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Last Post from Wisconsin to Ushuaia Tour!!!

posted Feb 16, 2017, 2:36 PM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

FINAL UPDATE!!!
Arrival Date: 5/17/2012

I made it!!! Ushuaia and even a little beyond to the end of the road, Lapataia!

After 29,000 kilometers (18,000 miles) of riding from my parent's house in Wisconsin, I have arrived in Ushuaia, Argentina, my goal. I just want to throw out a huge "Thank You" to everybody who has helped me along the way. I couldn't have done it without you all! A huge hug to each and every one of you!

¡He llegado! ¡Ushuaia y hasta un poco más allá, Lapataia!

Después de más de 29,000 kilómetros (18,000 millas) pedaleando desde la casa de mis padres en Wisconsin, he llegado a Ushuaia, Argentina, mi objetivo. En esta momento de reflexión, quiero gritar un gran ¡Gracias! a todos los que me ha ayudado en el camino. Yo no podría haber hecho esto sin su ayuda. ¡Un abrazo enorme a todos ustedes!

 

Final Post (Ushuaia reached: 5/17/2012)

posted Oct 27, 2012, 6:36 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

            I left El Calafate alone, knowing that I would be coming to the end of a very interesting chapter of my life. I had ridden my bicycle from my home in Wisconsin and would finally make it to the Southern-most point of South America within weeks.  I was about to accomplish a task I had set out for myself only a little over two years before.

Up to this point I had ridden through almost every possible circumstance I could have imagined, had some of the best and worst days of my life, met some of the most incredible people along the way, had realized potential and skill sets I never knew I had, eaten some of the weirdest things imaginable, created lifelong friendships, met my wonderful girlfriend and life partner, Gaby, encountered that the world isn’t as scary as it is displayed on television or in the news, that I could do anything I wanted with this life I have, and began understanding how in many ways my priorities had been altered and were going to need a little fine-tuning in the future. My life had changed. My views had been furthered in many ways, and in some cases, turned upside-down.

Everything was coming at me in full-speed as I began pedaling deeper into isolation South of El Calafate. This path was coming to an end. The reality that I had known for the last two years was to be coming to a halt. New choices were to be made. A new life was coming… What was I going to find!?

            I think you catch my drift. I had had a bunch of thoughts running through my head. From thoughts of school afterward, how I would meet up with my girlfriend, what I was going to do with my life from then on…

            I was finishing the trip! I left El Calafate with all of this in my head. I was excited, I was nervous, I was close, and (jaja) I was cooooold! I had thought I would be making this final run at Ushuaia in the Summer, but I was running a little late. I was now dealing with cold, rain, and was even hit with snow while arriving to Ushuaia.

            The solo ride from El Calafate to Punta Arenas was a good one. I was taken in a few times and even fed some great Patagonian sheep meat along the way. Though the riding was tough and a bit desolate, it was beautiful and exactly what I needed to get to get my head where I needed it.

            I spent some time in Punta Arenas with some very nice cyclists (Marc and Indira, and Thomas and Marta). I also met a really cool Australian dude named Hugh who I think might have become inspired enough to get on a bike and ride in Mexico! It was a really nice break there and fortunately I even received the bank card my mom had sent me, for I had lost my card up in Coihaique with Sam!

            In Punta Arenas I met two really great Japanese cyclists Ai and Hiro who had began cycling from El Calafate to Ushuaia. I had actually met them just outside of El Calafate, but at the time I was moving a little faster than they were. We met again in Punta Arenas and I found out about the reason for their goal.

These two were actually finishing a tour that a friend of theirs had begun years before. Their friend had been cycling around the world and passed away before reaching Ushuaia, which was to be his final destination. Hiro and Ai were going to finish the route for him, but on two beat up old rental bikes and some sketchy gear that was really only adequate for summer months in Patagonia.

We decided to ride together (for many reasons, but also for I had a little more experience and would be able to aid them in finishing), and it went perfectly. We slept indoors every night on the road (without paying) and were even fed the majority of the nights by farmers along the way. It was a great experience that made the road a little less lonely, and a little more enjoyable for all of us during those final kilometers. Ma-jee-day Ya-bie!!!

            I really am surprised by how it all ended. I thought I would maybe feel a strong wave of emotion as I left the Panaderia at La Union on my final day (Thanks guys for everything!!!!), though it really never passed. A mixture of nerves and excitement stirred in my belly as I rode that morning and lasted throughout the day, but I never felt a sharp feeling of sadness or joy. Maybe it is because I knew I would reach Ushuaia by the evening and that I would pedal one more day to Lapataia (the real end of the road) the next day. I don’t know. I guess I just came to the realization that this was just another chapter of my life amongst many others that I had written and those that were left to be written.

I know I have finished something that not many will ever do. I know when I began I imagined the finish. I imagined the moment so many times along the trip when I was fighting headwinds, bouts of torrential rain, climbing passes, escaping weird situations, fighting varied illnesses, feeling lonely in the morning knowing my Gaby was nowhere near to hug, etc...

