The Bike Ramble Blog

Turning Corners

I woke up in the surprisingly comfy hotel bed and stood right up. The curtains were already pulled open and I took the two short steps needed to reach the window and look out over the town plaza that was located right beneath me. This was my first morning in the 30th country of this journey.

I was in Bolivia.

After four full months of rambling around Argentina and Chile I was incredibly excited to start off this brand new chapter, and all senses were on full alert. Anyone who’s travelled like this know what it’s like. How taking one step across another of those made up borders can make any- and everything seem a million times more intriguing in a heartbeat. All of a sudden we not only look, but we look for things see. We listen. Taste. And acknowledge even the most subtle change of smells when turning a street corner.

All my attention while wandering the streets this first day in Bolivia was the devoted to amazing ladies reigning the town of Villazon. Best hats. Best braids. And very likely the best ‘f*ck you’ attitude on Earth. While their wrinkled up faces are the sweetest ever, the poise they radiate make things incredibly clear. These women have lived.

And they are not to be messed with.

Equally intimidated and intrigued I was roaming town trying to strike up conversation with these rock stars. I was mostly failing miserably, but receiving the occasional smile or short toothless laughter totally made the game one worth playing.

And taking comfort in the fact that border towns all over the world (for whatever reason) have this rough, and raw atmosphere in common – I wasn’t giving too much meaning to the occasional ‘please die’-glares being tossed in my direction that day.


Zzz.. Sales lady of the day!

I was in Bolivia. I was feeling great. And early next morning, it was time to get going.


Pretty – & a pretty puncture prone camp spot

First days of riding Bolivia were great. An empty, winding and incredibly dramatic mountain road took me through Cordillera de Sama towards the town of Tarija. Up and down big passes I was rewarded with stunning views, and occasionally left in a big ball of dust as a truck or bus made it’s way passed me on the tiny road we all shared.


Never know when a bus is coming full charge behind the corner

Passing small a few microscopic to tiny towns along the way, I got my first interactions with ‘true’ Bolivia. One which made me feel good all the way to the core. Yes – the ladies (still all I had eyes for) were just as sweet on the outside. Now with the difference that they were also nothing but liquid gold on the inside.


Fruit vendors refusing to accept money for the fruit and nuts they ‘sold’ me

Bolivia. Bolivia. Bolivia.

I had longed for this place for a million years. Since way before this journey was even thought of. Not because of epic nature. Not because of sweet ladies rocking braids to their calves and hats to the sky.

But because of something – or someone – else entirely.

And reaching this exact view, marking the beginning of that perfectly paved descent all the way into Tarija, I was no more but one last – massive – downhill away.

Until next time,

Fredrika

Don’t Be Stupid

Early morning the day after my little volcano side adventure I was once again mid-mission of getting dressed with everything in my panniers that was even remotely resembling pieces of clothing. Well aware that the upcoming descent would have me peeling layers in no time, I put on yet another pair of socks just for the heck of it. I know I’m Swedish and all, but sometimes I just don’t feel like being cold.

Starting at 4700 masl, at the very first meter of paved road in a good while – I headed down.


Up high…

Down. Down. And down some more.

Down. Way passed the tree line. Lightyears passed the universe where those double socks wouldn’t put you in a mental institution.

Down – 200 km and 3000 vertical meters all the way to the oh so cute township of Fiambalá.

To an equally longed after and needed oasis of rest.


… & down low

And rest I did. I could tell you about doing nothing but showering and eating for days on end. But I think I’ll just rely on the good old ‘a picture says more than a thousand words’ with this one.

How to know a touring cyclist has had a good rest?

She’s spent 4 nights in a place – ending up with nothing but 2 photos on her 3 cameras – and not a single clue of what she’s actually been doing the last 100 hours.

Yes. All those beds were actually for me.

And no. Pannier explosions simply cannot be helped, no matter how carefully one tries to open them. Please tell me I’m not the only one travelling with panniers suffering from a severe case of chronic stomach flu?

As all this took place a good while ago, I would need to go back to check maps and dates to give a fair recap of my last weeks in Argentina. But as I really need this time online for some research on my upcoming route through the salars of Bolivia, that simply isn’t going to happen. Priorities, you know? :-)

I do however want to get something online for you guys before I head out there. So coming up are some glimpses of the last chunk of my many months through Argentina.

Some impulsive decision making and a few too many failed attempts of using my credit card, I ended up spending a good chunk of time going cashless and carefully living off the last bags of rice, lentils and oats that I still carried.

With zero possibilities to do anything in the towns along the mostly paved Ruta 40, I decided once again to simply stay away from them and take the less travelled route through Antofagasta de la Sierra. The small town or big village also known as ‘the loneliest place in Argentina’ with a good 120-150 km to closest town in either direction.

