Monday, December 22, 2008

Routines

After a month on the road we are noticing our own little routines more and more.
We thought it would be fun to share some of these so you have an insight to our life day by day.

The alarm is normally set for 6am but this doesn´t necessarily mean we´ll be up. Ian normally gets up first - we have to take turns because there´s not enough room in the tent for both of us to swing our limbs around.



Gemma then gets up and rolls up the sleeping mats and clears out the tent. Meanwhile Ian will be making hot porridge for breakfast.
Hygiene can be a problem when cycling. Regular washes with wet-wipes seem to work but Ian´s bellybutton has gone out of control.



The tent comes down and we load the bikes up. This lot can take anywhere from one to two hours.

Early morning cycling is normally fairly quiet as we both slowly wake up. The roads are quiet and the wind isn´t as strong. The bikes tend to feel heavier and more difficult to ride in the morning.



We have started to stop for breaks every 10 miles (16km). Our snacks are any combination of biscuits, nuts, crackers and chocolate.



Lunch is just an extended break. We may sometimes have bread with us and crack out the emergency peanut butter or Dulce de Leche (Gem´s new found fave).
If we are really lucky, in the middle of nowhere, many miles from anywhere, there are random buildings selling empanadas and cakes. These places house cats, dogs (that follow you for miles), chickens, foreign photographers and baby guanacos.



During cycling we are overtaken by many cars, buses and trucks. It is common to see people hanging out of these with cameras to take photos of us. Many of these people may be surprised to see not too happy faces and rude gestures. The reason for this: -



We start to look for somewhere to camp at about 6pm (if we´re not in a town) and cook pasta or rice. Bed time is quite early - between 7 and 9pm - we need lots of rest to do the same again the next day.



If we are lucky enough to arrive in a town in the evening we can indulge ourselves with cake and chocolate, fresh veg, meat and possibly some Quilmes (the local beer). Occassionally we find fajita wraps and make our favourite yummy dinner.



We both find cycling easiest from here: -

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Perito Moreno Glacier


Following a big shop where we prepared for a possible 5 days on the road we headed into the mountains to find a gi-hyoooge glacier. Sounds easy doesn´t it?


Well, 40km (that´s about 25 miles back home) of slogging into the ubiquitous head wind, we had to end our first day at Estancia Cerro Buenos Aires. A lovely place sheltered from the elements by a big mountain behind. Following a chat in broken Spanglish with J├ęsus we ate and slept well.

Luckily the next days 40km were a breeze as the mountain protected us from the winds. On the way the scenery was spectacular and we were very excited when we got our first glimpse of the enourmous ice-field. We arrived with hopes of putting the tent up, having a bit of a rest and spending the rest of the day there. Unfortunately our map (showing two campsites) was out of date by two years. As was the map we were given by the guards at the entrance - there were no more campsites!



Obviously we wouldn´t let a little thing like being 60km away from the nearest campsite ruin our day. So we headed for the glacier lookouts and spent a few hours listening to the thunderous cracks of ice breaking and watching them splash into the lake. It was nothing short of amazing and beautiful.



After we´d seen this and done that, we had to find shelter. None of the guards were helpful and were quite clear about us having to leave the park. Yeah, right!





A few miles up the road there was a nice hidden spot off the road which was the perfect size for a tent and two bikes. Off we sneaked and hid away for the night. Gemma slept really well after such a long day and I would have had it not been for the giant clump of rubble under my half of the tent. Tsch!

The ride back to Calafate (70km / 45 miles) was great, the wind was very calm and slightly behind us.

The ride was only really finished after being circled by approximately 30 condors and Gemma almost falling off the bike when we passed a gauging station.





Next... on to El Chalten. About 220km (150miles) into reputedly very fierce winds and we have only 6 days until Christmas.

We´ll be in touch when we get there, loads of love to everyone xxx

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Other crazies...

Tomas and Celine: - www.argentinavelo.over-blog.com

Jules and Jess: - www.julesandjess.com

Jean and husband (who´s name we forget - sorry): - www.gonewandering.co.uk

Olivier and Caroline: - www.georouteandine.fr

Tim and Kylie: - (last heard of in Punta Arenas - still cycling?)

Torres del Paine

Following the battles with the wind we took a few days "rest", trekking around Torres del Paine. This meant we had to ditch the bikes and the gear in Puerto Natales and hire some rucksacs.


As it turned out it would probably just have been as easy (and less painful) to use plakky carrier bags from Abu-Gosch (big supermarket).

Our aim was to see Glacier Grey, the French Valley and the Towers themselves (at sunrise).



It only took us 5 days to squeeze these in. Why they built all these things so far away from each other is bewildering. Also, the treks were endless miles of up-down, up-down, up-down which Gemma reckons is what happens when walking in mountains. Personally, I came here for the bike ride and was therefore expecting cable-cars at every hill.



