Looking out for some green

Posted by on Dec 10 2008 | 13 Chile 07/ 08, 14 Argentina 08/09, English

Altiplano feeling

Strenghtend by the many ice creams we rolled out of Mendoza. For the next 100km our surroundings were green cultivated fields, irrigated with the water from the close mountians. The second day we admired the snow capped mountains at sunset for once cloudless. We camped at gas stations and needen’t worry about water.

But then we decided to take the paved road to San Rafael instead of a dirt road with unknown condition and soon there was no more green, just brown bush desert around us. The wind was nice to us that day and we travelled 100km and just outside of San Rafael reached a shady roundabout with poplar trees and camping tables. Again we found cultivated land around us, but as soon as we climbed out of the river valley the vegetation diminished, left were only brown bushes. We reached a pass and looked down onto flat pampa, mountains on the horizon and the wind chasing black clouds across the sky, bringing rain, hail and thunderstorms. Not again! Didin’t we have enough of this on the Altiplano already? The same old panick crept upon me. Flo was looking out for some shelter. Of course there was none. We kept pedaling as usual, what else could we do? And we were lucky. The clouds hailing onto us passed quickly. Lightening stayed far away and soon the sun smiled at us again. Then an intersection with a store turned up where we warmed up with a cup of coffee and put up our tent for the night. We reached Malargue on the sixth day after we had left Mendoza and stayed on a campground for three nights.

That’s Patagonia

What was lying before us now wasn’t easy riding anymore. We came through beautiful landscape when entering the foothills of the Andes. Whenever we climbed up over a pass we hoped to see more vegetation in the next valley. We searched through the thornbushes with our eyes and pointed out every green spot or new plant we made out to each other. But in reality we just entered a new valley of bush pampa. Altough some of the streams actually carried some humidity, most were still dry and dusty.

 

My new lowrider past the test of a longer piece of dirt road, where we ran out of water and went to bed with dry mouths only to discover next morning that we should have gone on for two more kilometers uphill. On the other side of that slope was a beautiful small lake.

Back on smooth pavement we crossed the boundery into Neuquen, the most northern province of Patagonia. Still there was no more green in sight than the tall poplar trees in the towns, but we were greeted by the strongest wind so far, that first day of riding in Patagonia. We flew uphill with a speed of 15km/h without even pedaling. The wind was shaking our bikes and pushing us around. Then, after 38km rollercoaster, the road turned and we stood still. We had just begun to climb a pass and now needed to push one bike at a time uphill meter by meter. Somethimes we couldn’t move even when both of us were pushing as hard as we could. We needed two hours for a bit more than a kilometer. So this was the wind, people were always talking about. Luckily Lalo came to rescue us with his pickup. Just a few kilometers before he found us fighting against the wind, his windshield had been damaged by small stones the wind was spinning through the air. He cut our path and ordered us to accept his ride to the next town, Chos Malal, 50km further. It was too dangerous to continue by bike. I had already been wondering how we could possibly put up our tent in this storm with no sheltered space far and wide. The wind storm continued the next day. We were glad to be in town, where it wasn’t quite as strong. Our laundry was dry 10 minutes after we had hung it up though.

Trees and rivers, flowers and beautiful scents at last!

From Chos Malal it was two and a half days to Las Lajas. Some of the streams we crossed were now running. But we didn’t believe it anymore that the vegetation should be changing into lush green within the next days. Around us was the same brown pampa, no sight of change. Only when around a bend the snow capped Andes appeared we got hope again. Las Lajas was green only because of the planted poplars, but for the first time we could make out trees on the mountain slopes and for the first time we put our tent up on grass.

Halfway up Paso Pino Hachado it was suddenly there, a group of araucaria trees. Finally! More and more of those funny trees appeared. We were amazed by the beauty of nature that was now all around us. We slept under an araucaria that night.

