Archive for the ‘Argentina’ Category

Tierra del Fuego

Saturday, March 24th, 2007
Descending into Ushuaia

   I found biking across the island of Tierra del Fuego both more scenic and easier than I had expected, as strong tailwinds pushed me across wide plains and then mountainous forest. However, I found that my head was spinning most of the way, as I contemplated finishing the trip. For the past year and a half, I have said that I was headed to Ushuaia, Argentina’s most southern city, and, as I approached the city, I kept asking myself why it was that I was biking there.

   Indeed, my actual experience in Ushuaia was fairly unsuccessful. I tried to visit a school, but when I saw the teachers marching in the street demanding a pay increase, I learned that school was temporarily not in session. I tried to stay at the fire station in town (I have stayed at over 35 fire stations on this trip), but was turned down because so many travelers come to this city that the firefighters had to stop letting people stay with them. I found myself unable mentally to go to the media (although I did talk to a few people about global warming – all of whom confirmed that there is less snow in this area than decades past). I decided that this could not really be the end.

Route J, South America's southern most road.

   I looked on my map and found that there was a road that traveled a bit further south. ‘Route J’ curves southeast around Tierra del Fuego’s southern end, and it looked to me like the furthest south road in South America. Traveling two more days, I biked down this one lane dirt road to see where it led.

   At the end, I found a building overlooking the entrance to the Beagle Channel, where Cesar, Juan, and Eduardo were working for the Argentine coast guard monitored ships coming to and from Ushuaia. Cesar and I looked at the large nautical map on the wall, and confirmed that this was indeed as far south as I could bike.

Eduardo, Juan, and Cesar at the end of Route J, working for the Argentine Coast Guard
The furthest south point you can reach by bicycle.  Cabo Jorge Eduardo Lopez, overlooking the entrance to the Beagle Channel.

   They shared with me some lemonade and explained how they communicate with ships that come through the channel. I went ouside and took some pictures overlooking the water, and accepted that this was really the end of Ride for Climate The Americas. A pickup truck soon came by the building to drop off supplies, and, as it left, offered me a ride. It was only the third car I had seen on this stretch of road that day, so I accepted and left.

   I am now back in Ushuaia trying to find somewhere to take a shower (again not being very successful) before leaving in a few hours for Buenos Aires. It is still quite difficult to realize that I am here, and that this trip is truly over. I hope to write a few more thoughts on this trip, including final thoughts on global warming in Latin America, when I reach Buenos Aires in a few days.

The Carretera Austral, Fitzroy, and the road to Punta Arenas

Thursday, March 15th, 2007

   Since last entry, I have zig zagged south, following the Andes to the tip of South America (see map). I am now in Punta Arenas, a city at the southern end of Chile.

   The first segement of this journey, riding south from Coyhaique, Chile, involved riding Chile’s carretera austral, which was ordered built by the dictator Pinochet in the 1980s. The road is famous among cycle tourists, and I soon learned why. I camped every night, often next to giant turquoise lakes or rivers, or within sight of glaciated peaks and the nearby ice fields of Patagonia.

Carretera Austral, near Cerro Castillo
Campsite over Lago General Carrera - South America's second largest lake
Micheal ahead on the Carretera Austral
Couple from France crossing South America, south to north

   I met many cyclists on this route, almost all of whom were also on long journeys. It was a little strange to meet people who were crossing all of South America and think nothing of it – just give casual advice about the many months ahead.

Cyclist from the Netherlands - biked across Asia, then Australia, and is now going from Argentina to Alaska.

   I met Peter from the Netherlands, who left the Netherlands well over a year ago and biked across Asia. He realized he had some money left over, so he flew to Argentina and is now biking to Alaska. And that is nothing – If I had been on this road just two weeks earlier, I would have met the famous Heinz Stücke, who started bicycling 1962, and hasn’t stopped since. He was in South America because he was trying to get a boat to bike part of Antarctica, one of the very few places he has never biked. His boat fell through, so decided to bike the carretera austral, because last time he biked Chile, the road had not yet been built.

Local mountain guide Yoani explains that this section of the Rio Baker is going to be damed
Debate in Patagonia about dam building

   Along the carretera austral, I had a number of conversations with locals about the hydroelectric dams that will likely be built in the region. Most seem to support building the dams, as it would bring more infrastructure and development, while others complained that giant beautiful valleys would be flooded. These dams, though, would also provide incredible amounts of carbon dioxide-free electricity to Chile’s cities. No power source is without its drawbacks, and while I support dams over the use of coal, seeing such projects reminds me that energy efficiency–reducing our energy needs–is one of the most important investments we can make.

