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Sunday ride

italiano

Winter was coming and time was running out. It is in the Cordoba province that I decided to reach my parents’ house in Faido on my bicycle from a point within Europe … spontaneously I bought a flight ticket to Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Amsterdam

My family and friends knew of my new plan only when I send my GPS position with my satellite transmitter, as soon as I landed in the old continent … I like this kind of surprise twist.

Only Anneloes and Adrian knew about my arrival in Netherlands. I met the lovely and funny couple in Ushuaia (and then again in Cochrane). They were riding to Santiago de Chile and they have also been on a 3-week cruise in the Antarctica …. I was so jealous!

I arrived exhausted in the evening … it was a relief to see friendly faces after a nightmare flight. While Anneloes was taking care of me, Adrian was preparing my bicycle. Thank you my friends!

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Amsterdam

When I started this trip I categorically excluded Europe … probably because one years ago I had others needs. I wanted to start in a place different of my home, I wanted to get away from everything that was familiar to me. This is why I started in Georgia. But now, after 13 months on the road, it seemed to me interesting to end the journey here and to experiment how I would have looked at “my” reality.

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Haar castle

I should admit that I was positively surprised … we know: in Europe at the moment there is a social crises, but despite this I had generally positive experiences. Netherland is really a very nice, very green, very clean and … very flat country.

The cycle paths are fantastic. You can travel for kilometers in the countryside submerged by nature, or straights along the highway,  but never happened to find myself in the middle of a busy road.

Netherland-2People are kind and helpful. Like the lovely Marja. She asked me if I needed help and, if I wanted, she could accompanied me for a stretch: “Sure, it would be a pleasure!”. She explained me about architecture, history, uses and customs of Dutch people … we rode about 20 km together.

Preparation zero (as usual) … not having internet it was difficult for me to download the maps necessary to navigate. Marja was the one who saved me. Thanks to her paper maps I could make a sketch of the path that I had to take … it worked out very well. In this way I rode through Netherlands. Thank you dear Marja!

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Belgium

Although there are no more borders, I noticed quite quickly when I entered Belgium. Everything was a little more neglected, the gardens were not perfect and flowered like the Dutch ones and the attention to aesthetics (architectural and also personal) was lower … in other words, it seemed to me that the Belgians are more easy-going.

For the second time during this trip I decided to try the warmshowers hospitality. I ended in a goat farm in Borlon. Geraldine and her family are just amazing and I had a funny stay there.

Is the goat winking at me? Aaah noooo, it is for what is hanging behind me!

Gaston and the little horse … Ehi guys a bit of privacy please…

Geraldine takes care of bout 30 goats, milks them and makes delicious cheeses. The family has a very simple lifestyle and produce practically almost everything they need … even delicious beers.

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Durbuy

La Roche en Ardenne

La Roche en Ardenne

I was enjoying peaceful, nice, relaxing rides … I had the impression to be on holiday!

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Luxembourg

Even Luxembourg and France were pleasant surprises. In France, in the beautiful camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker, the owners offered me the two nights I spent there: “We too want to give our little contribution to your trip!” … an adorable and great-hearted family. MERCI beaucoup.

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On the way to the camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker

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Camping of La Croix du Bois Sacker

I noticed that at my passage people laughed, maybe because of my faded and worn clothes, the shoes that had better times and the bicycle loaded with bags covered with dust and patches … sure, in the midst of so much elegance and attention to the physical appearance my passage didn’t go unnoticed. I didn’t care … how could I care? I had almost accomplished what one year ago to me seemed unreachable!

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I was in Alsace … I was very close to Basel, where live my sister and her family … difficult to explain the excitement and happiness at the thought of hugging my loved ones … I think it was the adrenaline that made me practically fly on my bicycle.

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Colmar

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Eguisheim

And the star of this trip? I think it enjoyed quite much: sunny and hot days, a lot of countryside, mice to chew everywhere (yes, it is a murder) and  long sleep in the fresh grass … do you think it was suffering?

I would define the European route as a Sunday ride: beautiful, easy, pleasant and relaxing. Thanks Europe it has been a pleasant time … but wait a moment… yes, something is missing: my home country! To the swiss ride I’ll dedicate my next post.

