Sunday, September 11, 2011

Chapter I - The End

Now that we are back in Israel from our first trip in South America, we want to highlight general statistics from the trip, raise some linked memories and conclude Chapter I.


On the road
total cycling distance: 7,600 km
longest riding day: getting into Santiago, 130 km in 8 hrs
shortest riding day: 8 km, Cochrane
southernmost place: Ushuaia airport, -55.84° Latitude
northernmost place: Lima airport, -12.00° Latitude
highest altitude: 5,000m, pass before Villamar Bolivia
lowest altitude: 0m, the Pacific Ocean
highest temperature: +30°C, Calama
lowest temperature: -15°C, Laguna Blanca
longest rain: 40 hours, Caleta Tortel

flights: 3,400 USD
bicycles: 1,300 USD
gear: 900 USD
mechanical repair: 300 USD
local transport: 300 USD
living: 7,300 USD                        
total: 13,500 USD (6,750 each)

Mechanical parts changed
3 racks (and 3 welds)
1 crankset
2 freeweel
4 chains
1 pedals set
1 handlebar bearing
8 break pad sets
9 spokes
4 tires
8 tubes (and countless patches)

best meal we made
: Amit's birthday meal in Coyhaique:
zucchini and beetroot, beans and tomatoes soups; Focaccias with oregano and garlic; baked Falafel; fried potato croquettes; pumpkin and chive quiche; lemon sponge cake; a prune cake; pears cooked in white wine; fruit salad; sweet buns with bananas, roasted almonds, raisins, and homemade "chocolate".
best meal in restaurant: a vegan meal in Kensho (, Buenos Aires.


cheapest hostel:  2 nights in Lima - 12 Sol for the room (about 2 US$ each)
most expensive hostel:  12,000 Chilean Pesos in La Serena and in Antofagasta
Best hostel:  Pehuenia Hospedaje, El Bolson
worst hostel: a hostel in Pucara, Peru, where the bathroom was next to the pig's den.

Lost stuff
      Shoham                        Amit            
      gloves                          glasses
      T-shirt                          sandals
      rain cover                     camping towel
      sunglasses box            scarf
      headlight                      knife
      bicycle lock                  grocery bag

Places we liked
Buenos Aires
pass between Ushuaia and Tolhuin
Magallanes national reserve near Punta Arenas
Pingüinera north to Punta Arenas
highest pass on the circuit of Torres del Paine
El Chalten hiking paths
Carretera Austral:
     Villa O'higgins
     Caleta Tortel
     surrounding the General Carrera lake
     Cerro Castillo
     the road to Puyuhuapi
Laguna Escondida in Los Alerces national park
the way from El Bolson to Bariloche
7 lakes road
riding in Lanin national park towards Pucon
Chilean rIviera
Chinchillas national reserve
Cruz del Sur star observatory
getting down to La Serena
riding through the Atacama coastal road
coastal road from Paposo to El Cobre mine
San Pedro de Atacama
Reserva Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa
     Laguna Blanca
     hot springs near Laguna Salada
     Laguna Colorada
riding on the water covering Salar de Uyuni
La Raya pass and the way down from there
Salkantay trek:
     pass under Salkantay mountain
     walking on the railway from Hidroelectrica to Machu Picchu
     Machu Picchu mountaintop

Places we disliked
Roads near Rio Grande
San Carlos de Bariloche
central Chile

Stupid things and funny accidents
living a helmet unlocked in a hostel in Buenos Aires
entering Chile in San Sebastian with almost no food
crossing a deep freezing river
trying to turn on our wet camera
walking around Lago del Desierto instead of waiting for the fairy
a dog stole Shoham's underpants in Coyhaique
a dog copied us and picked blackberries
putting our tent in fire
cooking pasta in sea water
using thinner/diluent to light our stove
pushing our bikes in a sandy valley with no road towards San Juan
burning our shoes after shrinking them in the salt
riding on Salar de Uyuni while taking photos
drinking from the tap in La Paz and Peru
leaving behind a bag in the train
drinking a cup of sugar cane juice