Reaching it I was relieved to find that the ATM I’d been told about actually did exist. The feeling of salvation was great, for those 5 minutes before I learned that it had been out of cash for a little more than a year. I swore and laughed all in one go. Went ahead and bargained hard to get myself 2 new kilos of rice for my last coins. And got on with it.


Half a day’s worth of traffic

Not many towns. However there were villages marked on my map. And it’s funny how those things work. In China, a completely blank spot on the most up to date map can turn out to be the location of a million-people-city bigger than my own capital. In the mountains of Argentina, an on the map named village generally looked something like this.

Name: Forgotten
Altitude: Approx 3500 masl.
Population: 1 human. 2 dogs.


Meet Herman. Mayer. Goat dude. And quite a rockstar!

I rode pass some cool stuff. An erupted volcano, being one example.

And my first ever salt flat, being another.


Salar del Hombre Muerto

Still broke I reached the small (through not if you ask Herman!) village of Salar de Pocitos. Crazy winds forced me to ride well into the evening on the hunt for some sort of shelter for my beaten up tent. Exhausted after 8 hours of headwinds I came onto the village road where I found only one person. The right person.

Less that 15 minutes later I was sitting on a bed with a cup of mate in my hands. The short elderly lady from the street, whose name I too would need my diary from this evening to recall, was already back in the restaurant building next door. Preparing llama milanesa sandwiches for her waiting customers.

This lady and her husband wasn’t only running a small comedor. They were running a two room guesthouse. A guesthouse I never got to see. Because the bed I was sitting in, belonged to one of their 6 daughters.

‘Do you have a mother? I am a mother. None of my daughters would be that stupid. But if one of them would be alone on the wrong side of the world. Out of money. With one bag of rice and a box of matches. I would pray for someone to help her.’

Our conversation had lasted no more than 3 minutes.

Sitting on the bed I looked down on my feet. Kicking some of the loose gravel making up the floor of the room that was now mine. A single tear left my sunburnt cheek and fell into the cup that I held with my both still way too cold hands. Exhaustion and gratitude was all I had left in me.

I slept well that night. And in the morning I was fed with bread and goat cheese until it came out of my ears. Though my Spanish was starting to be quite alright, no one really spoke that much. Somehow the silence did the talking for all of us.

I can still feel the hug I got as I left. And hear the words she used to take farewell.

‘No seas estúpido.’

Don’t be stupid.

Poor mothers.

To no-one’s surprise, I didn’t listed exactly as carefully as I potentially could have. With my panniers top loaded with even more of that bread and goat cheese, I was safe. Safe as in fuelled up for enough time to feel comfortable with making a couple more of those stupid calls.

When doing stuff like turning onto ‘prohibited roads’ it’s usually a good idea to expect and get ready for some sort of consequence. Here – I had to pay with nothing. Except some equally sudden and brutal cravings for chocolate :-)


Erhm…

One afternoon I found myself making it back onto the main road I’d been avoiding for so long. Back on pavement, rolling into the town of Susques. And can you guess what I found myself of there?

That’s right. Hardcore CASH!

Though even more importantly, a few first signs of – finally – being seriously close to Bolivia.

Until next time,

Fredrika

Another Day – Another Death (Life) Wish

A few of you probably remember me posting this rather long, photo dense post about beautiful and breezy riding through the Chilean Patagonia and Carretera Austral. And in the next post complementing the tale of endless waterfalls and lush scenery with pointing out how those scenic shots from cycling paradise didn’t exactly paint the whole picture.

This post is sort of doing the same job. Because yet again, did I leave out a few details when scribbling down my last entry from and about some of the dreamiest mountain weeks I have experienced in my life.

Along Carretera Austral it was rain.

Along this one particular ride up and along the puna in the high Andes – it was some seemingly never ending stretches/days of exceptionally crappy roads.

I won’t dwell on it, as reading about someone pushing a fully loaded bicycle at 5 kph.. 4.. 3.. and at speeds too slow for the odometer to even register any movement at all.. is about as good of a time as actually doing that pushing.

Anyways – every single word in the last post still stands. This is just me adding some (way too) deep gravel to it.


Probably no speed records anytime soon..


If nothing else – soft ground offers super comfy sleeping!

Alright. Confession session of the day – done. Let’s pick up where we left off.

Coming up to a good couple of weeks off the grid, climbing pass after pass and free wheeling along some of the biggest volcanoes on the continent, my spirit was still that of a kid who’d just cashed in her golden ticket to Willy Wonkas chocolate factory. The cries of my protesting body though, was steadily increasing in volume.


