on the secret of Fruttigrans, the best cookies in Argentina. When we arrived to Humahuaca we ran into a British family of four who had been riding from Cancun and were in their final country, ending in Buenos Aires. Joanna from Scotland and Stephanie from Quebec had connected with them, making a group of six, the biggest bike team we had seen since our Colombia-Ecuador crew when we had the South Africans on board. We wanted to camp with them but still had to get food in town, so ended up splitting after a good conversation at the bus stop on the highway.

crazy Frenchies

The next day Lukas decided to get an early start to beat the heat, but the rest of us were a bit too lazy to make wise decisions like that. He ended up beating more than just the heat, around mid morning a gnarly headwind picked up that whooped our butts, and we had to end up camping in Volcan, whereas Lukas had made it all the way to San Salvador de Jujuy on his easy morning ride without the wind. So we were split up. But we found a great park dedicated to Tupac Amaru and Che Guevara that had free camping so things worked out alright. The next morning a crew of local kids had a bread making business going in the communal oven of the park so we got fresh pan for breakfast.

hangin' with Che

We dropped deep into the valley toward San Salvador and met up with Lukas in the morning. Despite having crossed the Tropic of Capricorn the day before, we seemed to be getting into hotter climates as we went further south. We were no longer in the Tropics, but we were also no longer in the Altiplano. Thus it was a real warm one by the time we all met up in the capital of Jujuy, and we decided to relax for the rest of the day and sample our first bottles of Argentinean wine in the plaza. They were the first of many.

juice of the land

just how you pictured it?

After a solid introduction to the juice of the vineyards, we went on a mission to find Halloween costumes. It was October 30th, so we were at the end of our deadline. Luckily we ended up running into a costume shop and scored some decent equipment for the most important holiday of the year. How is it that you always think of cool ideas for costumes in April, but come October they have all slipped from memory? Anyways, we were prepared so that’s all that matters.
Halloween started out with an early departure from Jujuy. Right off the bat we got split up into two groups of two. We ended up taking two different routes to Salta, and didn’t find each other until we made it to the city. Max and Lukas took the main highway, the flat and direct route around the mountains. But Kanaan and Andrew found the scenic route, a less traveled road that went up into the mountains and then dropped down to Salta. It started with a bike path to a lake swim, and then broke off onto a skinny road just barely wide enough for two small cars to pass each other that wound up into a beautiful green forest with some great shade and cool wildlife. The descent down the back side landed us at another lake, where we met up with a group of six other bike tourers. Two were the girls we had met a few days ago with the English family, two were local Salta biker friends of the girls and had come to escort the crew into town, and the other two were European tourers, Tomas from Germany and Mattias from Holland. We had met Tomas in Cusco a month earlier, and found out that he had been the one to put our business card on the wall at the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz, Bolivia. Mystery solved.

chill, right?

As a group of eight, we rode into Salta in our Halloween costumes (the other 6 bikers didn’t get the memo), all downhill through a beautiful river landscape. The local guides gave us the tour of the city as we entered, turning heads with our huge group of wild things. Max and Lukas met us at the central plaza, and the four of us went on a mission to find a cheap hostel before meeting up with the bike crew for dinner and beers. Bowling and dancing completed the night after some awesome pizza. It turns out that no one in Argentina actually celebrates Halloween, its more of an American thing. So we were the only ones in costumes that night, but we did not let that small detail slow us down.

mountains of fun

We elected to stay another night in Salta, and spent the day doing errands and enjoying the first rain storm of Argentina. While delivering laundry to the cleaners, Kanaan got into a long conversation with the attendant, and he ended up inviting the crew to have a steak lunch the next day in the upstairs loft of the laundry mat. Cool people in Salta. That night we went to Tomas and Mattias’ hostel for a barbeque, and while we were there we received a message from our South African friend Mark, whom we had traveled with through Colombia and Ecuador. He had just landed in Salta. Within an hour we were reunited with one of our best biker buddies, after nearly three months of separation. The stoke was high.
The next day we checked out of the hostel and went to lunch with German, the laundry mat attendant. A filling, authentic Argentinean-made lunch of steak, salad, rice and wine combined with hours of interesting conversation to convince us that we didn’t actually feel like biking that day. We elected to stay one more night, and moved into Mark’s hostel for their chorizo party that they were throwing that night. We chowed down and went out for another night on the town with the bicycle traveler friends. Our numbers were impressive, with about 12 different bike tourers partying together. When we met locals and told our stories, it became much easier to convince them that what we were doing really isn’t that unique. Generally that’s a much tougher task.

