settled life

Posted by on Feb 17 2011 | English

Anuk Ari
One year has passed since my last update. Life happens so quickly, when settled in one place. Society has a different pace.

Since my last update I still had five more months of morning sickness and no energy at all. I mainly lived on the couch, unless I brought Chan to school or we were going to the park.
I was so happy, when Chan’s summer vacation started in the end of June, finally I could sleep in a bit longer in the mornings. I was ready for the little person within me to come out. I was tired of being tired and nauseous.

July 9th we went to a dinner picnic with friends on Trout Lake. One of our friends was my midwife Cora. Flo and I had plans to go raspberry picking the next day and asked her and a midwife friend of hers, if it was safe for me to do that trip (one hour one way), considering my close due date July 20th and the frequent Braxton hicks contractions. They both thought it to be not problem. Cora was going to a wedding the next day, the only day on which she would not be available for the birth.

That night I didn’t sleep well. At 2 am I was wide awake. I had some more Braxton hicks contractions, they came and went away, as usual, but something felt different. I couldn’t figure it out though and tried to go back to sleep. I remembered, that when Chan was born, I lacked sleep, because labour started at 7pm, I also lacked energy because I was throwing up anything I ate and I didn’t pee frequently enough and ended up not being able to anymore, which was extremely uncomfortable.
I did not want to make the same mistakes again and went to the bathroom, back to bed, catching myself timing the contractions. Ten minutes apart for an hour, then nothing. I got up and ate some yoghurt with granola. Back to bed. Again counting. Cora was leaving sometime after six and told me to call her, in case anything happened, so that she could cancel her trip to the wedding (in Nanaimo, Vancouver Island). I called her shortly after six and while talking to her, the contractions stopped. She had me call again in an hour. I did and again, the contractions stopped, while I was talking to her.

I didn’t believe, that my baby was coming that day. I was too alert, felt too good and the contractions were too light, this could not be it. I told Cora to go to the wedding.

Then I folded our laundry, I couldn’t sleep. Sometime later Florian woke up and then Chan. I tried to lay down again. Around nine the contractions were more regular and didn’t stop anymore, but they were still very light. Florian called Christine, my friend and doula for the birth, to let her know that this might be it. I was still in doubt. Florian got the pool ready with Chan and explained to him, that he was probably going to have a sibling soon.

Chan went out to play with his friend and Florian called our other midwife Katie, to let her know, that our baby was probably on the way. I still doubted it. I was too fit and present, this just couldn’t be it, could it?!
I wanted to clean the bathroom, since Florian didn’t have time over all the other preparations and I needed it clean. I got as far as the sweeping, then couldn’t do more.

Christine came at 10 am, I was having regular contractions, a bit stronger now, but still too light to take serious I thought and I told Christine, that she might had to go home again without a baby coming. She just looked at me with a smile, got ready and cleaned the bathroom for me.

Katie came at 11 am, the contractions were now good and strong and I finally realized, that I was going to have my baby for real. Katie was the best midwife ever. She asked me, if I wanted to be checked out or not. I did not want to (I remembered too well from Chan’s birth, how painful it was). Katie didn’t need to do an examination, she said it was enough for her to just watch me. I was still walking around and for each contraction found a spot to lean on or squat down and Florian and Christine put counter pressure on my back. They also gave me lots to drink and offered food and reminded me to use the bathroom. I loved it! Really, I enjoyed being in labour, feeling the contractions and imagining to get wide and open for my baby to come out. I love roses, wild roses and their smell. Christine reminded me to visualize a flower opening and that’s what I did.

After a while I was ready to get into the birthing pool and I was drifting up into a different space now, though still very present. Christine put calendula petals into the bath, which she had picked in the morning. Florian offered me drinks and cooled my face with a cloth and though the contractions were getting very intense I felt really good and happy and enjoyed every moment, until I thought I had to poop, but I was just starting to push. Katie wanted me to hold back, to avoid tearing. This was the hardest part of it all and I thought I could not do it. Holding back, when all your body tells you to do one thing and do it strongly, urgently, is almost impossible!

Christine got Chan back inside and all of them helped me stay focused to go through this extremely painful part. Chan covered his ears, but wanted to stay and watch and then he came out, his little brother Anuk Ari. Then though we didn’t know yet that he was Anuk, he was just our little baby boy.
Chan didn’t want to touch him he just watched while Anuk and I were recovering in the pool. Then he watched, when the umbilical cord was cut. When I was washing off and everybody had something to do, he wanted to hold his little baby brother and Florian helped him.







Anuk Ari was born July 10th at 1:18 pm in the water at home. He weight 3400g and measured 49cm. We found his name four days after his birth.

Summer with visitors
Two weeks after Anuk was born, we had my mother and my sister with her two year old staying with us. For Chan this was a very intense time. When Anuk was one week old, Chan got sick with a fever and we didn’t know, if he had caught the chicken pox. That meant, that he couldn’t get close to his new brother for an entire week. When the week was up, he not only had to share his baby brother with three more people, but he also had to share his grandma with his two year old cousin and he had to share his toys and his room.




Chan was very interested in his brother and wanted to help change him and dress him, and he washed him, when he took his first bath. When the first round of visitors had gone home, Chan went to summer camp and I enjoyed a week with Anuk before Florian’s parents came for a few weeks. They had lots of time for Chan and he didn’t have to share them except with Anuk. We went for a view walks and blueberry picking with them and I was happy not having to deal with the preparation of meals.




The summer passed very quickly. Flo took the very last opportunity to take Chan and his friend Ostara camping on Labour day weekend. Right after that it was time for Chan to start school, first grade French Immersion.




Such a big boy already! The teacher let us know with a note that she sent home, that in a few weeks she would not speak any english to the students anymore and in December they were not allowed to talk english to her anymore either! She also said, that all the kids will be fluent in french by the summer. I didn’t really believe it. I learned french for seven years and am hardly able to speak any. Chan should be fluent in the summer?
Well, after Christmas, I went to help out with the reading in the class and was amazed by the amount of french the kids already speak. I was also amazed by how good they are reading in french. Chan doesn’t speak much french at home. But now and then I catch him playing in french and singing french songs…

Canadian traditions
Chan celebrated his very first halloween and was super excited. At the Community Center halloween dance we went as a witch family, Chan chose the fabrics for our costumes, which Katie, our upstairs neighbour, sew into capes. For trick or treating he wanted to be a knight. He and Ostara went out candy hunting together and both had baskets too small for the amount of treasures they collected and both had an extra bag given by some pitying candy distributer. We let Chan devour his collection that night. As much as he could get down in one hour he was allowed to eat, the rest he had to exchange for toys. He looked a bit green around the edges when he finally gave in. The rest of the candy got weight and per 100g he could choose a small toy, in his case cars, naturally!



Of course we had to have a christmas tree, but none of us wanted a disposable one. We picked one in a pot. Chan decorated it a week before christmas and slowly some presents appeared under the tree. Most of them in the night of the 24th and as real canadians do, we opened them the 25th in the morning. Chan wanted to know, why Santa isn’t coming the night of the 24th in Switzerland, or rather, why he didn’t come on his birthday, december 6th. So we explained, that the old man can’t be everywhere in the whole world in one night and that’s why he goes to Switzerland first and then makes his way over to Canada.

We like the idea of the festival of lights and went to a solstice celebration at a community centre. Our tree should be a symbol of returning light rather than a christmas tree, but the holiday celebrations are a bit confusing for a child that hasn’t really celebrated any so far and here they are in their pompous glittering glory with the most important part: the gift opening.
Well, maybe we will be able to give these holidays a deeper meaning next year.

The new year
Here we are already in 2011. Ten years ago Florian and I left Switzerland on bicycles and we had no idea, that after all that time we would still not be back and might never be. We are quite settled in Vancouver now.





Anuk is sitting and rolling all over the place and we are looking forward to the day, his baby seat for the trailer arrives and we can take him for his very first bike ride. Chan keeps asking about a bike trip up a mountain and back and I can’t let go of a dream about riding through Mongolia and other parts of Asia. Settled life has nice qualities, but can get a bit tiring after a while.
There are no plans yet, I’m just saying.

6 comments for now

Fourth wheel

Posted by on Feb 04 2010 | 20 Canada 2010, English

Me

How time flies when you live in one place. The days are so much more structured no big surprises really and before you know it, another day has passed. Almost four months are gone since we arrived in Vancouver and started our settled life. Already we moved once, from a subleted place into our own place. It amazes me, how many things we suddenly need to be comfortable living under a roof. We would not be able to pack everything we accumulated in the past few months on our bicycles again. So we have a real bed, a dresser, a table, some bookshelves, kitchentools, plates, glasses etc.

On rainy days, which most of the days for the time we’ve been here have been, it feels good, to have a place and I shudder by the thought of putting up the tent, or riding in the downpour, wet to the bones. Occationaly though, the sun tickles our noses and then I feel quite stuck in the vast concret world making up the city around me.

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gipsy queen

Well, there hasn’t been to much time to feel sad about it though, as I haven’t really felt very energetic or could have taken a cruise on my bike. In fact, I have been feeling rather sick, nauseous that is, over the past three months. Most of the time that flew by so quickly, I spent lying in bed, napping, or on the couch, reading as a distraction, drinking lots and lots of ginger tea, which is known to help ease morning sickness.

July 20th, that’s the due date of Chan’s sibling and our fourth wheel for all the journeys ahead in the future. That means no bike trip this summer, but there are many summers ahead and Chan is already practising camping again, putting up sheet tents in the living room and in his bedroom and even spent one night in one of his tents, squished between his bed and a book shelf. The next night he wanted to be back in his bed.

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Chan is quite excited to get a sibling. Although every time we look at a book about how babies grow in the womb, he is surprised that our baby is still that small. It has been such a long time since we first told him  and it is still not bigger? Surely, when it comes out of the belly it must be quite big. In fact, it would be very exciting to have a playmate right away to race his matchbox cars…

Florian

As soon as we arrived in the city, Florian got busy. He could work for a friend of ours for a day and they recommended him to a customer. That’s how he picked up his first very own job, designing a garden and then actually doing all the work himself. This job is restricted to saturdays. The rest of the week he works for a landscaping buisness in North Vancouver, making money.

Then, for the past few months, since I turned into a couch potato not able to take care of any sort of chores, he spent the money he made for food requests to keep me happy. His days start at 6am and end around midnight, the evenings, after dinner, spent drawing plans and organizing deliveries (dirt, gravel etc.) for saturday.

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project 1 plan

Slowly I am taking some of the houshold responsibilities back, but that doesn’t mean more free time for my man. He got his second very own job lined up and two more requests. Which means he is getting serious about his own business, even thinking of buying a pick up truck since I forbade him to use  Chan’s trailer to transport a wheelbarrow and gardening tools.

Chan

Our little travel companion is growing up too quickly. Very proudly he announces to everyone, that he is now six and knows almost everything. Presently he is on a dragon hunt with his friend Ostara, living next door. On their way to school and back they find evidence everywhere of a really mean dragon roaming in our neighbourhood. He showed me his claw marks in the dirt. There is  a fence made of the bones of people he ate so far and the two even saw his eyes gleaming at them in blue and green colours. Luckily they have magic powers to protect us.