Next morning the wind was back. Slowly we made our way uphill towards the frontier with Chile. We passed customs quickly, but stayed in the building to eat lunch sheltered from the wind. The next seven kilometers up to the pass were on dirt and very hard. The patagonian wind really wanted to keep us. On the other side of the pass it was even greener. There were little streams running everywhere. The diversity of the vegetation was growing with every meter lost on altitude. it wasn’t easy to ride down that pass. The wind was still pushing us around. Somethimes we had to pedal hard to move foreward, downhill!!

Chilean customs wasn’t a problem either, since we had nothing to eat in our panniers anymore. After all that wind and dust of the past months we now needed to take a break at a nice spot. We found one at Suizandina, a hostel and campground built by a swiss guy who was once riding his bike from Vancouver to tierra del fuego! Chan had a blast with five other kids while Flo and I enjoyed a rich swiss breakfast buffet and a lawn to hang around.

Various speed levels 

After 10km on the road that morning other cyclists were aproaching. Wasn’t this a kids trailer? We stopped for a chat and this chat turned out to last five hours. Christiane und Patrick are travelling with thier two and a half year old Max for half a year in Chile. After a while the two boys started to play together and we were exchanging travel stories and experiences. This was the first cycling family we have met in those 7 years since we had left Switzerland.

In Curacautin we filled our panniers with food and snacks because we wanted to cross Parque National Conguillio at the still active vulcano Llaima (3125m). For two days we were climbing up on a very bad and soft gravel path. The second day was worse. We only made it 10km far. Poor Chan had to walk most of it. Flo couldn’t pull the trailer with him in it trough that soft volcanic ground. When we finally reached more forested areas, the road was better but leading up and down incredible steep slopes so that we still couldn’t move quicker. Our surroundings were beautiful, the views of the volcano stunning, but we would never recommend that route to cyclists with weight on their bikes. Even Eric, an american cyclist which we met up on a mountian lake, where we camped, needed one whole day for 40km, when usually biking 120km.

Back on pavement we wanted to stay on it, even if that meant a detour of about 100km. So we pedalled to Temuco and then a part on the autopista. But it was fun. There was a national bike race taking place on our route. Aparently there were 300 cyclists starting within different categories. First they rode in the opposite direction, then they turned and passed us, some of them waving and cheering at us. Just behind the last racer we crossed the finish line cheered by bikers and their coaches.

Time for an unexpected break

In Villarica we wanted to stay for a few days and celebrate my birthday. We stayed in another swiss hostel with Claudia and Beat who were cycling once around the globe as well. The night before my birthday though, I got the message, that my Grandma had died. Having lost already two of my grandparents on our journey I strongly felt that I had to go home to be with my family this time. So I managed to find a more or less cheap flight, got a bus ticket and was off to Switzerland, where I just made it to the funeral. I stayed three days. Then I had to go aboard another plane again to be back with Flo and Chan for Chan’s birthday.

Meanwhile the two stayed at a friend’s blueberry farm near Villarica. Chan was busy playing with Marvin a boy he had already met at the Suizandina hostel a week before. Flo was helping out with all the kids on the farm (Marvin’s two sisters and two more boys visiting) and did some gardening work.

On the sixt of December we celebrated Chan’s birthday with Gritibaenze (breadmen) and a chocolate raspberry cake and Chan and Marvin had Chan’s presents unwrapped within about five seconds. We are still at the blueberry farm. The people here are already saying, that we will probably stay until April for the picking. But we are ready now to once more hit the road. In a day or two we will be riding towards Argentina, then heading south again.

I wrote that update two days ago. Then the computer couldn’t handle the pictures and I couldn’t finish the upddate. TOday we left the blueberryfarm. When we hit pavement after six kilometers, I heard a bad sound: The part, where the backrack is attached to the bikes frame was broken again (like once before in Mexico and the other side in Ecuador). We fixed it with some straps and rode on to Villarica, where we welded the frame just an hour ago.

Tomorrow we will definately ride on, the Carretera Austral as our next aim.

