Farm land and have a hard time finding a spot that doesn’t overlook the owners farm house. I end up doing just that as the sun has goes down and I am just desperate. That night rained all night. Lots of bugs outside the tent. I was basically in a mosquito nest.
Early wake up to beat the farmer but I guess 6 am was not early enough. He watches from afar as I slowly wake up. Trying to dry the tent and my clothes oh well got to get moving. This a day of long flats, micro towns then back in the desert.
Day three was much of the same thing and just was a big blur of getting mileage under my belt. Big trucks driving by and lots of cars honking to egg me on. I didn’t realize till later but I was the only idiot touring cyclist in northern Argentina. It rained 20mm and New Year’s Eve so no stores open. I cheated on myself and actually stayed in a hotel, thank the lord. Many tiny things are making my trip like buying water and cookies at the right time or having the right equipment. I will probably give away some stuff when it gets into big mountains to save weight. Doing my best to stay safe. I eat once at a hot dog joint and as I ride out of town to set camp I see a hotel and go for it. After drying all my clothes I find a fancy place and have dinner with two girls from BA. That’s what happens when you go traveling this time of year any company is good company. Happy New Year’s Day everyone!
Day 4: full on flash flood happening at my hotel. Sleep in a bit then leave at 11 when the rain stopped. Had a non stop buffet breakfast so all good. Still nervous of what lays ahead. Long day of riding ending with the start of pure desert, pebble roads and no water stops. The town looks like it is straight out of bugs bunny and the road runner. I actually see a road runner bird the next day! One store that accepts Peccos only and a guy driving a old red Peugeot. A hitchhiker says he’s been around me for the last three days “your crazy man!” What does he know that I don’t?? I should have asked.
Day 5: Best camp site just after the rio grande bridge was down. Beautiful setting above the river and a gorgeous sun set. I realize that no hotel anywhere is going to give me such breathtaking sun rises and sun sets and beautiful views. I feel blessed and special even though it would be nice to enjoy it with a friend or partner. Would anyone actually be able to endure this or want to? What have I missed my whole life. Anyways due to the bridge being out there will be Less traffic. No buses all day. Kind of worried if I want to take one. Hitching is the norm here. Anyways day started off with a bit of gravel but paved closed road beside which I used. Then gravel got worse and worse to just pebbles. Before that the horse flys kicked my ass at the rio grande when it narrowed. Super cool but I screwed up the pics with my finger. That dam road super slow took me three hours to do 25 k. Brutal. I was joking to myself that I would have to go on a dirt road this trip. This was a lot worse. Noire is next town but did not make it as exhausted. Pitched a tent and ate by 7. Think sun goes down at 8 but have not figured that out yet. I am getting close to the half way point which is great cause I have had enough. Wondering if there are more dirt roads like this. Climbing is okay even with my heavy bike. Panier racks started to fall apart but I caught it in time. One bag has a broken bungee but I have got around that. I need to get more water if I am going to cycle all day. I had one large refill I bought and another I begged off a local. Started the bike ride with three small bottles a full camelback and an extra plastic bottle and zero left now. So I just can’t get enough aqua. Stores are un recognizable shacks and I some times miss them. Dirt road seems to have gotten finer stone so this last 40k better not kill me.
I realized though this is no longer a holiday just a battle with the elements, mountains, Baja, hi speed buses that are double deckers, and – failing economy so often no water for 100 plus kms (few gas stations). There are lots of memorials along the road with tons of water. I might have to steal some at least to poor on my head to stay cool. I know gross but this is survival now. If you wanna know I have a tent stove sleeping bag clothes and food plus water. I stop usually before dusk and pitch my tent preferably not along a main road but in a farmers field, streams, desert, or vineyard. Hopefully farmers don’t stick a pitch fork into my tent. Pluses: the people are super nice, intelligent and want to help me along the way (besides the slum I accidentally ride into my first night and almost got everything taken away). I have not seen a single touring cyclist since I got here and people look at me like I just landed from Mars. Does that make me a complete psycho or some one that goes against the flow. Thank God, phone service is usually excellent (okay the last five days it was on and off) and I am keeping in touch with lots of friends back home. I have two Spanish apps on my phone but communication is challenging. Finding a place to charge my phone has been annoying. Thanks for your mental support to my close friends, love you all.