Un abbraccio

Catwoman, Dimitri the murder and some chewed mice

… 4 Heads …

italiano

I was in the heart of Argentina. An area very little beaten by cyclists.  At my passage people looked at me with amazement, wide eyes, smiles, greetings and encouragement. I seemed to relive what I lived in Central Asia, but here I had a huge advantage: I speak Spanish … I could converse with people, respond to their curiosity and exchange friendly chatter. I really enjoyed every stops in the little  villages.

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Embalse

Yes, the landscape was boring … but I liked it. I liked the people. I liked to imagine the life there in the middle of the “campo” (fields) 100 years ago. Big houses, long, straight roads, the abandoned railway, little schools in the middle of nowhere. Simple, humble and genuine life. Freedom.

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Rio de los Sauces

I was amazed by the extent of the crops, the amount of hectares of land and the unimaginable production of soybean, wheat and cereals. Argentina has 42’000’000 inhabitants and produces an amount of these raw materials that can feed up to 100’000’000 persons.  Despite this … unfortunately and incredibly … a part of the population is suffering malnutrition … why? Politic. Money. Power.

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Embalse

After the flat Pampa province I entered in the Cordoba region. Finally some topography. People were really friendly but …. geeeez! Sometimes it was difficult to understand their accent. People were calling me with any type of nickname: flaca (tiny), gordi (fatty), madre (mother), niña (baby), hija (daughter), negra (blacky), chica (girl), loca (crazy), muchacha (girl) … . At the end  I didn’t know my name anymore.

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Villa Yacanto

Beautiful forests, rivers, eucalyptus trees with silver leaves that perfumed the air with a refreshing aroma and …  rain, rain, rain. 24 days without seeing the sun. 21 wet, rainy days. 234% of humidity. Curly hair. Even the locals were tired.

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Villa Yacanto region

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Despite the rain and the high humidity Carla, a young woman, was washing her car … “crazy, who is washing the car with this weather? …” I tough while I was riding in front of her house … well, guess what? … 2 amazing days with a wonderful family. “I will miss you  till the sky” said the little Joaquin, Carla’s son, when I left.

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On the way to La Cumbrecita

Not only the encounter with Carla was weird: I wanted to reach the northest part of the province but the weather was just horrible. What to do? Generally I follow my instict but for the first time during this trip I was really torn on what to do … I threw the coin. Head: continue toward north (rain and fog). Cross: heading eastward (toward Buenos Aires).

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Feeling at home. La Cumbrecita.

Head …”Nooooooooo! Ok, I throw it again” (actually I knew what I wanted! ahahaha) … Head … “Mmmmmerda! Ok, once again” … Head … “Ahahahah WTF! Ok, the last one and I follow the result” … Head … 4 Heads … What is the probabilty to get 4 times head? 12.5% … I was not motivated at all to continue toward north but I trusted the coin … guess what? … 2 amazing day in a beautiful, incredible villa with two amazing souls.

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La Cumbrecita

I really would like to tell you about  A L L  the magic encounters I had in Cordoba and Santa Fe provinces but, as usual,  it is not possible in few lines …

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La Cumbrecita

Guido, Julia, Fatime, Meli, Anita, Anibal, Cacho, Guillermo, Lua, Carla, Abril, Joaquin, Maria, Carlos, Raquel, abuelita Eva, Renzo, Daniela, Coty, all the firefighters of Tio Pujio, Mario, Alexis, Carla, Leo, Marcos, Silvina, German, Sergio, Alejandra, police officers Romero and Rossi, Silvina, Alicia, Fabio, Martina, Pablo, the girl of the fry shop that offered me the lunch, the baker that offered me a dulce de leche cake … ok, ok, I stop. For you are just names, for me are smiles, laughter, cries, hugs, warmth, affection, generosity, stories, curiosity … GRACIAS.

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My hosts treated me like a queen with delicious asados

I have mixing feelings … I’m living an incredible experience … I’m happy to embrace my loved ones, but … how will I return to my daily life?

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I’m not yet home and I’m already planning my next trip … but there is a problem: I have a couple of candidate destinations … which one choose first?? … I think I’ll throw the coin.

Un abbraccio

Stef, Dimitri and 4 Heads

 

Like in a movie

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I was happy to leave that part of Chile. Believe me or not but the air was heavy there, in Futaleufù … Beautiful nature and the valley is just stunning, but have you ever experienced to “feel” a bad energy in a place? Not only the energy was dark but even the weather: cold, grey and a lot of rain … I wanted to escape from there.

