A few thoughts

It’s about 3am here in Coyhaique and I can’t sleep. I blame it on the few drinks I had with dinner. It seems whenever I drink alcohol I fall asleep fast, but wake up not being able to go back to sleep quickly. However, I do not regret trying the pisco sour, which was very yummy. I also blame my not being able to sleep on some weird flash happening outside my window. I’m trying to pretend it’s lightening since it’s raining, but it’s making this crackling noise that confirms it’s some loose wire reacting with the rain (how reassuring).  I also can’t stop thinking that there is no way I’m going to have dry clothes in the morning since they are probably soaking up all the moisture in the air. They are under a tarp so that helps. The gracious lady at the hostel we are staying at let us use her washing machine since all the laundry mats in town close early on Saturday and do not open until Monday. Hell, I don’t care if they are still wet, they smell mighty good now!

Since I can’t sleep I figured I’d post about some random thoughts I think about (and maybe some things I’ve learned) while biking on this trip. Here ya go…

1. The wind makes me an angry person.  

 2. Crappy gravel road makes Luke and angry person.

3. Heavy wind and crappy gravel road is a toxic combination 

4. The headwind is strong when you have to pedal downhill.

5. The headwind is very strong when you can’t go anywhere or even stand up.

6. Yelling at the wind does nothing except exercise your lungs.

7. Bow your head to the wind, dust, and sun

8. Luke is forever loosing things and I worry about letting him carry his own wallet and passport when I’m gone.

9. I want to continue to learn Spanish and become bilingual. I believe my friend hannah does online lessons : )

10. Don’t bring a deer skull to southern chile. They have an animal called a huemele that is endangered and they are very serious about protecting it. So serious that undercover cops pulled over to interrogate and lecture luke on the deer skull on his bike. They don’t mess around. 

11. Empanadas are the greatest food invention ever! I’m a bit disgusted at the high quantity of empanadas I’ve consumed, but yet I still eat every chance I get. 

12. One big thing I was freaked out about when I came here was the fact that you throw your toliet paper in at trash can. It’s not so scary anymore. Sheryl this country could use your expertise on septic systems.

13. Dad, Jonathan, and Sheryl- I’ve never understood nascar, but I sure have discovered the benefits of drafting. Luke and I take turns when the headwind is bad.

14. Uncle cricket there are many potholes down here to be filled…just sayin 

15. Why do the police always have their lights on? How do you know when your getting pulled over?

16.holy sh*t that was a loud crackle. I hope this hostel doesnt burn down

17. We should send some deer down here to help the huemele population (I’m teasing)

18. Out of the hundreds of cows I’ve passed, they all have the same look on their faces. It’s fun to make up a voice for them when you drive by.

19. Why is there cow poop at every campsite? 

20. Dog gangs rule the streets down here. 

21. One of my guilty pleasures of coming to town are the dogs.

22. Roosters crow whenever the hell they feel like it. They also look like they give it their all when they crow…kudos to them.

23. They don’t all say cockle doodle do…what are we teaching our kids these days 

24. Wait…why do they cockle doodle do?

25. Well now that I’ve filled your head with my random thoughts, I shall attempt sleep again. Goodnight : )

Ketchup

Well if you know me at all, you know I grew up putting ketchup on everything…but it’s not my fault. I blame my eccentric food habits on my older brother Eric. He taught me that it goes great on white rice and as a dipping sauce for grill cheese. However this post has nothing to do with ketchup…more like “catch up” haha.  How do I cram in the last few weeks in a post? I can’t spend my entire day off writing a blog, so I must give you a summary. 

El Chalten was amazing! If you read my last post, you may have gotten the vibe that I was miserable…and to an extent I was at times. Having a few days off in Chalten was just what my body needed. We even got to do 2 day hikes to Cerro Torre and Mt. FitzRoy.  We were fortunate to meet new friends at our hostel and I am hoping to meet back up with them in Santiago before my flight home. It turns out all three of them go to college in Santiago, and they were traveling together on their break. Fernanda is a geology major and Cristian and Matias are studying electrical engineering. The day we were leaving Fernanda gave me her Chile baseball cap as a gift. It was so sweet and at that moment I decided to give her my Colorado hat in exchange. Those few days with them were some of my fondest memories on the trip. 

