All of a sudden, Ville started wildly jabbering in Finnish, flailing his arms, waving his cell phone around, acting like a mad man and then the drunk patted Ville on the back trying to calm him down and stumbled away.
Happy Holidays friends, family, and followers! Hope this reaches you all enjoying heaps of food with your wacky family with some time away from work. We are, as per usual, still plugging away heading south and zig-zagging between Argentina and Chile. We have had a very rough stretch, with some terrible luck in weather, but are hoping our luck is turning around really soon.
South of Mendoza was, guess what? A bunch more boring desert! With a giant section of Highway 40 a washboard gravel road. Was a total blast. We did, however, get to ride through Malarque, which turned out to be a very developed city with even a Columbia Outfitters store. We stopped only to grab food and ice cream, but were offered a place to sleep in a yard of an incredibly kind family we met. Shocked to have been offered hospitality (this has been a very rare occurrence in Argentina), but we were on a mission to keep pushing to get out of the desert and biked on. In Buta Ranquil, we camped in the parking lot of a police station, and when we woke up in the morning and went inside to use the toilet, it dawned on me just how weird and random our lives right now really are. The cops were having a pow-wow in the break room and welcomed us in to use the toilet, like its not weird that two random people are camping on your parking lot and using your toilet in the morning.
The scenery between Buta Ranquil and Chos Malal was more scenic and in Chos Malal we found a beautiful campground on the river that reminded us a lot of the Deschutes River in Bend. Just south of the town, we posed for pics at the Mid-way of Highway 40 in Argentina and basically our "halfway" of Argentina already done! The next hundred miles of crappy desert and headwinds brought us to Las Lajas, where we found an overpriced campground right on the river and Ville and I scored a new puppy friend. This cute puppy played with us the whole time we were there and even slept right outside our tent. I had to check our bags when we left to make sure Ville didn't take her with him. From there we left good ol' 40, and decided to head west on the 242 to Chile to get some change of scenery. We had even more hellish headwinds biking up and over the pass to Chile and at the border crossing they threw away most of our food (we thought it was just fruits and vegetables, but it's all animal products too they do not allow being brought into Chile) which is a bit rough when your biking with no food until the next town. Luckily the next town was close and when we arrived in Liucura, we were standing outside a market when a crazy drunk walked up and started hassling us. All of a sudden, Ville started wildly jabbering in Finnish, flailing his arms, waving his cell phone around, acting like a mad man and then the drunk patted Ville on the back trying to calm him down and stumbled away. Apparently, Ville has this great philosophy that you just need to act more crazy than the crazy and they will leave you alone. And it worked! What a genius I'm married to.
We camped in a field and woke up the next morning to some pretty black clouds that opened up and poured on us the entire next day with wind gusts that blew us over. Twenty miles took us a good portion of the day, with every passing car spraying us with rocks and water, and when we limped into Icalma, with the plan to camp on the lake, we opted instead to spend too much money on a cabin on the lake because we were completely soaked through and freezing (the snow level had dropped to just above us). The cabin was amazing!! It even had a stove that Ville stuffed with wood to get us and our stuff dry as we listened to the storm howl outside and the wind threaten to rip the roof off the place. We asked the owner if this weather was normal and of course he said, "No, it's normally really hot now." Of course it is. The next morning was freezing, a bunch of snow had covered the mountains, but dry and we climbed back up to the border of Argentina heading south. When we came to the border this time (it's like Christmas, you never know what your going to get), the long haired dude came out to "look through" just our frame bags for some reason and pulled everything out of them. I had to hold in my laughter when he pulled out a rag I use as toilet paper when I pee (I wash it out all the time, but it keeps from littering toilet paper everywhere) and rolled it around in his hands, probably checking for drugs. Ville gave me a sideways glance and I felt finally redeemed for all the hassle those numb-nuts give us at every border crossing. :)
The next few days were incredibly scenic and we had fantastic weather! Quite a bit of the road was washboard-shit-gravel, but the scenery was nice and we tried to take it slow. We even had a couple suburb camp spots on the river and a dip or two during the day. These were the moments we dreamed about when planning the bike trip. The scenery, strangely, looks exactly like the Warm Springs area of Central Oregon; dry, sagebrush, rocky canyon with a giant fish filled river cutting through it. The drivers are awful, absolutely no concept of slowing down as they fly by us spewing rocks and dirt in our faces. Peruvians, I expected not to know any better, but Argentinians, come on!! After Ville had a chat with one driver, it was apparent that they were not mean, simply had no idea that flying by us at over 60 miles an hour on gravel was maybe not the best idea. After I thought on it for a while, it made sense. We never see people in Argentina exercising; biking, hiking, walking, nada. So if your only driving everywhere, guess you would have no idea what its like to be on a road when a car flies by you.
