Has been an interesting week. The one thing we really wanted to do was go to Iguazu falls, a world heritage sight and one of the wonders of the natural world. We had been having trouble piecemealing a trip together and decided to get to a travel agent in buenos aires.
On arrival caught a taxi to the airbnb we had rented, nearly leaving my computer on cart at airport. Uh oh, traveling always is risky. Had to wait a bit as they needed to clean the apartment after the last tenants. Went to local parilla restaurant (barbecue) and did the usual ordering with a nice sounding name which I had no idea what it was. I ended up with blood sausage which was good, but Jeanne could not eat. Never ask what is in your food, just do you like it. Called on arrival so they could let us into the apartment and told them we were out front. Alas an hour later they came down wondering why we had not rung the bell. We did not know apartment number hence could not ring. More language misinterpretation.
Then began walking to the supposed tourist area of Florida street which had lots of street vendors but proved difficult to find a travel agent. Finally one was hidden away and only caught our attention when a vendor outside wanted to know if we wanted to travel somewhere. The office was right there we just could not see it.
No air tickets to Iguazu falls as christmas time and everyone traveling. Could get a pickup at airport to falls and hotel but no tour available and no flights. Burned again by traveling at christmas time.
But made arrangements to go to a Tango show and for a day trip to Colonia, Uruguay, across the river. Thus we have six days in Buenos Aires which was supposed to be three in Buenos Aires and three at falls, so OK go with the flow.
Saturday headed off to the number one tourist attraction in Buenos Aires, and the Cementerio de la Recoleta, the cemetery. Evita Duarte remains there. The places for caskets was quite impressive, many larger than actual homes.
Then shopping at the vendors and a street tango performance. I went to tip them as their performance was incredible. They thanked me and inquired if I would like a picture. Hence the tango dancer in crocs. My sister noted the crocs foot ware and probably the only person to see there is a guy in the picture. I still can’t see him when I look at picture.
That evening we had arranged for a tango show of which there are numerous in Buenos Aires. Dinner including wine beer, and delicious carne. (What else is there in Argentina?) along with a small salad and a wondrous desert. Then the show for an hour and half the dancers, musicians, and singers exhibited their skills. Quite the athletes. Amazing skill, I suspect acquired over years of training.
Sunday we heard there is a great street market where they close the road and vendors exhibit their wares. As per usual though a few problems: it was raining, the vendors were mostly of antiques, and not the artisan jewelery Jeanne was looking for. But walking along did see Greg and Liz from Australia who were on the expedition to Antarctica with us. A town of 4 million and we come across someone we know. I am still amazed at how that works.
Purchased another umbrella as had not brought ours along for the day and walked back to apartment. A nice walk through the city.
Exciting day as we were going to Colonia, Uruguay. Cross another country off the list, whoopee! A less than exciting ferry ride across the river which here measures 65 kilometers across. As near as I can tell this is second widest river in the world, second only to the amazon at 215 kilometers across. The ferry ride was less than exciting being more a cattle call than a boat ride. No place to even go outside and upstairs was for vip’s only.
Colonia a delightful place to just wander. Long clean beach along the river (I tested the water and fresh as expected) the city itself is a world heritage site and is nearly 500 years old. Interesting history with Spanish and Portuguese invaders. Spanish wanted to conquer, exploit and declare it theirs. Portugal just wanted commerce, hence often the Portuguese were just along the coast but eventually had choice of leave or be killed, and Spanish language resulted. Another case of I am better than you and will kill either you or myself to prove it.
A wondrous lunch of beer and squid looking out over the beach and water and sun. Umbrella handy today for sun.
Return on even more unimpressive ferry. They make a boat very unexciting. On return to Buenos Aires, tried to figure out cabs but taxi stand seemed only for VIP passengers so we started walking again, this time along the canal, and it proved delightful. People just strolling along in the evening. Stopped for some beers and to sit and people watch, finally about 8 pm decided it was time for dinner. Again only ones on arrival but when we left at 10:15 place was half full.
The colors across the canal as the sun descended were amazing reflecting off the glass on buildings on other side. Pinks, reds, blues, magentas- not the clouds but buildings as sunset progressed.
Tuesday 20 December
After a busy few days it was time for a rest and lounged about apartment until noon when stomach growling began and off to the neighborhood perilla 50 meters away for lunch. No sausage this time but veal and wine.
Off to the evita museum although cab driver did not know where it was and even with address insisted on taking us to the nearby art museum. We just walked the kilometer to evita museum, with a stop for a Starbucks frappuchino to combat the heat.
