Australia and Oceania, South America, North America ·
219 Days ·
53 Moments ·
4 September 2017
August/September - Huaraz, Peru
Photos from a second hike I did and more. Hiked a less known area on my own and was rewarded with solitude and amazing views. Had two pretty poor nights of sleep due to the cold. Got lost crossing a high ridge which lead to a good 90mins of scrambling up a serious incline covered in scree. Found myself in a very precarious position at 5100m on top of what can only be described as a knife edge of a ridge with a vertigo generating slope as the only descent option on the other side. Amazing views, I want to come back with Sam and family to do a couple of summits and trek the Huayhuash circuit.
28 August 2017
August/September - Huaraz, Peru
With a month left in South America I've decided to spend most of it in the mountain town of Huaraz. The town lies in the shadows of the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The mountains are huge and many of them glaciated, they are so good to look at. I plan to mostly trek while I'm here, although many travellers come here to scale some of the 6000+ metre giants. One feels small standing at 3000m starring up 3500m to some of the mountain peaks.
I did the Santa Cruz four day trek circuit over the past couple of days. It's one of the most popular hikes in the area but there is so much space and you feel like you have it all to yourself. It was a 5 hour collectivo (minibus) ride to the trail head, starting and ending in small farming communities. We had high altitude livestock as company along the trail as a reminder of how close these communities live to the mountains.
I now look for my next hike.
24 August 2017
Ecuador - August
Still in shock at having lost my travel companion to real world responsibilities, the Cinca project was the perfect place to transition into the life of a solo traveller. I was in great company, couple of Frenchmen, Argentines, an America, and a Venezuelan family who had sought refuge at the project after recently leaving their country. There are always people worse off, we come across quite a few Venezuelans doing what ever that could to get by in the newly adopted countries.
The project had good funding thanks mainly to its French founder and aims to set up a demonstrative farm and teaching facilities to educate local farmers on agroecological practices. Work involved working in the fields, making compost, and working on the classroom/library built out of bio materials (wood,bamboo, mud). We were directed by a very talented father and son carpentry team.
When we weren't working we had the mountains, local markets, and end of season harvest festivities to keep us busy
28 July 2017
July - Final days with Sam
The final days of us together before Sam headed home were spent mostly in Salento, Colombia. We wanted to be in the mountains with good access to fresh air and the mountains. It was beautiful and relaxing but we definitely both felt the clock winding down on our journey together.
We have both been really fortunate to be able to have the six months together which was a last minute plan after the visa process got complicated not allowing me to stay in Australia after February. The challenge of just being able to live permanently in the same place is on going and frustrating at times. But we got to spend a ton of time together over the past couple of months, done an amazing bike ride in Patagonia, met so many great people, given our time to various volunteer projects, and so much more.
I think I speak for of us by saying that we really value traveling and all that it exposes you to.
22 July 2017
We hopped on an overnight bus to Panama City and frivolously spent our last Costa Rican cash on peanut butter, Tabasco and chocolate.
Arriving in Panama City in the very early hours of the morning a slightly inflated taxi far got us to our hostel. They were angels, we had free coffee, were checked into our room early and slept through the morning. We spent two days exploring the city, the fish markets, the hill viewpoints, the esplanade, the old city. All surprisingly clean and pleasant, with the exception of the fish market that was neither, we did get free ceviche and a good meal.
The miraflores one of Panama Canals 3 locks are a fascinating place, the museum taught us all about construction of the canal despite schools of primary school children trying to drive us out with squeals. We watched in awe as GIANT ships were raised 16.5 meters in 2 stages. It never gets old....
Another airport near miss with Paul not having exit ticket from Colombia, and we were off.
18 July 2017
Costa Rica - July, Volunteering and chilling in Uvita
We spent our final 10 days doing a week of volunteering with Sharon and Mac on their property near the beachside town of Uvita. I think we were both a bit tired of the volunteering by this stage and we're looking forward to a few days on our own we had planned in Uvita afterwards.
Mac and Sharon were great hosts and their property was beautiful. Mac was an ex submarine pilot for a company that provided ocean safaris to the public in Bali. We cleared a bed in preparation for the planting of edible plants. And our pride and glory was a composting bin we made out of bamboo.
Spent a few days after in a little A frame cabin just off the beach near Uvita. We surfed, hung out with Ryan (another volunteer from Mac and Sharon's), walked to the 'whales tail', a local rock formation and reflected on our time in Costa Rica. It's safe to say we were both looking forward to heading back to Colombia and a less humid/intense climate.