The finish wasn’t what I had imagined. It was beautiful, but it was now time to move forward and begin the next challenge. I just thought about the many things I had learned along the way. I learned that I can do whatever I want if I work for it. I found that I can tackle even quite daunting challenges. A guy once told me that, “We are the writers of our own story.” When it comes to many things in life, he is right and it really can be boiled down to that. Of course we all face different barriers, but once you have overcome the fear of falling down (or sleeping under a bridge, getting robbed, etc…) you can do whatever you put your mind to…

            In closing, I just want to say that even though I displayed to myself very strong heart and determination, more than anything, the help of others is what got me through. I found along the path that the more I opened my heart, the more open the world was to me. I rode hard, yes, but I did not do anything that most of the people on this world couldn’t if they only simply overcame the barriers they put on themselves. I put trust in those around me. I opened myself to everyone while on the road, regardless of the many differences that may exist amongst us. My accomplishment is the accomplishment of a chain of people that I connected with over the two years I spent on the road. I rode into Ushuaia, but they all came there with me, in my heart and in my spirit.

            When I look back on the last two years of my life, of course I think of some of the wonderful landscapes, campsites, and food I ate. But, you want to know what? More than anything, I remember the helping hand, the hikes with little kids, the meals with the many families along the way, the fire I felt meeting my Gaby, the kid telling me he will sleep with his parents so I can have his bed, the family digging into their pot of beans and rice so they can share with me even though they may be lacking in resources, the support that I received (from those with me and from afar), the friends I made, those that I met, the smiles that were shared, the laughs that were had, the kindness that I received, and the love that I felt. I will carry all of the memories, and all of you who were part of what made my last two years on this earth so incredible, with me, in my heart, always.

 

Thank you everyone for following my journey. Below you will find my final photo album. If anybody has any questions or would like planning a tour in the future, you can find me on facebook or look at the contacts tab where you will find my email.

 

 

 

 

Update: El Calafate, Argentina (4/27/2012)

posted Oct 24, 2012, 8:18 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk   [ updated Feb 16, 2017, 2:38 PM ]

GOODBYE GABY

Gaby had and I really had a great time together. We explored the city a bit, spent a fair amount of time at the Eco yoga park in Buenos Aires where Gaby was to do some research as to how they were running the place, shared my birthday together in the center of the city, and really, just enjoyed being close together while we could be. Time went by fast. 

            On the 17th of March I went with her to the airport to bid her farewell until we would reunite in Peru for her summer holiday, which would be about a month after I would arrive based on my projected time frame for the remainder of my tour. We said our goodbyes and I returned to Plaza once to wait for my friend to arrive.


HELLO SAMMIE

My buddy Sam who I had met two times while on this trip (once in Los Angeles, California, and once in Costa Rica) was coming to give cycle touring a try from Villa Manihuales down. He was in high spirits and looking forward to some adventure… Adventure he would find!

            Sam arrived a few days later than planned, but we moved fast when he did arrive. We hammered buses, vans, hitched with some police, and took a little local bus from Coihaique to Villa Manihuales. Fortunately we were able to make it across the border issue-free for we met the police officers from Argentina at the border and they took us all the way to Coihaique. This aided us in encountering any problems at the border.

            We spent a couple of days in Villa Manihuales where Sam took in the sights and sounds of Patagonia, did some fishing, and assembled his two-wheeler for the ride to come. We took full advantage of the warmth, showers, and hospitality provided us by Jorge, El Cazador de las Ciclistas. Gracias por todo Jorge!!

            On March 26th Sam and I hit the ground pedaling. We did a short day and Sam received his first taste of roadside hospitality. We stopped after a few late hours of riding and asked an older Chilean dude if we could camp at his place which was nestled in along a beautiful river and mountainside. He told us that would be no problem and that we had to meet his buddy from Wyoming… were we in for a riot of a time!!!

            The guy from Wyoming had lived in Chile for over 20 years or something, had married a Chilean woman, had two kids with her, ran a fly fishing business, and spoke the worst Spanish I had heard in a very, very long time. His best friend was this guy, Hugo, the guy we were staying with, and he did not speak English. They just sat together drinking and smoking and making funny sentences and very broad statements as to how life is and should be. Best friends.

            At one point, Sam offered Hugo a beer. He told Sam he could not for he had had heart surgery. He said this as he finished his first bottle of wine and lit up a cigarette. Sam then said, “Oh, yea, I heard wine is supposed to be good for the heart.” It was a riot of a time. We stayed up late, then got back on the road a little late the next day.

            Things kind of continued in this form for us. We slept in some silly places, drank some dirty water, ate some horse and a ton of food a guy had prepared while caressing his infected toe, hiked late into the night (dangerously late one night), swam in Glacial streams, drank whiskey, fought 60+ mph winds, went to a carnival in Gobernador Gregores, slept at a Bocce ball stadium a couple nights, played with some kids, hitched a couple hundred kilometers to El Calafate (the first time I hitched on my trip to advance), slept in a hut filled with rats, hiked up to a beautiful hanging glacier, and Sam had some raging stomach battles. The adventures and stories were many. I just don’t have the space to share them all here. We really had an incredible time.

            Sam ran out of time in El Calafate. We enjoyed a couple last meals together, though they did not help his stomach at all, had a couple more beers, reminisced over our crazy month on bikes, and said goodbye at the bus station before his 3 day ride.