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losing teeth

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Macalli, Ostara and Chan

happy 6th birthday

When not fighting off dragons, Chan enjoyes school. Only getting up in the mornings is a bit annoying. He is going to a french immersion program where the teacher only speaks french to the kids. He said, that the school is making him love singing and he is frequently humming french songs to himself.

getting ready for christmas concert

christmas school concert

performing

decorating a ginger bread house

our first family christmas tree

Finally in one place for some time, he really enjoyes his playdates with other kids, so far mostly girls, in the neighourhood. If we can’t arrange to play with someone else, we go to the close park, where he cruises around on his bike on the little hills of a water park.

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Cora, me, Chan and Lukas

reading the map

Spring is awaking in Vancouver, even though the olymic winter games haven’t started yet. The cherry trees on Pender street are turning pink and every day we discover more flowers blooming in the gardens around the neigbourhood. We bought some wooden planters for our porch and already started  some seeds indoors. Chan is looking forward to his very own planter where he will plant radishes, cucumbers and peas.

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working in his office

All of us are looking forward to the summer and the changes and challenges coming with the warmer season…

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Reorganizing the blog

Posted by on Oct 21 2009 | Uncategorized

The blog is under construction, it will soon be easier to navigate!

no comments for now

The final kilometers

Posted by on Oct 21 2009 | 18 USA 2009, 19 Canada 2009, English

Only one State left

We left our friends in Portland on a beautiful day. Riding through that bikefriendly city was quite nice, but it took us much longer to reach Vancouver (Washington) than we thought it would. At the city park we took a mid afternoon break and decided to stay in town for the night. The next campground was still a long way north of the city, so we looked for a motel.

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From Longview Kelso we followed the route of the annual Seattle to Portland bike ride, but from Vancouver (WA) to Kelso we follwed the I5 on back roads. From Woodland to Kalama, there was only one choice, the green mountain road, if we didn’t want to take I5.

The name ‘green mountain road’ definately hit the mark for it was extremely steep uphill for 7km. After about 3km uphill and in the middle of a few hundred meters of  incredibly steep road, a car stopped and the driver asked, if we needed help. Flo asked if, the top of that steep piece was the top of the hill and the driver asured us, that after that little bit of a climb left, the road was going to flatten out. Flo thanked him and said, that in that case we didn’t need help. The road did flat out for a couple of hundred meters, then continued for the last 4km to be almost overhanging. On the top of the hill, the road came back down on the same side of the mountain, another 7km extremely steep. The I5 had follewd the river down in the valley. Had we known about the green mountain, we would have chosen the interstate for that part!

green mountain road

green mountain road

It took us eight days, to reach Seattle. We were not in a hurry and we stayed in State Parks or other campground when possible, and if not, we looked for a motel.

One day we were a bit late. It had been further to that State Park than we thought it would be. There was no ranger at the park and we put up our tent in the nicest hiker and biker site we’ve ever seen.  There was a playground very close as well as the washrooms, whereas usually the hiker and biker sites are far away from everything and not maintained very well. At 8.00 next morning we found out why this site was so nice. It was not the hiker biker site, but the day use area as the ranger, who had woken us up, explained. We had aparently mistaken the sign for the paystation of the h and b site for the actual sign.

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From Toledo to Yelm we could follow a bike path, built on an old railway track. This gave Chan another opportunity to ride a long way by himself. The day before we reached Seattle, we came across another bike path, which leads almost all the way into the center. The next day, Chan was happy again to ride by himself and we were happy too, because the ride into the metropolitan of Seattle with 3.3million people was relaxed, actually quite beautiful on that path.

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In Seattle we were staying with a family, we had met in Oregon about a month earlier, for a few days. Chan enjoyed the company of the five girls very much. While Flo dealt with the Canadian Immigration to get a travel document to enter Canada as a permanent resident, Chan and I visited a Children’s museum and then took a lift up the space needle and enjoyed the incredible view.

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Canada here we come!

On the ride north the weather was beautiful and we soaked up the sun rays for the air was already crisp and fall knocking on the door.

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From Anacortes we took the ferry over to Sidney on Vancouver Island. We wanted to visit a friend in Victoria, which we had met on a bicycle tour on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands), when Chan was only 8 months old.

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We stayed with Lars for a few days and through the first fall rain. Riding up to Nanaimo we were welcomed home to Canada’s west coast with more rain. The roads were familiar, exactly the same we were taking southward a little more than three years ago.

Galloping Goose trail August 2006

Galloping Goose trail August 2006

Galloping Goose trail, September 2009

Galloping Goose trail, September 2009

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2004

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2004

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2009

Campground, Ganges, Saltspring Island 2009

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Then suddenly our last day on bicycles had arrived. Our feelings were mixed with a sense of relief, that the days of folding a damp tent and living in the same old pants days in and out have come to an end and a sadness, that our freedom of living our own rhythm and not needing to fit into any society given grid was now abruptly ending.

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It was a beautiful sunny day.  On the road from Horseshoe Bay we even met other bicycle travellers and chatted as we did so many times before on the road. Then we crossed Lions Gate bridge and biked along the waterfront.

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Everything was so familiar. Nothing seemed to have changed over the passed three years, except that the Olymic Village has been built in the space of a before empty ground. All around False Creek seemed so short now. We arrived at a park, close to our friend Christine, where we had invited our friends to for an arrival potluck. Nobody was there. We decided to take a break anyhow and let Chan play for a while, before heading over to Christine’s. And then she came with her whole family and a little later a few more of our friends arrived. Chan was hiding under a table  from all those people knowing him, but who were strangers to him. But soon he played with Macalli, one of his friends when they were toddlers, as if they had never been apart.

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We could stay with Christine and her family for the first week in Vancouver. Initially I thought, that we would take it slow and take time to arrive. But as soon as we were here, I needed to organize our lifes here. We found a place in a school for Chan and only five days, after we arrived in Vancouver, he started kindergarten.

First day of school

First day of school

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Florian found jobs here and there with friends, and I tried ot organize our starting houshold. Then we could move back into the basement suite we had left three years ago. The girl who lives there at the moment was looking for somebody to sublet, while she is on a field trip until march 2010. We can use some of her furniture and all of her kitchen tools.

Playing with Jivan from upstairs

Playing with Jivan from upstairs

Enjoying art at home

Enjoying art at home

Even with our living space provided and the support of our friends and even though getting back into settled live is happening very smoothly, it feels overwhelming at times and in those moments I wonder, if we should have just continued to pedal…

We will keep our blog up and let you know of our lifes in one place for who knows how long!

6 comments for now

What about a home?!

Posted by on Sep 02 2009 | 18 USA 2009, English

An end or a beginning

So we are back in the USA and we are cycling up north. Our journey has always been somewhat confusing but the last few steps must have been difficult to grasp for even the few people who understood our trip so far.

Only a few people, our families and our friends in Vancouver,  have known for about a month of a desicion of ours made when we travelled in New Zealand: We are on our way back to Vancouver.

Travelling as a family and that is mostly with our own muscle strengh, has been extremley rewarding but also quite energy consuming in many ways.

At the end of the world, in Argentina, we felt adventurous and strong to continue the journey on the other side of the world. We were pretty certain, that we would be able to work there for money either in New Zealand or Australia and we knew, that we needed some time in one place to give our bodies some rest. On a journey like this, money or the knowledge that you can’t earn more of it, can create stress. It turned out to be difficult to find legal work for us in New Zealand because of our age and because of being a family. It might still have worked out somehow but the transition from South America to a completely different bacterial and viral environment, little sleep during this transition while hitch hiking to Buenos Aires, and  a poor diet of pasta or rice for most of the time travelling in Patagonia with little or no diversity in vegetables and fresh fruit left our bodies worn out.

We caught cold after cold in New Zealand and needed a long time to get started. Then the weather turned and winter arrived much too early. Struggling with sore throats and running noses we travelled south on the North Island because we read about work possibilities on the northern part of the South Island and we needed to go to Wellington to apply for work permits. When the rains started we found it hard to get our travel spirit back. It was time for a break but we couldn’t find one. It didn’t help that different immigration officers had different opinions on what kind of a form we had to fill out and that we did get work offers but none of the employers were able to give us a written statement for it. After a week of trying to sort things out while living in the living room of a shared house I had enough. I suddenly knew, that I didn’t have the energy to deal with this kind of stuff anymore. I needed to be “normal” for a while.

Chan had changed too from a little kid to a boy with many interests and different needs which we could not keep up with while on the road or as guests of other people. He was sad every time he had to say good bye to a new found friend and I realized that it is time for him to explore friendships and take part in group activities with children his age. It’s time to explore wood working, glue, hammer and nails, metal, fabrics, clay, paint…

So is this the end then of our journey? We don’t know. We just realized that the end of one dream carries the birth of a new one. We could be cycling for the rest of our lifes but maybe there is a time now to try a few different things, maybe exploring a home for once turns into a whole new adventure. The world will hopefully still be around in a few years for us to explore, what we haven’t seen yet. And what about a horse treck through Mongolia?!

Where is home?

All three of us felt homesick for Canada, when we explored New Zealand. Many things, reminded us of  Vancouver and we felt a strong connection to Chan’s birth place. Now we had to make another desicion: Do we need to go back to our home country, where our families live or to a place where we feel called to? It was not an easy desicion and it is like all of our desicions of the past years, just our next step. A step in one direction but not necesarily for the rest of our lifes.

For now, things in Vancouver seem to fall into place lightly. We have a place we can move into mid October for the first six months and Flo has an offer for some work. We are looking foreward to the next chapter of our lives while enjoying the last few hundred kilometers on the road north.

Getting into hauling shape again

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We stayed with our friends in Mill Valley for two weeks. Flo went sailing with Michael and Tyler and went flying into the water. Chan was making up for all the missed kids movies of the past three years, and had a lot of fun with Sam and Theo who wrestled with him and played what ever he asked them to play. I enjoyed not wearing sweaty and oily clothes for once and having woman’s conversations with Peggy and Sam about everything and more.

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Then we joined the family on their ranch in Middletown, some 150km north of San Francisco for a few days before heading out for the last leg of our journey.  We had been looking for a campground which we could reach the first night on the road. It turned out to be much too far away. We first needed to get used to cycling long days again so we ended up camping in the bush. Then we entered Sacramento Valley, the heat chamber of northern California. After the second day on the road we already needed a break day to cool off from the heat.

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It wasn’t interesting riding along the valley. We bought a California Road Atlas to find our way around interstate 5 and still ended up on gravel for a little bit. Finally we reached Redding and with this city the peak of heat. It was 49°C! We stayed three days on a campground with a pool, since I wasn’t feeling well. Chan loved the place not only for the pool but also for a new found friend, Eric, with whom he damed up a little creek, cruised around by bike and had lots of fun.

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A few climbes lay ahead of us now towards Lassen and Shasta National Forests. We were passed by fire truck after fire truck. The road we were taking had just been reopened again after being closed for traffic because of a fire. The fire seemed to be under control now, although we could see and smell the smoke. Again we didn’t reach the days destination and asked at a restaurant, where we slept in the back yard. The owner liked Chan and gave him an old matchbox racing car.

