First learnings of the Andes

– the border between Chile and Argentina –

Hello continent number 3: South America. Main reasons to be here are the Andes mountains, the latin culture and a good cause. While some cyclist travel all the way from North to South (or vice versa), we’ll just make some loops here and there to discover the variety of the region. And take some busses in between as we have ‘only’ a few months left.

We landed in Santiago de Chile and were immediately impressed by its location in between massive mountains. While they were scaring me a little bit, we made plans to make the crossing between Chile and Argentina, meaning go over the Andes range, via the Paso Agua Negra. From our research we learned it was a really pretty one, and also much quieter than crossing from Santiago towards Mendoza. There are a few other passes accross but those would be even more desolate or longer. And so we went. First with the bus to La Serena at the coast to forage for the upcoming trip. Then on the bicycle, up.

It was simply amazing. And so different from anything we’ve seen before.

It also provided me with the following 2 reflections:

1. The world is huge

– 100’s of kilometers of views like this while on a bus in Chile –

No matter what we all think, the world is not a small place. Even if we can travel in a few hours from one continent to another. Even if we can see someone on the other end of the world being busy typing a WhatsApp message. Even if you can find a can of Stella Artois beer in the most faraway villages. The world is extremely big.

In Europe it can sometimes feel like there is no space and all is connected. But if you ride the bus along the coastline of Chile, or if you cycle between the last Chilean village and the first Argentinian pueblo, you feel with all your senses how big the world is. How empty it sometimes is. And that you still have places where you hear nothing but the wind and can see really far. Like 50 or 100 kms far. And there’s nothing but unspoiled nature in between. At night it was even more so when the sky is dotted with uncountable stars and you get views of the Milkey Way.

It was highly impressive, and it is making you really, really small as a human being.

– big mountains, tiny cyclist –

2. The body is an amazing instrument

Cycling the Paso Agua Negra made us look back to that other big pass we (tried to) cycle 6 months ago, in Nepal. And how different it was, not only because of the scenery, but also because of our (well… mainly my) physical and mental state.

While 6 months ago I really suffered from a lack of physical condition and had troubles with the high altitude (resulting in a highly pressured mental state), this time went as smooth as butter. Admitted, we still pushed and pedalled and lost sweat. But no tears, no swearing and no sore muscles. Just some tiredness and greasy hair.

– we pedalled our +50kg bicycles (which we nicknamed ‘el camion’ in the meantime) all the way up to the Argentinian border at 4780m altitude –

It made me think how amazing the human body is. It’s an instrument that can do much more than I ever thought possible! It can become truly fit, it can adapt to lower levels of oxigen, ├ánd to lower levels of comfort. And you are the one who can make full use of your potential, or not.

There’s too much attention in general about how the body should look like on the outside. And we often overlook or take for granted what a body actually does (or can do) for us from the inside. Like still being able to pedal your bicycle upwards with only 50% of oxygen supply (which is the case at about 5000m altitude). Good health actually gives you a lot of freedom. And often it’s only when your health is under pressure, that’s you’ll truly understand and appreciate the freedom you had before.

As Baz Luhrmann says in that song I really like:

“Enjoy your body. Use it every way you can. Don’t be afraid of it or what other people think of it. It’s the greatest instrument you’ll ever own.

And wear sunscreen.”

PS: if you’re interested in cycling the Paso Agua Negra yourself and look for more practical info, don’t hesitate to ask us via the contact form!