It was a blast Sammie. I am so glad you could make the time and come down and we could enjoy a very beautiful part of the world together. Good luck and see you soon buddy!!!

TAKE A LOOK AT THE PHOTO ALBUM OF SAM AND I RIDING IN BEAUTIFUL PATAGONIA:

            

Update: Buenos Aires, Argentina (2/27/2012)

posted Oct 24, 2012, 7:32 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

HITCHING TO BUENOS AIRES

            It was my first time ever doing a planned hitchhiking trip in my life. I had had plenty of offers leading up to this point, and had even taken some rides from people while I was planning or doing some touristic activities and had a place to leave my bike, but this was really the beginning of a big adventure.  It would end up lasting the full 7 days I had allotted for myself, and cover a distance of over 2,300 kilometers!!!! I would first have to find my way across the border to Argentina and make it about 500 kilometers to Comodoro Rivadavia on the coast (or near there) and then find a trucker or somebody to take me North about 1,800 kilometers to Buenos Aires!

            I left Villa Manihuales and the Casa Ciclista with 7 days until my girlfriend Gaby’s arrival date, the 27th of February. I figured this would be more than enough for I would probably walk a little to keep loose on the Chilean side, then just stick to truck stops on the path up to Buenos Aires. I ended up scoring my first ride after walking toward Coihaique for about 3 hours from Villa Manihuales. A farmer in a little truck picked me up and let me sit in the box all the way into Coihaique. From there I bought some food, talked to some people about the pass into Argentina, and found I was in for a bigger challenge than I had originally planned.

            While I was in this region there were a number of public upheavals related to pay, living expenses, and energy costs in Chilean’s Aysen region. It turned out that the long haul Chilean truckers had been striking for some time and it looked like they would not be back carrying goods for a while. This was good news, for the people were standing up for themselves and speaking out against a structure that was really making their lives quite difficult, but the timing was not so good for me, or the schedule I was looking to keep. The truckers were actually blocking foreign trucks and buses from reaching the border crossing or entering to Coihaique. I didn’t even have the option to book a bus to pass the barricade. I would have to hitch with a family, or walk past it.

            Well, I didn’t have any luck grabbing a ride, so I ended up walking another 3 hours on the day. I passed the barricade, the guys told me they had been there for some time and were not going to be moving, so I really had to hope for a nice family! Also, to make things a little worse, as one leaves Coihaique, the terrain becomes much drier and it is not as easy to come across water as you near Argentina as it is in the Chilean side of Patagonia. I would be taking a little risk walking to the border. I pondered over this after I met a nice farmer who I asked to stay with just past the barricade. He gave me a place for my tent, and then invited me for some food and wine before I went to sleep. I would at least be leaving the next morning with a good dinner in my stomach and a good night of sleep.

            I awoke to a feast of a breakfast and a very warm goodbye from the gentleman who gave me a place to stay. I left ready to battle the distance toward the pass. As usual, I ended up luckier than I imagined possible (things always have seemed to somehow work out for me on this trip). I met a farmer who drove me for about 20 minutes closer to the pass, then only 30 minutes later I had met a couple from Comodoro Rivadavia who ended up offering to take me all the way there! I had only been walking and looking for an hour or so before I was en route for the coast of Argentina, and this was only my second day!!!

            Well, we made it to Comodoro, the couple dropped me off by a hostel, and we parted ways. It was a beautiful evening, so when I found out the hotel charged something like twenty dollars per night I decided to keep moving toward where I might find a truck the next day. I made it a few kilometers and then met a cool gas station attendant at an YPF who let me sleep behind the station (which was even fenced-in, had internet, and a place for me to plug-in right next to my tent!!!). I enjoyed the comfortable accommodations, slept like a baby, and made my plan to head toward the Truck stop the next morning.

            When I awoke I met a young 26 year-old guy who offered to take me all the way to Buenos Aires. He was a sketchy sort, but I figured I just wanted to get moving. We left that evening, pounding hierba mate and him the gas pedal. He took me for two days and eventually I lost him in Pedro Luro, Argentina, after traveling about 1,000 kilometers together. I am pretty sure he found a girl hitching on the road when he went to load his onions at this little one-horse town.  I was pretty bummed he did not keep his word, but the kind of guy who thinks it is funny to ride the bumper of a family in a mini-van when they are driving a semi truck does not strike me as that trustworthy or solid of a guy. Unfortunately for me, the only truckers that were stopping here were loading onions, and because of rain (trucks could not enter the fields because they would get stuck) and festivals (the guys who normally would bag and load the onions took off for the holidays and were drinking instead), there were barely any trucks being loaded for the next two days…

            I spent the first night alone without really talking to anybody at the truck stop for I had thought I had a ride with the 26 year-old loco. As I said, the guy never came back, so I put up my tent next to the gas station and relaxed hoping the next day would bring better things, for the night was not bringing anything but millions of birds in the trees above me squawking endlessly…

            When I awoke I talked with an older gentleman who also had been hitching from Southern Argentina and was headed toward Missiones, North of Buenos Aires. He told me we would find something and that he would help me. We hung out all day talking to drivers, using Internet, and just sitting around. This day did not bring anything. It really just turned out to be a rainy, gray, and lonely day. He had slept in the bathroom the night before so I offered him my tent and I slept under a picnic table that night. We both fell asleep a little nervous that we could be stuck in Pedro Luro for a while.