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Up in the national forest there was a klicking noise at Flo’s bike. It turned out to be a broken spoke. We saw a sign of the California Fire Department and the firemen let us fix the wheel at their station and filled our water bottles with ice; what a luxury!

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Up on about 1200m now, the air was a bit cooler and the scenery much more enjoyable especially after turning towards Mt. Shasta and getting glimpses of this vulcanic peak with patches of snow against the bright blue sky.

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It is not only in Latin America, where bike mechanics don’t always know, what they are doing, we discovered in Mt.Shasta, where Flo wanted to have somebody look at the hub of his back wheel, which made squeeking noises lately. We also wanted to buy a few new spare spokes. The mechanic wanted to sell us six of which only two had the right lenght and he didn’t know the difference between noname and dt swiss spokes, he just declared them to be all the same. Then he took Flo’s wheel apart, opened the bearing and misplaced one of the balls, so that it squeaked even more afterwards. After telling Flo that there was nothing wrong with his wheel, he wanted 10 bucks for his work.

Being found by people

When I stepped out of the grocery store in Mt. Shasta, Flo was chatting with somebody. The man sad:” Hi, how are you? Remember me?” I didn’t. So I asked him to take off his sunglasses. I still didn’t have a clue. I felt a bit embarrassed. Turns out that we had met mistery man in El Bolson, Argentina, and camped next to each other. He said, that we had been one of the most impressive things he and his girlfriend saw on their trip down in Argentina. Now he had just finished guiding a group up into the mountains and was on his way back to Berkley, where he lives, when he saw us and turnded around. How small is this world!

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We found our rhytm on the road again,  hauling each 80 to 100kg and began to ride more km a day, than we thought we would be able to. Instead of 45 to 50km days, we ended up riding between70 to 80km. The USA are an easy country to travel trough by bicycle. People are really freindly. We never have to worry about water too much. Most roads are paved. There are gas stations with cold drinks on almost every intersection. In Klamath Falls, Oregon, we picked up a State map and the woman at the information center even had a free cycling map for Oregon with grades and distances, bike mechanics and traffic volume on it.

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We were about to leave the Oregon Welcome Information Center, when a family came over for a chat. Turns out, that they are a cycling family, riding all over the country with four kids. They are from Seattle and invited us to stay with them, once we get there.

We headed up to Crater Lake Natonal Park. The weather was gorgeous, the temperatures cooled off at night, we found less travelled highways. The climb up to the campground at Crater Lake was still a good climb though and we were happy to only ride half of the day. The campground was full, but the registration lady found a spot for us when she checked back with her computer. We were cooking dinner, when a family with a little boy of two riding a like a bike, slowly passed. They started talking to us. We learned later that they had seen us riding into our loop and since they had once rode across the country themselves, they wanted to chat to us. They were very interested in our journey, especially because we’re travelling with Chan.

Deb and Tom gave us their phone numbers and invited us to stay with them in Bend. It took us three days to get there. First we had to climb the remaining 300m up to the Crater: What a beautiful lake, with a deep blue. Flo was so excited about this beautiful piece of nature, that he jogged up to a view point and then run back to Chan and me within 30 minutes. The sign said 45 minutes  for the hike up to watchmen view point.

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When we arrived at Deb and Tom’s house, Chan had a fever. We could stay with them for two days. Even though Chan was a little sick, he enjoyed to be a big brother for Logan and they played together for the whole time. In those two days, Flo learned about the sunrise to summit duathlon; racing a bike for 32km, then running up a montain for 5km. Tom is doing it and so Flo registered for it as well. Deb and Tom are i the process of moving from Portland to Bend and they were heading back to Portland for the week, where they are working. They invited us to stay with them in Portland as well. We had about a weeks time to ride from Bend to Portland, over a few passes, before we have to drive back with Tom and Deb to Bend for the race.

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The ride has been beautiful, especially after we climbed the first pass, and cruised down for about 40km into much familiar vegetation of the coastal rain forest which will soon be our home in Vancouver again.

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16 comments for now

Warming up!

Posted by on Jul 30 2009 | 16 New Zealand 2009, 17 Hawaii 2009, English

Summer follows winter

On the drive back to Christchurch we stopped at the Hamner Hot Springs. It was, as usual, raining and pretty cold to get from one pool to the next. The 37°C pools felt freezing in the pouring rain. But there were warmer pools with rocks around them where Chan loved to play and try to swim. Later we went to a café for a hot chocolate. That night we had an inside frozen car for the last time.

Driving out of the mountains towards Kaikoura, the sun burnt the humidity off the road and the fog slowly rolled up from the ocean towards the mountains. We took a small road which turned into gravel after a while and suddenly we were caught in the fog. I could only drive between 30 and 40km/h, sight was really limited to a few couple of meters. It was kind of ghostly. We were lucky the day turned out to be really beautiful once we arrived in Kaikoura. We ate lunch at the edge of the ocean next to some lazy fur seals. One of them crossed over the parking lot to lie down in the grass, in the shade of some bushes.

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It wasn’t far to Christchurch anymore now. Back at our friends place we organized bike boxes and started packing. Every time we take a plane, we have to find a way of packing everything within the weight limit. Flying internationally this shouldn’t be a big deal, since you get two pieces of 23kg per person. But for us with the three bikes, the trailer and the follow me it still is a challenge. That’s why we got rid of everything we don’t really need, got rid of all our food and still it was a gamble. That’s why we borrowed a small kart and loaded half of our luggage onto it, then pulled it through the neighborhood to the close mall, where they had a scale at a pharmacy. Little things went back and forth between the boxes and our Bolivian bags until every piece of luggage was exactly 23kg and every piece of carry-on baggage was exactly 7kg.

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The airport scale measured the same weight! Our flight was leaving Christchurch early afternoon July 5th and we arrived in Sydney, Australia around three in the afternoon. The next plane was leaving around 8pm. We were flying through the night, a long flight, and finally arrived in Honolulu July 5th at 10 am! It was like a fairytale. Here we were, pulling off layer after layer until we were only wearing shorts and t-shirts, our feet in sandals. While on this exact same day we had been freezing in wintery Christchurch. Magical date line!

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Entering the US wasn’t a big deal and our entire luggage made it whole as well. Right outside baggage claim was an area with benches and lots of space. We brought our four boxes and two Bolivian bags there and started unpacking right away. We put our bikes back together and stuffed the panniers with everything else. It took us four hours to get ready. By then we were starving. So Florian went to look for something edible while I finished packing the bikes. Our first food in Hawaii was a cup of cut up pineapple.

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Camping can be complicated

In order to camp in Hawaii, you need to have a permit, that is, if you are looking to camp on State and City Campgrounds, which are the only campgrounds besides one private one on the island of Oahu on which we were. It was Sunday and therefore the offices from which to get the permits were all closed. We had to find a hotel. There was an ad at the airport for a relatively cheap hotel room. The hostel didn’t want us because we are a family. But that hotel still had a cheap room and so we started pedaling towards Honolulu and the famous beach of Waikiki.

Our room seemed luxurious even though we probably found one of the cheapest in Waikiki. It was equipped with a fridge, iron, air conditioning, TV, three different sizes of towels per person, shampoo and body soap, face soap and a coffeemaker. After we took a nice long shower and organized our luggage in the room, we headed out to the beach. I brought a light jacket, since it was shortly before sunset. We just made it in time to the beach for the sun to turn into an orange ball lightening up the distant mountains and setting the clouds on fire. The waves washed over our feet and didn’t send chills up our bodies, as we would have expected. There was no need for the jackets even now. The surfers caught the last waves far out in the ocean before the light faded. The restaurants lit up the torches along the beach. We kept walking and taking in the sounds, smells and sights of rich men’s life.

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On the way to the supermarket next day, Chan’s back tire somehow came off and deformed so badly, that it had to be replaced. While I walked back to the hotel with Chan after we shopped for groceries, Florian cruised around town to find a new tire. At the hotel I tried to find out more about campgrounds and Florian visited the satellite city office where he could get some permits for some City Parks. We weren’t ready to leave Waikiki for another couple of days. We had salad and yoghurt dinners in our hotel room and in the early evenings, when the sun wasn’t as strong anymore, we enjoyed the beach.

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On a beautiful morning we finally pedaled off for our Island roundtrip eastward. We assumed that there were hotels in the other towns of Oahu as well, and so not worrying where we would be staying the nights for which we couldn’t get a camping permit. On Oahu camping isn’t allowed Wednesdays and Thursdays anywhere. When we reached the next town we looked for a hotel. There was none! We got the well intentioned advice to just camp in a city park without permit. Nobody would be bothering us. But that kind of advice is sweeter if you don’t have to act on it yourself. We didn’t want to be woken up by police sirens and be moved in the middle of the night. We rode on over a hill to the next beach. In the beach park was no where to hide our bright yellow tent. Florian went scouting for a place while Chan was flying a kite with a veteran and I was watching our stuff. We ended up pushing our bikes into the dunes and bushes of forbidden state property. It was the most romantic camp spot on our round trip; the waves washing over black rocks nearby, glittering in the light of an almost complete moon, clouds chasing towards the mountains and jamming into thick black monsters wetting the rocks and plants further up the valley.

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Early in the morning intense sun rays hit our tent driving us outside. We packed up ate breakfast and pushed our bikes back to the road, as the first people strolled passed along the beach. It was a really hot day. In the next town we wanted to look for a hotel, but again, there was none. There was a campground in the botanical garden, but because it was Thursday, we weren’t allowed to camp. No exceptions. Not even for sweaty cyclists who just biked up half a dozen really steep, but short hills and back down, only to see the Botanical Garden Headquarter…

We climbed over all those hills back into town and filled our panniers with good food, then pedaled on. We wanted to enjoy Hawaii’s beaches and therefore not pedal for more than 30km a day. We were around 40km when we came across an Inn in a very funny little town. People there must have mistaken their driveways for dumps and between all the free walking hens and roosters, we felt like being back in Mexico. The Inn turned out to be a bit overprized, for the cheapest room was 145$. We headed on, along the beautiful seaside of eastern Oahu. The parks along the highway were too small for a got hideout for our tent and we started to wonder where we could be spending the night. People sent us further to another beach park, they didn’t seem to know the rule of not being allowed to camp on Wednesdays and Thursdays, so we wanted to give it a try. We pushed the bikes to a picnic table and sat down for a bite to eat. It was now almost 7pm, one more hour of daylight, the bike computer showed some over 60km. As soon as we had settled at the table, a maintenance worker came over, to tell us, that we couldn’t stay here. So we said that we didn’t intend to camp there and that we were on our way up north to some other park. The maintenance guy went back to his four-wheeler and sat down thinking, not moving away looking at us. So I got up to use a bathroom. He called over, that that bathroom was out of order and I had to use the other a bit further away. Then he came back over to us. He said, that we wouldn’t make it to the next park before dark and that it was too dangerous to be on the road in the dark. He was worried about Chan and finally told us to push our bikes around the corner behind some bushes and stay there for the night. He was going to inform his maintenance partner and was going to wake us up early in the morning so that we wouldn’t’ be caught by higher authority. And that’s what we did. It was a beautiful spot right at the beach, where we camped and we spotted small crabs in the sand.