The big buses are scary and the heat and terrain are completely like a desert. Only a couple stores in the way and I take full advantage of them. Going through 6 liters of liquid a day. I had done some grocery shopping in BA and had lots of food for about four days.
Day 6: woke up at 4.30 am by alarm. I have 3/4 of one water bottle to get me 40k of dirt road. Thought to get an early start before the sun starts burning. No breakfast just went for it. I noticed a bottle in the side of the road after 20k. It was water from the Gods. Could have been pure poison. Anyways smelt like water tasted like really clean water. This totally saved my ride this fallen bottle of water. The road then turned to pavement after 20 k, with no warning just like that! It was total magic and it was nice brand new smooth pavement! I cruised the last 10 k full tilt downhill to a town called something Norde. The day was a lot of riding . Made it to the next Town called Bunta that would not give me cash for my bank or credit card. Store also did not take US cash. Got about $10 left so this might get really tough. Baby wipes keeping me clean I pitched camp 49 k from next town. Climbs are long and brutal but I am also getting stronger and stronger.
I was worried about me at the end of that day. Ran out of Pessos. They didn’t accept US dollars in these tiny towns. I have had huge ups and downs. Crying with joy and disappointed with agony. Running out of food and water is no joke. I had to beg twice. I saw a dirt road and thought wow I should joke that I had to ride 100k like that. So later the main road rn40 turned into pebbles. F-ing hell. No stores nothing for 65 to 90 km. Funny there were 100m patches of pavement and I would get excited for a second. Not sure what kind of joke that was supposed be. I picked up another bottle of the side of the road and drank the water out of it, could have been five years old. Massive mountain passes with three hour climbs and then one hour windy down hills of joy. Have not seen another touring bike rider and everyone I talk to says I am nuts or loco. I have become a super human bike rider now and know what it takes to get through this. Everyone is honking and yelling at me to keep it up. Sometimes helps me along and some times scares the hell out of me. Taking in a lot of water and food at each of my stops it’s now a clear shot to my destination. Thinking about life, I now have full clarity with seven days straight of sensory deprivation outside of magnificent ‘big’ country. All the mistakes I have made. The people I want in and out of my life for good. My body now back to being an athlete. I am now in a town called Chos Malal. And exchanged $100 which is 1200 pesos. That should be enough to get me where I want to go. I have been dreaming that Bariloche is filled with chocolate rivers from one of the first books I read “Willie wanka and the chocolate factory” all the women are chocolate covered😬. I know, sort have lost it. And yes I love chocolate!!!!! That’s what it has taken me to get past these monster climbs. I have had a nightmare every night but love my little camp sites. I wake up often at 5am and ride till 8pm as the sun is searing hot. I have ridden through flash floods and walked through rivers where cars cannot go as the Rio Grande took out another bridge. Bit of a God send, as it made the roads clean of cars for a day. That’s pretty much it🙃.
Day 7 started with a climb and 50k to the next town. Slept in to 7 am but made the town with lots of climbs. Massive grocery store also got 1000 pesos and ate two hour lunch. Lost my flip flops on the way out of town in a torrential down pour but found them on the street, so a good omen. Rest of day was all non stop climbs. I had double water but went through it quickly. The town I was supposed to get more water was a ghost town. Cycled another 10k downhill. Light show of lightening plus thunder and was scared but it passes. This is where I set camp. I have two bottles left of water and 120kms. Let’s see if I will get there without begging for aqua on the way. Wake up call is 4.30 to beat the heat. I am quite scared of not making this run or running out of water. The sun is burning with no clouds.