4 July 2017
Costa Rica- July, Visit to Ora Peninsula
One of the draws of volunteering down south was our close proximity to the Osa Peninsula. It's home to the Corcovado National Park. It's considered one of the most biodiverse intense areas of the world and a priority visit for any nature lover who passes through the area.
The National Park was expensive to visit so we found a great hostel which had it's own trails and jungle and bordered the National Park. So we got to feel and experience a very special area at a fraction of the cost.
Some hostels attract great groups of people and are cleverly thought out to ensure maximum enjoyment, Bolita Hostel was definitely one of these. Our host emphasised the necessity to hike certain parts of his trails in the nude, as we were going to experience an exceptional sense of freedom. We took his advice and did!
We visited some waterfalls, saw an armodilla and spider monkeys, and I got to reminisce with an Irish guy who taught in the same city in South Korea
3 July 2017
Costa Rica - June/July 3 weeks volunteering at Paz Bella Beach Lodge
A beautiful location on a beach surrounded by jungle. The lodge was dilapidated from years of neglect and in no state to receive guests. We were kept busy sanding and repainting the rails of the boat dock, landscaping potions of the garden, and helping out with meals. It was just us, Rita, and Eddie the groundskeeper.
We spent our free time kayaking, practicing yoga (thanks to Sam's newly acquired yoga knowledge) and reading.
Our favourite contribution was a few rock gardens we created which required countless trips to the far end of the beach where we found a wealth of rocks and pebbles of all shapes and sizes.
It was a quiet time, cut of from the outside world and no sign of any guests. As much as it was a paradise we both felt for the individuals who had invested in the place, it will require substantial further investment to get it back to its former glory and ready to receive/attract guests.
18 June 2017
Costa Rica: Peace Retreat
We arrived in Playa Negra late Friday night, spent the night in a room joined to a pizza bar before walking in the heat with all of our stuff near forever to Peace Retreat. We set up our tent under a tarp which we thought was a game changer.
Melissa, a good friend from Med school joined us,200hrs in 2 weeks is a LOT of yoga. Plus an unexpected but extremely welcomed emphasis on self discovery and development. 10minute eye gazing, blindfolded dance sessions, intense sharing and not a day without tears. Made more intense by lack of sleep as the rain became horizontal and the tarp doubled as a barrier preventing the howler monkeys throwing unwanted mangos onto the tent. We moved our tent to the upstairs balcony and were much happier.
Paul volunteered making smoothies and unclogging toilets. He got in some surfing, swimming set his daily intention in the morning meeting shared a lot and was rewarded with a free t-shirt.
Challenging but spectacularly rewarding
12 June 2017
White water rafting was a success, sort of. A stunning river, forest as far as the eye can see, waterfalls. Started out well, we were probably the most in-sync boat on the river that day, we were killing it ... Until we weren't. We lost our line on the grade4 Rapids, the most difficult of our journey, we almost re-corrected.. but we didn't... and we flipped it. We took the rapids in the water, feet first, feet up gently gliding over the rocks until we could catch ahold of a kayak and be pulled back onboard one of the other boats. A well tuned rescue effort, tense non-the-less.
We made it to the safety of San Jose where we sadly parted ways with Kate. She went off to Monteverde for some sloth spotting in the cloud forest and we slowly made the journey to Playa Negra where we would spend the next two weeks. Sam doing her yoga teacher training and Paul volunteering. This is where we learnt camping in the rainy season isn't all it's made out to be.
1 June 2017
PEOPLE WE'VE MET
STATUS: Recently single
PROFESSION: Student, home caring
FIRST MET: Rupanco Farm, Chile
LIKES: Poetry, beekeeping, beard cultivation, obeying the law, going to the bathroom a lot
DISLIKES: Parking in undesignated parking spots, shaving
FAVOURITE MEMORIES: Beekeeping together, building a footpath together, wetting his bed at Rupanco farm, teaching him to fish
CHARACTER: Quiet, dry, eccentric
HOPES AND DREAMS: To live on a yacht
30 May 2017
Panama and Costa Rica
Left Colombia for Panama anxious after having to organise a last min flight out of Panama in order to board.
Spent 2 nights at a jungle hostel in the clouds en route to Bocas del Toro islands. Chose to steer clear of the main party island and headed for the more tranquil Bastimentos island, all just a short ferry ride from mainland Panama. Saw our first ever sloth, it was dead and rolling around in the surf unfortunately. Luckily, on leaving the island on our final day we saw two live sloths!
