Argentina and Chile (31.07.2001)
Like always it was not easy to leave my friends behind and start out after spending that much time in one place (3 months in Young - well, more than 2 months in front of the computer for doing this web site). I crossed the border to Argentina without any problems and spent the night at the shore of the river Uruguay that forms the border between the countries. I was kind of happy about the flat landscape to get my body used to cycle again. But a few days later I got very sick of seeing only farmland, cows and weeds. Boooring, but awesome barbecue - the famous Argentine "Asado". Fall had begun in this part of the world and I was enoying the color that trees changed into.
The Argentine people recieved me very kind - like I have experienced the whole trip through, and I think that this might be a kind of mystic!? It seems that I never stop bumping into nice people. As I cyclede through the desert I thought a lot about this and everything - my whole life, my health, nature and people - everything seems to help me completing this adventure. Even if it gets sometimes pretty dificult - but always it turns out fine. When I have a problem - there is soon a solution.
I went to Villa Carlos Paz, a beautiful small town close to Cordoba, beause my friend Scott from the US connected me with Magui. She is a climber as well and so we went for a route close to the town. But on the way to the rock she lost one of my Ninja climbing shoes that we never found again. Thanks to Boreal I got them replaced quickly and went climbing again - a climber´s paradise: "Los Gigantes". Unfortunately weather changed - so I had at least the chance to test out my new sleepingbag....and I slept three nights just on the ground with my air matress and the Polar Professional - 15 below in a snowstorm:
As well I met my friends from Cordoba - Gaby and Silvana - the one´s who painted the bike into my skin in Lima a year ago. What a reunion!! Silvana is very gifted in drawing and she grabbed my diary and started to play around for a few hours with an ordinary ballpen....
Click here for full picture!!
Really nice I was treated by the Tourist Office here in Villa Carlos Paz. They arranged a huge reporter meeting and I was interviewed like a TV-star for several hours - as well by radio and newspapers. After all this they had arranged an exclusive trip with the Park Rangers into the just opened National Park "La Quebrada del Condorcito". Thank´s a lot to the people of the Tourist Office and the Park Rangers for the very kind treatment and interest in my trip!!
There I saw for the first time Condors - and we counted 18 of the huge flying predators that can reach the imense wing span of up to 4 meters!!
This was one of the things I missed on my trip through the mountains of South America in Ecuador, Perú and Bolivia!
From Carlos Paz I continued the trip with direction Mendoza. After crossing "El Condor- pass" I had to manage 300km of desert - the pampa Grande and pampa Del Salado where the condors changed into vultures... The village Luján was the last civilization for the next 189 kilometers - obviously announced by a sign. I pedaled with 8 ls of water into the wasteland and cursed about the headwind that impeded my speed. About 50km inland I beheld a lonesome cottage and stopped for a chat with an old couple that looked at me pretty amazed and considered me courageous. But in reality these two elderly are much more courageous, living amid in the desert - far away from medical care or any kind of services. There is no shop or superstore in front like people are used to! (Can you really live without a big Mc. Donalds drive in anymore..?) Love holds them together and they simply enjoy the peacefulness there in the outback. All you need is love ....
I enjoyed the route through the hostile desert since only a handfuls of cars tore me from my world of thoughts through the whole day. And after a lonesome quiet night in the desolate wilderness a further 120km to go. The desert changed in its variety and I came to the offshoot of a river. And somehow I realized that I saw several times a rivulet rising in the mountains, turning into a brook that I followed down the valley where it formed a big river. And then I pass the place where it is vanishing in the desert sand....
I reached that - I don´t know how to call it, maybe not even village - Encón, that was appearing with nothing more than a police-control and a few small kiosk-stands in the middle of nowhere (but big marked in my map!). Well, there was water and food - enough for me and my campsite in the middle of the flaky clay desert ground. Since my rear end ached badly I planned to stay there for a relax day, but however a balmy wind to my favour convinced me to take advantage. You never know what the wind´s gonna do the next day. So I got my rear in gear and terminated the last 100 desert kilometers - now cycling along gigantic sand-dunes. These one´s were overgrown by bushes and dry plants. Much different from the one´s on the coast that are always changing with the wind. And abruptly I could not believe my own eyes anymore. I just cycled through more than 300 km of hostile desert, as a wine-growing plantation appeared after a small curve from one moment to the next. Crazy - what a quick and unexpected change. The river Mendoza is a best seller and and a water-providing company supports farmers with a pricey sewage system. No wonder that this region is named "New California" - the landscape is 100% identical. The valley walled by mountains, the fruit (peaches etc) and nuts, the wine industry and there was even that annoying bad puncture weed! I came to the small town "Costa de Araujo" and camped beside the river with a splendid gaze towards the mountains which were awaiting me to climb them. Finally I spent my rest day there and grilled a gigantic 800g "Asado" - the world famous Argentine barbeque - impossible to tell you how tasty this was....
My bike friends Brad and Carter had given me the address of their friend Chelo in Mendoza who was awaiting my arrival. I finally met up with him and quickly developed a deep friendship between him and our common friends (Andrea, Yuyi, Analia, Diego) in Mendoza. Once again I conquered the kitchen and cooked some of my specialties (now they joined the weightwachers...) Again the press was being informed against my knowledge and so I got interviewed by the biggest newspaper of the province. There I bumped into Bernardo, a gifted professional photographer and climber. As he works for the newspaper Los Andes he has good equipment and together we went out for taking some climbing pictures....
Foto: Bernardo Gimenez, Mendoza, Arg.
