Pucallpa – Iquitos. On to the Amazon!

Imagine how happy I was to get back on the water after a three weeks delay in Pucallpa, Lima and Huánuco…

Out of the cities madness with its insensitive people and back to the simplicity of my days on the road/river.

In the late afternoon, I hear some music. I head over and am invited for a birthday party. I’m in Paris. As the streets are flooded, I can go around in a little canoe to get to know the village (it floods every year). A very different setting then the French capital!

I´m particularly happy to have my camera back!!!

After a day making friends I head for Tacshitea. I’m pretty surprised when i get to there as the river is claiming more and more land. The last part of the hospital is about to fall and people are dismantling their houses. Over the last few years, the river widened 200m in this curve, making half of the village move.

I can’t help myself (love construction work) and jump in to help taking of the roof of the family hosting me. People are really sweet and I’m not in a rush. I would stay for a week…

There’s the new hospital to be built and the school to be dismantled. Breakfast and lunch is prepared for the whole village in huge pots. We work half days.

It’s especially impressive to see the whole village join forces (women, men and children).

The other part of the day is spend reading, playing volleyball, chatting and drinking, fishing and wandering around to see the area.

I learned a lesson: don’t walk barefoot. There are small bugs that leave their eggs in your skin. I ended up having 15 of them.

Huge ship loaded with (illegally cut?) hardwood. Almost every day a boat like this would pass. Very sad. After two months in the jungle, I haven’t seen a single big tree standing

As usual after staying in a village for a week, it’s emotional to leave Tacshitea.

After a uneventful night in the small town of Tiruntan, I make it to Paoyan, another Shipibo community.

I was told it’s a touristic place, but I still get surprised when i suddenly see a group of twenty whites fellows. (Very few people come to visit this part of Perú.) They’re all here to take ayahuasca, a hallucinogen. (Something I’m unfamiliar with)

As usually I don’t have a plan, it always depends on the work I can help with.

One day is spent chatting and making friends. Then I go with Don Antonio and his son to the forest to get palm leaves to make a roof.

The trip up the narrow river is absolutely stunning. We leave the boat at a small beach and go get the leaves Antonio cut earlier. With a strap made out of tree bark on our forehead, we haul all of them to the port. I’ve never seen so many mosquitos together. We all had a swarm constantly following us (they do sting through a shirt. Another lesson learned: put on two layers.) Not the easiest job, but I much rather prefer this than doing nothing at all.

Last day is spend helping Antonio and his son finishing of their walls. Picture: all you need is a machete really.

During my time in the village, I camp next to the house of Elio, one of the authorities of the village. He also has to travel to Contamana, so I propose to take him in return to show me the shortcuts in the river. We stay with other members of his family in town.

His expectations of his foreign visitor are high though. First I pay him his return ticket to Paoyan. I buy food for the whole family in Contamana, for which I’m not thanked. Then I’m supposed to set up a business to sell their artworks. Then they want me to sponsor their oldest daughter entire college career.

I sleep on the ground with chickens and ants around and go to the toilet (read: hole in the ground) where mosquitos sting me in places I really don’t want them to (so incredibly itchy!). I’m tired. I leave. Getting a room just costs 2.5euro anyway, cheaper than staying with a family. It feels good to be just responsible for myself for a while.

Later I move out to go stay at the ‘aguas calientes’ natural reserve featuring multiple waterfalls, a hot water river (hence the name) and the ‘collpa de guacamayos’ (a rock where the big macaws come to eat the minerals). Sounds good!

I can camp for free under a big roof right at the ‘union’, where a hot water river joins a cold water river. I’ve been in hot springs before, but this is crazy! I literally step with one leg into the cold water and the other in the hot! It’s surreal. How is this possible? There definitely isn’t any volcano nearby.

With a guide I go to the hiding spot in the morning to see the birds, but it’s rainy and they don’t come. With the water level rising, we also can’t walk upstream.

The next days would be similar. I would spend another morning waiting/ hiding without success. It keeps raining, so i still couldn’t hike around much. But I did see some fresh big cat prints though! Pretty cool!

But it all doesn’t matter much. I’m in a beautiful and peaceful place and finally have the time to read. I started and finished Stephen Hawking’s book ‘a brief history of time’, learning about the universe and finished listening to my audiobook ‘on the road’, by Jack Kerouac (quite a dissapiontment: not much learned out of it, for me it’s just a modest narrative of hitchhikers).

On the second day, I meet a family while hiking. They are freezing, having brought nothing to protect them from the rain. I go back with them, borrowing them my towel and inner sleeping bag (worth more than 50eur) to keep their baby warm. They promise to leave it at the entrance of the park.

Having ran out of food, I’m pretty exhausted when i get back to the entrance the next day. I forget to ask if my stuff is there. So in the night I have to take a ‘motokar’ (motorbike with three wheels) back (10eur). They hadn’t left my stuff! Oh my… I don’t get it. I’m trying to help here and then you screw me over?

Early on in Perú, I learned a new word: ‘engañar’, meaning to decieve someone. The list of things that have happened, has become quite long by now! Thinking of the guy looking over my boat stealing my gasoline, the crooked technicians in Lima,… I’m not going to finish the list to not get too negative, but it’s tiring that I have to travel with such care.

I couldn’t wait to get back on the river. I realized Iquitos wasn’t getting much closer. I travelled for two days fast, passing one night in Orellana and getting to Tierra Blanca the next.

It`s a big village and I end up staying in a simple room for 2.5eur a night. Hence my stay would be different here. Paying for my food and accommodation, I don’t have to worry wether or not I’m taking advantage of a family. So days are spend getting to know the region, hanging out, reading,… instead of helping out in the field.

The interesting part of this village is that there are actually a ton of gringos living here. Since three years, many Mennonite families have arrived, dedicating themselves to agriculture. Their most common comparison are the Amish.

New friends are quickly made. We play volley, they teach me to fish and we fix my boat.

When I left Pucallpa, there was not a single drop of water coming in, but that had already changed. So we burned the pitch,  which is used to seal the seems between the different wooden boards. It’s pretty cool! You just pour gasoline on it and light it up. Better not to breath though! To finish it off, it got a pretty paint job, totally transforming my old boat.

The son of a friend of Tierra Blanca lived in San Cristobal, just two hours away and I decided to visit him and spend the night there.

I had also been told about Nancy, an American researcher, who had been living on and off in ‘Dos de mayo’ (a nearby village) for the last twenty years.. I met her and her husband Edgardo there and they invited me to stay a couple of days with them. Really sweet!

After helping half a day in San Cristobal cutting the grass of the football pitch, loading fish into a bigger boat and eating Cayman meat for the first time, I moved to the other village.

Nancy had first come here twenty years ago to make her thesis. They now coordinate an NGO (Vasi) that was founded by the local communities promoting sustainability in all senses.

Currently they were searching samples of wild cacao trees. Therefore I teamed up with a great local guide, Raul, to go hike and camp in the jungle. I was hoping to see animals and help out Nancy collecting the samples.

Hanging out with Raul was great, because he had been one of the local guides helping Ed Stafford walk the entire length of the Amazon river back in 2010 (something which took two years to complete!). Raul walked with him for six weeks, cutting themselves a way through the jungle for a big part and crossing the river from time to time in a packraft. Imagine all the stories to tell!

But it had been raining for the last few days and after only half an hour of walking we realised that a big part of the trail was flooded and that we better turned back. Bit of a bummer, I was quite excited to go out and see some animals at last and I also really wanted to help find native cacao trees.

But after staying a last day in the village, we made a new plan. I was to take Raul to Puca Panga, three hours down the river. There we would stay with Pelé, Raul’s cousin and Nancy’s assistant for a long time, who would show us native cacao trees.

Puca Panga was just an easy three hours away from Dos de Mayo. We were warmly greeted by Pelé and headed out the same afternoon to find native cacao trees.

Next morning was spend in another community work cutting the grass along the river with machete (pretty tough job! And of course everyone watches how the gringo does it). There was a small Boa found, which didn’t live much longer.

Raul went back home after another afternoon of getting samples. I stayed a few days more.

I really love helping out clearing a field with machete. You take breaks, you chat and laugh and learn from each other. The rain didn’t bother us. The engine didn’t want to turn on tough when we wanted to get back to the other side. Luckily I had my phone with me to call help. There were some bigger waves due to the bad weather. A nice little adventure!

Next I went hunting with Rambo (funny nickname for a skinny guy!). After rowing for an hour, we got to the lake and chased the ‘Cuchuris’ (black, half duck/half bird). There were literally thousands of them!

The community work for the afternoon was lifting up an entire roof between some 40 men to a two storey building. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an impressive feat of helping each other out? We’re all in this together peeps!

To finish off my stay here, there were three parties of which two by political candidates. After listening to some vague promises to subsidize agriculture there was another classic Cumbia party where people drank way too much. Still good fun though.

It was just an hour downstream to Juancito, so I finally took out my paddle once again and rowed down.

My only plan was to try to get a better map (which i didn`t find) of the river and spend one night there. As usual I met nice people straightaway. Nilo took me to a guesthouse which he turned out to run, after which he invited me for lunch.

I met William, a buyer of logs to make plywood, who invited me to join him for a day looking at logs. It was interesting to learn about all aspects about the (illegal) logging industry. We met Ibarra, a charismatic logger, who told me he had already cut 50.000 trees in his life (he’s 50 now) and doesn’t believe in climate change. He proofs his statement by showing how fast the weeds grow again after trampling it. But who am i to judge? Perú didn’t cause climate change, western countries did, of which I’m part. Although they probably recieve money from other countries to not cut their trees? Who knows more about this?