A short skip across the border and we've continued the beach theme with four nights in the Costa Rican beach town of Puerto Viejo. We've spent our days exploring the beautiful coastal forest which ends at the ocean. The trees are huge everywhere we look and nature dominates. It's super hot and humid and food is EXPENSIVE. But this is paradise.
White water rafting en route to San Jose tomorrow before more beaches and a yoga retreat/ volunteering on the Pacific coast.
16 May 2017
More of Jardin
14 May 2017
12-17 May - Jardin, 3hrs South of Medellin
Two other couples from the Spanish course joined us for a couple of days in Jardin. We've lived in relative luxury in a two bedroom cottage arranged through AirBnB.
Jardin is a small town surrounded by beautiful Andean mountains and native forest as well as fields of banana/plantain,coffee and sugarcane. The town itself is full of charm with colourful houses and locals congregating in the town square for coffee or beer. Nights are spent dancing and playing billiards. Horses wait patiently outside the establishment for their owners to have their full.
We've visited some local waterfalls, paraglided, taken countless walks through town admiring the individuality of each house, and spend the evenings drinking beer and playing our homemade Cards Against Humanity.
We would love to spend more time in Colombia, it seems to have so much to offer. We meet up with Kate on Thursday in Medellin and fly to Panama on Sunday.
13 May 2017
We left La Escuela de Espanol with an Australian couple Emma and Josh and a Canadian couple Alyx and Sam and bus hopped to Jardin. The most beautiful town we have seen so far. Set in low mountains smothered in banana and coffee plantations tangled among the native forest. We rented a house for the 6 of us and lived in luxury for 5 nights.
We hiked, bathed in waterfalls, paraglided, cooked and did some very rewarding bird watching.
Couldn't recommend this place highly enough. It has a feeling of authenticity, the people are lovely, friendly and helpful. They seem to spend hours sitting in the plaza on colourful wooden/leather chairs drinking beers and coffees. Or they're doing mainie's on horseback. Saturday nights the plaza roads turn into an unofficial dressage competition with slightly intoxicated riders in wide brimmed hats forcing their horses to prance about town.
2 May 2017
More of Guatape
1 May 2017
Spanish school on a small produce farm with a lovely Colombian lady. Living with another Aussie couple, Canadian couple, an American and a Scottish girl we struggled our way through 2 hours of intensive Spanish in the morning and many hours of consolidation and homework.
Highlights were jungle treks to the near by waterfall, salsa classes at the local bar, language exchange with locals at the local bar, la peidra (the stone) and meeting some very cool people.
We also snuck in some gardening and Paul got try some plumbing when he got to fix the water supply system. When it came time to leave we couldn't bare it and planned to head down to Jardin with the Aussies and Canadians.
24 April 2017
More of Valparaiso
19 April 2017
19 April - 30 April
Spent our final days in Chile in Valparaiso enjoying the colourful street art, snorkelling in freezing oceans, learning to juggle and increasing our fitness on the stairs and slopes. We survived our first earthquake. On our way into Santiago we survived our second earthquake Santiago, then we caught up with some friends, forked out $60 to get a signature from the Aus consular offices and flew to Quito.
An early morning church tower climb a proposal and engagement. Two days exploring the city was enough to scratch the surface only before we boarded a bus for the border. After a few bus/taxi changes and some passport stamps we paused in Ipialis, a small town on the Colombian side of the border sporting one of the most beautiful churches, probably in the world. An overnight bus later we were in Medellin for a bus exchange, another 5 hours on a bus and we finally end in Guatape where we check into a hostel for our first shower in 36hrs.
17 April 2017
Hiking in the Cochamo Valley 15-18 April
Described as the Yosemite of Chile, we have been looking forward to visiting this gem of a place for a while.
It's a 12km hike into the heart of the valley from the car park. The land is predominantly privately owned but still has the feel of a national park. The hike up to the camping area is mostly ali g a deeply rutted and muddy forest trail, it was only on arrival at the campsite that the trees opened up to a meadow and we got 360 degree views of the towering granite mountains all around.
We spent our second day climbing up to one of the better viewpoints. After some serious altitude gain over a short distance we were rewarded with sea, volcano and valley views. And Argentina in the distance. Well worth the effort
One hopes that the infrastructure development necessary to get large volumes of tourists into the area is a long way away and this place remains available only to those who are prepared to make the 12km trek up the muddy path.
