24.12.2005 - 23.1.2006|
Day Date Trip Time Speed Climb Alti Total Accom Notes (daily end-stop) *** Avr Max d/m km h:m km/h km/h m m km 0 24/12 0 0:0 0.0 0.0 0 300 0 a Ljubljana-Paris-Santiago 1 25/12 66 4:22 15.1 49.6 665 642 66 w Santiago-Balmaceda, Puerto Ibanez -20km 2 26/12 27 1:29 18.1 53.7 72 314 92 w Chile Chico +2km 3 27/12 67 7:30 9.0 29.8 382 333 160 w Puerto Guadal -50km 4 28/12 98 8:44 11.2 31.2 490 240 257 w Puerto Tranquilo 5 29/12 76 6:49 11.2 29.6 503 518 333 w Villa Cerro Castillo -47km 6 30/12 141 9:25 15.0 65.6 984 350 475 h Coihaique 7 31/12 90 5:10 17.4 61.4 199 190 565 h Manihuales 8 1/1 85 8:05 10.6 39.9 272 132 650 w Puyuhuapi -50km 9 2/1 75 6:52 10.9 29.3 649 152 725 w Puyuhuapi +10km 10 3/1 87 7:52 11.1 27.0 204 215 812 w Villa St. Lucia -20km 11 4/1 91 7:49 11.7 32.5 775 453 904 h Futaleufu 12 5/1 77 5:59 12.8 32.9 466 707 980 w Los Alerces 13 6/1 109 8:36 12.7 40.9 541 777 1089 w Epuyen -10km 14 7/1 17 0:57 17.4 33.2 0 414 1106 c Epuyen 15 8/1 172 9:57 17.3 49.3 1512 907 1278 h San Carlos de Bariloche 16 9/1 143 7:26 19.2 55.8 266 694 1421 w Junin d.l. Andes -70km 17 10/1 124 7:44 16.1 52.5 869 1002 1545 w Zapala -160km 18 11/1 158 8:01 19.7 52.5 839 1050 1703 h Zapala 19 12/1 203 10:32 19.3 51.5 387 846 1906 w Chos Malal -15km 20 13/1 124 6:33 18.9 53.0 1150 1049 2030 w Barrancas -5km 21 14/1 112 8:36 13.1 50.2 1167 1282 2142 w Bardas Blancas -50km 22 15/1 97 7:10 13.6 47.3 846 1428 2240 h Malargue 23 16/1 185 9:45 18.9 44.3 186 687 2424 c San Rafael 24 17/1 129 6:58 18.5 30.0 857 973 2553 h San Carlos 25 18/1 125 7:09 17.5 52.8 786 1477 2678 h Potrerillos 26 19/1 117 7:16 16.1 53.5 1253 2548 2795 h Penitentes 27 20/1 94 5:18 17.8 51.6 582 365 2889 h Los Andes 28 21/1 118 7:23 16.0 37.9 498 365 3007 h Santiago 29 22/1 0 0:0 0.0 0.0 0 65 3007 a Santiago-Paris 30 23/1 0 0:0 0.0 0.0 0 300 3007 a Paris-Ljubljana
Days Trip Time Speed Climb Alti Avr Max km h:m km/h km/h m m 31 3007 199:27 - - 17398 - Sum 26 2963 197:01 - - 17326 - Sum, cycling days - 203 10:32 19.7 65.6 1512 2548 MAX, cycling days - 66 4:22 9.0 27.0 186 132 min, cycling days 31 97 6:26 13.8 40.0 621 672 average per day 26 114 7:35 15.0 44.3 667 746 average per cycling day 7 86 7:45 11.1 31.5 468 384 average, only R roads 12 141 7:50 17.9 48.7 765 997 average, only A & B roads 31 53% 46% 40% 42% 61% 78% variation per day 26 32% 19% 22% 25% 53% 72% variation per cycling day 7 17% 10% 10% 14% 43% 57% variation, only R roads 12 23% 19% 7% 16% 53% 58% variation, only A & B roads
*** Legend 12 17/8 - cycling day 13 18/8 - non cycling or rest day Trip - daily cycling distance Time - daily cycling time (while in motion) Speed - daily cycling speed (while in motion): Avr - average; Max - maximal. Climb - daily cumulative altitude gain (registered manually) Alti - altitude at the end of the day Total - cumulative distance Accom - accommodation: a: airplane; h: ho(s)tel; f: at a family; c: camp; w: wild camping variation - is defined as the ratio: standard deviation/average
|The first sound to be noticed stepping out of the Coihaque's airport hall at Balmaceda was the hissing of the wind. There are very few occasions when I like the wind and this was certainly not the one. First wheel revolutions of the tour are always awkward, more so if there's considerable headwind, wobbling luggage clumsily tied to the rack and front derailleur which denied obedience. 