Day 8. Sooooo last night big lightening storm all around me but left with no effect on me😀. The morning was 4.30 am wake up but didn’t get on the road till 6am. Scared I didn’t have enough water but I stole some from a roadside memorial (I know feel bad but I was dying) and made it to Las Lajas. There was a river, had a swim and washed my clothes. I bought some groceries ready to head off again. The rest of the day was an epic climb. Non stop around a mountain. Searing hot sun I now wear arm warmers to keep my arms from burning. I keep looking at the hills and mountains ahead to see if the ride will keep going up or go down. Usually I can guess but today the road kept rounding hills that were hidden and kept going up. The downhill was epic fun though. This is what cyclists and motorcyclists live for. My bike handles so well with extra 70 to 80 lbs of gear (water empty or full). I keep wanting to just ditch my bicycle and do this on a motorcycle. That’s for another trip when my legs stop working so well. Ended up in a town that had 100 street lamps before you got to the town like something from a sci Fi movie, weird. The town was big and tons of round abouts. Each town is totally different then the next. Finally found the Main Street and had lunch/ dinner. I grabbed some supplies and set tent right outside the town as the sun was setting. Beautiful sunset as it was also thundering around me. At least this time I was under a telephone pole.
Woke up to spitting rain. Wow I hate rain as I left my gortex at BA to lighten my load. Left late two mountain passes and two one hour downhills. These were epic fast super nice long turns. The bike runs great on downhills but my front rack hits the tire on big pot wholes as it was a last minute add on. Hydraulic brakes work flawlessly. My ass is so sore it’s inflamed on one side. Butt’r and Beljum Butter helps but not after 8 days non stop. Finally got going 200 k to San Juan de Andes. Last 25 k I thought no problem I have done that in a triathlon in my sleep. Wow was I wrong. I had to pay for the last downhill by another hill pass 25k straight up. All I could think was I need a shower and all my clothes plus the tent are wet. By the time I got there all the hotels were booked. Finally found a place old and run down. Oh well I stink! I realize now I actually rode 15000 kms in a country I hardly new anything about. Did not do much research and just soldiered through it. Looking back that could have been a big failure but it was all a process of learning when I got to Buenos Aires. Asking everyone about the route where to go and the guys at the city bike tour really helped. The 60km of pebble road just killed my spirits especially when my bag broke and it was searing hot with hoarse flys biting all over. With no one to complain to and no cars or buses to hitch hike I just had to dig deep and fix it plus move on. I kept telling myself in the route ‘hey if you wanna stop just take a brake, or set up the tent and sleep’. With the searing sun and some times no breeze it was not really an option. I just put my head down and pushed on thinking one more km forward and I will get there sooner. It was a total mind game with myself: should I rest, should I set the tent, when should I wake up, where should I sleep, when should I stop for food and water. This time I just found myself going down hill for an hour. But every time that happened I knew that climbing was in the future. It was a real mind game for me and I did overall feel that a lot of it was with the wind and downhill. I did read watch that going south is with the wind which probably is true. If I had head winds all the way this trip, it would have been total hell. I do feel like a bumbling tourist not being able to speak l’espagnol and this trip would have been totally different if I did. Feel like a alien landing on Mars totally cut off. My Spanish though is slowly getting better. Wish I had unlimited battery power for my Spanish learning app. Broke my battery/Lifeproof case so cannot use the annoying solar battery charger😡 unless I buy another charger. So far bought three fake I phone chargers. You can’t buy the real thing here. I thought my trip would be cycle to a town then have hours to hang out hike fish and experience the local vibe. It’s sort have been like that but more a full on cycle tour or even race.
So why is Argentina Patagonia great: the vegetation here is greener, the flowers brighter, the sky is definitely bluer, the sunsets are stunning, the water is clearer, the water is cleaner (the price is less expensive especially in the small towns). That creates better tasting milk, chocolate, oranges/juice, ice cream, inexpensive amazing wine with no preservatives(big reason for a bad hang over) and incredible meat (they usually double your portion like veal sandwiches have two meat patties and the filet mignons here are massive)! The land is beautiful with massive geological features. My dam phone died when I went through the dramatic canyons, guess will have to re do the trip someday! The people are super nice and have this ability and attitude to survive in extreme conditions and they are always there to help a stranger that doesn’t speak Spanish me! The falling eco my not linked to the US dollar also means that it is usually less expensive then Europe, USA, and most other countries. Our own Canadian dollar tumble means you have to consider when you want your travel money to stretch for a month.
Day 9 spent the day cleaning, eating, laundry, setting up a fly fishing guide.