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Camping with a permit finally

We woke up before we were woken up and pushed our bikes out of hiding to a table, where we ate breakfast. Then we pedaled only about 7 more km to Swanzy Beach Park for which we had a permit. The system works like this that you can only get a permit for a whole week exempt Wednesday and Thursday. That meant that we took the space for a whole week even though we only camped there for two days.

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It was nice for a change to know, that we were allowed to camp where we were and to be able to stay for more than one night. There was a playground right there and more families camping with plenty of playmates for Chan, which meant that we had a lot of time and nothing to do but reading magazines, news papers and eat.

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After two days we pedaled on for 20km to Malaekahana State Beach, where we were able to book three nights (different permit system for this park). That was a beautiful spot to spend some time. We camped in the shade of trees and bushes. The beach was right there. There was drinking water and even showers, although with cold water only and no shower heads. Flo and I discovered Sudoku while Chan was busy with the sand, the waves and other kids. It was like vacation at the beach.

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The other face of Hawaii

When we continued our ride, we had no more permits for a few days. But because we were now at the north end of the island, which is known to be really busy with surfers, we thought, that there must be some sort of accommodation. There wasn’t. There was a hostel in one town which wouldn’t allow us to stay because of Chan. So we ate lunch, checked email and had an ice cream. Then we checked out private camps, but it was not possible to stay in any of them. On the way back into town we took some shortcuts through back roads. Suddenly we found ourselves on gravel, the houses around us were falling apart in the air lay the scent of poverty. At the end of the lane lingered a pack of street dogs. Was this the US or Latin America?

Back in town we checked out a recreational area. The only possible spot to hide our tent seemed to be someone else’s home already and we weren’t keen of homeless people about us, so we tried to find another place. There was none. Finally we decided to ride out of town knowing that there would be cultivated fields for the next 20km with little chance of a spot for us. But at the end of the town was a huge traffic circle with some trees. Flo went to check it out and we decided to stay there over night, since this was the only spot with no signs prohibiting camping. We waited until dark to put up the tent. But as we were about to mount it, the sprinklers started at the other end of the circle. We spent the next half hour searching the ground for the pop up sprinkler heads but couldn’t find any. Finally we put up the tent and went sleeping. We were lucky, that none of the sprinklers popped up from under the tent and we had a quiet night. We got up early in the morning, with the first light, and then went over to the gas station to get some breakfast, before we rode on.

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Before us was the first and only kind of a pass on Oahu. It looked like we would get rained on, but the wind chased the clouds ahead of us. We tried to get a permit for a road crossing through army and navy land. We got permission from the army but not from the navy which meant, that we had to ride a detour to our next City Park, for which we had a permit.

The highway was not too busy and we were riding mostly downhill now. The detour wasn’t too bad until we reached the highway going west, which turned into an interstate without the interstate sign and no shoulder for parts of it. We decided to stay on the first park along the way and enjoyed the beach. We cooked dinner, when the park was still open for public and once the light faded looked around for a spot to hide our tent. We found the perfect place between stacked canoes until we discovered that the ground was covered with spikes from a tree. Chan was fast asleep by now in the trailer and we didn’t want to move again. So we took down the tent, cleaned the ground as good as we could and put the tent back up a little bit less hidden, where there were no spikes. Nobody bothered us.

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We got up very early again and packed the bikes before we moved to a picnic table to have breakfast. We were visited by two homeless guys, both of them warned us about heading more west individually. We didn’t think much of it, until just a couple of kilometers further up the highway the beach looked like a slum. We kept going, but the homeless settlements didn’t stop. After a while we stopped and discussed what we should do. I wasn’t in the mood of putting up our tent in between homeless structures, even though we had a camping permit for a park some 15km further up the highway. We asked a police woman about the conditions further west and she said that it would look all the same until the end of the road. That was probably why only that park still had some camping space available for that weekend.

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We called the hotel we had stayed before in Waikiki to see if they had a room available. Then we started riding back. I hated the part on the interstate which wasn’t one. Suddenly a car stopped on the gravel strip and the women asked if we wanted a ride with them. I said yes immediately, Flo a bit more reluctant. The women even offered us to drive us right back to Honolulu, a 30km ride for us on busy highways. I was so glad. I needed a shower and I was looking forward to the nice beaches, even if they were touristic, with no garbage lying around, illuminated at night by torches. I wanted to really enjoy the last days on this beautiful island like a vacation, who knows if we will ever be able to come back.

Back in the hotel room we showered, how good does it feel when you’re clean! Then we went to buy lunch which we brought down to the beach and we were speechless for a moment. That beach was covered with human bodies, towels, beach chairs. It was in its own way kind of gross. So THIS was Waikiki. We realized that before we went around the island, we had only visited the beach in the early evenings, a time, when most tourists are heading off to the restaurants and it had been the beginning of the week. That’s why it had felt so pleasant and not crowded at all. Now it was just after lunch hour and it was the weekend! After the initial shock we kind of enjoyed people watching though and Chan found other kids to hit the waves. The water was nice and warm. I’ve never enjoyed swimming in the ocean more than here.

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Time to move on

Again it was time to pack the bikes. The day before the flight we rode out to a Best Western right next to the airport, where we were able to store our bike boxes all that time. It took us the whole afternoon to pack up again, even though we had scribbled on each box what was in there last time. Somehow it didn’t work out and one box was now suddenly 10 pounds more than last time. We didn’t care and paid the 50$ overweight the next day at check in. The flight was five hours to San Francisco and American Airlines didn’t serve any food. We had the option to buy a 10$ sandwich, which we didn’t want to buy.

For the first time on our journey we were about to be picked up from an airport and we were looking forward to that very much. We could stay with Peggy and Michael and their kids again as we could last time we were in San Francisco, about three years ago. We have been staying with them again for almost two weeks. In a couple of days though it will be time to move on…

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1 comment for now

Under the rainbow

Posted by on Jun 21 2009 | 16 New Zealand 2009, English

The wettest winter in 50 years

When finally leaving Taupo, we left the last rays of sunshine behind us. Riding along the lake was beautiful, the grades not as steep as they were around Auckland anymore, but the nights were getting really cold. The southerly winds hit once again, blowing winter upon the two islands a couple of months too early.

We were only riding 10km then hurrying into the information center in Turangi, when the clouds opened their locks and the water kept pouring down for the rest of the day. We stayed in a cabin on a campground in town and considered taking a bus over the pass through Tongariro National Park. With yet another sore throat I would have opted for the bus. But it was kind of expensive and Florian really wanted to ride his bike. The next morning we were woken up by warm sunrays and really glad to be on the bikes. The weather forecast had been very discouraging for the next days, so this was a nice surprise that lasted until midday, when masses of water came down upon us once more and we found shelter in a cabin on a campground, where we tried to stay warm in the kitchen sipping hot tea and eating soup. The temperatures dropped to minus that night. In the morning the clouds weren’t empty yet. In fact we rode out and could hardly see through the curtain of raindrops. Our new rain jackets couldn’t prevent us from being soaked after 2 hours out on the road. It was freezing with strong icy winds slowing our speed. Up at National Park Village we stopped for the day after only 30km and took a room in a backpacker’s. Even with the nicest hot shower ever, it took a long time for the shivering to subside.

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We got rewarded for the exertion off the day before with beautiful views of Mount Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe), the sun smiling from the sky for a couple of hours, before hiding behind black clouds once more. We saw a white wall approaching straight onto us with unbelievable speed and not even managed to get into our rain gear and gloves completely, when hit by the hail. For the next half hour we were getting a whole body peeling and tried to stay on the road while not exposing too much face to the peeling. As fast as it was upon us, the storm was gone again. We ate lunch warming up in the warm afternoon sun, drying off in Raetihi. Then we decided to get a coffee as well and that’s when we met Monika and Matt. They looked our bikes and the trailer over, than started chatting with us. When we were ready to head off to a campground down the road, they gave us their address in Wellington and invited us to stay in their shared house, while dealing with the immigration.

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We arrived at the campground just when the sun disappeared behind the mountains. There was nobody around and no other campers used the sites. We decided to sleep in the kitchen. As soon as we had the bikes locked up for the night it started to rain again. We lit a fire in the fire place and were glad to stay dry and warm for this night.

What a beautiful ride on that road down to Wanganui! Well it would have been a lot more enjoyable even, without the hailstorm hitting down for half an hour. We kept getting in and out of our rain gear throughout the day, for the sun was playing hide and seek with the rain clouds.

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But the road was so much fun once we were up on the pass! We were cruising down leaning into curves and looking over beautiful mountain ranges and almost all the way to the ocean.

We reached Wanganui around four in the afternoon, the information was already closed. We sat down to have a bite to eat and decide on what to do, when Sandra pulled into the parking lot. She overheard us talking and came over for a chat. From Switzerland as well and a touring cyclist, she invited us to her home, where we could stay in a camping trailer. We stayed for two nights. I had my fourth cold with a sore throat and Chan had a cold too. We needed a rest and Sandra showed us a recipe for a molasses tea to warm up from inside out.

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Two more rainy and icy cold days brought us to Palmerston North on back roads. In Palmerston we stayed with Phil and his family for a couple of days. Flo gave a slide show in Phil’s bike store which was a success, than we took the train down to Wellington, for the roads between the two cities are extremely busy and therefore not much fun to ride. And of course, the weather hadn’t improved and turned the fields into mud holes, the roads into small streams. In fact, people were telling us, that this was the wettest winter in 50 years

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The immigration dance

The flat mates of Matt and Monika didn’t know that we were invited to stay there. Matt and Monika had jobs for a few weeks in the countryside and not been to Wellington for a while. Nevertheless, Nell, Seth and Ian welcomed us warmly to their home and showed us Monika and Matt’s room.

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It was weekend, so we went grocery shopping and hung out in the library. Wellington was extremely windy. Wind bouts pushed us through the streets and we had to hold on to Chan who was blown into the streets a couple of times. It was not only windy, but also raining mostly. The sun just came to say hi now and then for a few minutes as not to be forgotten.

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Monday we started our immigration dance. We also needed to get Chan’s and my Canadian passport done. The Canadian high commission was very helpful and we got all the paperwork done quickly. The passport photos were a bit of a challenge not for us, but for the photo shops. The first one couldn’t do them, after two rounds the pictures still didn’t turn out right. They had a yellow touch to them. In the next shop they said it was no problem and we should come back in 15 minutes, after they had taken our pictures. When we came back, the photos weren’t ready because they had difficulties getting them in the right size. Canadian passport photos are probably of the hardest to take in the world. We took about six sets home, two of them the actual right size. Now we only needed a Justice of Peace in front of whom I had to take an oath for having put down all the correct information on the forms and to declare myself to actually be me. Then we brought everything to the Canadian embassy and that was it.

Our attempt to apply for a work permit wasn’t as successful. At the immigration we were told, to first get a job offer and than fill out the application forms. When we contacted the regional coordinator for seasonal workers, we were told that we needed to apply first for a work permit and only then would be able to get a work offer. Apparently the forms, we were given at the immigration in Wellington, were old ones. We contacted several vineyards on the south island to get work during the winter pruning season. Three promised us to write up a work offer, so that we could apply for our permits. Well, after waiting for a week and calling them back three times, and every time getting reassured, that they would be writing the offer next thing, we never got a written work offer.