13 April 2017
11 - 15 April Chiloe Island
We left Rupanco with two others, Stefan and Ali. This made it it financially feasible to rent a car for an island road trip. Chiloe is the fifth biggest island in South America with its own unique geography and climate similar to Scotland.
Salmon farming is huge here, Chile is the second biggest salmon exporter after Norway and the salmon industry is the third biggest contributor to the GDP. Salmon farming is a controversial topic due to its negative effects on the local environment.
Driving the island was characterised by pockets of fishy smells as we passed the local fish factories and the yellowing poplars trees as they prepare to drop their leaves for winter. Chiloe has 16 Unesco churches which along with the beautiful hikes along its rugged pacific facing coast draw big numbers of tourists in the summer months. We were lucky to enjoy the island in relative peace hitting a window of amazing weather outside of busy season.
15 March 2017
March 13 - April 11: Rupanco
We spent a month living in this community on a "farm" by the lake. It was incredible. Working on some of the MANY projects juggled, almost skilfully, by our fearless leader Greg.
Living in a shack in the forest we learnt to feed electrical wire, build garden beds, bake in a wood fired oven, dig irrigation ditches, dig pathes and dig a 4m drop toilet. The shovel is now an extension of our arms.
Living with 20 or so other incredible volunteers without electricity or proper dish soap from all of the world (but mostly France) we had a LOT of fun, shared cooking on a wood stove, roasted marshmallows and German stick bread. Weekly workshops, rainy indoor days, sunny warm lake days, a half hour forest walk to lunch, harvesting beans and salad greens among the sunflowers, picking apples off the tree into our bellies. All with a slight (sometimes not so slight) spiritual undertone.
There is no way to type out all of the stories, highlights and low lights.
12 March 2017
12 March - Hitching to Osorno
We thought we'd try our hand at hitching and save some money on bus fares. We took a local bus to the edge of town and got to work on a sign with our desired destination. Now that we had been dropped in what felt like the middle of nowhere, there was no going back.
We got a lift after an hour...to our great relief! Sam and I agreed that there is no great distinction between hitch hiking and begging, however, we adopted confident stances and positioned our bags in such a way to make them look less intimidating to passers-by.
We got a ride with a lovely couple from Concepcion, Chile. They had limited English so we had a good time trying to converse with each other.
We spent our bus fare savings on wine. We probably overindulge 2 X 1.5litre for AUD$7.6 or R76.00. Came across some of the worlds largest onions.
9 March 2017
8-10 March Camping in Colonia Suiza near Bariloche, Argentina.
Spent the day walking the Curcuito Chico. Beautiful views of the surrounding mountains which have received a dusting of snow making it pretty chilly. The Circuit runs along the edges of two main lakes in the area and there is no shortage of serious real estate on the shores. It well know to be a popular place for the rich and famous to own mansions.
To keep warm we are finding ourselves indoors enjoying the warmth of the communal kitchen/dining room of the campsite or walking to stay warm and enjoy the endless good views.
On our walk today we managed to pick some wild cherries and apples. The Frenchmen had done the same the day before, being a baker back home in France, he made us a berry tart which was amazing.
Back to Bariloche tomorrow. And then on to Osorno to volunteer at the farm for a month on Sunday. Here's the link for the farm:http://www.rupancofarm.com/
8-10 March Camping in Colonia Suiza near Bariloche, Argentina.
We decided to come down from hiking in the Naheul Huapi Nat Park after three days rather that the original five days planned. Day three was going to be be difficult and technical and we (our legs) had had enough. Post on the three days of hiking to follow...
Spent last three great nights at a campground in the small village of Colonia Suiza. The weather deteriorated after finishing our hike and it has been cold and rainy ever since. The campground has a kitchen and shower with warm water, big score having such amenities.
We've done quite a bit of wild camping which is camping for free on vacant land, preferably with a view. We've been using a great app dedicated to guiding people wanting to 'free camp' to good spots an area. We've only had trouble once from a local (actually the first day we tried wild camping), who was not happy with our presence. But the risk of upsetting a local is well worth it for the saving.
3 March 2017
2 X 10 hr buses to Bariloche with a 45min change over.
Arrived 2 hrs late thanks to the many road upgrades and adventurous sheep and alpacas exploring the roads.
We arrived into Bariloche at 8pm in full daylight. Walked against the wind to the hostel we'd pre-booked. Beautiful town on the lake.