            The dude got up and was moving around making a bunch of noise as the sun peeked over the semi trucks in the lot. I realized that the picnic table and trees had not worked quite as well as I had hoped, for my sleeping bag was soaked through (not that cool when it is filled with down). I am not sure how I slept so deep, with the rain and the birds, but somehow I guess I was used to sleeping really anywhere. He told me he was going to get out and get talking with the drivers and be back soon. I picked up my things hoping we were somehow going to get closer to Buenos Aires soon.

            Well, he had luck. He met a couple of guys he had met before and they told us that though they would be stuck this day as well, they could take us the next day. They asked us where we had slept and then after hanging a while they invited us to hang out in Carlos’ trailer to eat with them and sleep inside the trailer as well! It actually turned out to be an awesome day. We ate a meat roast, drank wine mixed with Coke, went and played some pool in town, and conversed until about 9pm when we all were ready to crash out. It was great. Good food, enjoyable company, and a dry and safe place to sleep. Can’t beat that!

            When we awoke, Carlos, the driver who would eventually drive me the rest of the way to Buenos Aires, was motivated to get cooking. We, the hitching dude, another driver, and me, jumped into the truck with Carlos and headed to town. We bought chicken, veggies, more wine and coke, and jammed to some tunes while driving back to the truck stop with our loot. We stoked up the grill, drained some fluids, ate like wolves, and then Carlos got the call that he could load his truck that day! We were going to be on the road that night!

            So after a few hours of waiting around, Carlos returned and we rode the remaining 750 kilometers together up to Buenos Aires. When we arrived, he dropped me off at a point in the city where I could catch a bus and then a train toward the airport. It was the 27th and I was going to arrive only hours before Gaby. I got to the airport early, made Gaby a welcome sign, drank a liter of coffee, and then saw the girlie as she came wandering out of the gate. I ran, gave her a huge hug, began catching up on the time we had been apart, and started making plans for our couple of weeks together…

¡GRACIAS A TODOS! ¡GRACIAS CARLOS!

Update: Villa Mañihuales, Chile (2/20/2012)

posted Oct 19, 2012, 3:09 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

       RIDING WITH SWISS CHRIS

       After meeting up with Chris we had a fair amount of stories to share and planning for the road ahead to do. We were on the same page as to the route, so we decided to hit the road. The initial days heading toward Villarica were not the most beautiful, but we had tons of fun. Sleeping in various places from a greenhouse, a fire station, and in a garage, to a little shop where we even left the little critters there some dessert behind the shed we slept in.

       We also met one great group of characters along the way. In one town there was a really drunk dude who was watching people's cars for them for tips. After asking around for places to stay and being recommended a church shelter by the police, he asked me where we were going to stay. I told him, "Over there at the church shelter." He just looked at me with those yellow-glazed eyes, shook his head, and said, "I wouldn't even stay there! That place is dangerous." So, I told Chris, he told me he also thought it was a good idea for, "there are a few weird people in this town." We ended up staying indoors at the fire department.

       The highway finally led us to Villarica where you barely ride without seeing a volcano, or the effects of one (in the case of the stretch between Junin de los Andes and San Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina). We had a little time off in Villarica, a day in Pucon, and a really wonderful evening with a fire by a river in one of the best camp spots of the trip right before the Pass Mamuil-Malal. It was good we relaxed though, for as soon as we entered Argentina the dry surroundings came upon us once again and we were tormented by the ash-filled air all the way down to Bariloche. We had debated routes a couple of times, but as soon as we neared Bariloche we were in agreement that we needed to get back to Chile and way from the ash the volcano Puyehue had been spitting since June of the previous year.

       We took a touristic three-boat ride, which included a short 20 kilometers of cycling over a pass, to Chile from Bariloche. It was a nice little trip and we were able to enjoy some nice views from on the boats, but the best part of this tour was not the tour itself, it was while we made the reservation! When Chris and I went inside the agency that was selling the tickets for the boat we were dirty and stinky. We both looked like we had just come out of a desert sandstorm, were sweating like piggies, and hadn't bathed in a decade (and as a matter of fact we had just come out of a desertified area covered in ash and hadn't had a proper shower in some time). We asked a question or two and then the girl said to us (mind you, we are now in the lakes district of Chile and Argentina), "Hay que traer mucha Agua!" Chris then responded with his chest in the air, his cool sunglasses, dirty ass cyclist clothes and helmet still on, "jaja, Eso no es un desierto!" ***("You have to bring a lot of water", to which Chris responded, "haha, this is not a desert!") I practically died. The look on her face was priceless. I know Chris did not mean to sound tough and was not even looking to impress the girl, he was just stating a fact for there would be water everywhere, but the way in which he said it, especially how the girl booking our reservation understood it, the response was incredible. I would do the trip over again just to see this happen once more!

       So we took the tour in two days and we landed in Puerto Varas. We then made our way to Puerto Montt, and from there would ride in Chile all the way down to Villa Mañihuales. From Puerto Montt down, we realized the hype behind the Carretera Austral. A rainforest zone, the ride was incredibly green, lush, and very beautiful. We viewed some incredible glaciers, dealt with a fair quantity of rain and experienced a wide array of flora and fauna I had not seen since Colombia, and many things I had not seen ever. It was really an incredible ride that included a couple of ferries through fjords where we even saw dolphins jumping alongside the boat.