As I said, Chalten was beautiful. I highly recommend the hiking there…it’s free! Everything else in the the town is pretty expensive, and make sure you have cash because no where takes credit card. We had a tough time getting money because the ATM would run out and they wouldn’t refill it until the next day. Also, we could only get a small amount out at a time. 

After Chalten, we set off with our other new friend Samuel. We hiked the 7km border crossing that took us into Chile near Villa o higgins. Luke and I helped shuttle each other’s bikes up the steep hills and over the rivers. Instead of wading through the rivers, we took a more precarious approach. 

Currently, we are enjoying a rest day in Cerro Castillo. We decided to camp 2 nights at a hostel, and today is the perfect day for rest. It’s been raining all day which is a great day for napping, reading books, and the occasional walk around town. We went to buy lunch food and I think visited every grocery store in town. After buying some potatoes and veggies, we decided to eat out at a restaurant we passed and save the food for dinner. We will leave town tomorrow and head up to Coihaique. It’s paved for the next 200 or so kilometers so I’m looking forward to that. I’m hoping we finish the Carretera in Puerto Montt, and then I will catch a bus to Santiago. It’s hard to keep myself in the present and not think about all the things I need the accomplish when I get home (aka sell my car, buy a car, take the Praxis exam, fill out paperwork for the teaching program I’ll be doing, look for places to live in Boulder, work, make money, save money, visit family, visit friends…ahh). I am constantly reminding myself to find peace by living in the moment. I am beyond grateful and appreciative of this experience and want to inspire others with what I have learned along my trip. Hasta luego! 
Ps-I would post more pictures but it takes too long to upload. I’ll try in our next town!


El Chalten

I wish I could say the ride into El Chalten was glorious, but the truth is it was quite awful. It’s not that the landscape isn’t beautiful, it is amazing! However Luke and I pushed ourselves too much, and that in return affected my experience. We made it to Chalten in 3 days from Calafate. The first day was amazing as we had a strong tailwind out of Calafate. We high fived every hitchhiker along the way out of town. Ironically, we met up with the same hitchhikers at the turnoff to Chalten and stopped to chat and refuel with empanadas. We went further to a stealth campsite near a bridge and enjoyed a peaceful night. 

The next day was much harder as we again faced more headwind. Luckily, there was a restaurant about halfway that we could stop for lunch at. Spending the rest of our Argentine pesos, we feasted on hamburgers and empanadas. Fighting the urge to take a nap on the table, we pushed on and got quite a few more miles in before dark. We camped in a gravel parking lot next to a river about 30 miles from Chalten. Excited that we’d be in Chalten the next day, we got up early to beat the wind. Unfortunately, the wind was already awake.

And so it began…our last day with fierce headwinds and crosswinds that kept changing. It was like our final battle with the wind and the wind wanted to give us its worst. It’s interesting how you start to worship and respect the wind, and then you get angry at it when it doesn’t give you a break. I mean I’ve yelled at it at the tops of my lungs…who does that? It’s a mind game that you will lose so you might as well bow and take it. 

We went slowly, inching our way to Chalten. Eating everything we had in our food bag. Looking ahead a dark stormy cloud formed over the valley pass we would take to Chalten. After being blown into traffic and not hearing a truck approaching behind me, we took a break to try to let the wind settle. I yelled at Luke “this is not f*cking safe!” I tend to curse when I’m scared as my college roommates have experienced. We sat for an hour and a half take the wind and duSt in our eyes. There was no shelter. We got up and I said I’m not riding unless I feel safe. If the wind blows me back into traffic I’m done. I didn’t fly all the way down here only to get hit by a car. Okay okay maybe I’m being dramatic, but it really freaked me out. 

So we started biking again and it almost seemed like the wind slowed…and maybe it did for about 30 minutes and then it picked up again. It’s like it was just taking a big breath in to give us one final big blow. At about 15 miles out I flagged luke down and said I was done. I told him I didn’t feel good and I didn’t want to ride in these conditions. I was exhausting myself out and at this rate I knew I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the ride into Chalten. Luke did not want to hitch, and I did. This is a very tough predicament to be in because you don’t want to let your friend down but you don’t want to keep going. After getting into an argument about this, I tried sticking my thumb out for a few cars with no success. With anger, I got back on the bike. The rest of the ride was miserable. The wind was at full force and it started raining. The one thing I’m thankful for is the rain was never coming down that hard. It stung when it hit the corners of my eyes. Not speaking to each other the rest of the ride, we made it to Chalten…hooray.