Day 10 fly fishing!! Awesome day. Long and caught only four fish. Oh well tough sport for sure. Temp was up and down and rain sunshine so fish were sleeping. Got alot of tips and Carlos was a great guide the same age as me even though our lives are totally opposite. The day was focused but I looked back on my life and why I like endurance sports and challenges. I started racing when my tennis career when I was 15 came to a defeat from a more talented player. I had some ability in endurance sports winning a high school cross country race. But it was the one thing that no one could ever take away from me. Being pushed by my mother to excel in everything it was the one thing with a bit of training resulted in immediate results, made you feel better stronger and was the basis for excelling in all aspects of life. Full turn now that I am over 50 the same feeling is exaggerated as age slows you down. I feel still young strong like nothing can slow me down. I probably exercise only twice a week but the ability to push my body to the limit allows less dedication but specific results based on what I take are my weaknesses at the time.
Day11 back on the road. Checked out of the hotel and ate as much food as humanly possible. I knew that the end was near and only had one night left. The day had lots of climbs lots of awesome downhills. I have now made it to the lake region in Patagonia where my finally destination Baraloche was located. Lots of streams, lakes, towns, restaurants but that also brings buses and tourists swarming the region. Should be interesting getting a hotel in the most touristy town Baraloche. Anyways after a magnificent switch back downhill I find a slice of heaven. A stream with no people around it. Fenced off but I set my tent. Unlimited water means I can wash all my clothes, drink all the water I want and have a mochacino and a tea before bed!! I realize later this whole ride is covered in awesome free campsites. Not like North America or Europe where you have to pay for gross camp site as all the land is owned. There were large horse flys but they were mellow and once I got four of them they did not re appear. Okay I lied on the hiking they were relentless but they are not as aggressive as Muskoka hoarse flies for sure! Lots of lakes and rivers in this area it’s basically why a lot more people are here compared to the desert up north and ‘big country’. It’s now much colder as south is actually colder then north in South America. I eat at my final cycling camp dinner and after lots of pics I set my tent and sleep early 8pm as I am once again wiped out from the climbs. Tomorrow morning early Am wake up followed by my last day of cycling!!
Wake up to the river flowing sound. It actually freaked me out in the middle of the night as it was so loud. I was a bit cold at night and finally realized a sleeping bag was a good call on this trip. Bringing jeans that weighed down my bike was a stupid move and I almost threw them out but that’s like impossible to do with old worn in jeans. Anyways I made a mochacino while I was still in the tent. Looking at the river I thought this camp site will probably be the best it will ever get. I was wrong. Wait till you see the trekking camp! Not like I camp much or have done so in the past. If you ever think of a trip here and like lakes and rivers this is where you should be. Back on the bike it was like icing on top of the trip. Awesome downhills and some decent up hills but I taught my brain to just shut off and enjoy the workout going up. It always seemed like most of my trip was downhill and with the wind. I blew by many couples on mountain bikes that obviously had too much gear. I actually saw a couple with a trailer child and camping gear. Hats off to them! Another couple, fully loaded sit on your back recumbent bicycles! Probably a great option but they must be tough to fly with for sure. Only one other mountain biker doing the lake area trip solo. I guess being by yourself and extreme cycling is only left for weirdos like me. Most people rent mountain bikes even though touring road or now adventure road bicycles are by far a huge advantage over a mountain bicycle. They are faster and I would say more comfortable then a one position mountain bike. With four positions I actually spent most of my time on the drops and then the brake hoods. The weight is evenly spread between each wheel rather then all in the back with a mountain bike which is worse with the edition of back pannier bags. The last day I cruised through Tirolian style ski towns with tons of tourists. Lots of chocolate shops and citiots wandering streets looking for some junk to buy. Being on a bicycle the freedom of not being able to shop because it will just add weight is liberating. Okay I did contemplate buying a cheap fly fishing rod but stopped myself. It was total opposite from up north where 30 minutes would go by with no cars. It’s a luxury to be able to stop and buy a snack or lunch compared to begging for water on a lonely dirt road with a couple motorcycles and SUVs that hope will save you if something goes wrong. But up north everything is so special like a drop of food or