The museum itself is built in a building evita used as a shelter for homeless, abused or similar circumstances of women. Her story is a bit different than that of the musical: they did not cover the use of charity to increase their own fortunes. Here they covered labor reforms, voting rights for women, and the buildup of social programs many of which are still being fought about in the United States. And this was in the forties. Way ahead of her time and obviously a go getter. But stil the rich and powerful fought her, although in this case the people supported her. Although never holding a political office she has pictures on posters and buildings about town.
Back to the canal where I attempted to photograph the previous evenings sunset without success. The colors did not develop as the previous evening but still magnificent. Technical camera issues ensued, but Jeanne patiently sat at a nearby restaurant. The waiter from Italy spoke 5 languages and loved travelling. He loves Buenos Aires for its liveliness and comfortable atmosphere. He said he works til about 1 am when restaurants tend to close and the bars and clubs begin to open.
Wednesday 21 December and the sun is high over the Tropic of Capricorn, meaning it is winter solstice. Here there is about 13.5 hours of sunshine, in anchorage about 5.5. It begins to reverse with here losing light every day and up north they gain light daily for another six months when the annual rotation about the sun again changes again.
We celebrated by going on yet another tourist activity. This entailed a 2 hour bus ride out to the estancia (ranch). In the states we would call this a dude ranch. On arrival they met us with wine and empanadas which were delightful at 11 am.
Then for the horse rides. One should definitely ride a horse at least once a century, and I have now met my quota. Took me 5 times to get up onto the horse, as I seemed to have difficulty using the mane as a handle. The saddles here are not western saddles and do not have the handle in front. (Yes I know that is not the purpose). After a kilometer I was sore. I can ride a bicycle thousands of miles without being sore but a horse ride does me in.
Then a carriage ride and as with the horse ride the best part was the birds: burrowing owl, cara cara, herons and a bunch I could not identify.
Lunch was a 5-6 course meal of numerous meats, a small salad, and desert. Along with beer and wine, plus coffee after. Then the musical show and dancing. Songs by a “gaucho” then tango dance demo again very artistic and athletic. Some gaucho dances with bolos and delightful along with some of us in crowd getting up and dancing.
After the show off to the fields where the gaucho horse show began. Not your usual cowboy harassing cows in a variety of ways, but a high speed run with a tiny stick about the size of a finger which you had to spear a ring hanging down. Most runs they succeeded after which they rode up to the crowd and gave a lady the ring, along with a kiss. Jeanne’s’ ring fit nicely over her middle finger.
On return to the city our guide said demonstrations were taking place and would be difficult to get us back where they picked us up. Our pickup point was not necessarily near our apartment, but planned on another cab ride. The guide advised against a cab ride due to demonstrations as we would just sit in traffic. Ok we would walk which was acceptable as only about two kilometers, although finding walking on cement is harder than on regular trails. Along the way we saw no signs of demonstrations as we know them but power out occasionally but not an issue. ( think, traffic lights). Traffic although it appears quite crazy, is rather civilized once you figure it out. Not one incident of road rage or rushing, was rather pleasant and great fun to drive about and see the city.
And I think I love Argentina. Having ridden the Andes trail and spent several months in the country, it has such wonderful varied sites. Mountains, deserts, glaciers, beaches, oceans, and a people who are friendly and proud of their country, as they should be. As per usual the people are just here making a living where they are born. The government is often as separate entity.
In 1967 I was an exchange student in Germany. I had been taught that the United States was the greatest country in the world, but I found perhaps there were other places that are great too. I had been taught of the atrocities committed by Germany, but discovered it came from both sides. Perhaps we think our home is the best because we understand it. Again I am better than you thoughts prevail. But maybe that is not so, maybe just different and that can be exciting. Embrace the diversity. Just because we are different does not make us better or worse.
And I wrote this enroute from Buenos Aires to Santiago Chile. On arrival I attempted to save and everything except pictures was erased. Internet at airport is very slow, frustrating, and intermittent. I have what is called a sky roam which connects me to internet via cellular network but it seems similar to airport wifi. Ugh. I think I will try and post and edit more when arrive in Dallas in 12 hours. Well go figure as I posted this at Santiago airport wifi pictures would not show and writing was sporadic, but I look here in Dallas on arrival and shows up, so there you go.
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time
First week aboard the MS Expedition.
Has been amazing spectacular stupendous and awesome. In other words “adequate”!
Boarded in Ushuaia pondering what kind of people we would be spending the next three weeks with. 123 passengers and approximately 70 crew. Of course seeing people at hotel it seemed like a bunch of old people, but then I realized I was one of them.
