Donnerstag, 28. Januar 2010

Salta to La Quiaca

The road from Salta to La Quiaca is well paved. Salta´s surroundings are a bit stressy to cycle due to a lot of traffic and least careful drivers. Anyways, parts of the Ruta 9 up to Jujuy are just great: good + calm serpentine road, dense bush and beautiful views along the valley. After the small village of Yala, the landscape becomes more open and a bit drier on every kilometer. Cacti, rocks in different shades of colours, vultures, dusk, dramatic canyons, llamas. Parts of the route are declared World Natural Heritage. Beautiful adobe villages along the track, packed with argentinian holidayers plus restaurants and (tacky) artisanian tourist markets.

In La Quiaca a local, Patiño, offers us to camp in his courtyard. He lives alone in a 6qm adobe hut, dirt floor, no windows. The bumpy courtyard is surrounded by walls to keep the few belongings safe; there is a tiny toilet, a dirty well - and indirect light from the street lamp in front of the hut. Patiño can´t use his legs and wheels around in a wheelchair probably as heavy as himself. We spend a save night inside his walls.

Montag, 4. Januar 2010

"Salto" from Ushuaia to Salta

People like superlatives here. Here´s ours: 66,5 hours in a bus! Argentinia really is big!
Figuring that we could need some 10 or so more months off if we would want to cycle up to Bolivia, we considered pretending to got lost, rob a bank or - hmm maybe skip parts of the track. Just skip tiny bits, some 4000km.

Long distance buses are quite comfy here but seem to be completely booked during argentinian holiday times. Drivers just shake their heads if asked to take 2 bikes... after many discussions and many shaken heads we got separate tickets for the bikes from "VíaTac" - and miraculously the bikes arrived in Salta just 1 day after us - perfect!

Tierra del Fuego/ Porvenir - Ushuaia

After a short ferry ride that connects Punta Arenas with Porvenir/Tierra del Fuego (runs nearly every day) we set off to beat the gravel roads Y-71 and -79 leading towards the border at San Sebastian. Wide steppe pastures, a few shattered fisherman´s huts along the beach and few estancias. Except for some cars, loads of dusk, a few foxes, llamas and - the wind - we had the track for ourselves. The boarder-crossings were quick and unproblematic on both sides for us cyclists, whereas buses had to wait for hours.

There´s another border crossing further south (Bellavista). This is only open during summer months and it´s a good idea to ask several people to find out if it´s actually attended before heading south. Actually, it´s always a good idea to ask several people to get the most likely answer to whatever question.

The argentinian ruta nacional 3 runs along the Atlantic coast between Buenos Aires and Tierra de Fuego. We thought it would be smart to cycle down around New Year´s to avoid the traffic - but actually everyone seemed to be out to find a camping spot for a fiesta with the family!

Landscape changed from open steppe to an equally windswept atlantic coast, southern beech-bush, finally mountains, lakes and moorland. Fantastic! We completed the first south-american 1000km in Ushuaia. Good reason to hang loose for a while!

Freitag, 25. Dezember 2009

Puerto Natales - Punta Arenas

After 3 lazy and scenic days on the ferry we arrived in Puerto Natales and used the strong tailwind to get a lift down the Routa 9. Wind is mainly blowing from sth between north and west, and it can only rarely be called a breeze. There`s not much traffic (until further south around Punta Arenas), the road is good and the landscape is wide... while it`s great to see kilometers ahead with sun + wind in the back, it`s sort of a mental test if conditions change to hail and headwinds... concentrate on your front wheel, forget about the circling vultures and keep breathing!

Most of the land along the road is fenced private property, but it`s no problem to stop at an estancia along the way and ask for permission to pitch up a tent - there usually is a cosy spot on a shared pasture with bulls, sheep and horses.

There`s only 1 spot along the way to shop, Villa Tehuelches. We ran out of proper food (i.e. 2-minute-noodle-soups) and all there was to buy in Villa Tehuelches were expensive sandwiches, cookies, soft drinks and milk. After all it`s not too bad to feed on cookies and porridge... by the way, some estancias may also sell some homemade food if you ask nicely.

Lago Llanquihue

Chile's "Lake Disctrict" is definitely worth a visit:

We took a comfy overnight bus from Santiago to Puerto Varas and cycled around Lago Llanquihue anticlockwise in 3 days. From Puerto Varas to Saltos de Petrohue the road is sealed and in a very good condition. Chilean drivers are really friendly, honking and waving and cheering... there are also long stretches of undulating, dusty gravel roads in the eastern/ northern part of the lake.
Characters of the villages vary enormously depending on the amount of visitors - anything from expensive tourist shops to simple tin shacks. The adjacent national parks offer many opportunities to explore.

This was a great start with a lot of sun, superb views of volcanos, bits of native forest, jumps into chilly waters and plenty opportunities to enjoy "Apfelstrudel" from german settlers. We arrived in Puerto Montt after 230 km to catch a ferry down to Puerto Natales.

Santiago de Chile

Start of the south american odyssey in Santiago de Chile - a fascinating, colourful, lively place with far too much to discover for a 2days-visit...

Dienstag, 8. Dezember 2009

West Coast

it's not ALWAYS raining at the West Coast...
River crossing, Franz Josef Glacier, White-fronted tern on Pancake Rocks, beach near Westport