There are no easy days on the Andes Trail

24 October 2014 123 kilometer temp in low to mid 40s

There are no easy days on the Andes trail!
Rob ( coowner of Bike-Dreams)

I confess a bit of a boring day. Long straightaways up to 25 kilometers, gentle hills, nice mountains to the sides but desert on valley floor. Went through 4 liters water by camp arrival at 3 pm and cannot seem to get enough in since. Thinking today, this is getting boring, just peddling. Well finished the last 10 kilometers with some serious uphill climbs in canyons which magnified the heat. But pretty.

That final 10 kilometer headed west off of route 40 which runs at base of the Andes for the length of Argentina. But we are on a Andes trail and mountains, so tomorrow back to the hills again. Climb all day back up to 2800 meters from our current 1000 meters. Should be cooler, which I will enjoy. The heat is getting me. Will be nice to pull out sleeping bag again. Have just been using the sleep sheet for past week.

Nice camp here. Creek running by and first thing I did was walk right in after removing phone, wallet and shoes. Very nice to just sit in the water about waist deep. After about 15 minutes went to my luggage and removed the one beer I had saved and returned to the water.

The canyon here is narrow and steep walled. The road above for tomorrow is carved out of cliff side with large rock walls made to reinforce the road. And a babbling brook next to my tent for sleeping.

San Jose de Jacal to Tocota. 132 kilometer 1900 meter climb

Well that does not sound too bad as a title for today, but I spent a lot of day trying to think of a title. Titles thought of were”tales of the worlds slowest bike rider” or “why”.

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It was probably the worst and hardest day for me. Berry mentioned it was definitely in top 5 and before I joined they had some rough days. Everyone agrees the final 35 kilometers was worst road yet. Soft gravel required a lot of walking and was just plain miserable. As per usual I was thinking I cannot do this, it is way above my level, abilities, and enjoyment. But as usual on arrival in camp everyone stated the same or nearly so.

First part of day was good, with mostly gentle climbing up through incredible canyons then rounded a corner and I thought I had arrived at lake Powell in southern Utah. But no stopping as a big day and a long way to go. Did stop in town of Rodeo where lost Berry, Cristen, Knut, and Hilde. But stopped for ice cream although no soda. After continued to kilometer 82 and lunch and somewhere had jumped ahead of most arriving about 11:30. Hardy said I was time warped. After lunch I put my helmet back on and it felt like a bucket of water poured on me from the sweat in sweat bands.

Departed and on through Iglesias and continued a nice ride but as left pavement Rob passed me and asked if I had enough water as none ahead. Yes had refilled at lunch 1 1/2 liter in camelback camera bag ( no pictures today as long day). And two bike bottles of 500 ml each.

Well the gravel road was nice for about 5 k then went soft and washboards. Had to occasional get off and walk and spent a lot of time going back and forth on road trying to find something rideable for more than 10 meters. Speed was down to about 8 kph and still 30 kilometers to go. It was still uphill. I was ready to quit and am talking about the ride. Just did not have strength to ride this. And the temperature was about 42-43 Celsius. I was going through my water. Met Jon Willan fixing his 4th flat of the day. He had taken Mario’s tires when Mario left and they were too light for this ride. Terry and Berry caught us and the three of them rode on, but a few kilometers later I caught Berry standing beside his bike letting out a series of expletives. Keep in mind he is from Australia and I learned some new expletives and combinations. Finally he said standing there was not getting us to camp and we had 25 k to go. Onward we trudged. Sweat was poring off me.

Lunch truck passed full of people and I said I was ok. As soon as they left I wondered if I had made a bad decision. Barry voiced the same, but too late. We rode on, later seeing a mirage on up the road. We questioned it but it was the truck broken down leaking diesel fuel. Barely made the truck with no water and refilled drinking a full liter while restocking. They did repairs and moved on as did we.

The truck return about an hour later and again I refilled with water. They were going back to offer ride to the4-5 still behind me.

Finally made camp barely, after a 7:30 am depart and arrival at 6 pm. 10 hours in the saddle. Too long. But all out to cheer arrival, Buck keeping me from falling into the mini cathedral I had stopped at. Seems everyone was exhausted and had same experiences. Rien and I had a talk about the day and he mentioned those earlier riders were stronger and could power through the road. I consider him probable the best rider here. He is amazing to watch him power up a hill.