even vegetarians have fun at asados

The next day we left with our group of five ATripSouthers and got a little lost trying to get out of the city. By the time we arrived at the lake Dique Cabra Corral, we had lost Lukas. The four of us went to the bridge that we had seen pictures of and watched a group of 60 university physics students do the pendulum swing offered by a local tour group. We spent the night there by the bridge and were glad to see Lukas arrive the next morning after he had slept down on the beach of the lake just five kilometers back.
We watched a few tourists do the bungee jump off the bridge that morning, and after seeing it we knew that we had to do it. We each rolled a die for first jump, and Andy won the rights to guinea pig. 33 meters isn’t very big by bungee jump standards, but the head dip in the lake was a pretty awesome bonus that made it well worth it. Taking the plunge is quite the commitment, definitely scary at first but an excellent adrenaline (and head) rush. Mark and Lukas went last and stepped it up a notch by dropping in switch, falling backwards. Kanaan got those addictive pleasure juices flowing from the jump and had to fulfill the desires by hopping off the bridge without a bungee cord. He said that the bloody bum was worth the drop, but didn’t want to do it again.

WAIT, DON'T JUMP!!

how to get stoked for a reverse drop in

That night we rode to a town called La Viña and celebrated Lukas’ last day with us over beers at the gas station (Thank you Stutzer!), followed by Monday Night Football. Lukas, like a few of his predecessors on ATripSouth, was summoned away by his girlfriend, who wanted to travel Central America with him. We had a blast traveling with Stutzer, and were sad to see him go, but at least we had Mark with us to soften the blow. Adventures with Stutzer are always a blast and we definitely look forward to the next.

it's like your own personal cooler for each secret beverage

The first day without Lukas was an incredibly gorgeous 100 km to Cafayate. We followed a river valley through a provincial park, with beautiful flora sprouting out from impressive walls of sedimentary layers stacked into mountains. “The Mushroom”, “The Frog”, “The Devil’s Throat” and “The Amphitheater” were among the named sites to visit along the road. We thoroughly enjoyed exploring and climbing around, and were blessed by a tailwind to help us make it to Cafayate before the sunset.

such a happy boy

In Cafayate we met up with Tomas and Mattias again and had dinner with them. Cafayate is a tourist destination as it grows some of the finest wines in Argentina. The town is surrounded by bodegas, and definitely is on the wealthier side of the towns we visited, due to the wine money. We camped outside of a bodega and then made our way out of town after some bike repairs and a slow breakfast. We stopped at a smaller scale bodega on the way out and did a wine tasting. A bottle of malbec joined us for the lunch break, and helped us stick together for a fun day of riding and playing word games with Mark. We ended up in Santa Maria that evening and camped down by the river with no water in it (a common scene in Argentina).

one of the rare liquid-filled river beds in the region (we don´t take photos of the other ones)

We had heard about a “solar observatory” in the area, so spent the next morning asking around. When we called to see about checking it out, they said that they were booked for the evening, but had space the next day. So we opted to stay in Santa Maria for the day, chilling in the park and publishing the Bolivia blog.

talking heads in the desert

The next day we rode north to go to the observatory, and stopped halfway there to check out a “Museo Pachamama”. It was more of an art gallery than a museum, designed, built, and ran by the artist who filled the rooms with his work. But it was certainly impressive, with some amazing architecture, beautiful pieces, and cool exhibits on local geology and archaeology. Then we almost made a 14 km detour to go swim in the lake, but luckily asked about it first and found out that there was no water in the lake. But we made it to the observatory with ample time to relax in the breezy shade (and sneak showers from the bathroom) before the presentation started. Our guide to the galaxy was great, despite not speaking English. He gave an awesome interactive lesson about astronomy and showed us some cool stuff. We watched the sunset up close, looked through a telescope at the surface of the moon and its craters, saw the phases of Venus, and checked out a couple nebuli. Though the telescope was not quite as powerful as we had expected, it was still the most powerful telescope we had ever looked through, and so was pretty miraculous nonetheless.