water or a spectacular sunset and sunrise that comes as your gift for the day. These views give you the motivation to crush the massive climbs. Back to the last day okay after some awesome downhill switchbacks I have a two hour lunch (massive double paddy burger) mainly to charge my phone and use it. What’s app messages to all my supporting friends, a bit of face book then I start back up for the final push 90kms. Couple hills then a gift from God a massive wind at my back. I cruise the 70 k full out at where a 120 degree right turn for the last 20 k of in your face wind and massive trucks going by. I was scared as the road was narrow but made to Baraloche and the cathedral mountains I had climbed ten years earlier in the Eco Challenge, Booked the first hotel and crashed hard after a shower. Wow lying in a bed with fresh sheets was totally awesome. It was funny walking into a five star hotel with a fully packed touring bicycle and a layer of dirt all over me including my face. Well a bit different then a pack of motor bike riders, I noticed, that probably did the same ride as me but with a totally different experience. I had a great view of the lake so this icing on top but not even close to all the amazing views from my camp sites. Yes the streets were covered in chocolate (chocolate shops) and lots of annoying tourists. Oh well should have spent more time in those little towns on the way but I wanted to ride and get this done! At this point I wanted to throw my bike off a cliff and never see it again. Yes my ass is like hamburger meat, the number one question people ask a cyclist ‘how can you stand sitting on it for so long?’ Really the bicycle offered me the ultimate freedom on and off road with my tent clothes it was like a dream when your a kid, that you can do what ever you want and when and where ever you want. I have surfed the world, raced a sports car, had multiple ducati’s and Harley’s, Heli skied and snowboarded all over Europe and North America but the truth is I realize I am happiest on a basic bicycle. It’s all about freedom no organizing just going and experiencing. Now I could enjoy the rest of my trip knowing I can bike tour anywhere in the world self sufficient 200kms 1600 kms doesn’t make a difference. Not sure if I will do it again but that’s now off my bucket list!
One hour to find where to buy a bus card then had to wait one hour for the bus as it was late. With a bicycle this would never happen but I really did not want to ride to the trail head with all the big trucks, buses and narrow roads. Yes getting on a bicycle and going is so much easier! Beautiful hike up the mountain back to where the eco challenge was. Then straight back down the mountain. Quads burning lots of blisters. Then After the hike another hour wait for the bus and two hours back in rush hour where I had to stand. Feet are sore but wow those mountains draw me back the next day. I want to sleep and wake up in a mountain meadow.
Hiking day again
So decided to go back up. Fly fishing would have cost $400 for a guide equipment plus transport also another night at the expensive hotel. I can always do that when I am 70 (same attitude I have about golf) so back up I go. Takes three hours on a river bed then straight up a mountain to a lake with a restaurant and Candles!! This time to stay a couple nights. Well I thought to stay one night and come back down but think will go around the mountains stay two nights and make this a challenge. Don’t have the food for it but I got a box of chocolates and you can actually eat food at the Refugio. First one is Refugio Italia. Got there at 4.38. I actually ordered a pizza (see pic) hot chocolate, and a couple of sprites. Kind of wish I brought my stove and pot to cook pasta but this is kind of nice! What ever best to support the local economy (hut). So what else am I going to do up here. Don’t really feel like going back down the same way I came up. Anyways the Refugio fills with girls. Seems like more girls like hiking then boys? I will stay the night and see how cold it gets and decide from there. I meet a nice university student Mano and we share a Malbec together and discuss the difference between people from around the world. The route I was going to take has two major drops that need mountain gear and there’s big descents down snow walls. Good I asked before just going! So my option is back through Refugio Lopez. I mention these names just in case you want to google them and find out more. Mano asks an hour later if we want to share another bottle of wine and we get hammered together with two tiny girls Belen and Florencia. I find out later two gay girls from BA. Top of the mountain in a hut four people making fun of each other’s countries and the rest of the world. They coin my name Crazy RICHARD for my bicycle ride and doing adventure races. Okay they were mainly just laughing at me and my life. We get kicked out by 30 children and proceed to drink more outside. After they tell us we are two noisy and to go away from the hut. I head off to my tent and crash realizing the temps going to 5 degrees. It’s okay I just put all of my clothes on hoodie as well and pass out.