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Ruta de los 7 lagos

I was riding fast with a big smile on my face toward the Argentinian border. As usual I crossed in the other country without problem. I stopped in a little village to buy some bread and finally happened something that for looong time I was looking for: eye contact, big smiles and short chatting. People were polite and very friendly … I was positive, the new chapter was promising … and dulcis in fundo: the weather was great! (at least for few days).

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Ruta de los 7 lagos

I stopped in beautiful camping places, empty because the end of the tourist season. I had very interesting conversations about people, education, politics … like with Gustavo, a young gaucho, owner of more than 2000 hectares … yes 2000 …

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Ruta de los 7 lagos

I pitched my tent below an incredible 30 m high tree. I looked 360° around me. Mountains, high picks, forests, a green crystalline river, horses, cows, sheep … I was imagining Gustavo telling to his son: “Look my son, all what do you see here will be yours”. Like in a movie. Incredible.

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Lago Falkner

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Lago Falkner

Everywhere I was stopping people were curios, talkative and very friendly. Laughs from the streets, loud conversations (yes the Argentines are very loud), colors, sweet smell from the panaderias (bakery), life. It seemed that my soul was resurrecting from a long hibernation.

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Lago Falkner

After the beautiful touristic part of La Ruta de los sietes Lagos I decided to move away from the Cordillera. I was tired about rain, cold, wind … it was from Ushuaia that I had most of the time this kind of conditions! I officially abandoned my original plan: reach Colombia, or Peru … or Bolivia.

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Ruta de los 7 lagos

I was a bit sad but as I was thinking for China: those country will not move from there, or not?… at least not dramatically in the next few years … (yes, I’m a geologist). I will visit those countries in another trip. So I decided to move quickly eastwards.

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San Martin de los Andes

Reached the warm and sunny Neuquen (where I met   l o v e l y   people) I accepted the proposition of three exquisite young veterinarians I met in the 7 Lagos region few days before: a lift from Neuquen till Santa Rosa, trough the Ruta del Desierto. Let’s go! (no no, don’t tell me it’s cheating …I call it audience assistance … everyone lives, makes decisions and creates his own trip as best he likes it).

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On the way to Neuquen

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On the way to Neuquen

We had fun in the camioneta with Danisa, Guadalupe, Ezequiel, Choco the dog and of course Dimitri … packed like hell, with a dog and a cat … in the middle of a desert … so funny … like in a movie. Gracias chicos! Son  d i v i n o s!

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Crossing the Ruta del Desierto. Front: Ezequiel, Guadalupe. Back: dog Choco, Danisa, Catwoman, Dimitri

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Pampa province

I enter in the Pampa province. I was ready to have boring, monotonous, flat rides there but … cabooooom! I had so much fun. Cars, camionetas, huge trucks were respecting me in a way that I never experienced before, but most important: people were   a m a z i n g.

Left: Adriana, Lujan, Ema and Fabricio. Right: Daniel and Gustavo. Thank you my dear friends from Winifreda!

I was sure that in those little villages in the middle of the flat Pampa I would have spent only one night in each locality …well I was wrong.

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Embajador Martini

I met such lovely people … it was difficult to leave them. Simple people with a great, generous heart. They were not used to see a traveler on a bicycle. They were so surprized that in all crossed villages between Santa Rosa and Rio Cuarto I was interviewed by the local TV channels.

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Lovely Jaqueline and Carlos … it has been difficult to leave them. Gracias de todo corazon. (Am I tired??? ahahaha)

In Tosquita happened something magic …C H I L D R E N! Finally children!!! A six years old girl: “Why do you sleep in a tent in the park and you don’t go at your home?“. “Well, there is not a hotel here and my home is really very far”. Silence. Open mouth. She run away screaming to her friends: “Hey guys come here! This woman is sleeping in a tent because her house is very far!!“.  A dozen of children surrounded me. They were asking me all about my tent and the gas stove.

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Embajador Martini

In the evening came some teenager. They were curious and asked me lots of interesting questions … I told them, that as theme, I come from a very small village and that it is true that everything is possible … They brought me mate, cakes and a delicious soup. So lovely!

