The flight from Ushuaia was uneventful and we landed in Buenos Aires about 15 minutes early. The approach from the east to the domestic Aeroparque airport is very nice if you have a window seat on the left, with great views of the city. Clapping in the plane still appears to be a thing here and strangely it started right at the moment of touchdown when many things could still happen, including a go around. According to the pilot’s announcement it was 29 degrees at 19:30, a far cry from Fuegian summer, to put it mildly. The bike and box appear to have survived just fine.
The drive into the city was “interesting”. Wide avenues, busy traffic on a Sunday evening and large monuments and buildings are quite the change. The city proper has 3 million inhabitants and the urban area well over 10 million. The last metropolis I visited was Mendoza in October, so this took some getting used to. I got to the hostel at 21:00 and I was glad to find out they have a bar that also serves pizza, so I didn’t have to go out for dinner. Of course this was a perfectly normal or even early time to do so, but I was tired enough that I took the easy way out. Another welcome change is the return of the litre bottles of beer as well as reasonable prices for everything. A big bottle here is cheaper than a pint in Patagonia.
I celebrated the completion of my tour with steak – what else – and then had some beers in the local Irish pub, since that’s where tourists everywhere are supposed to go for a drink or two. Or more.
Thursday 4 January
Thursday morning I took a bus tour of the city. The tour might seem expensive at first, but it comes with discounts for a few of Ushuaia’s top attractions which I wanted to visit anyway, so I gained money instead on the tour. It was also a nice and gentle introduction to the city. Afterwards I went to the combined maritime and prison museum, which tells much of the history of Ushuaia and Tierra del Fuego. Continue reading “At World’s End: Ushuaia”
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On Christmas day I got started a bit later than usual, but so did my host. At breakfast I got a large piece of cake in addition to the usual bread. As I walked out the sun was shining and I got quite warm, so I was thinking about removing a layer of clothing, but decided against it for now. When I got onto the road the sun disappeared and I was soon adding layers instead.
Thursday we had bad weather all day, so we spent most of it in the Casa del Ciclista. I had some things that needed repairs or replacement, so I looked around town for these. I succeeded with my bags, but did not find anyone to repair my phone.
El Chaltén is one of the hiking and trekking capitals of South America, together with Torres del Paine, so some hiking is in order. While it would be great to walk the Cerro Huemul circuit that gives one a view of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, this was not really an option for various reasons: It takes too much time and you need four days of good enough weather. Some people were already waiting for a week for weather to improve, so that won’t work for me. I also think that my current setup is not that great for such an extended trek. Thus, William and I decided to go to the more accessible Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre on Friday and Saturday.
I’m currently heading from one legendary road to the next. Just a few days ago I left Ruta 40 in Argentina behind, only to soon join the Chilean Carretera Austral, the southern highway that Pinochet started building in the 1970s with the goal of connecting remote settlements in the south to the rest of Chile by road. Previously they were only accessible by infrequent and slow boats, by air or through Argentina. The reasoning was that the road would make the region feel more united with the rest of the country and also makes military troop movements easier if Argentina decided to attack.
This road is a must-do for every bike tourist in southern South America, so that’s where I’m going. 45 years later the road is still under construction, so some sections are quite bad, and there are a few ferries where no reasonable road could be built. In summer the road is said to be full of bike tourists (maybe a bit too full), but it’s not summer yet.
The more you walk around San Martín, the more ridiculous it gets. Just when you think you’ve seen it all they come up with a new fake German-style building and a corresponding name that just doesn’t make sense. I saw bars called “Bierhaus” or “Das Gute bier”. Yes, that’s the capitalisation they use. There are some half-timbered (“vakwerk”) buildings, but they are clearly stone structures with some planks screwed to the outside, and the pattern doesn’t even work.
A few days before reaching San Juan the bite valve of my Camelbak broke when a dog was a little too interested in my bike and gear. It generally still works fine, but occasionally it leaks and I may lose a lot of water. Thankfully that hasn’t happened on the road so far, but it did at the end of the day. In San Juan I went looking for a replacement. I tried two outdoor stores and a bike shop and they all had the same option: buy a whole new bladder of a local brand. This wasn’t what I wanted, so I just tried to glue it shut and hope that will stick – literally.
I’ve been in Uyuni all Saturday to get some rest, book a three day tour in a jeep and to plan the alternate route that I’ll ride afterwards. At least there is different food around here, lots of pizza places and Mexican food. I also had a nice llama steak, but properly frying fries is still asking too much.
On Sunday morning I leave on a three day tour of the Salar de Uyuni and the Sud Lipez. I’d have liked to do this part by bike, but as detailed before, that’s not working out for me.
I need to take it easy for a few days so I can get used to the altitude before starting to cycle at 4000+ meters on the Altiplano. Thus I stayed in and around La Paz from early Wednesday morning until Sunday morning.
Wednesday 20 September
On Wednesday I went on a guided tour of the city, where I learned a lot about La Paz and Bolivia in general. After the tour I was tired, since I hadn’t slept much in the last few days, and so I retired to my room early. This would be a recurring theme on these days. Probably a combination of jetlag, the thin air and the different food. Continue reading “La Paz et al.”