the observation station

The day after our night with the telescope, Mark had to leave us to go catch his flight back to South Africa out of Buenos Aires. Mark pedaled away into the mountains and we turned back toward Santa Maria to keep working south on the Ruta 40. We found a gorgeous, though very buggy campsite in the desert and enjoyed the green landscape by the river when we weren’t hiding in our tents from flies.
The next morning was incredibly windy from the south. We tried riding against it for a while, but the open flat environment gave very few opportunities for sheltered breaks, and so we gave up and hitchhiked to the next town. Andrew caught a ride with some Swiss RV travelers, while Max and Kanaan hid behind a small shack as the wind blasted through. Five hours later they caught a ride but ended up getting dropped off one town too far. It took a full 24 hours to meet up again with Andrew, with lots of hitchhiking attempts and “have you seen?” questions. Here’s a deeper description of that day:  Kanaan’s Juneau Empire article

please pick us up!!

We met up in the town of Belen in the evening and shared the separate stories of the past two days. After camping in the river bed, we stocked up at one of the best grocery stores we’ve found and then took off for another desert run. The hot and straight beat us down for about 80 km and a few hours and so we gladly stopped in the first town we came across and took hose showers in the park.

no cars. no hills. no turns.

making friends with the local construction crew

The next two days kept bringing the heat and headwinds. We finally got into some good terrain as we climbed up into a town called Agua Blanca. On a hunt for 100% puro honey of the bees, Kanaan stumbled upon a small wine bodega called Casa India, where the four employees were in the labeling phase of the bottling process. They invited Kanaan to try the varieties and of course it ended in the purchase of a bottle of the Torrontes. The other side of the hill up to Agua Blanca ended up being a beautiful, 15+ km descent into a valley of big granite boulders. A long push against a solid headwind up the other side put us in another gorgeous geologic park, followed by the town of Sanagasta, where we were happy to take a much needed lunch break. But even in the shade of the sidewalk awning, the heat was punishing. So we made a move for the lake, Dique de Los Sauces, and were so content to take a swim on a hot day and relax in the breezy shade.

this is how to survive Northern Argentina in summer

Halfway through a nap in the hammock by the lake, Kanaan was awoken by a man named Hugo in a red car who had pulled up to see what the deal with the bikers was. He promptly invited the crew to spend the night at his house; apparently he had hosted two French bike tourers ten years ago and had been hoping to meet more travelers ever since. After running around town on the motorcycle picking up friends and groceries, we had a late night (1AM) dinner of chorizo, buñuelos, salad, and the Casa India wine from Agua Blanca with Hugo and his family. It was great to connect with a local family in La Rioja, and accept the generosity offered by people that had little to give but tons of love and laughter.

awesome hosts

We ended up relaxing for a day at Hugo’s house, hanging out with his kids and grandkids and cats and grandcats. Some necessary laundry and a break from heat exposure were pretty helpful after so many days in the sun. The day of hiding in the shade ended with a pizza making party, in which three of the four pizzas survived from oven to mouth. The tuna pizza got dropped on its way out and stayed down there for the kittens to chow on.

catz fo' dayz

We took off the next day in a peculiar dusty/foggy haze and made our way through the flats and straights to Patquia. We opted for the scenic route from there, heading towards the western roads that skirt a couple provincial parks. At the end of another long, straight, flat and hot section the terrain finally started to rise from the ground in bands of vertical walls.

can you point me towards Patquia?

excellent, thank you.