Good people of South America
*   Celina Rosales, CouchSurfing host in Buenos Aires - made us feel at home for 3 days
*   Omar, owner of Panaderia La Union - bikers' host in Tulhuin
*   Marco, driver in Torres del Paine - kept our bicycles for 7 days
*   Jesus, hippie in El Chalten - kept our bicycles for 4 days
*   Mario Fernandez, llama porter in El Chalten - carried us down from the mountain
*   Ivor, hotel owner in Lago de Desierto - took us half way across the lake
*   Jorge, camping site owner in Cerro Castillo - saved a lost group
*   Jorge, Casa de Ciclistas  - cyclists' host in Villa Mañihuales
*   Raul Heladio & Sunilda - hosted us in their garden
*   Jose Luis - hosted us in his garden
*   Paul Beelen (, CouchSurfing host in Santiago - made us feel at home for 8 days
*   Eduardo, Natalia & Vicente Ramirez - picked us wet from the rain, hosted us for 2 days and took us on a guided tour in the Chilean riviera
*   Cristian Araya, CouchSurfing host in La Serena - hosted us for 5 days
*   Luis, mine guard - explained the mining infrastructure of Chile and shared his handcraft
*   Javier & Lucia, Alga hunters - shared their insights of the Chilean coastal harvesting
*   Oscar & Encalada family, CouchSurfing hosts in Calama - opened their home and their heart during 2 days they hosted us
*   Miners´ Camp - hosted us in their medical clinic
*   Victoria Salvatir - hosted us when all hostels were full due to the Fiesta
*   Osvaldo, the school teacher of Villa Esperanza - let us pass the freezing night inside his classroom
*   Hospedaje Cajas Reales in Chucuito - shared some cultural knowledge with us

Cyclists we met   (and remembered)
Amaya & Eric, USA & France (
Philipp & Isa, Swizerland (
Damian, Argentina (
Jonathan & Emma, UK (
Naoki Yamaguchi, Japan
3 Chilean students (
Matthew & Justing, UK & US
10 year old Kate, UK
Chris & Margo Mactaggart, Canada (
Alex & Fabrizzio, Swizerland (

Bert, Belgium (
Cristian and Lukas, Argentina

Katia and Ives, Canada
Héléne & Stéphane, France (
Rene, Germany
Ernest Markwood, South Africa (

Hasta la vista
When looking back we definitely recommend crossing south America by bicycles, and we can hardly wait to continue the rest of the way towards Alaska sometime soon. However, there are a few thousand kilometers that we would have skipped if time was our main concern rather than the budget. At the beginning we were on a race against the Patagonian winter, so we experienced too little of the amazing nature there in the south. Another month there could have been really nice, and then we would have had the chance to see also the rural nature outside the main roads. The Chileans in the freezing south are not that great, in contrast to the kind Argentinians, the welcoming Chileans in the warmer north or the good Bolivians of Potosí region.
Every place we visited is unique by itself and we hope the general spirit of our impression from this journey passed through the blog.

Get ready to Chapter II - stronger action, better drama and much more food!


This trip on other media:

Google Maps

                       Shoham & Amit
                     South America by Bicycle

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Cusco to Lima

When we got up in the late morning, after last night's adventure, we remembered that we forgot to take back our gloves that Angela borrowed from us. We assumed that our travel agency would have a list of our group's members. When we got to the agency, we realized it wouldn't be an easy task to track Angela. In 4 other agencies that organized our group, we asked for Angela and no one could help us, until we got to Havitush, which was her agency. They gave us the phone number of her previous lodging place. The man on the phone directed us to another hostel to where he knew she was heading, but the address he gave us was wrong. After walking in the nearby streets, we accidentally saw a very small sign leading to her hostel. There we found Angela with Esthel, her friend who was also in our group, sitting on the roof and enjoying the view. They were very surprised that we managed to find them, but still happy to see us.


After half a day of searching we got our gloves back, and went to look for a restaurant. Luckily, we found the best vegetarian restaurant in Cusco, El Encuentro (Santa Catalina Ancha 384, They offer a daily menu (7 Sol), which includes soup, bread, salad from a buffet, a main course and tea. We ate there twice and had quinoa croquettes and Seitan steak.


