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!

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!


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!

El Chalten (Argentina) – Chiloé (Chile): more pampa and back to Chile!

After being sad that my trip with Jelle had come to an end, it became clear that I wasn’t going to leave El Chalten on my own.

Valmir from the extreme South of Brasil, who had been on the road for five months already, and Bertille from France, were heading the same way.

For her, it was a total gamechanger though: although traveling by bike before in France for two years, she had now been backpacking South America and living in Chile for the last 18 months. Flor, the lovely owner of the ‘casa de ciclistas’ in El Chaltén, wanted to give her an old bicycle and so it happened that Valmir and I helped her to sort out the bike. Bertille then made paniers out of plastic containers, strapped her tent to the handlebar and off we went!!!

It was a stunning day to leave. Tailwind was blowing us at high speed 90 km back to the ruta 40. And so it began! The lovely days camping together with my new friends, making fires with the little wood we could find and gazing at the stars.

We now had 550 km up North with just one town (read: shops) in the middle. We were carrying food for five days and I loaded 13l of water on ‘mi negrita’.

The scenery brought us little entertainment. Luckily there were some Guanacos to race with and an absolute silence to be enjoyed. There even were hardly any rivers! That way, we were forced to stop cars and ask water, which was never a problem.

After four days Valmir took a left to try to cross one of the most unused and adventurous border crossings between these two giant countries (‘paso rio mayer’, he made it!). Therefore Bertille and I continued towards Gobernador Gregores, the only place in this stretch to refuel. It was actually a 70 km detour, just to pass the shops, but well necessary as reaching the small town of Perito Moreno (not the glaciar!) would take six days more. We also passed three hitchhikers, who had been stuck in one place in the middle of nowhere for 18 hours already!!!

Cycling in this kind of place has one big advantage: not many do it. This means that locals still care about you and are more willing to step out of their way to help you out.

That way, by asking people if we could camp in the garden, we ended up with a lovely family who absolutely adored Lauty, their son. As it goes here, we were invited in, fed, connected to the world wide web to talk to our family and left to continue our way North with fully recharged batteries.

So far, so good. The wind (generally coming from the North-West (read: headwind)) makes the rules here. It will tell you to do 100 km no problem or kick you down to 40 averaging some depressingly low speed. Leaving Gobernador Gregores, we soon understood that it wasn’t going to go that smooth anymore.

random campspot

So in the end it took six days to reach the village of Perito Moreno, some 300 km away. We had three tough days averaging 9km/h. Bertille sometimes walked here bike, the wind being so strong, it kept pushing her off the road. The only place I ever faced such wind, was on the Mont Ventoux, Southern France, where the Mistral wind likes to give cyclists a hard time.

Perito Moreno was nothing more than just a big village, but here that meant a huge stopover for anyone passing by. I wasn’t very sure about my route now. All I knew is that I had to get to Chiloé, a big island off the coast of Chile, where I was going to do a workaway.

I had been planning to keep following the ruta 40 for another 600 km up North, but the strong headwind from the last days, put me off that idea. What’s more, Bertille knew about a ferry going from Puerto Chacabuco (close to Coyhaique) all the way to Chiloé. Sounds like a nice plan!

So we drove 60 km to the West, entering Chile at ‘Chile Chico’, where Bertille wanted to visit family of her friends in Valdivia.

She just wanted to meet them and drink some ‘maté’ (local tea which is served in one cup and shared around). Instead, both of us were invited in and we ended up staying five days….

Days were spend hiking around with Joaquin, one of the grandsons, as well as cutting wood, helping out their daughter finishing off her house,…

We finally managed to leave, took the ferry to the other side of the General Carrera lake and tried to make it back to the Carretera Austral.

After a very windy and rainy day, I asked this man if we could camp in the barn. Instead, we got a great bed and food! In the morning we unloaded a truck with wood to return the favor and he wanted to go for a little spin on Bertille’s bike 🙂

Back on the carretera austral, immediately climbing away from Cerro Castillo towards Coyhaique


Then, we were close to Valle Simpson, where Jelle and I spent almost two weeks earlier with Delphine, Gabriel and Rafael. Therefore, we obviously brought them a visit, before continueing to Coyhaique.

back in Valle Simpson!

