Argentina

December 24 : Unexpected stay in Buenos Aires

I woke up at 5:30 but managed to go back to sleep until nearly 9. Then I got up, showered, and went down to the restaurant. I am a whinger I know, but I was disappointed that the water for the tea was lukewarm, as was the coffee. I asked for some hot water but was still waiting when I left. Unlike the two airline pilots who had hot water rushed to them as soon as they sat down. Apart from that the hotel staff were excellent.

After breakfast I went to find out if transport was arranged today to the international airport. Not as far as they were aware, so after discussion with them I booked my own transport at 3pm which they assured me would give me plenty of time to get to the airport,with 2 hours to spare. Off to the cash flow machine to get money to pay for it (equivalent of $100 USD).

I could not believe how warm it was. When I got back to the hotel I changed into a dress and sandals for the first time in weeks. It was nearly 11 am and I was feeling guilty about not taking the opportunity to explore at least some of this city. But I was over being away and decided to catch up on the last few days of the blog. I decided to charge my iPad – unbelievable the plugs here use a different charger than the rest of Argentina that I have been to. The plug for Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia also did not work.  Fantastic I think, I have no phone and now no iPad as well. But thankfully the NZ plug worked.

Luckily I decided not to go touring as at midday the phone in my room rung and the Lan arranged transport had arrived 6 hours before my flight. I had to frantically repack as I had unpacked everything looking for the NZ charger plug. The ride to the airport went smoothly, not a lot of traffic. The hotel staff had said it was much quieter than usual as it is Christmas tomorrow, and lots of people have gone away or already started being on holiday. The international airport is in a totally different part of the city and usually is a bit of a nightmare getting between the two due to traffic.

There are hundreds of apartment buildings, most 20 levels high, stretching for ages after we left the city and got on the motorway. I guess in a city of 15 million there are too many people not to mostly live in apartment buildings. A number of apartment buildings had big grass areas out front.

I got to the airport just before 1pm, two hours before I could check in so I went to find a cafe that I could fit in with my bike box and bag. The airport today (and yesterday) had free wifi but it was pretty overloaded and took forever to send a simple email (up to 3 hours). If you moved a fraction it would log you off! I discovered (what most people know already) that for some reason Facebook messenger was much more likely to actually send and receive messages, so at least I could keep my children updated with progress with the various flights.

I needed to go to the bathroom, but as I had the bike box and bag I couldn’t go and leave them. Thankfully Brett arrived at the airport, so I was able to leave my box and bag with him. Unfortunately they clean a number of women’s toilets at the same time with a different cleaning crew. By the time I found the 4th and it was also being cleaned I was getting pretty desperate and pushed the cleaning trolley out of the way. The cleaning lady was not happy but let me through when I managed to convey to her that if she did not, she would have to clean the floor again!

Brett was flying home to Australia a day behind me, but due to my delay we were now on the same flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago.  At 3pm I was able to check my bag and bike box which made it much easier getting around the airport without lugging both of them around.

The plane to Santiago boarded and left on time. I managed to get a few glimpses of the Andes out the windows of either side. I was in the middle row of seats.

The connection at Santiago was fine, and I got to the boarding gate in plenty of time and the plane took off 😀😄😄😄😄

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23rd December 2015: Home time!

The day arrived to head home. I can’t wait to see family and friends, plus give Benji my dog a big hug. I will be travelling for close to 30 hours, 20 of it flying, to arrive 8am Christmas day.

I was a bit concerned that I had not had a message confirming my pick up time from the hotel. Rachel, my awesome travel agent, had already re-confirmed with them the day I arrived that I needed the pick up, but I had not heard from the company itself. I had tried ringing the number for Gateway Travel in Ushuaia a number of times and got an answer phone in Spanish. This morning a man answered the phone twice, but also only spoke Spanish.

I decided not to risk not being picked up so I asked the man at the hotel reception if he could book me transport to the airport that would take a bike box. We had the following conversation:
“It will not fit in a taxi” he said
“So who can we get instead?” I asked
“I do not know” he said
“So who could you ask?” I asked
“I do not know” he said
“There must be someone, you have had over 30 cyclists here, and a number have gone to the airport already” I said
*unhelpful shrug* was all I got in return.