The melting face of Glacier O'Higgins

   The carretera austral ends at lake O’higgins, which you can cross by boat. I paid a little extra to see the O’higgins glacier, which you can see on the left and which has melted 9 miles over the past century. Once we reached the far end of the lake, I had to take a trail through the woods (sometimes pushing the bike and getting rained on) to another lake, which, when crossed by a boat, brought me to the roads of Argentina and the mountains of Fitz Roy, shown below.

Fitz Roy
Cerro Torre through the trees
Departing El Chalten

   (A thanks to the people at Cerro Torre Cabañas – a great place to stay in El Chalten).

   From these mountains, I headed south once more, crossing the dry steppe of Argentina before once more crossing over to Chile, where I stayed with families in Puerto Natales and Punto Arenas. In Punta Arenas, I visited my first school, Liceo Sara Braun, in many months, as the summer vacation for Argentina and Chile has just ended.

Sandra, Felipe, Carlos, Yara, Karen, Jonathen, Gloria, Juan Carlos in Puerto Natales
Liceo Sara Baun, Punta Arenas
Liceo Sara Baun, Punta Arenas

   I am now at the end of South America. From here, I take a boat across the Straight of Magellan, and bike a few days across the island of Tierra del Fuego to the Argentine city of Ushuaia. And then there will be no more road left.

Into Patagonia

Friday, February 23rd, 2007

   I just recently purchased my plane ticket home – I will fly out of Buenos Aires on the 1st of April – and it is a strange feeling to suddenly have a firm ending date to this trip. To make it to Tierra del Fuego and back in that time frame, though, I have to hurry a bit, and I am likely not going to be uploading many photos to the site until I reach the end.

¡Gracias a Sergio y su familia!
An excellent 'Once' in Osorno

   I realize I haven’t written much about my route after Santiago Chile, so I thought I would let you know more or less what I have done since then. I left Chile’s capital a little over a month ago, and followed mostly the main highway south. Having already appeared in the national media and having been featured on a few key Chilean bicycling web sites (here for instance, or here), I had a number of contacts down the road and stayed with many families through southern Chile.

Crossing Lago Todos Los Santos on the way to Argentina, Volcon Osorno
Arrive in El Bolson to spend time with my friend Denali

   I crossed over to Argentina via a series of boats crossing lakes. Those of you who saw the Motorcycle Diaries, it was the same series of lakes that Che Guevara and Alberto Granado crossed with their motorcycle. From there I spent a day in the tourist capital of Bariloche, and then south to town of El Bolson where I spent a week with a friend of mine who is living in the town.

   From El Bolson, I biked straight south, following a paved road through the dry windy steppe of Argentine Patagonia. Not many people live here, and after a few days enjoying the solitude, I suddenly realized I wanted to see both people and vegetation. Following a seldom used dirt road, batteling fierce headwinds, I crossed once more back to Chile, where I am now, and will follow a windy dirt road known as the ‘carretera austral’ through pine forests south. See map – (In Patagonia, the east side of the Andes, in Argentina, is dry, and the west side, In Chile, where you see all the fjords on the map, is a temperate rainforest similar to coastal British Colombia).

   There is not much road left, only about twenty some days of pedalling separates me and the end.

Travel Summary – Bolivia, Argentina, & Chile

Monday, February 12th, 2007

(If you are signed up for the email list, you would get this entry emailed to you)

Ride for Climate followers,

   Hello from northern Patagonia. It is summer here, and I am relaxing in a small town before continuing on for the very last stretch of this journey. I have recently read through my personal journals for the past 15 months and I am literally having trouble processing everything that has happened. I find it difficult to believe how long ago it was that I was crossing Mexico, let alone how long ago it was that I left my front door in California and started biking south.

Wouter and I camped at this rural school and then talked to the kids in the morning - Escuela Eduardo Abarua
Bike, full moon
Lago Aguas Frias
Article in La Nacion

   Since last update I have zigzagged southward across the Andes (see map of Boliva and Argentina & Chile), crossing the Atacama desert, northern Argentina, and central Chile. I have just crossed back into Argentina for the final push southward through Patagonia. As schools have been on summer vacation, I have given almost no presentations, but I have appeared on a few news programs and publications across this end of the continent.