Once onboard introduced to life boat drill and emergency procedures, then we were off. One gal exclaimed “I am little kid excited”. One began to realize it may be a bit older crowd but rather adventurous although I do not think very many will go off on a bicycle tour of South America or Nepal or Germany. Only 8 from the United States, others from Australia, New Zealand, England, Ireland, Canada, Norway, Czech Republic, and a multitude of other places. All speak English. Ages are all over probably around 60 as an average, with several I am guessing in their 30’s. All are excited about learning and seeing. As we mingle about I am learning they all have incredible stories accumulated through out their lives.
The crew is again a variety, Filipino cabin crew, a Brazilian hotel manager. First mate and captain from Ukraine.
Warned the seas may be a bit rough after leaving beagle channel but proved quite calm in the full days travel to the falklands. I took a Benadryl as precaution but it proved totally unnecessary.
And thoroughly enjoying the knowledge level and excitement on board. Birds were amazing. Giant austral petrel, cape petrel, Wilson’s storm petrel and a variety of others. About noon a couple of fin whales went by. Photographers are going crazy. With the fin whales I spent about half the time trying to adjust my camera before I just put it down and watched the whales. Sometimes one must just deal in the present and forget the future.
Accommodations are wondrous, the bed incredibly comfortable with just a comforter over. Alden is our cabin attendant, and cleans the room twice a day, makes up the bed in morning, and turns it down in the evening. Amazing service and incredibly friendly. They work about 10 months a year with 2 off, and seem to work 18 hour days 7 days a week. In other words very hard working. Boat crew is standard 4 hours on with 8 off. As the captain said this has worked for centuries and continues.
The guide crew is in a constant friendly smile. There are 16 of them 13 paid, and three volunteers and very knowledgeable.(three unpaid are the lead scientist, photographer and MD) Brent from San Diego has doctorate in marine biology and lead scientist. (Born in Fairbanks and used to work in Barrow in 1978 when Geoff and I were there working with bowhead whales). Annette with doctorate in biology from Germany, focusing on habitat of southern humpback whales, the medical doc is from New Zealand, Phil from Catalina island in California is kayak guide, Kevin from England is bird guide, Lyn’s specialty is penguins and is from Australia, Shayne is the photographer and her classes have been full of a massive amount of information. The lectures go on. This mornings lecture was Southern Hemisphere marine mammals, and Penguins. This afternoon, bird identification of the Falklands, followed by the first of two lectures on Shackleton expedition, after which is followed by an on deck class of bird sighting, then a BBC movie on springtime in the arctic and Antarctic regions. (No landings as travelling between Falkland Islands and South Georgia, a two day journey, currently 300 miles southeast of the falklands)
Food is good with varying hours usually each meal an hour long. All 128 passengers fit in dining room and breakfast and lunch are buffet style with dinner being served. Usually 3-4 courses. Trying to limit myself.
First day out on crossing to Falklands we had classes on dressing for Antarctic, getting into and out of the zodiacs, boot fitting (they provide the muck boots) and general introductions to life aboard ship. Quite fascinating.
Arrived west point island in the falklands and our first landing. Made the landing and appeared to be a nice hike of about 2 kilometer up a bit of hill across some flatlands and to the headland.
Oh my gosh, on arrival in a bit of a valley was black browed albatross soaring about and then you saw it was a nesting area. And interspersed amongst the albatross were the rock hopper penguins. Zounds!
Windy as the albatross require winds to take off. Amazing birds with their 2 meter plus wing span.
Incredibly delightful just watching the albatross skim just feet above your head. The penguins just doing their penguin cuteness (standing there, occasionally preening, or yelling at their neighbor.
Back to the ship and on to Saunders island with a beach landing. Nothing serious but the staff is incredibly protective. Walked over the little spit, beside the gentoo rookery with maybe 100-200 birds standing on a tiny nest on a very slight upraised area. Hike to a beautiful white sand beach about a mile long covered with numerous penguins with small surf coming in. Had been warned to watch out for leopard seals hunting penguins coming in. And some skinny king penguins standing there with fluffy fat chicks of same size.
Off to the south end of beach where rockhopper penguins are attempting to climb hill to nests above. Hopping from ledge and rock and rock to ledge. Definitely more graceful in water. At one point maybe 100 came in at same time and we could watch them in the water. Swimming fast leaping out very graceful, then they get on land. One did not make leap of about a foot (30 cm) and fell about a meter (they are about 45 cm high) but just shook himself and proceeded to find another route.
Then walked the beach watching the birds sort of work their way to nesting area stopping to preen, return for a swim in the water. Incredibly cute.
