Monthly Archives: February 2012

Chile – You’re a Bastard, but Good To See Ya…

Antofagasta, Chile (16,444 kilmometers – 10,218 miles)

It would have been easy to continue to glue our asses to the comforts and lackadaisical nature of the Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz, but the Conbigotes Precision Wind Speed Judgement Group finally got back on the road feeling rested and ready for Chile.  The southwestern border of Bolivia was only a healthy 4 Altiplano days away and the Atacama desert loomed shortly after.

Very aware that riding conditions off rain, wind and zero air to suck would soon change to well, just wind, we yearned for a change.  Though damn gorgeous, these high plains beat the hell out of you.  Not only physically, but the mental grind is just as much of a task.  There is something overly demoralizing about starting a what looks like 2 kilometers of road, straight as Charlie Sheen, and it ends up being 30 kilometers of pedaling on a treadmill.  Distances are almost impossible to judge as there can be zero landmarks from horizon line to horizon line.  I equate it to waking up on the a sailboat in the middle of the Caribbean and all you can see is 360 degrees of water.  It’s quite humbling.  In addition to there being absolutely nothing out here, it is accompanied by the deafening absence of sound.  Listening to yourself breathe sounds like a Scorpions concert from 1979.

All of that nonsense being ledgered, we did have a fairly interesting time the day after we crossed the border.  I’m not at all sure why, but Chile finds it necessary to thief all of your fruit and vegatables upon entering their country.  This would be only a small hurdle if: A). we weren’t idiots cycling this portion of Mars or B). there would have been any locale selling any sort of substantial food items shortly after the border.  Having no options for dinner later that night, we rolled the dice on a pre-packaged bag of llama and potatoes that had been idle in some broads cooler for god knows how long.  Turned out to be fine.  Salty and a bit gamey, but when it’s your only option, it tastes like a fucking porterhouse.  Christ, I’ve lost sight of the point here.  Anywho, figuring there would be a tiny tienda somewhere in the next galaxy to buy anything food wise, we pedaled on the next morning without worry.  Ummm, we were wrong.  What followed was 145 kilometers of nothing.  No food, only 2 liters of water and a 4,400 meter mountain pass to climb.  When the pioneers of adventure cycling wrote the manual, this was in the chapter of “Shit Not to Do.”  Halfway through and figuring we were screwed, I won the lottery and begged a woman for some food.  She was delighted to provide a bowl of soup, some bread and 2 glasses of Chilean wine to keep me warm from the cold and freezing rain.  Ryan, who had distanced himself a tad and didn’t see me stop, continued and I knew he was up shit-creek when I was informed the next town was 75 kilometers ahead.  Folks, we got lucky.  What followed was 3 hours of descent with a hefty tailwind from the high plateau down into the dryest portion of land in the world.  I finally found Ryan in the town of Huara, ramming spaghetti and beer in his face after 8 hours and about 755,000 burned calories.

Finally on the Chilean coast and resting for a couple of days in our old vacacional stomping grounds of beautiful Iquique, we only had what looked like a casual 4-day push south to Antofagasta.  Though scenic, I didn’t much care for fighting 30 mph headwinds for almost all of it.  Wind quickly turns pleasurable riding into the most goddamn frustrating thing you can imagine.  It completely sucks all the energy out of you and makes fun of your love-handles after that.  I would have paid a healthy amount of cash to have wind actually be a person, so I could cut her achilles tendon in her sleep.  She is an absolute slob.

We managed to survive and all be it for my day long bout with food poisoning coming out of both ends, we are comfortably resting with an old fried of Ryan’s, Rosita.  She gave us beds, a washing machine and a small bottle of Jack Daniels to demolish in one sitting.  She is an angel.  Other activities while here in the old city where we used to live and pretend we were teachers includes: watching golf, taking money from the new casino and a healthy dose of nothing.

The final 2 month push to Ushuaia will ensue shortly and I am excited, but at the same time, I have no idea what to do not having a bike seat jammed in my rear on a daily basis.  When I figure it out I will let you know.

Totall irrelevant side note:  The MVP of the last portion of the jaunt was my Gore Windstopper head condom to keep me warm.  It sure is nice having a sister-in-law who knows a thing or two about cycling.  Thanks Abby!  Don’t worry Kat, you and I both know who my first call is to when I need to stock up on revitalizing facial moisturizers.