However, although I was of course happy to be in town, I kept replaying the day in my head and the arguements we had. I felt that by pushing myself like that I had taken away from my experience. I didn’t stop to enjoy the scenic Glacier as we came into town. I was angry when we got to town. My whole mood was off. I told myself I didn’t want this to happen again. 

The worst part was Luke was mad at me for being in this mood (as he had every right to be). He asked how could I ruin something like getting into town. We hit a low point. Both of us were broken…by the wind. Like I said it’s a mind game that you will not win. We ate a meal in silence, not sure what to say to each other. He was frustrated that I wasn’t happy and I was upset with how the day had gone. 

After dinner we tried finding the casa de cyclistas because we heard this was the cheapest place to stay (chalten is very expensive). After both of our phones died we decided to try another hostel but it was 80 dollars a night. We decided to blindly look for the other place in an area we thought it was in and somehow we stumbled upon it. We were told there was one bed left and one of us could sleep on the floor. 

Happy to be inside, we slept hard that night. That night and the next day we talked about what happened. We agreed to not push that hard again because it does taint the experience. We both apologized and promised we wouldn’t let it get to that point again. 

I’m glad to say that things have been looking up since this day. I think luke and I are working better together and not setting such strict expectations for ourselves. In my next post, I’ll write about our time in Chalten…which was spectacular! If you get the time to visit this place, I highly recommend it. 

Puerto Natales to El Calafate 

The ride out of Puerto Natales was one of my favorite riding days! So different than the pampas (desert) and prairies that we were surrounded by for three weeks. Puerto Natales is a popular tourist destination because of Torres Del Payne, one of Chile’s national parks. I was so excited we were finally back in a mountain town. Although we decided to skip going to Torres Del Payne (because of the reservation hassles and cost), we were lucky to see the iconic mountain Torres (towers) on our way out of town. We rode for a few hours and stopped for lunch at a fancy looking hotel in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t look like anyone was home, but we were soon greeted by an adorable puppy that appeared from his lair underneath the deck. After a few minutes a woman appeared at the door and we asked if we could eat lunch in the yard. She said of course and that if it started to rain we could come inside. After our meal and having tons of fun with this puppy, the woman returned and asked if we wanted a coffee before leaving. Of course we said yes lol and we even got a fruit cobbler to go with our cafe. The inside of the hotel was beautiful and it turns out they were full but all their guests were at the Torres. It was an awesome lunch break! 

We pushed further to a small area (I won’t even call it a town) called Tapi Aiken. We heard from passing cyclists that there was a place that let cyclists stay for free. When we got there, we saw a gas station and a police station. The gas station was closed so we asked the police if there was somewhere we could set up our tent. He directed us to the next door down, and we knocked. A man in his 50s answered the door only to stare and smile at us. “Hace frio?” He asked. (Are you cold?) “Yes,” I answered and he told us to come inside.  We followed him into the kitchen where around 10 cyclists were boppin around the kitchen cooking, eating, and chatting in all sorts of languages. The man in charge (Carlos) began to speak with the other cyclists about where we could sleep and we were told we could sleep on the floor. Happy to be inside and out of the cold and wind I was estatic. However a few minutes later Carlos said we could sleep in beds and he directed us to a movie trailer type building that had several rooms. The room we stayed in had been previously decorated with naked women on the walls lol. Well, it was shelter lol.

After socializing with the other cyclists we met a French couple, Kervin and Agatha that was going north too! Hallelujah we weren’t the only crazy ones! The had actually started their journey 3 months ago in Buenos Aires and had cycled down to Ushuaia (where we started) and were going north. We headed out with them the next day and ended up biking 4 days with them to Calafate. Our first day was spent battling the ripio (awful gravel road). 

After going through the ripio we found another place we were allowed to stay that reminded me of an airplane hanger. 