Almost one year has passed … I think that I don’t realize yet what I have done … I mean: I was just riding a bicycle, everybody can do that! But I had the courage to follow my instinct, my heart, my needs … and I hope that those lovely teeny from Tosquita will never forget my story.

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One year. I scroll my pictures and I see again all those incredible places and fantastic people … a sort of melancholy arise but on my face there is a big smile and my eyes are full of tears of joy. Wow!

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This year has been   f a n t a s t i c.     I n c r e d i b l e.     U n f o r g e t t a b l e.   Almost surreal. My year has been like in a movie.

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Un abbraccio

Stef & Dimitri

 

 

 

 

“Gracias hijita”

italiano

(Very loooong post) The Caretera Austral. The Mekka of cycling tourists. I though that Pamir was busy but after few kms from Villa O’Higgins I quickly noticed that the high Tajik mountains in comparison were isolated places.

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can you see the road going up up up up….?

On the Pamir I was used to stop and have small chats with other cyclists … and here? Serious faces, a quick “hola” and they were already gone (of course a couple of funny exceptions!).Caretera-2

I was amused because most of theme were young couples … generally the gentleman pedaling in the front and behind (much behind) a very serious and exhausted partner … I had the impression they didn’t have much fun … but this was just my perception.

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Beautiful birds everywhere. Here a Woodpecker (crazy sound!)

I had the impression to be in an Equatorial jungle: rain and mystic fog. Even the type of vegetation was similar and the chirping of a bird remembered me one of the Borneo jungle … do you know when you listen a music and boooooom you are living again a specific moment? A sort of melancholy raised up … how are they doing my little friends Penan?

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Baker river

Ups and downs. The sweat was mixing with the rain … wet smelly cloths … cold head wind … Frozen hands … Frozen feet … Frozen nose … When possible I just tried to enjoy the majestic view. In the distance blue glaciers, rivers, waterfalls, lakes and forests. A sweet smell of Rosehip. From Equatorial jungles I was cycling in something that was reminding me Canada … or even my home at bigger scale.  B e a u t i f u l !

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Puerto bertrand

I always say that my trip is not about bicycle but about people … eyes contact, a generous smile and the connection is done. I scroll my pictures and almost NO ONE with people or children. Where are the children???

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Bertrand lake

Here nobody was screaming “heeellooooo!” like in Uzbekistan; women were not shaking their hands to invite me for a Ch’ai like in Georgia, Tajikistan or Kyrgyzstan, no one was stopping me just to ask you if I was OK like in Iran … no smiles … no greetings … Indifference.

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View from Cerro Color property

I was a bit disappointed. A couple (more!) of occasions I was angry … angry to be treated with contempt. Completely wet and cold, doors were slamming in front of my face with any kind of stupid lie or bad comment … “What is wrong with the people here?!?” I ask once to a an incredible rude man.

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Caretera Austral from Cerro color

I was also feeling bad for Ricardo, a generous and comprehensive man who allowed me to pitch my tent below its veranda. Heavy rain like shower. He wanted me to stay at his house but I refused because the kitty. Fortunately! When his wife came back in the evening she was not angry, she was furious. “What is this??” … This??? I’m a person!! I heard theme disputing that night. The day after she didn’t look at me and she didn’t say goodbye when she left slamming the door …

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Hiking in Cerro Color property

I had mixed feelings. I could tell you many other stories  but as usual I try to be short with my posts (already long). When I was telling my experience to other travelers they were looking at me with suspicious eyes: “?? Really?? Noooo we had great experiences! We were invited at their home, they gave us food and we had fun … best people ever!” I think they were trying to tell me that I AM the problem …

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Cerro Color

Only few travelers had my same experience and in a certain way it consoled me: ok, maybe I AM NOT the problem … Probably I was just unlucky … 2 months of bad luck … or maybe what I experienced in Central Asia was so incredible that now everything appeared insignificant … mmmm no … I’m lying to myself: people with me were unfriendly and this is a fact.

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Shepard-cat in Cerro Color

Of course the situation affected my enthusiasm … the Catwoman was passive … the Catwoman was moving by inertia, by the curiosity to see what the region could offer me and by the hope that things would change…and finally somenthing happened. In a warm day I wanted to wild camp but I saw: Camping Cerro Color, Agua caliente.

