After the end

Absolutely well done Michelle. Well written and thought out. Thanks much

The Adventures of Crazy Aunty Biggles

I had to finish my blog with some reflections of my trip and something a wee bit more happy then the last entry. I had planned to do all sorts of things while I was in Ushuaia like hiking in the national park and other side trips but they won’t be happening. Instead I am perfecting the art of drinking coffee, eating cake and people watching. There will probably be only two more updates, one of my travels albeit slow travels around Ushuaia and one post Antarctica then it will be time for Crazy Aunty Biggles to rest and dream up another adventure but I suspect it will hard to match this one.

My recovery is going well. Slow but well. I can put weight on my bruised leg and limp around with some enthusiasm now. I still have some damn impressive bruises arriving in all sorts of places and…

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Letdown and what does it all mean

The best traveller has no plan and is not intent on arrival.



Bike-dreams route Andes trail
Bike-dreams route Andes trail
The route through South America Andes.
The route through South America Andes.

3 days in Ushuaia. When I set up reservation for this trip I knew next to nothing about Ushuaia, but figured I will not be here very often so scheduled three days to explore. Turns out there is a lot to do, boat excursions, beagle channel, penguins, Cape Horn, hiking, museums, national parks, the list goes on. And I had energy for almost nothing. I did ride to the end of highway 3 but that is the extent of my explorations and the maritime and prison museum.

Talking with others they felt the same energy is gone. It is like we were “on” for 4 months and suddenly it is done. As Michelle said it was about the journey and not the destination. And a bit anticlimactic; we had a farewell end of trip dinner the night of arrival and then slowly people began to drift away. If one was around, one said goodbye, otherwise they were gone. Most will not be seen again. Weird feeling to live with people, eating, sleeping, biking, encouraging, cajoling, and surviving for four months and then suddenly it is done and we go back to regular lives. Seems everyone was gone yesterday morning except Rob (the boss) who is driving trucks to Uruguay for storage until the next trip in two years, and then taking a month to cycle around Uruguay exploring that country which he has never been to. The three girls Carmen, Vivien, and Michelle who are awaiting boats to explore Antarctica. Julia was last to leave for her 34 hours of flying to Australia. I had dinner last evening with Michelle and it was a good conversation and goodbye. She returns home 3 January and back to work at university 9 January. I recommend her blog michelle’s blog In my quest to find out why we do this her answer was similar to Gunter, Hardy, and Alfred. It is in our genes. As she said we are people who want to feel what a place is like. To be knocked down by the wind and attempt to crawl into a ditch to protect oneself from the flying gravel is very different than watching it on the travel or nature channel on TV. We want to see what is over that hill, mountain, valley whatever. And we agreed the worst you can do is fail to try. Failing at something is one thing but not even trying is total failure. So what have I seen: it would be shorter to just reread this blog and that does not begin to cover the things I have seen. At the current moment I am thinking of the remote Bolivian village we came across on a rough dirt road, where a hundred kids encompassed us with curiosity, fear, wonderment at these strange gringos on bicycles. I suspect they had never seen such a sight. Or the rise over the hill and seeing the Torres de Paine towers rising 2 kilometers over us. The grueling climb to Tocota in the heat. A multitude of experiences and sights. And a bicycle is a great way to see and feel it. As Earnest Hemingway said; It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of the country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. But you remember them as they actually are, while in a motorcar only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.

And what have I learned.  That too is a question of imponderables.  But it I will try, without being too trite.

to get anywhere you have to move. Seems simple but as Barry and I stood there enroute to Tocota in blazing heat he said “well we can’t get there by standing here”. Even though both of us just wanted to lie down and await whatever. And the windy day out of Torres del Paine was similar. I wanted to lie in the ditch and await rescue, but that seemed to easy, and a long wait. Again this seems to fall into the category of you cannot succeed if you do not try.

And I learned I can do it with a good mindset. As Thomas the tank engine says “I think I can”. And my track coach in high school told me anything physical is 90% mental and the more I do the more I find that true. One must believe.

One of my first blogs was entitled”facing one’s fears” where I expressed my fears at joining an elite group of hardened cyclists. I knew they had cycled all over the world and were also looking for additional challenges and places to explore. I had expected them to arrive after 6 weeks of hard cycling high in the mountains not only acclimated to the altitude but capable of superhuman feats. They dribbled into Cusco more like old wet, dirty dish towels than the super humans I expected. My friend Buck, who is incredibly tough, I thought was going to collapse on my hotel doorstep when he arrived.

Nearly every day I rode I had the thought “I can’t do this I am not strong enough”. When I arrived in camp often last I would sometimes relay this to others. They would look at me like “you are crazy, all of us feel that way” and I would look around and realize it was true. They would look as exhausted as I felt.  On the great divide after three weeks Joe and I were ready to quit.  We weren’t strong enough for the ride we felt.  That day we changed from doing the great divide to just ride the next day.  It changed our perspective and became wonderful.