At this point I realized he could speak Spanish, so asked him to ring Gateway Travel for me which he did. He told they have already confirmed, and I replied  that I have not had a message. “It is on the guest notice board” he said, which he points to in a corner of the lobby. I had walked past this numerous times, but as it was back against a wall I had not seen it. But that’s ok, I was just relieved to have the message now, and it says “10 am pick up from the hotel”.

Ready to go home!

Ready to go home!

At 9:50 am I was outside the hotel with my box and bag, and just after 10 a lady came up to me, she was the pick up person. She informed me she was just waiting for the car to arrive.
“Will it fit my bike box?” I ask.
“No” she said!
“I have to take it with me” I say. She says they did not know about the box. I say I am sure when the transport was booked over 6 months ago this would have been made clear by my travel agent. “So what do we do now? I have a plane to catch?”. She said she would ring her boss.

Then two big taxi trucks arrived, having been booked that morning by one of the TDA staff for the riders who had not booked anything. Their bikes and bags were all loaded. At this stage the “boss” has yet to answer his phone, and the taxi trucks are about to go. By now I am agitated and in tears, as I have lost any confidence with this agency and don’t want to miss my plane. I could imagine the next step would be the agency person saying: “I can not get hold of my boss”, me replying: “So what do we do now?” and then the agency person saying “I do not know”!!! So I decided to go with the bird in the hand and threw my bike box and bag onto the taxi truck, before it left me with possibly no options.

I got to the airport in good time and there was basically no queue to check in.

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Saying goodbye to Sue

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Bye bye, about to board

The plane boarded on time and I started to relax! Yay on my way home 😀😀.

Sadly we just sat on the tarmac, and after an hour disembarked. Then another 49 minutes we were told the plane was now cancelled due to mechanical issue 😬😬  So we had to get our luggage and go back to the check in counter. Of course bike boxes were the last thing to unload, and while I waited in the queue for nearly two hours I was thinking all the flights will be gone until the new year by the time I get to the counter 😂😂😂😂😂.

Thankfully the Lan staff were excellent and had someone rebooking long distance travellers from the moment the plane was cancelled. When I got to the counter my flights were booked, I just needed to confirm them, and I would now arrive home 24 hours later than planned.

My new flights were 9pm to Buenos Aires, stay overnight (what remained of it) and then fly to Santiago at 6pm, then Santiago to Auckland leaving at Mid night. An 11 hour flight getting into Auckland at 5:15am Boxing Day, and then into Wellington at 8:05am. I did have the option of staying tonight in Ushuaia and then flying to Buenos Aires tomorrow and getting a better sleep, but I did not want to risk the chance of getting stuck in Ushuaia due to bad weather tomorrow.

The next step was Lan sent me to a hotel to wait, which was nice as the airport was pretty small. Lunch was provided at the hotel, and wifi but it took forever to connect. It was pretty sad telling my children I was not going to be home for Christmas 😞 but better to have a plane with problems stay on the ground! I like to think that there were people who could not get flights home on standby who would now be able to.

We were given a taxi transfer chit and I asked when I got to the hotel for a return trip to be organized. The man at reception said come back at 6:30 and we will arrange then. Of course this man was not there at 6:30, and the young receptionist informed me I had no booking!
“I know that” I said “please can you arrange it for me?”
Off she went and came back 10 minutes later and confirmed “I had no booking”!!! Trying not to weep with frustration I said “please just ring me a taxi to the airport”. Luckily at this point Mark, (Chef from TDA) who also delayed on the same flight as me, intervened and spoke directly to the transfer people and arranged for us to be picked up.

Back to the airport, huge check in line, we were late boarding onto the plane but we finally took off! While I was waiting to board my cell phone died! It had got wet nearly a week ago, and has been threatening to die ever since. So of course why not now !!! 😬😬😬.

