A long time coming...

0 degrees fahrenheit. No heat, no lights, solid block of drinking water, exploded beer, frozen ketchup and it's only 8pm. After all that, we still had each other and we still had our determination to realize our vision. Despite the circulating perceptions that this maniacal way of life would inevitably lead to a divorce, we are pleased to say that you were wrong! We are as happy as ever and every frozen bone was well worth it! After 4 years of living together in our 21ft RV, we managed to pay off our debts, Kirsten complete graduate school, Seth become a certified arborist, both work multiple jobs and manage to save up enough money to travel. So here we go. We hope that you can come along for the ride.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Friday, March 1, 2013

Whew!  After a whirlwind final few weeks in Santiago, we finally managed to sell all our stuff and reduce our mass of accumulation over the past four years to several heavy and overloaded bags while simultaneously packing for 6 weeks of cycling and trying to keep an eye on Indi as she unpacked our things.  It was a relief to put the madness behind us and head for the open roads of southern Chile where we have been tooling about for the past 2 weeks.  The riding has been incredible - the scenery is stunning and remote and the people we have met have been kind and welcoming...it helps to have an uber cute baby with you!  Indi has been charming her way along, scoring us dinners and comfy camping while at the same time managing to get her hands into everything (really...EVERYTHING!).  She babbles and screams Papa and Mama and various other new words as we cruise along, always ready to explore our newest destination.  We stop frequently to munch on the hyperabundance of the fattest, juiciest balackberries imaginable and there is never a bird or dog that Indi isn´t ready to chase. She has taken to adventuring and adores the attention she gets everywhere we go.  She has perfected her puddlemucking, thanks to adorable boots from Suzu and takes every opportunity to swim, clothed or not.

We left Puerto Montt under clear blue skies and quickly realized that cycling with a child, expecially one so young, is an entirely different experience than we are used to.  If our previous trips have been defined by long days of hard riding followed by relaxing evenings of reading, cooking up massive feasts and enjoying our surroundings, riding with Indi is pehaps the polar opposite.  Even hauling a trailer that weighs as much as my bike and gear combined is cake compared to trying to keep up with Indi after a long bit of riding.  While she´s been sitting patiently, storing up all the energy possible for the next stop, we arrive pooped and ready to rest.  It is exhausting!  As soon as the pavement ended, we quickly realized that our planned route south from Puerto Montt was a tad ambitious and coupled with a ferocious weather report for the coming week on the Careterra Austral, we decided to head north to the small village of Puelo and take a little used route connected by 3 boat rides across epic mountain lakes to get to Argentina.  On the first ferry, we met a wonderful Chilean family that owned a fishing lodge on our route.  They invited us to camp on their amazing property alongside Lago Tortorel and treated us to a delightlful Chilean asado and even made me a cake for my birthday!  I think it was Indi that won their hearts. 

After a final boat ride yesterday across Lagos Inferior and Puelo, we finally stamped ourselves into Argentina and left behind the jarring dirt roads for the welcoming pavement of Argentine Patagonia.  We arrived in El Bolson yesterday where we are until we head north again tomorrow. 

Hugs around - we miss you all and can´t wait to see you in April!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Carretera Austral

It´s hard to imagine a place more beautiful than Patagonia…or more wet. Water seems to ooze from every orifice, cascade down the face of every mountainside and fall from the heavens above. We were welcomed back onto our bicycles and the wandering lifestyle as soon as we arrived on the island of Chiloé. It is akin to stepping back in time. The kettles were constantly warming on the wood stoves of most houses and the damp, salty, coastal aromas reminded us of riding in Nova Scotia not that long ago. We are continuously surprised and grateful of the generosity that we receive while traveling and southern Chile is no different. As we rested on the beach on our first day on the island, German and Mariela, a Chilean couple, delighted us with local history, shared their home with us and invited us to use their kayaks, which we gratefully accepted. For a week, we climbed up and down steep hills, shared conversations with the locals and dodged the rain four out of the seven days we were there.

In Quellon, we met up with our friend Femke and took the night ferry to Chaiten, situated at the northern tip of the famous Carretera Austral on the mainland. We arrived to persistent rain and an ominous sky. It was a fitting backdrop to a town that is struggling to revive itself after enduring two devastating eruptions of Volcán Michinmahuida. The first in May 2008, and the following in February of 2009. The bustling port town of about 4000 was utterly destroyed and the population has dwindled to 500-600 of the most die-hard Chaitenitos. They are kind and generous, but you can see in their eyes the heartbreak of losing their town and their determination to rebuild and start again. As we road out of town, we saw a truck that was painted ¨Levántate Chaiten!¨ Lift yourself up! Among it were others signs that damned the government for leaving them ´behind´. Almost a year later, their houses have been burglarized and they still have no running water or electricity. The damage was palpable, many of the houses buried under 5-6 feet of ash and mud that had raged through with a torrent of water as the nearby river swelled and engulfed the homes.

