I am back
23 November 2014 stage 90 Puerto Ibanez to Perito Moreno. 109 kilometer unpaved 1200 meters climbing with border crossing from Chile back to Argentina.
Yet another good day but a rough and tough one. Our 10th day in a row of climbing more than 1100 meters in a day. Tomorrow the climbing drops down. (But there will be something to make it interesting). I was thinking today “Is this fun?” Well I got to ride my bicycle and that is fun but overall at the moment, maybe it is questionable. But when you look at whole picture it is great fun. Saw some incredible scenery, rode along a large lake, (Lago Buenos Aires) went from mountains back to the pampas, exchanged rain for wind. Yes, it was fun.
But as for the daily activity, started with porridge which is always a good start. Everyone gets excited on porridge days. Then off at 8 for the 2 kilometer ride through town, turn left at lake and await the trucks as no use going through immigration unless they get through. The lake Lago Buenos Aires is big and we rode for 35 kilometer along and above some of it. Beautiful blue color and apparently, has a ferry running across which if time could replace some of our distance today but length of time and schedule does not allow. Besides no bike riding on ferry.
So exited Chile as the official carefully checked our entry papers before stamping our passport. Always such a good feeling to hear that clunk of the stamp on your passport. Means you are almost through although in this case only exiting Chile. The Argentina immigration is 22 kilometers down the road.
And immediately the pavement ended and road was rough although long stretches of brickwork pavers for road surface. And it climbed with several sections measuring 20% which three people said was the steepest on the trip yet.
Climbed to the plateau above the lake then along it going somewhat up and down before a nice descent into Argentine customs where the official very carefully wrote our name, numbers etc from passport into a book and finally stamped it, and again I get a good feeling. Border crossings are not my favorite thing. Then on to lunch at 47 k at the summit of a 500 meter climb. Was a good climb although washboard, loose gravel and the usual problems with that. The lunch truck looked very good when I arrived about 12:30 with
the usual awesome lunch prepared by Walter and Annalot, then we rode on hoping the road surface would improve which it did not. But it was a descent to the end, a 1-2% grade down for 60 kilometers. Washboard and teeth rattling. For the most part I had fun with the tailwind helping immensely. Several times I was coasting on a rough road pushed by the wind at 20 kph. But it was the usual task of trying to find a decent track without too much loose rock.
But we are back on the pampas again with its large flat open areas snow covered mountains way to the sides. And that means wind which was usually a tail wind but often from sides. And one got me.
Riding along with Juerg and a gust caught me unprepared and blew me off my track and into a loose pile of gravel which I then over corrected for and totally lost control, going down. As I went down I saw Brian’s bike coming on me as he was immediately behind me. I thought, oh this is not good, bad enough I am bouncing down the gravel road and he is going to run me over, but he hit the brakes and skidded to a stop and never came close. Thank you Brian. He said he saw me get blown half a meter off my track into the gravel.
It took a while to get up and realize no real damage was done although I was rather sore on left side where I hit hip and left hand, and back pack. Was going about 20 kph so bounced rather than hit hard. Up and back on again finishing the next 30 kilometer without problem. Into campground, soup, tent, dinner and then chores. Changed rear brake pads which I had noticed were not braking very well. Very scored and worn probably from mud, dirt, and gravel of past weeks. Wow they work good now. And raised saddle a centimeter to try tomorrow. See if it makes a difference in sore knees.
Deb was not as lucky today though. Apparently she hit a rock with rear wheel knocking her down. Now left arm swollen double normal size although has full movement and nothing broke.
So all in all it was a good day and I enjoyed it. Many here do not like dirt but it is a challenge and I think it can be great fun.
Tomorrow 130 k of pavement. Wind in camp is slowly dying down as sunsets and getting dark now at 10:15.