10 km further, when I begun to get a hold of the equipment, I met the first cyclist. He was a German bound for the same destination as me, but had missed the turn-off and was now cycling to the Balmaceda airport. After a careful examination of the maps we proceeded together, but soon we discovered we were not compatible pace-wise and I went forward in my first day of what was to become a very hectic tour without a true rest day. Much to my surprise I found out the next day that the German had cycled through the night and had come to Puerto Ibanez before me. I came in the morning and the ferry to Chile Chico was parting in the evening, which was not too bad, because the next ferry was 2 days later.|
Hell started the next day on the road along the south shore of the lake General
Carrera. Beside the very bad road and steep climbs and descends my arms were
burned by unexpectedly hot weather and most of the day I cycled in rain
jacket. That evening I wrote in my diary that hardships of this road were not
worth the few sightings of the dramatic vastness of Lago Carrera. In the
comfort of my home now, I'm inclined to be of different opinion.
In the following days I started to get a grip of the gravel Carretera Austral. The climbs were not a particular problem and the descends which at first I took slowly, pushing the brake levers to the bar, were becoming increasingly quick and bold and soon I felt like a gaucho on a Sunday rodeo. On the third day I was confident enough to name my bike 'Rey del ripio'. The one thing I couldn't stand though was ridiculously steep lateral inclination of the road in the turns - as if the drivers were driving through turns at 200 kmh.
That's my bike fully loaded at left.
My luggage attracted lot of attention and astonishment
and the questions like
"You must be on a day trip, right?" were quite frequent.
The picture to the right shows how it looked like from the wheel perspective. The cyclists I met were shaking their heads in disbelief when they looked at my tyres. Sooooo narrow! Have you actually ridden the Carretera? The fork was another thing. I was advised to sign my will before the trip if I intended to cycle on carbon fork. "Catastrophic failure", "razor sharp", "face plant", were few keywords that I got when inquiring about touring on this type of fork. I must say I was a bit intimidated, so I put a piece of bubble wrap around the fork as a protection from stones. Interestingly, the only question about the bike I got from the local people was: "Is it a carbon fibre frame?".
I stubbornly thought that I'll make this trip without any mechanical problems. But life is full of surprises. The pleasant one was that I had no punctures on the whole tour - I think it's first time ever. The less pleasant was a story of a broken plate. 700 km from the start of the tour I heard annoying squeaking sound coming from the rear wheel. The inspection revealed that a steel plate, which was used to attach the rack to seat-stays, had cracked in two. More embarrassing was the fact that I designed this plate myself and had tested it by sitting with full weight on the rack - the rack held good. I had 73 kg at that time and could give my right hand that the luggage on the rack - at most 5 kg or less than 1/14 of my weight - even when dynamically accelerated could not make any damage. Wrong! Temporary solution was easy - nylon band wound between the rack and the frame, and final solution was made in Puyuhuapi where a mechanic made a copy of the plate, this time 3 times thicker and in aluminium.