We walked around the town and saw haunting images of homes having been left in a hurry, children´s toys scattered, blankets embedded in the ash, clothes and furniture juxtaposed against walls, five feet off the original ground. As the wind and rain pelted us and we tried to construct some resemblance of breakfast, a local resident invited us in for tea, before we said farewell to two groups of other French cyclists and a bus load of friendly Germans to head on south. The three of us were in good spirits as the freedom of the open road pulled us despite the oppressive rain. Gortex is no match for Patagonia and luckily we knocked on Rodrigo´s door. We only had admired his house for the dry eave under which we had hoped to eat lunch, but he graciously invited us in for tea and great company. We continued for a week of unrelenting rain, but the first day we saw the sun, we basked in its warmth, fished under its brilliance and was in awe of the breathtaking scenery that we had missed under the cloud cover. We instantly realized that even one good day, makes all of the challenging ones worthwhile. We are refueling in Coyhaique, fixing bikes, making granola bars and being treated to pizza and conversation with newly found friends. Tomorrow, we set out….bound for Villa O´Higgins and then on to Argentina.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Broken Road

After a day longer than I'd hoped in Coyhaique, watching an endless drip from the sky drowning my hopes of progress, I woke to parting skies, bone-chilling cold and a fresh layer of snow on the surrounding peaks.  I left town smothered in down and was soon drenched in sweat, climbing the small sprints only to have it freeze solid to my body as I barreled down the backsides.  Despite the added weight on my bike, thanks to a couple of over-zealous shopping excursions anticipating lonely roads ahead, I found myself screaming along with the help of a gale-force tailwind from the north.  My grins of good fortune were perhaps a tad premature though as, 60km into my day, I finally stopped to inspect an odd knocking sensation that had finally achieved this-isn't-going-away-on-it's-own status coming from my crank with each revolution.  Thinking it was a pesky pedal bearing that had been dogging me for several months, I went to give it the jiggle I usually do that makes it go away for another week or so (out of sound, out of mind, right?).  As I grasped my pedal, the usual firmness of my well tuned machine played sloppily in my hand.   Another tug and I felt my whole crank, indeed my immediate future on the road, wobble like a drunken man on a unicycle.  With a terminally ill bottom bracket, my options were suddenly limited.  I pondered this for a moment, trying to imagine exactly how I was going to employ the use of my rations of duct tape and baling wire to solve this problem and suddenly realized that, in short, I was screwed.  Return from whence I came (headfirst into the hurricane force winds I had just been enjoying) or continue on, take the shortcut across Lago General Carerra and hope for some miracle in either Chile Chico or Los Antiguos, the last two towns before beginning the long stretch into nowhere on Ruta 40.

I chose option two and, after a long night enduring winds that I have only heard tell of in movies like Twister or The Wizard of Oz, caught the morning ferry to Chile Chico.  My enthusiasm for this grand lake I had been looking forward to circling for so long was tempered by the fact that I was missing a fantastic ride around the lake by taking the ferry across it and also by the realization that I would be a fool to continue on in the face of the pending failure of my bottom bracket.  Upon reaching the other side, I paused in the small, cozy town of Chile Chico to ascertain the likelihood of finding a modern-day splined bottom bracket in a small touristy border town.  After visiting most of the twelve or so buildings that make up the town, it became apparent that there was none to be had as the most modern bike in town looked to be about as old as me. 

I again reflected on my journey, where I was and where I wanted to be...two very different places.  The glory road in soutern Chile is the Careterra Austral, the best part being from Coyhaique south bisecting glacially carved valleys and passing through impossibly remote countryside.  Due to extreme weather conditions during most of the year, critical ferries connecting the route run only in the peak months of December through March, thus making the route virtually impassable the rest of the year (this theory has recently been debunked by our friend Sarah and her compadre and will again be put to test by another road brother in the coming months).  As a result, the adventurous off-season cyclist is left with no option but to endure a week or so of some of the worst conditions a biker can imagine on the Argentina side following Ruta 40; horrible roads, extreme distances between food and water supplies and unfathomably strong cross winds that often make cycling impossible (let alone setting up a tent, using a stove, etc.).  

