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Five months and ten thousand kilometers of intrepid cycling across South America

Cycling the Andes Route 3S in Peru





By: Mark Greiz

You ask me why I pedal to distant locations;
I smile and shut my eyes,
Phrases can’t describe the rationale why;
The blue water glistens, the birds fly excessive.

January 29th, 2018. Though it was the peak of summer time, it was a chilly and windy day in Punta Arenas, Chile’s southernmost metropolis within the area of Magallanes and Antartica. My plan, cycle north over ten thousand kilometers (6,300 miles) to Guayaquil, Ecuador inside the 5 months I allotted myself. A number of miles out of the town and as I headed inland from the coast I used to be blasted with highly effective direct headwinds of as much as 80 kilometers an hour. My legs cramped up and my progress got here to a standstill. I barely rode 60 kilometers that day and slept in an deserted wooden shack on the aspect of the street.
I didn’t know that these headwinds can be with me for many of the journey, taunting me, punishing me and testing the bounds of my endurance.

For me the attract of excessive cycling touring is greater than a mere bodily pursuit, it’s a type of religious cleaning and renewal. As a advertising marketing consultant and adjunct lecturer in New York Metropolis, I do know what it’s wish to lose contact with nature, to stay inside our personal safe bubbles, day by day routines and mundane pursuits. Though New York Metropolis is a megapolis, it’s straightforward to really feel claustrophobic and to really feel disconnected from life. Cycling alone via distant areas, sleeping tough within the wild and difficult my physique each bodily and emotionally, not solely humbles me but in addition lets me peer deep inside my soul. It grounds me, it brings me an internal peace, typically occasions fleeting, however straightforward to conjure again up in my time of want.

Cycling the Andes Route 3S in Peru

Cycling the Andes Route 3S in Peru

On this most up-to-date trek across South America, I cycled 10,400 kilometers (6,500 miles) and encountered some of the strongest and most constant headwinds I’ve ever skilled lasting for days and weeks on finish. I cycled by means of hailstorms, by means of deserts and towering mountains within the Andes. I camped tough on the aspect of the street, in abandoned shacks, in my tent tucked away within the woods or the desert sands, in deserted trailers and forsaken buildings. I used to be sideswiped by a motorbike within the Argentinean Pampa, having to select my bruised and bloodied physique off the street to proceed driving within the scorching warmth. I cycled on lengthy stretches of abandoned street with nary a automotive in sight, in addition to via dreadful visitors with tractor-trailers rushing by inches from me. I skilled the paranormal attract of the excessive Andes in addition to the uncooked magnificence of the Patagonias.

3.Mesmerizing landscape and rugged conditions from Chile Chico to Puerto Guadal in Chilean Patagonia.

Mesmerizing panorama and rugged circumstances from Chile Chico to Puerto Guadal in Chilean Patagonia.

Beginning the journey in Punta Arenas within the Southernmost area of South America, I cycled north via the Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia, passing distant areas have been I encountered punishing headwinds every day, in addition to some of probably the most scenic spots on this journey. Whereas I really feel that cycling the Carretera Austral in Chile is overrated and full of cyclists heading south on brief excursions, for the extra intrepid bike owner there are nonetheless some very technically difficult and unfrequented routes to take, one of them being the off-road stretch from Chile Chico on the shores of the majestic Lake Common Carrera to Puerto Guadal. After cycling north on the Carettera Austral I turned again to Argentina and crossed the border close to Futaleufú, a wonderful space surrounded by pristine nature and quick flowing rivers.

Camping in a remote spot in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

Tenting in a distant spot in Argentina’s Patagonia area.

Crossing the border again into Argentina, I cycled to the quaint European fashion metropolis of San Carlos de Barloche on the shores of Lake Nahual Huapi and then onward to the charming Spanish colonial metropolis of Salta, Argentina. What stood within the center between Barloche and Salta was 2500 kilometers of principally distant, flat and arid scrubland. Averaging 100 kilometers a day, I cycled this entire stretch inside 24 days taking just one relaxation day. The driving was uninteresting and monotonous and I encountered day by day headwinds making for lengthy, scorching and arduous days. Villages have been few and far between on this half of Argentina the place quite a few estancias occupy the barren land and fences run the size of the terrain. Most nights are spent sleeping meters from the aspect of the street hidden behind some thorn bushes, preventing off bugs and watching rodents scatters about right here and there, the sound of nocturnal animals including to the midnight refrain.