Back to ship and penguins swimming along side porpoising through the water. And we are moving along pushed by a 50 hp motor. Everyone excited about seeing penguins.
During the night ship drove around north end of islands arriving Stanley about 7:30. Beautiful harbor where we tied up to dock. Buses to drive us to gypsy cove for bird watching or photography or to tumbledown mountain hiking. Jeanne and I chose the hike. Had a great guide who showed flowers and Falkland war history. This time the story was from British side as opposed to the story told in Argentina. As far as they are concerned Argentina is very bad, a very different from viewpoint of the Argentinians. One of the last battles was at tumbledown overlooking Stanley. Interesting walking about areas which were major battles and a war zone. Numerous minefields left and one must know where you are walking. Human species are amazing in their ability to try and destroy themselves.
Back to the bus where we returned to ship for lunch, then walked back into town. Obviously the weather is usually a fright here with wind. A beautiful day for us warm(15C, 60F), and not much wind but it obviously blows here judging by plants, and buildings.
Now enroute to South Georgia island. 900 miles from falklands to South Georgia. A gale behind us which we are just ahead of and seas relatively calm. Every once in a while we push or hit a wave and Jeanne and I think “earthquake” then realize we are on a boat. Just rocking but not bad, just make sure you can grab something to hold on and valuables (cameras, binoculars) are on the floor.
Wow yesterday on our second day of driving to South Georgia island was great. Crossed the Antarctic convergence and water temperature dropped from 8 to 2 Celsius. Big ice berg appeared (as in much larger than the ship) 1000 kilometers from falklands we circled the shag rocks a point of land sticking up then another 250 kilometer and this morning we arrive at northwest end of South Georgia. Cloudy and snowing but through the fog one can see the mountains. We are driving back and forth in front of right whale bay currently. Excited again to go ashore and see one of largest king penguin rookeries with fur seals, and elephant seals. Weather now at 6:30 outside bay the wind is 15-30 knots the temperature is 2 c and a slight snow. Nice
Well the scout party went to check landing at right whale beach despite winds 25-30 gusting 40. Cutoff for them is 40 knots. But alas the fur seals have taken over beach and totally unable to land anywhere, so we all went for a 1 hour zodiac cruise. Would have been 1 1/2 hours but winds increased to gusting at 60 knots (about 75 mph and 110 kph). Everyone totally bundled as temp still about 2 degrees C just above freezing. A bit chilly. Rain gear a requirement and the nice parka given us is very good. I took a good splash upon returning and came in dripping. Yahoo life is great!
The beach was spectacular. Second largest breeding colony of king penguins and they covered a huge area, but the fur seals dominated. They are not necessarily mean but defend their territory vigorously. Herded the penguins around keeping them from water, chased other males away and we have been warned they will charge us, hence no landing. I do not want a fight with a fur seal. And the behomoths of the elephant seals are totally slackards. Huge lumps of blubber just laying about pretending to be a rock, although at nearly 6 meters are in length and 4-5 tons it is not recommended to mistake it for a rock. Everyone agrees they resemble Jabba the hut in Star Wars. The king penguins are as cute as the rockhoppers and gentoos but bigger (up to 95 cm, 3 feet in height.)
Ice bergs about and big ones plus several growlers about. Currently repositioning to afternoon operations in bay of isles. Will see what weather and animals bring us. This morning catabatic winds were totally unpredictable and again offshore about 5 kilometers. Cruising along just looking at steep cliffs and glaciers. Beautiful
What an afternoon. Sailed to a bay but catabatic winds at 60 knots and could not get an anchor down. Tried another nearby bay in bay of islands and when tucked in behind an island the winds suddenly died, but shortly before dropping anchor the winds picked up again and we had to depart. Back across to a place called rosita bay and found calm. Kayakers went out but for the rest of us landing on beach was again impossible due to fur seals. But all got to do a zodiac cruise which brought us right to beach but could not get out nor did we want to face those 200 kg masses of fury. One was dead and being picked apart by albatross, one was very bloody with gashes and tears over shoulders and rump, but still guarding his 5 females and pups. Amazing creatures and a bit smelly. The elephant seals just lie around belching and farting. We are assured it is not belching and farting but their vocalizations, but sure sounds like belching and farting.
Back for a very nice sauna, dinner and BBC documentary of frozen planet the summer.