I arrived in Buenos Aires at 12:30 am, then had to get the bag and bike box, find the counter that deals with stranded Lan customers, get transport, and then to the hotel. It was 2:30 am by the time I got to my room.

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22nd December 2015: Day one in Ushuaia

Even though I could sleep in I was awake early. It was nice and sunny outside, and from the restaurant a great view of the harbor and snow capped mountains. Ushuaia is a lot bigger than I expected it to be.

The morning was spent finishing cleaning and sorting out stuff into 3 piles: Take home, give away (tyres and parts etc to Luis for his charitable foundation) and throw out. Then packing and boxing bikes.

Brett kindly boxed my bike for me and helped me get my bike box and bag onto the scales hanging off the truck. It was a balancing act getting the rope in the right place to weigh and support the bike box. Thankfully, unlike coming over, I am under the limit with the bag and box – Just! So I don’t have to cram heavy stuff into my carry on and try not to fall backwards whilst carrying it.

Then off into town for lunch. I found a nice fish restaurant, and had cod which was really fresh – still glistening – and a salad. I looked at a couple of shops but as always my tolerance for shopping was low. On the way back I stopped at the supermarket to get some cheese and crackers as a group of us are getting together at the hotel at 5pm to celebrate Jo and Nicks awesome achievement (EFI). Jo and her husband Nick are the first couple to ever have both achieved EFI on a trip together.

We met in the bar at the hotel at 5pm which was deserted apart from us, but were not allowed to drink the champagne Jo and Nick won the night before, as the champagne had not been bought there. Fair enough I can understand that, so we moved to an alcove up a hallway. What I don’t get though is they refused to let us use any glasses to drink the champagne out of, even though we offered to pay for cleaning! Poor Jo this was just about the final straw!

But not to worry, we are TDA riders used to being resourceful. Fred got 6 beer glasses from the upstairs bar whilst the staff were busy guarding the downstairs bar, and a couple of us had beer glasses in our room from the afternoon before, and I have a glass that I use at camp rather than plastic so we made do.

The hotel staff also refused to let TDA use a hose to clean equipment, and when taking messages for guests, instead of putting into the pigeonhole with the room key and giving to you when you came back for the key, they put them on a notice board they hadn’t told you about!

The hotel staff attitude demonstrates what I found in a number of places here. This is where the cruise ships leave to go to Antartica, so there are numerous cruises and the main income here is tourism, so you would think they had some awareness of being helpful. However I am not sure if it is the culture here, or just a lack of awareness, but the general attitude of the service staff is not to be helpful. My thoughts are, if they are aware it is based on the belief that the majority of people who come here:
1. Need to come here to get onto a cruise and after
2. They won’t come back again any way so it does not matter how you treat them
(the Lan airline staff are an exception to this they were excellent).

I went into town after towards and picked up a couple of additional small presents to give Xavier and Lucy, and then had grilled lamb for dinner and off back to the hotel to bed. I was feeling tired due to the late night last night, waking up early, and excited about heading home tomorrow.

Unfortunately another group of TDA staff and riders were also not allowed to drink wine late at night in the totally deserted restaurant or lobby, so they also used the alcove in the hall which was unfortunately right outside my room!  It had poor sound proofing so I was awake for awhile.

Puerto Ushuaia

Puerto Ushuaia

Categories: Argentina, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Our final celebration song!

I spent the last bit of the ride planning a song for the end of ride celebrations. Below are the words to the song (from Sue’s Facebook page), the song was sung by Sue, Brett, Linda, Ray, and with guest appearance by Rolph .

“Where do we begin, to tell the story of how great the trip has been…
(Sure you can guess what tune that is sung to….)

