Patagonia can be a lonesome place. While there are tons of awesome spots to find cool people and enjoy excellent company, there’s also a whole lot of open space. From the seemingly infinite rolling plains of the pampas, to the wind-carved peaks of the cordillera, the opportunities for isolation are endless. No wonder we all ended up travelling by ourselves for the last leg of the trip. It was almost as if the place requested that we come and go in groups of one.
Since we all finished solo, I (Kanaan) thought it would be best to tell all of the final stories, not just my own. So, without further ado, here are four different ways to do ATripSouth from El Chalten to Ushuaia.
By the time I finally got out of El Chalten, I had a pretty good idea of what the road ahead looked like. All the others had sent me notes from the road: what to look for and what to avoid. Chris cruised through Chalten in November, noting that it would be a great place for some hiking. Max also noted the potential and found the gem of Chalten, Flor’s Casa de Ciclistas, which he described as “super buena onda” (really good vibes). When Andy and I arrived it was easy to see what the other two had been so excited about. I think that of all the places in South America, El Chalten was by far my favorite town.
The town is surrounded by Los Glaciares Parque Nacional, separated only by an unbelievable range of peaks from the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It’s a rock climbers paradise, with everything from world renowned mountaineering routes to fun backyard boulder problems and everything in between, all easily accessible. The village is laid-back, with a solid population of active citizens (great subjects for the film project) who are keeping a close eye on the development as it attracts adventurers from all over the world. On top of all this we had an amazing home at Flors to celebrate with friends new and old and share some awesome communal feasts.
When Andy was ready to move on after a week and a half, I still had a pile of things to do on the list. He took off the day after my half birthday, just to prove that he was a better friend than Chris, who left us in Cuzco on my 25th. Andy tried to take the advice of Max, who said that leaving Chalten on a windy day gave him the fastest ride he had ever had on flats, but it was a rare windless week in Chalten and no breezes were in the forecast.
I also had a surprisingly calm and quite cold day when I finally left after three weeks. Another surprise was that I was not alone on the first day of my solo mission. Somehow, after living in her small house with her family for nearly a month, Flor still wasn’t sick of me, and asked if she could come along for the ride to El Calafate. With the promise to “ir con tranquilidad” (go with tranquility), we took four days to do the trip that most ciclists do in two.
On our second night we stopped at an abandoned pink house halfway between Chalten and Calafate that has become a popular refugio for ciclists. It was a cool stop for Flor because she got to see the names of many of the travelers who have stayed at her house over the years written on the walls. Andy from ATripSouth was one of those names. After a good nights rest there Andrew sent it straight for the pampa towards Puerto Natales, not even stopping for the detour to Calafate.
Chris went to the town but decided against the “big attraction”, Perito Moreno Glaciar, when he found out how far away and expensive it was. For this reason, Max tried to wake up early to sneak into the park after five hours of pedaling against the wind the day before. Well he didn’t wake up early enough and met a park guard at the entrance and was made to wait 3 hours until opening. Max reported an impressive glacier with a unique viewpoint, but said it wasn’t really worth it for all the effort it took to get there. He quoted our friend Owen from when we kayaked through Tracy Arm at the beginning of the trip, “it’s like what you’ve never seen a glacier before?”
With those words in mind I almost didn’t make it out to Perito Moreno myself, despite spending a week hanging out in El Calafate. Staying with Matias, a friend that I met at Flors place in Chalten, I had excellent company for walks to Cerro Calafate and Laguna Nimez, jam sessions with the flute and drum I’ve been carrying around, guanaco (the Patagonian llama) asados from the neighbor’s recent hunt, and learning the art of FLO, which Matias described as, “a bodily expression with geometric forms and movements.”
The day that I left the house, I wasn’t quite sure where to go. But the wind was blowing from the abnormal direction of the north, so I decided that I might as well check that glacier out. Unprepared as I was, the fact that the park entrance was 30 kms from the actual glacier came as a complete discovery to me. A spur of the moment decision left me camping just below the ridgeline of the closest mountain, with hopes to see the glacier from above the next day.
