Sunday, November 29, 2009

Weather & muscles.....

have conspired to give us an unexpected rest day. Rain and windchills around freezing, winds whipping the trees outside around violently as I type this, plus muscles that could use a true, no biking or hiking rest day, so here we sit. Its ok, we have the time. I did a rough estimate of days left versus mileage to get to Coihayque, Chile in time for our flight back to Santiago, and we only have to average around 30-40 km a day, or around 20-25 miles.
We are running into more and more bike tourers. Yesterday we crossed paths with a French guy, Italian, Irish, Argentine, Australia, and Switzerland riders. We stop and talk to most of them. Some real characters for sure. Our big pink tandem is notable, since it is unusual, and therefore many hear about it before we run into them.
Ok, got to go do a couple things, mostly finishing my coffee, so more later.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

words fail

Absolutely beautiful riding for the last week or so, despite some rain and mud. Words are really not sufficient, so I´ll put up some photos.

The only real downside of the last couple days is how terrible the coffee is. When I get excited because the big market may have Nescafe, which is soooo much better than the national brands of instant coffee, which are in turn better than the best $2 cup of coffee I´ve had in a cafe or restaurant all week, well, that is bleak. But the food is great, and the pastries too.

We hoped to go hiking high in the mountains near Bariloche, but the weather is switching back to rain and below freezing windchills. Strong, strong winds are forecast, too. So I may do more updating on here than expected. The bad weather is poorly represented by our photos, since I usually bury the camera in a drybag on the rainy days. But it has poured, and it will pour again, and maybe snow too.
We are off to look for bivy sacks, warm gloves for Karinne, and maybe other things to help out with the grim weather. Our raingear is great, though, I´m forever sold on Marmot Precip stuff.

Despite my complaints about coffee and weather, I´m having a tremendous time, and am thrilled every day.

Monday, November 23, 2009

In Patagonia

We arrived in San Martin de los Andes yesterday, and it is nice. Ski-mtn. bike town, totally tourism supported. Good baked goods, excellent meat. Those things are really important for us.

Crossing the pass was hard- rough road, steep grades, lots of road construction. Still, we made it over, and we missed almost all the rain. Gorgeous views of Volcan Lanin, tallest peak in Patagonia, groves of wild monkey-puzzle trees, beautiful clear rivers full of trout. Even had a tailwind pushing us down into Argentina. We covered 10km in 20 minutes, incredible, the same distance took us hours the day before.

I´m a bit tired now, did a solo ride up on some dirt roads in the nearby national park this morning, and the hills kind of kicked my ass. There is so much to write about, so many cool pics to share, but I´m just not motivated. Maybe this evening.

We have been hanging out and chatting with the guys from They have taken 3 years to ride down here from Alaska, riding as much singletrack and backroads as possible. In Mexico, Peru, Bolivia, etc. the backroads are amazingly poor for riding, but somehow they´ve done it, and remain somewhat sane. I admire their effort, as much as I´m glad we aren´t doing the same.

I never thought I´d go to Patagonia. But here we are, cold but happy, having a great time. I´m excited that we have more than a month to go. Too bad the computer is so slow, I can´t get it to upload pics, but once again, maybe tonight.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Spring? Maybe soon......

We arrived in Villarrica, a town on a beautiful lake in the shadow of an active volcano yesterday. And we haven´t seen the volcano since- too much rain between us and it. So today we do internet stuff and maybe shop for warm woolen things to help us survive the cold, wet spring that El Niño has brought to this area.
Our loop through wine country out to the coast went well, good scenery, challenging roads, etc. The beach at Pichilemu was pretty, though far too cold for swimming. It was windy most of the time, though warm. As we got back to the Interamericana, a check on the forecast for Patagonian towns seemed to indicate good weather. So we hopped a bus and buzzed several hundred kilometers south, to start our ride through the Lakes District into Argentina, and finally over to the Carretera Austral. But now the crap weather may have us pinned down a bit, though I have hopes for a rain shadow on the east side of the Andes.
Overall, we are having a good time, though accomadations, even low-end, are too expensive. That and the weather are really our only complaints. The food is good, Chileans are fun, our spanish is sufficient, and the riding has been challenging but enjoyable. Roads are surprisingly well-signed, and even directions from locals are shockingly accurate. Well, except for that one bridge, but that was our fault- the lady was right, there was a bridge where we wanted to cross a big river, but she didn´t mention that it was still under construction, and only the Dukes of Hazzard could make it across. Fortunately there was a guy with a rowboat, so that saved the day. Oh, and the coffee is horrible horrible horrible. But that is ok for now.

Chilly in Chile

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Santiago, Chile, no problems

The flight went fine, the ride into the city on the big highway went fine, getting to the hostel through the wicked maze of one way streets went fine. We must have had the Virgen de Guadelupe watching over us. I could almost feel her presence..... Oh, wait, there she was for real.
I´m a little loopy, way jetlagged, as you may be able to tell. The ride I dreaded the most on this trip wasn´t too bad. Now we have a couple days in Santiago, which is on first impression a really interesting city. The weather is a touch cooler and wetter than expected, so we may stay farther north at the beginning of this trip than we´d first thought. We may head straight to wine country, in fact. Yeah, rough, I know.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

The jitters

We leave in 3 days, and the pre-trip jitters are kicking in just a bit. Still, it is to a much lesser degree than previous trips. We've done it before- the bike, the gear, the clothes are all knowns. We speak decent Spanish, and Chile is a developed country, with a proven tourist infrastructure.
Still, there is the unknown, and that is the fun part. Roads go from just being lines on a map to stretches of pavement and dirt that are sometimes totally forgetable, other times regretable, and often burned forever into our memories as epic, gorgeous, wonderful bike touring. Dropping down the Sierras in southern Mexico to the coast from 10,000 ft. to sea level, or freezing on Orcas Island, getting into Pai in northern Thailand well after dark, the scene illuminated by the full moon and brush fires on the hillsides above town- those are indelible. Those are things you never get travelling by bus or car.
We are going to take more breaks during the day and cook more often for ourselves. We are going to take days off when we need it, and even when we don't. We are going to believe directions and info on road conditions, and be annoyed when seemingly knowledgeable locals turn out to be wildly wrong (this is inevitable, and we never seem to fully learn our lesson). We are going to push the bike up roads that turn out to be steeper and gnarlier than expected (also inevitable, and apparently unlearnable). And we are going to eat so, so much food.