We took another long, straight, flat and hot road to Ischigualasto Provincial Park, where there is the more easily pronounced Valle de la Luna. Fortuitously, that night the moon was full and the park was offering moonlit night tours. However, as we tried to enter the park we were informed that all visitors can only drive around the 40km loop with a guide and guides don’t ride bicycles. We were completely devastated by this discovery and had to console ourselves by using the park’s free internet while contemplating our next move. Thankfully, an entrepreneurial janitor solved our dilemma by offering to chauffer us on the night tour, for a small fee. After looking through a big telescope at the surface of the moon a week before, it was pretty awesome to be walking in the lunar light through craters and towers that appeared to have been formed by meteors. For a moment we thought that perhaps we were walking the big cheese, with the light of a full earth illuminating the land.

pretty sure the moon doesn't have one of these guys

its a wierd world out there

Once again the adjectives long, straight, flat and hot could not be used enough to describe the following days. Apart from scrub brush and desert there isn’t much in this region of Argentina and most days we would only pass through a few towns with many kilometers in between. There was a constant haze from all the blown dust and we were grateful for the night of rain that settled the dust and refreshed everything. The few small creeks trickling down from the mountains of the Valle Fertil were awesome breaks from the heat, we made sure to swim in whatever we could find.

hot, flat, and straight. just how we like it

About 200km north of Mendoza we were relaxing at a roadside tienda, getting ready to settle in for the night, when a well traveled SUV pulled up complete with a filled roofrack and European plates. Inside were two waving travelers. We gave the usual wave, an automatic motion that has become muscle memory as we do it multiple times every day with all the honkers and whistlers that pass us on the road. But then we did a double take. The passengers of this vehicle looked familiar. All too familiar. It was those damn Spaniards. Excited hugs and high fives and what-the-heck-are-you-doing-heres ensued. It was our fourth time seeing these fools on this trip, after our first meeting in El Salvador, the second in Panama, another in Colombia, and now in the middle of the desert in Argentina, Rafa and Noelia had found us again.

Spanish asado in Argentina

We celebrated with a barbeque asado as they showed us some of the videos they had made on their travels. These guys have an awesome project going with the website unmilliondeelephantes.com, where they travel around doing tours and activities for free by making short videos for the operators. Check it out for an inspiring technique of how to work and travel at the same time. Super cool people. Their website

told you they're cool

The next two days we pushed through our last section of hot, flat, straight, dry, windy desert and finally made it to Mendoza. What a relief to be at the end of that part of the journey. We saw some awesome places, met some great people, and obviously had a cool experience, but it was nice to be done with the desert. And Mendoza was the light at the end of the tunnel. We already knew that our buddy Miles was studying on exchange there, but about a week before we arrived we found out that another friend, Ashley, had rented an apartment for a month with his friend Shane. They invited us to crash at their place and it ended up being the perfect spot to stay for our vacation in Mendoza.

all you can eat meat. and no, that's not a punchline

Right in the middle of the city, we had access to all the amenities of downtown life just a few blocks away. Ashley and Shane were all about just relaxing and not being too ambitious in their plans, which was perfect for us because we just wanted to chill out. We fell into the Argentinean lifestyle, which matches the climate of the region, but is definitely a different way of being. The idea is to be active during the most comfortable time of day, which is in the middle of the night, because of the intense heat of the day. So we would generally sleep and chill out in the apartment all day, and then go out at night and live it up in the city. We found some great activities to partake in. There’s way to much to write about so we’ll sum it up: a semi-pro futbol game with intense fans, an international cultural fair with amazing food from all over the world, a hot springs water park with cliffs and rivers, all-you-can-eat buffets, all-you-can-drink wine research, and of course, Thanksgiving dinner with real Americans. Shane and Ashley also found a legitimate American diner called Fidelitos World Famous where we feasted on the best burgers of the trip. Our week in Mendoza with Miles, Ashley, and Shane was exactly what we needed. Some good times celebrating with Alaskan homies, in a comfortable place to relax and recharge the batteries. Thanks for the good times!

sums up the time in Mendoza

One of the first things we found out when we connected with Miles was that he was going to a Manu Chao concert in Cordoba that weekend. It was perfect timing, because we had plans to go visit our biker friends that we rode with in Baja, who live in the province of Cordoba. And of course we weren’t going to pass up the chance to see the the Latin American superstar playing live in Argentina. So the night before the concert we loaded a bus and rode for 10 hours to Cordoba.
We spent the day wandering around the city and ended up finding a park that had a public outdoor swimming pool. In the heat of November we were just looking for shade, but a place to submerge in water was even better. After getting our feet, hands and heads checked for fungi, they decided we weren’t as dirty as we looked, and let us in. Luckily Miles brought the frisbee so we had plenty to play with there. And the views weren’t so bad either.

cool pool, eh?