The following morning I made it to the top of a nice tall pointy peak, where I realized that I was still three or four mountains away from the glacier, but had a great view of the Torres del Paine about80 kmaway. The descent along the less direct scenic route took the rest of the day, and just after nightfall I was riding silently and stealthily past the park entrance to go camp in front of the glacier.
I had a great morning session with Perito Moreno, and definitely understood what Max meant about the unique viewpoint. It was like checking the tonsils of the ice field, looking straight into its mouth and down its cold blue throat.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night before, I hitched a ride back to Calafate, pedalled to the other side of town, and hitched another to the emerald flowing Rio Santa Cruz, where Flor and I had camped a week prior. It was the beginning of a large stretch of hitchhiking for me, not too interested in riding my bike through what Chris called “basically nothing, completely desolate and really windy,” Max described as “not that bad but better ways to spend your time,” and Andrew advised “not all that fun, probably better to hitch if you can.” Sometimes it pays to be the last in line.
Although I did end up missing out on Andrews experiences with the drunk police captain and the gas station with free coffee. And by hitching straight to Rio Turbio, I missed Cerro Castillo, the border crossing that Chris recommended. I got dropped off right at the edge of Argentina, and after answering correctly the interrogations of the border patrol officer (“which city in Argentina has the most beautiful women?” Luckily he was from Salta), I got invited to stay the night and have sandwiches and drink mate while watching the NBA playoffs. The next day I crossed into Chile and it was all downhill into Puerto Natales.
Natales had been a big destination on the list for a while after hearing our buddy Billy talk about it in Valparaiso. Chris also pumped it up after his experience in Torres del Paine Parque Nacional. He told us where to camp and what to check out, noting the amazing scenary and interesting vibe that he found camping with people from all over the world each night. “I definitely recommend going, even though it was a bit of a circus, it was well worth it.” So naturally none of us went.
Max blasted through Natales en route to go hang with Benjamin, our friend from Punta Arenas who was an exchange student in Juneau in highschool. Andrew hooked up with the “couchsurfing family”, a great place full of travelers, delicious food, and a wacky ma, pa, two kids, and a dog. I got to experience it myself for two days that included a Patagonian curanto and a gigantic pizza. He stayed there for four days relaxing in Natales, and couldn’t be bothered to throw the heavy cash at the price tag of the park. I was also a bit turned off by the cost, and after Benja (who used to be a park ranger at Torres del Paine) told me about some hikes near Punta Arenas of equal cool value, I pointed my tires in that direction.
Again, the diligent, experiential research of my compadres gave me an excuse not to ride my bike. Andy had recommended self mutilation as a coping mechanism for the boredom of the pampas between Natales and Arenas.While I didn’t get the wind that he suffered through after a day of riding out of Natales, one cold morning in the pampa was enough for me, so I stuck the old thumb out again and was at Benja’s house for lunch.
But Benja wasn’t there. Our plans to hike out to Cape Froward fell through when he realized he had to stay in Valdivia for another couple weeks to do his graduation ceremony. Luckily Andrew came to keep me company, already back from Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, the full tour. He was no longer going south, but instead back north to Santiago and then home. It was his second stay at the Murrié-Cacéres residence, a place that has recently been dubbed Hotel Juneau, especially since the ATripSouth bomb dropped.
Chris didn’t make it to Hotel Juneau on his breif pass through Punta Arenas. But Max did the double pit stop on his before and after to Tierra del Fuego, using the base camp before flying out of Arenas. Max hit the timing perfectly, arriving to the house when the whole family was present, Angela, Patricio, and all four of the sons. They had a hoot of a time enjoying each other’s company after seven years since Benja was in Alaska.
By the time Andrew arrived all the brothers were gone, either at school or working in other places to the north. Luckily similar-aged friends are not necessary to enjoy Hotel Juneau. Angela and Pato are incredible people, both bearers of the good sense of humor and compassionate sharer genes that made their son Benjamin such a good friend to so many in Alaska. Both are also excellent chefs and as if that isn’t enough, Angela is a professional baker, constantly pumping out cakes from the kitchen for a living.