In Coyhaique we looked for the office to buy the tickets for the 30 hour ferry from Puerto Chacabuco to Quellon on Chiloé island. Turned out some fishermen had just started a strike in Quellon, which meant that the ferry wasn’t going!

Luckily, on the ferry across the General Carrera lake a couple of days earlier, we had met Nacho. He runs a camping between Coyhaique and Puerto Chacabuco, so we headed there to wait and see what happens.

It seemed unsure whether or not we would still make it to Chiloé, but after two days of waiting, it looked like the ferry was going! Finally, we sailed till Castro, the biggest town on the island, some 80 km’s North of Quellon.

From there, Bertille headed South, to spent time with here friends and to improve her bicycle. I stayed one night in Castro with David, a Zimbabwean living and teaching there, whom I met along the Carretera Austral a couple of months before.

Then, I cycled 70 km North to arrive at Jeroen’s place where I was going to do a workaway. A friend in common had introduced us, and I was very happy to read that he had just carpentry work to be done! (I did a carpentry course before leaving on this travel)

So I got cracking! First I finished off a little playhouse for their three-year old son, Gabriel, by putting on some shingles.

Then, I started the bigger project to make a kitchen out of some roughly cut pine wood for the cabin where the volunteers stay. I was in good company too! Freek and Els, from Belgium as well, had been traveling around the world for the last seven months by backpack and also wanted to divide their trip a bit by doing a workaway.

I was really happy to be back in a workshop! Sometimes it’s just good to feel you are creating something.

The area Jeroen and his wife Grecia live is amazing too. First of all, he has about 50 hectares of land to loose yourself in. Most of the land were fields before he came, but by now he has created beautiful forests with his many reforestation projects.

Because I had such a good time working and because of all the rain (winter means rain here), I didn’t get to explore much of the island. But when I did, it was always pretty special!

In the end, after working on the kitchen for two weeks, it was done and we were all pretty pleased with the result. I had never made furniture before and had never had just handtools to create something, so I obviously learned a lot too by doing.


and after…

Oooh! That feels smooth 🙂

“So what’s next”, you may wonder. Well, I also had the time to plan the next few months of my trip. First of all, my mother and I made the final plan that she will come over to Bolivia in September to visit me and to travel together for one month. Whoopwhoop!!! Three months ain’t much to get there, but I’ve got a pretty good motivation now!

Winter is limiting my options though. Up north, there are only two passes who seem to be open all year round. There’s Paso Jama between San Pedro de Atacama and Northern Argentina, but I won’t have enough time with my Chilean visa to get there. So I’ll probably cross the Cristo Redentor pass between Santiago and Mendoza (Argentina) to then continue the ruta 40 to the north, and into Bolivia.

So that’s the plan. Let’s do it!


photoalbum of Argentina here!
photoalbum of Chile here!





Back up North! Puerto Natales – El Chalten: high peaks, glaciars and pampa

So after a 40 hour boat trip, we made it to Puerto Natales, the base to visit Torres del Paine national park. After 1.5 day more with the cyclists and backpackers we met on the boat, we headed out. So after a 6.5 months, 10.000 km trip to the South, I was now heading North!!!

‘Mi Negrita’ still looking good after seven months on the road!

We aimed for the West entrance of the park and wild camped just before it at ‘mirador Grey’, from where we got to see the first glimpse of the mighty ‘cuernos’ (horns).

Entering the park as a foreigner is expensive: 21.000 pesos chilenos they let you pay (30 euro). Apart from that, all the campings are super expensive too (read: 15 euro/person/night). Wild camping can get you into serious trouble, but we were going to see if one can stand out of sight and give it a go.

The wind had picked up tough! Here that meant 60 km/h side wind, making you lean into it. We wanted to spend three days in the park and the dirt road is only about 60 km long, so plenty of time to take it easy.

At the end of the day, after visiting some waterfalls, we found a spot where there was a little less wind. My tent being stronger than Jelle’s, we just pitched one. We sure needed two pair of hands to not have the flysheet fly off to the other side of the park! Amazing how much protection you can get from just 1.7 kg of plastic and aluminium.