And Rob one of directors of Bike-Dreams said at evening briefing. “Tocota is a place no one in the world has ever heard of and we will never forget it”. Very true. It is a town of two or three houses and a police station. We are camped on the ground of the police station. There are 4 of them and they cover a vast area here by horse, mostly looking for poachers of Vicuña.

And at 2800 meters elevation and cooler. Will need to pull out sleeping bag. And before sleep I must stretch the muscles. Legs go into sleeping bag and extend all the way out at which time I will fall asleep.

26 October 2014 Tocota. – Barreal 129 kilometer

“You are on the right track baby
You were born this way”
Lady Gaga

Well another day and again it proved different. Everyone a bit concerned about road down from Tocota but figured it was more used and no heavy trucks so maybe not like yesterday. Proved awesome for me, many did not like it but it reminded me of powder skiing. Go fast let gravity provide the speed and hence the power. Only a 2% slope but just right. Gravel and it did throw you around and required route finding on road.

For whatever reason it felt great to me and started down catching and passing many finding myself soon near the front and the racers. But then a few picture ideas popped into my head. Then back on bike at end of pack and off again flying by people wondering what was going on. Did they not realize speed was the key as it provided the power to get through the soft stuff. But I admit control was at the edge. Just like powder skiing, let gravity provide the power and fly.

I also put on music which I rarely do as I consider it a distraction and dangerous to ride with. The playlist I chose was the one I call ski jumping as all the songs remind me of ski jumping.

One note as cruising along there were soft spots as on the road yesterday which tended to stop one or definitely slow one down. Today was different as going 20-30kph instead of 7. Must be what it feels like to hit the runaway ramp on a steep hill with no brakes. Just trust the bike and ride it out. I figure I must have learned something from all the snow biking I do.

The day flew by and before I knew it was on pavement still downhill for another 30 k and lunch at 85 k. It was a 60 kilometer downhill run. Back at about 1400 meters elevation. Lunch in the plaza at Calingasta then 40 k to end. And it was a hot ride, slowing ascending a wide river valley. Snow covered peaks with glaciers to the west and a red muddy river flowing. Hardy’s bike thermometer was reading 45. I was cycling along but slow at 17 kph listening to music and heard yelling and screaming. It was Buck, Cristen, and Hilde at a rest stop. I pulled in and joined Marias and Hannie for a soda. Another soda. But it was so good. I had been looking but everything closed. Revitalized me and took off cruising at 24 enjoying the ride again. Reached green trees a short time later. And town of Barreal reaching municipal campground 8 k later.

And on arrival usual soup, fresh fruit, bread , chips, and cold water. Watermelon never tasted so good as I sat down for two bowls of divine pasta soup. And the watermelon was the old fashion kind with seeds. Incredible. Then lots of chips with their salty goodness as Michelle says. A shower and beer. Then charging implements as is everyone else: garmin GPS units, phones, laptops, cameras, batteries and implements of modern life. Bike cleaning oiling, tire checks. Numerous flat tires today. Jon Willan with record of 10 past two days. Apparently only about 10 people have had no flats as yet. I have tubeless and very happy with it.

And thinking I should go socialize but much to do. Shower, clean, transfer pictures to iCloud even though no wifi. Talking with Buck it is always busy. I think of the great divide and it’s motto of eat sleep ride. This is almost more so. Would be nice to stop and enjoy some of the sights along the way, but a schedule is required if we are to make Ushuaia. Hannie and Marias mentioned everyone must be a bit masochistic for this ride. Maybe true. Then I think this is only 20 miles per day more than Joe and I did on the divide. And have only done 22850 meters of climbing (75000 feet) which is far less than the divide thus far. Admittedly the heat is hurting. We never had 40’s but high 30’s. This is definitely harder though.

Whatever, I am still having a good time in a weird way. And feeling like I am accomplishing something. I find that weird. I have not cured cancer and solved the problem of Israel and Palestine, but perhaps just seeing a different world accomplishes something. (I am assuming Israel and Palestine have not reconciled during my absence.)

And it is the 27th of October and sitting in a gas station which has wifi. Marginal, but wifi. Will try and post this and hope not to bad. Good day today gentle up then 35 k of gravel which was very washboardy but if you push one can ignore the vibrations. Then downhill. Only 5 1/2 hours in the saddle today.

And along the way checked out some stairs to nowhere but was an overlook to an old inca site. Met a nice couple touring Argentina by truck. He from Buenos Aires and she from Vladivostok. Now time to return to camp for dinner.

2 thoughts on “There are no easy days on the Andes Trail

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