In this restaurant we got to know about The Original Kingdom vegan organization which also operates a global vegan business list,

To benefit from the hostel's kitchen, we went to the Wanchaq market to buy fruit and vegetables. We made chickpeas and vegetables stew and a pasta sauce. For breakfast we made 27 pancakes out of 6 eggs filled with bananas and 100% cocoa bar we found in the market. As we couldn't finish 27 pancakes, we fed the whole hostel.


Another great market is the Artesanal Sunday market in Plaza Tupac Amaru, where you can buy traditional candies and arts.


We were happy to find there our traditional cardboard breakfast, of popped wheat, quinoa and rice, and bought 1 kg of popped grains (10 Sol).


We chose to get to Lima 2 days before our flight back to Israel, so that we would have time to rest from the 24 hours bus ride. Thanks to the advice of a travel agent, we bought cheap tickets in the bus station itself. We chose Las Flores - Cetur, as they offered a good price (70 Sol) and were willing to take our bikes in one piece (for 20 Sol per bike). In order to take our bikes in a Semi-Cama bus, which is not as comfortable as a Cama bus, but has a much larger trunk. The bus went very slowly in the curved way, which was beautiful and made us regret not having cycled a bit further, to Abancay.


It is only natural that in 15 hours of curves we felt sick, until the first and only stop, 2 hours before Lima.


In Lima we just walked with our bicycles by our sides, until we found a hostel (Renovacion 490, 12 Sol for a room). The owner was very nice, and let us pack our bikes in the living room. To do that we had to buy bicycle boxes from one of the many bicycles shops in Huascaran street. Just one shop had good boxes (20 Sol). After packing the bicycles we had a day to explore the city. We went to Plaza de Armas, and visited the palace, and skipped everything else because the entrance costs money.

Shoham had a huge ice cream (5 Sol), and we tasted many freshly squeezed fruit juices they sell on street stands: orange, ananas and sugar cane. For dinner, we ate a vegetarian meal in a Chinese restaurant.


Then we went to the Circuito Magico del Agua (4 Sol) in Parque de la Reserva, near the newly built soccer stadium. There we enjoyed the various fountains, and watching the music, water and laser show.



On the day of the flight we had a delicious breakfast of fruit salad and popped wheat. After completing the packing of our stuff, we went out to take out money and change it into Euros, because were going to spend some time in Madrid between flights. For the last time in South America, we ate in a restaurant (menu for 4.5 Sol), and drank some orange juice. To get to the airport we stopped a taxi (20 Sol) with a talkative driver.


At the entrance to the airport, there was a scam of 2 people who made us pay them to put nylon all over our boxes, wit h the excuse that by a new airport regulation, we were obligated to do that. We asked a policeman to interfere, but he cooperated with them. We managed to bargain and paid only 10 Sol (that was all we had left) instead of the 40 Sol they wanted. When we got to the check-in point, we were of course the only ones with nylon on their boxes, but maybe this was the reason Iberia didn't charge us for flying our bicycles (75 USD + taxes), or for the huge overweight we had (40 kg).

After a pleasant flight, during which we mainly slept and ate, we landed in Madrid.


When we got to the center by metro (2 Euro), we still had 9 hours until the flight to Israel, so we could explore Madrid a bit. We walked through the beautiful Retiro park, and enjoyed the sun and the clean and quiet streets of Madrid (it was Saturday).




We took a train to Tres Cantos, where we met Lyke and Bill, friends of Shoham's parents. It was refreshing to sit with them, swim in their pool and have a great meal. We had olives, Gaspacho, potatoes, chicken, salad and for desert fruit salad with ice cream. This was our last non-vegan meal as in Israel we will go back to being vegan. They brought us back to the airport, where we felt like businessmen, arriving at the airport only an hour before taking-off, with no luggage to check in.


 This flight was more difficult for us - although it was a night flight, by South America time, it was day and we couldn't sleep. Moreover, there was no movies to help us pass the time. Somehow, however, in this flight we did get the vegan flight we ordered in Lima.