We stopped in Alumine just to resupply groceries, and then camped at a campground on the river in Junin de los Andes that was beautiful but obscenely expensive to be in our tent on the ground ($30 for 2 people, but Ville talked them down a bit). After a night we rode through San Martin de los Andes which was one of the weirdest towns we have been in in Argentina. Super expensive, ritzy, Aspen wanna-be, ski town that even had shops with English names like Chill Spot, Casino Magic and even a Crux Brewery! (for real) For those not in Bend, this is a very loved friend's brew pub in our hometown. We ate some cold chicken from the grocery store and pushed on up a decent climb into the mountains where we found a spot off the road to camp. Our intake of food has been severely suffering since Argentina (and before) because everything is wildly expensive and never open, so we have had to cook a lot of pasta, make sandwiches, skip snacks, and are always ravenous. And basically 2 bags of bones on wheels.
In the middle of the night, everything froze, even our water, and poor Ville got really sick (probably the cold chicken) and spent the night in and out of the tent with it coming out both ends. Not fun when you are at home in your own bed, but a real bummer in a tent on the ground with it freezing outside. By morning, he was lacking energy, feeling a bit better, and we had to keep going. The weather warmed up during the day and the scenery of the Ruta de los 7 Lagos (route of 7 lakes) was really beautiful. The crazy thing is though, it all looks exactly like the Pacific Northwest! This is the most visited area of Argentina, everyone had rave things to say about it as we headed south, and now riding though it we both feel like we are riding the Cascade Lakes Highway at home. Although home is a LOT closer than Argentina. The more places and corners of the world we ride through in the world, it's nice to feel like we live in a pretty kick-ass place in Bend, Oregon.
We had planned to go slowly through the Ruta de los 7 Lagos, but we got word that our Bend friends are nearby in Chile, on our route south, and here for a wedding so if we arrive before the 26th, we can hang. Also, we stopped to check about camping at a farm, but paying a bunch for literally nothing but a spot to throw our tent down made no sense, so we have opted to stealth camp almost every night in bushes and such just off the road. As we rode west to head over the pass to Chile again, the border patrol warned us that the pass was really bad and recommended we turn around. We were on a mission to see friends and it's not like we have other options, we are lacking an alternative mode of transport, so we pushed on anyways. As the drizzling rain turned to pouring rain, we stamped out of Argentina and began the 10 mile climb up over the pass. The sky cleared for a while as we climbed, we started to get our hopes up, but then the rain pored again and turned to snow. By the time we made the decent on the other side a ways to where the weather subsided and the sun came out a bit we were shivering and soaked. We have had the worst luck at border crossings as of late.
