*Editors note: This post was begun several weeks ago.
Hey everyone this is Derek, my first post of the trip…I have been trying to learn how to use this thing…
Anyway Dan, Zach, and I are hanging out in Valparaiso, Chile. Clean shaven, showered, and eating…lots and lots…we were a sight to see when we rolled into the Zapata’s house. Three bums looking pretty haggard!!! I want to share one story/lesson with you. It´s about a vision quest Dan and I took across the border from Chile to Argentina. While Zach, dealing with a swollen and painful ankle, and Ted, a good friend to accompany Zach, hopped a boat south and had an adventure of their own, we headed towards the mountains in search of our white buffalo! Here we go…
We finished the Carretera Austral bringing us to Villa O’Higgins. At Villa O’Higgins the road just comes to an end….nothing more. If you want to continue further south in Patagonia you have to take a boat across two lakes. The boat is a little expensive so the four us were looking for some other options. We heard about a free boat we might be able to take that transports cattle but it wasn’t running while we were there. At the place we were camping we ran across a (gaucho) cowboy of Patagonia named Adolfo. He was a rugged looking guy with one eye….straight up cowboy. He told us of a free way you can pass from Chile to Argentina by land! He said even though there was no actual road for the 12Km in betweent both countries, the trip should be no problem. We spoke to the police in Villa O’Higgins to learn more about the pass….they said you can cross now the river was low enough. Awesome….
The following day Dan and I said “chau” to Teddy and Zach and that we would try to meet back up in about 5 days in El Calafate. Teddy and Zach left early in the morning to catch their boat and Dan and I got up kind of early…mmm…8:30 or so….Zach can tell you that we are not the two easiest people to get going in the morning….So we begin our approach to the border crossing between Chile and Argentina called Paso Mayer. It was a 60K ride from Villa O’Higgins…no problem…
…but on the way my rear derailleur rattled loose leaving me stranded on the side of the road with some sheep while Dan was three miles ahead of me…Thinking I may have been hurt he rolled back, found me, fixed my bike, and then we headed to the border. We came across a fork in the road and chose right and right was right…
We rolled up on the Carabiñeros de Chile (Chilean State Police) talked to the border patrol who was surprised to see us, since it is not a popular route for tourists. We gave them our passports to process the border crossing and parted ways… This is where things started to get interesting….So we get some directions from the police…which are spoken very very fast. Now my comprehension of Spanish is really bad so I didn’t have much of clue at all and Dan, who speaks fluent Spanish, had trouble understanding! So the first part of our crossing has us walk through four streams which means carrying a really heavy bike on your shoulder while getting your feet all wet.
Then the border starts in a person’s front yard. So we had to open the gate to a person’s house and roll through their front yard. Next you have to jump a fence in the front of the person’s yard to find a horse path.
Simple right? Follow the horse path that breaks up into fox runs through a bunch of spiny bushes then walk through a marsh. Lug your bike up another hill to find some more random horse trails which leads you out to a river.
At the river we were told to cross a pasarela.
Pasarela was not in Dan’s vocabulary…so we knew it was some kind of bridge but we weren’t quite sure what it would be. Well we found it and if you can imagine your stereotypical skinny rope bridge that you find in all Indiana Jones movies that’s what it was! It was so skinny that we couldn’t even push the bikes through. Dan carried his bike over his head!
“Doctor Jones, Doctor Jones!” After the bridge there was no trail…we didn’t know where to go, all we knew was that we had to get to this big round boulder that we could see off in the distance. We searched and searched for a trail but no real luck…we were tired and we decided to camp next to the pasarela. We were hoping that in the morning we would find a nice shepherd who would show us the way. So there we are camping the night in South America, not in Chile or in Argentina, but in the DMZ, that’s short for Demilitarized Zone aka “no man’s land”.
The next day we decided to head for high ground…we found a horse path! But then as we followed it it turned into a rabbit run. We could still see the rock so we headed towards it. However, there were so many fallen down trees that we kept having to haul our bikes over and over and over and over. Then the rain came…We were just walking and singing,* I hear the rains down in Africa. * Eventually we come to the face of the boulder, climb it and look out at the land before us……..and we saw nothing, nothing at all for miles and miles. We ate a sandwich, talked about our predicament and decided to give up. Turn around and head back to Chile which was still in sight. We walked down towards the river…and what was in front of us a horse path! We followed it and then even better!!! We saw a truck! A truck! We started yelling “Hola!!!!” Awesome. The man in the truck gave us awesome directions and we found a great easy 4×4 trail to Argentina. We made it!!!! Wow we thought it was over! But noo noo no no. Well when the Argentina border patrol checked out our passport they realized that we never got exit stamps from Chile…the border patrol never stamped our passports….so unfortunately Argentina said we had to go back to get stamps.
Yup we had to go back into no-man’s land. There’s only one thing you can say to something like that, ooooo s#@t. So, we went back…got stamps and then returned back to Argentina. Three crossings in one day.
If anyone wants to cross Rio Mayer let Dan and I know we are selling maps of that area for pretty cheap.
Finally the day was done and these nice farmers let us stay in a cabin they had on their estancia(ranch).
Well just when you think the hardships are over…it ain’t over until the fat lady sings…We entered the pampas of Argentina. The high planes. Dry, flat, windy, and nothing around……..We found out that the next closest town of any sort was 250 k away. Now you’re saying, that’s not too many K…well when you have to ride a 4×4 tire rutted out road through deep mud and a head wind that’s a lot of K.
Not to mention because of the whole boarder fiasco…we were cutting it with the amount of food we had left. We pedaled and pedaled and decided to just sleep in our sleeping bags in the side of the road. Yup we slept in a ditch, bike touring sure is marvelous. At this point we were eating rice and powdered milk…mmm…We started pedaling the next day and we saw a truck….a truck!!!! Stuck out our thumbs and next thing you know we are in the back of truck!!! woooohooooo…..We got a ride for 150 k to the town GBR Gregorias. Where we made a huge dinner of chicken legs and then treated ourselves to some bacon in the morning.
Well my advice to you all think twice you get directions from a one eyed cowboy!
-Derek and Dan