Travellers’ tales: Over the Andes

Dave met Swiss cyclist Sebastian (right) near Aconcagua
Cycling UK member Dave Barden’s trip from Chile to Argentina was made special by the kindness of strangers

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.

A tale to tell

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