We made it as far as Entre Lagos in Chile, and made the stupid call to just drink the tap water because we are in the mountains and the water should be clean, right? Nope. Guess not. Because then I was the sickest I have ever been in my life all night with it coming out both ends. Ville was a champ and made me chicken soup the next day to ease me back to life. We made the call to stay another night here in Entre Lagos at a spendy cabin because it's Christmas, it's raining outside, and we want to spend the holiday together dry, sleeping in beds with a roof over our heads, with a hot shower and happy! We plan to leave here Christmas Day (tomorrow) and ride about 60 miles to Puerto Varas where our friends are staying on a farm to get some friend love on Christmas. From there, we plan to ride south on the Carretera Austral, Highway 7. We just got word of the massive landslide in Chile, which is a giant section of the Carretera Austral where we plan to go south. The landslide buried an entire village, killed 11 people and has made it a big challenge for traffic trying to pass through. Very sorry for those living in the village, and grateful that we were not there during the slide. Doing some research now on how to work around it. Always an adventure!!
Thanks so much all of you for following our journey, writing us, donating, supporting, helping, praying, and loving us along the way. We know it is what keeps us going! Hoping everyone has very happy holidays, a fabulous day on my, K.G.'s day of birth (Dec. 30th) and a rockin' new year full of resolutions that are sure to come true. Until next time friends, keep on keepin' on!!!
Since we were engrossed in the movie, we hadn't noticed anything weird (not even that our sleeping pads began to feel like a water bed), until I went to get up to pee and looked out and my shoes were floating away! We sat up and the water was at the very top of the waterproofing of our tent, just about to spill in at over 5" deep!
We finally limped into Mendoza, Argentina and are excited to check off that 1/3 of the country is now finished! As Ville posted in the last update, this last month has been really tough. Since we left my parents in Cusco, Peru just over a month ago, we have struggled with food challenges, a wide open spans of desert allowing for hellish headwinds and lacking water, pushes of 75-85 miles between town stops (that is a LOT of miles for loaded touring bikes), no showers, no affordable accommodations resulting in one day off in over a month, and a deterioration of our bodies. I quit writing my doctor back home because the list of my health problems has grown so large I know she will highly suggest I rest (not possible) or quit riding (also not possible), so we are pushing on and hoping to get to Ushuaia in one piece. That's the plan anyways.
After riding with Kungfu Ninja PacMan from Buenos Aires for almost two weeks, listening to his incessant, "well, in Argentina" this and "well, in Argentina" that we had gotten our hopes up so high that we almost believed by simply crossing the border from Bolivia into Argentina we would enter an oasis never been seen or felt before. So that was a gigantic disappointment when we crossed over, the road went from a giant 4'+ bike lane/shoulder to none, the more well-off Argentinians drove more cars at much higher speeds right next to our ears without a care of moving over, the headwind went to barely able to pedal forwards, and where we once could ask to camp anywhere with, "sure. no problem" we had to ask multiple people with "No. Can't camp here. This is private property." It reminded me of the scene in the movie Dumb and Dumber, where a giant bus of Hawaiian Tropic Girls pull up to Harry and Loyd and say they are looking for 2 oil boys to grease them up before competitions and the boys say, "well, your in luck! There is a town, 10 miles that way where I'm sure you'll find 2 oil boys there." We would ask an average of 7 different farmers, ranchers, even a cop! that we were tired and needed a place to sleep and were always directed up the road a ways. Great, thanks for nothing.
At least the grocery stores are stocked with more food. That's a plus. If they are ever open. Usually not. We pack a lot of food with us and make lots of sandwiches and pasta. We have FINALLY begun to meet nice people along the way here in Argentina. We met a nice couple who owned a hostel in a middle-of-nowhere town along Route 40 who gave us some wine they had made and treated us like their kids. Then, just north of San Juan we were desperate for a place to sleep out of the rain and two extremely nice construction workers welcomed us into their field station to sleep. We asked to camp under an awning with road equipment and they showed us into their barracks, gave us beds and a shower and even shared food with us. I was SO thrilled I think I made them uncomfortable with how many times I hugged them! The night before had been very eventful so maybe I was still traumatized.