And I was bothered by how slow I was, finally near the end I realized I could ride maybe not as fast as the fasted racers, but I could hold my own. There were many times I took my turn leading the pelaton or pace line. I realized slowly often the difference was I stopped, took pictures, ate, peed or just took a break. Some in the group would not drink coffee in the morning as they would have to stop to pee. Rob mentioned to me once this group was different as they did not stop to photograph or enjoy the view, they were intent on getting to camp. That is certainly ok but was not my ride. I rode my ride in my way. After San Martin when a large pelaton made riding easier against the wind I did not do pelatons as much because of the scenery I missed. Everyone to their own.

Hence the learning, I can do it if I want to. Negative thinking results in negative results. Ok, trite.

And I learned the world is an amazing place. So many different ways of doing and looking at things. And money has nothing to do with it. Sometimes the poorest people are the happiest. We all crave things but sometimes it is the feeling which is more important. And just because someone does something in a different way does not make it better or worse.

In South America one does not put paper in the toilet but in the garbage can next to toilet. Most from western countries find this weird. But paper is carbon and tends to overload septic and sewage systems, not allowing proper bacterial action to decompose the waste. Or perhaps their septic and sewers just can’t handle that waste. Whatever the reason it is the way it is done here.

Buck told me once, when I was complaining about the seemingly feral dogs all over rural Peru and Bolivia, it is their culture we cannot always understand it. (Two people on our trip were bitten and had rabies treatment.). Quite true, one cannot always understand a culture and before one tries to change it try and understand why it is that way.

And I learned traffic can be ok with a bike. Joost told me he actually enjoys riding in traffic at home as it is an additional challenge. Perhaps though it is because cars may respect bikes. There is always an outsider but I felt ok with the cars. They treated me as a vehicle which is the way it should be and not as an intrusion on their personal space. The times cars lined up behind us waiting for a safe time to pass continually amazed me. People can be respectful of others. Of course we did prove that one outside car can do some damage. When a car and a bike fight it is extremely difficult for the bike to win.

Now I sit in Lima back where I began my trip in South America. My story is told, and I am trying to understand the past 4 months because there is so much to understand, but I feel like a person who now has no story, which is the opposite of what I have always said. Everyone has a story; perhaps they do not know it or do not know how to tell it. Perhaps it will come to me. Tomorrow is another day.


Arrival Ushuaia

Well it finally happened; we made it. For me after three months and just shy of 7500 kilometers ridden plus 450 in the truck, it is bittersweet. For the others they left 1 August in Quito and did 11000 kilometers. I climbed 59000 meters whereas the entire trip consisted of 110,000 meters of climbing to include the mountains of Peru which I did not do. Whew

Departed the campground on a nice gravel road along lake then onto pavement and into a bit of wind, but nice riding in a line with Alfred, Barry, and Juerg. Sunshine.

Entered some hills and then the climb of 400 meters but easy grade. It feels very good to be back in trees and mountains. Feeling good and traffic back to reasonable, passing when safe. Of course there are always a few drivers who insist on ignoring cyclists and one must be aware. Lunch was not until 80 kilometers so that we could group up and ride last 20-25 together. And a very happy moment when camp truck passed and Michelle was hanging out window waving, smiling, cheering. Still was not sure of her condition and elation set in. Having seen the bike and realized the damage that was incurred was all done when she was on it. It is amazing she survived at all.


Lunch and waited for entire crew apparently I was snoring away. Then a police escort for final tour. 2 trucks and 4 motorcycles. Arrived Ushuaia and stopped for pictures then proceeded into town square running every red light thanks to police stopping traffic for us as we circled town and the square, where finish line awaited, champagne, beer, food, and people from town and visitors.


IMG_1660.JPG I and Joost helped Michelle onto my bike and Joost helped her cross the finish line on a bike. Hooray
“Fin del Mundo” (the end of the world). This is farthest city south in the world and a tourist town for such with ocean shipping, cruises, and the tourist activities accompanying such places.
Had the awards ceremony for the race winners overall and all men were first place James, second, to Alfred, and third was Joost. Amongst the women first was Michelle, second was Hilde, and her sister Kristen was third. Congratulations to them all.