Next day, after breakfast, we were both curious what we could see on top of the hill. So we hiked up a bit, only to get more curious and go higher…and higher…and higher. In the end we hiked for 4 hours through beautiful scenery, to an amazing and unexpected viewpoint over the ‘Cuernos’.

hiking up from our campspot

our beautiful view, all to ourselves

Then, we cycled out of our illegal wild camp spot to approach the east entrance of the park and do the world (?) famous hike to the ‘torres (towers) del paine’. Spectacular to say the least, but with hundreds of people around, definitely a very different experience too.


yes! that’s a puma! very safe though, we sure weren’t alone here…

Same day, we cycled out and camped at the lake with a beautiful sunrise over the ‘torres’…worldclass!

back into argentina

We were now at 60 km from the border with Argentina, from where it was another 210 to El Calafate, the home base to visit another world-famous site: the perito moreno glaciar.

So we got back on the ruta 40, which I was now planning to follow 1500 km to the North. It only took me 7 km though to totally loose it mentally. Headwind was slowing us a bit down, I was using Jelle’s draft, but still couldn’t follow. Hearing me telling him that I couldn’t keep up, really pissed me off. It had been more than three months since I started to feel weak, and still had these kind of very weak moments. With such a large distance still to go to the North, I got a bit desperate for a moment. But hey! What can you do? Sitting next to the road doesn’t fix anything. So slowly we continued a bit, to pitch the tents in a creepy field with animal parts (including a horse head) laying around all over the place. The dead trees protected us from the wind though. All I thought off was to search an nutritionist in town. I couldn’t continue like this.

on the road towards El Calafate, playing basketball at the petrol station of a ‘village’ with about 6 people

I wasn’t very sure what to expect from the ruta 40 going North. Other cyclists we had met, warned us of the killer headwinds slowing you down to 5 km/h. So we were pretty happy to average 90 km/day and get to El Calafate without problems!

camping at the ‘vialidad’, the company maintaining the road. very helpful!

We had now swapped the spectacular mountain landscapes from the Carretera Austral with the monotone Pampa landscape this part of Argentina had to offer. A landscape like that simplifies the day a lot. There’s almost nothing to visit or stand in awe for and the only people you usually meet are other cyclists or hitchhikers.

Therefore we met Hugo again, the Argentinian who teamed up with us for five days north of Coyhaique, Chile. The feeling to see a soulmate of the road unexpectedly again in the middle of nowhere, is hard to describe. Utter joy!

He gave us a great address in the city, where we pitched the tents in the garden of a lovely grandmother running a guesthouse. We ended up staying four nights… Jelle decided to not continue cycling the ruta 40, but instead take a bus to Bariloche from El Chalten. That way he could discover the beautiful lake district, be in time in Santiago to catch his plane home and spend his last weeks of holiday in slightly more entertaining landscape.

From El Calafate it’s 160 km up and back to the glacier, so we wanted to hitchhike. Waiting for two hours for a ride, tested our patience pretty good. But we got there! We were happy that it all worked out, but it also convinced us once more that traveling by bicycle and having the freedom to go wherever you want, is a true luxury. There’s just something depressing in getting refused that many times.

Not only it’s size, but definitely the noise of ice blocks cracking and falling off, make the glacier a very impressive sight. It’s actually one of the only glaciers which is in balance, meaning that it’s expanding and retrieving at the same speed.

We also met a lovely Belgian couple, with whom we had a great night in town, but also happened to know lots about nutrition!

So with a new diet, Jelle and I got cracking on the last days we would cycle together up to El Chaltén.

We camped another two nights next to the road to make it to the trekking mecca of Argentina. We looked up the ‘Casa de Ciclistas’, where the solidarity and friendship between the cyclists is so beautiful, that we ended up staying a week.

Around the little village lays a web of beautiful one-day and multiple day hikes. Another pearl of Patagonia! We were being so spoiled these days.

We hiked for four days, seeing Fitz Roy mountain and others from different angles, but hanging out with our new-made cyclists friends, was equally as beautiful.





Coyhaique – Puerto Natales: finishing the carretera Austral and ferry to Puerto Natales

After an amazing two-weak break in Valle Simpson, close to Coyhaique, with Delphine, Gabriel and Rafael, it was time to hit the road again. Even though we spent little time together, we both felt very close to these lovely people and left with tears in our eyes.

First we said goodbye to Gabriel’s family in the centre of the village, where his mother once again showed us the generosity of the Chilean people by inviting us in for a delicious lunch.

So with renewed energy we continued the carretera austral south!