Pretty uneventful day planning our hiking for the next week and stocking up on food. A nice lakeside picnic and a wander through the markets. Argentina is expensive, with busses, hostels, grocery shopping and steak splurge we have nearly eaten through all of the cash from the bike sales. At least we shouldn't spend much in the next week and then it's back to chile for a volunteering stint.
We're setting of on a 5 day hike planning to camp on either side of it to get us through to Saturday without haemorrhaging too much cash.
1 March 2017
Day 24 Departing shot of El Chalten area.
Sky became clear and vegetation sparse as we drove east away from the Andes. Andes blocking moisture progression off the Pacific into Argentina. Big contract in rainfall apparent crossing from western side of the Andes to the eastern side.
2 nights camping in the mountains.
In the small window of perfect weather we were blessed with we hiked to various mountain and glacier view points, past rivers, streams,lakes and woodpeckers. We couldn't have been luckier with the sun, relatively little wind and clear skies.
Fact of the day: mount Fitz Roy was named after Robert Fitzroy the captain of the Beagle, the ship Charles Darwin resided on that explored the region.
We got back to town and treated ourselves to the best steaks in town. Decided to sell our remaining two bikes in view of the weather forecast and Pauls lack of a fleece and long pants that aren't designed for sleeping in. We broke even on bikes, booked a bus north to Bariloche and said goodbyes to Nick who is continuing south to catch his flight to Bolivia.
The weather window closed dramatically in the day after we got of the mountain. Wind, rain and low lying cloud obscuring any views. Thanks to the rancho Grande hostel for protecting us.
28 February 2017
The windiest night to date. Little sleep was had due to the wind roaring down the valley we were camped in and the intermittent rain loudly falling onto our tents.
An easy short cycle to town with our first true tailwind experience. We cruised up hills without pedalling, it was great. Until the road curved intermittently and we had to fight to stay upright. We stopped at camping bonanza for the best toast and jam in Patagonia.
We achieved a lot today, made it to el chalten, nick sold his bike, we ditched our things at a hostel, grocery shopped and hiked out to a free camp spot in en route to Fitz Roy base camp.
24 February 2017
We crossed into Argentina where the road became single track through the forest. The track is more for hiking than riding so the 6kms was slow, we carried our bikes over logs, through streams and lengthy mud patches for 2.5hrs. Once the forest opened up near the end we were greeted with beautiful views of Mount Fritzroy. We have been so lucky with the weather, it's only a couple of days in the month that it is clear and you get full view of these mountains. Arrived at the lake in the sun, waited a blissful warm couple of hours for the ferry with great views of the mountains. Fishing was tried again, due to equipment issues no luck was had, nothing to do with operator skill...
Fitz Roy and the other dolomite domes in this area are very famous and difficult climbs in the rock climbing community. We will get better views of them when we hike out from El Chalten tomorrow.
23 February 2017
Woke early and rode the last kms of the Carretera Austral from O'Higgins to the ferry terminal which is the official end of the road.
Caught the ferry to the other side of the lake via the O'Higgins glacier. Drank whiskey whilst enjoying the view of the glacier from the boat.
Got off the ferry got our passport stamped out off Chile. We have a 22km ride/push as the rode is really bad and becomes a muddy single track at times. Didn't do the entire 22kms due to fading light. Camped next to the river in the forest.
For once the South African passport outplays the Australian passport. On entry to Chile and now Argentina Sam has had to pay $100 entry fees. South African citizen has entered for free:)))
22 February 2017
Day 16 & 17
Enjoying O'Higgins and the luxury of the hostel. Did some great day hikes up the nearby valleys. Hike on the second day was super steep and got us up to a glacier, or what is left of it. You could see evidence of wear on the rock below the glacier where the glacier would have once covered and been much bigger.
This area is really beautiful and the environment so pristine and unspoilt. We are so grateful and feel privileged to spend time in these surrounds.
Bumped into an old American couple in town. He has been in the peace core in the area 50years ago. He help families that had received land from the state rejuvenate their land and practice a more sitar able form of forestry. He has written three books inspired by his time in Chile.
Said our goodbyes to the French couple and a Japanese guy who shared the rufigio (small wooden shelter) for the night. The Japanese guy was a funny fellow, he had been riding on his own all the way from Santiago on what appeared to be a road bike, and did not seem to feel the cold.
Short 30km leg into O'Higgins. As mentioned, this is the end point of the Carretera Austral, from here we take a ferry on Thursday with the bikes.