       We arrived in Villa Mañihuales tired, but very excited about everything we had seen and experienced during our time together. From our great campsites, meals, fires, and conversations, to the silly experiences we had along the way, we both were about to separate directions quite satisfied. We remembered the good old days back from San Francisco, USA, to El Salvador. We also spoke of the recent events... Just South of Puerto Montt we had camped on a beach where a little girl and her mom warned us about the danger of crabs getting us at night if we slept there (the little girl was terrified for us). In the same place we saw a man surfing on the beach being trailed with a rope by a couple cows. Chris even kind of lost it and was telling me how much the sound of the ocean bothered him and how he didn't want to camp near the ocean anymore! **All of this made me wonder a little more about what the effects of the Hanta virus everybody had been advertising and telling me about were... Crabs, cow-surfing, ocean too loud??!!!  A whole town infected with something? ...It was a really fun stay.

       It was very difficult to say goodbye to Chris again, but we promised we would see each other again in Europe later that year. Chris was to be off South, and I was now leaving on a hitchhiking trip from Villa Mañihuales. I would leave my bike with Jorge at the Casa de Ciclistas to which I would return in one month after seeing my lovely girlfriend Gaby and picking up my buddy Sam. It was great riding with you Swiss Chris! See you soon in Europe!!!! 

Take a look at the photo album from this section!!!:

Santiago to Villa Manihuales, Chile

Even if there are not blog posts of every section, there are photo albums of the entire tour!!!!!

Update: Santiago, Chile (1/12/12)

posted Oct 19, 2012, 1:49 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

       So I turned around at San Rafael, Argentina and started making my way toward the pass into Chile between Mendoza and Santiago. I really rode hard, especially for the first 240 kilometers were going to be those I had covered already. I threw on the Ipod and smashed them. I stopped at the same fire station I had stayed at previously and even enjoyed a nice little tray of meats and cheeses with the guys for dinner. Although I was riding this section a second time it was still quite a special region. From the wineries around San Rafael to complete desolation in-between towns, it is a very special region. Dry and desertified, but very comfortable to ride as long as you have the right supplies.
       On my second day of riding I made it to a little town where could sleep under a little overhang outside of a gas station. I was even invited to a barbecue by the guy who had been working. Lucky for me, he was having a few friends over for some food! The next couple of days appeared as if they were to be quite uneventful, but that was not the case. The riding was beautiful and I even met up with a wonderful couple, Nate and Naomi, in Uspallata and we shared a nice night with a few liters of brew. Really incredible, Nate and I had stayed at the same place only a week before in Mendoza, but somehow we met there in Uspallata. He spotted me, invited me to a beer, and we ended up having a great time. Thanks guys!
       I then had a night in a little ski shack that was left unlocked before passing into Chile, and another next to a gas station on the Chilean side after dropping a considerable amount of elevation toward Los Andes. By the time I had reached this little place I was ready for some munchies and Coke, so I hung out a little too long for while enjoying these things I was invited to have a shower and also to drink maté with a very nice Chilean trucker. Day zoomed by.
       Finally, less than a week later I was invited to the home of the Pinto's. We enjoyed some good food, a nice amount of swimming in the pool, and really shared a nice couple of days. The Pinto's were also kind enough to allow me to leave my bicycle there so I could make it home for Christmas! Thanks guys!

*HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS


       As I had thought I needed the time back home, I was reminded of how necessary it was as soon as I arrived in Chicago. I got to see Miss Gaby and spend a couple of days with her alone, and then see my parents and brother of whom I had not seen since March in Costa Rica. It was a much needed return for all of us. No matter how much or for how long I have been on the road, I always look forward to these moments. 
       We traveled to Minnesota to visit friends and family, to Green Bay to see my Grandma and Lambeau field, down to Auburn to visit my brother's University and his girlie, and also to Panama City, Florida to relax. We really made some nice tracks and some very great memories, the family (Gaby and Znar included) and I. Thank you all very much for everything. I love you all very much.

       The time turned to be short as usual, even though Gaby and I were in the States for about a month. It really passed with the blink of an eye. The next thing I knew, Gaby was on her plane back to Spain, my parents had given me hugs and said goodbye, I was leaving Nate and Naomi's apartment (the couple I met in Uspallata took me in in Chicago for a night!!!), and I was boarding my plane back to Santiago. The family was once again fractured off to get back to work, school, or back on the bike. It was a difficult trip for this reason. I had felt the comforts of home and was about to get back to gas station sleeping, wild-camping, and days without showering (though many of you know I like this very much, this was still very, very tough).
       As luck had it though, I was to return to the Pinto's, enjoy a couple more days with them while readying the bicycle, and then meet once again with my good friend Swiss Chris! It had been since Peru that we had last seen each other, and I know we both were really excited to get back out there together. Also, we had both ridden alone for a considerable amount of time again, and were happy we could join up once again. We knew each other's routines, likes and dislikes, and both had matured a bit and had become much more patient.
      
       So, I leave you here. In Santiago drinking coffee and reuniting with a good friend. More to come later. Thanks for reading!

