Route Map

View Vamos en bici - route map in a larger map

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shane´s crash

We have made it to the mainland of Chile, 280km since we last wrote (700km in total). Absolutely stoked to meet Sophie at the airport Punta Arenas- all in a pretty intoxicated state! We tried to hide from her and play a trick, but typical Sophie was way too cunning!! We set off the following day loaded with food...Sophie riding amazingly well after a two day multi-sport event in New Zealand and a long-haul flight as recovery! Our riding was interrupted 20km out of Punta Arenas by the first serious injury of the trip. Shane, trying to prove himself as skilled as Soph, attempting no hands riding down-hill on the gravel with heavily laiden Bob (the trailer on the back). His tumble resulted in a pretty nasty laceration just below his right knee. With 3 out of 5 of us being doctors, this didn´t prove to be a problem. We were all in agreemeent that stitches were required. As Anna anxiously looked out for an ambulance we set to work with some local anaesthetic, a needle, fishing line and some Kiwi ingenuity while Shane smiled bravely and filmed the whole thing!! We were pretty happy with our handy-work and Shane´s knee seems to be healing well.

The riding has been alot better over the past few days. The scenery is more interesting with lakes, rivers and mountains as our back drop. We have had a few tail winds and it is an awesome feeling to be riding with ease and getting a few k´s under our belt. We have found fantastic camping spots every night. Last night was an absolutely magical sunset with rainbows and an ever changing sky in the long twilight. Today we rode into Puerto Natales, the closest town to Chile`s famous Torres del Paine national park. We are planning to ditch our bikes for 5-6 days and head into the hills for a tramp. We´re all really looking forward to being in the mountains and doing some walking....

Monday, November 24, 2008

Tierra del Fuego

Charles Darwin descibed Patagonia as a "cursed land" while the seaman Antonio Corboda called it "the most wretched place on earth". The first week of our trip has already been full of adventures, terrible and perfect weather, challenging riding and amazing scenery. Our journey started with a beautiful ride over a pass out of Ushuaia. Five minutes into it, our peaceful riding was broken with a loud crashing and scraping. I turned around fully expecting to see Anna sprawled across the road bloody and broken. Fortunately it was not Anna that was broken, but her bike trailer Bob, whose back wheel had come out of its bracket and was rolling down the hill leaving Anna dragging her wheel-less trailer! Easily fixed we continued riding in perfect conditions through beech forest, spending our lunch-time beaver hunting- managed to find a dam, fresh beaver tooth marks and a beaver house but no beaver. Twenty five beavers were introduced to Tierra del Fuego in the 1940´s from Canada, now they are numbered in the hundred-thousands and are considered a pest. Our first night was spent camping beside the beautiful Lake Fagana with fresh salmon and trout for dinner (caught by Shane and Anna). Dreamy first day- all of us blissfully unaware of the riding ahead!
Over the next few days we made several discoveries- the best panaderia (bakery) in all of Argentina, the delicious treat that is dulce de leche and just how strong the Patagonian winds can be! The landscape changed from mountainous and green, to barren, windswept and hostile. Our progress became slower as the days went by with our speeds dropping to as low as 7km/hr.
The road between Ushuaia and Rio Grande was all sealed with wide verges, all the trucks gave us lots of space , toots and waves. Between the three main Argentinian towns in Tierra del Fuego there is virtually nothing except wind, abandoned farms and the free roaming guanaco (like llamas). At times food and water were in pretty short supply. The next major town on our journey, Rio Grande definitely failed to live up to its name! A wind-swept, dirty, industrial town, but thankfully for us complete with an amazing supermercado. We slummed it eating a huge lunch in the side street with trolleys as our furniture.
That afternoon was our first riding in the rain and we were all super grateful for the tent fly Shane packed. Finding free camp sites has been no problem and we have managed a mint spot not far from the road every night.
On day four we made our first successful border crossing back into Chile- complete with our illegal parmesan cheese and carrots! The road surface changed to gravel with less traffic. Our next obejective was to bike west across Tierra del Fuego in time to ferry across and meet Sophie in Punta Arenas. Although we initially felt we had lots of time up our sleeves we were yet to discover the full might of Patagonian winds and rough gravel roads. The wind was absolutely relentless making talking between each other impossible. All concentration was required to keep your bike on the road and I spent a lot of time picking myself and pannier-laden bike up out of the gravel. We had all read other cycle tourists` tales of days spent in ditches and culverts, but never really thought we would have to resort to that. How wrong we were!! We all became very attached to the shelter provided by a good ditch and spent many hours huddled in our sleeping bags escaping the cold winds. Despite all this we were still smiling and determined to get to Punta Arenas in time -despite our painfully slow progress. In order to avoid the winds we rode into the darkness and early in the morning, but soon discovered Patagonian winds follow no clock and the wind remained constant.