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The entry of Cerro Color camping

“A shower would be nice”. I stopped. “How beautiful is this place?! Don’t you need some help here?” I joked spontaneously to Filomena and Saturnino. It didn’t pass 10 minutes and they were back: “Yes, we need help. How much do you want and how long can you stay?”. They were adorable. My soul was nourished with generosity and kindness. I stayed one week and of course I didn’t want money.

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Filomena, Juri and Amigo

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Cerro Color property … amazing

With the kitty we had a great time there: greenhouses, sheep, cows, horses, camping … we were busy in the 400 hectares property. They were very happy. “Gracias hijita” (thank you little daughter),  they said when I left the property on my loaded bicycle. They wanted me to stay one month. The apex of joy was when we fixed the water pump.

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This is how a geologist repair a pump …  with rocks of course. Temporary reparation before  fixing it properly.

After that week I was filled with food, gratitude, joy and enthusiasm … I needed it. Thank you abuelitos.

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On the way to Chile Chico

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Everytime I’m surprised … he really like it.

Another special person that warmed up my heart along the Caretera was Alisia. Little incredible woman. I had a lot of fun in the kitchen with her and Raul, the chef. She had a comedor where about 50-60 workers per day came to have lunch. Busy busy days but I had a lot of fun with them.

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Raul and Alisia

Gracias hijita, when you come back the door of my house will be open for you”. Told me Alisia and I left also Villa Ortega with my heart filled with gratitude.

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On the way to Chile Chico

I’ll also remeber the abuelita Luzmira who filled my belly with delicious guisos (stews). Also at Luzmira place I helped to fix the water pump … I still remember the big smile and light in her eyes Gracias hijita.

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On the way to Chile Chico

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On the way to Chile Chico

Honestly, if you ask me how was what I saw of the Caretera Austral I can summarize it by saying: nice … but why is it so famous I don’t know exactly. Don’t get me wrong: beautiful, but for me that I come from the swiss Alps I was more impressed when I was riding on roads like the way to Chile Chico or Futaleufù … but this is only my opinion.

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On the way to Villa Ortega

Probably my disappointment was because for me is not only about nice landscapes but also the connection with people. I’m so happy that I meet those 3 amazing women and Ricardo. They did parts of the Caretera special.

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Villa Ortega

 

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Cordero al palo

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Ñirehuao region

I declare the Chile chapter officially closed. Now it is time to cross again the border to Argentina. It is sure that in this trip I’ll not reach Bolivia, Perù or Colombia… I think I’ll ride in the north part of South America in another trip, with a lighter bicycle and probably without the kitty … Don’t worry, the adventure continue in Argentina!

Un abbraccio

Hijita Stef and shepard Dimitri

Where the hell is Batman?

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Early in the morning, full of gratitude to Pachamama (Mother Earth) I left El Chalten. I was heading to an adventure that many cyclists before me have done: the border crossing between Lago del Desierto (Argentina) and Lago O’Higgins (Chile).

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Beautiful weather; windy as usual … “I love the wind! I prefer the wind that the rain … can I offer you a ‘sanwdichito de milanesa’?” Fiona, the lovely young and charismatic sailor is making gymnastic while waiting the boat to cross the Lago del Desierto. Her colored pink hair waved in the wind.

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Lago del Desierto … yes it likes it quite much …

When the boat arrived the commander was clear: “Today we don’t cross the lake … the wind is too bad“. Fiona told me that in the past maybe it happens once that they couldn’t navigate … yes, lucky me, but I think everything has a sense.

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Lago del Desierto

It rained that night. The day after I woke up in a lake … lot of water in my tent and still I don’t know why. Tent completely wet, mattress wet, sleeping bag humid, my shoes get wet in few minutes … so cold.

The beautiful view was behind the clouds. At 12:00 we were at the Argentinian border office on the other side of the lake: “Sir, I’m completely wet and cold, can I stay in a dry place to warm me up?”. “Sure, out there, below that roof” the serious gendarme.

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It was an open hut for a boat … cold, windy but yes, at least dry. I was hoping that maybe I could stay in the warm gendarmeria … but, not … again, I was a bit disappointed about the “humanity” in these parts. At 15:00 the weather was sunny again. Let’s go, the way is hard.