Patagonia is noted for wind
24 November 2014 Perito Mereno to Bajo Caracoles 129 very windy kilometers
Well the wind did not stop last night but I found it not too bad really, although a bit chilly this am, reportedly only 8 degrees. Depart at nine and felt good with gradual uphill and no pelatons or pace lines, but somewhat together until I decide on a picture looking back at village.
That was it, I was alone having a good time just cruising along, but as the day went on and the climb started so did the wind. Had been a tailwind and some sidewind but nothing spectacular, and at the top of first climb it changed. The wind began in earnest requiring peddling downhill in lower gears. Lunch supposed to be half way but the flag and truck did not show up until at 72 kilometers and was hidden in only area without wind. 4 people still behind me but no sight of them as I passed them quite a ways back. Max getting on truck at lunch as final summit only 3 k to go and he did not want to wait in cold wind. He only does climbs. Off I go for supposed descent but had to peddle entire way in lower gears. Rarely got to 20 kph and for whatever reason I was disoriented as to direction. It felt as if we were going in circles but the map said otherwise and continuing south. Then a larger descent, but wind had picked up in every direction but a tailwind. I kept hoping the road would turn left and make a tailwind but it kept going right. No wonder I was confused. Then I looked out over a bit of very gradual uphill of about 1-2% grade and open area. Just before entering it I noted wind coming from every direction as I went by a little bluff. Even the wind was confused as it came from every direction, it ran into itself and for 5 seconds it was quiet. But that did not last. I was in third or fourth of my lowest gears going downhill and entered the plain. Here the wind was not confused and I estimate 60-100 kph sidewind. Gruesome. Got knocked off bike once but was prepared, but had difficulty standing. There was nothing to block the wind except a few fence posts and wire fence 50 meters off the side of road. I was taking the whole lane as getting blown all over. Could not hear cars coming up behind with the roar of wind and worried I would get blown into the other lane at wrong time. Very difficult to control the bike. Have never biked in crosswinds like that.
Definitely in the roaring forties. Roaring forties are a term used in the southern ocean as most of the land masses on earth are in the north. In the south, the southern tip of Africa at Cape Town is about 34 degrees south. The southern tip of Australia in Tasmania is about 43 degrees. Hence in the higher forty degree latitudes the just goes round the world, round and round. The wind has nothing to stop it but South America, the Andes and me. Sailors refer to the 40 degree latitudes as the roaring forties. Further south it becomes the furious fifties, then the screaming sixties. We are currently about 49 degrees south. Ushuaia is about 55.
Tried a technique in crosswind which Ben recommended. Sit off center, that is off to windward side of saddle. This moves center of gravity into the wind and allows bike to be upright for the tires to be flatter on road. But keep windward shoe unclipped, as if wind stops you want to be ready. I tried this in smaller winds which were a bit more steady and bike would have been at 10-20 degree angle. But when the wind picked up had to be centered on the bike for full control. Even then control was iffy as getting blown all over.
But scenery great although I think many would disagree. Generally low hills mountains occasionally way off to west. One mountain I cannot find name of was spectacular. A large steep pyramid. Tried to get a photo but in wind too difficult. And I may have seen a condor although a distance away. Flew like a vulture hovering and soaring but did an occasional wing flap, but long wings so who knows. Would really like to see one. Michelle had two come within five meters of her yesterday. Exciting.
Near the end of the plain with severe wind I was getting tired and thought it is late and if truck comes back I will take it. 22 kilometer to go and I was doing about 8-10 kph. But a steep downhill was coming up and maybe wind might change. Just then the truck returned. Difficulty talking, due to roar of wind but decided to keep riding. Truck just seemed to easy. And I am very glad I did ride. Descent was fast braking more than usual due to gusting winds but much better than the crosswinds. Then at bottom on a large flat area an emu appeared. I asked later and the Australians all say it was an ostrich as emu’s only are in Australia, but I thought ostriches were only in Africa. But one of them and it appeared wild but who knows. I thought it exciting. And lots of squished armadillos although many commented on seeing live ones.