By now I had also made a plan with fellow cycle traveler Catz from Australia to join me and finish off my boat trip together! We had met more than one year ago in Uruguay and later in Buenos Aires and along the Ruta 40. Sharing this travel experience was going to be very sweet!


More friends are made playing volleyball and I end up staying a few more days. I’m not in a hurry. I don’t want to get to iquitos without Ben.

Nilo ended up charging me just five euro instead of twenty. What a legend!

I have a contact in Victoria and decide to wait there for Catz.

I stay with Roberto and his family and spend the days fishing by putting out nets between the weeds of lakes and collecting the fish half a day later.

I like it, I get to see different places. The first night, we head out late and end up wandering around the lake in the dark. We hear five small Caymans flee. Pretty special!

Roberto started fishing at the age of ten and hasn’t had the opportunity to progress since then. He’s already tired of it. I understand him, I’m already fed up with it after a couple of days. Definitely in winter (high water level) it’s not rewarding as there is little fish to catch. In summer they catch huge amounts of up to 200/300kg, but we barely get 10kg out now.

A very fun job was trying to get a huge Cedar log that was floating down the river to the shore so that Roberto can cut it up later. We have a small engine and barely manage. We later go to secure it more downstream and come back in the dark. I’ve never driven in the dark, it’s scary, definitely because the whole family is in the boat (three kids). Luckily I had my torch, but the battery was low. A tiny light on a lighter saves us. Another adventure with the Pilco family.

Three days later, Catz finally arrives! We spend one day catching up, sorting out our gear and planning our trip through the Pacaya Samiria national park.

It’s not possible normally to enter the park from here. But after a long chat, the rangers call the main office in Iquitos who give us a special permission to enter anyway. We are supposed to pay afterwards, which we will. Because if we don’t, no others will be allowed to enter there. It’s been about four years since the last tourists came in this way.

We now had five days to spend in the park. After three months of traveling through the jungle, I was hoping to finally see some big trees, birds and animals along the river!

We take Roberto with us for the trip as we are entering the park through a beautiful labyrinth of lakes.

Pic by catz

We make our way through narrow waterways connecting the lakes. “This is so much fun!”, I can’t stop thinking. The engine gets a hard time as we have to smash it around to get around the curves and through the thick weeds blocking the way.

A big storm approaches and we get soaking wet. It seems we’ll be spending the night in the boat as there is no land to camp. But we make it anyway to the first ranger station.

I’ll never forget that first day. I feel my boat trip is complete now. It was just so dreamy! For the first time, monkeys were seen next to the river and I finally got to admire the macaws (one of the biggest parrots in the world, blue and red) flying over. To not even mention the dolphins! Picture perfect.

Pic by Catz

We stay two nights with ranger Tulio and go out to see Caymans at night. Roberto doesn’t mind catching a little one with his bare hands!

The next three days are spent floating and driving down the Pacaya river, while staying in other ranger stations.

Pic by Catz (drone footage)

We get back to the Puinahua river (part of the Ucayali) and spend one night in Bretaña from where Roberto takes the cargo boat back to Victoria.

There luckily is a cargo boat passing Bretaña at 5 am to take Roberto (our guide for the national park) back to Victoria.

We soon head out to start making way towards Iquitos, which is now, after two months since leaving Pucallpa, getting closer and closer.

Just as we’re leaving, José, an electrical engineer connecting a nearby village to the wonders of electricity, asks us to take him to Requena, some seven hours away. We agree, he has to travel urgently and there’s no other boat. But we quickly regret it a bit as we now have the responsibility of taking care of a passenger. Luckily my phone works so I can follow the flow of the river with its bends on the MAPS.ME application.

But the engine has lost its power too. Luckily José isn’t used to travel with a small motor boat (peque peque) and doesn’t notices it.

We get the engine checked upon arriving in Requena and it turns out some gasket is broken. It’s an easy fix, and I soon walk out again with the engine…off a step…and into a hole. I twist my ankle pretty badly and can’t step on it. Luckily there’s Catz to help me out.
We end up staying a day to let it rest, putting ice on it.


I was thinking to get an xray, but everyone just told me to have it massaged in a special way. After limping around the market searching breakfast, I’m introduced to a lady who can do it.

It’s pure torture. Two people have to hold my leg. The lady pushes and pushes on it, using menthol balm, supposedly to get it back in place.

I luckily have my hat with me to hide my face in, as we’re sitting in the middle of the market and a little crowd gathers around to see what’s happening. A lady uses her plastic bag as an improvised fan, trying to cool me down as the pain makes me sweat.

Let’s hope it works. Won’t be doing that again!

We feel like making good progress, to try to get to Iquitos in two days.

Catz of the @theratbagnomads is actually a boat captain, so he’s a great travel buddy! He had instantly learned to drive the boat and we were now switching turns, making really good progress.

We help out Ernesto and José, who were traveling upstream in a 20m boat, but got stuck in a sand bank. With the four of us, it doesn’t take long to push it out.

They offer to pay us for our help. But I think that moments in life to help out others are quite rare, hence you have to take advantage of them and just help out. After all, what goes around, comes around.

We camp along the shore of the river. It’s a wet night, but I’ve finally pimped my (new!) tent with an extra sheet making it a bit more waterproof. And no, it’s not a cheap tent, it’s actually a 280euro North Face tent that I bought in Cusco. Unbelievable. It’s just leaking so badly!

My camping setup is quite basic these days. A leaking tent, a 6 year old sleeping bag which is smelling absolutely disgusting, a thermarest which is delaminating and then the inner liner that got stolen. Just part of a longer trip I guess.

Catz does a great job unloading and loading the boat. I hope I can walk normal again soon.

With a last big day (110km!), we manage to reach Iquitos.

After camping, we quickly reach the junction of the Marañon and Ucayali river (the one I’ve been traveling down for the last three months).

We were now traveling down the Amazon river.

“The amazon… THE AMAZON…. THE ÁMAZON!!!” I kept telling myself. I couldn’t believe it. We had made it. I got really emotional. Was it from relief of making it this far? Or from the realisation we were traveling down the almighty Amazon now? I don’t really know. All I know is that I’ll never forget that moment. Never. Ever. I mean the Amazon. The amazon! I felt so alive. So grateful.

Reaching the Amazon river made me think of all I’ve experienced during the last four months of traveling down the river, and I felt just so grateful for the opportunity to be able to learn so much. So many experiences, so many lessons and so many friends. What an amazing gift we’ve all received, this gift of life. Live your life!!!

Reaching Iquitos was a big deal. We had now made it to the upper North of Peru, to what some call the heart of the Amazon. Don’t imagine anything wild here, it’s actually the largest city in the world which is not accessible by road housing almost 500.000 people. Between 1880 and 1912, it was the centre of the rubberboom as well.

Its isolated position therefore meant that we still couldn’t get back on the road.

You can either go down the Amazon river to Brazil (and to the Atlantic ocean), or follow the Napo river upstream to Ecuador. Catz has his flight back from Lima in a month and i really want to get to know Ecuador and Colombia, so it was an easy choice.

Going upstream would mean that we were now going to fight Mother nature, in a struggle to fight the current. Therefore, I sold my little trusty motor of 6.5hp and we bought a huge 13hp one. It weighs a ton! Taking it for a first spin was so much fun! We now fly!

The Peruvian/Ecuadorian border is some 500km away. We are expecting to reach it in two or three weeks, after which we’ll see if they will let us cross the border with our paperless boat.

I did manage to get a stamp of the Navy, but most importantly, they let me take pictures of 34 highly detailed pages of the Napo river. We were just using maps.me before, showing the curves of the river, but not the villages. This was going to be a great change!

We were now basically waiting for my bike to arrive. I had left it in Pucallpa two months ago and a friend had put it on the cargo ship to Iquitos.

Bolognesi – Pucallpa: River trip part 3

As soon as I leave Bolognesi, I’m in Shipibo territory.

It’s a beautiful day. I’m happy I’m out of town. It’s the day i finally appreciate the type of boat/ raft i have. It’s so stable, that i can literally stand wherever i want.

From time to time, I turn of the engine and float down the river. While standing on the top of the boat, watching the jungle slide by, I find myself having a surreal and somewhat magical travel experience. (picture later taken by Jefferson)

Traveling by boat is so much fun!

To top it all up, i get to see my first dolphin. Yes that’s right! DOLPHINS! I didn’t knew i would see them here! Every day I was going to see some from there onwards.

I tried to follow them, but it’s difficult to go upstream with my boat (the logs on its side hit a lot of water). Just when leaving the site, two huge animals came from under my boat and grasp air some 6m away. What was that!?!!!

I hang out for an hour, admiring these super impressive (harmless) beasts of the river. There’s a bent where the river doesn’t run. It’s seems to be their home? Dolphins and beasts keep popping up around the boat.


I hope I’ll never forget to be grateful for being able to live moments like these!

I end up staying in Nazareth de Shahuaya. As always, i search the village chief. I feel truly welcome here. He later goes to the radio to talk through several speakers across the village, letting everyone know a foreign visitor has arrived.

People are sincere. Women more emancipated. I even get a kiss on the cheek. The language more easy to learn than Ashanika. I liked this place and stay a day.

The beasts turn out to be ‘Bufeos’, some 2 to 3 m long. Their body is supposed to be similar to that of people. They don’t eat them for some beliefs. But the chief also told me they are a food reserve. Sometimes situation got so critical even dogs were eaten.


As usual, people bath in their boats. Mosquitos aren’t out yet. A beautiful sunset makes the setting. A dolphin pops up a bit further. It sound idyllic, because it is.