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6 km to reach the border line between the 2 countries; 22 km to reach the Chilean border office. 6 km. I did 6 km in 5 hours. Exhausting 5 hours.

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Little river but not possible to cross it with a loaded bicycle alone

Take out the luggage, push for some meters, go back to catch the luggage and repeat. In addition few crossing little rivers and a muddy part.

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On the way to Chile

I have been told that in that passage you can meet many cyclists and so you can help each other to cross this difficult part … NOBODY around.

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After 6 km one trail path, finally the road!

I did it. Alone. With kitty. After the 6 horrible km I had still 16 km ride to the border check point Candelario Mancilla. At 22:00 I knocked in the Chilean border office. “Finally the girl with the cat!“. They were waiting for me, some mochilleros (backpackers) told them about me. They were really amused and wanted to see how I carry the kitty. “Is the first time in the history of Chile that somebody is crossing here with a kitty“.

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The star

We have a bad news: no boats to Villa O’Higgins for at least 4 days, but no worry, you can stay in the camping at about 1 km uphill from here“… Outside was completely dark. Noooo still 1 km! Uphill! I was exhausted … Again, chilean people showed me more “humanity”: “We have an empty house, you can stay there till the departure of the boat, if you want“. Alleluya!!

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Many of you, as many who were in that camping, would think: “Eheheh, sure you are a woman! Sure they invite only women there!“. To these persons I simply reply: YES, and so what???

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O’Higgins Lake

As a woman I always have to be careful how I behave or what I said in order to avoid misunderstanding, I have to hear any kind of disgusting “appreciation” or insult, I had to cover my head, legs and arms at 46 °C, I had to seat on the back in some public transportations, I had to queue in “special” lines, I have to check twice (or more) where I pitch my tent, and, and, and … So, if somebody offer me some kind help, I accept it. There is a problem with this?? … no, I’m not a feminist!

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I had food enough for the 4 nights, but when the nights became 5 because the bad wind conditions for sailing, I was (WE WERE) on trouble. Me and other people of the camping went in the forest catching berries, some exchanged their tent for meat (yes, the owner of that camping is a terrible person) … it was like in those reality shows “survivors” or similar …

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… even the kitty was eating berries … 😀

I was lucky. I had my space, my tranquility, my peace. Despite the inconvenient with the food, me and Dimitri we had a good relaxing time there.

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After 6 days of waiting we finally embarked on the 16-seater boat … Ultra-tombal verses … My kitty was feeling really bad. How to blame it? The little boat was shaking as never I had experienced before. It was like to be in the middle of the Atlantic during a storm … but the sun was shining and we were on a lake!

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Here the O’Higgins lake was calm

The wind was not sooo strong, but the waves were so high! 3 endless hours trip and finally we arrived in Villa O’Higgins, where officially starts the famous Caretera Austral.

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There I met many … many many cyclists. “Finally we meet you!! We have heard a lot about you! You are famous, do you know?” … What?? … “Yes, we even were looking for you in El Calafate at that camping place but you weren’t there! The first tent to the left, right?” … “Aaaah here you are!! Soo cool! Carla come! Here she is! The 3 swiss guys told us about you!” … “To us were the australian couple!“… 3 swiss guys?? Australian couple?? I don’t know them … “Really? But they know abou you! … you are known as the CATWOMAN” ….WHAT???? Are you kidding me???

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Is it happy and relaxed?

The   C a t w o m a n … can you imagine? … Me not.

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The Catwoman is around on the Caretera Austral … BUT, if I’m the Catwoman … where the hell is Batman?

Un abbraccio

Catwoman & Dimitri-Robin

 

 

Can I sleep with you?

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I will try to be short, but as usual it will be difficult. I’m filled with beauty that words cannot describe. I would like to tell you so many stories! … I’m really thinking to write a book … and pictures?? thousands … step by step.

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After 4 resting days in Punta Arenas I was cycling northward, direction Puerto Natales, heading to the Torres del Paine National Park. “Is it always so cold here in summer?”, the old man: “Cold?? Is quite hot this year!”. Still the people were like the outside temperature … a bit cold.

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The Chilean pampa is not much different from the Argentinean one: windy, desolated, flat land … BUT the colors in the morning were incredible.