  • Dec 11 Biking Southern Bolivia and the Atacama Desert
  • Dec 17 The fork on my bike breaks
  • Dec 29 Northern Argentina and biking with Dave Johnson
  • Jan 16 Santiago, Chile
  • Jan 17 Melting Glaciers and a climb of El Plomo
  • Jan 19 Heat Waves
  • Feb 1 What happens when the poor become rich?
    Youtube video of me on Chilean National TV
    Biking off into the sunset on the world’s largest salt flat
    Official Christmas video of Ride for Climate
    Lots of bikes are used in northern Argentina
    View from 18,000 ft in the Andes near Santiago

    Campsite (Mt. behind me is 19,000 ft tall and has almost no snow)

       Since the last update, I have written about the danger of future heat waves as well as the risks to water supply for people who live along the Andes and depend upon snow and glacial water. There are many risks that I have not written about recently – such as rising sea levels, increased chances of both droughts and floods, and loss of biodiversity. As many of you know, the IPCC – an international team whose results almost all governments of the world have accepted – recently published their conclusions that we are to blame for global warming, and that it will get much worse unless we do something. The time to act has come.

       Travel dates for Ride for Climate USA, the planned trip around the US, are being set. I have added to the bottom of this email our schedule for the first month of travel. Do you know people in these places that would be interested in events? If so, send the website their way. We are still in the process of setting up presentations and finding places to stay, so spread the word!

       If you know people in the southern cities of Punto Arenas or Ushuaia (or any towns along the way), let me know. I will also be flying out of Buenos Aires, likely spending a few days in the capital city. Schools will be in session, so if you know of a school that would like a presentation, let me know.

    I should know what building this is
    Campsite, one day south of Temuco
    Biking along Lago llanquigue, Volcon Osorno
    Dirt roads in the Altiplano

       Look for one more final update when I reach the islands at the tip of South America. I am almost there…..

    In Patagonia,


    Flats by country:
    Bolivia: 1
    Argentina: 1
    Chile: 4

    Ride for Climate USA Schedule (subject to small changes)

    Boston, MA ~ Ride begins! – April 21
    Amherst, MA ~ April 23
    Hartford, CT ~ April 25
    Brooklyn, NY ~ April 30
    New York, NY ~ May 1
    Lambertsville, NJ ~ May 3
    Westchester, PA ~ May 5
    Philadelphia, PA ~ May 6
    Gettysburg, PA ~ May 7
    Chambersburg, PA ~ May 8
    Pittsburgh, PA ~ May 13
    Oberlin, OH ~ May 20
    Bowling Green, OH ~ May 21
    Monroe, MI ~ May 23
    South Bend, IN ~ May 26
    Chicago, IL ~ May 28

    You can see more of what might come at

    Northern Argentina and crossing the Andes (again)

    Friday, December 29th, 2006
    That is a sand storm on the left.  The wind is blowing towards us.

       Biking south from Salta, green forest eventually gave away to desert landscape, and I again found myself biking long stretches of desert between small towns.

       Biking Argentina (and Chile) after traveling the northern countries of South America is a bit of a shock. The people here are far wealthier. Stores are stocked with all the food I could want (I get to drink my daily liter of chocolate milk in Argentina, for instance). People also treat me more like an equal and stare at me less when I bike into a plaza.

       Northern Argentina is also relaxed. They have a siesta that lasts from 12:30 to almost six in the afternoon. More than once I biked into a town at 4pm and wanted to buy some food, and I was told ”Not at this hour! You have to wait until the store opens at 5:30 or 6.” It is hot in the afternoon (it is summer here), so I suppose this is somewhat understandable. An amazing number of people use bicycles in the small towns, and I enjoyed sitting in the town plazas and seeing few cars. (click on video below right to see bikes).

    Pedestrian mall in La Rioja
    Everyone seems to have a bike in these small towns - San Jose de Jachal
    In San Jose de Jachal - look at all the bikes!
    Merry Christmas!

       My friend Dave Johnson flew in to join me for this section (and brought the new bike fork – see last entry). We celebrated Christmas biking up into the Andes, crossing into Chile. Santa brought us a dirt road, a steep climb, and a fierce headwind that made us travel half as fast. (Watch the ‘official Ride for Climate Christmas Video’ by clicking on the video on the right).

       Crossing a 15,500 ft pass (Paso Aguas Negras) on a road that sees less than 30 cars a day, we passed glaciers and snowfields in an experience that seemed more like mountaineering than bicycling. Following the road 150 miles down the deep Elqui Valley, we arrived quickly to sea level and the beach town of La Serena, Chile.

    Road up to the pass Aguas Negras
    Altitude: 4,600 meters or 15,000 feet
    Almost at the pass Aguas Negras
    Descending - can you see Dave Johnson on his bike on the road?
    High altitude resivour in the Valle de Elqui
    Sunset over the Pacific in La Serena