The asphalt stopped after 90 km and would never show itself again. From here on it was ripio (dirt road) all the way.

At the end of the day, we ran into Andrea and Lautaro from Mendoza again. We had met in Futaleufu in the beginning of our stay in Chile and shared a camp spot together at a Conaf (organisation for the preservation of the parks, the parkrangers) campsite.

We then easily got to Cerro Castillo, from where one can do a one day hike of which the beauty is compared to the legendary Torres del Paine park. So off we went! It being semi-cloudy, we only saw the glacier and lake at the top, and not the famous ‘Castillo’, meaning castle/mountain, but it was still very worth it.

Only down side: I had muscle sore for two days!

In two days cycling, after spending the night in another abandoned house, we got to Puerto Tranquilo. From here one can visit the glacier ‘de los exploradores’ and the marble caves. The excursion to the glaciar costs about 100 euro, so we gave that a miss.

I had no idea what to expect from the marble caves and if it was worth the 9000 Chilean pesos (13 euro) for a one hour boat trip. I was totally amazed! For 320 million years (the guide told me, hard to believe), the water has been sculpturing these rocks to mind-blowing shapes.  Nature never ceases to amaze!

We then had another two days up to Cochrane, a village with only 3000 inhabitants, but yet it’s an important place to rest out and stock up on supplies.

Lago General Carrera

We were planning to go to the camping, but while searching it, we met Soledad, a primary school teacher who told we could also camp next to her house! So friendly!!! In the end, we could even sleep inside, use the washing machine, use the kitchen to cook up some other food than rice or pasta and take a godly shower. So, so nice. In return, Jelle baked pancakes and I chopped up wood.

From there, it was a two day ride to get to Caleta Tortel, the end of the Carretera Austral for us. The whole stretch south of Coyhaique had been truly amazing, and we enjoyed it till the last km.

Biggest difference was that we didn’t have any rain! There’s also less traffic and a perfect dirt road going through forests and along lakes with stunning views makes it absolutely world-class.

Yes, I think we’ll camp here!

Carretera Austral: we’ll miss you!

I also crossed my 10.000th km! 1/3 or 1/4 done? My objective also hasn’t changed, Canada is still very much the goal.

Caleta Tortel isn’t just any place to arrive to though. It’s position on the hill, makes it impossible to make roads and use vehicles. Therefore, all the houses are connected with boardwalks made out of durable Cypress wood. Our reason to come here is the harbour actually. In order to travel back to the north without cycling the same road, we decided to take a very long ferry from Tortel to Puerto Natales, a 40 hour trip though the Bernardo O’Higgins national park.

We arrive at 11 am and the boat goes at 11 pm, so there’s plenty of time to stroll around the intriguing village. We also bump into our British friends Matheo and Helen again! We met them in Puyuhuapi, north of Coyhaique and are happy to hear they are also taking the ferry. We’re now sure to spend the trip with good company!

The boat goes through the Bernardo O’Higgins national park, with 3.5 million (!!!) hectares, the biggest of its kind. Truly impressive to see island after island of pristine forest, untouched by human kind. One would forget these places even still exist.

As it turns out there are four more cyclists on the boat! So plenty of stories to exchange. I also cease the opportunity to really start studying the book ‘teach yourself Spanish’ that Delphine gave me in Coyhaique. We don’t sleep that well on the reclining seats, but the food we got wasn’t too bad (although little if your used to cyclist’s meals), so we didn’t complain too much ;).

Still nice to get to Puerto Natales, find a camping and sleep stretched out in our tents!

Crazy Angelo from Italy. At the camping in Puerto Natales, with a bunch of other cyclists!


Photoalbum here!




Futaleufu – Coyhaique: First part of the amazing Carretera Austral and a long break in Coyhaique

Futaleufu. Our first stop in Chile. Rafting heaven at the same time. Unfortunately 1.5 hours of incomparable fun will cost you around 80 euro, so we just headed down the road, admiring the wild river from time to time.

As always in this beautiful part of the world, we had met other touring cyclists. Pim and Marlies from the Netherlands had started in Ushuaia (the most southernmost city) and gave us heaps of tips where to go in Patagonia.

Of course, we met Jayson and Véronica, our Brasilian friends, again. For the fourth time now! And it wasn’t going to be the last. Great to meet soulmates along the road!