Grytvikin 1 December 2016
What a place: steeped in history. Zodiac in to the cemetery and a toast of whiskey to Earnest Shackleton and a walk into whaling station guided by the watchful and careful guides who are quick to point out our errors, in not seeing a slumbering brown pile which we have seen can erupt into massive fury and return to slumber in a few seconds. The whaling station is steeped in history and fascinating to walk through. (amazing to think of the whales that went through there, up to 40000 a year decimating the populations. In 20 minutes an entire fin wheel could be taken apart into tiny pieces scattered about the station rendered into food, fertilizer, creams and cosmetics.
Return ship for lunch and opted out of hiking to take the photography class with Shayne in the whaling station. She is amazing with her knowledge of cameras and photography. Learned (well she taught) bringing out the colors by using landscape instead of portrait mode and changing the white balance. Numerous points one such was, think about taking only one picture to sum up the entire whaling station. I took about 150.
But to think of the history and what had gone on there, Blaine the musician guide did a concert in the church and one could sit where the men of years past sat contemplating who knows what. But I realized I had not seen the museum and hence skipped the concert running through the museum which one could spend an entire afternoon at. Viewing exhibits of whaling, shackleton, falklands war, and general history of the area. Then to the art area which was a replica of the James Caird. Amazingly small. Shackleton crossed 800 miles of southern ocean to reach South Georgia island in that boat performing what has become known as one of the greatest rescues in history. His trip took 3 years with 24 men without a single loss of life. For those who have not read about shackleton and his amazing story and rescue it is a classic of one of the greatest rescues and expeditions to occur in the Antarctic heroic age of 1895. – 1920.
Back on board and we are headed back to attempt anther beach landing at salisbury plain where king penguin rookery is and Jeanne and I are going on a zodiac cruise. Then beach.
Friday 2 December 2016
Return to plains but although the water somewhat calm the fur seals were not and the beach masters were in charge. No landing but did have a leopard seal playing about boat in kelp. Yahoo. Magnificent if not ominous looking. One of the two animals I really wanted to see. The other is a blue whale but that is very rare.
Afternoon to a smaller colony of king penguins and able to somewhat precariously work our way through a few fur seals hiking up to a colony of several thousand . Wow impressive and the sun was out whereas in morning snowing and raining. Temperature is just above freezing.
Then a good zodiac Cruise about ice berg probably 40-50 meters tall, in three spires.
And just back from seeing the southern cross, not for first time but still good to check in. Always nice to see old friends.
3 December South Georgia island
Jogged back and forth last night until breakfast time then into stromness harbor to see another whaling station, hike and explore the area where Shackleton finished his over mountain portion of his epic story. Alas the place was covered in fur seals and totally unable to land hence decided to move to our afternoon destination of Hercules harbor. Alas again fur seals and fur seals again and wind blowing about 35 knots. So decided to move southward on island to see if there might be a bay which would offer protection and be interesting. Tried another bay finally ending up at gold harbor which was delightful. Alex the head guide said he had been there before but always blocked by fur seals but this time it was quiet, no fur seals to be seen, although numerous elephant seals, and a huge king penguin colony, and a massive hanging glacier at one end with an overpouring glacier at the other end of glacier. Beautiful although a bit of drizzle nearly snowing.
Offered a zodiac cruise but wanted to walk, then discovered we were last into zodiac again. Somehow our luck has been that way. But crew quickly loaded everyone and we were on shore. Amongst the penguins, and a large volume of elephant seal noises. Crossed the beach and into the tussock grass and mud and a gentoo penguin colony. 2 new chicks were noted beneath one bird. Then on through the mud and slime to another area overlooking the beach and stream where penguins were standing to cool off. We had to be very careful as there were fur seals about although young and not overly territorial, but camouflaged into the grass and mud. One does not want to surprise one and get in a fight or get bit. Everyone realizes an injury is serious stuff. We have one broken arm already and she must wait until we return to Ushuaia in two weeks. A life threatening injury would mean the boat turns around and we all go back to Ushuaia. The closest airport is 1200 miles away in the falklands and none here. Helicopters cannot get this far. We are on our own.
Jeanne and I sat for an hour and half just watching the birds and seals. Finally said we wanted the zodiac cruise and started back knee deep in mud. Great cruise South Georgia shags, penguins in and out of surf, elephant seals , then below the glacier. Incredible country.
Then back to the expedition (that is the name of our boat), another incredible meal movie and now heading toward Antarctica. An occasional wave and a bit of rocking about, although nothing bad as yet. Went up top and was actually surprised how quiet it is.
And the ship is dark except running lights as past 4 nights all windows covered to prevent bird strikes.
4 December enroute South Georgia to Antarctic peninsula
A bit rough last evening as we rounded cape disappointment but smoothed out and just cruising the smooth southern ocean today. Just saw some blue whales and fin whales. A rare sighting, the population is down to 3-4% of its pre hunting days.