Thus made it in at 6:15 and tonight was my night for service. (Deliver food to people a tables, cleanup, and wash dishes after. A rotating job). Usually dinner at 6 and I had told Annalot to not hold dinner for me as I would be late. I changed from bike shoes to tennis shoes but all said to not do service. Felt wrong but I sat and they delivered, but I did help wash.
Then set up tent in this “campground” but more of a backyard. No electricity, I guess the bathroom is the house bathroom. Apparently on the first arrivals the owner was cutting up a guanaco with bits of the creature strewn about.
Alas, a lot of my clothes and such I put on left side of tent. Hurts to lay on left side due to earlier fall. I am a creature of habit. On the good side I did not have to change into regular clothes after cycling as I remained in cycling clothes through dinner and cleanup. Then took Barry’s advice and went straight into tent to be reminded I fell yesterday and hurts tolay on left hip. No problem cycling just laying on it.
But all in all it was a good day. Numerous people came up and said good for me for finishing. Made me feel great with the congratulations for finishing. All earlier arrivees had problems too, but rode as a group which made it easier. The 4 behind me at lunch all took truck. I was last by a long way, but I had a good time, now that it is over.
“Welcome to paradise! If this is paradise I wonder what hell is like?” Rob states as we start 25 November 2014 Bajo Caracoles to Las Horquitas bush camp 108 kilometers
Rob said that to me as we departed this morning and repeated to me my usual “welcome to paradise” greeting plus he added some. It was windy and a bit chilly but the ride turned nice when we turned southeast with wind from northwest. A nice reprieve after yesterday. A fairly decent ride to lunch although wind was a bit squirrly going every which direction depending on land form nearby although the map with 100 meter contour lines showed little variation. But downhill section had a tailwind and I was measuring 40 kph with no wind at all, speed up and a bit of wind in face, slow down and could feel wind on back, although I was completely covered except a bit of face of my face. 40 kph is about my maximum speed for peddling with current gearing.
Then turned corner headed east and wind still from northwest so it became a cross and tailwind. The lunch truck appeared behind a hill, with that lovely “Andes Trail” flag set up at side of road.
After lunch headed off with 5 (me, Barry, Juerg, Dietrik, and Hilde) soon catching Marias and Hanne and we all rode together. The afternoon proved to me some of the most technical riding I have ever done. And it was on pavement. Like riding through a rock garden but you can’t see the rocks. They were the gusts of wind varying from the 40-50+ kph cross wind. The gusts would throw you every direction. We rode as a group but not a classical pelaton or pace line but a sideways line at times stretching across the full two lanes. Sort of side by side with rider to left (downwind) slightly behind rider to right. When you were far left you were about 3-4 meters behind leader on far right hand side of road. Few cars, but when one did come from behind we could not hear it due to roar of wind, but all polite slowing and passing when safe. Not a single angry driver, and all waved, from either direction. When the wind did vary direction, the group moved without a word to accommodate, sometimes a mass behind sometimes a line sideways. I found it most comfortable either leading on right which for the most part Barry and I shared, or to the left. I did not trust myself in between riders as I got to thrown around. Sometimes I felt my steering was out of whack, but no, just wind grabbing bike and throwing or pulling you around.
We rode for about 50 kilometer at between 10 and 20 kph depending on wind, as the hills made no difference either up or down with the wind. Because it is a bush camp tonight I figured I would stop and take care of private business before camp, where there would be no facilities and it was wide open. I lost the group not only on small hill but could not catch up. Soon though the road turned and tailwind developed as well as it was downhill. I cruised into camp at about 30 kph.
Camp is a building where they have seven rooms which were quickly taken, and a room where Gerdie can cook and we can eat. Tents are set up downwind all of us tight together up against wall of building with wind howling over the building. But cozy inside tent now, after soup and coffee, just waiting for dinner siren, still 1 1/2 hours away. That is difference between riding 130 k yesterday alone and 108 with group today.