Happy! At Laguna Verde.


With legs about as alive and kicking as this guy.

It was about midday.

‘Come on now. You’ll get to be lazy all you want in a little bit..! Just not yet.’

The headwind was a joke. And the panoramic volcano views that otherwise would have been my companions of the day were hidden behind the thick grey storm clouds, seemingly mid mission of suffocating the whole world. I felt the ice crystals crack open my completely dried out lips as I was silently pleading to my numb legs to stop messing around and get a move on. Simply because the weather didn’t leave stopping as an option, I kept peddling up the intensifying hail storm to what was both the highest, and very last mountain pass of my little Andean getaway.

It sucked, but it had to be done as options were few to none. Paso San Fransisco, 4767 meters above sea level.

Early afternoon, I climbed those very last meters and was – DONE.

2 long weeks in some of the most spectacular environments I’ve ever had the privilege to find myself in. Environments who’s inaccessibility make them a rare sight for those lucky few with an adventurous mind and a sturdy high clearance 4WD. Or in my case, an extensive dose of selective ignorance and will to let body pay the price for the enjoyment of the mind.

In any case. This was the end of the road. Or I guess to be more exact – the beginning of it. A 3000+ meter altitude drop on silk smooth tarmac lay ahead, ready to lead me straight back into civilisation and that oh so dreamy variety of ice cream flavours that are only to be found in Argentinian heladerías. Warm showers, soft beds, crystal clear (erhm, not really..) Skype calls back home. It was all waiting, and I could literally feel those familiar butterflies once again coming to life in my belly.

All that was left was (again, not really).. one last pedal stroke, and some steering while letting gravity lead me through those 200 km all the way down to the longed after township of Fiambála.

Done, in every sense of the word.

Though for the 3rd time in this post – not really.

This was my first ever actual sight of Volcán San Fransisco. The 6000 masl piece of earth that I’d set my mind on months earlier, while drooling over Andean maps and altitude charts. The one that I don’t ever how many people along my way north had told me would be another mission impossible to even consider. Summiting was out of question.

Explanations had been ranging from everything between everything from lack of gear, an apparent lack of sanity to the more obvious – lack of oxygen. Though whatever reason of choice the common message was clear – DON’T.

I do hear people out. Everyone, always. I promise.

What I don’t always do though – is listen.

Apart from having their apocalypse visions in common, there was one more important common element to every single one of these oh-so-knowingly advice givers. Not a single one of them had even seen, let alone climbed the mountain they were referring to. Not one.

In other words, not too unlike the in-numerous people who a couple of years ago told me this whole journey in itself was nothing but a well packaged death wish.

I’m quite glad I didn’t listen to them either.

Still hauled over my bike on the top of the pass I was looking up the only so visible volcano reaching up towards the dark sky. I was smiling. Once again repeating some alternative words of advice I this time had chosen to let drown out all other voices from the past months.

‘San Fransisco is your perfect spot for a few first breaths above 6000 meters. A simple and straight forward pile of gravel with spectacular views. Enjoy!’

The message had been simple, and the words rang clear. Partly because they were exactly what I had wanted to hear. But more than anything else because they came straight from no-one else than Janne Corax, one of Sweden’s most experienced mountaineers and the one person I give credit for some of the best months in my life back in China and the Himalayas.

These were from someone I would not only hear out. They were from someone to whom I would listen. And fortunately, they were conveying precisely what I had been hoping for. Spending the previous evening chilling out at Laguna Verde, picking the brains of an acclimatising group of climbers heading for the crown jewel of the area – Volcano Ojos del Salar – had not only provided some truly valuable advice on the volcano itself, but also some new hope that the weather could or might actually open a window of opportunity to head up high.

Food wise I could still afford to stick around for a couple of days, waiting for a clearance. And patience wise, that was probably were I would have draw my limit anyhow. Because funny as it might seem, the call of that ice-cream I mentioned was seemingly just about as strong as the one of the mountain.

Turning my face straight into the roaring winds, I looked up the mountain one more time. The hail was gone. But the whole place still felt about as hospitable as the imaginations of all those people telling me I was better off duck taping myself to closest railway.

‘I’ll give this one day. Then I’m out of here.’

It was still early afternoon when I hauled my bike into the small ‘refugio’ built on top of the pass. A weather change seemed way off, but so was the mere thought of continuing without even trying. I closed the door behind me, crossed my fingers and didn’t as much as peek out the window until the following morning.


Mountain pass refugio. What a DREAM!


Hotel room as good as any.

A good while before sunrise the alarm clock went off. Already wrapped up in most of the clothes I carry with me, I opened my eyes, quickly zipped up my sleeping bag and headed for the door. I opened.

