Hi all,

I am sitting on a comfy couch in Santiago de Chile, in a couple of hours we and our bicycles will leave to Puerto Montt, an overnight drive of 12 hours. This means, the couch potato time will have an end. We will assemble our bicycles there and head south, on the Carreterra Austral, to Patagonia.

The last weeks have been very lazy. First, I spent 4 very nice days in Istanbul with my dear friends Markus and Jago, and again Fatih and Zeynip. After weeks of plain bread and meat and fat of old sheep in Kyrgyzstan, it was a delight to enjoy the great turkish cuisine again. When I left turkey the last time, I was complaining about the lack of culture there. Maybe I was mistaken. I gained some weight that I had lost before, and was able to wear my t-shirts again.

3 days later, I spent 33 hours in the plane. The food was little, I don't get how it is actually enough for all the people. I had to ask the flight attendant for extra food, and all I got was an apple. After landing in Buenos Aires, I got in touch with typical food of this city: Pizza!

 

 

I became lazy. My bicycle is in a box and I got used to travel with metro and by foot in the cities, and with the bus between.
I didn't see a lot of Buenos Aires. The first day, I just got back the sleep I lost in the plane, the second day I managed to change money and buy some spare parts for my equipment. I walked around the touristic places in La Boca with its neat and cosy wooden houses and cafés, and joined a walking tour around Recoletta on the third day, and that was it. The city is a mixture of fantastic and expensive aristocratic architecture from 200-100 years ago, i.e. eclectic neoclassical and art nuveau buildings, intermingled with cheap and ugly houses from the 60ies to the 80ies (see pictures).
Then I moved on to Mendoza, 1700km further east, on the other side of the Pampa. It was hard work even to cover the 150 m from the taxi to the bus (or vice versa) with the 32 kg bike box and two 10 kg bike panniers, but miraculously, I made it without snapping my back.
In Mendoza, I was just relaxing and drinking wine in the backyard of the hostel until after 2 days, Jette arrived from Villa General Belgrano, where she was doing an internship for the last 3 month. Together, we moved on to Uspallata, a small town between two andean ranges. In the "Hostel Internactional", which was located 7 km away from the town in the middle of a beautiful wide valley, formed by a massive glacier ages ago, which is still unspoiled by humans. The scenery is fantastic. So fantastic that Jean-Jacques Annaud used it to shoot the movie "7 years in Tibet" exactly there. We planned to stay for 3 nights, but in the end stayed for 5, also because Jette had to go back to Mendoza to get a paper from the foreign police, after the bus to Chile refused to take us because her visa was expired. We also made a day trip to the foot of Aconcagua, some 60 km away from the hostel. For 3 nights, we have been the only guests in this hostel, so we got a full time care of Alejandro, ate pizza with him, drank wine, listened to music and went horseback riding with him and a gaucho friend of his: We started from the hostel front door, one trip we did into the nearby mountains, the other one criss crossing on the glacier moranes.

 

 

Finally, and with the requested paper, we left the hostel as friends, not as guests, and managed to get a bus across the Andes to Santiago de Chile, where we were hosted by Valerie and her familiy, a friend of Jette. They received us in their tiny apartment with a big heart, and helped us to find what we still needed for our trip to rainy Patagonia: waterproof shoes, an aluminum pot, and some bicycle spare parts. I don't know why, but this city just made me dull and tired. I could have slept the whole day, and sleepy as I was, I became a victim of a metro pickpocket who stole around 200 € from a zipped pocket. I love the family we stayed with, but Santiago I really don't. After 5 days and when we had everything together, we left for Puerto Montt with the overnight bus. I found this nice little "Hostel Jacob", and booked a simple room. Since I was the first Jacob to stay there, we were getting an upgrade to en suite, and Marisol took special care of us, and we were even allowed to store our bike boxes there until we come back from our trip south. Puerto Montt is the southernmost point of the Panamericana Highway. Here, the Carretera Austral starts, a small road, partly paved, partly dirt road, partly gravel pist, 1200 km south, passing rainforests, glaciers, and beautiful river valleys through one of the last virgin places on this planet. We are on this road already, but the story and the pictures have to wait for the next time. Check by again between Christmas and new year!

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