QUICK UPDATE: 12/6/2011

posted Oct 11, 2012, 4:19 PM by Matthew Gorzlancyk   [ updated Oct 19, 2012, 1:55 AM ]

25,289 Kilometer and 521 days on the road I find myself riding solo in San Rafael, Argentina. Matt and I headed out of Salta after a very nice stay, but then parted ways after a week or so of riding towards the city of San Blas. With his plans of meeting a friend in the South, he was forced to move a little faster than I had been wanting to. So, from there I was on my own for a bit. 

In Chilecito I stayed at a wonderful firestation and was treated with incredible kindness and hospitality. Thank you all so much! From there I headed South and met a man named Williams who aided me in finding a place to stay one night and then welcomed me to stay with his family in San Juan. I took him up on that and enjoyed a couple great days with him, his wife, daughter, and father-in-law. Thank you all.

I arrived in Mendoza a week a go and enjoyed much time there with a good buddy from Colombia, Ricardo, and a great dude from England, Michael. I then took off, headed South and ended up here in San Rafael. I have decided to head back North toward Mendoza and back over the Andes to Santiago so I may take a flight back home to visit Gaby and the family. Should be a little haul, but a nice one. 

Back in the States soon! Looks like it will be a month away from the road!

QUICK UPDATE 11/16/2011

posted Dec 3, 2011, 6:10 PM by Matthew Gorzlancyk   [ updated Oct 19, 2012, 1:53 AM ]

24,274 kilometers and 503 days and I am now just rolling out of San Blas, Argentina with plans to arrive in Mendoza in about a week or so. The ride from Salta to here has been a good one (much easier than anything in Bolivia) and we have been received with a great amount of hospitality. I am now back on the road solo due to Matt's tighter schedule and need to push forward to meet a friend from home in early January. Should be an adventure!

Rolling over the Pass (Paso de Jama) into Argentina with a street dog on our heels!

            Immigration has been a topic I have had the pleasure of hearing about quite often over the last year of my trip. Usually the conversation will have something to do with how hard it is to get a visa or enter the United States and it will then turn into a lesson as to why entrance isn’t so easily granted, especially to those who don’t appear to have means and a reason to return home. Yea, I definitely tire of talking about this subject. What is great though is that with a little help from my Canadian buddy Matt, we were able to help a young gal sneak across the border from Chile to Argentina only a couple of weeks ago. Her name is Scarlet and she is a dirty street dog.

            I am not exactly sure why the common street dog wanted to leave San Pedro de Atacama (a very warm and comfortable tourist destination in the Atacama desert of Chile), but I do know she was quite motivated to do so. For a dog to literally run 160+ kilometers (about 100 miles) and climb over 2,000 meters from approximately 2,600 meters to over 4,700 meters above sea level (more than 15,400 feet), she had to have a good reason. This street dog actually did one of the highest passes one can do in South America to reach the land of meat and mate! Here is the tale…

            I finished the Southwest Bolivia ride on October 24th and began the drop into San Pedro de Atacama with my friends Andreas, Anita, Eva and Claudia. As we were dropping we ran into none other than Mr. Matt Adcock, the Canadian feller I had been traveling with for almost six months prior to the ‘Laguna route’ in Bolivia. Matt and I were both quite thrilled to meet up again and decided to drop down to San Pedro together, then do the Paso de Jama (mountain pass and entrance to Argentina from Chile) and ride down to at least Salta together. Great!

            The thing is, both Matt and I have been trying to keep a very low budget and do things a little bit more ‘hobo-style’. When we arrived in San Pedro Matt told me of this great hiding spot in front of the museum by the square. Sounded good, so we hung out in the square, ate some chicken, and then met our soon-to-be travel companion, the golden retriever mix we would name Scarlet (pronounced eh-Scarlet in Spanish).

            This dog immediately took a liking to us for some reason or another and followed us to our hiding spot. The little bugger slept next to us all night. I actually awoke in the morning with her little head resting on my leg. So, we got up and made sure to be away from the museum before the employees would arrive around 7 a.m. Scarlet joined us and apparently thought walking around the city with us would be a nice time.

            The little pooch actually followed us for almost 2 hours until we checked into an actual camping spot you had to pay for, but had showers and such. She wasn’t allowed in otherwise I think she would have stuck with us. At this point we thought our time with the doggie was over, but needless to say, it wasn’t.

            After our time at the hostel/campground we decided we would take one more night of chicken at our favorite broaster chicken location, then hit the museum up one more night as to avoid the costly campground before our departure from the city. Well, our friend found us in the center again and apparently hadn’t forgotten us. She followed us as she had done before, protecting our bikes while we ate and barking at passer-bys and other dogs who got close to us. Thanks Scarlet!

            We were up and out quite early again the next day, picked up a few necessary items, and headed to the migration office to get our exit stamps. This whole process took a couple of hours, all of which were accompanied by our dirty street dog buddy. ***At this point we had yet to give the dog ANY food OR water. For some reason she just really liked that we slept outside too or something? I really don’t know, maybe it was our stinky feet or clothes… I know all doggies like stink. Who knows?