It’s almost new year and not much is going on. I try to learn some language and walk around. People invite me to share their meal.

But i also think to myself to just spend a day in a village if I can help out in the field/work a bit. Don’t like to feel lazy.

six year old boy taking a stroll with his canoe

I planned to get to a bigger village to have some of a party. But after chatting to a family living next to the river, it started raining hard so they invited me to stay.

As many in the region, Junior and his companions cut trees of which they make a huge raft. They then float down to Pucallpa to sell the wood.

With no electricity, there was just the buzzing sound of the mosquitoes. We all got in our mosquito nets at 7pm. But the huge meal with fresh fish was pretty sweet!

Preparing the fish and serving the intestins to the chickens and cats


The party had to wait till Pucallpa.

I meet Jefferson (22yrs) in the river while asking him for directions (distances) to the next villages.

I buy a fat fish from him to not arrive with empty hands at the next family that’s going to host me.

We chat more and i end up hauling his canoe next to my boat till Curiaca, where his grandmother lives. Jefferson proposes to navigate.

He has problems, he says. He was working at a wood mill, but his boss got crushed between two huge logs, dying on the spot. He hadn’t received a pay check in seven months. All the workers were making their way back to their homes. Jefferson had traded some big fishes for his canoe, but didn’t have food with him. So i gave him bread, cassava flour, sugar and water.

We end up spending the night at his grandma’s house.

It doesn’t take much longer to reach Iparia, the only big village between Bolognesi and Pucallpa. I camp one night at the square and head on. I wasn’t able to withdraw money at the bank in Bolognesi, leaving me with 150 soles (40 euro) for some ten days or more.

The local government did help me out with providing a detailed map of their region. Very helpful! And of course i met people who invited me for lunch, this time Bendigno and his family.

Being somewhat short on money, i tried to make good progress after Bolognesi. It explains the lack of good photos (i have always thought you have to spend at least two days in a village to take some good shots.)

The family hosting me in Samaria though, is going to harvest mais the next day. A perfect opportunity to help out, not take advantage of their hospitality and spend a bit more time there.


I did cut my hand pretty deep with the very first piece of mais i wanted to cut off (the leaves are really sharp!). The gringo is learning!

And we went fishing… with spears! Pretty cool technique! But maybe not the most efficient one? We didn’t get any.

After an uneventful stay in Flor de Ucayali (where i could camp in an old house, next to an ants house (bad idea!), i have one last stop before getting to Pucallpa.

I feel truly welcome in Limogema. Last night i had to take all of my things out of my boat myself (quite a job), here everyone helps me out.


After a volleyball game, we all flee in our mosquito nets once again as the ‘zancudos’ (mosquitoes) are out in full.

 

January 7

I spent the last two hours floating towards Pucallpa with some people bringing wood to the city. For a change it´s not illegally cut wood, but Bolayna which they grew themselves. They indicate me where to leave my boat in the big port of Pucallpa (opposite the city, on the other side of the river).

I knew Pucallpa was going to be a huge stop on this boat trip.

I actually had no idea if i was going to travel down to iquitos by boat (at least one month away), or get back on the road with my beloved bike.

First, i went to the marine to get advice. They told me the river was calm (if there’s no wind) and that it was possible to travel down to Iquitos by wooden boat.

Sounded good! It would take some more reflecting, but in the end i started looking for a bigger boat and put up papers around the fisherman’s harbour to sell mine.

I found an eight meter boat of which i bargained the price down from 350 to 250 soles (65 euro). The test run was pretty cool! Without two big logs on its side, a boat is much faster. Being longer, the waves of passing boats also don’t affect it.

So it was quite obvious boats were cheap here and i knew i would loose some on mine.

The only people using such a small boat like mine, are fishermen who take it up a narrow river.

I got up at 3am, asking around in the harbour. But all i had to do in the end was bring my boat over. (It was at the other side of the river.) It was sold in 10 minutes for 150 (half of what i payed).

Bringing my boat over to the fishermans harbor


Next big questions were fixing my electronics. When my boat got filled with water about one month ago, the camera had died and my phone started malfunctioning.

I found good technicians, but there were no parts available. Only in Lima, i was told. Ok, let’s take the bus then. I thought it was just one night, but it turned out to be a 20 hour trip. Wasn’t looking forward to that!

I was truly lucky to meet Kely and Paul in Lima, friends of friends of friends, who offer to host me.

The Sunday I arrive, I can use their bicycle and cruise around the city, linking up the cycle paths and admire the Pacific once again. Not too bad!

But then I head to the ‘Malvinas’ to get my electronics fixed and the trouble starts. It goes smooth at first: i almost have everything fixed in one day. What happened in the next three days is too much to write down. They essentially like to screw you over.

Finally I got my money back and was about to sell my phone for parts when i realised they returned me another one with broken screen. Etc…

The lenses were cleaned. They body of the camera too damaged to be fixed, so for 200eur I bought a new one.

I had lost the tent poles of my new tent in the river and was lucky enough to get spares.

So all in all a good upgrade, but I was happy to get out of there. The traffic jams, the noise, the 1.5 hour commute each day to get to the ‘malvinas’,… It was quite a big change after the jungle.

I do find it very strange to cross such a big distance like Lima – Pucallpa during the night, not seeing anything of the surroundings. So I decided to have a couple of stops on the way back to Pucallpa.

I got a bus to Huánuco at 2000m altitude. By coincide, Paul who hosted me in Lima knew someone there. Javier came to pick me up and took me to his property at 20km from the city.

I thought to just stay one day, but that plan usually doesn’t work out that way. It became four.

Javier had lived all his life in Lima, but had changed the craziness of the city for the quietness of the mountains. Since some 15 years, he also started learning about agriculture and medicinal plants. By now, he was healing people by just proposing the right nutrition combined with some plants. Very fascinating to say the least.

 

His wise friend Taita Shanti was probably one of the most interesting people I could meet in entire Perú. At the age of 95, he’s bursting with energy to start a school where kids are taught about nature, the Inca customs, organic farming,… I joined their first meeting, and felt very humble among these inspirational people.

Calling nature

 

I helped Javier in his house, fixing doors and fixing the electricity (re-routing all the cables of solar system, changing plugs and adding lights/switches).

The last afternoon I went walking up the mountain. That’s why I was there. It really rejuvenated me. I met Agustin, a shepherd on the top after which I watched a beautiful sunset.

A successful stopover in the mountains!

At two hours from Huánuco lays Tingo María, where I had another stop to visit the Lechuzas cave, as part of the National Park there.

Then the last five hours back to Pucallpa to (finally) get ready to keep going down the Ucayali river.

I was really stoked to get my visa extension approved! I’ve got another 90 days now, so I can move on without being in a hurry.

Hitting the water on Sunday, 28th of January towards Iquitos.

Atalaya – Bolognesi: River trip part 2

Sunday December 21, leaving Atalaya.

The hard part about meeting a family that takes you in as one of their own is leaving them all behind again… I always cry.

Jaime has a floating house where he guards the boats and engines of the people arriving in Atalaya. He taught me how to handle the engine and helped adding the logs to my little boat.

For now he’s looking after my most precious possession, my bicycle, which he will send me when i get to Pucallpa.

I was 100% focused leaving the city. Although it’s not so difficult handling the engine, it’s still quite new to me.

After some two hours i saw a big white sign next to the river indicating a village and headed over. It turned out to be Montevideo. No, not the capital of Uruguay. As it turns out also a small ‘caserio’ (small village) close to Atalaya.

I ended up staying for four days…

First night, there was a party to celebrate the end of the school year. It’s always pretty akward to dance while everyone is looking at the gringo, but if you look at the floor, it’s ok 

After a while i was told that i was the first gringo to visit and stay there, which somehow explains the fascination for my dance moves (which are far from spectacular). This doesn’t mean people haven’t seen gringos before. Some Canadians had installed a water system here in 2010 for example.

Allan, the villagechief, was finishing his house, so i proposed him to help in return for some food. I didn’t spend a penny in those days, which was really nice after spending heaps in Atalaya.

This way i didn’t had to take advantage of their hospitality. Carlito (little Carlos) showed me around. Good guide for being 5 years old!

They found the logs too small, so helped to add some truly fat ones. (Which i didn’t think was necessary.)

Leaving the small port and looking back at my newmade friends, I realize this little boat trip is already a success. I’m so happy i went through with this! An amazing feeling of freedom also overwhelmes me. All i have to do is fire up the engine and off i go.

Next stop was going to be Nuevo Pozo. I had met Andrès, the brother of the village chief, in Atalaya and was eager to spend some time there.

 

I was quickly welcomed by the workers of the wood mill (who come from other villages) and invited for lunch.

The afternoon was spent drinking too much Masato (local drink from cassava which ferments over time) and listening them talking in Ashaninka. Of course people also speak Spanish and i ended up staying two nights to get a glimpse off village life here.

First night, while going to get my things from my boat, someone robbed me though. I had left my small bag with all my important things half an hour at Andres house. It being a small village where everyone knows everyone, one shouldn’t have to be careful about his belongings.

Some 30 euro were missing, but most importantly my memory cards (with the backup of all my pictures) and Spot messenger too.

I was told not to worry and promised i would have everything back in the morning.

Armando, the chief, came over in the morning with two 5 year old boys who were seen buying candy in the shop. They quickly confessed and went to get my things (which were spread all over the place). I was told they weren’t from this village.

With all my things and money recovered (just some change missing) we could move on.