After we realized we still had to find our hotel which had been conveniently placed high up on a hill above town. We managed the very technical ride (due to beverage consumption) through a strange town, in a strange town, joking we were back in the altitudes of Peru and Bolivia. Numerous folks had to immediately begin packing bikes and prepping for departure.
Then a walk into town and a delightful argentine dinner. Restaurant of course did not open until 8 pm and we arrived shortly later. I was fascinated by the cooking room where the chef was barbecuing, entire beef, lamb, chicken on large skewers over a large grill. One went to a window and told him what you wanted and he cut it off. Absolutely wonderful. Then added a side salad from buffet. The place was hopping at 10 (on a Sunday night) and I walked back to hotel leaving about 11. Several took cabs for the uphill return trip. The local cycling club gave each of us a plaque with map of route and it was a wondrous evening filled with the usual sad goodbyes.

This am up for coffee and hotel breakfast and watching some depart. I then had offered to remove useable parts from Michelle’s bike and began this work. For the police report the bike was totaled and insurance wise it was. Actually only everything from rear seat tube back was totally destroyed. Cassette, chain stays, hub, rear brake, wheel. Still amazed she survived. Luckily the car hit her rear wheel sideways throwing her off. Still something hit windscreen breaking it and a large dent in right door. She is walking but very bruised and sore.


And so it ends. Hoopla but the mixed feelings one has. Ready to move on but this has been such an incredible experience I still have not processed it. I will be spending three days here I. Ushuaia exploring and trying to figure out what it all means. In rio Grande I went to dinner with, Hardy, Gunter, and Alfred (all German) and asked they why we did this. Each said there is no reason, it is in our makeup. This is what we enjoy. Nothing more nothing less.

Hence I close although there will be more posts in an attempt to figure it out. I have for myself enjoyed writing this and posting. It kept me connected and I enjoyed the comments. Thanks for the support. For those interested in the actual events they are pretty much finished for now. I will continue to post my ideas for those willing to endure my ramblings. (I can hear the unsubscribe clicks now.

So thanks for the support, interest, and go out and create your own story. It is there and it is fascinating.

There are no easy days on the Andes trail 2

What to say. The picture says it all, Michelle’s bike. Hit by a car. She is ok I understand, but I have not seen her. She is staying in a hotel, with Annalot our doctor, in town whereas we are at campground.

Left Rio Grande I jovial mood joking, laughing. Only two day left but some of us did say “there are no easy days not the Andes Trail”. But whatever it was nice to leave I good spirits but soon the work of the day kicked in as we turns south into a southwest wind and left the protection of the buildings of the city. For 9 k we struggled along trying to maintain 13 kph, thinking this is going to be a long 120 kilometers. Then the road turned east and we flew and as it turned south along the coast we were protected a bit from the wind. For whatever reason I was on fire and moving, able to stop and take a picture then catch up and even pass to get ahead. I told folks I had changed to my racing saddle. Whatever made lunch at 56 k by 11 am leaving at 9. Felt good.

And congratulations to James for winning the race and Albert for second place. Timing stopped at lunch.

After lunch the road moved from south to southeast to southwest and back keeping the wind very variable. But the traffic was different. All through Argentina and the trip biking has not been a problem, but today it was. Not necessarily a lot but the traffic obviously did not like us. In past months cars would slow down and drive along behind without a problem passing when safe. Today was not so. Often cars would not even move to left lane when no oncoming traffic. People yelled at us even if on far right of road. Very different I felt.

I saw a pickup truck with bikes in back and a Andes trail name tag on one and thought “well someone has given up in the wind and hitched a ride.” A few kilometers I was stopped for a break and Joost came by stopping to see if I was ok, and telling me Michelle had been hit, was ok but very bruised.

I made the ride to camp and a bit somber camp all waiting for word of Michelle. Walter finally showed telling us she was ok, no fractures but but very bruised and swollen. She walked out of clinic on her own with help. As we used to say in the emergency room life is a matter of millimeters.

Dinner and saw the bike, wow. Life is tenuous, and a gift to be treasured for the time we have.

Made it to Ushuaia. Great happiness in seeing Michelle waving from truck today. Currently a bit drunk from party on arrival. Will post final day and arrival.

Tierra del Fuego

All I want from life is to be in love, ride my bike and drink good coffee


Five days left: 2 cycling, a rest day, 2 cycling, Ushuaia, and then the rest of my life. Thinking of the end, not so much as I want it to end but to break the routine. To not get up and do the same thing every day maybe. No, that is not it. Maybe the idea of not necessarily “being on” all the time, facing the world. I guess maybe it is the desire for a routine which I understand. Tiring to every day translate multiple languages of which I speak only one, to wonder where and when lunch and dinner are (even though I know), every night in a new location. (Maybe that is why the tent is nice, once you go inside all is the same and in order). The trip is exciting yes, and wonderful to see new, different things and ways of doing things, but sometimes nice to have ones own routine.