Lectures this morn on seals of Antarctica and arctic. Scott gave a lecture on race to South Pole between scot and Amundsen. Great history.
This afternoon biosecurity again to check any dirt. Invasive species are becoming a problem hence a good wash of all external gear, and as yesterday we were wading in the mud, hence before arrival we must vacuum all pockets and Velcro, plus wash boots and any mud on backpack, pants, and boots.
5 December 2016
Each day gets better. This is like the 12th day in a row which is better than the previous. Awoke early about 5 looked out and there was a huge glacier descending down the mountain. Had to go out on back deck which had a small layering of snow, which was very slippery in my crock shoes. We moved along between big tabular ice bergs, arriving and anchoring at shingle cove on coronation island in the south orkneys. Apparently very rare to land here because of ice and wind. Due to flat seas yesterday we were able to go faster allowing more time, plus wind low and bergy bits were few allowing a landing.
Boarded zodiacs and cruised along the ice edge. Always a treat to just cruise along noting the incredible shapes the ice gets in and how deep in goes in that blue green color. Magnificent and I never tire of it. And here the glaciers were piling down the mountains above. I suspect there has never been a climbing trip here and multiple first ascents available although an incredibly remote and difficult place to get to. As noted earlier for almost all the crew, this was first time here. It was the first time for the boat in 5 years.
But onward everyone reveling in this journey. Geoff describes the area as Alaska on steroids. Me, I am running out of amazing words to describe what I’ve it.
But now back at sea heading to elephant island where Shackleton men spent 4 months awaiting a rescue. Gentle rolling and a few bergies out there.
The lectures continue about Antarctic explorers and the southern continent. One thing that has struck me is how Amundsen seemed to learn that locals have knowledge of how to live and work in the particular environment. When he came to the south he had already been to the arctic and discovered how the eskimos lived. Scott was English and since they ruled the world they felt they knew it all already. Stiff upper lip and all that. Amundsen used dogs and skis to reach the South Pole whereas Scott used ponies and man hauling. Scott did not return. Again on this trip I am seeing the history of man in subtle ways. I am better than you and I am willing to die to prove it.
Welcome to Antarctica 6 December 2016
What a day. Started when I awoke and went up for coffee. All were excited about the ice last night and how we were stopped. I had slept through the crashing bashing and rolling. But at 5:30 we were moving along, arriving elephant island about noon, where Shackleton’s men stayed for 4 months which is a bit of miracle as very little there. Glaciers on both side so area to go is less than 100 meters. Apparently only plants there are two species of lichen. There was a chinstrap penguin colony on rock above the beach, but wind blowing at 35 knots hence no landing or zodiac. Lots of fin whales about.
And chilly. Top decks were closed due to falling ice from superstructure, but sun came out in afternoon which was delightful. Then on to south end of elephant island where crew managed to get ramps and boats over port side. But rough, I told a fellow passenger I gave our chances at 20% of getting off boat. Well we did it totally bundled up.
A rough ride in zodiacs then through a passageway with I figure 8 foot waves crashing on rocks on both sides of us, then around a corner and into a tiny bay also with big waves. We were told the penguins above us on cliffs were macaroni penguins. Ok I will believe them as they were black and white, but I couldn’t hold the binoculars still to see. But definitely penguins hanging onto an exposed cliff side in the 35 knot winds.
Returned watching the zodiac behind us rise completely out of water, only the motor remaining unseen. Quite fun. Returned with everyone smiling. As Alex said welcome to Antarctica.
8 December 2016 just off coast of northern Antarctic peninsula
And onward passing Livingston island and its grand glaciers toward half moon bay and a chinstrap penguin colony. Those birds definitely deserve the cuteness award. On a scale of 10 they rank 10 and the closest thing even close would be a 4. Waddling along or dropping to their belly and to tobaganing along pushing with feet and rowing with flippers. Walked over a small pass having to give way to uphill penguin traffic. They get it in their mind where they want to go and if you are in way they just mill about until you move 2 feet off to the side they then proceed.
And the sun was out and a brilliant day. Walked the beach, just looking at waves, penguins, rocks, skuas, and Antarctic terms. Then returned for boat ride back to ship and time to take a zodiac cruise. Out into the bay and watched a humpback whale moving slowly about. Managed a good picture of diving with fin up.
