Welcome to Freewheeling across the Himalayas
WELCOME TO FREEWHEELING ACROSS THE HIMALAYAS
My name is Celine Soulard and on July 2010 I will embark on a 7 month cycling journey from Tajikistan to Nepal. This adventure will take me to some of the most challenging and beautiful roads in the world. I am also undertaking this journey to raise funds for the Mary A. Tidlund Charitable Foundation in support of the Ladakh Project (Health inc). I encourage you to subscribe to my blog to follow me in this great adventure. I will share with you in this blog stories and photos on a regular basis and hope to inspire you to contribute to the Ladakh Project.
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February 21, 2015
On my way to Fitzroy!
Freewheeling Himalaya is now taking you to a short 3 months cycling trip to Argentina and Chile! I hope you will enjoy the stories and photos. I have started my journey in Bariloche, Argentina February 9th and I am heading toward Chile to cycle the Carratera Austral.
Sitting in the vineyard workshop where I am surrounded by bouquet of drying lavender, fresh organic basil and other herbs, tomatoes, bread and cheese....and apple cheesecake sounds like heaven doesn't it? This morning I took the wrong road for 15 km so I had to g back to the town and start again...well it was clear that I was not going to make it today to my initial destination! So on the road I noticed this "eco-campground" and came to check it out. It was loved at first sight!!! The mother of the owner took me for a tour of her organic garden and green house. She is making all sorts of products with lavender. There are only few camping spots and right now there is me and another family. This is exactly why I like traveling on my bike, for the “surprise” along the way, outside of the “tourist attractions”, meeting people in their day to day life. Ho I just got invited to eat with the family tonight....I must have made a good impression!!
I am travelling very slowly on my bike. My loaded bike is about 110 lbs and I am out of shape. In addition this is rolling terrain, bad gravel road and strong wind. While most other cyclists can manage 75km easily per day I do anywhere between 30 and 65!! The initial part of my trip is from Bariloche, Patagonia Argentina, crossing over to Chile near Travelin and take the road #7 (Carratera Austral) all the way to the end, cross back to Argentina to El Chalten where I want to see the mount Fitzroy and hopefully do some trekking before deciding if I will continue to Ushuaia (Tierra del fuego) or go back into the north of the country for a tour on the high altitude plateau called “the Puna” which will be a bit like cycling in Tibet. I will see how I feel and for now I am taking it one day at a time. The carratera austral is almost like a pilgrimage for adventure cyclists, one must do it! Basically it is 1200 km of gravel road in the south of Chile (look it up on the internet!!)
In Argentina and Chile camping is not an issue. There are lots of them as the Argentineans love to go camping. The only difference is that they camp in tents not in 40 feet long motor home!! With my little tent I fit right in It is also very easy to talk with people at the campgrounds, they are always “impressed” with the loaded bike. All campgrounds have these huge BBQ so they can cook “parilla” and “costilla” (meat cooked very slowly over the wood fire and with lots of salt). It is delicious. I also now know how to make a proper “mate” (herb tea). They all drink Mate all day long. It is kind of cool.
So far I met few other cyclists. One from Russia, two from Poland, three from France and one from Spain. Patagonia is a popular destination for adventure cyclist even though it is very challenging.
Bariloche is like Banff on steroids! Needless to say I didn’t hang around more than one day. As soon as I put my bike together, got food and gas I took off. Instead of going around town to reach the road I was going on I decided to cross town....well I basically had to walk my bike up a crazy hill for almost one km with a crazy cold headwind....this was a bit of a “low” point....starting a trip by walking the bike uphill that was hard! Good thing I know better and I know that when it is hard on the bike it ALWAYS gets better! So at the end of my first day I had a beautiful camp spot by a lake.....
I also had another beautiful encounter with Naomi who lives on a tiny house near Cholila and to get additional pesos allow people to camp on the field beside her house and use her bathroom and kitchen. She is a single mom with two kids so I was happy to stay there and we had a great time. In the morning before leaving I fixed her kids bike which made him very happy...and me too!
The scenery so far is nice but not spectacular. It would be like ridding in BC for most of the time and sometimes it looks like Montana....nothing as spectacular as the Rockies yet or other places I cycled in the world but it is ok. This trip is about getting back into shape, relax my brain, improve my Spanish and get to know people from Patagonia and so far it is great. The weather has been very good so far and the people very nice.
One last word about the RIPIO. The ripio means gravel road.....I have decided to give myself a PhD in Ripio reading! I have cycled so much of it on the last trip and now I am in for another 1200 km of it.....seems like I will never learn. So far the ripio has been from bad to very bad....it is like riding on a washboard...at the most I can go 10 to 15 km downhill and sometimes the uphill is 5 km max...so maybe my next trip I will plan on pavements.....more than likely not as I am hoping to go to Peru and Bolivia altiplano....which means more ripio!!!!
Thanks for reading.