Tag Archives: South America

Mountain Biking Stories

WHAT MOUNTAIN BIKE?

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!

How we are filtering water while camping through Argentina

We are a two pop-top camper, 4 person, 1 dog family traveling through South America. Before we received our campers and had less control over our water in Colombia and Buenos Aires Provincia. We all had the runs at least once. We were told to just expect this while traveling. But, since getting the campers and having more control over our water, no one has been sick. Here is what we are doing.

We are currently in Argentina where people are confident that the water is safe to drink. It may be true that drinking from the tap won’t make you sick here but we found that water we pump to store in a tank probably needs to be filtered first: as evidenced by the wriggling water insects we shook from our pre-filter the other day from an established campground.

The kids filling the pre-filter bucket during fill at Lago Guttiérez, Argentina (no insects).

The insects from the hose was in a camp where the camp host told us the water was good to drink: potable. We filtered it anyway and so glad we did. I’m glad we don’t have bugs in the tank and here’s hoping whatever the bugs are eating was filtered out as well. Here is our system:

Pumping from buckets brought from lake to the filter, hose running to our 25 gallon tank in the Northstar

We have two tanks for water to use for drinking, cooking, and washing. Both of our vehicles hold 25 gallons each. We are able to fill them straight from a lake or a spigot or a hose run through our water pump and filter. When a source spigot is not compatible with our pump nozzle, we continuously fill a bucket and pump from the bucket through the filter into our tank. We also use the bucket method if the fresh water lake shore won’t allow us to get our trucks close enough to pump directly from the lake.

Close up of the Guzzle H2O in action as kids fill the pre-filter bucket

Water sources: we are able to draw from any water source we decide can be filtered like fresh water lake or river, camp supplied water or municipal source. No matter the source, we run the water through our Guzzle H2O carbon filtration filter. We saw a campervan filling it’s tank directly from a YPF water hose (large gas station chain) at San Martin de Los Andes. No doubt, this is possible but, with 2 rigs and our general impatience with manuvering in congested parking lots, we haven’t done this. So, obviously some of the water is safe, some of the time. But not all of the water is safe all of the time. We just are not going to chance it

In some of the established mom and pop campgrounds, the water source is right next to the bathrooms because that’s where the plumbing is. In those places, we don’t fill. The insect water was from plumbing next to a wood heated shower house in our camp at Lake Piagum. We just filled from Lago Guttiérez yesterday outside San Carlos de Bariloche, no insects.

How long to fill? It takes us about 1 hour to fill both of our tanks through the filter. 1.5 hours if the filters are filling with insects… We usually time our fills for a travel day after using both tanks down to near empty in camp. This has averaged every 5-7 days.

Problem solving: air in the pump, slow high pressure pumping, carbon filter full, electricity supply to charge pump battery to get complete fills for 50 gallons. We learned that air in the filter can be solved by turning the pump upsidedown, on its side and upright several times while pumping, just like our old backpack filter. We removed and replaced our first carbon filter when the pump started running super slow and seemingly under high pressure. The 2nd carbon filter ran much better but, we are not convinced the old filter is full so we are carrying it with us to dry and try again. The battery charge on the Guzzle H2O lasts us about 30 gallons of pumping so, we charge it for the rest of the fill off our solar charged battery to get our full 50 gallons.