We then connected with Miles’ friends from school, Carlo from Tijuana and Marione from France. A drawing of straws put Kanaan and the new friends on a bus for Cosquin, the town hosting the concert, while Miles, Max and Andrew went to the other side of town to hook up with Miles’ local friend ,Toya, that he had met while studying in Cuba. After a maze of navigation through the greater Cordoba metropolitan area we all found eachother at the front entrance of the venue.

what a bus on it's way to a Manu Chau concert looks like

The show was absolutely all-time. So much energy in that amphitheater it felt like the whole place was about to erupt. Manu and the band totally tore it up and we did our best to reciprocate the good vibrations. We danced hard and non-stop, as Juneau kids are known to do sometimes. Way too much fun was had, and for some of us it was the best live musical event we had ever attended. At the end of the performance, we regrouped at Toya’s car, where we realized that there weren’t enough seats for all of us to get back to her house. The three ATripSouthers decided to make the sacrifice, since we were going to visit our friends in Alta Gracia the next day anyways, and so we broke off from the crew and went down to the river to sleep for a few hours.

rockin'

bright lights big music

beards know how to get down

Mr. Gayton flying high

The next day we awoke to a beautiful body of water, and after taking a quick dip, and getting pooped on by a bird (just Kanaan), we boarded a bus for Alta Gracia. We wandered around town for a while before our buddy Tatan found us and brought us back to his house. Again we were graced with an awesome spot to chill out through the heat of the days. Tatan’s place in Alta Gracia is beautiful, right next to a public park with a creek and plenty of great green space and shady trees to relax under. Nick joined us the next day after returning from a wedding party, and we spent the next couple days kicking back, laughing at eachother, telling stories from our different experiences in the same places, eating well, sleeping well, and hanging out at the rivers and creeks. They hosted two different asado feasts for us, and taught us all about Argentinean culture. The best beef we have eaten in Argentina was brought to the table, cooked just how they like it. We were also coached in the rules of drinking mate, and they did their best to correct our horrible Spanish accents. In exchange, we taught them how to play wine pong and promised to give them the full Alaskan experience when they come north to visit us.

mate from the master, don´t forget to take a dog when you leave

G-boys for life

After the final all night asado, which ended in some bare back horse mounting, we walked down to the bus stop with the first light of the day and returned to Mendoza. Arriving just before sunset, we collected our bikes from Miles’ exchange family home and made our way to the hostel that we had partied at the week before with Ashley and Shane. Our friend Facundo was working and lined us up with a room.

Facundo is a boss, Fidelitos is the best

Max was originally thinking of coming to the coast of Chile with us before he departed to Santiago to finish the trip early. However, in Mendoza he decided that he would rather get there sooner, so the next day was the end of our reign as a threesome. Kanaan and Andy took off for Valparaiso, and Max went for the capital. Just before leaving the supermarket in Mendoza, Kanaan and Andy met a funky dude named Dave from Canada, who was so stoked on us that he invited us to stay at his house when we arrived in Vina del Mar. Pumped to have a true destination to look forward to, we evacuated Mendoza via Ruta 52, motivated to climb over the mountain range, known as the Andes, and get to the other side.

here we come, mountains

Ruta 52 turned out to be a bit more intense than we had expected. We had heard that it was paved, but after Villavicencia it turned into a huge series of long winding gravel switchbacks. We were so glad to finally be riding real terrain and not just hot, flat, straight desert, and the scenary was incredible, climbing up through the national reserve, but the riding was difficult. A few sections were sandy, loose dirt which didn’t help much either. At the highest point of the road, we got a great clear view of Aconcagua, the biggest mountain in the Americas. Unfortunately from there it was all downhill to Uspallata, mostly bouncy dirt road, often washboard style. All of our hard work gaining elevation was essentially wiped out going down the other side, and our hands went numb in the process from all the brake squeezing and rattling. There was almost no traffic, and the views were spectacular, but it may not be the most recommendable route to Uspallata.