And saw.. STARS. Millions of stars and a cartoon sized moon beaming down, painting big shadows on the ground long before there were supposed to be any.

Jackpot. And go time.

One massive bowl of oatmeal and yet another couple of layers later, I found myself by the very foot of the mountain, hiding Mr. Bike behind a big rock and finding my way to the rather suddle 4WD track leading up the first part of the volcano. From here there was just one thing to do – walk.

Let’s keep it short. An hour or so in I was already on 5 000 + masl, breathing the thinnest air of life. Slowly I was gaining altitude and watching the snow steadily increase, hand in hand with the suddle acceleration of my beating heart.

This is what it looked like.


Homemade Sea to Summit backpack – approved!


Rocky terrain after the end of the 4WD track


First views of the peak

A bunch of hours later. I could feel my heart pounding through three layers of clothing. In a good way. I was actually up high now – and feeling absolutely great. Taking those last steps to the cross marking the very top of the volcano I was already laughing. Not knowing what one really is ‘supposed’ to do on the top of a mountain, I found myself just standing there. Taking in the panorama with every cell of my body.

Gazing out, letting the sun warm my face and breathing big – I smiled. Just like I 24 hours earlier had done in that raging storm, looking up the very peak on which I was now standing. With my sloggy oxygen lacking mind thinking of how Mr. Bike absolutely would have loved to see this too. The dizzy clarity I was experiencing was intoxicating. And I stood there, with a whole new personal definition of Euphoria.

Yet again, the words rang crystal clear – playing in my head like a new favorite tune.

‘San Fransisco is your perfect spot for a few first breaths above 6000 meters. A simple and straight forward pile of gravel with spectacular views. Enjoy!’

Thank you Janne. Enjoy it I did.


Volcán San Fransisco summit, 6018 masl

Until next time,

Fredrika

Mountain Dreamin’

Hey.

Here’s the deal. I have way too many photos from the section of this journey I want to tell you about in this post. Or at least begin to tell you about. So instead of writing too much about it, I’ll let a few of them do most of the talking instead.

If I did write, this would only ever become another one of those chunks of text where I try and find yet a few more synonyms to the not-even-graspable beauty that this planet keeps revealing a little more of for each new country passing under my wheels. A few new attempts at defining the magic that makes me want to keep chasing new horizons in all eternity.

I would try and explain the feeling being so endlessly small. While at the same time fully feeling part of the greatest thing of all.

I would yet again try to put that absolutely deafening mountain silence to words.

How – after days of climbing it – rolling down the other side of a massive mountain pass beats any and every roller coaster in the world.

Or how thin enough air somehow makes me feel like I’m breathing with purpose.

And I would fail miserably with all of the above.

The one thing I do want to say though, is that if you – even for a second – think that something like this could possibly be for you. And that somehow, sometime, you might be able to create an opportunity to make it reality. To give the middle finger to all those ‘impossibles’ that – as if only to make our lives miserable – consistently stand in between us and our dreams. (The secret few people know, is that they’re really only there to make sure we want them bad enough.)

I realise that peddling an old pushbike up and down a bunch of mountains isn’t for everyone. And that the majority of you reading these lines probably have way more sophisticated and purposeful dreams than me. I don’t care though. The same goes for you:

– If you want, you can. And if you can – you must.

Go for it. Whatever that ‘it’ might happen to be for you. Like, really make an attempt. The least you can do for yourself is try. It’s not supposed to be easy. But it’s supposed to be done.

Trust me. Try.

You will thank yourself forever.

Alright. We agreed on letting the photos do the talking in this one, right?

Here it is. Some of what the biggest smack in the face nature has ever given me looked like.

One early morning I left the small but oh so cute township of Villa Union behind, headed up. I had 2 weeks worth of food crammed down my panniers, and – at last – my big Andean two wheeled adventures were about to begin.

The first few days of climbing were, like always seems to be the case for me when I’m charging up high mountains, breezy and filled with absolutely childlike anticipation. Nature changes fast. Everything is new. The dropping temperatures still doesn’t require much more than an extra pair of socks at night. And still there are far too much oxygen in the air for your mind to even give it any thought.


Day 1


Day 2


Day 3

Surprisingly soon though – also this just like in any other high mountains I’ve been – you find yourself up high for real. And though mind and soul is still souring from pure inspiration, your far from acclimatised body is hating you a little more for each pedal stroke and climbed meter. Heart is beating like a drum no matter if you’re cycling, pushing, or simply sitting on a rock eating peanuts.

And it’s awesome.


How can this even be real?!