We found a great hostel to spend the next three nights in O'Higgins. And have bumped into a bunch of the people who we met on the road down. Great night spent catching up and enjoy Chilean wine, which is cheap and good!
O'Higgins is small but beautiful surroundings. Population of approx 500. It only connected to the Carretera Austral in 1999 prior to which was only accessible by water and air. Good hiking in the area so lots to do and see. And we've hit a spell of good weather:)))
19 February 2017
Tough day with a series of four pretty long steep climbs. Our efforts were rewarded with some beautiful views from the top.
Today and tomorrow will make up the final 100km stretch of the Carretera Austral, with the road coming end in Villa O'Higgins. The road ends here as the Southern Patagonia Ice Field acts as a barrier to any further road development on the Chilean side. In order to get into the bottom region of Chile we will go around this, entering Argentina.
Our bikes are starting to creek and rattle and are in need of a good clean and tune up. We can't justify the effort until we hit paved road again in a few days. We're unsure at this stage when we'll sell the bikes, with the possibility of heading back up north either in Chile or Argentina and doing some more riding in warmer and drier conditions.
We woke and again it was raining. Packed ourselves like packhorses and walked back to our bikes. 11am is too early apparently to buy bread in this tiny town so we left without.
The 22kms back to the Carretera austral was a piece of cake. Then the day's nightmare the 20km pass to the Puerto yungay ferry. It was a hard but beautiful pass. Waterfalls everywhere, lakes, you couldn't look in any direction without being impressed.
Made it to the ferry at 15:30, caught the ferry at 18:00 an hour later arrived in rio bravo and made ourselves at home on the floor of the ferry waiting area for the night with a Japanese cyclists and two Chilean hitchhikers. Warm, dry and happy.
18 February 2017
A day of rest, little rain, much reading, many cups of tea and no falls. An improvement from yesterday (3 falls, all Paul).
We wandered the town. Overwhelming number of hummingbirds, you can't get away from them.
17 February 2017
Day 11 & 12
Rained all night. Packed up in the rain and hit the road, in the rain. Had breakfast along the way in a bus shelter out of the rain and took the turnoff to Cartel Tortel, in the rain. Tortel is a 22km detour off the Carretera Austral, we plan to spend two nights in a bed in this unique village at the mouth of the Rio Baker. Unique in that all of the houses and stores in the village are connected by a network of boardwalks, there are no roads. They opted for boardwalks for a number of reasons 1. Abundance of timber 2. Tricky topography 3. The ground is so soggy from all the rain.
Arrived at the car park in the rain, chained the bikes and loaded our things on our person. We walked and slipped our way down the boardwalk, up and down the stairs trying to find the hostel we booked. Significantly more difficult in a town with no street names.
We walked into a warm room with a fire. Wet and hungry but now happy.
16 February 2017
Woke to the patter of rain on the tent. We've been anticipating the change of weather, the poor weather seems to have arrived.
Not very far to go today and although the rain was more of a light drizzle it soaks everything after a while. Pretty missable conditions. On a positive note, no dust at least. Considerably less traffic on this section and we expect it to get quieter the further south we head.
We arrived at our camp spot for the night in the rain. Set up the tents. Got everything that was not going into the tents covered in something waterproof. Split a packet of biscuits three ways. And got into our sleeping bags for the rest of the day, only rising briefly to cook dinner.
We have reunited with the Rio Baker river. It's swollen from all the rain and glacial melt and measures a couple of hundred metres from bank to bank. We'll follow it to it's mouth tomorrow.
15 February 2017
We found a lovely camp spot by the river in full daylight at 8.45pm. Still warm we only had to don jackets and long pants at 11. The boys tried fishing again, no luck, still remaining positive, for how much longer it is uncertain.
We shared the campsite with a group of Americans (they were actually the sole and original inhabitants prior to our arrival) who had fled the US after learning of Trumps victory. Jokes. They are cycling from Ushuaia (most southerly point of South America) back to the USA. Makes us feel small. They have told us that we can just camp outside Toures del Paine and do a day cycle through. Not a bad option, rather than completely missing out on the park.
14 February 2017
We planned to leave early today after doing the grocery shopping yesterday we just needed to wake eat pack buy bread and cycle over the pass out of town. We started chatting to some other cyclists who informed us 1) you have to book in advance the campsites for Torres del Paine, it's booked out till mid March, 2)you must pre-book the ferry from o'higgins, it's full until Feb23. Our early morning cycle evolved into a mid morning sit at the tourist info desk in wifi booking ferries and flights. On the up side paul finally got his first empanada!
