Travellers’ tales: Over the Andes
When cycling alone in other countries, some of my most memorable experiences have come from meeting other people. Taking the time to improve my Spanish before a recent trip from Santiago to Buenos Aires certainly helped. Every day of my journey I met people who were helpful and welcoming.
During my six-week South American journey, I pedalled more than 1,300 miles through varied landscapes and conditions. It was freezing when I rode over the Paso Internacional Los Libertadores (10,500ft altitude), which links Chile and Argentina. Days later the challenge was a 7,000ft pass over the Sierras de Córdoba in 40-degree sun.
At the start of my journey in Chile, I stayed with my Spanish teacher in Santiago. We visited the city’s sights by bike, including a nearby winery. Each evening for the following month, I camped or met friendly hosts in Airbnbs.
At the outskirts of Valparaíso, and again later near Mendoza, drivers helped when I stopped to clarify my route. I was invited to follow behind as I was guided to my day’s destination. The group who stopped near Mendoza insisted we divert to their house for dinner, which included ‘mate’, a South American drink.
I’m not a cycling purist. I accepted lifts on trucks when I was struggling to pedal in deep dust on unsurfaced roads. Riding a monotonous long pampas stretch, I was firstly offered a lift and then invited to stay in San Luis with the driver’s wonderfully hospitable family for three days.
Approaching Buenos Aires on a sweltering day, I was joined by another cyclist. He invited me to lunch with his family. While the empanadas were cooking, I swam in his large pool. After eating, concerned about my cycling in heavy traffic, my host insisted on giving me a lift to my final destination.
A complete account of my trip can be found on Dave Barden World Cyclist.