A long night in Los Antiguos left me more sure than ever that it was time to pack up, swallow my pride and cut my losses.  This trip has never been about the destination, but about the journey; the getting there, anywhere; the adventure of never knowing where we were going to end up when the wheels stopped rolling.  I felt that, for the moment at least, the wheels had stopped.  The weather was tickling me with the promise of much colder days to come, my bike was hopelessly ill and I had lost some crucial motivation.  I vowed to return as soon as the weather and Kirsten's schedule allows, hopped on the once weekly bus out of town and headed north. 

So, that's where the story ends for now.  Nearly 11,000km, 317 days and a world away from where we started, I was back home.  Stay tuned for more tales from the road when we return in mid December.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Patagonian Wonders...

The cool bite of fall wrapped tightly around me as I left El Bolson, the nostalgic combination of rotting leaves and fallen, fermenting apples taking me back to Octobers of my childhood. Solitude enveloped me as I said goodbye to pavement and entered Parque Nacional Los Alerces, the land that time forgot. Magnificent rivers of sparkling emeralds flowed smoothly and swiftly into lakes of impossible greens, flanked on all sides by monolithic rocky peaks. Stands of massive old-growth coihues reached high amongst them, pushing skyward on near vertical slopes, their deep red color dripping down the mountainsides like fingers of fiery hot lava burning its way through the forest. The rivers were a fishermans´ paradise, pulling me from the road again and again with their promise of the prizes of my dreams. What I wouldn´t have given for a float tube and a pair of waders as the frigid glacial waters kept me on the banks, mostly out of reach of the man-sized trout I could see loafing about. After 2 days, the cool weather and the pull of the south kept me on the move, back to Chile. My friendly crossing at the border, on the Chilean side, turned somewhat sour when the man searching my bags came across my kilo of popcorn, meant to sustain me for the coming lonely stretch of riding on the Careterra Austral. He held it up to his boss, both with a twinkle in their eyes. We´ll have to take this, they said. I rode off dejected, swearing I could hear the popping of my sweet maize on their raging fire behind me.

On through the Futaleufú valley, along another epic river of the same name. I stopped in town to stock up and inquire about fishing with an old guide I met. They won´t be biting, he promised, but come look at my record fish. An impressive creature it was - 18kg of brown trout (that´s almost 40 lbs!) and over 4 feet long. A chilean record, he said as he told me the story of catching it in the river and the hour and a half long battle. It was his pride and joy and hung on his wall as a monument to possiblity. I was jealous.

My welcome to the famous Careterra Austral consisted of rain, mud and a long, lonely stretch of road. Due to a malfunctioning ATM in Futaleufú, I had almost no money and thus very little food leaving me tired , wet and hungry and profoundly unimpressed with this road that for many is a destination itself. Still, even a rainforest sees some sun and after 2 days of misery, the clouds parted and nine seperate rainbows brightened my mood. I stopped for lunch alongside a river bank and as I finished the last of my cheese, I threw a small chunk into the water, where it was immediately devoured by a large trout. Hmm. Still waiting for my introduction to a Patagonian trout, and in spite of what the wise old man had promised, I pieced together my rod that I have luged across two continents for exactly this moment. My first cast...WHAM! My small 4 weight rod double over with the weight of a fish far to large for it. It was gone in seconds, taking my fly and half my leader with it. I quickly tied on another and again, snap. Four flies and several meters of leader later, I landed my first beauty, a spectacular sea-run rainbow. In the next 3 hours, I would have one of the most incredible days of fishing ever, losing count at 12 after the first hour or so. For every one I caught, I lost 2 or 3 more, my stash of flies fast dwindling. The fun ended with the loss of my last fly. They hit hard, on nearly every cast, and fought like whales. What a day!

The road climbed steeply from there and as the air grew frigid, I found myself surrounded on all sides by huge, glacial-capped rocky peaks, reminding me of why I love to ride and taking my mind off the seemingly endless mountain I was climbing. At long last, after 9 days of almost continuous gravel and mud that makes up most of the Austral, I finally reached the one paved section that would lead me on a windy and rolling path into Coyhaique, the capital of southern Chile. Surrounded by sheer granite cliffs and large snow-capped peaks, it is an adventurers´ paradise and a perfect spot for some days of rest before beginning the next leg south, back into Argentina and into the national parks Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine. A few more weeks will find me deep in the south amongst icebergs and penguins and the end of the world.