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I Will Always Regret that I didn’t go to Japan

I found this amazing video showcasing some Japanese candy, and I very much want to try it.  Yummy!

A Bit about Bolivia

Bolivia, my third country in South America, is a surreal country, with eye-popping scenery at a breath-taking altitude.  By breath-taking, of course, I mean much of the cycling is between 3000 and 4000 meters above sea level.  Kate and I called it the soul-crusher, and after a few short days of biking, decided any future journeys would take place by motorcycle.

Yes, Bolivia was tough.  We knew it would be - after all, our route shadowed the Andes! - but I think both Kate and I were surprised by the effects of altitude, sand roads, food poisoning… oh, and our own mechanical ineptness.  We spent one morning struggling, me complaining that my front rim was too tight and my brake kept pulling, while Kate couldn’t understand why her brake no longer worked.  Yes, it took 30 kilometers before we realized we’d switched wheels after short bus ride (you generally need to take the front wheels off for bus rides, then tip the driver an extra $5 or so each.)   We’re obviously both amazing engineers - perhaps a change in careers is for the best!

We nearly died of boredom on an expensive jeep tour of the southwest corner of the country (and it’s probably for the best as trying to bike this route would, no doubt, have killed us in fact, peaking at over 5000m in altitude on painfully sandy-dirt roads) but the scenery was stunning.  As though we were on a different planet, we saw belching craters, red and green lakes, strange rock formations, and of course flamingos.  Who’d have thought it?

We then headed north from Uyuni and its enormous salt lake to La Paz, through true highlands on some of the worst roads of the trip.  We went several days without villages, camping in the empty plateaus and occasionally awakened by curious shepherds.   When we did come to a town with a market, we found more dried llama fetuses and flamingo wings than food… when we finally made it to La Paz we pigged out on sushi, forgetting the number one rule of sushi:  Do NOT eat sushi in a landlocked South American country infamous for its poor hygiene.  Our next several days were fun as we enjoyed the clean bathrooms and amazing American TV of some of the nicer hotels in the city. And then, over all too soon and not soon enough, just waking up from a dream, we cycled north past Lake Titicaca and into Peru.  Rolling hills along the beautiful lake, a nice breeze, whitewashed cathedrals and amazing pavement, the last day of biking was everything that the rest of Bolivia was not: peaceful, enjoyable, and fast.  Goodbye, soul-crusher, may I never see you again on a bicycle!

Sea of Salt
Sea of Salt

Bike Balancing Test
Bike Balancing Test

Jumping Practice
Jumping Practice

The Promised Flamingos
The Promised Flamingos

Hot Spring in the Middle of Nowhere
Hot Spring in the Middle of Nowhere

Biking in Bolivia - a Dangerous Business
Biking in Bolivia - a Dangerous Business

Witch market
Witch market

Those Promised Flamingo Wings
Those Promised Flamingo Wings

Sushi in Bolivia... WHAT COULD GO WRONG??
Sushi in Bolivia... WHAT COULD GO WRONG??

Lake Titicaca
Lake Titicaca

Sidewalk Scene
Sidewalk Scene

Llama
Llama

Copacabana Cathedral
Copacabana Cathedral

The Andes and Aftershocks

The last time I checked into this blog, I was hanging out in Talca - a small, slightly boring city in the center of Chile from which I could visit wineries or take weekend (bus) trips to Valparaiso.  I admit, the cycling in South America was getting a little… frustrating.  Wind, rain, sun, mountains, long stretches of boring nothingness made me long for a bike of the motored variety, and of course the absolute lack of sugarcane juice, sticky rice, and Thai curries didn’t help matters.
Continue reading The Andes and Aftershocks

Alive and Well!

I just wanted to post a quick note to assure everyone that I am, in fact, still alive and posting and biking.  I took a tiny break in Quebec for the holidays, so I sort of put the blog and biking on temporary hold at that time, but I am back in Chile and looking forward to a visit to a winery in the next week or so… and then another crossing of the Andes!   Uh oh.

