Biked from California to Argentina. Mama ciclista currently in Arequipa, Peru
The End? Not even close.
If I could have looked into the future and seen myself rocking up to the end of South America freezing in the land of fire, just me and my bike in the rain, chances are I would have just stayed up in the mountains where my true passions lie.
So how such an unremarkable moment, not at all what I envisioned, felt so right is to tap into the vein of life on a bicycle; to surrender needs of convenience and routine for the rewards of giving yourself to the elements, hostile and divine as they can be. The best way I know to appease nagging curiosity is to pedal towards the pulse of it. To be given the chance to explore a beckoning dirt track, a desolate beach or camp next to regal emperor penguins are wonders that make the spirit soar. That is the only way I can explain my travels by bike…a means to stop losing time and to get lost in following my calling. I found more than I ever anticipated.
Riding in the strange Tierra Del Fuego with it’s contrast of harsh conditions and beacons of warmth with nothing but my own thoughts felt consumingly good to me. I was right were I should be after 2 years on a bike: in the present.
Sitting in a kitchen buzzing with rough around the edges gauchos “Es tu casa” they would say with such conviction. I wondered how on Earth would I ever find myself here if I wasn’t on a bike? I have pondered this in jungles, Mayan villages and while looking death in the face only to feel reborn on top of a mountain peak. I’m not sure photos or words convey this freedom or kindred spirits of people who despite cultural, language,and religious differences were like family without question or conditions.
Did I achieve what I set out to? I asked myself near the end. As much as I had experienced I reeled at the thought of how much I aspire to do. Before this would I ever have had the guts before to write a book? Afterall, I was no “writer”…although I wasn’t a “cyclist” either. By this seemingly insignificant steel structure with wheels I learned to let myself feel at home in wilderness, uncertainty and the thrill that I have so much to learn and possibly teach?
Just as in “normal” life taking the easy way usually leads to burn out. I yearned to break free of Patagonia’s classic routes as a key ingredient to my happiness is the road less traveled. I have so much gratitude to other cyclists like Harriet & Neil Pike,Cass Gilbert,Nathan Haley, & Anna Kortschak who invest tremendous effort to explore, document and share the routes that kept me pumped, juiced, and fired up to continue to evolve my riding. A huge highlight was Skyler Des Roches titilating beach route leaving Puerto Natales to Punta Artenas via Morro Chico, Villa Tehuelches, Rio Verde, Seno Skyring and Seno Otway.
With so many interesting shelters and accommodations, home is everywhere.
When faced with dismal weather on Tierra Del Fuego, I still wanted to experience the side routes through the estancias, no matter how muddy and wet. I channeled back to the momentary indecisiveness en route to El Calafate when Nathan and I ditched Ruta 40 for Ruta Provincial 21 and found a Peru reminiscent gem void of traffic. I had vowed to myself to always follow my instincts, and the dirt roads. I got what I asked for…rain and muck included but free as a bird!
I started this ride an overloaded turtle in the desert of Baja Mexico, so exposed with Cherry who I’d only just met, the arduous sun and cactus. I began to trust and believe in strangers, really because they did the same for me. I chose a life of taking chances to know others outside my world over an insular one free of risk. The more simple life became, the more clear my surroundings were and I felt a synchronicity with the places where I didn’t traditionally belong. This acceptance by people, even if they thought what I was doing was crazy, was what made undertaking such a difficult endeavor fill with ease.
More than counting countries, distance and days, my trip was defined by the history and lives of the households and places where I arrived at my worst..filthy and exhausted but there always seemed to be a place for me at the table, on the floor, and in the hearts of strangers. So many times someone gave up their bed for me and shared everything they had. So what I set out to do all along is share my experiences, in the hope that we all open our doors more.