On the first day of cycling our Leader said to us….
Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud
Nothing quite like it
While Riding Your Bike
(again, sure you can guess the two tunes we used for this)

On the second day of cycling our Leader said to us…
You love Gravel, You love Mud
You love taxis, cars and buses
Yes You Do, Yes You Do
and You Cherish Climbing
and You Relish Raindrops
Thunder too, Yes You Do
(sung to Frere Jacques)

On the third day of cycling our Leader said to us…
Climb every Mountain
Ford every Stream
Follow Orange Flagging
Until you find the Camp
(sung to ‘Climb every Mountain’)

‘Bikes to the Lunch Truck’ (shouted out by Ray)

On the fourth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
One Night in a Rainstorm
No tent for Her Bed
A little soaked Cathy
Layed down her damp head
(sung to Away in a Manger)

On the fifth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
The Wheels on the Bus go round and round,
Round and Round, Round and Round
The Wheels on the Bus go round and round…
(Hiss, Hiss)
Oh Bugger, Another Puncture……

On the sixth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
You want to Ride your Bicycle
You want to Ride your Bike
You want to Ride your Bicycle
You want to Ride it Where You Like…
Ring, Ring
Ring, Ring (cycle bell used)
(sung to Queen)

‘Last Call for the Lunch Truck’ (shouted out by Ray)

On the seventh day of cycling our Leader said to us…
On this tour there are lots of dogs
ee-eye-ee-eye-oh
with a Lick your Balls here
and drag your Bum there
Here a bite, There a Growl
Everywhere a Bark, Bark
TDA are here on Tour
ee-eye-ee-eye-oh
(Sung to ‘Oh MacDonald had a Farm’)

On the eighth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
Drip…Drop Drip…Drop Drip…Drop
You’re Cycling in the Rain
Just Cycling in the Rain
What a Glorious Feeling
You’re Soaking Again
We’re laughing at the Clouds
So Dark Up Above
The Sun is in Our Heart
and We’re Ready to Ride
(Sung to ‘Singing in the Rain’)

On the ninth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken Noodle Soup
Will be at camp today
With a Coffee and a Tea

‘Riders Meeting’ (shouted out by Ray)

On the tenth day of cycling our Leader said to us…
Always Look on the Bright side of Life
de de, de de de de de de
Always Look on the Bright side of Life
de de, de de de de de de

On the eleventh day of cycling our Leader said to us…
(I talked this one through with the ‘chorus’ line sung to ‘and a partridge in a pear tree’)
You have had…
a 4,000m mountain pass
altitude
a small grey dog
‘ …and you left the Pacific Sea’

You have been…
to the Amazon Rainforest
and Ridden the Trampoline of Death
Had the Rubic Cube party
‘ …been delayed by Protestors and the Military’

You have seen…
a 70km Climb
altitude, alpacas
Nasca lines, Lake Camp, Titicaca
‘ …and floating islands as far as the eye could see’

‘Dinner is Ready’ (shouted out by Ray)

You have passed…
snow capped mountains
roadblocks with woman and children
freezing cold mornings, sunny days
volcanos
endless windy salt flats
the half way party
‘ …and cacti as big as trees’

You have had…
vineyards, camp dogs
lightning, rain, thunder and floods
a snowy mountain Mando day
gravel, stunning views and scenery
‘ …and Team Challenge Number 3
(Sue sang the following to ‘It’s Not What You Do but the Way That You Do It’ while Rolph performed his much applauded Michael Jackson Moonwalk dance …)
‘It’s Not What You Do but the Way that You Do It
It’s Not What You Do but the Way that You Do It
It’s Not What You Do but the Way that You Do It
That’s What Gets Results’

You have had…
more gravel
tunnels, mountain passes
border crossings, wine, massive down hills
the Carretera Austral, Patagonian forest
‘ …and lots of ferries’

On the twelfth day of Cycling our Leader said to us…
‘Bugger off’
(shouted by Cristiano, Tour Leader)
‘ …it’s the end of your journey’

So we’re leaving on a jet plane
Don’t Know When We’ll Be Back Again
Oh, How We Hate to Go

‘Open Kitchen’ (shouted out by Ray)”

Categories: Argentina, South American Epic | 2 Comments

Day 164/164: Tolhun to Ushuaia – 104km

Climbing 1460 meters and down 1560. No gravel apart from first couple of kilometres. Convoy last 4 kilometres into town.