They were going to clean a field, so i grabbed my machete and joined in. While learning about which plant produces something edible and which not, i was explained the concept of ‘minga’. It’s a community work for which you’re not paid. They say: “today for you, tomorrow for me”. So people make a team and together they work on eachother’s field.

After eating lunch, the afternoon is spent drinking masato.

People are poor here. Dinner is not served. Breakfast sometimes either. Instead, the cassava (called yuka here) in the masato has to do the job.

The only other white people they know, are from charity organisations. Again, I’m the first tourist here. It’s difficult to explain the concept of traveling to gain experience while not making money. Almost every family asks me for help. They aren’t shy. Even my engine is asked. It’s hard to form an answer. They understand that gifts wouldn’t help them, but agricultural development would.

In many ways, my experiences here bring me back to Congo, where i stayed in a small village for two weeks. There as well, the soil is rich, but the people are truly poor. It’s something that will keep me busy for quite some time to figure out.

At night, there’s the birthday party of one of Andrès daughters (he has 16 children with two wives. (Yes, that are many mouths to feed!)). The three year old girl burnt her bum pretty badly by falling in the hot coals used for cooking earlier that day and isn’t seen. But the party goes on anyway. There’s music fed with solar panels (project from the state) and more masato.

The mother goes round and round serving the drink. A woman which isn’t pregnant is a very rare sight here. Girls are urgently looking for a husband when they are 15. Numerous women ask me to marry their daughter, even if they aren’t born yet.

So far the glimpse of life here.

The new logs next to my boat aren’t cut right and it’s hard to go in a straight line. Luckily Don Segundo comes over with his chainsaw and fixes the problem.

After staying four days in Montevideo, i feel like traveling. It’s December 24th. I wonder where I’ll spend Christmas night?

 

I want to take a lunch break in Tahuarapa, but I feel welcome and decide to spent the night (Christmas eve) there.

Elias and his son helping me moving my boat to another ‘port’.

After being invited for lunch straightaway by Elias, i go to search the village chief to present myself. My authorisation letters are carefully read, proving that I’m a tourist. I can spend the night under a roof close to the port.

The chief also asks me to go see his little niece, stating that she’s not doing well. The poor little girl has a terrible skin infection that just doesn’t go away. Her eyes are almost completely closed. She’s crying, scared of getting an injection. With her little veil, she tries to cover her face in humiliation. I quickly ask to let her get back to rest and understand the severity of the situation.

They just came back from Atalaya to get her treatment, but there was no money to buy all the medication. As she has both parents, it’s hard to understand why they aren’t able to take good care of her. But that’s not the little girl’s fault, and i give 50 soles (13 euro) to get her more help.

It´s Christmas eve, but the Catholic people tell me they don´t have money to celebrate, so nothing is going on (although i don´t think it´s about being able to party or not). I don´t really mind. I´m tired from last night birthday party, and as many people in the region, my eyes hurt a little. There’s some sort of eye disease in the area and it was unavoidable to not get it.

In the morning a man in his fourties wakes me up asking for a gallon of petrol to bring his girl to hospital. I refuse, thinking that I can´t help everyone. I also think that he´s a bad father, not even being able to save up a bit for when his child is sick. It´s not an easy matter. I´m trying to get my head around it.

I try to leave early, but as usual the people invite me to chat and have breakfast. It´s good not to be in a hurry to travel here 

It´s a pretty village actually. Every wednesday everyone works together to clean the buildings and cut the grass with machetes.

Off I go. It’s Christmas day.

As a last stop before reaching Bolognesi, I end up in the community of Señor de los Milagros.

The chief lets me sleep in the community hall and over some cups of Masato, I´m told I´m the first gringo to ever enter into the village. No charity organisations, no nothing. Now that´s a pretty fascinating thing, knowing how many tourists visit Peru.

They ask me all about Belgium and are eager to share their knowledge. I like them a lot, they are really sweet people and no one asks for things. I wouldn´t know why I wouldn´t stay a bit longer?

I help out on another ´minga´, cleaning a field. There are several breaks during the work to drink masato and chat. I start learning about the history of the land (big land owners used to own everything and everybody) and they teach me several knots, among other things. As usual lunch is served afterwards with masato.

I especially appreciate talking to Don Esteban. His story is truly sad and remarkable.

As a young boy, his parents sold him to a ´patron´, one of these big land owners. He must have been around six years old. He was never allowed to study and had to work on the land. Everyone who didn´t listen, got beaten or even killed. Esteban describes it as slavery.

Police never intervened. They must have been super racist. Because if the workers (all native people), stood up to their boss, police was there to protect him.

Esteban not being able to read or write, made him unable to count his money, or try something on his own. By denying education to his workers, the boss successfully managed to own them. And he treated them as property. “Imagine how much he gained on our backs”, he tells me.

As he can´t count, he doesn´t even know how old he is. Luckily one day he was so fed up with everything that he didn´t care anymore about the threats, stood up to his boss and was able to leave.

Writing this down, I realize I was the first outsider to whom he told his story. A story that must be shared. I wished I had better journalistic skills.

I also realized that the recent colonisation occupying the land made the native people destabilize. They probably lived a good life before outsiders arrived.

I see similarities with the native people I met in Chile for example. They are told they are worth less, that they are uncivilised and bit by bit their identity, culture and knowledge dissapears.

Then when they regain their freedom (I´m told as these patrones died), they probably don´t really know from where to pick up their lives again.

Suddenly it makes sense to take a break whenever you want while working to chat to your friends and relatives while sharing masato.

I hope to find more information about the subject, but I´m afraid the cruelty that occured here was never recorded or talked about.

A couple of hours more and I make it to Bolognesi, the only bigger village between Atalaya and Pucallpa.

I try to stay just one day in this small town, cause there’s not much to do apart from spending money.

I meet Joaquin, originally from Ecuador, who moved to the Peruvian jungle as a young boy when his father took part in the ‘rubber boom’ between 1880 and 1918, extracting latex from numerous trees.

Joaquin later became one of these ‘patrones’. He tells me my journey is very dangerous and that the ‘wild’ native people will kill me. He goes on: “three times they tried to kill me”.

But who will try to kill someone without that person having harmed you in the first place?

Meanwhile we talk, there are some native Ashaninka people asking for work. The disrespectful way he threats them, makes me slowly realize that I’m looking at a bit of a devil.

Later i learn more about this rubber boom. Mestizo people (descendants of the Spanish) and foreigners came to inhabit the jungle to extract rubber. In order to have the sufficient workforce, these ‘caucheros’ armed and recruited the native Shipibos in this area to capture and enslave other native groups. Thousands were displaced, many killed.

I’m sure Joaquin had one hell of an example.

Finishing off Bolivia and into Peru

After a rest day close to the Chilean/Bolivian border at the free campsite overlooking the Parinacota vulcano, we crossed back into Bolivia. I had just three days left on my visa (they give you 90 days a year), so we didn’t have time to fool around.

We were now on a tarred main road and making really good progress. After cycling on dirt road for ten days, it was a nice change! But main roads are always less eventful hence there are no particular stories to tell. We cycled 400 km in 4 days up to the Peruvian border.

We knew the route along the Northern side of the Titicaca lake is less busy, but my Brasilian cycling friends Veronica and Jay were in Puno, along the southern side, so we headed there. I had met them more than five times in Patagonia some six months ago, and was really looking forward to seeing them!

I overstayed my visa with just two days, for which I normally had to pay a 7 euro fine, but the officer didn’t bother counting my days so we crossed without any hassle.

We quickly realised the Peruvians drive like crazy! There was no hard shoulder like in Bolivia. We regretted our decision to come this way.

Camping along the Titicaca lake

But seeing my friends again made it worth it!

40 km away, we stayed in the casa de ciclistas in Juliaca for a night, meeting several other biketravelers. We were still on main road and making good progress towards Cusco.

Our first 4000m pass in Peru. We camped that night next to a hot spring. Great!

As usual, entering a big city is somewhat hectical. We had no idea what we were going to do there. There’s so much to see in the city (Inca capital) and its surroundings!

I bought a new tent, cause mine was about to die completely. The zippers had already be a problem for a long time, then the poles started showing some tear and the flysheet got very fragile. Appearantly a long exposure to strong UV rays, make it that way. While putting it up, it got a 20cm rip. Heading for the Peruvian mountains in rainy season, made me buy a new tent.

Free walking tour in Cusco

We headed out of town towards Pisac where we left the bikes in town and took a taxi up. The driver was pretty inventive! In order to avoid paying entrance fee, he hid us in the trunk of the car! Pretty scary thing to do though…

Pisac

After visiting the ‘salinas de maras’, where they have been extracting salt from a mountain stream for centuries, we didn’t really knew where to go.

We took a break next to the river. My sister was looking at the map and found out that this river (the Urubamba) was going all the way North… Would it be possible to follow it? Maybe with kayaks? Or with a raft?

Two hours of browsing taught us that there were some dangerous rapids awaiting us, so it wouldn’t be possible to start right away.
Google also shared a brilliant idea to make a raft: with big inner tubes from trucks/ tractors. Genious because that’s something you can get in every town. We had first been looking at each getting a kayak, which we didn’t found. Making a raft to float down a river sounds like a good idea, right?
To get past the rapids, we first had to climb to 4300m, something we both greatly enjoyed. Coming from 2800m, the 35 km climb was quite impressive. But how about the descent!!!
Let’s just say that all effort to get to the altiplano was worth it. Coming down from the ‘abra Malaga’ we had a whopping 3600m drop down to 700m. Woohoooo!!! A downhill that actually takes a couple of days! Unreal! We started at the top in cold, rainy weather and headed for the tropical heat of the jungle.
I personally loved being back in the jungle! The smell of the forest makes me think of Africa! Great memories…
We decided not to give in to the machu picchu hype, although it was pretty cool to camp INSIDE some smaller Inca ruins down the road.
Finally we bought eight inner tubes in Quillabamba, where the firefighters hosted us and helped us on our way with our rafting plan.
Then we cycled another 70 km to Palma Real. There we were happy to find a small beach where we could start building our raft. The locals were supportive (although they might have wondered why there was a gringo walking up and forth with huge inner tubes) and pointed out where we could cut some wood.
Most of the work was done in a day. Rufino, the local carpenter, helped us out with making some paddles.