And brochure lists these days in Patagonia as hardest on the entire trip. Because since that was written Rob and Wilbert have changed the route in Peru to include more mountains this may be the most difficult part. But it does not make these days any easier. It is not as difficult as the one day into Tocota some month ago, but definitely some of the hardest. These winds are something.
The area is wide open, one could say flat, with no buildings only and occasional road sign and the wire fence 50 meters to side of road. There is no dust as land is generally small rocks. I believe any dust was long ago blown away. Gentle rolling hills, snow capped mountains sometimes appearing to the west. Actually quite pretty in its own way.
Tomorrow is time trial day again. Last one was on the sale de Uyani. Tomorrow is couples time trial and 50 kilometer long. I am pairing with Gunter as we seem similar, so we shall see.
Time trial day 26 November 2014 Las Horquitas to La Angostura 82 kilometer 48 kilometer time trial on paved and 34 unpaved.
Wow breakfast at 7 and people somewhat worried the wind would not blow, as the route is directly east for 48 kilometer and route of couples time trial. Gunter and I paired and it was an excellent match. He is from Germany, 62 years old, and joined in El Bariloche, and best of all we cycle similar. The wind was blowing and it was one minute starts estimated slowest riders starting first, which put Gunter and I at third start. We took off with the tailwind and quickly were cruising at 30-32 kph. We said this is good to hold for 50 kilometer but soon we were cruising at 40 kph, carrying on conversation and thoroughly enjoying riding with each other. Timing was on the slowest person of the two. Remember I said a while back my general top speed for peddling is about 40 kph.
And it was a treat as faster riders passed us going at high rates of speed, 50 kph plus. Same gearing as us (mountain gears usually 44 chain ring and 11 on cassette), but they were in race mode with legs churning at probably 110-120 rpm (more usual is 85-90). When Albert went by in a whir it was a beautiful thing, as were all that passed us, but his motions were purely forward, without any sideways or up and down, arms down on aero bars and focused. He also has the only full suspension bike in the group, and currently resides second in standings, 4-5 hours behind James.
Made lunch at 9:15 at finish of time trial, then turn back south off the pavement which meant crosswind again but not bad maybe 20-30 kph. A great relief from past two days. The road was washboard but rideable easily at about 15-20 kph turning off onto small double track lane the kilometers which is ranch of LaAngostura. There is little choice in this area. Some of the most remote areas of Argentina and the two buildings we saw were the one we ate in last nite and this one, which is a residence and a hallway where Gerdie can cook.
La Angostura is on the edge of a wetland with maybe 75 meter bluffs behind and across the valley 1-2 kilometer. Horses are grazing and ducks and chickens, very pastoral. Apparently in winter temperatures go as low as -20 C on occasion, but today the sun is shining with temps in mid 20s.
Thus feels like a real rest day tents up in yard, beer and wine available by knocking on front door. Did laundry of past days as have not had water in bush camp and early enough to really dry. But only first 10 people got hot water as it is solar heated, others had to ate a couple hours, but we had all afternoon. Electricity from wind generators for charging stuff, but no internet so required to be with ourselves. Great to just relax, it has been a hard few last days.
Crossed over 6000 kilometer on my bike odometer today in South America with approximately 1500 to go, 15 stages 3 rest days but who is counting. People are tired and although no way thinking of ending, but thinking of the end and new things to do. Deb and Brian and going back to Mendoza to cycle the wine country there, where they joined this group. Joost is going back to Cusco where his family (I think wife and two kids) is joining him for a three week holiday. Michelle and I believe Carmen, and Vivian are heading south from Ushuaia on a two week tour to Antarctica separately. Marias and Hanne are heading home to see fourth grandchild to be born 1 December, then they are planning their next bike trip from Vienna to Istanbul, which requires cycling to Vienna from home in Holland. Terry is leaving in Puntas Arenas 5 days before Ushuaia to return to Sydney to see his son graduate from medical school. Some things are more important than the last five days. He then is planning his next bike trip including one next winter crossing Australia. The Norwegian sisters Kristen and Hilde go back to work as nurses mid January, back home near the arctic circle. Me, I head to Dallas, Texas to celebrate the life of Joe and Rose Molitor for 9 days, then return to winter and darkness in Anchorage.