an intimidating way to start the day

this hill is no joke

and that there´s the biggest hill in the Americas

When we arrived in Uspallata, Kanaan luckily remembered to use the dare that Andy owed him, before it expired at the Chilean border. A child’s birthday party was going down at a roadside house, and they had a bouncy house for the kids to play in. Next thing those kids knew there was a hairy shirtless dude in spandex jumping around with them. They sensed an attack and countered with force, taking him down and pig piling him, pinned in the corner of the floppy floor. We recieved chorizo sandwiches from the parents as our payment for the entertainment at the party. In America the payment would have probably been a call to the police! “There’s a hairy, dirty guy wearing only spandex shorts jumping around with my children!”

vicious devils

After a siesta outside the minimarket, we left Uspallata with a nice firm tailwind and rocketed into the valley toward the Rio Mendoza. A dip in the tributary convinced us that it was time to call it a day, so we went to sleep there with plans to send it to Chile in the manana. But that night the wind shifted and we woke up to a fierce headwind coming down the valley. Of course, its Argentina.

beautiful and harsh, Argentina is for real

still rockin the dusty ol´ trail after all these daze

The day was a slow one, pushing up long hills against the wind into the heights of the Andes. It was physically enduring, but the mountains were gorgeous, and kept us motivated with beautiful sights of colors and formations around every corner. At one point we looked up and saw the glorious Aconcagua towering above us. Ruta 7 may not be the highest pass in the Andes, but riding through the pass that touches the tallest mountain in the world’s longest range was pretty epic feeling. Along with our newly purchased mate gord, bombilla, and yerba set up, the big mountain gave us that final push that we needed to get up the last 900 meter rise over 14 kilometers of road for the summit of the pass. Arriving in Las Cuevas just after sunset, the cold windy air at 3600 meters elevation ushered us into the tents, which we parked in a nice abandoned building for wind shelter. Five kilometers or so from the border, we slept deeply in the cool alpine night, satisfied with our Northern Argentina experience and ready for the next phase of the trip to begin our 15th and final country.

final campsite in the Argentinean Andes before crossing the border

kaboom

October Photo of the Month

Lunch break seasoned by the salt of the earth

October was a dry and flat month. Quite easy for cycling. On our tour through Bolivia we ended up at the Salar de Uyuni, a vast desert of salt left behind from an evaporated sea. Biking across the salar was a unique experience to say the least. This photo is dedicated to Cycle Alaska, our local bike shop.

Bolivian Bicycling

All the rumors we had heard about Bolivia being super cheap didn’t quite manifest in our first experiences there. After the nasty $135 “reciprocity fee” that United States citizens have to pay at the border, we made our way to the tourist town of Copacabana, where we struggled to find a meal with comparable prices to the Peru we had just left.

Disappointed pockets aside, Copacabana is a really beautiful town. With a west facing bay on Lake Titicaca, we arrived to an amazingly colorful sunset reflecting off the water. We met a quartet of Swiss bike tourers, two parents and their young children who ride in a trailer. There were all kinds of bikers in Copacabana, and in Bolivia in general. The unique environments and mostly flat, cool climate Altiplano are a big draw apparently.

Bolivia came in colors

A night camping by the lake with a chilly morning swim got us going the next morning, and we made our way up a long winding climb through the peninsula that pokes out into the lake. It was a nice mellow grade and had some gorgeous views of Titicaca. We were especially pleased by the cordillera of snow capped peaks that snuck up on us as we reached the pass.