These places we were allowed to stay in were apparently housing for the road workers in the winter months. Basically when they need breaks from clearing snow, they use these buildings as temporary housing. For the rest of the year, they have caretakers that seem to rotate every 15 days. 

After leaving the warehouse shelter, we road through more pampa. We arrived at a beautiful campsite along a river that had grass and trees along it. I named this campsite the oasis. It was beautiful and so peaceful! 

The next morning we tried to get an earlier start to head to El Calafate. This was a good decision because the winds were roaring as we were about 10km from town. Again facing another strong headwind we pushed into town and went right to the grocery store to resupply. We then hit up a cafe to use their wifi and finally ended our day camping along the beach as Lago Argentino. 

The next morning we said goodbye to our new friends as they went west to see Glacier Perito Moreno and we went east to start our ride to El Chalten. I believe Kervin and Agatha came into our journey at the perfect time because I think Luke and I were loosing sight of what is important on this trip. It was wonderful to share that part of the world with great people. I am truly thankful we got to spend this time together.

Before heading out of town, Luke and I stopped to refuel on empanadas and coffee. Pop even enjoyed some too! This adorable dog kept coming in the bakery and I couldn’t resist giving it some love. 

It was a bit sad saying goodbye to our new friends, but I had a feeling we’d be seeing each other very soon : ) 

Compromise

In any relationship, whether it be marriage, friendship, or family there are many times we have to compromise to fix a problem or difference in outlooks. For Luke and I that time is now. From my previous post you can likely tell that I have had a hard time being positive. I felt like everyday I was mentally drained. The weather down here is no joke. You can’t beat it, you just have to accept it. It doesn’t matter if you wake up early or try to wait it out…when biking north your going to have the wind against you. 

If I didn’t have a time frame, we could go as slow as we want to, and take as many rest days as needed. However, I do have a schedule. I have a plane to catch March 6, and I really don’t want to spend most of my time battling the monotony of open plains and wind. We keep hearing about how beautiful the Carretera Austral is, and my goal is to complete it. Because it takes 3 to 4 weeks to complete, Luke and I have decided to hitch to Puerto Natales. We are actually on a huge tour bus right now…Yeah ironically the same tour buses that were blowing us off the road yesterday. I don’t know if we will bike up from there to the Carretera Austral or if we will take a bus. Neither of us like to admit defeat, but I don’t think we are. I think we are making the most of our time. Luke can do whatever he wants and has no time frame, but it’s different for me. It’s a bad place when he feels responsible for me being unhappy…which I’m not unhappy. But I will say I do not enjoy battling the wind everyday. I kept praying that we’d get one day of decent riding weather and after ten days of struggle it’s demoralizing. I want to enjoy this trip and Luke does too. So concluding this post, I may not be “thru” biking patagonia but I’ll be damned if I don’t enjoy myself while I’m here. So grateful…

 El Viento Fuerte

Well, we were warned…the blogs say don’t go north, but we go north lol. Most cyclists prefer to bike south in South America because of the wind patterns. “The wind always comes from the west” a French guy told us in a hostel in Rio Grande. An Italian biker at this same hostel put his hand to his forehead, shook his head while saying no no no you go north?? El viento el viento. He advised us to wake up early because the winds are usually more calm in the early morning and late evening. Well…this worked for a portion of the time. Out of 10 days of cycling thus far, we’ve had a tailwind once. It was great, until the wind became too strong and I started loosing control over my bike. Most days we ride into headwind.

The only shelter we had from the wind at times was sitting in the ditch on either side of the road. There are no trees to hide under and most of the time no bushes. We even cooked in a ditch because it was the only shield from the wind.

We began cycling about 10 days ago in Ushuaia, Argentina. Ushuaia is a popular tourist town known as “el fin de mundo” or in English “the end of the world.” It’s a beautiful mountain town that is run by tourists in the summer. I’m not sure how the people survive here in the winter lol. 

If I’ve learned one thing about people living in Tierra Del Fuego (the land of fire), it’s that they are hearty. You have to be strong, resilent, and up for working in crazy weather conditions. Just a few days ago, we passed an estancia (a big farm) and the men and dogs were herding hundreds of sheep in 60kmh winds! I mean I could hardly stay upright on my bike and these people acted like it was nothing. 