            Either way, the dog followed us out of the city and it was not a difficult task for her. We were heading up-hill and could not move very fast, so she kept up just fine. At first I thought it was quite cute and funny, but after the first day of almost 40 kilometers we realized we had a new companion. We then started to give her water and Bolivian crackers I had left over so she wouldn’t die in the desert.

            It was now the day after our 3rd night camping with this dog and I was not sure what the little bugger was thinking or if it could even make it the whole way. We ended up doing another comparable distance to the prior day and the dog did it again, and with much more ease than I expected. We gave her some more water and Bolivian crackers, but fortunately that day she found a couple bags of garbage along the road for some nourishment she was a little more accustomed to. We set up our tents later and she even snuck in mine during the night and I awoke once again with her little muzzle on my leg.

            After our 4th night camping with Scarlet we did a big day, 76 kilometers with much wind and climbing as well. She did it all. Almost 2 marathons worth of running! This night she looked like she might just die, so we brought the crackers to her and even gave her a little leftover food for she wasn’t even in the mood to explore for garbage or poop or whatever. She was cooked!

            5 nights with Scarlet and we were now going to enter Argentina. She trotted the whole way (definitely lacking energy), but made it to the border. I think she was smiling when she arrived and I do know the little fur-covered mutt was pretty proud of herself. I was really blown away! She did have one more obstacle to cross yet, and that was getting past the border guards!

            We arrived at the migration location and security looked pretty tough. We all probably should have discussed a plan before, but since Scarlet only speaks dog and Portuguese, we had a hard time doing this. We just rode and she ran up the line. Immediately a security guy walked up to us and asked, in Spanish, if this was our dog. I was glad she couldn’t understand what we said, because she may have felt betrayed. We just told the guy we didn’t know who it was and where it came from. She just laid up against the tire of my bike until he grabbed her fur and dragged her away.

            Now Matt and I knew that this could not go on. We were now in Argentina, the next few hundred kilometers were pretty flat so she would not be able to keep up, it wouldn’t be easy to carry the extra water and food for the dog all the time, and even if we did want to take her, there was not a single bike trailer to be found at this little border in the middle of nowhere. I worried about the little dirtball, but had faith she would figure something out (maybe bite the guard and run, offer him a bribe, trick him with her quick wit, something).

            As we left the immigration office we started riding away talking about our lost pal and hoping she would be okay. Only seconds later I looked over my shoulder as I had done for the last week to see if she was there and, sure enough, there she was! Running like the wind to catch her gringo buddies on bikes. Unbelievable!

            Now it would probably be a nice end to say that she is on the back of my bike, but that is not the case. After we became re-acquainted, Matt and I had a discussion in English, which Scarlet could not understand (I think!). We decided we must leave her behind and let her start a new life as a border doggie in Argentina. There were other dogs there and plenty of garbage to be scavenged for a street pooch looking to get back on her feet. Also, we met a really nice couple of gas station workers who assured us they would look after her. They were quite impressed with the story and her strength and said they would hook her up with some goodies every now and then and maybe even take her in.

            So I said goodbye to my canine friend, gave her a final ear scratch and belly rub, wiped the diseases off on my pants, and then put her in the entryway of the gas station so she could not follow us anymore (for I am sure she would have followed us to the end of the earth, where we are actually headed!). I could see the pain in her eyes through the pane of glass as we rode away and she could not follow, but I know this is what had to be done. Sometimes we just have to say goodbye. It wasn’t easy, especially since I love dogs and especially those that can be THAT loyal.

I have never met another dogzor like you buddy. I will miss you Scarlet, you crazy little traveler doggie!


QUICK UPDATE: 11/8/2011

posted Nov 16, 2011, 3:02 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

23,658 kilometers and 495 days and I am now taking a breather in the beautiful Salta, Argentina. Bolivia was a tough one, but man was it a beautiful ride! From Salta I will head down toward Mendoza via the famous Ruta 40 highway. Wineries and warm weather again! Should be a treat!

Pushing, walking, panting and dragging: What a time in Southwest Bolivia!!

            On the 6th of October Matt and I set off for an adventure through one of the most remote, and probably most difficult, sections of road we would ride through on our trajectory to Ushuaia, Argentina. We filled our panniers with food and readied ourselves for some sweet isolation.

            The first day of our ride we slowly drifted from Bolivian ‘civilization’ over to an even wilder side of the country. Altiplano life was not going to be easy, but it sure would be scenic!

            Now I am going to be completely honest here. This route was NOT easy, but it is also not something I wouldn’t recommend to others. As long as you enter this section of track with a good attitude and understanding that you are going to ride hundreds of kilometers of washboard roads, deal with icy evening winds, ride through sandstorms, wake up with your water bottles frozen, and push your bike through sand sometimes, you will be just fine.

            The reason I put myself through this pain was so that I could enjoy countless natural delights as I was traversing Southwest Bolivia. From volcanoes and salt flats, to hot springs, lagoons, geysers and flamingos, I really felt rewarded on a daily basis. AND THAT’S NOT ALL! While I was riding the section from the Salar de Uyuni to San Pedro de Atacama, my riding mates and I received countless gifts and amazing hospitality from many of those we met along the way (free meals, places to crash indoors, etc). Not only that, I made some great friends along the way in those whom accompanied me through this difficult route.