One of many tarantulas camping out in the Argentinian Pampa between Barloche and Salta.

One of many tarantulas tenting out within the Argentinian Pampa between Barloche and Salta.

Argentina is rife with seen wildlife from guanacos, lizards, wild boar, differing types of rodents, tarantulas, fox and giant birds associated to the ostrich. There isn’t any shelter from the solar in the course of the day and there isn’t any selection however to cycle into the wind for hours on finish enduring the warmth and rationing droplets of water to quench an endless thirst. Cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep, cycle, sip, sweat, sleep on the aspect of the street, day after day, week after week.

Curious dog approaches me as I am taking a selfie on the road into Salta.

Curious canine approaches me as I’m taking a selfie on the street into Salta.

After having cycled over 2500 kilometers in flat arid plains and able to depart Salta, it was time to climb into the mountains as I headed again to Chile. The route I selected was by means of Argentina’s Puna area to the desolate border at Paso Sico. The Puna area or Atacama Plateau stretches from North West Argentina into southern Chile. It’s an arid and distant space consisting of excessive plateaus with elevations between 4000 to 5000 meters. The street from Salta to San Antonio de Los Cobres was a number of days of climbs on windy, paved and typically winding roads, then there have been 150 kilometers off-road have been I cycled on gravel, rocks, and sand as I made my approach to the Chile border at Paso Sico. The area is beautiful in a rugged, harsh, but calming approach; alpacas roam freely and nary a passing car is encountered on the entire street to Paso Sico. As I camped out nightly within the windswept and freezing excessive plateau, the night time skies lite up with a myriad of stars, I used to be mesmerized by the sight and humbled by the majesty of this otherworldly panorama.

As I sat outdoors one night time starring on the sky, pen in hand I started to put in writing…

Sleeping underneath a glowing moon,
There isn’t a different soul for miles to see;
What does it take to nonetheless your thoughts,
to set your physique free?
Sleeping beneath a glowing moon,
From the day by day grind I selected to flee.
The one companions current now…
are the celebs, the sand, the gods and me.

Alpacas grazing on a less traveled road heading from the mountains back to the coast of Peru.

Alpacas grazing on a much less traveled street heading from the mountains again to the coast of Peru.

Having crossed again into Chile at Paso Sico, the area was equally barren and stark, the roads winded up and the headwinds have been fierce. It’s a tough area to cycle in and an equally brutal area to sleep out in. As I slept out at excessive altitude in frigid temperatures amid violent winds I discovered consolation understanding that in a number of days time I might start my descent within the Atacama desert and arrive within the land of espresso, chilly beers and pizza- the oasis of San Pedro de Atacama.

Days later, drained and ragged from a interval of poor consuming, lengthy arduous climbs and sleeping out in harsh circumstances, I cycled into city a zombie on my metal horse. As I cycled by way of the maze of dusty, slender streets of San Pedro De Atacama I used to be overwhelmed, there was a cornucopia of exercise, vacationers on rented mountain bikes, artisans hawking their wares, backpackers sipping lattes chatting away about their most up-to-date adventures and poseurs, the type of which of may see in Pai, Thailand flaunting away on the corners.

I felt out of place, like I didn’t belong.

Camping in a wind swept valley in northern Chile as I approach the Peru border town of Arica.

Tenting in a wind swept valley in northern Chile as I strategy the Peru border city of Arica.

After only a couple of days on the town and having eaten my fill of quinoa, pasta, salad, and pizza, I felt the lengthy lonely stretches of street beckoning me as soon as once more. San Pedro De Atacama is sort of a lure and it was time to go away its grips earlier than it was too late. From San Pedro I might proceed my descent via the desert to the coast, sleeping in deserted shacks on the aspect of the street or camped within the desert sands. For days, I adopted the scenic northern Chile coast north passing seaside shantytowns the place the locals eek out a dwelling from fishing and seaweed harvesting till I reached the coastal metropolis of Iquique. From there it was a couple of extra days to the Peru border.

Raw beauty of Chile’s northern coast.

The uncooked magnificence of Chile’s northern coast.

After crossing into Peru on the Arica border, I adopted the coast north then turned inland. Leaving the coast I might now have to contend once more with excessive peaks as I made my strategy to Arequipa and then Cusco. The street from the coast to Cusco is usually climbing with elevations between 4500-4800 meters with a mix of totally different circumstances; there have been stretches of dreadful visitors and utter mayhem as a whole lot of lorries would cross in waves of caravans inches from me and different areas off the crushed path the place Alpaca graze freely within the excessive Andean plateaus whereas Quechua shepherds tended to their flocks.

