2,400m of Steep Agony and the People Who Make it Worth it


*We have just spent the last two weeks along the most amazing route in the Bolivian altiplano, so make sure to check back every few days for blog entries with a whole lot of amazing photos from this stunning expedition-style section. But first, a post about climbing out of Chile.*

After leaving San Pedro and the wonderful Belgian host we had spent the last few days with, we began on a 40km, 2,400m elevation gain climb up and out of Chile and onto the Bolivian altiplano. That sort of ascent is steep by any standards, especially at altitude (4,600m at the top) where it’s harder to breath, but when you are carrying eight days of food, and eleven liters of water (so over 15 kilos each of extra dead weight) it’s hard to even imagine. The most depressing part about a climb like this is looking down only to find that your speedometer reads a grand total of 0km/h, because anything under 4km/h is apparently unworthy of calculation. We cycled (and occasionally pushed) up this darn pass all day wondering why oh why we were on bicycles, until, at four o’clock when Kevin was about to call it a day, a tourist van drove passed us and then back-tracked in order to lavish us with edible gifts and encouragement. The guide jumped out with, “guys, do you want sandwiches? A piece of cake? A cold drink?.. Take whatever you want, we are headed back now and this is all extra,” and so as the tourists inside the van gathered around in order to ask questions about our trip and take pictures with our bike, we feasted on our impromptu snack which couldn’t have been better timed. It wasn’t simply the extra burst of sugar which motivated us on our way again once they took off, but the smiles, the encouragement, and the simple fact that this whole van of tourists was willing to stop for us and cheer us up as we struggled up the pass. Though these forty kilometers weren’t stellar, they could never change our mind about the benefits of cycle touring as a way of travel.

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