We were planning to get to Atalya some 500 km away by following the rio Urubamba.

After an amazing two days floating down the river and managing some rapids (so much fun!!!), our adventure already came to an end though.

It started raining heavily during the second night making the water level rise rapidly. The river had turned itself into a mighty river so we made the wise decision to abandon ship.

We weren’t far from the road, but it still took two hours to reach it because we had to cut ourselves a way with the machete.

We then easily got a ride back to Kiteni, only 4 km away. We quickly found some fishermen who were willing to take us to our campsite with their boat to go get our things.

So far so good.

During all of this though, the water level had kept rising and by the time we got there, our bags were floating around in circles and the tent had 40cm of water in it.

We luckily didn’t loose to much of our gear.

We should have been wiser and moved our stuff higher up when we left camp. But we had looked at this and as our gear was still one meter higher than the river, we thought it would be fine. Also, when leaving, we didn’t thought to be away for so long as we we had left camp just to find a way and bring our stuff to the road. But then came the two hours of machete cutting…


Anyway, we are not grieving too much over the things we lost, but very grateful for the experience. We learned so much in just a couple of days! We had never constructed a raft so we needed to google how to make lashings etc. It’s good to leave your comfort zone sometimes.
We were ready for this. But made the good decision to stop before it became dangerous.

After spending almost an entire day drying and reorganizing our stuff, we headed out again.

Anne didn’t feel so well, so she got the bus to Ivochote. I cycled the 50 km and totally fell in love with smooth Peruvian dirt roads through the jungle…

In Ivochote, Anne and i embarked in a ‘lancha’ (12m boat) together with eight more people and some chickens…

The most remarkable part was passing ‘pongo de mainique’ where you don’t know if you have to look at the crazy rapids or the waterfalls.

After these rapids there is no road anymore. Just boats.

After six hours we got to Camisea where we spent just one night. Anne got quite sick a few days ago and couldn’t do more than rest out.

I had a pretty walk through the villages and jungle to meet the native people, to learn some of their language (machi llengua) and to try the local liquor.

Next day we spent another six hours cruising on the Rio Urubamba enjoying the jungle pass by (still no monkeys though).

After arriving in Sepahua, we didn’t really know what to do next. Atalaya was now just another six hours by boat away. From there, you can start traveling by road again and we were going to head to Huaraz and the cordillera blanca.

But Anne still didn’t feel well and was going to take the bus from Atalaya to the mountains, meaning we would split up.

Then, while walking around Sepahua, I saw this local guy arriving on his own on a small boat the size of a big canoe without engine. That looked really cool!

So while helping out to pull a boat ashore, I started asking about the possibilities to go downstream on my own by canoe.

I just couldn’t let go of the idea to travel down the river independently. I knew there was so much to learn here, that it didn’t made me feel good to just pass it in a couple of days in a passive way.

So we spent a day sorting our gear out (i made quite a spectacular downsize, getting rid of my huge 70l rear panniers and replacing them with my sisters 28l front panniers) and Anne took the boat to Atalaya.

Thanks for joining me sister! You’re always great company! 

 

Crossing the salt flats and a last visit to Chile

Salar de Uyuni. A highlight on every cyclist route. With its 10.000 square km it’s actually one third the size of Belgium!

We knew it’s best to camp next to the islands to be protected from the wind, but we met some very interesting people and only got on the road by 2pm. First there were filip and niki from austria cycling for more than three years already, then we met two Belgian couples who were driving two pick up trucks from Alaska to ushuaia. Nothing extremely spectacular there, if it wasn’t for the fact that the guys are running marathons all the way! Crazy Belgians! (Follow them at ‘viapanam’). And then we met another beautiful French family cycling with kids around South America. They’ve got guts!

So we ended up camping in the middle of nowhere as we didn’t make it to the incahuasi island some 100 km away. Luckily there was no wind. It’s a truly surreal landscape making for one hell of a pretty campsite.

After passing the incahuasi island and filling up on water, we headed northwest towards Palaya.

This time, the wind was fierce and we definitely needed two pair of hands to put up the tent. “I feel like I’m in a MSR hubba hubba test zone”. Anne said. Luckily the tent didn’t get ripped to bits, but our stomachs kinda did. I had to throw up at night and Anne didn’t feel right either.

Getting on the road the next morning was tough, but we didn’t had any other options as we were in the middle of nowhere.

We got to the edge off the Salar without problem and then had 40 brutal kms (hard washboard, sandy, rocky ‘road’) ahead of us to get to the next salt flat: salar de coipasa.

For those wanting to connect the two salars, here’s the route: Palaya, chorcaza, villque, tres cruses. It’s tough, count on slow progress. But there is water in every village (and some very very basic shops sometimes. Bring everything from Uyuni or Coipasa).

Update! There should be a better alternative! Ask locals to direct you. The trail from tres cruses to llica is supposed to be very sandy though!

cooking on the salar de Coipasa

After crossing the Salar de Coipasa, our stomachs felt right again which suddenly gave new energy to take on the isolated region of the Isluga, Vicuñas and Lauca national park in the upper North of Chile.

We crossed the border at Pisiga/ Colchane, bought food for five days, had half a rest day, loaded fifteen liters of water on the bikes and headed out.

180 km would take four days of cycling. After six km we got off the main road towards the pacific ocean and headed north on dirt road.

We started this stretch on the first of November. When asking water at the last village, Encuelga, we were promptly invited to join their commemoration of their family members who had passed away. After a huge lunch with beers that couldn’t be refused, we joined them to the cemetery. After we made a prayer, we were handed a big bag with food and a six pack of beer. Interesting customs, lovely people.

With that much food and beer gobbled down, we didn’t cycle much more… Luckily for us, we found a great campspot overlooking the isluga volcano, which is truly spectacular as there is some smoke coming out all the time. A huge bonfire made it perfect.

After 42 km of super smooth dirt road passing Isluga and Encuelga (water in both villages), the washboard (corrugated road) started. Luckily it was usually possible to avoid the worst parts.

As we got to the Salar de Surire (yet another salt flat), we also got to the Polloquere hotsprings. These would make for a great, if not best ever, campspot. What a joy to get to a hot spring after a long day cycling!!! The dramatic sunset and flamingos turned it into an unbelievably beautiful place.

We then cycled around the eastern side of the salar (3 km sandy section. Otherwise not too bad, just some corrugation) towards the Chilcaya police checkpoint where we could luckily refill our water bottles.

Then we shared the road for 60 kms with trucks transporting borax from the salar towards the coast. The road was wider though and the drivers were considerate, making it not too bad.

In Guallatire there is a Conaf office as well as a police checkpoint, so you can get water here. Again, no shops.

Once we got the road back to ourselves (at -18.374332, -69.236347), it was truly amazing as we now seemed to be heading towards three volcanoes.

We passed another hotspring (Churiguaya) but didn’t stay. There is a small building though with hotpot where you could sleep inside!

After a last push we got to 4700m and were now overlooking the Parinacota volcano. What a sight!

The downhill to 4500m was equally spectacular (although quite sandy, climbing this part would take a decent amount of pushing). Tired we got to the Chungará lake where we could camp for free at the Conaf (Chilean nature preservation organisation) campsite.

After riding dirt roads for the last ten days since Uyuni, the restday at this campsite at the lake was more than welcome!

All in all, i had just three days left on my Bolivian visa. So it was a good idea to rest a bit and cross back to Bolivia with fresh energy.

Photoalbum here!

Workaway in Samaipata and down to Uyuni

Samaipata. A small village at 140 km from Santa Cruz where I would end up staying one month in total. After helping out David for a week making beer and fruit juice, I had the absolute pleasure to go pick up my mum and sister at the airport (read previous blogpost). We went travelling around Bolivia by bus for three weeks after which my mum went back home and my sister went to Chile for two weeks.

I stayed in Samaipata in the meanwhile to do another workaway: helping out Ruth from Manchester fixing many small things in her new house (electricity, doors not closing, no gutter at roof,…) and putting a new roof on the old house.

It quickly became clear that the latter would be one hell of a task! Most of the wood was rotten, the walls weren’t straight at all and i just had the wood that was laying around to fix it. But i was really up for a proper project!

I love my job as a carpenter so much, that it’s not uncommon to miss it while traveling. Hence i was grateful for the confidence Ruth gave me. There were some small sideprojects that needed fixing as well (dugging out a gutter behind the house in hard clayground and making a new gate) so i ended up staying three weeks (the last week my sister helped me out).

Normally you work 20 – 25 hours per week in order to earn your food and bed at a workaway project, but i think i did double if not almost triple that. This however was my choice and i was happy doing something else for a while in this trip.

 

Cycling from Samaipata to Sucre

The day we left, we had gotten some route advice to take an alternative road towards Sucre. The asphalt would end at vallegrande and a good dirt road would cross spectacular landscapes while avoiding all traffic.