It took Andrew a lot of motivation to leave the house the first time and he was quite relieved to be back when I met him for his second visit. After packing up Andrew’s life as a cyclist and sending him off on a plane for Santiago, I spent a few days preparing myself for the Island meanwhile exploring the local running trails around the city. Eventually I was ready to leave and unlike Max (who tried to leave the continent on the one day of the week that the ferry doesn’t run and had to come back to the house for another night) or Andrew (who left the house in a rain storm, freezing his bits off for his introduction to Tierra del Fuego), I made it to the ferry for an easy windless morning and cruised comfortably across the Straight of Magallanes.
But, in true form, Tierra del Fuego lived up to the legends and by the time I arrived in Porvenir, the sky was clouding over and the rain was starting to fall. Hoping to send off one last email before embarking on a few days of isolation in the pampa, I asked a worker at the salmon protein processing plant if there was an internet cafe in town. Juan informed me that like everything else in town, the ciber was closed on Sunday, but invited me over to the company house to use his computer. As the cold rain came down outside, we decided that it would be best for me to stay the night at the house.
This turned out to be a pretty good call because the next day was a full on blizzard. I can’t say for sure but I think that the gale force winds and fatty wet snowflakes were more enjoyable from the window of the warm house than the bike seat. The next day I got a good early start and was able to send it100 kmon the relatively smooth dirt road along Bahia Inutil (Useless Bay). Among the attractions for the introductory ride of Tierra del Fuego were the abandoned fisherman shack on the beach were Andy spent his first night after his shifter cable broke, and a year-old whale carcass that the guys at the salmon protein plant had tipped me off about. But the short days got the best of me and it was already dark by the time I arrived at the pleasant enclosed shelter that Max, Andrew, and our buddy Nico had all recommended.
Another windless early start convinced me that I might as well go check out the pinguinero15 km in the wrong direction, and maybe stop in for lunch at the estancia of John George, a friend of Benja. I had heard that the penguinero was super expensive so I decided to avoid paying by entering at the river and then running along the beach. This was a cool way to go because as I approached the waddling mass of penguins I got to see a variety of other bird gangs thriving off the shoreline ecosystem, as well as a fox scavenging eggs. I didn’t want to disturb the penguins, so I sat down on the beach once I had a good view of them to observe from a distance. I was surprised when a group of about 15 swam over and emerged to sun bathe on the beach right in front of me. It was pretty awesome.
When I finally left the beach I found that the estancia that I was looking for, Tres Hermanos, was about five minutes from the river. Julio, the caretaker of the ciervos (european red deer) informed me that John George was out in the field, but invited me in for lunch. When John George came home he asked me if I wanted to go rock climbing, and I knew that I would have to stay for the night. When we went climbing, and he showed me the amazing fields of boulders that he owns on his property, I knew that I would have to stay for a few days. I tried to leave after a couple days on the estancia, but then John George offered to pay me to stay and help out with the big annual project of giving the sheep their winter hair cuts over the eyes and between the legs. With the good food (lamb chops for every meal), great company (John George is hilarious), potential for a film segment (localized material production), and opportunity to make a bit of cash for winter (preparing to be a ski bum), I knew that I had to stay for another week.
Seven days of sprinting back and forth sweeping up bits of wool left me sufficiently satisfied with my experience on the estancia. Another night in the roadside shelter got me back on the travel train, but I awoke with a shiver as the hut was surrounded in a chilling ice fog. Attempts to bicycle my body to a comfortable temperature failed when I hit a patch of black ice on the road and the bike slipped out from under me. I cleaned the bits of frozen mud off my bike while waiting for the sun to burn off the fog and thaw and dry the road.
By the time I crossed the border to Argentina the sun had set and it was time to retire the tires for the night. And who could have guessed that in late May in Tierra del Fuego I would spend the following four nights trying to keep from overheating while sleeping next to powerful space heaters? The first night in a waiting room at the border customs, complete with sink and stove for cooking, the second night with couchsurf hosts Ana and Diego after they treated me to homemade pizza de la piedra, the third night in the guesthouse of Estancia Viamonte with a pumping woodstove, and the fourth in the cyclists’ room at Panaderia La Union in Tolhuin, another treasure chest of cyclist culture. I have the noble fearless leader of the G-Boyz Nico Provenzani to thank for tipping me off on three of those four locations. And Andy actually laid the groundwork for the other one, the couchsurf host in Rio Grande, although he didn’t even get to stay there after his 140 km day inspired by expectations for a warm bed. Andy also stayed at the Panaderia in Tolhuin but it was Max that told us about it in the first place. It’s a popular spot for many ciclists’ final night of their journeys.
