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Patagonia Ho !
by Ian Attewell

Wondering where Ian Attewell is? Last October he was in Cabo San Lucas (see Wicked Permanent) now he's in Argentina. He sent this note to Cheryl Lynch.

Thought I'd let you know that I'm in Argentina at the moment. Have been having the absolute time of my life. From Guatemala I made my way through El Salvador (that was at the time of the hurricane which hit the Atlantic coast. I was on the Pacific side, but talk about rain), then through Hondoras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama. From Panama City I found a small cargo boat to take me into the Darrien Province, the first stage of getting to Colombia. The Captain fell asleep at the wheel during the night and we drifted miles off course. Didn't hit anything though. From that point three more boats along the Pacific side to Colombia. Colombia was a dream and I rode a 3500km circuit of the country. I'd been experimenting with not staying at hostels or hotels for some time and in Colombia pushed the evelope by typically sleeping in people's yards in my tent - with their permission naturally (I also slept at toll booths, military posts etc etc). This brought me closer to the people and it's a discipline I've followed since. Ecuador was great too. Climbing over up over 4300 metres above sea level and dealing with rain and hail was tough. I'd switched out my crankset from 52/42/28 to 42/32/22 in Colombia due to the climbs. I had a 7 speed 13-34 cassette and the new combination worked well. That cassette since wore out. Now running an 8 speed cassette with a 12-32. I miss the super low gear. From Ecuador I crossed into Peru. This was a fairly new crossing as Ecuador and Peru have only recently stopped fighting about territory there. As a result the road was a disaster and my poor 700c wheels on 35mm tires were bruised, but not beaten. Then 3500km of riding the mountains in Peru - one day cresting 5000msl. A great deal of those kms on dirt. The tires wore out and I was down to a poor quality 30mm tire in back and a better 28mm tire in front. Those tires got me to Bolivia and I was able to buy some 40mm Marathons from another touring cyclist flying home from La Paz. Sadly, one of those tires was soon damaged (although I squeezed another 1200km from it) as was I, the bicycle and most of my gear when a car struck me from behind doing around 70km/h. I took 26 facial stitches, banged up my knee and had a slight concussion. How I wasn't killed remains a mystery to me. A fellow at the velodrome in La Paz found a couple of Alex rims (an impossible concept in Bolivia, but he did) and straightened the frame for me. I even managed to find racks. I had to wait almost two months before I could use my right knee again. Then some mostly left leg only pedalling for the next few thousand km. Crossed into Argentina (found 35mm tires here - cheap but ok) and rode incredible desert, then Chile and through earthquake/tsunami devasted territory. It had only been 7 months since the earthquake when I passed through, but already reconstruction was well under way in some areas. Those Chileans have heart. And now back in Argentina.

Recently reached Patagonia and heading south. Although summer is coming and the days are long, the nights are cold and I'm playing constant roulette with the rain. Actually, the other day I had rain, wind, hail, sun, more rain and then in the morning a tent covered in snow. So if you don't like the climate here, you need only wait a few minutes. I'm a little early in the season - maybe a month or two - so there are no tourists and the Argentiinians aren't taking their summer holidays yet, so the roads aren't completely mental with traffic. The campsites are deserted - I normally only stay at the free ones. Argentina has a culture of travel so camping at free campsites or even in the town square seems normal. I was asked to move my tent from in front of a museum one morning because they wanted to open, but that's about the most hassle I've had camping here!

So I'm heading south with the intention of heading down the Careterra Austral in Chile then crossing back into Argentina a bit further south. Things going well. The knee gets stronger everyday and the scars - well chicks dig those, don't they?

Careterra Austral


November 10, 2010