Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Travelling kid with bike has bad luck in foreign country

“As long as we are lucky we attribute it to our smartness; our bad luck we give the gods credit for”
-Joshua Billings 1885

Coyahaique from the top of a big bastard hill.

Had a bit of trouble with ATMs.  A bit of a worry.  Coyhaique was the only place with an atm for the next 600km or so.  Heard later it was because an earthquake had smashed the central servers.  An Earthquake.  I guess I had to cop it as a good excuse.  Spent 16,000 on shopping - ouch, must buy cheaper. After a dose of internet, I booked into residencial Monika, my first bed and room for some time.  Watched a TV.  'Casino' with DeNiro.  Underrated film.

Luke appeared that evening, said he wasn't staying at Monika but we should have a beer or something later.  "Agreed, meet me at 6:30pm".  Due to coincidence, I once again met up with Bob, of all people.  As we were going separate ways now, not following the same route, we were unlikely to meet again.  He benevolently offered to shout me dinner at a nice restaurant.  Hotel and resaurant.  Could get used to this but can't as I have no money.  I heartily agreed.  Brought along Luke who was paying for himself.  Had an amazing steak (rare for Chile) and some fancy fruit-sugar construction for dessert.  Talked to Bob for hours.  Will miss the tough old coot.

Couldn't decide the next day whether to leave town or not.  Traded stories with some other Aussie cyclists, the first since Max.  I bit the bullet and tackled the big bastard hill out of town (figures) in the Midday sun.  Sweated like a pig.  Other side was all down though.  A lot of down.  I got down.  Caught up with Luke about 25km out of town.  We called it a day and camped together next to Rio Simpson.  Tried to cook with Petrol instead of gas.  Didn't work.  Extreme fury.  Could have cooked my soup with the steam shooting from my ears.  Made a fool of myself in front of Luke.  Finally realised the source of the problem.  I had lost a part.  The 'non-return valve' had found a way to unscrew itself after never having been used, and work its way out of a mesh sack, three pots, a stuff sack, and a waterproof pannier, to freedom.  Couldn't ue anything but euro-gas until I found a replacement.  Good luck finding a part for a swedish stove in Chilean Patagonia Arch.  Also temporarily lost my favourite black pen so had to write my journal in inferior blue.

Bad luck comes in threes, does it not?  Luke left early in the dawn of the following day.  I passed him, then maybe ten kilometres later my fancy, rare Rohloff gear-hub's cables snapped after years of neglect.  Fine.  No problem.  These years of neglect actually helped me cool my temper as it was my own fault.  I have all the parts, I'll fix it here.  Under the shade of this tree near the waterfall.

Torque screws.  I had allen keys.  Didn't have Torque keys. They were not Allen screws. I was screwed.  Had to thumb back towards Coyhaique and a bike shop.  Luke caught me up and helped me get a lift.  He had command of the language.  I lacked that.  Back in Coyhaique, I sought out a bike shop.  Long search for torque wrenches but found some.  Inserted torque wrench into screw.  Instantly ruined the thread on all six bolts, no way to unscrew ever.  The bolts and I were now more firmly screwed than ever.  No way to fix bike except unthinkably using an angle grinder, haha!

Found an angle grinder.  Ancient bike shop man spoke no english.  In a shower of sparks he put the angle grinder to my shiny US$1000 gear-hub.  The wincing has given me permanent wrinkles.  But because I was clever my luck held out and the bolts came off.  No harm to the mechanics except some angle grinder scars on the outside.  Kind of like my face.  Anyhow I went to work.  Four hours later due to my poor mechanical skill, I managed to get eleven of the fourteen original gears working.

I had to get out of Coyhaique today.  Hitched again because I have a severe aversion to cycling the same road twice in quick succession, especially when that road is a 'big bastard hill' and in the scorching afternoon sun.  Muy Caliente Aqui.  I was dropped off to near where the breakdown originally was by some tourists in a hurry to catch a ferry in Puerto Aisen.  Rest of day was uneventful, cycled maybe 40km and camped next to Rio Simpson.  Swam sin ropas as there was nobody for miles.  Sandy camp unfortunately.  Similar to eating biscuits in bed then trying to have a comfortable sleep.  It was only 20km or so from Villa Manihuales so I pressed on through.  Nice village.  Planned on making it to Villa Amengual.  Didn't count on the shite ripio.  Been on asphalt the last few days, so the awful ripio hurt bad.  Map inaccurate.  Much more ripio than I thought.  Cursed at the sky. NB- in retrospect, a rubbish idea.

By the time I got to Villa Amegual I was utterly spent.  Put through the meat-grinder.  Worse than ever.  Had two helados and called it quits at a nice campsite for the night.  Met two yanks cycling south there.  Shared a dinner and swapped literature.  I had a quality hot shower.  Best one yet.  Little did I know this would be my last day's 'real' cycling for quite some time.

