To the Promised Land and Christmas in March

Following up on some epic riding through Bolivia (check it out here) we crossed the border into norther Chile where things start to take a change of pace. With Birthdays, the festive season, family visits and thoughts of making plans for Patagonia arise we start to take our time stopping off for weeks at a time and realizing bus trips can lead to some unexpected delights. We say good-bye to german friends Anja and Marko as James, Mateo and I explore the promised lands of Chile and Argentina. – Tom

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Catcha Bolivia – you were alright

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Rolled into Calama for the big guys birthday bash (not quite 50 yet but its all they had in the candle shop)

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We spent a few days in northern Chile and like a slap in the face we were stung with the prices of things. after a few days checking out San Pedro de Atacama we decided it would be best for our wallets if we made a dash for Argentina

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the pass up and over the mountains was incredibly steep so on the second day we gave into temptation and hitched a ride for the final section into Argentina. not sure if it was the safest choice – the extremely friendly driver and his friend didn’t hesitate to pick us up and throw us in the back of their truck, as the drive went on up some pretty hairy switch back we noticed they were having a good time in the front cab knocking back a few frothies – one hand on the wheel the other on the beer

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we got dropped off just before the police control and they explained to us in a bit of a slur that its illegal to ride in the back of trucks over here….

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James, are you listening to Eminem?

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Argentina has some big rock things

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we passed through this stretch checking out all the bizarre formations like the frog, the turtle, the ship and the phallic..

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walking into the devils throat

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mateo is such a good model

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a good day for a ride

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these guys were thinking the same thing – and i dont think their kids were complaining either

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We arrived in Salta which marked a pretty special milestone – one year ago the original four departed San Francisco and headed into the unknown. I also wrapped up my 27th year on this day so what better way to celebrate than cook pizza and head to the circus. We met up with Edu, Scott and Sarah – i wont go into details but we had a good night

THE WHEELS ON THE BUS GO ROUND AND ROUND After a few days in Salta a small pain located in an inconvenient location on my body had turned into a full blown saddle sore the size of a golf ball – after a few days of walking around like a penguin this thing still had not gone away and with time running out to reach Mendoza before Christmas we decided to jump on a bus and let it calm down over the Christmas break

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Hanging out in Mendoza and James bumps into some BMX riders in the main plaza where we agree to meet up later that day to see their show

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The old man has still got it – James is one of the orignal X-Games BMX riders and can still manage to drift around dirt corners with his fully loaded touring bike – the man is insane

WHATS IN SANTAS SACK? With Christmas a week away we were throwing around ideas on how we should spend it. We all agreed on spending a few days off to enjoy the festive season and when we came across a cabin hid among the vineyards for a steal it became a simple choice. We invited our friend Thomas, a french motorcyclist/cyclist/snowmobilist to come and join us and he brought along his friend Magaly to come join in the festivities. Being away from friends and family at this time of the year we couldn’t have asked for more and at $10ea a night it was perfect.

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home for a week

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Thomas doing his best Asadodor

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the first of many

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Christmas day arrived which meant it was time for the first annual christmas olympiad: a series of challenges through out the day where the winner takes all. Game 1 – Peach Quiditch

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Quiditch ammunition – rotten peach

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Inbetween Ultimate frizby, swimming races, human pyramids we held serious card games

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and posed by the pool

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James or Santa?

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Game over

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the next night the neighbors we had met before came over and showed us how to make a real argentine asado, apparently eating dinner at midnight and staying up till 5am is the proper way to do it!