At the bottom of the hill we rode right on to the ferry which does shuttles across the lake to the other shore. The ride took about twenty minutes and gave a nice perspective of the lake and its deep blue waters. Up and over the next round of hills put us on a southern bound course that eventually gave a good tailwind by the time we switched directions. We landed in Batallas for the night and scored a nice campsite with the church/police station.

this is how we biked across the lake

The next day was a quick 40 km of flat to La Paz. When we arrived it was a dismal grey overcast with a dusty wind blowing. Market vendors filled the roadsides, which were built to be interestingly wide, a good 50 feet or so of space between the road and the rows of buildings. Trash floated by in gusts, and people bustled all around, taxis cutting us off and people yelling things we couldn’t understand. The trash and barren brick buildings weren’t impressing us as a capital city. Well, I guess this is La Paz…

Luckily we had a destination to look for, a Casa de Ciclistas. By asking around for the plaza that the Casa is near, we found out that we weren’t actually in La Paz, but El Alto. We were directed to a highway that instantly gave us an incredible view overlooking a deep bowl with a metropolis sitting in it. So that’s La Paz! A fast and bumpy descent down into the heart of the city put us on track to find the Casa, and after a few wrong turns and backtracks we found the place.

the real La Paz reveals itself

But the Casa de Ciclistas was full of ciclistas, eleven bikers all living in one apartment. So we got deported to the back-up Casa, the manager Christian sent us to his step-mother Mabel’s house. We were welcomed in by our new best friends, Sarah and James, two British cyclists who have been riding for over two years from Alaska. Working on healing some persistent illnesses, they were back for their second stay at Mabel’s house after trying to leave once but then returning to the comfortable house in the city. They were pretty awesome house mates to share the place with, we spent a lot of time chilling in the kitchen just laughing at each other and telling stories about familiar places.

Sir James of the United Kingdom

Madam Sarah of Great Britain

We spent ten days in La Paz, but who knows where all that time went. Mostly to the awesome bakeries in town (Arco Iris is #1), doing bike maintenance, cruising around the network of public parks in the city, exploring the crazy environment of sand towers that run through the suburbs, wandering the local markets and learning how to speak British. We took advantage of the relatively cheap tours in Bolivia and went paragliding one morning. There’s nothing quite like jumping off of a mountain and flying around like a bird. Kanaan worked with a group called Agua Sustentable and got to do a field trip to Sajama National park to help install a drinking water system and film a native plants seeds fair. We also checked out a museum in the city with an “Agua y Vida” exposition. Water is quite a big deal in the high and dry plains of Bolivia. But perhaps the highlight of our stay in La Paz was making Pel’meni Russian dumplings to share with our housemates and hosts. Now that was delicious.

sitting on the slippery edge of the city

a weird wild world

Iron Chef here we come...

And then Lukas came. Señor Stutzer was actually the main reason why we hung around La Paz for so long, as we found out the day before we arrived that he would be coming to meet us there in a week. Well he came and just like that we were a group of four again. Luckily he brought salmon jerky and caribou sausage to make up for missing the first 16 months of the trip. He and Andrew celebrated their reunion as roommates again by biking the Death Road together.

Stutzy in da house!

After ten mellow days of relaxing in a wonderful home in La Paz, we made the move and got back on the road. We bid our British buddies and Bolivian family ado, thanking all for the good times, and climbed out of the bowl of the city back to El Alto. Unfortunately Kanaan’s busted old knee started bothering him, so we didn’t make it far. But we ended up landing in village/police check point that was celebrating their anniversary holiday. We were tempted to go dance to their blaring music like the festive gringos we are, but decided to eat deep fried chicken and French fries instead.

mmm... chicken...

The following couple days of altiplano biking were largely uneventful. When in Peru it seemed like we had hit the newly paved roads with perfect timing, right towards the end of some major projects. However, in Bolivia we were just a bit early. The highway between La Paz and Oruro was getting a big quadruple lane makeover, but there was still much to be done. At times we were able to ride on freshly paved roads closed to traffic, which was pretty sweet. Other times it was flat firmly packed dirt, and there were a few sections of bumpy rough road with big trucks and buses ripping past kicking up dust. But it was all flat and breezy with not much excitement to see. We spent a night in the construction project of an uncompleted stadium one night, and the next morning made it to Oruro.

kickin back relaxin no traffickin

the future of bicycling in Bolivia is bright

The riding wasn’t particularly interesting, so we opted to hop on the train from Oruro to Uyuni to go visit the salt flats. The train was pretty enjoyable, other than having to deal with the baggage handlers and our bikes. As we chugged past Lake Poopo (real name) we saw great flocks of pink flamingos flying with the train. The movies on the train progressively got better, from Arnold Schwarzenegger as a Texas sheriff to Richard Greer as a New York billionaire. We arrived in Uyuni under a full moon and snuck off to a vacant lot to set up camp.