Back to ship for lunch and motor onward to deception island whalers bay of Neptune caldera which is a volcanic caldera, last eruption being in 1969. The story goes this is the place in Jules vernes novel “20,000 leagues under the sea” where captain nemo had his base. In the novel he had to go through an underwater channel, in reality for us a delightful narrow entrance and quiet inside. Jeanne and I had signed up for the “long” hike up to the nipple on ridge line overlooking bay and outward back to Livingston island views to Antarctic peninsula. 3 kilometer rising to maybe 250 meters above sea level, but the views fantastic. Unfortunately as I walked the last bit up the rock to summit of the “nipple” I was yelled at to come down and unless I had a mountaineering certification I could show now, I was not allowed to go the last 3 meters to top. Alas. Hence we got back in line and marched onward up the ridge to avoid the snow fields and went down a gravel ridge.
Back to beach where steam rising from the heated waters of the volcanic caldera and those that wanted to could swim. I had thought temperatures would be freezing but had to balance out Arctic Ocean swim with southern ocean swim. Turns out temps were guessed at 4-5 degrees( maybe low 40s F). And most of us went in a couple of times, laying in the warm sand after. Returned with bragging rights.
Currently 7 am and cruising along Antarctic peninsula in Wilhimina bay in glorious sunshine and only 10-15 knot wind, temperature is 2 degrees c. Apparently bay we wanted earlier this morning was too ice choked, hence are looking for something different. But looks to be a great day. The mountains and glaciers here in Wilhelmina bay are absolutely stunning. Only in the Ruth gorge in Alaska have I seen such amazing views.
8 december 2016
Wilhelmina bay fabulous! Stuck the nose of ship into ice about 50 meters and we were off for a grand walk on the shore fast ice. Wedded, crabeater, and a leopard seal basking in the sunshine. Occasionally a penguin would march by, but most were standing on the ice bergs floating about. Would have been an absolutely fantastic ski across the flat pan.
Then back to ship with superb zodiac tour about the icebergs.
Today I opted to not carry camera pack and just put extra lens in pocket. Alas when I stepped aboard my leg hit pocket and knocked the 70-300 mm lens out and into the ocean it went, as I was right between zodiac and boarding platform. Three of us saw it and reached, but it was floating similar to a rock. Alas no more telephoto lens.
On to Orne bay and the actual mainland of Antarctica, which explains why it is so difficult to get to. Surrounded by by glaciers and ice falls going directly into the sea. They had a spot just wide enough to get the zodiac in and one could scramble up onto snow and zig zag a hill to a small pass overlooking the Gerlache straight which has a lot of ice. Another cruise ship heading north in it.
Guy gave us a super cruise back next to glaciers on way back to ship driving through the brash ice and up to glaciers. Incredible the amount of snow there is. I suspect the summit up on the snowfield feeding the glaciers it is hundreds of feet thick.
There were set of ski turns coming down and I thought wow some other cruise let someone ski. Looked like a nice ski 15 turns on a gentle slope, beautiful spring corn snow. We moved a few miles for anchorage as it was camping night. It was there I saw more ski tracks and a sailboat. Hence no cruise skis.
Last night was camping night for those opting for the one night event out on ice. We chose not to go as $400 for a night in tent on ice. But a first experience for many. I was surprise when watching the campers load in zodiacs there were two people with skis, but turns out they were not allowed to put them on, just stand there for a picture.
Guess we have been on here for a while little complaints sneaking in. Someone got splashed on zodiac and someone on landing stepped in over Their boot top on landing, requiring a quicker trip back to ship. The staff still is amazing trying to balance all our interests and needs, but as time goes on we seem to get a bit pickier.
And while I am moaning and groaning will note I have managed to obtain a cold. Lungs congested again and nose now giving me lots of exercise. 3 days now and each day I awake after a fitful night thinking it is better only to discover worse. But cannot give up any activity as only here once.
9 December 2016
Worked our way south into increasing ice, finally having to stop at 64 degrees 54 minutes when entire channel blocked. Spent an hour then started trip north, stopping at an island rarely visited due to usual bad weather. Useful island named from the whalers who came in here from the top could watch whales entering the Gerlache straight.
A nice hike to near top with lots of chinstrap and gentoo penguins plus the skuas cruising around.
A delightful zodiac cruise after admiring the infinite forms and shapes of ice bergs. Stunning.
And the cold (cough, fever, runny nose) continues: arggghhh
10 December 2016
Awoke again for 4th day in row thinking wow I think this illnes is getting better. But today seemed more hopeful. Did not start popping pills until at least up for 1/2 hour, then only thinking it just just preventative for later on hike ashore. As I right this it is noon and still very very much under the weather but surviving better.