Next day: wow monster mountains, woke up with the lake at the summit and now had two more mountains to climb. I have a nice relaxing breakfast with my party friends. We start the hike together then I branch off solo to start my trek. Before I went the Refugio chef gave me a quick description of where to go. Once I started up and so excited about the incredible view and different angle of the lake, I totally forget everything he told me. Straight up a huge mountai, and past three saddles it took two hours then over the back to a shale mind field of sliding rock back up another mountain. Super difficult and really tough to navigate. They have red marks on the rocks to show the way but sometimes there are not many. I felt totally lost and by myself like everyone in the world had died in an atomic blast. The trekking was the toughest I ever experienced. Even harder then the Eco challenge. It was iconic breathtaking and sole searching. I felt one with God and by myself. I wish I could hand this feeling to others but it’s hard to describe an emotion that is so over whelming when you are a solo Trekker that has beaten the game. I can see how climbers must feel the same way. I made it down a non stop two day upward climb and my feet where beaten raw. Shoes and socks filled with fine silica (glass) from last years eruption just rubbed my skin off. Wow what an experience! Back in that dam bus that was Jammed packed so another one hour standing in wet shoes. I got to the town and had to stay in the most expensive hotel as everything was totally booked. Oh well a bit of luxury never hurt anyone. This hiking blows away anything in North America where they would never allow this free mountaineering unless you had a guide. The descent was non stop and equally difficult more like an adult jungle gym. With runners on, I wish there were hi top hiking boots as this is not a place to use running shoes. I wasn’t about to drag hiking boots on a 1600 km bicycle ride. But I would have bought some boots if I knew how hard it was. Afterwards my feet felt like they were beaten with a stick. A feeling that was always part of adventure racing. Feet are always your most important asset.
Travel day. Get up early have a two hour all you can eat breakfast and head off for a quick haircut and buy one of those steak knives. Have to take home something from this trip! Off to the airport where I wrap my bicycle and bags. I see Mano and get another Crazy Richard comment and off to another country. Uruguay airport is super cool new and modern designed by Rafael Vinoly. Quite mellow and empty though. Many people selling money at the exchange so that’s suspect. I have my bicycle with me so I decide to ride my bike. A bit nervous as I have no clue if I will be driving on a major highway. Actually not that bad and the hour ride gives me a look at the industrial town and also get a workout in. To bad the smog kills me a bit but I make it to the fancy Alma hotel at 9. They won’t allow me to put my bike in the room so might have to lock it outside, annoying. In the end the other employee just left it in the tiny lobby. Dinner across the square from the Alma hotel was totally awesome one of the best meals. Lots of love put into every detail of the meal. The wine was a rich red Uruguayan bottle that was so easy to drink. I made it through but my feet were torn up.
So my stay at hotel alma Montevideo Uruguay is totally awesome. The bed sheets were incredible. Some how I need to re create this at home every detail, dish cup, towel, picture, lamp was truly well thought of to give you the most eclectic modern/historic stay of your life. Waking up in this building you just beg the question what history went on around you. Really can’t imagine staying someone’s home that is more well thought of. If you love the mix of modern and antiques mixed together this is a must in anyone’s travel through Uruguay.
Alma Histórica, Montevideo
Italian financier and art collector Gianfranco Bonan was so captivated by Uruguay that he bought a summer home on the beach and then built a boutique hotel (pictured at top) in Montevideo’s Old City, or Ciudad Vieja. This elegant property pays tribute to local culture; its 15 rooms and suites are dedicated to Uruguayan icons like the poet Juana de Ibarbourou (her room is decorated in soft lilac tones and filled with feminine ornaments like antique hand-held mirrors) and the painter Joaquín Torres García (whose suite has clean lines and bright colors that emulate the artist’s constructivist style). Common spaces display a similar level of thoughtfulness. The library on the second floor is outfitted with dark wooden shelves, tufted sofas, and an oversize cowhide rug, providing a luxurious residential feel. Another inviting corner at Alma Historica is the sixth-floor rooftop, which faces the most romantic plaza in the neighborhood
Going out is optional coming back is mandatory! Was a statement an old guy once told my buddy DAVE and I at red rock trails in Vegas when we wanted to do a two hour hike without water, it was funny at the time but its good advice for any trip and always rings in my mind deciding on how much water to bring. As an adventure racer I am always preoccupied by lightening the weight of my pack and carried goods but there are certain things you cannot go without Water!