Currently on the ferry crossing the Straights of Magellan to Tierra Del Fuego, a two hour trip. As per usual I have trouble sitting and sleeping as most of the 300 passengers are doing. It is the same ferry that took us to the penguins the other day so have seen much of ship, but seems always more to explore. I guess that is a difference between me and some others, I find this fascinating and the views always changing and interesting. Others see it just as a mode of transportation. I think of it as it’s own adventure. I think of how some did not want to go see penguins as they had seen penguins elsewhere or were going to see them later. Once in the arctic someone did not want go see a snowy owl nest as they had seen an owl before. People think differently, it is not right or wrong just not how I think. What is important to one may not be important to others. What I find most important is to respect the difference, and to understand that there are differences. If we were all the same whether in likes, dislikes, beliefs, looks, it would be incredibly boring.

Ok skipping ahead in the chronology I am writing this from the bush camp reached after the ferry ride. Hardy, and Joost were talking about the end and whether excited or not. Yes and no. Basically I believe they summed it up in that these past months are basically easy and a vacation. Sure we ride hard, but every day is eat, sleep, ride. As Joost said, compared to the regular work world or raising a family this is easy. Escapism.

Ok back to today’s ride. Off to the 5 k ride to ferry terminal and boarded the “Crux Australis”. This time loaded not only with 300 people but cars and trucks for the 2 1/2 hour ride to Porvenir. Met some interesting people traveling about. A couple from Poland who had flown to Columbia , bought a BMW motorbike and were now traveling to Ushuaia then on to Buenos Aires where they sell the bike and return home. Another fellow just coming back from climbing Mount Vincent in Antarctica. He is doing two of the seven summits every year. He goes to Mount Everest in March.

On arrival we rode off the ferry and were in Tierra del Fuego. All rushed ahead to lunch but Hardy and I stopped to take pictures in town center of us beneath the Christmas tree. Quick lunch and off we went.


Nice ride along the coast and once stopped to watch the dolphins near shore. Magellans dolphins I believe and I believe they were feeding. Then on east with a tailwind and my cockiness in last blog caught up with me when talking about no bike problems. Air departed my rear tire and I had a flat tire. Rob came by shortly after and asked what my biggest problem was as my bike was upside down and wheel off. I could not think of any problems so had him continue on. Finally found a hole in side wall wearing thin which the latex sealant does not help much. Put a tube in but it would not pump up. Removed the tube to find a centimeter cut in the new tube. Thus repaired that, replaced tube and on my way again.

And an awesome ride with a very gradual descent and headed east so a 50 kph tail wind. Flew along the smooth gravel ride for next 15 kilometer, guanacos and sheep watching me fly by and suddenly the bike dream flag appears. I was not ready to stop as having great fun cruising along at about 40 and it seemed early. Turns out the scheduled bush camp of 14 trees was really blowing hard so they had returned to find the only gully for a long ways. Could not see trucks or tents until nearly on top of them. They had nestled into this little gully and set up a great camp. I began repairs changing to new tire on rear throwing old out as I can see it getting worn when tire is off the bike. Rob tried to go for swim in ocean, but rough seas and rocky beach and cold water. Great dinner of curried rice with chicken and I was on service meaning delivering food and washing dishes after.

Great little orange orchid in amongst the grasses here. Only about 2 centimeters high.


Whatever day it is I do not know or care: it’s the one from bush camp to Rio Grande and a rest day tomorrow. Did 156 kilometer and windy

Awoke to the sound of crashing surf over the gully edge. Pacific Ocean water, although technically Straights of Magellan, but the is water coming in from Pacific. Rained I guess during the night and drizzled during this mornings ride but not bad. Full rain gear removing rain pants within 15 k. Tailwind and cruising along averaging 26 kph until lunch at about 62 kilometer just before Chile immigration. Accused Walter and Annalot of setting up in only windy area around, but riding one does not notice a tailwind.

Did see several heavy loaded bikers heading north to anchorage. And in this section they were going directly into wind. Rob said when checking this route in 2007 he did it going north and on this section he could only do 8kph and 80 for the day. That tells me something, as Rob is incredibly strong.

Immigration was easy, both of them, arriving just before the buses arrived. And Chile immigration near the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. Crossed a continent, maybe not at its widest but still pretty cool. Leaving the last dirt of trip and onto pavement the road turned to the southeast which meant cross and tail winds. One section going east for 5 k was perfectly flat and I coasted between 32 and 37 kph having a snack and water, not peddling a bit, just letting the wind push me. But when turned south the crosswind was again severe. Probably blowing about 50 kph today. Stopped once for photo of Gunter and as usual rushed ahead out of breath, braking hard, a gust hit me and I went down in a tangle of bike, me and the backpack I was trying to remove at same time. All ok and got the photo I hope.

IMG_1567.JPGMade it to town of Rio Grande which is an industrial town of about 50000. Average 27 kph for the day for 155 kilometers, even with crosswind the speed picked up for the 90 kilometer after lunch. We are staying in a hotel near middle of town. Good shower , but wifi cannot connect, but two outlet plugs in room allowing Buck and I to both charge something at same time. It is the little things in life.