But boy! Were we in for some tough road! We climbed from 1800 to 2900, then dropped below 1000 to the Rio Grande (big river) only to climb back up to 3000m at the other side… And all of it on dirt… We even ran out of food for half a day because locals gave us wrong information…

My sister thought this was normal for me and wasn’t too happy about continuing like this for the next couple of months. But it wasn’t normal! This was by far the toughest stretch of this trip! Sorry sister! Welcome!

lovely family hosting us

Even when we got back on the tar road close to Padilla, the hilly road made sure it was never a walk in the park. Finally after some eight days we made it to Sucre (2900m) where we stayed two nights in villa orupeza guest house (highly recommended, 50 bol for dorm bed, fast wifi, hot shower, kitchen, big garden) to rest, resupply and organise the next stretch.

The three days of cycling to potosi (3400m) weren’t very eventful, nor did they go through scenic landscapes, but we sure had an unexpected bend in the road!

After 20 km on the second day we got to a small village where there seemed to be a cattle fare going on. But as it turned out, there first was a bicycle race and then a bull fight! I had never competed in a race, but it seemed like a pretty funny thing to do!

So i unloaded my bike and headed for the starting line. I ended up losing terribly over the 40 km (20 times a 2 km lap) race across potato fields, but it was so much fun! People were very enthusiastic and didn’t stopped cheering me on: “dale gringo, dale dale!!!” The bull fight wasn’t as cruel as we expected it to be as men are not involved. Instead two bulls are left to fight with eachother until one gets tired/scared and runs off… into the crowd! Run! We had wisely chosen the safety of a car next to us.

To top off the day there was a prize ceremony (where i ended up earning the money back i had payed to enlist in the competition after which i had to give a speech) and a party.

Unfortunately people tend to be so drunk by this time that we didn’t stick around too long. We could sleep in the school.

I really wanted to visit potosi and its mine as it’s an important part of European history.

The Spanish started exploiting the mine in 1545. Since then 8 million people have died here. We’re talking about mass genocide due to forced labor of first nation people. People sent into the mine would usually die after three months of work. The amount of richness taken from here is staggering. Between 1503 and 1660 for example, 16.000.000 kg of silver and 185.000 kg of gold were shipped oversees. Hence the name Cerro Rico (4782m) meaning rich mountain.

This capital was very important for the development of Europe, some even say it made it possible.

1492 was a very important year for Spain. Not only did Columbus arrive at the Bahamas, it was also the year they finally won back their territories from the Moors after eight centuries of war. A war that had left Spain nearly bankrupt. Therefore huge amounts of the silver were used to pay off debts to European bankers (German, Flemish, Spanish and Genoan).

What’s more, Spain ended up controlling only 5% of the silver trade due to numerous reasons, further enriching the rest of Europe.

Therefore I found the mine truly important to visit, but I knew it would be hard. Going up there with a group of tourists who found it o so funny to put on the suit and helmet, made me wonder if they really had no clue about the tragedies that had occurred there.

The guide made one bad joke after the other, to make the visit nice and to keep spirits high. But how about teaching us what truly happened there? Not a word was said about the genocide, atrocities and injustice.

The injustice continues. We met eighteen-year old Juan Carlos in the mine. He had started working there with his father when he was just thirteen to be able to feed the whole family.

It’s not our fault to be born where we are born. But it is very important to realise the priviliges that come with our nationality.

So please, let’s not be ignorant about our priviliges and the economic injustice (the current economic situation is still stuck under control from the imperialist countries (US and European) who make more money from trading the products coming from Latin America, than the countries do from producing them) that keeps feeding our big salaries.

Next time you’re moaning about some futility, think about Potosí and Juan.

(Information from the book “the open veins of Latin America” by Eduardo Galeano. Please correct me if I’m wrong.)

We had now also finally made it to the altiplano (the high plateau) putting an end to never ending climbs and downhills.

Another three days of riding got us to Uyuni, a small city next to the huge salt flat. This time an amazing, brand-new tar road winded through more and more spectacular settings. We were in for a treat! It was also beautiful to see people working all together on the land. Women and men, using castrated bulls to pull the plough while their children play around or help.

Uyuni (3600m) itself is a dusty little town made up of unfinished concrete buildings. Some may call it a ‘shithole’. But there are shops and hostals with hot showers! That’s all we’re after anyway when we roll into town. We prepared the next stage well, as it was going to be somewhat isolated: crossing the two salt flats (by bicycle this time) and a very last visit to Chile!

Photoalbum here!

On to Bolivia! (Salta (Arg.) to Samaipata)

After hitchhiking for one week with my friend Rocio, I got back to Salta. I had gotten a bit sick so it was great to meet some people in the park who were slacklining and who ended up inviting me to stay with them. Therefore, I could spent some more days in the city to recover.

I helped around the house renovating a room while everyday my throat hurted a little less and my voice came back bit by bit.

I didn’t really had an idea about my route. As I was going to make a loop with my mother and sister in the West of Bolivia, I ended up cycling towards the border at Aguas Blancas/Bermejo more to the East.

The road taking me there was awful. No hard shoulder, lots of traffic and uncareful drivers who don’t respect cyclists. I couldn’t enjoy at all and had to be super careful.

I took half a day off in the national park of Calilegua to hike a bit in the tropical rainforest.

But although the road was horrible, people kept hosting me beautifully as always…

And how exciting to be close to Bolivia! After spending eight months in Argentina and Chile, it was going to be nice to have some change of scenery!

I happened to cross the border on the 6th of August, Bolivia’s national holiday. Let the party begin!

I ended up in a small village where the people had gotten together next to the soccer field to watch some competitions, drink and dance. What a first great day…

Someone had also invited me to come stay with them in Tarija, the capital of the region, some 150 km further. The quiet road following a river through the jungle was absolutely beautiful.

After a one day stop in the city to fix some stuff and hang out with newly made friends, I started heading towards Samaipata, where I wanted to do a workaway (volunteering).

I felt motivated and wanted to make good progress. On the first day though, I crashed in a downhill on dirt road.

The nearest hospital was 35 km away, so I headed there. Luckily it was almost all down, because my left knee didn’t want to bend much.

At first, I was asked how I was going to pay and that they wouldn’t accept my travel insurance. But in the end, they really took great care of me. To top it up, the nurse filled in the name of her son on my form, making me use his insurance… So beautiful if you meet people who treat you as on of their own!

I searched a hotel to spent the night where I was offered a private room for the price of a dorm bed. Again! So nice!

I ended up staying there two days because of my knee not wanting to cycle much. It wasn’t too far to Villa Montes, where I would join the main road again, but it was surprisingly hilly and the road was under construction, which always means that it is in a bad state.

First night, I ended up camping where they had a small party at night. People sure like to drink here!

It seemed like I was never going to make it to Villa Montes. Someone had invited me there, but the road through the narrow canyon was just too dangerous to cycle at night, so I pitched my tent next to the road.

Finally back on the main road, I was surprised to see a small hard shoulder, not too much traffic and a nice landscape! Very nice change to Argentina!

As it goes with main roads they usually smell like dead animals and there are fewer encounters with people. Still I was for example lucky enough to pass a ceremony for the virgin of Urkupiña, where I was inmediatly offered beer and food.

I also got an invitation to stay in the next town. It wasn’t far, but with a few beers, it took a long time.

Just when I arrived with my contact, he was backing up his car. He did it way too fast and smashed into the wall, almost crushing his son. ‘thanks to god’, he told me, nothing happened. What a hypocrit thing to say when you’re just too drunk!

To make things worse, at 10pm they came to tell me I could’t stay after all and I had to move my tent outside their walls. What a strange day… By then, I had also gotten a fever which would make me do 30km average for the next two days. Great! Haha.

By now, I had also totally destroyed the front hub. It had been making an awful sound since I got to Bolivia, but now the bearings were totally worn out and it was braking me a lot.

So I searched another wheel, but turned out that they only sell 26″ around here. I only had 450 km to go though until Samaipata. As my mother and sister were coming over, they were bringing some spare parts.

Some nights were spend camping next to the police, some with families. I also learnt that people outside the villages are quite scared and won’t let you camp. Therefore I always searched a place in or close to a village.

I got to Samaipata one week earlier then my mum and sister, so I went to do a bit of volunteering helping out David who makes beer. The work itself wasn’t too interesting (making fruit juice, picking mandarines, washing bottles,…) but hanging out with the other volunteers, the great vegan food, sleeping in his old truck, the pretty area,…. sure made it worth it.

And then!!!! I went to pick up my girls at the airport!!! How exciting! We were planning to go around Bolivia by bus for three weeks.

I wasn’t used to travel with backpack and by public transportation.  It ended up being a very interesting experience! I sure have more ‘saddle sore’ sitting in a bus for 9 hours then cycling!

But all of this didn’t matter. I was reuninted with my family, and it was just so beautiful to be able to share some moments together after being separated for a year. There are no words to describe this really.

hiking around tupiza

roadtrip!

Check out the photoalbum with comments of our roadtrip to find out where we went!

Last photos of Argentina added here

And the photoalbum of Bolivia:

And the album of our roadtrip together

From the Chilean coast, across the Andes to Salta (Northwest Argentina)

Turned out I was just in time in San Antonio for the San Pedro holiday. It’s the protector of the fishermen, making it their big day. They haul a statue of the saint on a boat and make two laps around the harbour. I was lucky enough to be on the same boat! The other fishing boats followed us along the huge container ships for the yearly ceremony.

I stayed for two days at the ‘casa del ciclista’, a project run by a group of cyclists urging to build a bike lane in the very industrialised city. The government lets them use an abandoned house, which they tidied up so they can have their meetings there and can let cyclists stay there.