running a train on the Altiplano

The next morning we stocked up on provisions at the market in Uyuni and then rode out to the salar to go check out the desert left behind by an evaporated sea. After some last minute egg sandwiches in Colchani, we entered the world of salty white. The edges were surprisingly muddy, but once we had pushed through the short squishy section we were on firm ground. About an hour of riding toward the setting sun put us in the middle of a vast expanse of emptiness. As the last mirages faded into the horizon, we seasoned our dinners with the spice of the ground and watched the colors leave the world, leaving us in a black and white space somewhere between the monotonous surface we sat on and the sky above. The stars were incredibly clear as the full 180 degrees of peripheral were filled with universe. We laid out on the salt in all our layers, shivering, mesmerized, jamming out to Gorillaz.

becoming specks

Waking up was a bright affair. No clouds above and albedo intensive ground shot sunshine at us from all directions. Lukas got inspired to sail the salar, and spent the morning building his mast and main from his tent fly and poles. The rest of us hid from the sun, while a decent breeze picked up and kept the heat from piling up too much. After packing up camp we rode further west for about an hour, decided our patience for flat and white was being exhausted, turned around and let the wind blow us back to shore. Max, Andrew and Lukas had run out of food so turned in to Uyuni. Kanaan felt the urge to explore the coast more, and chose to spend another night with the salar. The transition zone from land to leftover sea turned out to have some pretty amazing levels and dimensions of salt features and mud mixtures that kept things entertaining. The few signs of life were also quite intriguing, an abandoned egg from a large bird, vicuna tracks, a dried up beetle, the failed attempts of grass seedlings. And among other things, a small shelter built out of salt bricks cut from the ground showed the stratification of the salt layers underfoot. The salar is quite a unique environment, definitely worth checking out if you get the chance.

shiver me timbers we've got ourselves a sailor

the sweatiest cuke on the salar

crystal clear salt water below the surface

not your average egg

a lonely place for a mammal

We still weren’t too excited about biking the desolate flats of Bolivia so we hopped a second train to Tupiza, a town 90 km north of the border. We arrived in the dark and promptly found a campsite. With the light the following morning we were able to see that we had been transported to a new environment. No longer were we in the arid flatlands of the salar; we saw mountains, valley, canyons, and even some vibrant greenery among the many shades of red rock. The ride out of Tupiza was a visual treat from the previous weeks. With a decently steep and lengthy climb halfway through the ride and little in the way of towns we had to push it to the border town of Villazon and ended up riding a bit in the dark.

mountains! valleys! a brave new world in the south west

The next morning was a late start as we tried to prepare to enter Argentina; this was mostly trying to collect American dollars to trade on the Argentina black currency market. We reached the border in early afternoon and easily exited Bolivia. But as we proceeded down the line of windows to the Argentine immigrations we were promptly turned backed to Bolivia. Turns out our blissful (or just straight-up) ignorance had us overlook the online visa process – so back to an internet cafe in Bolivia. The border control didn’t seem to controlling as we simply biked back in without a glance from anyone. Reciprocity fee number two of the trip (this time $160 USD), a piece of paper, and a stamp and we had made it to Argentina.

Bolivia was short but sweet. From the massive lake of Titicaca, to the crumbling sand towers around La Paz, the impressive volcanoes of the Altiplano, the vast expanses of salt deserts, and the red stacked mountains of Tupiza, Bolivia was perhaps the most geologically unique country we’ve visited. We met a handful of amazing people that we hope to continue friendships with, and scored a fourth trip mate to share South America with. Our time in Bolivia was shorter than ideal, but we made it through with style and got a satisfyingly diverse experience of the place. And our first meal in Argentina was enough to convince us that we were in the right place. No white rice and five courses with that famous Argentinian beef as the main feature. We’ve made it to the promised land.

And since our website says from Alaska to Argentina we figured we were done so we turned around and are now headed north!

kodak moment

…stay tuned to see if we’re joking or not.