After a week I’ve had enough. Wellington was wet, cold and windy. I didn’t want to wait here any longer, wasting our time in New Zealand. We now had only one month left on our visitor status. We didn’t have enough money to be applying for an extension of our visitor status for three more months. We also couldn’t hide the fact that it was winter now, and we needed a place to stay for a couple of months. Riding constantly in rain and getting one cold after the other just isn’t very pleasant. But not even woofing was an option for us since it is considered work and you need a work permit, actually a working holiday visa, to be able to be woofing. For the working holiday visa we’re too old and Flo couldn’t get one as a Swiss anyway.

Spaceship

We booked a ferry ride to the South Island, after we had shown our slides to the shared house. From Picton we took another train down to Christchurch. There we could stay with John and his wife, friends of Phil, while organizing our next steps. Chan was sick again with a fever for a couple of days, actually two sunny days. The weather forecast was again not very promising. We would have liked to at least ride the Otago trail, but they had snow on it and it looked like more of it over the coming days. We gave up our hopes of biking at all on the South Island. Flo checked out car rental places and found the Spaceship winter special: a van which can be turned into a bedroom or kitchen.

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When Chan was fit again, we picked up our orange spaceship and headed off for our last month in Kiwi-land. The first few days I was really glad not to be out biking. We were snowed and rained and stormed on. How nice it was to just stay dry and warm inside our little box, listening to nice music. But now and again we all feel the itch of getting out and kicking those pedals again. We tried to do as many short hikes as possible; we needed to move our bodies. But for most of them the weather didn’t improve and we were hurrying to viewpoints, catching glimpses of a beautiful land and coast through raindrops and clouds.

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Everyday we also discovered a rainbow somewhere along the way, enchanting the land. I have never seen that many rainbows in my life. After a few days, Chan didn’t even get excited anymore and barely looked at them. He’d rather watch movies along the way, like Aladdin, over and over again.

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Chan calls the spaceship “our rocket” and that’s how it actually feels. We are driving between 80km and 250km a day, taking our time. One month is enough for most people to visit the North- and the South Island. It doesn’t feel like too much time for us. We are still travelling in the same way as before, the time on the road is important. We want to see the country not the towns. And still we move about so fast. We see things along the road and can’t stop to get a closer look. We do miss our bikes. But the campgrounds are like swamps these days. Our tent would have been constantly wet. Even in the car we had frozen nights and scratched the ice off the inside of the windows in the morning. We had a few beautiful sunny days, but the majority of them were wet and cold. We didn’t even finish our colds up yet and are at round five right now. (No swine flu so far)

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Amusement park country

Our spaceship took us east into the mountains from Christchurch, than south through Dunedin through the Catlins to Invercargill. We camped out at a Doc (Department of Conservation Campsite) right at the beach and transitioned into the land of dreams to the sound of breaking waves. In the morning we gazed out the back window and got a glimpse of a seal playing in the waves at the beach.

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A bit further south we waited at another beach for an hour to finally see a yellow eyed penguin walking over the rocks. It was there suddenly. We didn’t see it come out of the water and then there was a second one. They walked over the rocks, stood still and called out seemingly to their companions.

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Then the light of the day diminished and we couldn’t tell which was a rock and which a penguin. Chan had been pretty excited to see penguins but the long wait for them made him very impatient and he was kind of disappointed to only see them as some black things moving around, not being able to get close up. We could borrow binoculars but he wasn’t able to see anything through the glass.

But I’d rather have it that way. These animals are something special and that’s what they should be. We could have booked a tour guaranteeing penguin sights close up for over a hundred dollars per person. That would have been stunning for sure, only that those animals are very shy and shouldn’t be approached closely. And even though they are in the wild, it feels more like a zoo when knowing that you will see them for sure, crammed in some supposed to be hide out flashing cameras left and right…

For most tourists over here, the stunning nature, the uncountable possibilities for hikes, the natural hot springs and swimming beaches, the surfing waves and the marine life you can observe with a little bit of patience doesn’t seem to be worth a visit to New Zealand. Whenever we enter a visitor center or take a look into the Lonely Planet guide, drive through a town, we get showered with the most exciting offers to take the plunge and get a real taste of New Zealand: You can Bungee jump in almost every town, go for paragliding or skydiving. There are huge flying foxes and off road tours in amphibian trucks. Take a four wheel tour or why not jet boat every lake and river there is on the islands. If there isn’t any breath cutting, exhilarating activity to book, then you have to dive into another world while on a Lord of the Rings tour or take a scenic helicopter flight. You can go plane whale watching to have a sight guaranteed. If above ground isn’t good enough, book your adventure underground to see glow worms and get a canopy ride trough stalagmites and stalactites. The more adventurous will have to crawl themselves and actually climb up and down the caves along ropes. If one of these adventures isn’t giving you the kick, combine them to a helicopter skydiving hike, picked up by jet boat and dropped off at your accommodation of choice to a nice hot shower and soft bed.

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We had the sun on our side, when driving the pass over to Milford Sound. How beautiful the freshly snowed on mountains in gleaming sunlight. What a pass to be riding on a bike…

We found yet another winter special for a boat ride out into the fiord. There was another family on board with a four year old. Chan and Lucca had a blast playing together. We got the chance to observe baby seals playing on rocks and in the water from very close and on our way back to Milford Sound Village there were Hector Dolphins jumping up around the bug of our ship. Chan and I were standing right there and his eyes lit up with wonder while watching those elegant animals. Later, when we went back inside the ship, he said with a trembling voice:” Those were the very first dolphins I’ve seen in my life!”

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The West Coast was rainy. We didn’t see Mount Cook, just white clouds. A hike took us close to Josef glacier which had been reclining for a long time, then growing until 2006, when it stopped its growth once more and stalled for now.

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Florian’s birthday we celebrated in Greymouth and found a funky café with superb chocolate cake and life music. We stayed out late and then enjoyed a night in a real nice queen sized bed in a backpacker’s.

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And finally, when reaching Golden Bay and New Zealand’s sun garden, we didn’t get disappointed and have now had sunshine for the last four days. It also has been freezing cold with temperatures dropping below zero as soon as the sun disappears behind the horizon. How nice it was to walk along the beach at Farwell spit, to even lie down onto the sand and feel the warming sunrays in the face. We took a hike along the beach in Abel Tasman the next day. Again, those views into the bays lit by golden sun light and the scents of flowers blooming (yep there are a few of those even in the winter!) and the vegetation changing from kind of mediterranean to rainforesty within only a few meters of changing the angle of the coastline, were mind blowing.

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Now we are in Nelson for another slide show, before we will be heading back down to Christchurch to drop off our orange spaceship home of the last few weeks.

2 comments for now

Culture shocked and jetlagged

Posted by on May 07 2009 | 14 Argentina 08/09, 16 New Zealand 2009, English

A different kind of travelling

Finally we were in Ushuaia. It was a wired feeling and we didn’t really know what to do now. Eight years ago we had set out to reach this point of the world and now we were here. It wasn’t a very special place nor very romantic. In fact, it was pretty cold and the first snow came down onto our tent. A few days later the campground closed down for the season.

 

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We moved to a hostal. Once we went to town to celebrate our arrival with a nice cup of cappuccino and a chocolate cake. We felt restless and started looking for what should happen next. We checked internet pages for flights to New Zealand and Australia and searched for information about the countries and their regulations for visitors and working possibilities. Florian found an incredible cheap flight for the three of us to Auckland, New Zealand, for two weeks later which he booked immediately.

Now we only had to get up to Buenos Aires within those two weeks. We wouldn’t be cycling. This part of the country is pampa with huge distances without any towns and known for the strong winds from the sea. A flight was outrageous expensive and they allowed only 15kg baggage per person and 100 Pesos (about 30$) per kg overweight. The bus wouldn’t take us either because of the bikes. The only few companies serving Tierra del Fuego allow not more than 30kg luggage per person.

We decided to try hitch hiking. Before we could try it out though, we had to get rid of a few things to make our baggage a bit lighter and easier to handle. Then we headed to the gas station at the entrance of Ushuaia early in the morning. We talked to truck drivers filling up on gas and tried to stop pick ups or vans on their way out, but without any luck. Then a car driver stopped his car and told us to go a bit further to the police control post where all cars had to stop anyway. So we tried that. The policemen were very nice and let us stay inside of their post, where it was warm, while one of us talked to the car drivers.

Then they had shift change. By now we had waited for five hours. The new crew checking headlights and engines of the passing cars took pity in us and finally asked a mail van to take us to Rio Grande, still on Tierra del Fuego. The driver gave us and another hitch hiker a ride and dropped us off at a supermarket in Rio Grande. We bought some food, though not too much, since we weren’t allowed to bring any fresh groceries over the border into Chile. Then we decided to ride out of the city and try for another ride up to the border. It was mid afternoon and we still got some time. But again we tried without luck, because we had too much luggage. Finally we started looking for a place for the night.

The owner of a shed at the beach sent us two kilometers up the road to a truck stop. But when we got there, there was no truck stop. But a little bit further we came to the buildings of the police school. We asked there and were sent just a few hundred meters further to a hostal. We couldn’t find it and when we asked at a house we were sent to another house, belonging to the police as well. The officer sent us to a back lane where the hostal was supposed to be. Though it was labeled with Government Hotel, the owner sent us away immediately in a unfriendly manner. What now? It was dark by now. Another policeman in training came along and was once more talking about a truck stop only a kilometer up the road, where we could camp. When we got to the building he had described to us the receptionist stopped us at the gate. He said that we could not stay there. We told him, that the police had sent us here and he explained that this was not a truck stop anymore. That he did in fact rent out rooms, but to another kind of customers. We understood that this was not a good place for us to spend the night and carried on. I was wearing gloves by now and we were freezing. A bit further again was a truck scale. There was someone in the house and we asked if we could camp there. The man let us stay and we could even use his kitchen.

From here we wanted to hitch hike again up to the border in the morning. We got up very early, before the sun was up. Our tent was frozen and we could not get warm, standing on the shoulder. Chan was bundled up in the trailer and we were using the hand warmers, which were a goodbye gift from the Velo Plus employees in Switzerland. But Chan and I were freezing. After a few hours at the roadside, I went inside again with Chan. We boiled water for a cup of hot tea and brought another cup out to Florian. We waited for another six hours, before finally a pick up stopped. It turned out to be a Swiss guy, second generation in Argentina. He originally wanted to drop us off about 15km before the border, but then decided to drive us all the way.

 

Argentinean customs was not a big deal and soon we were riding the 15km to the Chilean border. We passed immigration quickly and one officer was fond of Chan and brought us a kettle with boiling hot water for a tea and a hot chocolate for Chan while we had lunch in the shelter of the building. He asked us how far we wanted to go that day and we told him, that we would be trying to hitch a ride up to the next border with Argentina. He and another officer immediately helped us and asked everybody passing the border that had a pick up or a truck, if they had space to give us a ride. We waited for a long time. That particular officer played with Chan at his Schalter with matchbox cars in between serving people. Most truck drivers weren’t allowed to take people and the pick ups didn’t have space. I started to inquire about possible local busses and a place to spend the night, when finally a truck driver agreed to take us along. But we had to sit in the back outside. The border officers didn’t think this was a good idea since we would be driving in the dark and negotiated with another truck driver. He was agreeing to take me and Chan, while Flo got a ride with the other truck, which also took our bikes. We didn’t like to be separated, but this was our only chance on getting back into Argentina again, to the main land, from where we had more bus options to Buenos Aires. We agreed to meet up at the Chilean side of the border.