And how cool is this; Pacific Ocean water waves last night and tonight on shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

Punta Arenas and rest day life

Estrecho De Magallenes

IMG_1469.JPGMonument to the wind along road, although I think it is a directional beacon for alien spacecraft.

Departed the bush camp early in hopes of lengthening our rest day in Puntas Arenas, and our hopes succeeded. A quick 100 kilometer arriving just before 1. And about 20 k from town was a large lake on left to the east. The garmin said Oceana Pacifica. It is the straights of Magellan. Wow. I have read and heard of this country since I was small. The stories of explorations, discoveries, history, and people for the last 600 years are impressive. I was awestruck at finally seeing it, Tierra del Fuego across the channel. We are getting south.

Found the hostel after a bit of wandering the neighborhood as Garmin directed us this way and that. Then the usual question of what is this place going to bring. As usual several people opted prior or immediately on arrival to get their own places closer to town or alone, or with better wifi (without 40 people trying to log on at once), or just to get away. As for me it is fine sharing a room with James and the shower had hot water which is sort of unique. Everyone commented how fast the internet was although the system refused to allow me on. Max says apple products sometimes have difficulty due to their higher security, but others apples products were logged in. I spent much of the afternoon frustrating myself trying to log on without success, while others typed away.

But wanted a tour of penguin rookery and today was best day as occurs in evening. The birds are out fishing during the day and return in afternoon. Thus signed up for a 5 pm departure on boat. Michelle, Joost, Letty, Bridget, James and I took a cab to boat harbor, and boarded the ferry for two hour trip to isla Magdalena.

Just before arrival at the island an albatross took off beside the ship. Then as we neared the beach (ship is a landing craft with drop bow) the birds appeared. Again totally awestruck at the sight of these storied birds waddling by the thousands about the beach up on to the island. These are Magellan Penguins and follow the light from here to southern coast of Brazil in winter. About 40 centimeters high and as cute as one imagines. They live in short burrows which are dug by them throwing dirt everywhere. They mate for life and anthropomorphizing them one imagines the love, caring, squabbles, and trials couples go through.

The park is very good about controlling the hundred or two hundred visitors dropped off by the “Crux Austral” with roped off areas and a few guards to keep track. Penguins get priority, but all were good and close with centimeters. Again I was amazed. Had seen penguins when in Tasmania but nothing like the thousands here. I have not seen wildlife viewing like this since seeing the masses of caribou in the arctic.


Returned late about 10:30 and logged on to high speed internet. Wow. Then spent three hours just enjoying the outside world, posting blog from last night, talking with Jeanne, posting pictures, J. R.’s photostream, and just enjoying the connection.

Awoke this am with a full list of rest day chores: write this, blog, charge batteries for the next days, bike maintenance, laundry, breakfast, and most important find coffee. Then discovered this hostel serves breakfast so two items covered quickly (except for the savoring it part, which was done in the good company of others). And the hostel here does laundry so for 10000 Chilean pesos (about $20) I get all 4 kilos of clothes washed by someone else, and not done by me in a sink, shower, or creek. Life is good.

Then on to the bike and redid bottom bracket as creaking two days ago in the wind but seems ok since then. Just preventative maintenance. Chain needs changing, but will let it go to Ushuaia and put on a new one there, utilizing all the spare parts I brought along except one set of brake pads, one set of shoe cleats, and a set of derailleur cables. Knock on wood (that is for good luck) the bike is working well still, although the engine is still slow, but steady. Max gave me his chain lube as mine is almost done and he is now done riding. (Remember he only goes up hill, as he finds downhill and flat very boring and prefers to ride in truck)

I still cannot log onto internet with phone but working away with others while on my iPad. Like I said life is good. Manage ones frustrations.

Everyone is looking at the end, excited to be done and succeed, but also that apprehensiveness of changing lifestyle and returning to our usual worlds. The holiday is coming to an end and reality is working its way back into our lives. Have we changed, learned, grown, or figured anything out? Other than 42 is there meaning to life? These are life’s little problems.

Walked the 10 blocks into town along the beach front which has a very nice bike path, walkway, seats, exercise areas, (as are throughout South America), basketball courts, and generally nice beach front, although windy. It seems people here are just used to the wind, no one seems to be bothered by it, just dressed appropriately. A nice town square with statue of Magellan and the fuegoans beneath him, and nice trees. A town square is valued here in every town in South America I have been too no matter the size.

A great lunch at local restaurant pub of lamb and potatoes. A good walk back to hostel and ready for the final week. Legs still sore from trek the other day up to Cerro Torres, but feeling good. Can easily do 150 kilometers on a bike but walking a short distance hurts. And other than that Punta Arenas seems another town. Will be good to be on the road again.