Quechua shepherd tending her flock on the high plateau on the way to Cusco.

Quechua shepherd tending her flock on the excessive plateau on the best way to Cusco.

Cusco is a beguiling metropolis; as soon as the capital of the Inca Empire, the town middle is full of Spanish colonial structure, fashionable eateries, and hordes of vacationers. It’s straightforward to get seduced by her charms and I knew I needed to depart after solely three days or else I’ll have by no means left. After departing Cusco I cycled north on the Andes route passing small Quechua villages and bigger cities together with the charming metropolis of Ayacucho with its historic metropolis middle. This metropolis retains a lot of its previous world allure however lacks the overseas vacationers that crowd into Cusco. Cycling north on route three is a steady cycle of sluggish climbs with elevation good points of 2000 meters in a single shot and quick descents with quite a few passes between 4500 and 4900 meters.

Quechua lady knitting a sweater while watching her flock on route 3.

Quechua woman knitting a sweater whereas watching her flock on route three.

Whereas most cyclists on the Andes route proceed on to Huaraz, I made a decision to take a lesser-known, far-flung street and make my means again to the coast. On the small village of Shelby on route 3N, I made a decision to go east to the compact coastal metropolis of Chancay, some 200 grueling kilometers away. The bulk of this street is rocks and filth with an arduous and lengthy multi-level climb with the very best move topping out at roughly 5030 meters (16,500 ft). It’s a wild, rugged and awe-inspiring panorama the place Alpaca graze casually subsequent to crystal clear mountain lakes and not a soul for miles round.

The views were from over 16,000 ft. as I prepare for a hard two-day descent to the coast.

The views have been from over 16,000 ft. as I put together for a tough two-day descent to the coast.

As I stood on the excessive move at 16,500 ft, I famous the dust street snaking its method down the mountain. I took solace in the truth that this was my final climb of the journey in addition to my final portion of off-road driving. I stood silent, gazed into the space, mesmerized by my environment, relishing the solitude.

Descending to the coast was technically difficult because the roads have been steep, winding and principally rocks. As I descended from over 16,000 ft to sea degree the topography slowly modified from chilly wind swept arid plateaus, to lush mountain vistas with quick operating rivers and then to the warmth, stench, and air pollution of the Peruvian coast. From Chancay it might be about one other 1600 kilometers to Guayaquil, my ultimate vacation spot. Though this half of the Pan American Freeway is crammed with vans racing up and down, for the primary time on my journey I had no headwind and even some days with a slight tailwind. My progress was fast, virtually too fast beckoning the top of the journey. I cycled a whole lot of kilometers principally by means of desert and then up the coast to the Ecuadorian border, sleeping alongside the best way in dreary, soiled cities and alone within the desert wilderness.

Crossing into Ecuador I cycled for days by way of mile after mile of banana plantations within the warmth and humidity. As I approached Guayaquil, Ecuador’s largest metropolis I knew my journey was coming to an finish. My feelings have been combined; I used to be glad that the journey was coming to an finish, but feeling incomplete, that there’s nonetheless extra driving to be carried out and extra locations to see. I turned 50 years previous on the day I crossed the border into Ecuador-“maybe I am getting to old for this,” I assumed to myself. Sleeping tough off the aspect of the street for days on finish doesn’t excite me as a lot because it used to, however the cycling life is consistently engaging me again. There’s a little voice within the deep recesses of my mind typically urging me to pack up my bike and head off to some distant land. My ideas have been operating rampant as I cycled by means of the traffic-clogged roads. As I made my method over the bridge that crosses the Guayas River into downtown, my rear pannier swiped a truck tire on the aspect of the street and I went flying. My arms and legs bleeding and swollen; I used to be in ache and disbelief that an accident would welcome my entry into city.

I picked my bicycle up, mirrored for a second, “maybe I am getting too old for this.” I obtained again on my bicycle and rode by way of heavy visitors into downtown Guayaquil; the journey was over.

End of the trip, cycling through the Santa Ana Hill, Guayaquil on the way to downtown.

Finish of the journey, cycling via the Santa Ana Hill, Guayaquil on the best way to downtown.

To see extra footage and movies from this journey comply with Mark on Instagram @theadriftcyclist
To learn different articles from Mark click on right here, right here, and right here.



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