Also, I’ve been negligent about replying to comments, but a big “Thank You” to everyone who leaves a comment and I do read all of them!

Getting to Chile

I have spent much of the last week getting from Argentina to Chile.  I love crossing borders - it’s always fun and exciting to see the subtle changes in supermarkets, signs, road quality, peoples’ attitudes, and of course there’s the new passport stamp!  Very exciting.
Continue reading Getting to Chile

Bariloche: Lazy Days and Beautiful Views. And Chocolate.

After arriving in Bariloche, I was largely without plan. All I knew was that I didn’t want to head into the wind anymore! I decided to spend a few days just relaxing, get a handle on the weather and wind direction and possible nice rides, and eventually start on the trip planning.
Continue reading Bariloche: Lazy Days and Beautiful Views. And Chocolate.

Fiesta Time!

While crossing from the eastern side to the western side of Argentina, there was a lot of emptiness.  Much of the way was desert, without a lot except sand, dirt, and fencepost along the side of the road.  Every 40 to 80km would be a tiny town, many barely surviving, eking out a living from the farmers living nearby.  These towns usually had only the most basic of amenities - maybe a  tienda or restaurant, a little pension run by an enterprising woman, and a place for the new bus linking Viedma to Bariloche to stop.

Ramos Mexia was one such town.  The day before, the woman running the pension shrugged when I asked what there was on the road ahead.  “A very small town” she warned me.  Riding into the town late the next day (with two other cyclists from New Zealand) I couldn’t help but agree.  Definitely not a lot going on… or so we assumed
Continue reading Fiesta Time!

Crossing the Country: From the Pampas to the Mountains

 Well, I’ve broken my first resolution of website maintenance: update frequently!  Fortunately, this time I sort of had an excuse… I was crossing the great barren plains and deserts of Argentina, and internet was near impossible to be found for almost two weeks.  Fighting the constant headwind, wearing out my bicycle on impossibly bad “ripio” roads, enjoying fiestas, rodeos, and dances in very rural Argentina, and even pitching my tent one night in a schoolyard, I hadn’t had much time for internet.
Continue reading Crossing the Country: From the Pampas to the Mountains

Interview Results, Etc.

So, my interview went reasonably well (or at least as well as I could hope, since it was all in Spanish!) and I actually found the write-up on the internet, for anyone who is interested in practicing their Spanish.
Continue reading Interview Results, Etc.

This Blog is Good for Something After All!

A few days ago, I stayed in Necochea with a contact I had made through this blog… guess it is good for something after all! Katie, an American ex-pat, lives there with her fiance, Daniel, and his family.  

 Necochea is a neat and tidy little tourist town, lying on the beach but quite cold still at the moment (or perhaps only for people like me with defective body temperatures) - I really enjoyed my time there.  This had a lot to do with the company, of course - being able to bore everyone else with my stories is always a good time for me!!

Katie and Daniel took me to see the sea lions in the port, out to an amazing steak restaurant, to multiple ice cream parlors (mmm, I was able to choose my favorite!) and to a candy store in the town center, even the beach!  I was able to try the infamous Argentinean pizza.  Perhaps best of all, Daniel’s mother cooked a couple of “muy rico” meals for the family, which temporarily included me. 

I’m always a little surprised by the hospitality I encounter as I travel.  It keeps my faith in humanity high, but it also means I’ve built up an impossibly high debt of kindness and favors that I can’t possibly come close to evening out in a lifetime.  Katie and Daniel’s family was just one example of a place where I was welcomed like a member of the family - I always appreciate this, especially being so far away from my own. To be a part of something, rather than just a solitary traveller, always makes a country feel a bit more like home.

***

Also, tonight I received my second request for a TV interview!  Weee!  This time there won’t be a Spanish interpreter, so hopefully it all goes well.  Cross your fingers for me tomorrow morning.