We left town around 12.30. The sun was out and it was HOT. Uncomfortably hot, dry conditions, ~35kms of climbing, dusty, washboard road. Bizarrely hot considering how close the glacier above us appears. Then the descent, steep but stunning. The road then improved significantly, the temperature dropped to pleasant, the dust settled and we were treated to 15kms of pure heaven. Easy cycling, tree corridors, rivers, mountains.
13 February 2017
Short up and down 30kms into the town of Cochrane. Great llama herd(?) sighting on the way. Most of the land is fenced but they roam freely, unrestricted by fence lines. Did a quick scan for any trailing mountain lions, one would think they would be on the menu.
As much as Cochrane is a significant town on a map of the region, it is tiny and not the most exciting of places. No bikes stores. No retail food chains. Neither of these needed to make a town exciting of course. Main contributors to the local economy seem to be forestry and ,at this time of year, tourism.
Found a campsite in town. Crowded. Counted 36 tents in what was really the owners backyard. One toilet and two showers to service all occupants needs, yet comfortable.
Treated ourselves to a pizza at a local restaurant. They were delicious and monstrosities and had to leave with left overs.
The plan is to go via Tortel on the way down to Villa O'Higgins. It's picturesque seaside town and will require a small detour
12 February 2017
Woke under a bridge less than 1m from the waters edge with very little camping gas left. A lovely German couple had given us 1/3 a can in rio tranquilo and by chance also pitched tents under the bridge. Max, forever a hero donates a 1/2 can to us as a parting gift, he is heading back north to meet his parents. We continue south.
2 moderate climbs later, by the bluest lake to date and we descend into Puerto Bertrand on the banks of the rio baker. An under-rated oasis. We run into the German couple for a lazy lunch, coffee and a gift of sugar by the river. Watching crazy locals casually swimming in water that would only just make double digit temperatures. A small store sells us 2 bottles of red wine that we carry hoping to share with the Germans camping tonight.
We stopped by the confluence of rio baker, rio neff and rio maiten. So. Much. Water.
Didn't run into the Germans but found a nice tree to camp under, managed to enjoy the wine without them.
Early start with the marble cave tour. Made a great breakfast and hit the road. Met Max, a Chilean solo rider, who snapped some group shots for us and assured us he had a bike worth of spares if we had any troubles(we were passing him as he had knee issues).
5kms later disaster hit! Sam's pannier rack broke, leaving us stranded on the side of the road staring at the problem not sure of the solution. Max catches up and saves the day. We've made a note to purchase titanium screws in the next town.
Beautiful ride along the side of Lake General Carrera. Amazing views of surrounding mountains, many of them with icecaps.
Evening camp spot on a tiny beach next to a bridge that crosses the river which flows out of the lake. Second attempt at fishing...not luck. We remain positive. Max camped with us...the hero of the day. We were in a dark place on the side of the road earlier that day.
10 February 2017
Forgot to mention, night before we tried our luck at fishing with the collapsible fishing rods and spinners we bought in Coyhaique. No luck yet...watch this space. The region is well know for trout and salmon.
Fairly easy ride today riding alongside the Rio Mutra river until it flowed into Lake General Carrera. Huge and very beautiful, the turquoise water of the river gave way to the beautiful blue clear water of the lake.
Ride made slightly harder by two graders doing maintenance scraping of the rode surface. The quality of the road surface is constantly changing from great smooth compacted dirt road to dusty and full of loose rocks.
Got to Rio Tranquilo and filled our bellies with any food we could get our hands on.The town of Rio Tranquilo is has a number of tour operators doing tours to the local glacier and marble caves. We booked a marble cave trip for 7am the next morning. Treated ourselves to a bed in a hostel for the night.
9 February 2017
Our feet have have thawed from the previous eves icy river bath. So cold but totally worth it and necessary.
Cruised the first 5kms of the day, good not to have a head wind. Major climb of the day came early and we all felt good getting over it. We hit a slight drizzle soon after hitting the summit which is the first wet weather we've experienced.
Passed a guy from California pushing a stroller the length of Chile on his own. Puts our trip into perspective. This surpassed the feat of the French couple we met the day before riding the length of Chile pulling their 4 year old and home (road) schooling him along the way.
Had a chilly wet descent, losing much of the elevation gained. Stopped for lunch in an abandoned hut. Very easy 20km cruise to the cam for the night along the banks of the Rio Murta which is mostly fed by glaciers and a strange turquoise colour.