Another great trip ashore and this time got to actually get to summit: no animals blocking way and guides said ok! Danco island in orne bay where we were a few days ago. Gentoo penguins marching up and down on their melted out highways. Penguins are so incredibly cut one can hardly stand it.
A zodiac ride back to ship to look up close at glacier coming off mainland but interrupted by a sleeping leopard seal on ice flow. Got with 5 meters and he could not have cared less. Mostly just sleeping , once raising his head but quickly returning to some sort of seal dreams I suppose.
Afternoon motored to the Malachi on islands for our final zodiac cruise, and it was a tremendous ending. Basically islands several meters across to I suppose a few kilometers, but all covered in glacier flowing to the water edge. My guess is a hundred meters plus in thickness but spectacular walls as the snow reaches the edge. Huge crevasses seen from below some would be completely unseen from the upper surface. Motored around for over an hour just sight seeing. They found a tiny inlet surrounded by glacier at the head of which was some fast ice (sea ice frozen and connected to land hence fastened ) of which there were 20 plus Weddell seals and one crab eater seal. Delightful viewing. Then return to the ship and begin our return trip north.
Was thinking if someone said let’s go for an open boat ride in prince William sound with the temperature right at freezing, wind blowing 15-20 knots I would say you are crazy. Here nearly everyone jumped at the chance. There is no such thing as bad weather just bad gear.
On another note Geoff noted it is only the three Alaskans who have no accent on this boat. I mentioned this to someone and they say d it is because we learned at the Sarah Pallin school of linguistics. Ok, I now have a major accent.
On the sickness front am down to only replaced handerkerchief once every 3 hours whereas it was every hour. Progress
and half way across drake passage and quiet. A bit of rolling but not bad
Made it across the supposedly roughest waters in the world and it was quiet. Apparently normally everything is on floor as nothing will stay up including people. Hmmm great trip.
And thus it ends. Back in Ushuaia. The above is sort of the daily log I tried to keep, but it comes not even close to representing the trip. The photos are mine except the above by Shayne the trip photographer and those where camera given to someone else photo me. The internet onboard was dialup speed and I felt the photos did more justice.
The best traveller has no plan and is not intent on arrival.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Made 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.
Monument 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.
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
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.
22 Novemeber 2014 Coyhaique to Puerto Ibanez 117 kilometers 1812 meters climbing, bike odometer reads 5587 kilometers done in South America since 17 September
Coyhaique rest day good. First night all but 10 bailed to a hotel room, without telling Gerdie the cook. She was a bit upset having cooked for 40. After dinner those of us remaining in camp waddled to our tents way overstuffed with 3 helpings, 2 of desert and way too much wine.
Rest day we had access to kitchen for coffee and some rolls and jam. Then bike cleaning and semi major work. Needed it badly. Then rode the 2.5 k into town to look for internet, a cafe, some food for evening and to see the town, which means go to the square. Had to get directions to the square as town laid out around the square but if you come in from outside not obvious. Wandered a bit found an open ATM and got 200000 pesos for next days and time in Chile, hoping not too much. The square had wifi but not very good, so wandered some more. Walter had found restaurant saying wifi, ordered but wifi did not work. I left. Grocery store, then wander finding a great cafe with super wifi. Next 3 hours posted pictures, finally got last blog out, and caught up sort of.
Rode back to camp where 8 of us sat around in sunshine drinking and reading. Time for dinner and I volunteered to reheat last nights delicious hamburger with vegetables sauce for pasta. Everyone brought something to add, wine,cheese, conversation, whatever. A good time was had with more wine cheese and crackers after. A fully satisfying meal. I believe part of reason people leave is just to get away as we all commented how pleasant it was with just a few of us, not that anyone is a bother just large numbers.
Today a great ride all pavement, sometimes a bit more than a drizzle, and wind from all sorts of direction although generally not a head wind, although it was on one descent requiring peddling downhill and only 25kph at that. But great fun back on the bike again. Last 30 kilometer mostly descending winding curves just flying along. And mountain views. Patagonia is awesome. Would be great to explore more.
Sitting outside a closed cafe here beside Lago Buenos Aires a beautiful spot. Someone got the password beforehand they closed so after dinner several of us rode the kilometer into town and are sitting outside. Still cannot figure out schedules around here. Burned again yesterday in Coyhaique going in the afternoon but did find the one restaurant open. And ATM does not siesta.
San Carlos de Barilochi to el Bolson 122 kilometers
A nice day started with a 19% grade out of town and into a south wind but riding between rows of whatever the yellow flowers are, and oh so sweet smelling. Lakes, mountains, what could be better?