And dinner announcement of time trial results. Gunter and I won by the fact we made everyone else look good and we had the most fun. As for the actual mathematical results we placed sixth out of 6 in the all male category with an average speed of 36.4.fifth was 41 kph and the winner was an average of 51.4 kph. The worlds one hour speed record is 51.5 although it was made without a tailwind.
“The wind – the wind began to switch
The witch – the witch began to itch
The house – the house began to twitch”
Wizard of Oz
27 November Estancia La Angostura to Estancia La Siberia 67 kilometer.
Amazing how bike dreams finds these places with a shelter to cook and eat in. But then there is nothing in between last night and now but rolling hills and wind. Thus a day of 67 kilometers about Joe’s and my average daily distance on great divide, but there we had no wind, whereas here it blew 30-50 all day and still is. Mostly sideways but an occasional switch when it could not decide how to mess with us. The road turned for last 10 k and a tailwind. Generally though it was a nice day but hard with the gravel and wind. Rode a lot with Terry and arrived just ahead of Joost and Michelle, as Joost had a flat tire 5 k before end. On arrival Rob joked we had to get inside for timing of which Michelle and I raced up the steps. Luckily Rob grabbed Michelle and I won out. Even when they are not trying it is hard to beat those two incredibly strong cyclists.
Then off with Ben and Tim to see the lake 6.5 kilometer off the road and. Nice ride down the hill and a pretty lake but wind, temp of about 15 and shallow kept us from going swimming but posed a picture.
So will spend a might in Siberia. Not much in the way of camp, bathrooms I understand, showers apparently cold so I used the trusty baby wipes. There are apparently a few rooms which I am sure are now occupied. Several people would prefer that to a tent.
Wind is an amazing thing. It wears on you. I think in terms of temperature, or up and down, or the road surface. The wind one never knows when or how strong, or direction, just generalities. There is a German bike rider here who left Anchorage 18 May 2013, rode to Ushuaia and is now heading back to Santiago. He says the wind gets stronger as we head south. He finds today’s wind normal and two days ago,as did we had 100kph winds. Tiring!
And I have developed a cold which is going through the crew. Nose running and feeling run down, so going to bed early tonite, instead of the usual late nite revelry lasting until 7:30 or 8 pm.
28 November (day after U.S.A thanksgiving) La Siberia to Tres Lagos
“All complaints go away when you die!” Rob
Rested here in tres Lagos , then dinner and felt good. Campground also has a meeting place for community although only one person there, but a bar and I had the first good whiskey since beginning of trip. Cost 100 pesos (Argentina) which I say may be $10(guessing) for a double and it was great. Finally broke away as needy sleep for tomorrow another day, day 8 of 9 day stretch. Only 58 kilometer but directly west into the predominant wind direction.
29 November 2014. Tres Lagos to Hotel LA Leona 57 kilometers 4 1/2 hours
Guess what the wind is blowing. 40-50 kph headwind today. As Rob said “30 seconds of tailwind and 4 1/2 hours of headwind, sort of like life.”
I ended up alone again but enjoyed the day. Others formed pelatons and arrived much earlier. But at lunch Walter Annalot, and Rob were barbequeing salami and cheese sandwich over a fire which were great. No time for that on regular day. What is the hurry in getting to camp where there is promised hot showers and wifi but it rarely happens, and so it was today. Wifi could connect slowly and get and send a slow email, but even then the power went out often shutting it down. And showers were hot for first ones racing in, but for those of us dawdlers well my patience is gone and I do not even try. I realize I am spoiled and like a hot shower for comfort, just to stand there. I can clean with baby wipes. I would have a hard time living in a place where water is restricted.