I woke up feeling like I had entered some gas chamber but had not quite died.  Body wracked with shivery fever.  Had to see a doctor or some pharmacist or an exorcist.  Also had to choose between hitching to the next village in search of said expert, or trying to sleep it off.  Chose to hitch.  Took three hours to get a lift.  Got one but it was a bad lift.  It was a pickup with an enclosed tray.  Tray was half-full.  No seats left for me.  Had to jam bike in the back, then jam myself in there with it.  Lying on top of my bike in a crap truck on a dusty potholed road, wracked with severe fever on a hot dry day.  I imagined this was what some poor Tommy soldier felt like, after copping dysentry, then some hot lead in the lungs from the Africa Corps at Alamein, being taken back to Cairo in a lorry for treatment.  Except, I wasn't taken all the way back to Cairo.

Portrait taken around two hours before passing out

They left me, for reasons unknown, shivering, pale, with no food, a few drops of water and a disassembled bicycle, in the forest some thirty kilometres from Puyuhuapi, the next town.  Struggling, I put the bike back together.  Hooked on luggage.  began pedaling.  There were no cars to help me.  Sucked down what little water I had left.  After a monumental effort, plus some some heavy painkillers some cyclist had given me, I arrived in town, and safety.  Felt better, but that was the Ibuprofen talking I soon found out.

With an 'I defeated the Africa Corps' grin on my face, I strutted into the internet cafe/information centre.  Suddenly my vision blurred.  My limbs lost their power.  My head smashed into the keyboard.  When I woke the first time, I was still looking at the keyboard really close up.  I eyed the manger of the cafe and uttered "Necesito ajudar por favor" then passed out again.  The good chaps there bundled me into a vanbulance.  Took me to the local doc's.  Hours later I emerged, medicine in hand, and went to 'Hospedaje Don Luis' to get a couple of day's kip in.  A good choice.  For two days I mostly slept and ate little, as I had also picked up some ghastly stomach bug - Don Luis and some Israelis forced me back to the doc's after a period of no improvement.  I think I recall the doc mentioning Guardia in a flurry of espanol.  I was put on four bags of saline in the arm.  Replenished lost fluid.  Felt a little better. 

There was a bus in the morning, to near Esquel, where my amigo Feliciano lived.  I had to sleep for a solid week so I bought a ticked with the last of my Chilean Pesos (no problem with bikes, they said).  Next day comes.  Still Ill.  Bus arrives and bus driver refuses my bike to be taken.  "This has happened before, Kyle, just tell him your loathesome story and all will be swell" I said to myself.  Didn't work.  Tried a bribe.  Didn't work.  Pleading and groveling.  Didn't work.  Nada.  "Es tu problema, no me problema" that wretch told me.

But I had to take the bus as I had no money left.  No ATM.  I took the bus, and had to leave my bike in that tiny forsaken village in the middle of nowhere.  Got to Futaleufu, totally disheartened and sick, and the following day, hitchhiked over the border, back into Argentina, and to Cabanas El Principio, the home of my friend Feli.

My sanctuary

PS: Things get better!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Kyle.
I just bumped into you in the MEC store in Toronto!! I have spent the last half hour reading your blog..it sounds like you have had quite the adventure so far!
Let me officially welcome you to Canada. I hope you have a wonderfull time here.
I am thinking that bumping in to you at the MEC was a sign that I should pursue my dream of bike touring, so this summer I will start out small and someday set off to travel the world by bicycle (maybe I can even convince some of my family to come with me!)
I will be following your blog and am looking forward to hearing more about your ongoing adventure.
Good Luck on your ride, Good luck with the lack of flats, and good luck with the wind/mountain r combination out west.
Shoot me an e-mail skyers4130@gmail.com if you need any help and I will do my best to offer any assistance I can. Also if your route brings you back into Southern Ontario (London) I can offer you a place to stay..
You have inspired me and I hope all your rides are safe.
Steve Byers

Sofie said...

Hi Kyle,

You were so right about the road near Cholila - ¡worst ripio ever! I had another ´sit down and eat all my junk food´ moment the next day before reaching Parque Los Alerces. Luckily, I carry a pretty big supply of chips and chocolate!
I headed down the Carretera Austral, where I had lots of rain but also some good times :) I´m letting the bike rest this week while I trek in Calafate and then Torres del Paine.

Hope you made it safely to Bariloche. I don´t know if you decided to pack up the bike and head to India, but if you are still around I am looking for a bike buddy to do Northern Argetina/Southern Bolivia from late April to late May.

Suerte. Keep on rolling.

Sofie from Wellington

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