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Back in Israel
Just before landing, we remembered that we left our Israeli passports in our backpacks we checked in. So we had to argue with the border police so that they would let us in with our foreign passports.


The bicycle boxes were already waiting for us in the luggage hall, and the backpacks arrived immediately. After half an hour, we were already on the train to Haifa, and when we got off our whole family waited there for us.



For more photos of this post click here
and here
or here


                       Shoham & Amit
                     South America by Bicycle

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Machu Picchu

We got up at 3 AM, and were at the gate to the Machu Picchu site at 4 AM. A line of about 100 people was already there when we got there. The reason for this early rising is that only the first 400 people to enter the site were allowed to climb the Huayna Picchu mountain, overlooking the Machu Picchu ruins. The entrance is a few thousands of steps above this gate. Our group was very eager to be allowed to the Huayna Picchu, and so our clever guide came up with the idea of bribing the guards to let us in before the gates officially open at 4:50. He collected money (just coins this time), and caused a fuss in the previously organized line.


We refused to participate in this unfair crime, and joined the common people standing in line. We later found out that our group abandoned this idea as they were afraid of being stoned. We could hear a large group of Israelis in the front of the line shouting insults at our cheating group.

The Race
The gates opened on schedule and the race began. At first, there was no pushing, but soon it became a wild race to the top. The competition was not just against the people in line, but also against the buses bringing richer tourists from town. After a few hundred steps, people started choking and quit the race, although most of them continued as fast as they could (meaning slowly). Amit chose not to pass people in line, and so was stuck behind a group of enthusiastic British geeks. Shoham took the Israeli approach and got 12th to the top. The first 10 were of course also Israelis.


Amit got around 150th. Our group got around 200th. At the entrance we could choose entering Huayna Picchu between 7-8 AM or between 10-11 AM. As was settled earlier with our smart guide, we chose the earlier entrance. The rest of the group took the later entrance.

Huayna Picchu
On our way to the entrance to
Huayna Picchu, we enjoyed the rare opportunity to walk around the ruins almost alone.


The climb up the very top of this mountain wasn´t easy and consisted of steeper steps. We were the first to get there, but unfortunately there was little to see because of the clouds.


We waited there for 2.5 hours, until we could get a nice photo of the ruins, which was a bit tricky because again, the camera´s screen didn´t work.



There we met the 2 Argentinians from our group, who came up by the second bus. To do that they woke up at 2 AM and were on the line for the bus at 2:30. On our way back we visited the Gran Caverna (big cave). Although it was a nice walk with little crowd, the cave itself is not interesting, and the detour involves many more steps.



Machu Picchu Mountain
We had lunch we brought with us in a small sack, as it is not allowed to bring bags larger than 20 liters. When we finished, it was still early enough to make a last effort and climb the highest pick in the site - the Machu Picchu mountain. In the entrance you register with the time you entered. Before we were halfway up, we were already higher than the Huayna Picchu´s top.


All the way up, we met smiling people getting down who were joking with us. At the top we were welcomed by the huge flag of Cusco province.


There we met a few Americans who asked us about the time the climb took us. They were very disappointed to find out that we did it in 52 minutes, half of their time. We also met a nice Lithuanian couple who asked too many questions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Naively, they woke up at 5 AM to wait for the bus in hope they would be among the first 400 to enter. We also met Moshe from Israel whom Shoham met earlier, as he was the 9th to enter. He had a stove to make coffee on the top, but no-one had spare water for it.

Loosing our Heads
When we got back to the hotel, we discovered that our agency bought us the cheaper train ticket, at 9:30 PM, unlike all the other people of our group whose train left at 6:45 PM. After getting down from the train in Ollantaytambo, we went on the van that was waiting to transfer us back to Cusco. Suddenly we noticed that we forgot our snack bag on the train, but it was to late to retrieve it. Sadly, besides good snacks it contained also a flash light and some clothes. We got back to our hostel at 2 AM, and slept well.

For more photos of this post click here


                       Shoham & Amit
                     South America by Bicycle