Archive for December, 2006

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

A broken fork and a welder

Sunday, December 17th, 2006
biking forest

   Twenty kilometers north of Salta, Argentina my bicycle fork sheared off at the top of the headset. Thousands and thousands of miles of having the handlebars adjusted too high (so I learned later) weakened the metal, and it finally broke. By some stroke of luck, it sheared off while I was stopped, instead of when I was biking.

   Shocked that my handlebars no longer connected to the bike, I hitched a ride to Salta, Argentina, where I was dropped off a bike store. The owner of the store immediately told me that the town’s frame builder could weld the broken fork back together, and that I would only have to wait until Monday until the frame builder could do it.

   Two days later, Alberto Alconce (below left) cut the arms of my fork off and welded a new stem that would go through the frame and connect to the handlebar stem. The pictures below show more or less show what happened. In the middle is a photo of me holding the old fork stem next to the bike, and where it broke. Alberto cut the arms off the old fork and welded the arms to a new stem – you can see the new welds on the photo on the right.

My bike fork broke.  Alberto, on the right, welded it back together in Salta.
Old fork stem held next to frame.  You can see it broke right at the top part of the headset.
The welds of my new fork.  Alberto cut the entire old stem out and put a new one in, keeping the old fork arms.
After three days of flights and two days on buses, enter Dave Johnson

   Perhaps because the operation cost me only $5, I was not sure to trust the fork the rest of the trip. Fortunately, a good friend of mine, Dave Johnson, was flying in a few days to join me, and I was able to get him to carry a new fork from the U.S. I biked a few days south on the old welded fork, and then Dave showed up with a new fork that I installed. You can see Dave flexing and showing off ‘his muscle’ on the right.

South into Argentina

Monday, December 11th, 2006
American School of La Paz - Elemantary School

   I spent a week in La Paz, where I talked to almost the entire American School. I also somehow managed to get in two major newspapers, three radio stations, and a morning live interview on national television (the program ‘Al Despertar,’ for those of you who tune into Bolivian television…)

   From La Paz, I basically started biking south as fast as I could, and I am now in Northern Argentina. I have been traveling fast for a few reasons – the end of the school year (southern hemisphere summer) means I can’t give presentations, I have a desire to not be rushed later in the trip, and I made a promise to meet a friend who is flying in to bike with me.

American School of La Paz - High School
A radio interview in La Paz
Al despertar - a national morning talk show in Bolivia

   The terrain has been breathtaking. I crossed the world’s largest salt flat, and biked across the Atacama Desert, crossing sections of the desert by moonlight. There were few services on these roads – at one point had to carry 30lbs of food and water. Click on the images below to visit the photo albums of the past few weeks.

Southern Bolivia, including the world’s largest salt flat (biked partially with Wouter):

South to Chile

The Atacama Desert of Chile, including some incredible night biking:

Northern Chile - the Atacama Desert

Northern Argentina, where I am now. I caught up with Brooks and Gregg (and another cyclist Tom). Remember Gregg and Brooks? I biked across sections of Mexico with them, and just ran into them again:

Northern Argentina