Eventually, I reached the first pass – Portazelo de Laguna Brava. 4350 masl.


The mandatory I’m UP!-selfie

And I was officially up on the arid, rugged altiplano offering to be my home for as long as I… could handle it.


Some of the host inhospitable landscapes I’ve ever seen


Vicuñas having dinner by Laguna Brava

This is probably what I love the most. Not the climbing part, headed up mountains. Nor the speedy descent down from them. That little something in between – being in them. Your body is well adjusted to the lack of oxygen. Your eyes have accepted that those ridiculous views and your ever-changing wallpapers are actually real. And making sure to keep batteries and water bottles from freezing at night becomes just as a natural part of your day as zipping up the tent in the morning.

We’re all different. But to me – this is the definition of life. And nowhere else do I feel as strongly that I’m absolutely living it.


2nd pass coming up!


Abra Pircas Negras. 4230 masl.


Rewards..!


Can you see my road down there?

I could go on forever.

Though I think I’ll do us all a favor and save the full photo bonanza for another time. Most likely to the couch of my grandmother, when I finally get there. If anyone in the world – she would be the one with the stamina to get through them all.

So for now, let’s just finish off with reminding ourselves.

– If we want, we can. If we can – we must.

I hope you don’t mind me asking. What is your dream?

Until next time,

Fredrika

Anticipation

Leaving the shady avenues and bustling city life of Mendoza behind I felt like a mad woman on the run from a mental institution. A full week of rest had come and gone since arriving in the fruit and wine Mekka of Argentina, and it was high time to move on. Regardless of how great big hostel hangouts, even bigger glasses of Malbec and water melon enough for a lifetime can be – I not only wanted – I needed out.


Nope. Not even you can make me stay one more minute.

Out. Fast. And after rolling through those few rough neighbourhoods that everyone had made sure to warn me about – I was.

Urgent pedal strokes gave away my impatience. I was still far from where I wanted to be. But more than anything they were proof of a massive dose of excitement. Because I knew I was getting there.

The original plan of crossing the Cristo Redentor pass into Chile (which no doubt had been great too) had been scratched to give place for a new one. A far greater one. One to the starting point of which I simply couldn’t get to soon enough. Though unfortunately one that I still had quite some riding to get to.

What is worth mentioning though, is that the ride there turned out to be total a gem in itself. And no doubt the best ‘warm up’ possible, with just enough switchbacks, shitty road surface and ‘people-lessness’ to get legs and mind ready for what was about to hit them.

Days came and went. I wasn’t far now.

High. Rough. Remote.

Pure.

Hopefully more so than ever before.

It was time to hit the Andes.

And kickstart these South American adventures for real.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |February 27th, 2017|South America, Travel Logs|

Bicycle Bootcamp

This trip is slowly sneaking up on it’s 2 year anniversary. Still, all these 35 000+ km into it, there are times when the only thing in the world I want to do – is to ride my bicycle. After bidding farewell to my newfound friends in the alpine chocolate-town of Bariloche, this was exactly the case.

Without thinking. Without stopping. Without caring about anything except enjoying every ounce of the freedom that comes with living with the wind in my hair and my home on the my rear rack. Doing nothing but letting the world around me change with the pace of my spinning legs.

Leaving Bariloche I wanted to ride my bike.

That’s what I did.

And this is what it looked like.

First off I found myself on ‘El Camino de los 7 Lagos’, also known as ‘The 7 Lakes Route’. As the name speaks quite well for itself, I’ll just add in some off the somewhat less obvious keywords shaping my ride on this particular stretch of road.

…Damn. I just caught myself about to write that I found natural beauty. In the less obvious section of this post? Come on Fredrika, you can do better than that.

Alright. Second try.

Just because of it being my very last in a loong time, I do feel like mentioning that I did find quite a bit of rain.

And because of him being a total rockstar – that I one night found myself in the company of my most badass neighbour of all times. I liked him all the way until he kicked over my dinner pot, just after I’d explained to him how I didn’t really feel like sharing my evening soup.


I can’t be the only one thinking Davy Jones?

I kept cycling. And just like I already mentioned – watched the landscape shift.

Without much notice, the very last bit of greenery was left behind and I had suddenly landed in one big déjà vu of being back on the long, winding, bone dry mountain roads of Kurdistan.

I peddled on.

Days yet again turned into that familiar meditative blur that I still have trouble defining why I love so much.

Every night offered another out-of-this-world camp spot.

And in every small town I passed the local bicycle mafia (still on summer holiday) was waiting by the main plaza, always ready to show me around and almost getting into fights when deciding who would help me to fill up my water bottles. Luckily, I generally had more than enough empty ones to prevent any gang battles following my departure.

