20 km from Osorno, Chile, due west towards Argentina, while stretching on the side of the road, we spotted him.
“Hey, look at that,” Andrew said.
“Ha! He has bags too!” I responded, standing up to watch the ladened bicycle approaching.
He stopped. We exchanged introductions and rapidly questioned each other’s missions, directions, and such.
It is an exciting thing to encounter another person travelling on a bicycle, and we felt automatically connected to this stranger. Since we all had kilometres to cover and things to discuss, we cycled together for a while.
Toni, aka The Panamerican Guy (his facebook page), started in Alaska. He weighed 120 kilograms and was a complete bicycle novice. For 15 months he has been making his way south, firstly through North America, then South America. Now, he is just one third of a country away from his destination: Ushuaia.
A bit of extra company on the road is always interesting and since we were all heading in the same direction, we kept going together. For four days together we glided through beautiful landscapes, vivid and bold, and crept our way up the seemly endless hills then mountains, up towards Argentina.
As if cycling through a year’s seasons, slowly and dramatically the landscape changed: the bright boundless green springtime fields gave way to bizarre summer forests, with towering trees, bamboo and tropical shrubs. Then autumn came. Ash covered the ground like snow, the trees stood stark, burnt reminders of the lush landscape before the volcano. Grey. Suddenly, we were in winter. And then the rain started, icy icy driving rain that burnt our faces, froze our tired muscles that begged for rest, but we dared not stop for fear of the cold. Around us, snow covered the ash that covered the ground.
Deceptive curve after deceptive curve wound us slowly up and through the Andes, ever higher through the no-man’s land between Chile and Argentina. We decided to claim it, to simply stay there and make it our own new country. We toyed with names for our land. This provided some amusement and distracted us for a while, but ultimately we reached the consensus that the weather was off-putting and we fancied somewhere warmer.
We moved on. Onwards and upwards.
And then we were at and through the border control, in Argentina. We camped on volcanic rock next to an exquisite Andean lake and sighed the kind of sigh you can only sigh after having crossed the Andes through epic weather and are finally sitting in front of a bonfire, full and exhausted and thoroughly content.