4 comments for now

4 Responses to “Looking out for some green”

  1. How old is Chan now?? It seems like so long ago that you guys were right behind us in Baja!!

    We’re doing well and will be crossing into Mexico within a couple weeks. It’ll take us a couple years to get down to where you are now – but we’ll get there!

    Nancy
    http://www.familyonbikes.org

    13 Dec 2008 at 9:12 pm

  2. brigitt schatzmann

    liebe dreiradler liebe rebecca und familie,
    herzlichen dank für dein kleines kärtlein das den weg nach langwies gefunden hat.das ist ja sehr intressant wo ihr unterwegs seid.auch die photos animieren mich um gleich den rucksack zu packen.ich werde euch nun öfters “besuchen”auf eurer seite.cilgia hat ein austauschschuljahr in san rafael gemacht und ist wieder bis mitte jan. dort.
    ich wünsche euch weiterhin eine gute reise.vielegute begegnungen.
    hebets guet ganz en härzleche gruess usem tief verschneite langwies
    brigitt schatzmann

    20 Dec 2008 at 1:37 pm

  3. Tia Rosa Marie

    Liebe Rebekka, lieber Florian
    Wie schoen, von Euch zu lesen! Seid Ihr gut weitergekommen? Ich habe viel an Euch gedacht und mir vorgestellt, wie und wo Ihr unterwegs seid. Wir sind in Villa La Angostura angekommen und pedalen weiter suedwaerts, wahrscheinlich Bariloche umfahrend. Unser naechstes Ziel ist El Bolson, von wo wir ueber den Lago Puelo nach Chile zum Seno Reloncavi wollen. Ab Hornopiren oder Puerto Montt dann irgendwie weiter in Richtung Carretera (ohne ueber Chaiten fahren zu muessen). Vielleicht ueber den Lago Todos Los Santos und Puerto Blest und weiter ueber Colonia Suiza/Bariloche. (… von losem Schotter und Staub haben wir inzwischen so ziemlich die Nase voll!)
    Viele viele herzliche Gruesse an meinen kleinen grossen Freund Chan. Sein Flugzeug hat schon manche Umladerei der hinteren Saccochen ueberstanden und begleitet mich weiterhin. Die Fotos von Arimi und vom Spielen am Fluss in Curarrehue sind sehr schoen geworden. Ich werde sie schicken, so bald wir mal ein Bildbearbeitungsprogramm und etwas mehr Zeit an einem guten PC und gute Internetverbindungen haben.
    Wir wuenschen Euch gute Weiterreise und hoffen auf ein Wiedersehen weiter suedlich.
    Schoene Weihnachten und eine gute Fahrt ins neue Jahr.
    Seid ganz herzlich gegruesst
    von Rosa Maria und auch von Reto

    24 Dec 2008 at 7:43 am

  4. Sali zaemme!

    Eigentlich haetten wir schon lange einmal einen Kommentar hinter lassen wollen – aber eben! Wir lesen eure Eintraege naemlich sicher schon seit etwa einem 1 Jahr oder so, als wir euch zufaellig im www entdeckt haben. Nun haben wir heute auch auf der Karte mal genauer nach geschaut, wo ihr denn seid, da wir in ein paar Tagen selber nach Suedamerika fliegen werden.

    Wir pedalen seit 2 Jahren und 8 Monaten durch die Welt und koennen ab euch nur staunen, wie lange ihr schon zu dritt unterwegs seid. Gratulation! Wir finden euch wirklich toll und moechten euch ganz herzlich danken fuer eure Berichte und Erlebnisse, die ihr mit uns teilt!

    Wir entnehmen momentan euren Berichten einige gute Tipps. Ab Mitte Januar werden wir von Ushuaia nordwaerts pedalen – wer weiss, vielleicht treffen wir euch dann!

    Passt auf euch auf – always blue skies.

    Die zwei Pedaler

    Karin und Sem

    http://www.pedalen.ch

    03 Jan 2009 at 1:48 am

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