Futaleufu was also the place where it started raining…and it would go on and on and on…

So we put on our raingear and headed West, towards the famous carretera Austral, which runs from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgens, covering about 1250 km through some of the best scenery there is for touring cyclists (if you like dirt roads and mountains that is!).

After pitching our tents in the rain that first night after Futaleufu, our trip got focused on finding shelter for the night, taking breaks in bus stops and having lunch in a simple restaurant next to the fire to warm up a bit.

So although the weather was against us (read: full days of rain), our quest for shelter also got us some nice stories.

First, there was a beautiful enclosed bus stop to crash for the night, then there was an abandoned house. We were planning to pitch the tents in the barn, but the door of the house was kind of open, so we stayed inside. We found dry wood in the barn, Jelle lit the fire. What an amazing feeling to feel the warmth on our faces and dry our clothes!

Our own little cabin was so sweet, that we both didn’t feel like getting back in the rain the next day…so we stayed another night. Turned out the cabin was the reception of an abandoned camping with access to the lake and a nice trail to walk along it. Dream spot!!!

We stocked up on food in Puyuhuapi, and continued our way South. Up till here, half of the road had been tarred (asphalted). The many road works tell that Chile wants to continue smoothening out the road.

On this section, they were blowing up the rocks to cut a way through it. Therefore there are many roadblocks were we had to wait up to four hours (!). We met Hugo again though, an Argentinian cyclist, whom we met when we just got on the carretera.

He’s a brilliant guy who’s been traveling for the last ten years. Always going back to save some money, then heading out again. A true pleasure to cycle along with him, so we teamed up for four days up to Coyhaique.

He’s also the kind of traveller who has such a positive energy towards everyone he comes across, that he receives a lot of help. They have a description for it here. “Buena onda” could mean something like ‘good vibes’. You can use it to describe a person, a situation,…

So with his ‘buena onda’, he for example managed that we could sleep in the reception cabin of a fancy hotel next to the fire. Then the next day, after hiking up to a glaciar (that we didn’t see, because it was cloudy), he chatted with some people organizing a fancy lunch for their clients. In the end they asked our pots to fill them with delicious chicken and potatoes that were left over. Only to get a bottle of wine too! It’s hard to describe how these things work out. Just by being genuinely good to your fellow human beings, without expecting anything in return, people will find you sympathic and are willing to help you along the trip.

And I haven’t even mentioned the scenery! Raindrops kept coming down day after day, but we were cycling through immense valleys with waterfalls everywhere! Then once in a while a glacier to finish it off. The dirt road was really enjoyable too. Chileans are so much better in making ripio roads than Argentinians! And with a rainbow appearing once in a while and the great company of Hugo, we were really enjoying the road.

In the end, we cycled together up to Coyhaique, a city with 60.000 people. Every village we had passed earlier, was home to about 1000 people or much less, so we were kind of shocked to get to the city. Coyhaique was therefore an important stop because it’s one of the only places to fix your bikes etc.

And we happened to be blessed to have a place to stay close to the city! Delphine, the cousin of Lara, a Belgian friend of mine, moved to Patagonian Chile with her partner, Gabriel and their lovely son, Rafael.

After cycling for six months, covering nearly 10.000 km, I also really needed a break. So it all worked out perfectly!

We arrived at sunset at their ‘campo’, overlooking the river Simpson. It was absolutely stunning. Delphine offered us a D’olbek, a delicious Belgian beer brewed in Coyhaique. And a hot shower topped it off! Oh wow! Arriving here was so good! We ended up staying eleven days…

the view from the back yard with the 2 horses. stunning!

Here, winters are tough, so people do a big effort in summer to get ready for them. They had just ordered a truck full with wood to be cut with the chainsaw and chopped with the axe. So, in order to offer something for the food they shared with us and the place we could sleep, we got cracking…

Apart from the wood, there were also fences to be fixed, fields to be cleaned, peas to be picked, a very cute and energetic young boy to be entertained,…

We were really happy to be off the bikes for a while, to do some other things, to make FRIENDS, to meet Gabriel’s family, to go on a fishing trip and learn a bit how to fly fish, to ride the horses,…

A truly beautiful experience in Chilean Patagonia!!! We both left with teary eyes and with a lot of gratitude for the love and generosity.


photoalbum here!