But, like Chris, I wasn’t going to let my final night be a non-campout. After a two year camping trip I had to make sure to finish it off right, in the tent. A frantic 50 km push from Tolhuin showed me the gorgeous Lago Fagnano and Rio Indio where Chris spent his last night before I made it to Lago Escondido. It was frantic because I was worried that I was going to get snowed on and wanted to at least make it to the police station that Andy had noted before I called it a day. But as I sipped coffee and dried out my sweaty clothes at the Civil Defense Corps station at Lago Escondido, the sun popped out and those ominous looking clouds I was scared of started to burn off. My last big climb through Paso Garibaldi to the other side of the Tierra del Fuego mountain range was spectacular, and completely surpassed my expectations from the rest of the ATripSouth reports, which all described as “real nice”.
Slowly working up the mellow grade, surrounded by fresh sparkling snow and the sun on my back, the mountains that I hoped to call home for the next couple months welcomed me in with bright shining smiles. Between compulsive photo snapping of potential ski lines I laughed my way to the top of the pass and dropped south into the shadows of the Valle Tierra Mayor. I arrived at the base of Cerro Castor, the local ski resort, as the evening light took over and found a nice patch of grass that hadn’t gotten covered in snow yet because of the small roof built to protect the welcoming sign. It seemed like a fitting place to finish the camping trip.
That night I got rocked by some intense westerly warm winds and was a bit sad when I emerged from the tent to see that all the fluffy snow of the day before had become icy slush pits. But I am an Eaglecrest kid so it didn’t faze me too hard. I took the last 25 km of the trip super chilled out, enjoying the new perspectives that each turn in the road gave of the epic mountains and stopping frequently to meet the neighbors and ask about work opportunities. Eventually I made it to the pearly gates of Ushuaia and plunged into the city to find Ariana, my couchsurfing host.
And that was that. ATripSouth was done. I mean, I could have kept going south if I really wanted to. I’ve heard that Puerto Williams, on the other side of the Beagle Canal, has some good roads for bicycling. And I could kayak to Cape Horn if I was feeling extreme. Or sail to Antarctica. But Ushuaia seemed like a good place to stop. After all that’s what all the other dudes did. Chris arrived in spring with the first wave of southbound cyclists of the season and met some friendly locals to party with. Max rode into town in summer and got to go snorkeling with some wild Ushuaians. Andrew crossed the finish line in autumn just in time to celebrate with some of our greatest travel companions from the road, amigos that we all hope to share future adventures with. And I made it in exactly one month after Andrew, right as winter seemed to be closing the door on the cycling season. I’ve already made a handful of local friends that I am pumped to share a few months with down here, and if you count the mountains as friends then its way more than a handful.
Yep, the four of us each finished in our own way, at our own time. There is absolutely no way that any of us could have done the majority of the journey without the others; it was a group effort (that was mostly effortless) for almost the entirety. But in the end we were the same essential ingredients that we started as, four different kids that just wanted to see what the south was like. We saw what we wanted to see and learned how to keep ourselves content. And found the roads south that lead back home.
Thi-dibbity-dibbity-dabbity-dab-tha-that´s all folks! (como el Porky Pig entiendes?)
Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this journey happen! This one goes out to all of our friends and family that supported us along the way.
The Carretera Austral was like our kayak trip through the Inside Passage, but on bikes. Mountains, glaciers, rivers, and forests in all directions, easy campsites with all the amenities, and the peace of mind that only great wilderness can bring. Riding through Patagonia brought back pleasant memories from the early days of ATripSouth, reminding us to thank Seaward Kayaks, whose support we could not have left home without.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.