Our truck driver, Hugo, was a very gentle man. We chatted along and he seemed to enjoy our company. Chan slowly started to chat with him as well. The road through this part of Tierra del Fuego was extremely bad with washboard, wholes and bumps. For most of those 180km we were driving at 20km/h. I was glad to have such a careful driver. It was getting dark out and we still had most of the way ahead of us. By eleven at night we should reach the border. But we had a heavy load and the road was in worse condition than Hugo had thought it to be. Slowly we climbed hill after hill and the hours passed. Chan was still very excited but slowly getting tired. Finally he was laying down on the drivers bed behind the seats.

After what seemed an eternity we reached pavement again. Hugo stopped for me and Chan to go to the restroom. While we were away he prepared some mate for us with a gas stove right in the cabin! Then we drove the last 30km to the ferry to the main land. Here he thought, the other truck would have long caught up to us, but when the ferry took off, they weren’t on board with us. Chan was asleep by now. I started worrying, that maybe something had happened to the other truck. Hugo kept the mate going and reassured me, that the others might just be driving as slowly as us. On the other side we still had some 100km to go to reach the border but luckily it was all paved. We arrived at the border at midnight and it was already closed. There was nothing else we could do but waiting, since the other truck with Flo and the bikes wasn’t here yet. Hugo talked to all the other truck drivers arriving one after the other, but no one had seen Flo’s truck. We waited another hour, hoping that they wouldn’t miss the last ferry to the mainland. Then finally the last trucks for the night turned up at the parking lot and the third one was Flo’s!

 

Flo came over and we lifted a sleeping Chan out of the warmth of the truck into the cold night. Then we walked over to the immigration buildings where the door to the entrance room was not locked. Instead of putting up our tent in the darkness, we decided to just arrange our mattresses in the heated entrance room. The light was on the whole night, but we didn’t care, we were so tired that we soon fell into a light sleep.

 

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Early in the morning I woke up. In an hour they would be opening the border, so I woke Flo and we ate our last crackers for breakfast. Just a few minutes before the border was opening we woke Chan and allowed him to stay in his sleeping bag. Then we had to line up for customs before driving on to the Argentinean immigration, where it was very chaotic. There were busloads of people in lines wound up in each other. Finally we managed to get into the right line for our entry stamps. From here to Rio Gallegos we could both ride with Flo’s truck driver, Lukas, who was fine with all of us plus another hitch hiker in his driver cabin for the remaining 70km. During the ride we were again sharing mate. It was here on those rides, that we really started to enjoy the mate. It connected us with the truck drivers and the land we were about to leave. Lukas dropped us off at the bus terminal.

 

We were starving. We hadn’t had a real meal for one and a half days. Next to the bus terminal was a supermarket and Chan and I went to buy a nice breakfast. After we had satisfied our stomachs we went to find out about the possibilities to get to Buenos Aires by bus. It was much cheaper than from Ushuaia and the luggage was no problem. But all companies couldn’t assure us that the bikes would be on the same bus. They might be put on another bus depending on the luggage of other passengers. One office was still closed and would be opening after the siesta hours around five. We started taking the bikes apart and rearrange our gear into less bags. Then we taped the pairs of panniers together to one big piece. At 5.30pm the last office was finally open and they gave us a much better deal on the tickets than the other companies and reassured us, that our entire luggage, including the bikes, would be on the same bus. We booked with them. When we had our luggage ready we still got some time to have something to eat. There wasn’t much to choose from at the bus terminal, but Chan and I came back with one portion of salad, French fries and a pizza. It must have looked pretty funny, when Chan grabbed the salad and wanted it all for himself!

At 9pm we took off and were now riding for about 36 hours. The bus ride was nice though. We could just sit in our seats not worrying about getting a ride. We knew how long we had to wait until reaching Buenos Aires. There was no unknown anymore. But two nights in a bus is a lot of not sleeping in a bed and by the time we arrived at Retiro, the bus terminal in Buenos Aires, we were exhausted. Retiro is known for luggage robbing, not a very safe place. So we carried all our bags and bikes into a corner, where we only had to watch one side. Flo went to find out about taxis to our friends place, where we could stay. Our friends Silvia, Luis and their son Sebastian had invited us to their home immediately, when they read in our blog, that we were coming to Buenos Aires. We had met them on a campground near Salta, when arriving from the Altiplano. We had been chatting there a bit and exchanged addresses. Then we didn’t hear from them nor did we contact them again.

Preparing the jump into another world

We were really thankful to have a place to go to in Buenos Aires. We found a taxi and shortly after arrived in the quite street of our friends. Silvia was waiting for us outside. Silvia had bought heaps of meat for us. But when we were sitting at the kitchen table she asked me, if I wasn’t a vegetarian. I said yes without knowing, what kind of meals she had prepared for us. She said: “I thought you might be, but I bought all those nice milanesas (steak with a kind of flower around which has to be baked in the oven). Well never mind, let’s go to the shop.” I wanted to protest, but Silvia took me and Chan to the shop, where we bought two shopping carts full of food. I couldn’t stop her!

Silvia and Luis helped us find boxes for our luggage. We could clean the bikes at their place and take them apart. We had to get our luggage down to 6 pieces of 23kg, if we didn’t want to pay overweight kilograms (up to 100 $ US per kg!). That meant giving away many, many things which had come along with us the whole journey. Around the corner was a shop selling foam by the kilo. We bought some of it to protect the bikes and we could borrow their scale to weigh our boxes. Finally we managed all 6 boxes to be exactly 23kg, bikes and trailer and follow me included (15kg per bike, 9kg for Chan’s bike,15kg for the trailer and 5kg for the follow-me). It was like a puzzle, where each piece finds its place slowly.

Silvia and Luis brought us to a festival, the opening of the artisan market for the season. They had gaucho shows and lots of booths with local artisan artwork like pottery, paintings, cloths, mate cups and straws and leather work. We wandered around and enjoyed a beautiful warm day. There we also bought our only souvenir of our entire trip: a mate cup!

 

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Then it was time to say good bye to our friends. A neighbour brought us to the airport with his small delivery truck. We were there very early to make sure, that all our boxes would be checked in. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 2 am and we were at the airport at 7pm. There wasn’t a nice waiting area before the check in so we sat on the floor waiting and eating empanadas until the check in finally opened. It was now 11pm.

 

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At the gate we waited and waited. Chan was very excited and didn’t want to fall asleep. Then we got the information, that our flight was delayed two hours. That meant that we had to wait until 4 am! Chan fell asleep at least, but Flo and I couldn’t really sleep, we doze off once in a while. I was carrying Chan, and Flo our hand bags. We had already passed the usual security check with scanning luggage, but before entering the plane we had to go through another security check, they scanned everybody with a hand device once more. Then we had to wait again. We probably entered the plane around 4.30am. Sometime between 6 and 7am we were served dinner! We didn’t sleep well in the plane. Chan was the only one getting a good night’s sleep. The flight took about 19 hours. April 9th lasted about six hours.

 

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We landed around 10am New Zealand time when we should have arrived at 7am. We had organized a place to stay with some warm shower hosts (www.warmshowers.org) and could take a taxi from the airport directly to their house. Helen and Richard welcomed us to the new country and had a room prepared for us to stay in. That first day we didn’t do much. We needed some time to arrive first. So we went to a park with a flying fox and then to a café to relax after that huge trip from one side of the world to the other.

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Riding at the other right side of the road

Already the first step in this new country felt weird. Everything was extremely clean and organized. There were city maps before baggage claim, the immigration officers were very friendly and so were the customs officers, checking our boxes for organic material.

The taxi driver was very nice, chatting away on the ride into the city, explaining the surroundings. The city seemed very quiet and secure. We left the bikes at the gate, while bringing our boxes into the back yard of Helen and Richard without worrying about them getting stolen. The café close to our host’s house was serving good healthy quality food for a low prize and good real coffee. We seemed to be in paradise. Everything was very unreal! We were unbelievable tired. I was constantly cold wearing jackets, while the New Zealanders walked around in T-shirt and lots of them barefooted. In the park everybody started chatting with us and the children played with Chan.

When putting the bikes back together, we noticed that we needed to replace a few important parts, like two rims which were worn through, the break levers and all our cables. The rims took some time to order, so that we needed to stay longer in Auckland than planned. Helen and Richard were heading off on a bike trip themselves so that we changed our warm shower hosts.

With the old rims and breaks we rode through the city to Cynthia’s and Margot’s. How wired it felt to ride on the left. Every time I looked into the mirror there was on the other side of the handle bar and every time there was traffic on the other lane I was scared until I realized, that they were actually driving correctly.

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A day after we arrived at our new host’s house, Chan woke up in the middle of the night with high fever. He was coughing and had some kind of a flu with ear aching. He stayed in bed for two days and inside for two more until he finally felt better. Cynthia and Margot were the most wonderful hosts, letting us stay, even though they had another visitor at their house. They also recommended very good bike shops to us and drove us around the city, so that we could get everything we needed. In a really good outdoor shop, we finally found good rain jackets 40% discounted.

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After two weeks in Auckland our bikes and all of us were ready to explore this new country. To get out of the city, we took a ferry over to Pine Harbour, to miss the heavy traffic.

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We only rode about 15km, but were exhausted when we arrived at the campground. People had told us, that we wouldn’t find any fresh groceries in New Zealand and if we were lucky it would be very expensive. Meat would be cheap. We found roadside stands with beautiful vegetables and fruits for very little money. A bag full of organic kiwis for just a few coins. Maybe we are just here at the right time, although the weather now changed. It had been lovely warm so far. But now the sky was clouded over and it rained every day. We were happy to have good rain jackets and didn’t ride very far per day. We still felt somewhat exhausted. 30 to 40km was just enough. The grades on those New Zealand roads are quite steep; they take you up to the top of the hill in very little distance. This was definitely different from the long straight Argentinean highways. Traffic is pretty heavy here too and I still get geese bumps frequently when cars are approaching on the right lane.

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On our third day riding we bought a road atlas with all the small roads marked and looked for routes on those roads. So far it has been a relaxing riding country with lots of cafes on our way and campgrounds to stay over night. It is a bit more costly here than South America, but we never have to worry about water or shelter. The campgrounds usually provide a kitchen and lounge and hot showers! Since New Zealand is a volcanic island, there are many thermal areas. We discovered the hot thermal pools which are extra nice in the cold weather brought up to the North Island from the southern snow peaks.