By this point, my legs had started pointing out to me that they were getting a bit tired.

Though I still felt like cycling some more.

And soon found myself climbing gravel passes, and free wheeling along some volcanic sceneries more than stunning enough to have my previously heavy limbs change their minds completely, and decide they were more than happy to keep pushing those pedals for as long as I pleased.

So we rode a bunch of days more.

Then.

After 11 straight days, 80 something hours of cycling and who knows how many kilometers.

Came the last one.

Resting on the Andean foothills, the oasis town of Mendoza is the fruit and wine capital of Argentina. With a bustling city of wide, leafy avenues, atmospheric plazas and cosmopolitan cafes – Mendoza is a trap for anyone ever planning to leave.

I carefully read the words in my beaten up Lonely Planet one last time, while my sweaty hands were trying to squeeze out the very last of my toothpaste. Not even 8 am. Still the sun had already risen high up in the sky and temperatures were once again on a steady climb towards the daily 40°C mark.

My legs weren’t the only ones tired now. Every part of me wanted rest.

I took one deep breath. And smiled. Knowing I was just a single day’s ride away from getting it..!

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |February 26th, 2017|South America, Travel Logs|

Gratitude & Gamla Gubbar

1st of January.

It really is one of those dates, isn’t it? One which we can ask anyone about at any time, and know that they will be able to recall just what they did that day. Where. And with who.

I can too. Though not necessarily because of it being just New Years. Maybe a little bit because I started it in the comfiest bed in history. But more than anything, because I was literally pulled out of it at bloody 5 o’clock in the morning.

…!

Let me explain.

Two years back I spent a crisp New Years Eve at my friend’s house back in my home town. Standing next to her, ankle deep in snow I was watching fireworks light up a pitch black sky, thinking of nothing but how this was my last Swedish New Years in forever.

I was wrong.

Exactly one year later.

New Years Eve again. Surrounded by my whole family, I was burying my toes in the wet sand of the crowded beach in tourist mayhem Hua Hin, Thailand. I was watching fireworks just like the year before, with the main difference being that time also while trying to avoid getting set on fire by any of the way too many burning lanterns other Scandinavian tourists were miserably failing with getting into the air.

Like so many times before I spent the first trembling minutes of the new year watching the sky. Silently laughing to the memory of my aching heart from the previous year. Thinking how this was probably my most cliché Swedish New Years ever. Following the shrinking light from a one of the hundred lanterns drifting further and further up in the sky, I started playing with the thought of how in the world I would be spending the next one. Where? And with who..?

Not in a million years, would I have been able to guess.

But to no one’s surprise but mine – did also this one end up being Swedish. (I’m rapidly going all international though, adding a dash of Norway this time..!)

5 am.

The New Years party is still in full swing. And the streets of El Bolsón, Argentina are filled with beautiful people in all ages and levels of intoxication more or less consciously making their way into 2017. We all know how more or less how these things go, right?

The air is cool but comfortable enough even for the girls in the very shortest dresses. The backdrop from the still open nightclub is sending physical pulses through the air of the entire town. Upset voices of an arguing couple are being drowned out by the ecstatic laughters of that big group of teenage girls who’ve probably all been best friends since before they were even old enough to know their own names.

Someone’s lying passed out in the grass on the town plaza. Next to him, sits someone mid-mission of rapidly stuffing his face with a massive pizza. Because in practice it still sort of is 2016 – right? That whole get thin thing doesn’t really start until after you wake up on the 1st. Everyone knows that. Right..?

Dawn is on a slow, but steady approach. Crashing in with just enough light for people to slowly start realising that it might actually be time to head home after all.

There is one thing though, that doesn’t make any logical sense whatsoever, this particular new years morning in El Bolsón. And that is a dumb ass Scandinavian group of lycra dressed cyclists rolling through town like a not-even-funny mirage made up by someone on too many hallucinogens.

And in the middle of it – is me :-)

Though there are a million things to be said about the week I ended up spending as the Bariloche adoptive daughter of Laban, Bebben and Holte, I’ll keep it short. In practice it consisted of one day of cycling together, and then me recovering from a way too persistent sickness that these lovely souls for no reason decided to give me the circumstances and support to finally get well from.

Finally feeling well physically was great. Emotionally though, this week was something I didn’t fully grasp until afterwards how much – and desperately – I had actually needed. Sure, these 3 mad men were just as new in my life as any- and everything else I fill my days, weeks, months and years with. But still they gave me a sense of familiarity and being home that I honestly can’t even remember when truly experiencing last.

This boosted my spirit. On a level that still today – a good month later – is sinking in a little more for each passing day. Like I said, I needed this. I needed these people.