It is hard to believe but after nearly six months the last riding day has arrived! There was frost on the grass this morning, but otherwise it was not too cold.

We have all been worried by the possible head wind today so wanted to set off early but unfortunately the TDA staff member responsible for getting the water boiling etc slept in (I suspect they may have partied on after we all went to bed last night, and why not).

Pretty scenery with a lovely lake and snow capped mountains again. Easy riding to lunch, a few rolling hills and one last 6 kilometre climb but it was not steep. The mountain pass we climbed was protecting us from the wind.

Last mountain pass of the trip, Passo Garibaldi. Coming up from Lago Fagnano and dropping down to the Beagle Channel (Photo credit: Brett's Facebook page)

Last mountain pass of the trip, Passo Garibaldi. Coming up from Lago Fagnano and dropping down to the Beagle Channel (Photo credit: Brett’s Facebook page)

The lunch included a number of treats not normally seen such as a cheese platter and biscuits.

lunch

I did not stay around long as I got really cold having just climbed the 6 kilometres, and there was a bit of a wind as well. Also I was a bit worried that although the morning had been all right with the wind, any moment we could run into the Patagonian wind in all its glory and be down to 8 kilometres an hour.

Unbelievable very little wind, lots of up and downs but nothing significant, and despite the busy traffic the other drivers were tolerant of having to share the road – apart from one truck driver.

Suddenly I was there at the sign to Ushuaia! However I could not quite remember where the convoy meeting place was. I had arrived first so I biked a couple of kilometres into the town, then decided I had gone too far. The traffic was even more crazy, so was on my way back when Cristiano and the yellow trucks passed me coming back from town also. The meeting place was by the sign at the start of town so I rode back up there. By this time other riders started coming in. Lots of laughter, cheers, photos etc.

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Riding into Ushuaia! 

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The Survivors that made it to Ushuaia! 

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The gals that rode all the way from Cartagena to Ushuaia! 

Once everyone was together and the police escorts had arrived we convoyed in. It was great having the police blocking off the road, and just riding straight through.

Waiting for the convoy to start

Waiting for the convoy to start

We had the finishing line down at the wharf and had some sparkling wine, photos and speeches.

tda

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We were so luckily with the weather sunny and very little wind. We all had an individual photo and when it was my turn a dog appeared and got into the photo with me. There was also another dog that came and sat with me when we had the group photo coming into Ushuaia before it raced off back to its usual occupation chasing the cars as they left Ushuaia.

Me and my friendly dog

Me and my friendly dog

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I made it! All the way to Ushuaia!

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Waving the finish line flag! 

Brett and I at the finish line

Brett and me at the finish line

Then off to the hotel with the police escort. The hotel was on a hill with a steep climb, which we all thought was a fitting end for the last few kilometres of the ride.

Our hotel in Ushuaia

Our hotel in Ushuaia 

We all got cleaned up and started the process of cleaning and sorting gear to pack. Then off to the final dinner. The usual speeches and presentations for race winners, and those nine riders who had EFI (ridden every frickin inch of the trip). Plus photos etc.

We did our item which went down quite well. It did not seem late but it was 12:30 by the time the speeches/ presentations and dinner was over. Of course dinner did not start until 8pm, still early in South American time to eat.

Then back to the hotel to sleep, and no more riding!

Christiano and

Christiano and Ana (TDA staff)

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Day 163/164: Rio Grande to Tolhuin / Lake Fango – 117km

594 kilometres climbing and 675 kilometres down. No gravel 😀😀😀

The first 65 kilometres were fantastic riding: fine weather, a tail wind, nice coastal views and rolling hills. In two and a half hours I was at the lunch truck. I was thinking at this rate I will be at camp nice and early. In a happy frame of mind I got back on my bike and got a couple of minutes down the road and sadly no more riding that day for my bike. I had a broken spoke and the wheel was wobbling! Not sure how it happened as it was fine all morning and I had checked my spokes before I left. Luis said he would be able to fix it at camp tonight so I will be able to ride it on the final riding day tomorrow. So for the second time this week I rode into camp on the lunch truck 😕.