ANOTHER BUS! yes that’s right, not much riding was done in the past two weeks. Birthdays, Christmas and time frames all played a part, but slowing down the pace and having some solid time off the bikes and the antics that came with it was definitely worth it. We all had different commitments for the month ahead of us – flights home, family visits, and the approaching winter in Patagonia were all reasons for us to push south and keep the cycling schedule realistic. So we made tracks for the bus terminal

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We love bus stations

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they are so cozy – waiting around for an extra 3 hours because of the protests outside the bus station

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and interested

A LITTLE HELP FROM A FRIEND The bus situation didn’t run as smooth as we had hoped – in the end the bus we would be taking couldn’t fit all our bikes on so a split second decision was made to leave the bikes with a freight service at the station and were assured that our bike would arrive the day after us. this is not how it work out. We stumbled off the bus in Barriloche sometime around midday, weary eyed and half asleep, carrying all our bags and with no bikes we stood around at the station thinking what to do next. pay a fortune for a taxi ride into town? look for camping close to the bus station and wait for our bikes to arrive? Then we heard a voice asking if we were all ok and did we need a place to stay. We turned around and met Dylan. He said he had set up a house for travelers to come and stay for free and he had plenty of beds for us. Our eyes light up when he said this, it was a funny twist as his place was right across from the bus station. So it was a deal

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The Shelter on the Lake is a Christian run house and the guys running it are some of the most warm and generous people i have met in my life a few years back after Dylan and his wife, Cherri cycled from Alaska to Ushuai, they fell in love with bariloche and relocated their family here to start work on the shelter. Jordin, Dylan, Mateo, Jazmin and Brooks.

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We chipped in with some hard labor, building some new steps.

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smooth hand james

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funny hand mateo

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them steps were made for walking

NO BIKES? LETS WALK We went down to pick up our bikes from the bus station the next day and then fear struck. The lady from the freight company told us that our bikes didn’t arrive and she doesnt know where they are in the system. Our stomachs twisted at the though – they have disappeared into the argentine postal service – the guys back at the shelter had told us horror stories of people entire belonging being lost forever and now this was happening to us? After about an hour of waiting the sweet lady from the postal service told us she had tracked them down and were still waiting to be sent from Mendoza. She couldn’t give us an exact day when they would arrive but she said it could be anywhere between tomorrow and one week. There is not much you can do in this situation except wait and check each day to see if they have arrived. So we tried not to think about it to much instead soaked up the good vibes at the shelter, brought in the new year in style, and found some amazing mountain trails and rock faces to climb

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James’ face when he is told his bike is lost

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James’ face when he is on a bus

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the first trek upto the lookout south of town

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waiting for the bus back to town

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That night we brought in the new year in style with the shelter family.

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Cooking some meat and potato before mateo, clemence and I head into town to celebrate the countdown in a park

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A rest day was in order the following day and still there was no sign of the bikes so we made plans to take a 2 day trek upto Frey basecamp

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Amlost there

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The base camp was full with climbers from all over the world who come down to find some of these magic places of Patagonia

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We met up with a friend we made on the bus ride down who turned out to be one of the top free climbers in the world, we climbed to the start of their ascent to watch them in action

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And then it was back to camp for some lunch

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Magic

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The climbing kept going the next day when Dylan, Alyssa and Jazmine from the shelter took us out to one of their favorite walls. jazmine showing us how its done

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Dylan showing the novice how to organise your junk

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Not bad

HASTA PRONTO And then the bikes arrived! which also ment it was time to say good-bye. Not only to the crew at the shelter but also to James and Mateo. After 2 full moons together sharing some incredible experiences our plans took different directions. James had a plane to catch in a few weeks and Mateo was also ready to head into the depths of Patagonia and I was about to be joined by my Mum, Dad and Sister for a month of exploring Argentina and Chile together. So our time at the shelter was an amazing way to end to our adventure together. It was one of my most memorable stops for the entire trip – its hard to explain but there was something going at the shelter, the sense of community we found here made it really hard to say good-bye. Thanks to all the shelter crew for an incredible time. But i knew i would be back for one more visit. I decided to leave my bike at the shelter while i traveled the country with the family. So i would be back to spend more time here before i got back on my bike

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catch yas

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Hasta luego James – lets meet on another full moon sometime – Chalten?

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Mateo gives good hugs – love this guy

An end of another incredible adventure together as the three amigos all split ways. you are both legends and i miss you! until next time IN THE NEXT POST Up next. A family visit and Getting closer to the end of the world

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next post – A month with Mum, Dad and Sis…

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And then back on the road – deep patagonia

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