Archive for February, 2007

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

    What Happens When the Poor Become Rich?

    Thursday, February 1st, 2007

       Chile is very different from almost every other country I have traveled across for one reason: the economy here is stable and growing.

       When I first crossed into Chile from Bolivia, I was shocked to bike to a mall and see a large selection of wide screen TVs. Biking across Chile, I have been surprised by new highways and new housing complexes for a middle class. Little things on this trip keep on shocking me – like camping next to a house in the countryside and having one of the kids pull out a six mega pixel camera to take my picture. I am writing this right now using a laptop borrowed from the family I am staying with, surfing the internet on their WiFi.

    Biking into Santiago, following a cyclist on Apoquindo, Santiago's principal road.
    Biking the freeway south of Santiago
    Being photographed by the local kids.

       There is still much poverty in Chile – like the rest of Latin America, it is incredibly unequal—but the country is, more or less, growing its economy. A quick look at the statistics of income growth per person over the past 30 years shows that Chile’s per person income has grown at almost 4% per year. No other country I have biked across has grown even half as fast, and in some places, such as Peru and Venezuela, the average person is poorer than they were 30 years ago.

    All the forests in this picture are plantations

       To be sure, Chileans I talk to are very critical of their own growth. They often complain it is not equal (minimum wage is still only $200 a month) or that it is not ecological (a lot of growth is based off of natural resource extraction), and, above, all, they don’t like it when I make any comparison, good or bad, between Chile and other Latin American countries. But, I will do it anyway: the average Chilean is far better off economically than the average citizen of almost every other country I have biked through. (Possible exceptions of Argentina and Costa Rica.)

       Chile is achieving what so many people who I have seen across Latin America want – more wealth. On the whole, this is good, and it makes me feel comfortable to be somewhere where there is a large middle class.

       There is a flip side, though, to this growth. Comparing how carbon dioxide emissions through fossil fuel use have grown over the past 20 years, you can what effect this has had. The average Chilean produces almost 50% more carbon dioxide from fossil fuels then 20 years ago. In every other country, the number has barely changed.

    Santiago by Twilight

       I can see, here in Chile, lots of new cars and construction. New wealth has brought more electricity use and more driving. If all of world were to achieve what Chile has achieved, the atmosphere simply couldn’t take it.

       So, what do we do? To me, the answer seems clear: we need to find new technologies to replace fossil fuels as soon as possible before these poorer countries develop.