The highlights were brilliant, we enjoyed some good clear views on most days until the last morning. Back in Puerto Natales we were assured that the trip would not complete without waking up at 4am to start the 1 hour walk up loose boulders and rocks to sit in the freezing cold surrounded by other shivering folk. The sun came, rising above the mountains behind us, everybody excited about the prospect of seeing the awe-inspiring towers light up in magnificant pink and orange and gold and allsorts of lazers and tooting. Anyway, the cloud up at the top of the mountains made sure that all we saw was lots of scrambling back down the loose boulders and rocks to get back to the bus first. The sunrise was still nice but just not the postcard picture we´d hoped for.






A couple of notable sightings included watching 3 kids chase a rat with a sharp pointy stick and watching a man trying to cut the grass of a field the size of Yorkshire with a strimmer. He apparently started in 1985.

Next we are going to be in El Calafate (back in Argentina) where we will be heading out to see the absolutely massive Perito Moreno Glacier. No waking up at sunrise this time though!
Lots of love Ian and Gem xxx


















Sunday, December 7, 2008

Penguins!

We finally got to Isla Magdallena to meet our penguin, Edwina. We think we spotted the right one after one of them came racing over and tried to eat Ians shoelaces, however there were 160,000 of them....











The penguins were amazingly cute and we had a great time over there looking at the babies in the burrows and watching them diving in and out of the sea.









On our last evening in Punta Arenas I dragged Ian to stand in a big queue, we weren´t entirely sure what it was for, but you never know. We stayed in it for as long as Ian would let me (about 10 minutes as he was ready for his dinner). Went back an hour later just as the presidents of Argentina and Chile arrived. We had no idea why they were in Punta Arenas but everyone else was very excited. Except for the poor army band and 100 troops that had been stood for 2 hours doing nothing.

The following day we set off to start cycling to Puerto Natales. We decided it would be a fantastic and fun idea to start cycling at 4am. Which was nice. Fortunately this meant there was no wind and no traffic. We made good progress for a a fair few miles but after a short break the winds arrived. Struggling to cycle at just 5mph was not much fun so we gave up and camped at some abandoned estancia. We had a lovely view over a lake and a friendly fox to entertain us. The following morning was another 4am start and we should have talked about this more quietly. The winds obviously found out and started promptly at 4:01am. It took us 4 hours to cycle 17 miles and then a nother 8 hours to push them a further 10 miles through 100mph winds.




During this torturous time Gemma had decided to go home, to divorce me, to kick the hell out of the bike and to have few tumbles - which made me laugh. I was punished for this by being quite literally thrown off the bike and dumped in a heap on a nice pile of gravel. Gemma laughed back.

After being punished enough we were rescued by "Juan Tres". This lovely man drove us all the way to Puerto Natales in just 2 hours. Saving us about 8 days of pushing, crawling, dragging and cursing.








Having finally arrived in Puerto Natales we have decided not to tackle the wind any more, there is no point. We are now going to spend a week trekking around Torres del Paine and then try to hide our bikes on a couple of buses to get out of here.

Thanks for all the comments!

Lots of love gemma and Ian x

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tierra del Fuego

After assembling the bikes in Ushuaia and having some good chats with other cyclists at the same campsite, it was time to start this crazy bike ride.



Starting at the "End of the World" seems a strange place to begin but we were really excited.
Excitement can soon turn to despair...


Once fixed, we headed into the first challenge of trip, crossing the Fuegian mountains. The scenery was wonderful and the sun was also shining. However, a second punture forced us to camp just below the first major mountain pass.

We slept through heavy rain and woke up to snow - and a dog in the tent. Reality really hit us. After such bad luck on the first day we were picked up by a random guy driving a really old battered car. We managed to get all the gear and bikes into it before driving off into the snow and through to a gas station. On the way certain parts of the car fell off, luckily all were found.




The next day we had more punctures, it seems the tubes we are using are not cut out for heavy loads. We end up on the back of another truck taking us to Rio Grande where we wait 5 hours to have the bikes sorted out.




From Rio Grande the road to the border was fairly flat but cycling was almost impossible due to strong head winds. However we still managed a respectable 35 miles.




There is nothing to see in the picture because everything has blown in to the sea.
The border crossing at San Sebastian was the most bizzare frontier we´ve encountered. Having slept on a waiting room floor with two French cyclists and two German mountaineers we went through the formalities before heading for Chile. It took us nearly 3 hours to cross the 10 miles of No Mans Land, once again due to the wind. Gemma was nearly blown into a river and possibly all the way to Namibia. Once in Chile it was not possible to continue. After camping for the night we managed to arrange a lift on a bus returning to Punta Arenas. This saved us the likelyhood of 5 - 10 days of camping in nothing with nothing amongst nothing. Why did people ever want to come and live here?

The wind promises to stay with us (or against us!) for another few weeks. Maybe we should have bought this bike in Ushuaia!

We plan to spend the next couple of days relaxing in Punta Arenas. We will finally go to meet Edwina our beloved little penguin on Thursday, so tomorrow we are going shopping for fish.

Love Gem and Ian x