But did see critters,(American term for animals) guicanos, and several rheas (the birds we have been calling emus and ostriches. And mountains appearing again. I believe one was Fitzroy but will have to confirm. A nice ride if you get over the fact it was basically flat but severe headwind like a hill climb. Just another challenge.
Now tomorrow is another day. 107 kilometer 70 south so probable cross wind and last 40 directly west. Tonight people were getting together with others forming groups to ride. I believe Marias, Hanne, Gunter and myself will share the workload. It is ok for 50 kilometer to ride alone but 100 needs help of a group and team effort, changing position frequently.
It will be our ninth day in a row of cycling and all are ready for a rest. Bikes need it. Bucks bottom bracket is creaking along. Several bottom brackets have been replaced, Terry’s twice. My chain needs replacing and bike needs tlc. Most though are happy to let Lucho do the work. Mostly everyone is nursing their bikes to the end. A full shop maintenance is required.
And people need a rest too. One can tell all are getting tired, cranky and looking to the finish. But just over two weeks left and about 1200 kilometers. Debate for the day in El Calafate is sit back on rest day or go see the world famous sights of which it is famous. Supposedly one of the most visited glaciers in the world is here and many want to “walk on a glacier”. Actually would be fun as a group but thinking I have walked on numerous glaciers, fallen in them and on them, and perhaps a “rest day” for this cold which is ongoing would help me more.
And topic for future consideration brought up today over beer at the coffee shop in hotel. “What have we seen?” And “what have we learned?” As noted we all are pondering what happens when it is over. What do we do then, always thoughts after a trip on the way home when one has hours or in this case days to ponder. But that is too much for now. Maybe internet tomorrow which may actually work, for now the wind is roaring in the windbreak overhead and it is time for sleep. Sounds Iike a freight train running through camp.
1 December 2014 El Calafate
Made it here but barely. First 72 kilometer not bad as crosswind and some tailwind nothing serious. But then the last 4 k of the 72 Rob says this is the last of the fun. The road turned 100 degrees to the right, straight into the serious wind. At first the two of us rode at about 15 kph but slowly it dropped as the wind picked up. I told Rob to go ahead as he had things to do in camp and I would get there. Well about 10 kilometer from town I was trying to ride at about 3 kph and just gave up. I could barely stand in the wind. Once the wind grabbed the bike and I thought it was going to head out to sea. Occasionally I was hit by a piece of sand blowing and it hurt when hit.
Finally a lady in a little Yugo felt pity and stopped. I was able to help her get her door open and she offered a ride which I gladly took. Took the wheels off and crammed the bike in on top of the 5 year old. She drove me to the campground in town and all good. I was exhausted.
Then I discovered the reason the lunch truck was cleaning up on my arrival at lunch. Apparently James and Barry had been racing along with Barry about 20 meters behind. James heard a yell, looked back as Barry fell to ground unexplained. James returned, flagged down a car which took them to lunch truck and then from there Annalot went with him to ER where CT showed nothing. Probably a sudden drop in blood pressure and he fainted, but will never really know. I have not seen Barry but apparently doing well in hotel, walking around town looking forward to a beer.
One never knows what is around the corner
And so ends the 9 days of cycling. Currently resting. I was exhausted yesterday coughing and sore throat. The cold had me and perhaps that explains my problems yesterday. Sick last night and another night in shower, a hot one. Better today, but who knows what is around the corner.
Again hopefully this rambling makes some sort of sense. Obviously writing is not my forte, but I like to record the happenings, who knows why. Trying to make it interesting, but after a while I have to give up editing and go do something.
Map can be seen (I hope) in more detail at south america and andes j.r.s spot