The best way for me to describe the landscape of tierra del fuego is beautifully boring. The endless prairies allow you to see for miles and miles however after riding days on this it seems you are surrounded by mirages. When you look out into the distance it looks like you’re looking through the wavy heat that rises as you cook on the grill. 

We’ve seen a variety of animals including various types of birds, guanacos, sheep, cattle, flamingos, and emus. At times it felt like we were herding these animals as they ran alongside our bikes. Luke mentioned he felt like he was in jurassic park, whereas I had more of the lion King feel. 

I’m not going to lie, this trip has been mentally straining. Physically, I’m doing pretty well, but mentally it’s been hard for me. It seems like every day there is some challenge that makes it hard for me to be positive. Mainly, it’s been the wind but also cold, rainy, and poor road conditions. It’s frustrating when you wake up early trying to beat the headwind only to have an hour of enjoyable riding. It doesn’t even bother me at first, but after 3-4 hrs of it I am emotionally spent. I always have felt I’ve been a positive person but I feel I’ve been so negative on this trip. I mean am I really spending the last of my savings to battle the wind for 2 months? Luke has assured me that it will pay off as we get further north. He’s been great and I wish I could soak up his positive attitude sometimes. 

Please do not misinterpret my words as regret. I am so thankful I am able to be here. People in Chile are wonderful and extremely generous. My Spanish has been getting better. My legs are getting stronger. I’ve tried new food (found out I ate cow stomach the other day). We’ve met some amazing people that are traveling across the world. A French couple we met in Argentina had biked from Alaska and an American we met in a cafe was on his way to do an ultramarathon in Antarctica. It makes me feel like what I’m doing is so small. But the thing is there is no point in comparing myself to others. There will always been people who are stronger, weaker, bigger, smaller, richer, poorer, smarter, faster, and clever than me. Life’s challenge is to be content with the present correct? It’s just sometimes that’s hard when you have wind constantly blowing against you : ) 

 

An adventure to…get to the adventure

Well it’s been quite a journey thus far! Getting ourselves, luggage, and two bike boxes to the tip of South America has not been a piece of cake. 6 flights, 2 border crossings, and several taxi rides later, we made it to Ushuaia. This is the southernmost point in Argentina. Well almost…I think there maybe another very remote town but it’s pretty far south lol. Kudos to Luke for packing the bikes up so well that they made the trip!

Packed for Dulles Airport

From Dulles Airport we travelled at 130am to Panama City. Had a 5 hr layover and continued onto Santiago, Chile. We had a great experience in Santiago and I really liked the vibe we got from Chile. We stayed at the Bellavista Hostel and ironically rented bikes the next day to explore the city. Santiago was full of beautiful street art, sculpture parks, monuments, and people were always making out in the parks lol. Pda does not seem to be frowned upon in Chile.

View of Santiago from Bicentario Park

After spending 2 days in Santiago, we were off to Mendoza for a night.

Mendoza did not give us a warm fuzzy welcoming. We needed two taxis to get our bikes to the hostel. One stuffed a box in the back seat and the other sruffed a box in the trunk with the door open. This caused the trunk to put a hole in the box. After arriving at the hostel we realized we didn’t have Argentinian pesos to pay the drivers…only chilean pesos (not okay). Thankfully the hostel helped us out by paying them and we repaid the hostel when we exchanged money. 

Although Mendoza is known for their red wine, we somehow ended up at at craft beer bar called Hanger 52. Great hamburgers! Afterwards we spent the evening walking around Mendoza and I noticed everyone stays up really late…even kids were playing on the playground at 1am and apparently this was normal. The next day we left really early to get to the airport. Again we had to take 2 taxis and they overcharged us. Luke and the cab driver had to hold the bike box down w their hand. Ridiculous! On top of getting ripped off, we realized we left Luke’s guitar at the hostel : /

After Mendoza, we flew to Buenos Aires and then down to ushuaia. The scenery was beautiful! Well I must go now as Luke and I are trying to get to bed early. We want to get an early start to get some biking in before the winds get bad. I’ll write about that on my next post. For now, I leave you with this mural I saw in santiago.