Windy days

Torres de Payne Natonal Park to Puerto Natales. 131 kilometers stage 101

Just because the end is in sight does not mean the days are easier. Day started during the night with wind throughout the night. I was afraid tent was going to flap itself to nothing. The only way I could calm the wind down was to try and record the wind inside tent on phone. That worked to quiet the wind, but alas I have limited batteries so could not keep it on continuous. When 6 am arrived it was blowing and raining. I dressed warmly with extra gear and tried to go light as I knew it was a big long day. Then opened the tent and it was beautiful outside with blue sky’s and those incredible mountains above us with a fresh dusting of snow on them.

So off we rode 134 kilometers all but 10 k unpaved starting with a 250 meter climb. I decided no pictures as needed to ride, but that idea was broken quickly as could not resist those mountains. Rabbits, guanacos, and a few condors to add to incredible start of the day.

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Topped out the climb and wind started. It was another wind event to match earlier winds I have had. Walking difficult downhill. I told Michelle and Joost I used my walking muscles yesterday and they were not to be used today but I was wrong. Walked probably 7 k of 50 to lunch. At one point a gust hit me while walking the bike, and grabbed the bike lifting it over my head. Gravel was flying and hurting. One car stopped to take a picture of me and I pulled down face mask to show I was smiling and he said “Welcome to Patagonia”! The last 4 k to lunch was a wide open area and later found out winds at 99 kph plus gusts. It was brutal. Definitely had trouble standing but tried riding. At one point on bike riding but just skidding sideways in the wind.


Anyway made lunch in park entrance station which turns out had wifi and decided to call Jeanne. Great but still hyped from the bike ride then Walter called a meeting to tell everyone of plans. I had to cut off phone call and leave Jeanne dangling as to what was happening. Most of the 17 people said they were taking truck, but there is only room for 9. Dissension seemed the operative word. I decided to continue riding as did James and Diederick. It had taken us 7 hours to go the 50 kilometers to lunch and 84 left to go.

Turns out it was a good decision as road was closed and truck had to go back around a 3-5 hour trip. Bikes could go through the construction and there proved a tailwind, with road paved for 40 of the 84, and throughout the 20 kilometer of construction the road was ours. Beautiful valley and nice ride the three of us generally riding together with a strong tailwind pushing us up the hills. One could detect the old terminal and lateral moraines of the old glacial valley.

Arrived about 7:15 making it a long day: 11 hours of cycling with nearly 9 hours of movement. Generally that movement would be saddle time but today some walking the bike, probably 7 k worth. But turned out good, and I am proud of myself as 1 of 10 to complete the whole ride today. I may not be the fastest but I can hold my own. Like I said I feel proud, although those of us who completed the ride are generally keeping quiet as those that did not, definitely did not have a good day.

And I confess had not planned on using my walk muscles today. After yesterday’s hike they need a rest, the walk muscles are sore.

7 December 2014 Puerto Natales to Villa Tehuelches bush camp 146 kilometer

It took less time to ride the 146 kilometers ( 6 hours) than the 50 kilometers to lunch yesterday (7 hours). And quite a ride, tail wind for much of it and what a difference. At one point doing 50 kph and still feeling a strong push on my back. At the end of day it was the fastest ride yet average 2 minute 5 second kilometers. For almost 100 kilometers heading east, then we turned south and that means the winds were cross winds. Not nearly as fast biking and throwing you around. Watched Hanne and Marias, with Marias on right windward side angled strongly whereas Hanne on the lee side was upright telling him to not wander about the road and come so close. No choice.
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Tonight a Dutch Christmas. Each of us had picked a name from back in El Calafate. You had to get a present and write a poem with it. Tonight one at a time all 32 of us were given the present from a sack brought by Santa Claus. When your present came out you had to read the poem out loud and show the present. The poems were good and interesting as not always translatable into the various languages spoken. Quite fun just to listen to the accents and translations. This was my poem which came with a buff, a most useful present.

J. R. Riding on his bike,
It’s something he seems to really like.
Moving along with sunburned lips,
Hope he has learned a few tips.
Bouncing along on the gravel roads,
Thank goodness he’s not carrying a heavy load.
He likes to take pictures along the way.
But he knows he cannot stay.
Time for him to get to lunch,
So he can really eat and munch.
Back on the bike he moves along,
As he listens to some songs.
He can choose to move like lightening,
And he really looks quite striking.
With the wind at his face,
He says “this is not a race”,
I set the pace
Into camp he rolls in,
He says he has seen St. nick
I know this must be a trick
Only in J. R. Style,
He flashes me a big smile.
With a twinkle in his eye
He lets out a big sigh
Thanks for the travels in Argentina
Farewell to all and see ya!