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We wanted to leave Taupo in the center of the North Island the day after I wrote the blog update. We had a nice breakfast in the campgrounds kitchen and rolled off. It was a beautiful day no clouds on the blue sky, just the wind was a bit cool. Eight kilometers out of town I was pedaling in neutral gear. I didn’t understand right away, but Flo of course just said: “Ups, that’s not good at all. That’s actually really bad. Your freewheel is broken. Flo rode back into town to look for a bike store which could have replacement  and I was walking my bike back to town. We spent the afternoon waiting in front of the store. It was a tricky piece to replace, but in the end of the afternoon, the mechanic finally found a freewheel fitting my hub. We went back to the same campground for another night.

Because the weather turned really bad over the next days, we took it slow, riding in the mornings only, arriving at the next campground on the map in the afternoon where we could warm up in the kitchen with hot tea.

We are on our way to Palmerston North, where we will give a slide show on the 14th of may.

 

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5 comments for now

The end of the road!?

Posted by on Mar 27 2009 | 13 Chile 07/ 08, 14 Argentina 08/09, English

In a hurry

Finally the Careterra Austral was behind us and we would have pavement for most of the way down to Ushuaia. We wanted to do some hikes around Fitz Roy but I wasn’t feeling too well and we didn’t know how it would be working out with Chan. So we just left for a day’s hike to see Cerro Torre, but he was hiding behind clouds. It was still a beautiful hike and Chan was only complaining for the first 20 minutes.

 

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We felt  that it was time to move on, now so close to the most southern tip of the world, we felt the call. We wanted to leave El Chalten early morning, but couldn’t get our stuff together until past 11am. It was a beautiful day, blue sky and lots of wind. The mountains in our backs enchanted the country with both peaks , Cerro Torre and Fitz Roy, free of clouds. The condors circling in the sky made the picture complete. That day we rode 110km, the wind helping us and camped behind an abandoned house sheltered from the wind.

 

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We were now back out in the argentinian pampa again and had to watch our water which we could fill up at the estancias (farms) close to the highway. Because the strong wind around midday was not always helping but mostly slowing us down hitting our sides, we wanted to be on the road as early as possible and were going to bed early.

One night we camped at a vialidad post (highway maintenance post). Our dreams were disrupted by a loud screeching noise followed by a huge impact of something big. For a moment it was quiet, then we heared a whimpering. Half asleep still, I thought the house under construction next to us was falling apart, but Flo knew immediatly that a car accident had occured. He put on his clothes quickly and ran up to the road, where he found a pickup truck upside down in the ditch. A man was lying accross the front seats, saying that he wasn’t able to  get out. Flo told him, that he was getting help and would be back immediatly. He ran to the trailer of the vialidad official and tried to knock him awake. But the man first lit a cigarette. Flo tried to get him moving, but he was very slow to understand what had happend. Finally they went over to the site of the accident together. The driver of the pickup had by now managed to crawl out of his car, but needed help walking. Flo supported him, while the official went ahead to his trailer. There he handed desinfectant and bandaids to Flo and told him to care for the casualty, while he was calling ambulance and police. The casualty was under shock talking about the others. So Flo went back to the accident site and searched for others, but all he found was the drivers wallet which he brought back to him. The man had been driving alone and fallen asleep. There was nothing more he could do and so Flo came back to sleep.

We did get up very early next morning because we wanted to ride the whole 70km of gravel ahead in one day and hopefully most before the wind was waking up. When we left the vialidad post,  a policeman was inspecting the accident site. We greetet him and rode off. Nobody intervend to question Flo which we were glad about.

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Never have we seen so many wild animals as here, out in the pampa. There were lots of foxes with little ones playing in the fields, nandus (the south american ostrich),  guanacos and an armadillo. We saw flamingoes, other water birds, condors and birds of prey. The pampa down here was much more diverse than further north with more grassland and swamps than thorn bushes.

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Next day we were on the road early again for the highway turned directly westward for some 20km, meaning straight into head wind. When we finally turned south around midday, the wind had gotten extremely strong and blew me a few times into the other lane in front of cars. I had to get off and push my bike even downhill. I just didn’t have the strengh to hold my bike up against that wind. We decided to take a long lunch break and then be looking for a wind sheltered spot to camp. After a while of fighting on, we finally found a place close to the road behind some bushes and went to bed early. Up early morning again, we made it to the border into Chile and to Puerto Natales quickly.

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Using our feet instead of wheels for once

In Puerto Natales we could stay at a hostal owner’s house for a good price. We rested for a day, then prepared our trip to Torres del Paine National Park. I was feeling all good this time and we really wanted to hike in those beautiful mountains.

We took the bus early one morning up to the park. Torres del Paine is unbelievable expensive and extremely touristic. The paths are well maintained. It was light hiking with a mass of other tourists but we still enjoyed it, although we thought it to be much wilder.

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The first day, after arriving at the last bus stop in the park, we walked for six hours, 18km. Chan complained for the first hour, but then found sticks to play with and was happy for the rest of the day. We arrived at the campsite around 6pm, put up the tent and went cooking in the refugio (shelter). Chan was completely fine, but Flo and I had both crampy, hurting legs! We were wondering about the next few days, but as soon as we were walking in the morning again, we were fine. We climbed a steep path up to the view point of the southern icefield and returned to the same camp.

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 Next day was extremely windy. Along a lake we obsereved the wind tossing water high up into the air. My  backpack was huge though much lighter than Flo’s and I was knocked over by the wind a few times. In some places we had to hold on to Chan tightly to keep him from beeing pushed over a cliff.

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On our last day in the park we wanted to catch the bus back to Puerto Natales at 2pm. We had to walk about 12km and kept hurrying Chan along. The next bus was at 7pm, the ride taking 3 hours. Chan obviously didn’t enjoy that hike very much and was saying that hiking was really dumb. But once we arrived at the bus stop he started playing with other packpackers immediatly, most of which looked pretty tired. Chan was running around, jumping and screaming, no sign that he had just walked 12km in 3 and a half hours!

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We got back to Puerto Natales in time for a party at a hostal where Chan was running around the fire with his new friends Noah and Finn, children of one of the hostal owners.

Three and a half days brought us to Punta Arenas. There wasn’t much wind and after the first day grassland was all around us again. The night before reaching the city, we camped at a police control post. The police men were very nice and proudly showed us the place they had set up for the many cyclists passing through. They had build a wooden shed for wind and rain protection with a fire ring. In the morning they called us into their kitchen to eat our breakfast in a warm place.

Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego

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We only stayed in Punta Arenas for two days before taking the ferry to Tierra del Fuego. When we got off the ferry it rained, the usual patagonian drizzle which soaked us within minutes. We filled up our waterbag in Porvenir and started up the last gravel road before Ushuaia.

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We only made it 30km far, then came across a sign of an estancia only 500m away. The people of the estancia were very hospitable and let us stay in the dorm house they use for all the gauchos at busy times. We were invited for tea into the main house. Later we went back to the dorm and cooked dinner, then went to bed. Next mornign we ate breakfast and while packing the bikes the housekeeper came over to invite us for breakfast. She was very upset when she learned that we had already eaten, since we didn’t show up for dinner the night before either. She prepared some sandwiches for us for the way. For her it had been natural that we were invited for dinner and breakfast without needing to tell us. We hadn’t known about that custom of the estancias on Tierra del Fuego. A day later at the estancia Concordia, Rigoberto, a legend under cyclists, told us that on any estancia on Tierra del Fuego we could ask for water and whatever food we needed. He showed us fotos of all the cyclists which had passed through and we found some familiar faces. He cooked a tasty dinner and we spend the evening chatting away.

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The next forty kilometers we were almost flying though still on gravel. At the intersection we had to decide which way to take: The easy way straight to the border and to pavement within the next 50km with tailwind or against hard headwind on gravel for 50km, then into what Rigoberto had called precious country. A detour on gravel for some 100km. We sat down to eat lunch and decided to take a ride to Cameron, if there was one while we were eating. Soon three grader and a small truck approached on the road to Cameron. We asked them about the road conditions further south and towards the border and if we could get a ride with them. They gave us a lift for part of the way to their kitchen trailer from where we tried to hitch a ride on. While we were waiting, the road workers invited us in for a coffee. Later a truck brought us to the intersection just before Cameron.

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We weren’t in the mood of riding down the steep hill into the village, instead we started climbing up towards the center of the island. We spent the night at the roadside, sheltered from the wind by some trees and bushes.

When we had just finished packing the bikes in the morning , that all soaking patagonian drizzle rain started once more. Slowly we climbed up and up. We wondered if it had really been worth, riding that detour, since the country around us wasn’t any special, just some more pampa. But when we had reached a certain elevation everything around us changed, even the sun was burnign its way through the clouds, stopping the drizzle. The trees got more dense, the leafs lighting up red and yellow with the sunrays touching them. There were small lakes with flamingoes and the ever present guanaco on the grassland beteween the forested hills.

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We rode 60km and arrived at an estancia around 5pm. We asked if we could put up our tent there, sheltered from the wind. There had not been estancias every 5km as Rigoberto had asured us, but rather only one midway. But on this one, a branch of a huge estancia, were only workers present, which weren’t allowed such desicions. We had to ask the owner who might or might not come by that evening. So we asked for water. When Flo had the waterbag filled up, he was told that it wasn’t drinking water and needed to be treated. We put micropur tablets into the water and rode another 5km to the closest forest, where we camped in the midst of the trees.

It rained throughout the whole night. The road up here was more dirt track than gravel road and after that rain very muddy. But we were lucky and it was bad and sticky only for the first few kilometers, then the sun and wind had already dried it up enough not to be sticky anymore.

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The last 11km to the border our road got smaller even, meandring through autumn forest. To get from the chilean border post to the argentinian one, we needed to cross a river without bridge. Flo went in first to check out the deepness of the water. It was about knee level. The current wasn’t too strong and he brought his bike to the other side. I followed with some panniers. Flo brought the other bike, and then Chan to the other side, while I was carring panniers. The last thing was the trailer, which we had to carry together. Just when we had everything together again, it started to rain quite heavily. Wet up to the waist, we fled into the border post and had the officer stamp our passports, while the rain passed by. Then we asked if we could spend the night there. The officer showed us a wood shelter where we could put up the tent. We hung our wet pants and sandales up to dry, since now the sky cleared up and started a nice fire to warm up.

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As we were about to go to bed, an incredible noise arose in the hut right next to the tent. The officer had forgotten to tell us about the generator working until midnight. We went off to sleep dreaming about traktors. Suddenly the noise stopped, but now the border dog decided to scare away that big yellow thing new on his territory and barked his lungs out right in front of our tent until dawn.

There was no more forest on the other side of the river. We were back into the dry grassland. At the first estancia we liked to buy some bread, since we were out by now. But the people there although looking at us, ignored us. For lunch we were eating crackers with olives, cookies and chocolate, but only two kilometers further was another estancia and here we tried our luck agian. This time they gave us drinking water and fresh bread not even wanting our money for it.

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It was another 60km day on gravel with lots of side wind. Rio Grande was not far anymore now, but to get there and to a much needed supermarket, we had to pedal into the wrong direction and against the wind for 14km. We filled our bags with fresh produce, sweets and bread and turned around right away. We didn’t like Rio Grande very much and were rather using the strong tailwind, pushing us south.