Leaving Rio Grande (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Leaving Rio Grande (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Down towards Lago Faguamo (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Down towards Lago Fango (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

We camped at the side of a large lake called Lake Fango, at a camp made entirely out of recycled stuff. There are also some bottle trees which I was quite taken with. The tree is made out of a thick round piece of wood and then has big nails driven into it which the bottles go on. The owner has also made a theme park for children out of recycled stuff.

Bottle tree

Bottle tree

Receycled camp

Receycled camp

Camp!

Camp!

Having a look around I think NZ Heath and Safety inspectors would immediately shut it down. Dotted around the camp are wooden teepees and other wooden buildings like sheds that we could put our tents up in. Given how windy it can get, and that rain was possible, I slept in a tent in one. The shed was titled “Kaye’s hutch”.

"Kaye's Hutch"

“Kaye’s Hutch”

Jo's camp in the wind shelter (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Jo’s camp in the wind shelter (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The lake is very pretty and there were a few other people staying at the camp ground. I saw people fishing but I did not see anyone swimming in it. There were a number of camp dogs sleeping around the place. A couple of dogs were quite well hidden in hollows in the ground that gave them good protection from the wind.

As we are staying at recycle camp we had been asked to dress up, with the theme of course being recycling. I spent the afternoon working on the item we are going to do at the end of ride party, and then threw something together for my recycling costume.

Me, Luis and Brett, in our costumes

Me, Luis and Brett, in our costumes

me and Rolf

Me and Rolf

Our last camp (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Our last camp (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The last supper! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The last supper! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Brett washing dishes one last time (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Brett washing dishes one last time (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Sue and I have worked on a song based on the 12 days of Christmas song tune, but instead “On the twelve days of our cycling tour, our leader gave to me”. Don’t worry those of you who have heard me singing, I am not going to be singing. We have recruited three of the other riders plus Sue to sing.

Tonight we had presentations and rider awards – I was awarded the Tour Nona (means grandma), for always looking after everyone on the tour, such as making sure they had warm clothes and medicine when they needed it.

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Receiving my award

We watched a slide show that Britten from TDA had put together looking back over the past five and an half months. We have certainly done and seen some pretty awesome things.
Last night in a tent tonight 😀

Final campsite (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Final campsite (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Final sunset, over Lago

Final sunset, over Lago Fango

Categories: Argentina, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Day 162/164: Bush camp to Rio Grande – 123km

400 meters climbing and 400 down

Thankfully when we woke up the wind had dropped, it was no longer raining, and the day was warmer. I put plastic bags over my feet to stop the wet shoes making my feet cold.

Today we had our last border crossing whilst riding. We crossed back out of Chile and into Argentina for the last few days of the trip.

There was wet and muddy gravel for the first 42 kilometres, and my coat, helmet, bike and me got covered in mud.  The gravel was mostly hard packed so managed to ride along quite quickly.

Until the border there was really no wind and then after that was mostly a side wind.

Final border crossing, now into Argentina for the last time!

Final border crossing, now into Argentina for the last time!

There were some climbs, but also some nice down hills. The shoulders were not good for riding on as they were thick gravel so I tried to stay on the road as much as possible. However a few motorists took exception. even when there were no cars coming the other way and tooted angrily at us. Cristiano told us at camp that at least one motorist had rung the local police to complain that “We were riding dangerously”.

I move onto the shoulder/ gravel if there is a truck coming towards me or if I can hear one behind me, but if you stayed on it all the time you would add hours to your day.  One local cyclist riding ahead of me moved onto the gravel when a truck was passing, and then skidded and somersaulted down the grass bank. Thankfully he was not hurt although his bike was bent a bit. He was really strong and was able to bend his forks back, get the handle bars that were twisted untwisted, and kicked the gear shifters back into place, so was able to ride off again.

We camped on the outskirts of town at a camp ground which had two toilets and one shower, but no shelter to sit in but luckily the weather was fine. I was able to get my tent, my gloves and my sleeping bag dry. My shoes are dry from riding today, but I will continue with the plastic bags as they certainly help keep out the wind.