One forgets it is Christmas as there does not seem to be the commercialization as at home. I saw more Christmas decorations Ii. August before I departed than all the time here. Not a sign or a Santa Claus. Quite nice. More intent on the meaning than the buying, it feels like.

But in camp win blowing starting to rain, I am trying to get rain fly zipper to stay closed. Only a few nights camping remain so will make it work. Two stages have been combined into one 150 kilometer day as camp sit no longer exists so ling day and rest day in hotel along the way. Two rest days in next week.

Terry leaves tomorrow as his son graduates from medical school and wants to be at graduation. Good for him, but we will miss him.

And so in punto arenas which is proving awesome more to come tomorrow. For now will post.

Cerro Torre

Michelle learning to be a condor

Condor Wanna be’s

Ascension valley to to base of Torres


Cerro Torres area those peaks are two thousand meters above us. For comparison Yosemite walls are about a thousand meters.

Amazing day of hiking walk muscles have not been used and we did 25 kilometer today with 1400 meters of climbing. Great rest day. Tomorrow back on bike for 3 days. Puntas Arenas next rest day then 5 days to Ushuaia. Wow. Starting to get congratulations from passerbys. Feeling good hoping to survive tomorrow.

And I will end with more pictures of today as a picture is a thousand words





El Calafate headed south towards Torres De Paine 2 December 2014

El Calafate was an interesting town although again I did not much participate. And it actually had some interesting things to do, but alas after arrival a couple,days ago I felt lousy and had a rather miserable night, again ending up in the shower in the middle of the night, as at Malargue nearly a month ago, but not nearly that bad. This time just seemed a cold but with some lower unit problems. By noon I was feeling fairly good, but by then too late to schedule and still seemed a good idea to just rest.

The big thing in Calafate is the Perito Moreno glacier which is advanced at nearly 2 meters a year and the terminus is 5 KM wide and has an average height of 74 meters above the lake it drains into Lake Argentino. From the pictures of others it was quite impressive with tours from town by boat the you could do a short 1 hour hike or longer ones on the glacier. Would have been nice as a glacier is always nice to see.

Instead of touring I walked the three blocks from camp to downtown. Definitely a tourist town with outdoor shops and restaurants and souvenir shops, gift shops, and shopping. I chose a restaurant (open in afternoon) had a delightful meal and wandered back to camp, stopping bythe mini market for cheese, crackers, sardines, and beer for dinner later. This proved delightful as several others had same idea. After it required a trip to the bakery for a cup of coffee, but it did not seem right without a piece of chocolate cake with cherries and a strawberry. Marias and Hanne came by quite excited as their daughter was beginning to deliver their 4th grandchild back in Holland.

Then the news of Xavier in the middle of the night was rather disturbing. And Jeanne’s and my second cat is proving ill requiring a trip to the vet. Jeanne is not having a good week and I am feeling bad. It is very hard to be apart when providing comfort and support is needed.

Barry commented how the atmosphere seemed different this morning. Less tense and more relaxed. No more 9 day stretches of hard biking. This stretch is three days then a rest, then 3 days, again a rest day in Puntas Arenas,then 5 final days of cycling. Seems easy although we all know there are no easy days on the Andes Trail.

The ride was good today. Left El Calafate and returned the 32 kilometers from the junction this time with a tail wind although now only a slight breeze. Even so, I was cruising at 40kph, 10 times the speed in the other day. I am not sure I could even. have ridden downwind with the wind from the other day.

Then the climb of 900 meters 10 kilometers long and lunch. I was moving along. Expected nasty winds after lunch but flat with some slight downhill and proved very fast riding. On e we topped the hill the country just became wide open flat country. Michelle and I joked that it was excited to see the emergency road poles placed about every 10 kilometer with an emergency phone. It proved some diversion as nothing else to block the view. Then a final 30 k of not too bad gravel and a bush camp. 30 kilometer earlier than past camps which were at 160 kilometer but no longer available.

This bush camp is situated in a little valley with a small sort of flowing creek, although there are several dead sheep in the creek bed. And a large area in which to choose tent sites, but bathroom facilities in a bush camp are where you can. Unfortunately it is wide open here. I do believe there will be a lot of people trying to get up before the crowds to “wander”. It does get light though about 5 am and breakfast is not till 7. Always an interesting problem.

3 December 2014 Bush Camp to Cerro Castillo 88 kilometer Border crossing back to Chile

Not a bad ride first part without wind and gentle hills but mostly described as flat, wide open country. Temp was 8 degrees so not too bad although a bit chilly as I had dressed for warmer. Got to pavement and slight uphill reaching summit at about 60 k and the wind was blowing into us and felt cold. By lunch it was downright cold despite temp going up to 11. Put on all clothes and proceeded to borders which were relatively easy. Had a good laugh with Argentine border guards who said I looked like John Connor. My response was “I’ll be back”. (John Connor is a character in the terminator movie series.