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I started to feel uncomfortable. The big trucks by their passage were creating what I called “the black hole”: a vacuum was created between me and the big machine and I was literally sucked below their wheels …”s h i t !!” For a couple of time I did “dedo” (hitchhiking) … I like to ride my bicycle but I also like to be alive for doing it.

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The best roads are the closed ones … no cars!

I had a big dilemma: “Torres del Paine National Park or not?”. People that were there told me that it was amazing but expensive (too expensive), full of people and expensive overcrowded camping places … mmmm doesn’t sound a place for me.

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Toward Torres del Paine

Additionally I have a kitty … pets are not allowed in national parks. I decided to skip the park and just cycling around of it … good choise because anyway it was raining up there. We enjoyed beautiful landscapes and wonderful relaxing wild camping.

Dimitri-1In Cerro Castillo I reached the border between Chile and Argentina. At the Chilean side: “How do you travel?”, “By bicycle Sir, and I have a kitty” and I gave him the papers of Dimitri. He looked me suspicious: “Ah really?? And it is also riding its own bicycle?“.

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Torres del Paine region

At the border office they were amused and surprised … they never had something like this. In the Argentinian side they didn’t care much … I think I could even enter with a penguin there.

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I was back in the Argentinian pampa but this time with TAIL WIND!! Yuhhuuuuu!! On the famous Ruta 40 in slighty uphill I reached 42 km/h speed without pedaling … I was flying uphill… crazy wind!

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Taipe Aike … can you see the 2 cyclists?

The next destination was El Calafate … “You have to see the Perito Moreno” I had been told. And so I did.

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El Calafate

The entry to the park was quite expensive but everything was clean and well-organized.

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Incredible, majestic amount of iced water …  Yes, they were right: I had to see the Perito Moreno. People were silent in front of that incredible giant …  crrrraaaaa cruuuuuuu craaaaaack! splaaaaaashhhhh! A big piece broken down in the water … people whistled and clapped their hands.

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After few days in El Calafate I was heading to El Chalten … amazing El Chalten. The small village itself was nothing special, but the surrounding was just stunning. The Fitz Roy was on my “do” list. I left Dimitri in a vet clinic so I could spent the night in the National Park.

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Fitz Roy in the distance

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Chalten region

I started the climb to the Lagos de los Tres in the afternoon … full of people. I was expecting this, therefore I decided to sleep there, at the lake.

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At about 20:00 only few people around in the distance. I was already in my sleeping bag enjoying the view and the fresh wind. Suddenly arrived a young guy: Can I sleep with you?” …”What!?! Sorry?”… “Can I sleep with you?“. My shelter made by rocks was really good to protect against the wind. “Ahahahah sure! There is plenty of space here!”.

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Comfortable double bed at the Lago de los Tres

Kevin, a funny, incredible and brave 17 years old korean guy. He is travelling alone. “Ooh, I want visit Hungpruu in Suitserland“. “Eheheh, yes, the JUNGFRAU is a quite nice place”. Kevin want to become chef de cuisine and he was suggesting me all the best restaurants between Chile and Peru. I liked his positive attitude and bright energy. Great time up there!

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Amazing and funny Kevin with happy tourist in tight.

“Kevin wake up, the sun is rising”.

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In silence we were observing that stunning spectacle. Then we started to jump around to take pictures from different perspectives. After a couple of minutes everything was finished. Woooow!

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Filled with energy, beauty and joy I descended to El Chalten … Dimitri was waiting for me. It was happy to see me and that day didn’t move from the tent. The day after we were ready to ride to the Lago del Desierto for crossing (again) the border with Chile and reach the Caretera Austral … who was imagining that this road was conducing me (us) in an incredible adventure?

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But I will tell you about this in the next post.

Un abbraccio

Stef & Dimitri with bicycle

No time for tears

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Again a lot of time has passed. Some were thinking that I’m not motivated anymore to write on my blog, but the reason is another: the internet connection here is just terrible. I’ll try to resume some of the thousands things I experienced in the Tierra del Fuego.

We had a great time in Rio Grande with Graciela. I was the only tourist and I stayed there one week (sure!! no rush for me!). Red wine, cheese and a lot of laugh … with her stories I was laughing till the tears were flowing on my face … Gracias Graciela! … but no time for tears, I had to continue.