After my last day cycling the Chilean coast, I got to the big city of Vina del Mar. I stayed with Pablo, a friend of Bertille, and started heading towards the Andes mountains, aka border with Argentina.

At the foot of the mountains, I had another warmshowers host in Los Andes. Before getting there, I ended up staying with another lovely family. Ruth, the mother and head of the family, fascinated me that much with her story, her wisdom, her love for her children,… that it was almost noon when I left the next day. What a privilege to meet such wonderful people… “You are the missing piece of our chess game”, she told me. I felt very touched.

The Cristo Redentor pass being closed for a while due to heavy snowfall, had me waiting in Los Andes for a day. Then I got cracking! After all, I had to get to 3200m, quite high knowing I came from the ocean.

It being the main road between Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil, there’s no surprise that it was a busy road. I finished the day with some 30 hairpins, getting close to the pass. The guard of the army, although very surprised seeing a cyclist in winter time, couldn’t let me stay at the complex, but he got me in touch with a police officer working at the immigration post. It being -13 outside, I was quite happy that they let me sleep inside!!!

Up until my last night in Chile, I was received with hospitality.

At the top, I got escorted through the three km long tunnel, as it is too dangerous to cycle.

Then, one hell of a downhill! After dodging all the trucks on my way down to Uspallata, I got on the quiet road towards Barreal. I felt so good!!! I was really happy to be back in Argentina with its big distances and few people, its endless camping possibilities and superb views.

at night

My enthusiasm didn’t let me get out of the saddle and I ended up riding until 1 am, clocking up 217 km, a new record of this trip. With the moon illuminating the road and mountains, and with very few traffic, it was a magical experience.

A day later, I embarked on a 85 km dirt road of which I had gotten a lot of mixed advice. I believed those who had been there most recently. Apparently it was in good condition and police had told me there were people living there, so I didn’t need to carry much water. Ha! What a joke! I find it truly amazing how people can tell you certain things which are so not true!

In other words: I was in for a surprise. First of all, after climbing out of the valley, I got to a very soft section where I was pushing more, than that I was riding. Then turned out there was absolutely nobody living here. The road being so bad, there was hardly any traffic too.

But what a beautiful setting! There was absolutely nobody around and the views were just stunning. For a moment, Argentina made me believe I was alone on this planet.

Picking a camp spot sure was very easy! Just about anywhere will do really!

Luckily two cars passed me the next day, giving me water.

Once on the tar road, I managed to get to San José de Jachal after another 8 hours in the saddle, where I had another Warmshowers host. Turned out there were other Belgians staying there too! What a coincidence. The rest day sure was nice, I had cycled a stretch in three days which I thought might take me six…

Then back on the ruta 40! This road runs from North to South Argentina, if you remember well, and it was now the third time I got on it.

The big distances over a straight road, made me want to progress fast. Although it being winter, I was still cycling in t-shirt! Nights were more chilly, some of them just below zero.

I got to Chilecito where another warmshowers address turned out to be a small camping ground with lots of cyclists! I ended up leaving with Federico, an Argentinian who started cycling from his home town along the ruta 40, Junin de los Andes, one month ago.

The road being somewhat monotone, it was very nice to share it!

And I had a good motivation to get to Salta quick! To spent my birthday! Rocio, a friend from Buenos Aires that I had met earlier on the trip, wanted to travel a bit in her holidays so took the bus up to Salta. So couldn´t be late!

There was some stunning riding to be done between Cafayate and Salta too! Very spectacular valley!

It was quite a change to get to such a big city again! I had been getting used passing from one small village to the other through dry landscapes.

After a couple of days in the city, Rocio and I took a bus up to Humahuaca, some 250km to the North, from where we were going to hitchhike back down.

What an area! First we hitched up to 4300m to see the mountain of 14 colors.

Hitchhiking was so easy! It always took less than 3 minutes to get a ride! We also met great people along the way who took us around to visit other places too. Just perfect!

Then we spent two days in Tilcara, hiking and visiting the Inca ruins.

Last stop: Purmamarca. The small village lays at the foot of another very colourful mountain which is just too pretty to describe. From there, we could also hitchhike up to 4200 m, to visit the Salinas Grandes (big salt flats). Soo much easier by car than by bike!

From there, we got the bus back to Salta, where I had left my bycicle. Rocio started her crazy 22hour bus ride and 7 hour train ride back to her home… Distances sure are big here!

I had gotten a bit sick, so spend another few days in Salta with lovely people I had met in the park while slacklining 🙂

I was now so close to Bolivia!!!

photoalbum here!

Up the Chilean coast: Valdivia – San Antonio

Leaving Valdivia meant leaving some people who had become very dear to me. It’s very rare to meet someone who you feel so connected to and who truly understands you. But yet, when the road is calling, you just have to answer it. Doesn’t matter how sad you feel, deep inside of you, you know you have to go. You know that you have to continue your own way, because there’s still so much unknown about yourself and the path has yet plenty of surprises, life-changing encounters and otherworldly places to discover.

Only five km out of the city I was already climbing over some mountain on a dirt road. I was back on track!

Then I had to follow the main road for 60 km and just before getting off, something quite terrible was about to happen. When I passed a farm, the dog, a big Rottweiler, clearly didn’t like the look of me and the bike. From the other side of the road, she came barking at me, crossing the road without thinking.

There was a lot of fast traffic. When I heard a big slam just next to me, I knew very well what had happened. A car had hit her with his front left corner, catapulting her away. She would eventually land at 30 meters from the gate…

Surprisingly, she was still alive, so I searched the owner to send her to a veterinarian. By the time we put her in the car, she had passed away though. The people hitting her, hadn’t bothered looking at the dog. They were just sad over some broken plastic.

 

In the week that it would take to cycle from Valdivia to Concepcion, I wouldn’t be lonely though! Chilean hospitality was about to show itself at its best. Following the coast, the scenery wasn’t too bad either! I almost wouldn’t even have any rain! Just splendid.

This lovely family was going to let me sleep outside under a roof, but after spending the evening together next to the warm fireplace, they showed me my room 😉 In the morning, I fixed the son’s bicycle as an exchange for the food and bed I was offered.

Next day, someone I had met in the village of Toltén, invited me to come stay with them. The French girlfriend of his cousin happened to know Bertille! But they had no idea they were in the same country. What are the odds…

Exactly when entering the coastal village of Puerto Saavedra, “mi negrita” refused to continue on. The body, the part where the sprocket is mounted on, didn’t hook in the hub anymore. In other words, the rear wheel wasn’t moving when I pedalled. It being a Sunday, the only bicycle shop was closed. I asked around, and found where the mechanic was living. I explained the situation and Guillermo was so kind to let me sleep in the workshop and brought me a mattress and food. In the night, I took apart the hub.

I really thought I had to hitchhike to Concepcion, 300 km away, to find a spare. But Guillermo somehow managed to make a custom part! Therefore I was quite surprised to be on the road again with just half a day of delay!

I was having such a good time! People were taking such good care of me!

Beautiful family taking me inside.

Karen, Pipa, Joaquin and Maxi showing me how it’s done.

By now, I know how to handle these situations, how to gain confidence from people. I knock on the door of a house where I’m sure there’s someone home and where they have the fireplace going. Then I present myself and ask for a small place to pitch my tent. It being rainy and a little chilly at night, people aren’t happy to let you sleep outside. But it’s also not that convenient to invite a stranger into your house in this fear-filled society.

Being aware of this, I just talk about whatever comes up in my mind (their beautiful house, the quiet region, my trip, the road ahead, etc…) until they trust me and invite me in. Then it are the usual cups of tea, the dinner, the funny conversations in which we exchange about our countries and the warm bed they offer me in the end.

These two men were selling seaweed in ‘Los Alamos’

 

Next evening I passed two men who were cutting up trees with a pretty cool saw bench. So I went over to see how it’s done… only to get invited by one of them to stay with his family.

Next morning, eager to learn to use the machine, I joined them to help out a bit.

I now entered the pine and eucalyptus tree plantations. It was a very different sight, and the people were different too. No more car honks, no more enthusiast greetings.

With a storm coming, I didn’t fancy pitching my tent among trees that might fall. So I knocked on the door of one of the only houses around.

First, the same distant approach. Then after some time, the friendly invitation to come inside. Two brothers were living there with their two sisters. There were no neighbours, only some animals to take care off. The sisters took care of the household, while the brothers went out to work. There was no television or radio. They just had some Evangelic magazines, of which they believed every word. So what to talk about? I ended up playing a movie on my laptop, they really enjoyed it!

Next day was a tough day. Headwind and rain made it difficult to make progress. I had to get to Coronel, where I had a Warmshowers address. Finally, after many detours on dirt roads, I was forced to pick up the main-road for 60 very dangerous km’s. The thousands of hectares of tree plantations meant lots of trucks on the road. The moment I could, I stopped to buy a reflective jacket…

It was so good to get to Gabriel’s house! The 95 km at 13 km/h had turned it into a long day. The warm shower sure was nice!

At Coronel, Gabriel showing me around

I ended up staying three days. I rested a bit, planned the next leg of my trip, Gabriel showed me around and on Sunday we went to Concepcion where his students had a music competition (3rd place!).

So I left Coronel with renewed forces. Quickly, I got to Concepcion where I passed every single bike shop to look for a new middle chain ring. After changing the chain and sprocket in Valdivia, I had noticed that the chain was skipping over the middle chain ring, meaning that it was worn out. I wasn’t able to find a replacement in Valdivia and as it turned out, neither in Concepcion…

It didn’t bother me too much and was hoping to find something in Valparaiso.