Some 50km before Tolhuin, the pampa lost ground to the enchanted forest of coloured trees bearded with lichens. On the way we met Sara and Thomas again, a german cyclist couple we had met for the first time on the Careterra Austral and many times since. We spent the night together on the campground in Tolhuin at the lakeside and chattet until late into the night.

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It was only 105km to Ushuaia now, but we made it again only 30km far. The wind was getting strong again, pushing us around and we weren’t up to fighting it. Instead we found a gate in the fence along the highway and pushed our bikes into the forest, where we put up our tent protected from the wind. There was a firering already put together, most likely by other cyclists. We gathered firewood and lit a warming fire. It wasn’t long before we heard some voices from the road. Flo thought this could only be other cyclists and went to have a look. He came back with Thomas and Sara and we spent another lovely evening together.

On the last riding day before reaching the southern most city, “the end of the world”, we experienced patagonieas best weather: Sunshine and rain alternating, wind from all directions and it even snowed for a little while. A bright rainbow completed the show.

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We felt like cheering the whole day long. Finally we were approaching the destination we had set out to eight years ago! It was such beautiful riding with the view of rugged rocks, glaciers, forest and grassland. It smelled so good! Then we turned around a curve and were in the middle of  Ushuaia´s industrial part. What a shock. There was nothing romantic about this place, just an ordinary town.

We bought some wine to celebrate our arrival and went to the camping where we had trees around and view of the Beagle Chanel.

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We really made it to the end of the world, the end of the road. But isn’t there another end of the world? Isn’t there another road leading back into the center of the world again?

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30 km per day

Posted by on Feb 20 2009 | 13 Chile 07/ 08, 14 Argentina 08/09, English

A new house

While staying at a hostal in Coyhaique, we met a german ciclyst and chatted about our experiences. When he heard, that our tent was leaking, he told us, that there was a The North Face store in town. We decided, to have a look at their tents. They only had two person tents on hand, but could order a three person expedition tent from their store in Punta Arenas. We were lucky, that they had a special on that tent just then and that we could buy it for about two thirds of what it costs in US $. The North Face store sent the tent express with DHL and we should have gotten it two days later. Only, that DHL wasn’t capable of getting it from the airport into town. After two more days waiting for it, we finally managed to get our new home after calling and visiting the The North Face store and the DHL office many times.

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Our new tent is bright yellow, making us believe that the sun is always shining, when we are inside! It is a bit bigger than the old one and has two instead of one vestibule. Ventilation was better with the old one, now we do have some condensation water somethimes in the morning. But it is a good windproof tent and there wasn’t any other choice in Coyhaique anyway.

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After one week of resting and waiting we finally headed out of town on a half sunny, half rainy day. It happens quite often in Patagonia, that it rains out of a complete blue sky! For 100km we enjoyed pavement and we reached Cerro Castillo within two days of riding through amazing landscape. In that small town we were buying food for the next four days, where there wasn’t any place to buy provisions.

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 Our wheels  wobbeld over stones and bad washboard and slipped sideways on soft gravel. It took us hours to ride up a pass of 6km through awesome rock formations. Finally the road was better and we made our 30km must for the day and even found a cosy spot to camp. There was a waterfall close by to get water and around us lots of calafate bushes full of ripe berries. Chan and I picked a pan full and after dinner we cooked them with sugar for a delicious desert!

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The next day was very windy as we were riding along a big river until we were climbing uphill for a long time. On the uphill it started to drizzle and then rain more and more. We started to look for a place to camp. There was a shed by the roadside but it was too small for us and dirty inside. We put up the tent in the woods next to it. There was a small stream for water and we could hang up our tarp (the footprint of our old tent) into the trees. Chan was the only one staying dry. He went straight from the trailer into the tent. Flo and I cooked under the tarp and then fled into the tent as well for eating. This was the waterproof test of our new home! It was raining hard throughout the night. In the morning we were still dry inside. Phew!! Packing up wasn’t much fun, the weather stayed the same. Our clothes were still wet from the day before and we were freezing. We discoverd that we had spent the night on the pass. For a while the road was pretty flat and it was beautiful riding through the forest, if still very wet. And then we got the view into the new valley of the Myrta river, where the road led steeply down hill. How beautiful nater was around here! So many lovely camp spots along the river, but for us it was too early to stop.

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This day turned into a long riding day of about 50km. Soon after we crossed the river, the land to both sides of the road was fenced in. That meant riding on. Finally, when we were exhausted and already had been looking on fenced in land for a campsite, we found a place, close to the road, but perfect for this day, right at the river.

Patagonia sin represas

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Along the careterra austral and in every village on the way we saw banners and posters with the message, that the people of chilenean Patagonia don’t want dams and powerlines to destroy their unique nature. We enjoyed the view of glaciars and the deep blue lake General Carrera, we followed the unbelievable turqois Rio Baker, were breathing the clear air drinking the fresh water directly out of the streams, knowing, that in maybe a couple of years, the whole careterra austral will be paved, bringing lots of traffic. Knowing that then also, powerlines will be cutting through the beautiful sights half of which will be flooded.

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Shortly before we reached Cochrane, we obsereved a helicopter, transporting goods into the gorge of Rio Baker. Later we found out, that this was dinamyte for the construction of a huge dam which will flood most of the gorge. It is Swiss, Spanish, EU and US companies which secured the rights over the water to Pinochets time. They are now destroying Patagonia, while making lots of money, leaving the people here poor and the land in disaster.

For the building of the careterra austral unter Pinochet, much land had already been destroyed, by blowing up large pieces of land. To help populate the area to make it secure from arentinian takeover, Pinochet ordered to cut all the trees to turn the land into farm land. Now vast parts of the country are eroded and turned into desert. Huge pastures are cemetaries for fallen tree trunks, left to rot.

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It is all a very sad story and as so many times in history: The patagonian people have no say in what’s done to their country.

Even the rocks are weeping

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In Cochrane we took a few days to rest, before riding the for us best part of the careterra austral, the part to Tortel. We enjoyed beautiful weather. Every ca. 30 km we found a good spot to camp with a small stream and had a fire till late at night.

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At the intersection to Tortel the rains started and didn’t stop anymore for the next 6 days. We decided to visit Tortel, a village built on wooden platforms and boardwalks.

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We needed to get broken screw of the trailer’s suspension out. The people in Tortel have already had enough tourists, it seems. They only have an access road to the careterra for the past 4 years and have since been flooded with all kinds of tourists. To us they weren’t very friendly nor very helpful and it was pretty expensive to stay there. It took us two days to find a drill to work on the trailer. But finally we could fix the suspension and got a lift back to the intersection. On the next 30km to Puerto Yungay hundreds of streams and waterfalls were running down the mountains and out of the rocks. It felt like the whole world was weeping. This was an unbelievable amount of water all around us! In Puerto Yungay the army people let us stay inside their camp, infront of a woodstove, while we were waiting for the ferry to cross over a fjord. We were really grateful for this because our new rainjackets aren’t waterproof. We were completely soaked and kept to the fireplace the whole four hours of waiting. It was already past 7 pm, when we arived at the other side. For a moment it had stopped to rain, but we asked people, if we could put up our tent inside a barn and they showed us a wooden shack, where we could spend the night.

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Again it had rained all night and continued the next day. The whole forest on both sides of the road was flooded. In fact it was one huge river all around us! Aoon we were soaked again and freezing. It would have been a lovely section to ride, but at the top of the first pass, we decided to hitch a ride for the remaining 70km to Villa O’Higgins. Right there we met a swiss couple on a recombend tandem and chatted with them, as a truck came along. The swiss, Sem and Karin, helped us lifting the bikes and the trailer over the railing and off we were. This was the most freezing and the wettest ride we have ever taken! Chan was sitting on my lap to stay warm, covered with the raincoat of our  backpack. Florian was standing up, chatting to a chilean ciclyst, who had a broken derailleur and therefore was on the truck as well. After what seemed an eternety, we finally stopped in Villa O’Higgins in front of a hostal. I was shivering with blue lips and didn’t have much control over my bodies movments. The hostal owner waved me and Chan inside to the fireplace. Flo wasn’t as wet as me and didn’t feel quite as cold. He got all our stuff inside with the help of the chilenan guy. After a warm shower and a nice hot meal, we enjoyed the company of a south african cyclist couple, we had already met in Tortel.

Without a road

Since it had been raining so much, the ferry across the Lago O’Higgins had not been running for the past 5 days. Many people had been stuck in Villa O’Higgins, especially many ciclysts and that’s how we met many of them again, who had passed us on the careterra: There were Sara and Beni from Switzerland, Sara and Thomas from Germany, Daniel from Germany, Claire and Simon from South Africa an argentinian guy and four chilenean guys. Until 10 pm the day before the ferry was running again, Flo and I didn’t know, if we had our seats or not, since so many people wanted to get on the boat. But in the end we could go as well. What fantastic ride this was. For the first half it was still raining. But when we approached the glaciar O’Higgins, the sun sent some rays through the gray clouds. Suddenly I saw something big and deep blue on one side of the boat: our first iceberg!

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We stayed close to the glaciar for a long time, watching it brake of small pieces from time to time. Then the captian served us a glace of pisco with ice from the glaciar, which he had been catching out of the water. For Chan he had sirup with the ice.

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In the late afternoon, we arrived in Candelario Mansilla, an estancia and the chilenean border post. We camped there one night and in the morning were lucky to be able to rent two horses for our luggage. This meant, that we only had to bring our three bikes and two panniers with our food across the passage to Argentina and the horses were carrying everything else, including, the trailer. For 7 km a trail was leading steeply uphill. Chan and I were walking, Flo was riding. Every kilometer he put his bike down and came back to carry Chan up to his bike. We had to cover 22km that day, which Chan wouldn’t have been able to all walk. On the top it was much flatter and we could even ride for about 5km. Chan was now sitting on Flo’s back rack. Just before we wanted to have lunch, the sun burned some clouds away and we could see a patch of blue sky! Then we had to cross a river on a small wobbely footbridge. It wasn’t far now to the border of Argentina. There the trail turned into a narrow dirt track. We couldn’t ride anymore. The track was going steeply up and down, there were fallen tree trunks and tree roots on it and many puddles. Chan loved that path and needn’t be carried anymore. Flo detached Chan’s bike from mine and was then walking back and forth to get one bike at a time further. At some point the horses passed us. They didn’t struggle to get across the rivers and swampy parts as we did. The rain had turned the path into a mud whole.

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After about 5 hours walking, we finally got a glimpse of the Lago del Desierto over which we could take another boat to the southern end, to the beginning of the road. That final part was really steep down hill and really narrow. By now our brake pads were worn through and we had to slow down the bikes with our bodies.

 

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This passage would have taken us three days with all our luggage and it would have been extremely difficult. How glad I was, that we didn’t have to lift the trailer over those rivers and down that last part of “funnel” path!

At the lake was the argentinian border post and as a welcome upon arrival I was bitten into my leg by a big dog. I was screaming then trembling with shock. Chan cried with me. The border police gave us our stamps very quickly without asking the normal questions about food etc.

Neverthless, we decided to camp there for the night, since it was quite late and take the ferry next morning. On the other side of the lake we dipped our bikes into the water first to clean off all that mud. Then we had to fix our breaks before we rolled to El Chalten, the wind in our backs, the sun smiling from the sky!

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