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Approaching Paso Bella Vista

I was avoiding as much as possible the Ruta 3. Very bad reputation and recently a sad accident happened. A chinese cyclist lost his life … a pensioned man who was already about 10 years on the road.

Only 79 km separated me from the chilean border … in normal conditions it would take me 1 day ride … it took me 3 exhausting days. Flat landscape, relatively good road condition BUT the wind coming from the side was slowing me down … A LOT … and the rain was not helping.

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Shelter in the Argentinian Pampa

In some parts I had to jump out from the saddle and push. I had the impression that I was pushing forever and when I checked my cyclometer … what? only 800 m???

 

In other areas I had to stop, plant my feet firmly on the ground and with all my body keep my bicycle still … here they are the 80 km/h gusts announced by the weather forecast … Gesùgiuseppemaria. The kitty was good. In its basket it’s very well protected from wind, cold and rain.

I couldn’t go forwards. I was tired and cold. I think I was looking miserable … I was feeling miserable. Nobody around. Impossible to pitch the tend. Pampa.

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Approaching the Estancia La Despedida, Argentina

Disarmed I just wanted to cry … come on! What would it change? No time for tears, keep going and push till the next Estancia (Josephine is so tough). Fortunately I always  found a shelter.

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Shelter at the Estancia La Despedida, Argentina

Finally I entered in Chile. Finally some forests. Beautiful magnificent enchanted trees. We had really very nice nights out there and a very relaxing new year eve. “Happy new year Dimitri. Enjoy your meal.”

I had almost no food anymore and even no money, so can you imagine the joy when 3 Argentinean guys stopped and offered me pizza, sopa paragualla (sort of tortilla), crackers and 1 apple: gracias chicos nunca los voy olbidar! I was almost crying for the joy … yes, exactly: no time for tears. Eat and go!

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Cameron, Chile

In Chile the doors were a bit more open when I was asking a repaired place to pitch my tent. “Why do you want to pitch your tent if I have space in my house?“. Ximena and her lovely family welcomed me warmly. Shower, food, laundry … such a lovely soul.

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Ximena’s family and happy tourist exhausted by the wind.

The next day we looked at each other in the eyes … both we were crying and wishing each other a lot of luck. Yes, because also her family, few days before, quitted everything to start a new life in Cameron. No time for tears, the way is still long.

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Bahia Inutil, Chile

Also José and Teresa didn’t hesitate to open the door when completely wet and cold I knocked at their door. Teresa. Such an enigmatic character. I’m sure: even the best actress in the world cannot interpret such a character … no no, even Maryl Streep cannot! But I’m so thankful to this woman.

They and their 30 cats never had somebody at home … I was the first one. “Teresa I don’t have money but I can work and help you for whatever”. “No se preocupe señorita” (Don’t worry Miss) and the meal was served:

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Cordero asado … delicious!

Teresa was not speaking much. We were in the kitchen drinking coffee and listening fantastic chamamé (typical latin music). “You don’t feel lonely here?”. “No, I like to be alone … and I have my 30 cats“. She was so happy when I told her I’ll never forget her super-incredible-delicious cuisine. She smiled.

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The equation is simple: no wind = rain. No rain = wind. At the Bahia Inutil (useless bay) I wanted to see the penguins … yes, incredible expensive. A tourist-trap, BUT when will I see free pinguins again? …why they chose that place? The most exposed to the wind. Bahia-Inutil-2

Even the cat was getting crazy with the wind. I tried to find nice and quite places for our breaks. Like that day at the beach. Suddenly it assumed a position like this:

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What is wrong? Nooooooooo a seal! A curious seal at about 20 m from us … so incredible. Probably it will see never again a cat. It swimmed away.

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The Patagonian island was almost done. I was happy. Don’t get me wrong: beautiful landscapes BUT the wind ruined a bit the party. For the first time I was really really tired.

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Estancia La Fortuna

Again I can say: I did it. It was not easy. I think that the Tierra del Fuego was the most difficult part of my trip till now. I did it. Another experience that I will never forget.

In difficult time just keep going … everything is temporary.

With a boat we left the island and we arrived in Punta Arenas (Cile). Some rest and back on the saddle … the adventure continues … and the wind too!

Un abbraccio

Stef, Dimitri and few tears