But we did make it!! Thanks to a lovely generous Chilean couple, our broken espanol, the perfect truck and some hardout riding by Shane. We were all stoked to enjoy a hot shower, delicious dinner, wine and warm bed in Punta Arenas last night. It is a beautiful wee town with big wide streets, a town centre surrounded by old mansions and quite geared for tourists is the mainland town used for Antartic trips. We`re all looking forward to Sophie arriving tonight and beginning the next leg of our journey.
We are having an awesome trip so far. The South American people are so kind and generous. It is cool practising our spanish and very satisfying when it works! Although the riding has been really challenging the freedom and new discoveries of cycle touring keeps us going.

ps. The orca photo was a joke!! Photo taken from a book in Ushuaia while testing out the new camera!!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ushuaia - el fin del mundo!

Landed in Ushuaia yesterday - the southern most town in the world!! (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. 56 degrees south) The flight down was pretty awesome; stunning views of mountains, glaciers, rivers and the terrain that we will be riding through! Its pretty cold, especially after Brasil, less than 10 degrees here!!! And its summer!!

It was pretty funny arriving at the airport in Ushuaia and setting our bikes up. Its quite a small airport and we were taking up half of it with our shit everywhere. Managed to break a spoke while putting new tyres on, but Shane fixed it quickly. Once the bikes were set up, we loaded them up, and stepped outside. It was sooooooooooooooo windy and we nearly got blown off our bikes just biking from the airport into town. Welcome to Patagonia!

Today we got, fuel for cookers, cash etc... We also went on a boat trip in the Beagle channel for 4 hours, it was pretty awesome!! Scenery is wonderful!!! Also saw lots of cool birds and sea lions etc.. and went for a walk on one of the islands. We were also lucky enough to see a huge orca come right up onto the beach and grab a baby seal. Matilda got a great photo, but was extremely close to getting eaten herself!!!!

Leaving on our bikes early in the morning......ciao for now x

Friday, November 14, 2008

Jericoacoara, Brasil

Three weeks in Brasil. I have been support crewing for team Orion Health in the Adventure racing world championships. It was awesome! The race was great, and they won!!! Out of 60 teams... World champions!!! They are amazing, it was such a tough race...Kayaking, trekking, mountain biking, running and climbing - 550km, 80 hrs racing, 2 hrs sleep...and so hot!!!! 49 degrees at one stage! After the race there was lots of celebrating to do....Anna has proven to be the toughest girl in the world, by not only winning the world champs, but then following it up by partying like crazy, two more nights without sleep.

After the race we have just been hanging out in the coolest little beach town called Jericoacoara which is set among the sand dunes... I have been learning kite surfing which is a lot of fun. Feel like I have the hang of it after four days..its quite addictive, might be looking for a kite on trade me when I get back!! Also been doing a bit of surfing, walking, sandboarding on the dunes, reading and relaxing in hammocks. Its been pretty social with lots of people from the race sticking around for a while too.

Not everything has been easy sailing though... so far i have been mugged, had our brand new camera stolen and had over $1000 of credit card fraud....sweet. Brasil is pretty dodgy actually, although most people we have met and interacted with have been really lovely and friendly. Tomorrow, we leave the heat and fly south. I meet up with Matilda and Shane in Santiago and then fly on to Ushuaia. Anna is flying to Ushuaia via Buenos Aires.