|I camped half of the nights. The tent was not space technology, it seemed to be from the family "Hydrofiliidae", ie. "the one that loves the water so much that it's always full of it". On this tour it suffered from the bad disease of disintegration. On the 4th night a pole broke, but it wasn't something a duck tape couldn't fix. On the 6th morning one peg (out of four) disappeared in the grass and the next morning another peg flew miraculously from my hand and again disappeared in the grass. On the 9th night - or 8th morning, it is not clear - the broken part of the pole disappeared. Luckily, I had a bicycle, and used it as an extension of the pole. It was my (unintended) version of Bikecamper.|
|A person can be classified by the amount of time he or she can spend sitting idly in a closed tent on a rainy day. I fall into 1 hour category. That morning, after waiting one hour for the rain to stop, I had it over the head, packed in the rain and started cycling with a firm determination do make 180 km to San Carlos de Bariloche this day. 10 km later, battered by the wind-swept rain at 10 degrees C and soaking wet, I hastily retreated to the Epuyen's petrol station cafe. It took me 2 hours to stop shaking and another 6 hours of gazing through the window (left picture), drinking innumerable coffees and praying for the rain to stop probably made me one of the legendary guests of this cafe. But even the Murphy gives up sometimes, so at 18:30 the clouds started to part and the rain ceased enough for me to jump on a bike and make 6 shivering kms to the nearest campsite. In the evening I was sitting by the fire in the camp's cantina together with other campers, well fed, dry and almost unpleasantly warm and couldn't stop wondering about the strange ways a day can turn for a lonely cyclist.|
|The next day was a revenge day - I managed to cycle to San Carlos de Bariloche. In other terms also this was an exceptional day. After relatively flat and fast riding of some 50 km I came to El Bolson where I enjoyed the coffee at the petrol station's store - a habit that continued to the end of this trip. After El Bolson the climbing starts and culminates at the triple pass, each climb of about 10 km followed by fast descent almost to the starting altitude. The excellent smooth road and nice alpine atmosphere made this a fantastic ride. Many cyclist were coming in the opposite direction, but they were so frequent now that we didn't stop to chat any more. The wind turned my way some 30 km before Bariloche and I stopped to adjust the front derailleur to be able to swing the chain onto the big ring - I didn't bother to do this before, having no need of a big ring so far. In Bariloche I started a search for a room, a task that turned out to be very frustrating. In the 20 or so hotels that I asked in I got two similar answers: "todo completo" and "we're full". To make thing worse it was raining all the time and some high-end hotel staff were unhappy to see a man in cycling shorts and overshoes hanging for a short time around reception, leaving wet trail on their precious carpets. When my mind was preparing to accept the thought of overnighting at the doorstep of some pub, the luck stoke and I got a beautiful room with such luxuries as shower, towel, soap, toilet paper and TV. The ending of this day inevitably called for a celebration with a big dinner and a beer in the pub around the corner.|
The guy on the left, a swiss by the name Andreas Ulrich who was in his third
year of round-the-world bicycle trip, happened to had cycled in Tibet with a
slovenian Zlatko Kampuš, a person whom I met and who gave me valuable advice
for my China tour in 2005, but from whom I also recieved photos from his Tibet
trip and among them there were two photos of a certain unknown cyclist, the
cyclist who now revealed himself to be the very swiss Andreas Ulrich starring
at the begining of this sentence. Everybody whom I told this story exclaimed
"Small world". And it's true only if you cycle it.
The young cyclist on the right is a chilean who started his trip northbound, but changed the direction after meeting Andreas, partly because of more favorable wind, but probably also to learn few tricks from the master.
The dirt road of Carretera Austral undoubtedly had its attraction both
scenary- and adrenalin-wise, but so did totaly different smooth roads of
Argentina's pampas. Whoever thinks that pampa is a synonym for a flat, straight
road extending to the horizon is in error. There are enough ups and downs to
fill any climber's dream. The top of the passes also don't find themselves at
the most logical location - just around the bend as I expected on this picture
- but rather few kms further up, down and again uphill.
