I was full of enthusiasm, a few years ago when the idea of this trip began to form. The recent emergence of bikepacking blogs had caught my eye, and I put myself into the shoes of the innovative few who had begun to bikepack South America. Studying and analyzing small lines on google earth, looking for any signs of trails and paths less travelled. Slowly, the hopeful mapped out squiggles turned into real trails beneath our tires. The fruits of labor were becoming real, sometimes working out and other times not. Either way, it was exciting. Bike maintenance mirrored this enthusiasm, and our Pugs were a happy pair of stallions. Smooth bearings, and well adjusted brakes. Continue reading
As part of our plan to find detours along the Austral, we found a nice piece of sendero action to try out. Unfortunately, after putting in some serious effort to arrive at the trailhead, we were informed that it is prohibited to pass through by bike. With a bit of smooth talking we managed to cut a deal wherein we would “carry” our bikes the whole trail. As it turns out, the first day we weren’t lying. Steep climbs and bush bashing were a recipe for slow progress. Unfortunately, due to the un-transited nature of the trail, we picked up a few spikes along the way and managed to use all but two of our patches. This left us 30km from any chance of meeting anyone, with two patches, on a trail covered in spikey death. Continue reading
Our second episode of escaping the Austral begins from Villa Santa Lucia. The kind of town which makes you wonder if anyone actually lives there. Unfortunately for us riders hunting out dirt roads, the Austral is being paved piece by piece. A huge step in the right direction for an interconnected Chile, but not much fun if a fatbike is the only arrow you’ve got in your quiver. Most people seem to duck out of Chile and head into Argentina to seek refuge from the rain, but oddly enough we’d enjoyed seemingly endless hot and sunny days while following the Austral. We directed ourselves towards Chile’s relaxed neighbor for other reasons. A dirt section through pampa setting us up perfectly to ride a small part of the Sendero de Chile from Lago Verde to La Tapera. Continue reading
Our time in Bolivia flew by. In only a month or so we discovered some landscapes east of La Paz that many cyclists dismiss, and continued more ridden routes through Sajama, Coipasa, Uyuni and finally the Lagunas route.
Renowned for its terrible roads, especially the Lagunas route proved a pain on the ass. The landscapes were diverse and the weather extreme (dry, hot sun, cold nights) – although, at the time we cycled, not as bad as we had thought.
It’s been 11 days since we crossed the border from Ecuador to Peru. It kinda felt like we were back in Central America, it was hot and humid and we were on asphalt most of the time. How did we manage to cycle (and sleep) in these conditions before?
The border La Balsa was quiet, small and friendly but unfortunately down at 600m. A dirt road had brought us all the way down and in Peru asphalt continued. We carried on and slept in Namballe. The next day Dan felt sick and we waited in San Ignacio for two days. This is where we met two other cyclists, Kat and Graham, who had only started their cycle tour a few weeks ago and were stuck due to illness as well.
The old railway
After the inca trail we went onto the old railway (Sibambe to Cuenca) in El Tambo. It was a very diverse trail from dirt roads and single track to mud and even some swampy sections (all mostly well graded). About 10k before Biblian we merged onto another dirt road for 6k to avoid a very muddy section which we would’ve had to walk. Then we were back on the panamerican highway. As it was just after noon we decided to stay on it to make it to Cuenca that day.
Route info: view/download GPX track here