– Conbigotes

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Roadkill of the Week – Volume 10

This is what four straight days of 100 kilometer plus riding against a svelt 30 mph headwind in the dryest desert in the world gets you.  It earns you fucking exhaustion and the inability to move and get camp set up in a reasonable amount of time.  It gets you the 5-star comfort of a piece of volcanic rock as a head rest.  By happenstance, it also garners an invite to the breakfast table of some old Germans traveling these lands in a monster truck.  (see below)  What it does not get you is as healthy frosting of maggots.  (see way below)

This week’s Second Place prize:

– Conbigotes

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The Road to Titicaca

La Paz, Bolivia (15,928 kilometers – 9,897 miles)

What a lot of you don’t know and/or care about is “The Road to Titicaca” is not just my completely uncreative caption for this passage, but a book title.  Moreover, it is the book title that started the groin tingle and the interest in this sojourn.  I was thinking about copying a small exert from said book and pasting it here for you all, but let’s be honest…all you do is look at pictures and yearn for more useless dog shots.  Speaking of dogs, our condolences to Erick Ortiz and family for the passing of their schnauzer pooch (see below).  He was a good lad and looked dashing in a sweater.

Ok, now that formalities have been taken care of, we can begin.  The Conbigotes Bearded Water Purification Analysis Team is currently residing in the shitty, but super comfy Casa de Ciclistas in La Paz, Bolivia.  Christ, what a city.  I will make a strong non-physical argument that this is my favorite of South American Capitals.  We arrived last Wednesday and if you chill out a little, I’m about to tell you how.

I believe the last time we formally checked in was moments before our 44-hour bus tour from Mancora to Cusco, Peru.  Holy crap was that ever an unfortunate experience.  We were lodged in there like the feet of a heavy girl in strappy heels.  At one point, I looked back and Ryan had almost inverted himself in the foot space to attempt comfort or possibly avoid the poop smell coming from the lav.  Whatever, we got to Cusco and did nothing for a few days.  I bought a new headband and Ryan got to watch the Patriots and Giants games in succession.  All good fun.

Having successfully cut off about ¾ of Peru and saved ourselves potentially 2 months of cycling, we set off from Cusco to the Bolivian border where things would be colder, cheaper and most likely less attractive women.  (Jesus, I shouldn’t say that, I looked in the mirror today and I’m disgusting).  Soon out of the gates we bumped into a German couple, Dagmar and Mete respectively, along with a Peruvian dude who calls himself Kae (which everyone knows is short for Carlos).  This became the first group of cyclists, other than “Kevin the Prick” and “Danno” Zlotsky to put up with our shit for consecutive days.  The Krouts have been impressively plodding along from Alaska and Kae, along with his arsenal of musical instruments, departed from Lima.  We took our goddamn time breathing heavily through the Peruvian high elevation  portion of the Altiplano.  That being said, the few 4,200 meter plus passes didn’t trump the beauty of this area.  You know those places when you get you camera out like a moron, look in the viewfinder and end up saying, screw it?  A picture absolutely ruins what is really out here.  Maybe I should just get a better camera.  I don’t have all the answers you know.

The high skies of the afternoons continuously gave way to freezing rain and hail in the early evenings.  We have taken shelter in some sizeable road towns like Sicuani, Ayaviri and Juliaca.  The latter of which is an absolute shithole.  A day later we got our first glimpses of Lake Titicaca.  Hold the jokes and snickers please, children.  Damnit, I also just read today what “Titicaca” means while I was in the waiting room for my brand new $13 prescription glasses.  Two more days traversing the shore and we pounded our way past the Bolivian border into Copacabana after only minimal visa related arguments with drunk border workers.  We parted ways with Dagmar and Mete as they relaxed for a couple of days.  Kae, Ryan and I trolled on towards La Paz for some cheap beer and accomodation.  Things soon got interesting.

We bumped into our new buddy “Swiss” (real name Julean) just before plunging into the bowl of over 2 million people shrouded by 6,000 meter giant mountain peaks.  Soon after taking way too long to locate the Casa de Ciclistas nesting whom, we were greeted by the tomfoolery of a couple of British gents who go by James and Andy, aka James and Dad.  They met each other on the internet while searching for riding partners and soon embarked on a journey of cycling and love.  I’m joking about the love part, but some of the noises that came out of their room would have you believe otherwise.  No bull-shitting here, but I would have paid what little money I have to ride with these gentleman.  After 3 days at the Casa, we had all but convinced James to cancel his flight back to Manchester and join the Conbigotes squad.  Some day soon old chap (like you are reading this).

That puts us just about up to date.  In other news, I attempted the 6088 meter bitch of a mountain, Huayna Potosi for a second time in 4 years and lost a ferocious battle.  Not really, I think I’m just a big pussy.  Nonetheless, a full account on the climb will be coming soon.  Ryan, Swiss and Kae chanced the “Death Road” and won on their way to Coroico for a few days.

So here I sit, with dirty feet, shitty coffee and mouth packed with coca leaves.  I’m staring at 7 touring bikes rested and ready for action.  I don’t know however, when that will be because as previously stated, I kinda like it here.  Once we do leave our new/old friends, Chile is only 7 days away.  That’s right, Chile!  Unofficially officially, the last full country of this quest.  Anyone have any ideas of what to do next?

– Conbigotes

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