The night before, the manager at the gas station in Jachal was nice enough to let us camp in the yard next to the station. The last few nights we had thunderstorms, and a big one was brewing. As we pitched the tent near the back of the property, away from the street noise, and climbed in to watch the movie Spinal Tap on Ville's cell phone, the storm hit and it POURED. Since we were engrossed in the movie, we hadn't noticed anything weird (not even that our sleeping pads began to feel like a water bed), until I went to get up to pee and looked out and my shoes were floating away! We sat up and the water was at the very top of the waterproofing of our tent, just about to spill in at over 5" deep! Histerically laughing, we hiked up our pants and slogged through the water carrying all our stuff to higher ground. Guess we had pitched the tent in the lowest spot in the yard where all the drainage pipes dumped out. Oooooops. Thankfully we had just been given a new waterproof tent from Ville's family and so the water had actually stayed out long enough for us to move to higher ground. Thanks Jokinens!!
In San Juan, we were desperate for a break and we looked at "the cheapest place in town" which was an eclectic room that smelled like cat pee for $45/night. Pass. We opted for a hostel for $35 and took a day off because my back was beginning to seize up from all the headwind. It would be our first full day off the bikes in a month. And the first night there, we met a group of Argentinean dudes from Buenos Aires, Tucuman, and San Juan, who worked in the mines up in the mountains as environmental scientists and were on a few days break. They rolled in with one of the biggest hunks of beef we had ever seen three guys plan to eat at once, stick it on the grill and after 3 hours and multiple beers and stories later, we feasted at midnight. And then they left us the leftover slab, with bread and these two thrifty bikers made it into sandwiches for lunch the next day. Thanks a million boys for your kindness!!
The red rock canyon between Salta and Cafayate was beautiful. And there was a lush green tropical forest beteen Jujuy and Salta, but otherwise, the scenery has been drab. It has allowed tons of time to zone out and actually remember back to countries, places and people we have met, enjoyed and loved along the way. I often wish we would not have committed to biking all the miles from Prudhoe Bay to Ushuaia and would take buses through the boring or challenging stretches, but then, it makes the great stuff really great. When we biked through 3 straight weeks of rain in Oregon and Northern California, it was the pits, but then when the sun came out finally in Fort Bragg, man was it surreal! We know at the end of this painful desert, there will be beauty coming soon. Actually, when we finally dropped down from the high plains of Bolivia to some greenery in Argentina, we could smell the plants and life growing out of the dirt. It was wild!
San Juan is a big city with 105 miles to Mendoza, also a big city. Of course there was no shoulder, but a lot of very fast, very unfriendly traffic killing everything from dogs, donkeys, owls, etc lying bloating in the sun along the road. There was a bit more greenery along the road and we are staying with Mauro and his brother Nico, Warmshowers hosts, who are awesome! Mauro just returned from a year long bicycle journey in Europe 3 months ago and has been a great guy to chat with about the trials and tribulations of cycling. He even just handed me a new t-shirt after seeing the 30-some odd holes in mine. What a guy!
Ville and I are planning to take at least 2 or 3 days off here. We desperately need the rest. And Ville's back rim is all bent up. The last month put a bunch of strain on it and we are having to wait and try and replace it with something that will make it the rest of the journey. A massive, heartfelt thank you to my cousin Jeff and his wife Vikki for their kind donation for our ride. The money is going to fix Ville's bike, pay for the renewal of this website and to take a few days much needed rest. Your generosity has helped us more than you know!
We had originally planned to bike over to Santiago, Chile to see a friend, but realized we don't have time. We are now pushing south to meet up with our friend, Robin, from Bend in El Chalten to backpack together. For us that is 1,650 miles and a month and a half away. It will be a push, but we are really excited to see a friend from home who is making the journey down to see us! Thanks so much everyone for writing us, following us, supporting us, and just being so rad. We love you all. Until next time, keep on keepin' on kids!!!
By the way, how would you say one rides a train on these tracks? Thoughts? Suggestions? Food for thought.
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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