Jeff in "RASTROJERO MUSICAL", 5.12.a
Against all warnings of a winter storm I left Mendoza as my residence permit was about to expire and cycled toward the "pre-cordillera." After a few kilometers I was back in the desert and had chosen the low trafic secondary route that leads through Villavicencia where I spent the night in a house under construction. The next day I started climbing the pass whithout knowing that the hardest part of my trip was expecting me. A sign announced "caracoles"(literaly snails), how the winding roads are called, and a gravelroad screws up to 3000m. My bad luck was that a hurricane raged, which forced me down on my knees (not with the intention to pray!). It really smashed me down when I was windswept from the side. Several times I had to persist with the brakes tight and nevertheless was pushed back by the wind !!! Small stones were flying through the air and only with raw forces I succeeded in finishing till the next curve. So I pushed myself with an average speed of 4-5 km/h up and up - and suddenly it started to snow (called "viento blanco") and for the first time my Gore Tex equipment was in real use. I wasted myself up to 2700m, had run off water but luckily there were snowdrifts in the shade of the rocks (for water suply). I spotted a small canyon that offered a kind of shelter from the storm and had to carry my all my luggage piece by piece down. The whole night through the storm was howling but the next morning it fortunately faded away. However it didn't stop to snow and I suddenly was shocked by one single thought - would it be possible to see the road if it´s all covered with snow??? I looked out of my tent and saw that everything was buried with approximately 30 cm of snow. And this was even a "fuckin´ low trafic secondary never a stupid ass will ever cross here"-road. (I herby declare that the nasty word "fuck" is already used in most movies. Thanks to Hollywood). Hastily I cooked my delicious oatswithbananabreakfast, liquefying snow for drinking water with my Primus and had to excavate my tent from the snow. Once again I had to transfer my luggage back up to the road - despite snow cover the impression remained - so I began to relax. But still it was an ugly fight pedaling uphill through the heavy gnashing snow in which my tires sunk deeply. The worst of it all was this eye-burning reflecion and soon my eyes were aching from heavy concentration to keep track. Snow-blindness? However I managed it to the top - La Cruz, 3000m - accompanied by a howling snowstorm. The downhill part was quite easier with only two bumps into deep snowdrifts and so I was soon back to a slushy road and after a cold and muddy downhill I finally arrived in Uspallata - back again to civilization. Yes! I first cooked a whole pot of spaghetti and camped wind-protected in a gravel pit outside town. The next day started with sun and a spectacular views of the snowcapped mountains - breathtakingly. I was in the middle of white summits all around me - the Andes and Pre-Andes.
The Gendarmerie provided me with the latest news about the snow and told me that the pass is closed and there is no way to cross to Chile. So I remained another day in the village and left on the next day - contrary to the respects. Because I tought it might be the best to be near the vacating team and in case they open the route I would be there already. Therefore I stocked up with plenti of food and pedaled towards the white mountains. An incredibly beautiful landscape accompanied me along the Rio Mendoza. The river had dug steep walls through the valley creating an impressiv view and I went deeper into the Andes. Soon I was back to the snow. The few cars that crossed my way honked or waved enthusiastically, filmed or took pictures of the winter-cyclist in T-shirt and short pants (however not for a long time!!). I camped in the middle of the mountains in a harsh snowfield with a wide gaze into the Andes - marvelously. And again I was glad having snow for my water supply. However I worried about my tent as a strong wind began to blow in the night since the herrings were only placed in loose snow. But thy had frozen themselves into the snow and I slept calm - not even disturbed by the 15 below (unimpressed because of my down-sleeping bag). So I arrived easily at the recently cleaned up stretch on next day - Puente Del Inca. I now saw, why the pass was closed for that much time - the street was burried by up to 6m high snow and they had to work through all this with huge molding machines.
I camped directly in front of the "Puente Del Inca" what is called one of the wonders of South America. A natural stone-bridge which is coated by a sulfurous thermal spring with a yellow layer. The impressive bridge crosses the Rio Mendoza at a height of 19m, has a span of 21m and is 27m wide. There are hot thermal springs under the bridge in the ruin of a hotel, that was destroyed years ago by an avalanche. However the warm thermal-water still flows into old bath-basins... and I soaked myself there in the starry night, after the tourists no longer dared to tackle the steep frosted descent. The place is at 2700m and I spent two nights with minimum temperature camping in the snow. Then I started out for the last kilometers with icy headwind and was glad that the pass and the tunnel to Chile opened. A few last hard hours and I had crossed to Chile!! I succeeded and was happy that I had not listened to the Gendarmerie - so I enjoyed the trip without heavy traffic. It also had helped psychically a lot to know, that friends waited for me in Chile. Now I had a long part of downhill to relax - however I first had to get me through the Chilean border-bureaucracy. First they seemed to make problems but somehow I got through all this just fine. Again a crazy winding road was caved through the mountains and I could see a convoy of trucks that moved towards the tunnel. Further down in the valley there were about 800 to 1500 of them in a gigantic, 40km long queue waiting already for 10 days!.
I finally arrived at Los Andes, where I got to the "Casa is de Ciclista" of the veterinarian Eric Savard and I fell into the arms of my my old friends Cristian Crosty Medrano and Carter Wall - after all that long time - what a reunion!!! Right here I am at the moment and need to fix lots of my gear. Meanwhile the pass is closed by snow again and was opened for two-and a half days only!!...so my decision has been confirmed... and the gaze from the panorama-window towards the snow capped Andes.....hardly let me concentrate on the computer....
P.S. I took a truckload of slides, but until now no transport possibility to Germany was found. I don't trust mailing - and to get them developed here means without frames.... and the quality?
My counter got now 27.000km
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