And they were totally worth getting up at 5 am for.

Thank you. All three of you.

Thank you for everything.

I don’t need to write here what that everything means. You know already. Probably still more so than I do myself.

And just in case you’ve had time to forget it until then – I’ll make sure to remind you of it when we see each other back home again.

Och Holte:

– Man må jo gå for drømmen sin, ikke sant?

Tack för allt. Era fina jävla människor.

Until next time,

Fredrika

By |February 13th, 2017|South America, Travel Logs|

Sharing A Christmas Pudding

Thought I’d squeeze in a few more words on Carretera Austral that I sort of forgot (totally ignored) in my last entry. Remember how I told you how this wonder world of a place is constituted of millions of flowers painting on-the-ground rainbows, sky high waterfalls, lush greenery and ever flowing rivers rushing pass you at any and every given moment?

Naturally that’s not the entire story.

And just as naturally – the other part of it is that this place is wet.

Landscapes like this require rain. And lots of it. As always you get vastly different responses depending on who you ask, but let’s settle with some happy medium and state that this stretch of Chile receives an annual rainfall hovering around a good 3-6 000 mm. Which is a lot. Really a lot.

And I got my fair share of it.

I’ve cycled with loads of rain before. But this was the first time ever that I’ve gone for 15 days straight without getting to stay dry for a single one of them. But hey, the combination of being spoiled with some incredible gear and the fact that I never really grew out of the whole playing-in-puddles thing as a kid – I really didn’t mind.

Or well. With the exception of when stubborn low hanging clouds blocked my views.

Since the rain does become quite a massive part of your life when living outdoors, I just felt like mentioning it. Though not really like dwelling on it for too long. Something – or someone – worthy of far more characters in this post is Mark. The 70 000 km-under-his-belt Englishman who randomly became my very welcome partner in crime for what is likely to remain the wettest week of Christmas I’ll ever experience.

Because even if you’re one of those people who claim that ‘rain doesn’t bother you’ (nice try, Fredrika..), it is a heck of a lot nicer to live through it in some good company.

Together we rode some hills. Ate shitloads of cookies (Triton, anyone?). Celebrated Christmas in style.


Most well earned Christmas pudding in history..


Flown over from England, ridden some 2000 km through Patagonia. Enjoy it, man!

…and then decided to call it quits with the whole rain-and-cyclist-highway thing and make a swift escape to sunny Argentina on the other side of the mountains.


Only one way to go!

And boy – were we rewarded.


First sun in living memory

I don’t need to say much more, do I? Together Mark & I have the memories of close to a 1000 camp nights written down in our diaries. Many of them great. Some absolutely amazing. Then there are those ones that you’ll simply remember for as long as you live.

And this one – the very first one back Argentinian soil. Being dry and warm, watching the sun set behind the mountains we’d just left behind us. With a folding cup of wine and the promise of nothing but a smiling sun for days – maybe weeks – to come.

This was one of them.

Until next time,

Fredrika

Carretera Austral

Since the very beginning this has been like clockwork. The more intense this journey gets in real life, the further behind is this digital attempt of making a bit of sense of it all. Sitting down I realise that though the last post was published a week ago, the events in is actually took place a good two months earlier.

This is why I figured it’s time to play a game of Catch with reality, and quickly speed though this chunk of Patagonia that I in all honesty don’t really know what to say about anyways.

So, in the name of speed – I…

1) Made my weirdest border crossing up to date.


Lago del Desierto between Argentina & Chile


The oh so shy peak of Mt. Fitz Roy

2) Once again, found myself in Chile.

3) Hit the legendary Carretera Austral.

Carretera Austral.

I’m not the first, and far from the last cyclist to dream about this place. Or stretch of road – to be more accurate. Around the globe there a few of these routes that for whatever reason have gained an absolute legendary status within the bicycle touring world. There is the Pamir Highway in Tajikistan. The Karakorum Highway in Pakistan. On a more accessible note there is is the EuroVelo 6 along the Danube. And then there is this one. Carretera Austral, in Chile.

Renowned for it’s ever changing scenery where dramatic mountains, crystal clear rivers and epic waterfalls are as given part of any day as the steep gravel hills you need to climb in order to earn them – this one is a must for anyone traversing the continent by bicycle. And it is the one and only destination for countless two wheeled travellers who each summer are flying across the world just to ride it.

And oh yes indeed – is this place beautiful. Mindbogglingly so.

For me personally though, these 1000 something kilometers were one slow realisation of just how messed up this life of the road have made me. This was 3 weeks out in the open. Through and along this otherworldly scenery in which Disney simply haven’t come around to set a movie yet. On a quiet road that seemingly carries more fully loaded bicycles than cars. Up and down the rolling hills connecting the small countryside villages along the way.