Categories: Argentina, Chile, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Day 155/164: El Cerrito to Cerro Castillo – 119km

Climbing 663 meters, and down 1110

What a day! To start off I nearly had a serious injury falling into a pit in the shed, where TDA had set up breakfast. When I came in the door I was busy concentrating on the table and the line, and never even saw the pit in the floor until I stepped back into it. Luckily I was just shook up and not hurt, but my porridge and cup of tea went everywhere!

We started early today as the direction we had to go was into the head wind all day.

The start of a very bad day! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The start of a very bad day! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

I was on my bike at 7am and didn’t get to the Chile border until 5:45! The first 84 kilometres today was gravel, mostly loose and treacherous, made worse by the wind. Thankfully there was not a lot of traffic on this road.

It was so cold I had on:
2 hats (one that covered half of my face and one a thermal skull cap)
2 pairs of gloves
Long johns top and bottom
Ice breaker singlet
Riding top
Long and short riding pants
Two pairs of socks, and a plastic bag over both feet inside the shoes to try and keep some heat in, and stop the wind and gravel getting in.

The road never ends  (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The road never ends (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Within 2 kilometres of the gravel I saw a skunk flash across the road, then later I saw what I thought was an armadillo, and talking to one of the riders later it turns out they are here so it most probably was. I also saw some flamingos on a lake.

Highlight of the day: flamingos

Highlight of the day: flamingos

It was bleak and miserable, and took six and a half hours to ride the 84 kilometres to lunch. After lunch we had tarmac and even though it was still a head wind I thought it would be faster, but it turned out that it wasn’t. The average speed for the first 20 kilometres was 8 kilometres an hour.

The traffic was dreadful and you could not hear it behind you, and the wind kept trying to sweep you out onto the road. With 35 kilometres to go I was thinking “I know I can do this, but why is it that I want to?”. Just then Cristiano drove past and I got a lift with him 11 kilometres to the turn off to the Argentina border.

The road to the border crossing was 6 kilometres of gravel, but thankfully it was side wind, not a headwind. It was getting colder and colder even with all the clothing I had on.

At the border checkpoint, this is where we are!  (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

At the border checkpoint, this is where we are! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

After the Argentina border there was another 7 kilometres of gravel to the Chile border. It started to rain and I thought this is going to be a really miserable end to a pretty miserable day, but thankfully then the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped.

There was a nice warm cafe at the Chilean border, then only one kilometre to camp.

Border Cafe in Chile

Border Cafe in Chile

We were staying in a local’s backyard. Goodness only knows how Cristiano manages to come up with the places we stay. Cristiano has got a charming nature, and we often see him doing what we call “Smoothing the locals”, and he has them smiling and chatting.

There is no camp ground here, and the next big town is 62 kilometres away, too far to manage on top of today’s ride. Cristiano just arrives in a town, goes into a shop and starts chatting and then says “So do you think there is anyone in town who might like to rent out their backyard for the night to some cyclists?”. I bet he doesn’t mention the number of cyclists initially.

At the place we stayed they had some really cute blood hound puppies. It was really cold over night, minus 4 degrees, and we had frost on our tents.

Blood hound puppies!

Blood hound puppies!

Blood hound Mum and puppy  (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Blood hound Mum and puppy (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

Categories: Argentina, Chile, South American Epic | 1 Comment

Day 151/164: Rest day One in El Chalten

I slept reasonably well, but was sore and stiff from carrying and pushing my bike the day before. I also have a number of bruises on my legs from the pedal hitting it while I was pushing the bike.

This town is the tourist destination for the mountains Cerroa Torre 3,133 meters and Fitzroy 3,405 meters.

Everything is horrendously expensive and to add to it the one ATM in town is out of money, and most places will not accept credit cards. The bank was shut, even though hours on the door said it should be open (I found out later that today was part of a four day National holiday).

