Tag Archives: gap year

Mountain Biking Stories


Prepping for a year out of the country, Sarah and I considered what is most dear to us, recreationally. Sarah readily embraces her stand-up paddleboard (SUP), an inflatable model that can support two adults and a mid-sized dog. Dear to me is a bicycle, of any sort, but most especially one suited for off-road terrain. A bicycle also serves as redundant transportation, in a way, if we were unwilling (or unable) to move our vehicles. Top of the list, then, were added one paddleboard and three mountain bikes.

But which bike? The knee-jerk reaction is “My favorite one!” Then, however comes the realization that your favorite steed will be subjected to the elements for close to a year, draw the eye of those looking to remove you of your bicycle, and quite possibly be damaged while it is on the vehicle (either due to a collision or bikes clacking against each other on or off-road) not to mention being subjected to the dirt and grime from driving nearly 12,000 miles. My faithful Ibis mojo 3, my absolute favorite bike to ride, was quickly dismissed, as the bike is just too nice to abuse and too attractive for theives.

After further weighing these considerations, the obvious next choice was my old Ibis tranny. The frame had been damaged in a crash (what better bike to take than one that had been previously damaged?) and I had a slew of mid-level parts for it, plus a wonderfully wide wheelset that gleefully soaks up washboard. As the immense pressure of preparing two vehicles for a year out of the country came bearing down upon us, however, the feasibility of completing another relatively complex repair and rebuild side project quickly fell to the bottom of the list. Not to mention that the lively orange paint would attract a lot of attention.

Amongst the turbulence of our imminent departure, my eye settled on my covid-era mountain bike: made by Giant, this bike was conceived to go fast, world-cup fast, by riders a lot younger than me. And as mentioned, it was my covid-era mountain bike. A bike purchased when frame repair was backlogged for months and such a crushing demand existed for new bicycles that you had to take what you could find. It was in those times that I found this Giant.

And while stupid expensive and not made for idly touring another country, this mostly black frame and components (with splashes of dark blue) and  super-subtle labels does not draw any attention. The proof of this being that, after two months driving around Argentina, I have yet to receive a single question about it. Perfect.

Freeing a baby guanaco from a fence near Lago Argentina

We came across a baby guanaco that was stuck in a fence near Lago Argentino. There were half a dozen other guanacos nearby, including the Mom and a rather alert looking male. Vivian watched these two to make sure they didn’t try to attack me while I tried to figure out how to approach and un-wedge the baby guanaco from the fence.

Approaching the guanaco at first made her struggle ferociously, making me back off several times. Already completely exhausted, it didn’t take long before I was able to reach out and touch one leg, and then the other.
Touching the feet of the guanaco was so interesting. The bottom of the feet had soft,leathery pads and a smooth texture, completely taking me by surprise. I don’t remember any sharp toes, but was also trying not to get kicked!

The guanaco’s legs were caught behind two wires, locking the legs just below their rearward folding knee and just above the ankle. The animal itself was high-centered right on her hip flexors, front feet just touching the ground. For each rear leg I had to move the upper wire above the knee so I could flex each leg enough to then move each ankle above the lower wire.

Once the legs were free, I was able to carefully boost the animal by both legs over Uall of the wires. The baby had been there for so long that her legs were very asleep, and they were not working at all like she wanted them to. She immediately took a huge bound, but got just enough movement to turn her body around 180 degrees and launch her crashing straight into the fence from the opposite direction (not once, but twice).

After she realized her legs were not working, she was able to wobble across the road and hobble over a lower ridge and out of sight.

Extending above the smaller ridge was a larger ridge, rolling up into the sky. As our attention drifted away from the baby guanaco, we realized that scattered across the larger ridge were several dozen adult and baby guanacos, all bounding with nervous excitement and watching us and the rescued guanaco. It seemed to me that once the others saw that the baby guanaco bounding along more normally, they all turned as one and bounded up the ridge and out of site, within a matter of less than the span of a few breaths. Such wonderful creatures!

Windy Camping in Patagonia

Cold mornings are a good time to write while still tucked in bed. This morning I write from the canyon camp next to the visitor’s center of Cuevo de Las Manos, Argentina in Patagonia. It’s chilly but more, it’s windy. Today, not dangerously windy. It will be possible to hike down into the Canyon and visit the cave and wall paintings.

The visitor’s center to Cuevo de Las Manos visible from our camp.

Two nights ago, we camped at Lago Pasados where we encountered our first dangerously strong winds. We had been warned by Darren and Kathryn, a couple we visited with in Los Antiguos, also traveling in a pop-top. They recommended Ruta 41 over Ruta 40 to travel between Los Antiguos and Lago Pasados because while it’s a rougher road, the scenery is superior. But they said there was a night they had to sleep with their tent top down and even lower the jack-legs to keep from rocking from the wind.

Ruta 41 in yellow, our windy camp was next to the lake on the west side.

Ruta 41 is not a National highway like Ruta 40, it’s a maintained gravel road between Los Antiguos and Lago Pasados then after Lago Pasados, it’s a 4×4 track. It hugs the Argentinan/Chilean border. It is also the solution to the notoriously flat and scenery-less terrain of Ruta 40 in this section. We were amazed by the views from Ruta 41 from our windows and I even had the opportunity to take a bike ride along the Ruta.

A fork in the road while biking.
Our red truck on Ruta 41

In Los Antiguos where we started Ruta 41, we picked up Olek, a hitch-hiker we had met in Rio Mayo many miles previously. He was headed in our general direction on Ruta 41 so he hopped a ride with us. Olek, a Russian, has been traveling for 1.5 years, hitch-hiking through Africa and South America. Even with all of his previous travel, the windy camp of Lago Pasados was a challenge for all of us.

Shattered glass from the windy night camp next to Lago Posados. We were so happy we collapsed the pop-ups when the wind started getting bad or we could have lost them…
Olek and Mike fixing Olek’s wrecked tent. Video of the tent snapping on link below:


With wet weather predictions and shaken by the big winds in camp last night at Lago Pasados, we decided to head towards Ruta 40 instead of taking the 4×4 track from Lago Pasados to Parque National Perrito Moreno. Especially after German travelers in a monsterous modified fire truck said the terrain was very rough with ledges and very large rocks to navigate through areas of erosion if we went forward on Ruta 41. They said they did it, but only because the weather was perfect. Now, that was changing.

So, here we are in Cuevo de Las Manos in less wind and weather about to see the caves with painted handprints from 10,000 years ago. We continue to pick our route by recommendations along the way by fellow travellers and ioverlander.