The wind however is to be expected, as expected. It comes in the form of headwind - very bad, lateral wind - just as bad, and tailwind - quite good, but frequently unrecognizable. One of the big mistakes that I made this time was not to bring the compass. If I did, I could once for all end the tedious discussion of whether the wind in South America blows predominantly from the north or from the south. Without the compass it was impossible to tell.
I identified the fox-like creature on the picture to be Colpeo Zorro (Dusicyon
culpaeus). It came to my camp when I was away, busy searching for few stones
to prevent my disintegrating tent to be blown away by Patagonian winds. It
didn't seem to be bothered by my presence and was going on its business
chewing the bushes here, sitting down to scratch its fur there. I obviously
interrupted him in raiding my tent and he was just hanging around in case I go
away again - vain hope as I had only a couple of chocolate cookies for
dinner. Other creatures I saw were: a skunk (Conepatus humboldtii), nandu or
lesser rhea (Pterocnemia pennata), burrowing parrots (Cyanoliseus patagonus)
always in a noisy company of 6, ringed kingfisher (Ceryle torquata),
buff-headed ibis (Theristicus caudatus) - frequent companions which amused me
with their trumpeting - and always present southern lapwing
I also run over a snake. I spotted the thin white creature too late to do anything else then roll over it - and lift my feet.
After the first week riding the Carretera I realized a fantastic fact that there were no mosquitoes - incredible fact with regard to all that water around. The horseflies probably ate them all. Just as I started to enjoy this fortunate fact I was harassed by a lonely mosquito during the night stay in a hotel in Zapala.
|The pass between Mendoza and Santiago - the famous routa 7 on argentinian side and 60 on chilean side - is rather unfortunate choice for a cyclist. While it undoubtedly has fine scenery and excellent highlights as Puente del Inca (left) and Aconcagua, it's also infested by a great percent of the Argentina-Chile trade. A big truck passes every 2.4 minutes, cars and buses filling the gap in between. The road is accordingly in decay, as usually the worst at the rightmost edge where a cyclist is squeezing, hoping not to be run over by drivers who are always in a hurry. They all seem to congregate at the same time at the chilean immigration post, which is a bureaucracy nightmare for someone not fluent in Spanish. On a previous tour I passed the Andes at Paso Agua Negra. Although a gravel road and much higher (4780 m) it (or similar passes north up) would always be my choice.|
|Since I became committed to 'ultra-light' touring, it was necessary to take a (rather ridiculous) step further and make pictures of myself lifting the fully equipped bike above the head. This time I had chosen a particularly convenient spot: above me in the distance conoseurs will easily recognize Aconcagua - the highest mountain outside Himalaya.|
|I had a pleasure of meeting Alberto Rios, nick-named Juje, at Puente del Inca. An argentinian from the region of Jujuy, he was a professional racing cyclist in his young days and a strong veteran presently. He was aiming to Vina del Mar and me to Santiago, so we joined forces for part of the way. He was much stronger than me on the climbs - having only 2 front rings he would spent most of the climbs on the pedals and soon I could observe him just as a point in the distance. His professional habit of indicating by hand the potholes, cracks and other dangers of the road to the following cyclist(s) made for a remarkably pleasant ride. The picture was taken in Los Andes where we shared the room before parting each along his own path.|
|The problem of packing the bike for a return trip started to haunt me early into this tour. While it was just a brief, passing thought in the beginning, it stoke by full force when I approached Santiago. The solution was, however, rather easy. The hotel I stayed in supplied some cardboard boxes (inevitably from China) and in the morning of the return flight I spent few sweaty hours in producing something that very much resembled a cubist's sketch of a bicycle. Since I packed the bike so that it could be wheeled around (forward only, to be honest) it was not just an artwork, it was a true installation, which few inhabitants of Santiago had the chance to enjoy on Sunday morning, 22nd of January 2006. The final surprise occurred at Santiago airport when Air France supplied a bike box and my artwork was put inside it, making a return trip for the bike double secure.|