Arrived at backyard here in Cerro Castillo and ok for tents etc. 1 shower but water iffy. No wifi and the lady of house has let us use a plug for electricity. Solar chargers are working marginally ok for phone and GPS, but iPad requires full power connection.

After dinner some Andean Condors were soaring overhead and definitely condors. Very nice. The wanted to post a quick note about Xavier and internet reported to be on at cafe in center of town. (Town is a mini market, two cafés, and the immigration center.). I walked the three hundred meters and several in cafe souvenir shop, but only those with laptops could get on. Phones were not accessing the network. I do not know which is more frustrating – the no connection or my inability to realize it is not connecting. Finally after half hour and a good cup of coffee I gave up looking at the phones endless loop of trying to connect and returned.

Tomorrow we ride to the most scenic of Chile’s national parks, the Torres de Paine. This is one of the four main highlights on the Andes Trail, along with Machu Picchu, the Salar de Uyuni, the Perito Moreno glacier which I did not see three days ago. We have a rest day to allow those that want to to go hiking into the scenic areas. Me, me, me.

4 December 2014 Torres de Payne


All my life I have seen pictures of these iconic mountains. Today I saw them for real and am camped beneath them. Wow.

Left our backyard camp in Cerro Castillo and immediately was stopped by a cattle drive crossing the road. Worked our way through that watching out for the mud pies left by overexcited cattle being herded by cowboys and dogs.


About 20 k into ride another cattle drive taking place about 2 k off road but one cowboy was crossing and he stopped to talk. Very animated enthusiastic conversation and allowed me to take a picture then he had to move on and back to work. As he left I saw behind him and there they were. Cerro Torres. I thought we had to really hike in a ways to get the view but there it was. Was. Amazing. Rivals the Tetons in Wyoming but with big walls.

Approached closer and closer and like riding through National Geographic. Rheas, guanacos, condors, tourists. Had to keep stopping to take pictures and have our picture taken.
Now camped in national park campground and tomorrow hike into Ascencio valley into the mountains. Still early season so not much open and no mini market as hoped. So tonight pick up 3 box lunches for tomorrow, at 9:30 pm tonight. Will set an alarm. One box lunch for breakfast and two for lunch as they are apparently small.

Did a photo shoot of people with their bikes this am after loading and before the “Vamos”. Great fun, Hardy needs photos for his journal. He is a journalist and has his own journal plus writes for several others. (In German)






Well my 1 hour of internet is up gotta post

Circle of Life

Awoke last night 1 December about 2:30 am for unknown reason. Minutes later the iPad beeps with a text message. Jeanne texted me that the son of a friend was killed in Washington state kayaking. As is his mother, Pam, I considered Xavier Engle a friend. Now add him to the growing list of friends who I have known and they died tragically pushing the limits. (John from Colorado college, Mt. Blanca, Peter Mackeith, Snow White mountain in Alaska, John Waterman on Denali and acquaintances Peter in the Himalayas, Bruce Hickok on peak 3 out of Anchorage) the list is way too long.
Xavier Engle was 24 when he died on the Stillaguamish river Sunday the 30 November. I first met Xavier when he was less than five years old. Pam had adopted him and over the years friends stepped in as father figures. His life appeared balanced whatever that is. He was introduced to kayaking I believe in his early teens and he took to it. Over the years he obviously became very good judging by the rivers, waterfalls and multitude of accomplishments. And he excelled academically, graduating from Dartmouth.
In 2007 I had the privilege of floating the Grand Canyon with Xavier. Enthusiasm does not begin to describe his personality, His love of the water and rivers was infectious, and was always willing to help out with a problem.
No one wants to die when they are 24, whether it be doing what you want or whatever. Xavier was pushing the envelope and that is always risky. He knew the risks and thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. Unfortunately, and I do not know the circumstances, those risks came with the cost.
We lost not only the enthusiasm of Xavier, but the potential he dreamed of. He once said he admired his mother greatly for her working to help the less fortunate. He was working toward being a doctor, not for the money, but the ability to help.

I will remember Xavier for his enthusiasm and love of the rivers and kayaking. His abilities to push the limits were awesome. And when I look at the pictures of the waterfall we hiked to a few weeks ago in Chile I will think of Xavier as I was describing Xavier to those I was hiking with snd how he loved things like that.

No parent should ever have to bury their child. Pam Engle should be incredibly proud. She made the world a far better place by raising Xavier. My thoughts go with Pam.

And the ongoing world chose today 2 December to bring into the world Ties Marias, grandson of very proud Maria and Hanne. He weighed in at 3500 grams and from what we here through limited email he is doing well.