            If this sounds like something that would possibly interest those of you reading my blog, you may find a PDF with details as to the route that a couple of very kind bicycle tourists made a couple of years back (Cycling Southwest Bolivia by Sonya Spry and Aaldrik Mulder of www.tour.tkhttp://www.tour.tk/pdf/cycling-southwest-bolivia.pdf). Take a look! Though some things have changed and are a bit different from when this was constructed, it has a great map and makes this tough route much more easily navegable. If you do take this resource, please shoot the writers a thank you message when you do.

            Also, in order to get a taste of what Southwest Bolivia has to offer, take a look at my second Bolivia photo album. It was really an UNBELIEVABLE experience. For any questions or suggestions as to what I remember of the roads and such, email me: mgorzlancyk@gmail.com.

***THE LAGUNA COLORADA: *CLICK ON IMAGE TO SEE IN FULL-SIZE!

QUICK UPDATE: 10/4/2011

posted Nov 8, 2011, 11:33 AM by Matthew Gorzlancyk

Street Meat: The way to do it in Latin America!

           From the time I entered Latin America via Tijuana, Mexico in October of last year, I have fallen in love with a few things… One of these things is not bathing every day, another is wearing whatever I want (yep, living without underwear most of the time), but my number one love down here is street food, the time looking for it, and the culture that surrounds it.

           

            Of all places, Mexico is perfect for getting yourself acquainted with the street food carts and those operating them (though you can dive in anywhere). Mexico arguably has some of the best and most diverse wonders that are cooked on the street corner. From tacos and tortas to cow brains and grasshoppers, you can find anything you could possibly want (especially if you are a little adventurous) being sold from a small cart. Really though, there are so many great items at great prices of which you can scarf down in Mexico.

            What is really nice is that Mexico is not the only country in Latin America that has a strong street food culture. You can virtually enter any city in any country and find some kind of a cart with a well-practiced cook waiting to prepare you something special. There are carts attached to motorcycles, bicycles, push-carts, mobile ovens, food trucks, and even ladies who do the cooking at home and carry their food to the street ready to go. These gals will often have their food in a wicker basket covered in blankets to keep their little delicacies warm. There is really a marvelous world of food on the go down here!

            When it comes to street food, the sky is the limit. Matt and I have found sandwiches, tacos, pupusas (El Salvador), tons of delicious fried items in Colombia (papas rellenas, patacones, tortas de chocolo, empanadas), pizza and bread that are actually cooked curbside out of mobile ovens, burgers, salchipapas (hotdogs sliced with fries), tons of bread, potatoes, chicharron (fried pig skin served in a variety of ways), intestines filled with rice and a variety of other things, arepas, guys selling home-made ice cream (choco-conos), fresh fruit juices,  and many other great things. You really can’t go wrong taking a little stroll around any Latin American city (and honestly, if you use your head, walking around cities at night in a pair is safe in most places). There are always so many options! There has to be something out there for everyone!

            Munching down on the street is not all about the food. As a tourist, it is about so many other things. I used to think that through eating on the street I could actually save money by avoiding restaurants. I have definitely not saved much money eating this way, but that does not even matter. What you can receive from eating on the road is of so much more value than any differences in price you may find.

A wonderful angle to street food eating is that you will have a ton of great authentic experiences. The environment makes the street such a great option. Some stands you visit have chairs where you can sit with friends, others you just stand around the cart and hang around. Some places have super-animated cooks yelling things out such as “Que Rico!” and others might have a sweet old lady who has had her burger stand for 25 years and she is still rocking and as nice as ever. Sometimes you will be amazed by how dense the cook may be and other times you will be able to enjoy the great Andean music videos the host will have playing for your listening and viewing pleasure while you eat.

Honestly, every experience you have eating on the street is different, and they are all great (or at least special!). If you want to get to know a town or city, this is one hell of a way to accomplish that task. There is always somebody to talk to at the stands. If you pick a good one it will be surrounded by people, children and adults, of varying socio-economic backgrounds, all who would probably love to meet a traveler with a different perspective, but with the same enjoyment for their food and culture.

            I really don’t know if there is a better way to explore a city than to walk around it and munch as you go. Back home I could only imagine what a couple of cinnamon rolls, a soda, four hamburgers, a slice of pizza, three chocolate bars, two coffees, and three ice cream cones would cost… Down here in Bolivia, probably about three or four dollars… And yes, this sometimes is my order for an evening stroll. It may sound a little disgusting, but I am a cyclist, and I do burn about half of it off when I actually am riding and not eating. I just cut down the sodas when my man-boobs start to sag a little…

            Street meat rocks. I know many people are a little afraid to try some of the sketchier carts, but sometimes those are the best. I really think that restaurants generally have about the same sanitary standards down here as the street vendors. In restaurants people just don’t have to watch their food being prepared, so they feel better about it. With street food you know what you are getting, or at least you can guess what you are getting while you watch the preparation (I am always curious in smaller cities where there are less stray dogs running around)… And if it helps receiving a recommendation for the right spots, just ask a taxi driver, a police officer, firemen, or follow the crowd.

I hope this helps encourage people to get out and get over their fears of what just might be waiting for them at that street cart. I can almost guarantee that what is waiting is a nice smile, a good conversation, and a delicious snack!

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