Freedom, right? For all I know this should be the very definition of that.

Still I couldn’t help but to feel absolutely trapped.

I don’t think I need to tell you guys that I am absolutely spellbound by spending loads of time inside dramatic postcard scenery. With living life with the sky as my only ceiling. With meeting likeminded people out and about on their own travels. I’m forever and truly in love with all of that.

Predictability though?

No. Not at all.

I ask myself how exactly this came to be. I ask myself when. Sometimes also what it will mean once I finally park up Mr. Bike, back home in Sweden and the end destination of this journey. More often than not while deliberately avoiding to answer that last question.

For now, I’ll just settle with stating the fact;

Predictability has become my kryptonite.

Every inch of this road is neatly documented online. The road which is getting sealed as we speak. Apps are pointing out GPS points to ‘secret’ camp spots. I bumped into more cyclists during these 3 weeks than I have during the rest of this almost 2 year long trip combined. And the locals are about as surprised to see us as they are to see the sun rise in the morning.


Though obviously meeting cyclists is always awesome. More the merrier :-)

Don’t get me wrong now. Carretera Austral – by definition – is a bicycle touring destination of utter world class. But that’s my whole point. This is the cycling world’s equivalent to a classic case of natural-masterpiece-ending-up-in-Lonely-Planet. And I simply got to it way (way, way) too late.

Since I know a bunch of people reading this are either heading to, or daydreaming of hitting Carretera Austral in the future, I feel like I need to make a bit of a disclaimer before closing. This place is amazing. It is everything you’ve read about it. It is exactly that.

Choosing destination for your bicycle touring holiday?

GO! Go, go, go!

Adventure? In any way, shape or form?

Unfortunately.. This is not where you find it.

Until next time,

Fredrika

How (Not) To Climb Mountains

Just a short one this time. A quick run through of how not to experience Mt. Fitz Roy. Or – depending on how you choose to look at it – the very way to do it.

My last post finished off with me and my riding buddies Moritz and Greg finally reaching the township of El Chaltén. The small village resting on the foot of the mystical mountain of Fitz Roy, that’s majestically towering over town on any given moment of a sunny day. And who’s sharp contours vanishes completely as soon as the first clouds form in the sky.

Arriving in sunshine, we decided to waste zero time in the quest of chasing down our epic mountain view experience. After finding our way to our first ever Casa de Ciclistas (google this if you’re cycling South America), we dumped our bikes and quickly regrouped into some sort of pretend-to-be-trekking crew.


Voila!

One stop by the supermarket later we were well prepared with the given necessities for any serious mountaineering expedition. Breakfast for tomorrow. And gin. Lots of gin for tonight.

A mandatory ice cream cone later we were off, headed out of town straight towards the heart of the beauty.


Less than 2 hours from El Chaltén township

This was a beautiful evening. One including walking. And taking breaks.

Breaks including views. And drinking gin.

As evening fell we set our camp. The sky was still clear enough to present a proper mountain sunset and we excitedly set another one of those way-to-early alarms to get up and catch the sunrise over that epic peak of Mt. Fitz Roy. The steep ascent between us and the top meant one good hour of dawn walking before reaching our viewpoint of the summit.

But that was all tomorrow’s burden.

Then suddenly tomorrow had arrived. And though this was where things first started going downhill, it would still take a good while before any of us would realise that.

With drowsy eyes, torch-dressed foreheads and heavy feet we tramped off in the darkness, aiming for the peak that was still drowned in darkness. Thinking back, the clues of that we were headed in the wrong direction were definitely there. Some clearer than others – but all equally ignored by Team Too Tired.

Worth noting is that this is one of the more well prepared tourist spots in all of Patagonia. Paths are clear. Bridges are built. And river crossings like this should be a heads up that quite possibly you’re a little off route.

For us it took a little more still.

To be exact, it took our ‘path’ abruptly ending with a cliff wall and this sign.

Just on time to when we’d expected to be at the top, we realised that we weren’t even moving towards it. Success!


Slowly we found our way back to signs telling us not to go where we’d just been


Back on track. Or on it for the first time.

So this whole thing obviously didn’t really work out as planned. Yes, we did manage to find our way back to the proper path. We did get to the top. And we did have a lot of fun reaching it. The one detail though was that way before we made it there – the rain clouds did too.

And we didn’t get to see a thing.

Plans are great. But let’s not forget that plans gone to hell – are too.

Epic fail?

Oh yes.

However – I think I’ll choose to remember this as only epic.

Until next time,

Fredrika