Luckily the hostel exchanges USD dollars for Argentinean. The hostel no doubt likes the arrangement where the restaurants don’t take cards, and the ATM is out of money, as they get the exchange fee.

I did not do a lot today. Had lunch, dinner, looked around a couple of shops, and napped. I made the mistake of forgetting what Argentinean pizza was like, and went across the road to the pizza place for dinner.  Very uninspiring: tasteless cheese, cold ham, and cold olives, thankfully no grated egg on top.  The hostel also takes care of the laundry so did not have to wander around trying to find somewhere to get it gone.

Very pleased that we have a second rest day tomorrow.

The two mountains make a stunning backdrop to the town.

Nick and Jo in the town (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Nick and Jo in the town (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

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Day 150/164: Villa O Higgins to El Chalten – 63km

Climbing 940 meters and down 800.

Today we had to get up early at 5:30 am to have breakfast, get packed up, and ride 8 kilometres to the first ferry by 7am. The first ferry ride was about 5 hours.

Along the lake this morning (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Along the lake this morning (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Onto the boat

Onto the boat

Getting on to our first ferry

Getting on to our first ferry

Lots of snow capped mountains, a couple of glaciers, and some icebergs. I got really seasick once we were on the open water, but thankfully it calmed down again as soon as we got near to the other side.

Once we got off the ferry we had to push our bikes up about 5 kilometres of steep, loose, slippery gravel to the Chile Border.

Getting ready to hike up the track to the border (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Getting ready to hike up the track to the border (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Impossible gravel (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Impossible gravel (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

It took over an hour for us to get through, then we had 22 kilometres across country, through gravel and mud swamp, across rivers, balancing on logs to get across rivers, down steep hills, and about 2 kilometres in total that I could ride. I carried my bike quite a bit as well as pushing and pulling it. Coming down a steep descent, I was imagining my daughter Lizzy whizzing down with a great big grin on her face.

Gravel beyond our capabilities

Gravel beyond our capabilities

Landslide on the way

Landslide on the way

Bike walking . . . it's the latest sport

Bike walking . . . it’s the latest sport

Jo carrying her bike over a log

Jo carrying her bike over a log

River crossing!

River crossing!

Lots of mud!

Lots of mud!

Log riding!

And even more mud!

Typical section of the track

Typical section of the track

Not too keen to ride along that one

Not too keen to ride along that one

Treacherous track

Treacherous track

Getting through the Argentinean border was really quick. Then it was a wait for the ferry.

Checkpoint - No long queues of tourist coaches here! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Checkpoint – No long queues of tourist coaches here! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Checkpoint with a view! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Checkpoint with a view! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The 4pm ferry arrived at 5pm, and initially it looked like a number of people would have to wait for the ferry (45 min each way, plus turn around time) to go back and forth again. This would have meant it would be nearly 7pm before we got to the other side. It was cold and most people did not have enough clothing to sit around for a couple of hours. The only shelter had only one wall and a roof, we were all huddled under it. Luckily everyone was able to squeeze onto this sailing (including the four cyclists who were not in our group, whose 10am sailing just never arrived).

Almost at the next ferry (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Almost at the next ferry (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

The ferry approaches

The ferry approaches

The ferry crossing - beautiful views

The ferry crossing – beautiful views

Glacier above the lake (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Glacier above the lake (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

As it was, it was 6pm by the time we got our bikes off on the other side. Then we had another 37 kilometres of loose slippery thick gravel.

El Chaten appears (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

El Chaten appears (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

It was 8:30pm by the time I got into El Chalten. Then I had to find accommodation as TDA had organized a tent site for these rest days, and the tent site looked bleak and cold, and it was really windy.

Luckily I found a room with an ensuite at the next door hostel. Very expensive though, as I was to discover this was the same throughout this town ($400 USD) for 3 nights. Imagine if I stayed at one of the flash hotels. By the time I had got my bags from the campsite into the hostel and showered it was nearly 10pm. By this time I was so tired I decided that as I still had one of the 6 sandwiches left, I would have that for dinner and fall into bed.

Categories: Argentina, Chile, South American Epic | 1 Comment