8 February 2017
We cycle off early mentally preparing ourselves for a climb. We read 10km of downhill 4km up and then 15km downhill into villa cerro Castillo. The 10km of down were amazing, we had a head wind so it wasn't all cruising. We cycled against the wind for what must have been another 6 waiting for a climb that never came. We came around a bend, the mountains opened up into a valley and we were down hill to town. Four very happy people.
Lunch out of the wind in town. Restocked and off again up what I claim to be the hardest hill so far, off tar onto loose gravel, a strong headwind and a steep incline. Not a combination I would recommend. False hope of a campsite at 20kms out of town left us cycling another 16km total ~70kms today. An easy start and then head winds and loose gravel, thankfully some well spaced downhills and packed road to keep one sane.
7 February 2017
Day02-again in retrospect
We woke by the road side. A "quick" breakfast and pack up (which we're hoping in time will actually become quick) later and we're back on the road.
We hear today is a lot of climbing, thankfully on tar at least. We have no idea where we are aiming to get to. The highest pass on the Carretera Austral is ahead of us.
The road undulates for several kms before the turn off to Balmaceda airport then you are treated to a nice bit of flat, which seems like a downhill with tail winds. Then the climbing starts, in its defence it is a gentle gradient but it doesn't like to end. The sun was out it was a lovely day. We stopped for "lunch" at ~4pm and decided we were done. Sleeping in a camp site with hot water beat continuing with the prospect of camping by the road before the main climb or struggling over and into town to try to find somewhere to sleep just as the sun goes down (@9.30pm). Daniel, who we met in Coyhaique cycled in close to 9 to join us.
6 February 2017
Day01 -also written in retrospect.
Today is the day we start the proper ride. We took our bikes back to Sebastian and Momo at Una Velocidad to help us fit the racks and give us a quick tutorial on tightening breaks, adjusting derailers... A general bike maintenance class. We were greeted with an espresso, highly recommend visiting these guys for any bike maintenance/advice in Coyhaique. They even threw in some spare tubes, a pump and chain link gratitious.
A "quick" grocery shop, search for camping gas, fishing rods, liquid tears and baby wipes later we finally left town close to 6pm. 2 hrs of daylight on a tarred road later and we are ~15km out of town camping by the road. Not as far as we'd hoped but feels great to be on the road.
5 February 2017
Day0. Written in retrospect
The trials of finding bikes and the joys of taking them on their first pannier-free cycle.
Yesterday we landed in Balmaceda, getting up for the early morning flight was a struggle, after 2 hours sleep we made the flight. The bus to Coyhaique was our first glimpse of the road we were to cycle. We fasted until 12 involuntarily, booked accommodation in a town 15kms away by accident and finally sorted ourselves out ready to start the hunt for a bike.
After checking into a lovely little hostel with very friendly hosts we set out to find bikes. We were turned away multiple times, finally when things re-opened after siesta we found bikes. Slept happy with a bellyful of surprise seafood broth from the hostel hosts and woke to test the bikes.
We rode ~16kms out to a waterfall and back. Great ride. Great bikes. Now to pack them with all of our belongings and start the real ride tomorrow.
4 February 2017
My mate Nick, from Uni days, has joined us for the Patagonia leg of our travels. He's travelling South America on his own for three months before heading to London to work. We joke that the ride will either strengthen or destroy the friendship.
Last night in Santiago spend with a bunch of Saffas working in Chile. Good to catch up with South Africans and talk sport and current affairs which I have been deprived of since leaving SA shores.
Touch down South America. Couple of days spent in Santiago before heading down south to begin our Patagonia ride. Pamela (friend from 6 month stint in Lake Tahoe winter 2010) very kindly let us stay in her apartment, bonus!
Explored the city a bit, did a great walking tour to understand a bit of the city history. Poor visibility due to the many fires burning in the region at the moment, many of which a due to arson according to the locals. The city is at the foot of the Andes which are to the east, unfortunately due to the poor visibly not the best views of the mountains.
WHERE TO BUY OUR BIKES...after factoring in airline charge for flying with bikes down to Coyhaique (the starting point for our ride) along with the mission of dissembling the bikes, getting them in bike boxes and getting them to the airport, we have decided to take the gamble of there possibly not being much selection and buy in coyhaique.
1 February 2017
Sitting in the Qantas lounge at Sydney international thanks to invite a friend vouchers bestowed upon us by my lovely grandparents.
Sydney has been great. Much family, much love and many many laughs.
See you all in August.