I kept on pushing and asked the firefighters in Menque, a village with just 500 people, for a place to stay. They let me sleep in the community hall.

Then I had a big day to Cobquecura, where I ended up camping close to the beach. It was already dark when I asked around if I could pitch my tent in the garden, but people were scared and didn’t let me. Timing is essential!

At 10pm though, while studying Spanish in my tent, I heard a group arriving close to my tent. Not wanting to create an awkward situation, I went over to them and we ended up having a pretty funny night.

I was hoping to get to Constitucion the next day, so I didn’t join them too long in their drinking.

But when I woke up with a crazy headwind, I knew I would never get there!

I put on some stand-up comedy making me forget about the time and fight the hills and headwind with a big grin on my face. I ended up doing 65 km in 6 hours. Nice and slow!

Rocks with seals

In Chanco, I passed the firefighters and asked them if they didn’t knew a place where I could pitch my tent. Mauricio, one of the volunteers promptly invited me to come stay with him and his family!

We were hanging out with the other guys at the station, when an emergency call came. A house was about to flood, so we headed out. I say ‘we’, because the guys gave me a full uniform, including helmet, to join them. I sure was well-equipped to just take some photos!

Mauricio

Later, we went over to one of his friends. It had been an interesting and eventful night, but I was sooo tired and it was 2am by the time we headed home.

Next day, I had just 60 km to Constitucion, where I had another Warmshowers address. Joaquin and his mother invited me to stay three days, until the storm had passed. With the ‘10 km/h against the wind’ day in my mind, it sounded like a good idea!

I really loved their energy! There was so much love between them. Joaquin also took the effort to correct every single mistake I made, so I learned quite a lot of Spanish while staying there.

I really had a nice time there: meeting their friends, going to a birthday party, fixing my bicycle, having the time to write/study/watch documentaries,…

Constitucion was actually the epicentre of the big earthquake in 2010. The stories are horrible, 120 people died here due to two tsunamies.

I now had 300 km till San Antonio, where I could stay in the Casa del Ciclistas.

Hilly, but beautiful weather

Waiting out the storm sure had been a good idea! I was now blessed with beautiful sunny days. The road was very hilly, but I was able to make good progress. So after camping for two nights, I got to San Antonio without problems.

 

Photoalbum here!

Leaving Chiloé and on to Valdivia (Chile)

So after almost three weeks with Jeroen, Grecia and Gabriel, I was ready to pick up my nomadic rhythm once again.

When I arrived in Chiloé, I had no idea where I was going next. So after a good rest and some decent planning, I now knew where I was heading the next few months.

In a way, winter simplifies my route options a lot. North of Santiago, snowfall closes down all the mountain passes/borders between Chile and Argentina, except for two. There’s the paso Cristo Redentor between Santiago and Mendoza and the paso Jama, all the way in the North, close to San Pedro de Atacama.

Winter in this part of the country means rain. Therefore I wasn’t very tempted to go wander off in Chile’s lake district either. With some detour, I would make it to Valdivia. Then I would follow the coast up to Concepcion and Valparaiso, to cross towards Mendoza and Argentina. From there, I’ll be heading towards Salta and Jujuy in Argentina before entering the fifth country of my trip: Bolivia.

What’s more, is that my mother is going to come visit me in Bolivia in September! This is a great motivation to keep going the next couple of months. It also gives me a time frame: I have to get there in the beginning of September.

“So let’s go!”, I thought.

 

After a beautiful day cycling towards the north of the island (rugged coastline, little traffic, lots of steep mountains, dolphins playing in the waves (!) and spectacular bays), I got to Chacao from where one can take the ferry back to the continent.

Leaving Ancud, Chiloé

The former boss of Grecia and his wife hosted me. I had talked to him on the phone in the morning, but when I got there in the night, he had no clue who I was. Turned out he has dementia. Luckily his lovely wife saved me and they took me in as I was their grandson.

Jeroen had also set me up with Miguel, a tourist guide in Puerto Varas. Just before getting there, in the city of Puerto Montt, I had also met Zara and her husband who invited me for lunch the next day in Puerto Varas. The beginning of some weeks full of lovely encounters!

Miguel and his lovely family

So after cycling for only two days, I already had myself a rest day, which also made me finally update the blog.

Miguel’s family turned out to be really sweet, especially their daughter was just too cute. I headed over for lunch to Zara’s house and joined Valentina, the oldest daughter, to have dinner with her friends. I sure wasn’t traveling alone these days!

I had now made it to the Llanquihue lake. Two volcanoes, Calbuco and Osorno, turned it into a very spectacular setting! Calbuco had erupted just a couple of years ago, the footage is mind-blowing!

sunset over the Calbuco volcano

I camped at the beach of the lake, overlooking both volcanoes. Not bad, not bad at all!

When I got to the bigger city of Osorno, I still didn’t want to follow the highway number 5. So I cut through the fields, asking if I could pitch my tent at a farm. They wouldn’t let me! Instead they would take me in, put me next to the fire, feed me and let me sleep in a bed. A beautiful gesture that would be repeated!

I crossed the Rio Bueno by boat (the man only wanted to charge me 1.5 euro) and headed down a ripio towards Hueicolla at the coast. Little did I knew what awaited me…

Road conditions had always been good in Chile, making me not worry too much.  Therefore I didn’t asked around how the road up ahead was. First, there was a ridiculous amount of steep hills, just one after the other. Up and down, till I would make it to the office of the Conaf, the nature preservation organisation, at 1000m. There was only one ranger staying at this time of the year, and it was so kind of him to let me stay in a house, light the fireplace and ask his only neighbour to bake bread for me.

Next day, I went hiking a bit, because the oldest living thing that I will see in this entire continent was standing at just two km from the road. Alerce trees grow with just one mm per year, and there I was! Facing a 3500 (!!!) year old tree! It’s greatness was hard to capture on photo. The front was about 1.5m wide, but the side was almost 4m!! That sure was worth a small hike!

Back to the road then. More up and down (loose rocks also made me push the bike more than I would like to admit), before having a huge downhill towards the coast. Dropping 1000m over 17 km over bad dirt road, sure was fun! But even here I had to push some km’s! A layer of 30 cm of mud blocked the road. The few locals that had passed me, even had to put on their snow chains to get through!

While having lunch, my legs and bike all covered in mud, I had a big grin on my face. I felt so alive. I was absolutely loving the struggle, not bothered whatsoever with the slow progress. Last couple of years of cycling had tought me how to deal with these situations, how to be patient, how not to worry, and how to enjoy while keeping your head up.

It wasn’t over yet. A 30m river crossing awaited, after which I had to climb back to 700m altitude. I could only guess how the road was going to be on the other side of the river, too…

The beautiful bay of Hueicolla and the river I had to cross

Stupidly, I first crossed the river at the wrong place, which just got me to the beach (very pretty though). So I headed back, searching where the actual coastal road was running. By now I had discovered that my panniers float! I couldn’t believe it! With not much current in the river, it was much easier to cross it than expected, even if the water reached my hip.

After cleaning off all the mud in the river, I started climbing through the ‘Valdivian jungle’. With such a high water level in the river, it was obvious that not many cars (or any at all?) could cross. Therefore, the road was now totally deserted and unmaintained. Dodging rocks, branches and creeks, I slowly made my way up. I pitched the tent next to the road, before continuing the struggle. Rain had washed away a great part of the road, still there was some absolutely great cycling too. The brakes got a very good test-run and I was having one heck of an adventure.

For the first time in a long time, I put on my helmet and kept the speed somewhat down in the downhill, knowing very well that it could take a looong time for someone to pass me here to help me out.

I got out of the jungle and back at the coast without big problems and headed towards Corral to take the ferry to Niebla, close to Valdivia. Not having a place to stay in Valdivia yet, I asked a family if I could pitch my tent in the garden.

Next day, I got to Valdivia early. Although my panniers had floated in the river, crossing it three times had made everything somewhat wet. My toes were killing me already for some time (winter toes they call it in Belgium: red, a bit swollen, itchy, burning feeling), and a wound was starting to infect (while doing the workaway I had somehow managed to drill a small hole in my foot). I was going to stay with Tamara, Grecia’s daughter, but she went to Chiloé for the weekend. It was raining and I was cold. So I searched a room to spent the night. At the market, I met a woman who charged me 13 euro to rent a room in her house. The place was all rundown and dirty, but the shower was hot. Nice!!

The bike needed some essential maintenance. After 12.500 km, it was time to change to chain and sprocket. The brake pads were gone too. But first: new shoes! With my toes still burning, I couldn’t bear the idea of wearing these wet, rundown shoes any longer. Therefore I searched some proper waterproof hiking boots (the guy gave me a lovely 15% discount luckily).

Bertille had been offered some work in the city as a French translator, so she hitchhiked from Chiloé to Valdivia, leaving her bike. Great to see her again! She had been living here for 10 months already, so she was a great guide too.

I then moved to the family where Tamara (Jeroen and Grecia’s daughter) also was staying for two nights. It was great to meet her, to finally get to know the whole family. She studies English, so I helped her out a bit with that, and we went to visit the museums Valdivia has to offer.

Finally, Pamela and her mother, Bertille’s friends, offered to host me for another couple of days. In return, I helped them around the house.

I spent some more days hanging out with my new friends, cycling around searching parts for the bike, going to the movies, learning about the German colonisation,…

The costanera (along the river) and cycleways make it nice to go around by bike. And the sea lions are just too funny!

Photoalbum here!