…living in and dreaming of…

Setúbal – Alentejo

March 12th, 2018 · No Comments

The Setúbal península lies just south of Lisbon. We had our first peek at the Atlantic in the afternoon before setting up camp for the first time. The nights were still very cold and it didn’t help that I forgot to buy alcohol for our stove and so we had to do with some greasy lukewarm meal in the restaurant of the campground.

The next day we continued along the coast, bought alcohol in the pharmacy and took advantage of the break to drink a coffee in a busy cafe during lunch hour while it was raining outside. The coffee in Portugal is good and cheap. This might be a reason it took us sometime to find a coffee filter as people are less inclined to prepare their own coffee and so there is less demand in filters than in coffee shops.

Shortly after we had our first real test of our navigation system. I had relied on paper maps for all my previous travels but am now equipped with a smartphone and an assortment of apps. Not many apps let you plan a route offline and I started with the well-known maps.me

It has a lot of details and is easy to use but it might lead you to paths that are less suited for a loaded touring bike. After some pushing through sand we got to a path that was mostly rideable and it continued to be a mixed bag. Some frustrating moments alternated with blissful cycling through the woods.

On our way to Laguna de Albufeira we found a spot we liked and decided to wild camp.

We had some serious climbing to do until we reached the coast again just short of Sesimbra.

In Setúbal we stayed with Margareta from Belgium whom we had contacted through couchsurfing.

It was a lovely experience and we stayed an extra day with her and Jacinto. We were treated to a Curry the first night and had a walk through the historic center the following day and visited the market hall.

In the evening Jacinto was introducing us to Portuguese music. Which he was doing with such enthusiasm that I forgot the rather long search in the afternoon for a new crankset for Andrea’s bicycle to equip it with some lower gears for climbing. Thank you Margareta & Jacinto for a wonderful stay!

The next morning started with a boat ride over the Rio Sado. For lunch we stopped at Carvalhal where we got a box full of treats from the pastelería.

We passed on the offer to visit the local rice museum but took a path through the rice paddies where a lot of birds had their home or stopped for the winter. A lot of storks among them and their huge nests, now an unfamiliar sight in Germany, are still present here. The path was going along the dunes and when it was getting close to the evening, we made the extra effort to push the bike uphill through the sand to enjoy this view.

The sunset was spectacular as well.

Around Sines, we had to cross an industrial park before taking the road along Praia de Sao Torpes.

In Vila Nova de Mílfontes we took our first stroll on the beach.

In Zambujeira do mar we stayed an extra day before passing Odeceixe. The forecast began to look really grim and we decided to look for accommodation in Carrapateira. We had another lovely stretch through woodlands when it started to rain and would continue until we reached our guest house. The rain gear held up well but we were still glad to get out of our cycling cloth and to take a hot shower. The weather stayed like this for some time and we changed our travel plans slightly and decided to weather the storm with some company in hostels in Lagos and Faro.

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Lisboa

March 5th, 2018 · No Comments

After the blog was sleeping for more than two years, it is time to open a new chapter.

After meeting Andrea in Cafayate during my last trip in Southamerica and living in Argentina for a good while, this is the story of our travel by bicycle through Europe.

We flew from Rosario to Madrid and then took a train to Lisbon where we stayed for a week. My sister was sending us our two bicycles and all the equipment and so we had almost everything to start our trip.

Although the winter was still responsible for rather short days and a cold wind, the hours with sun were already pleasant enough to explore the city. Almost every walk you take in Lisbon evolves stairs but also takes you past some beautiful views over the city like here at Santa Lucia.

Close to the mirador passes the old tramline which takes you through the historic heart of Alfama.

We bought the rest of the equipment and assembled the bicycles in time before two friends from Argentina arrived and stayed with us for a couple of days: Paula and Agustín.

Together we explored Lisbon and went for a day trip to Sintra. Where you have enchanted gardens where beautiful princesses dwell in their towers,

but also evil kings watch over their lands.

One of our favourite places became the market where we found most of our missing equipment. It is just next to the church of Santa Engracia, the National Pantheon.

When we walked through the city we always took sufficient breaks to not got tired of doing too much.

On the 10th of February we finally mounted our bicycles and rode our first kilometers along the Tejo river

 

before crossing it by boat. The post will be about cycling along the coast towards the south through the region Alentejo.

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rio de janeiro

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

After thirty hours on the bus, i arrived in Rio de Janeiro and was advised not to cycle in the area around the bus terminal during the night. Without any information to judge for myself if it is dangerous or not, i opted for a taxi to a street with at least two hostels i knew of and only wanted to get some sleep first. The next day after breakfast i started with the bike to explore the city. Just south of the old airport starts a bike path that takes you past the Pão de Açúcar, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema along the entire city center water front. First i stopped at Copacabana…

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and then at Ipanema. The statue of Antonio Carlos Jobim, one of the most famous musicians of Brazil and driving force behind the Bossa Nova, is standing right next to the beach. Here’s a link to a performance by Jobim with Frank Sinatra of ‘Garota de Ipanema’, The Girl of Ipanema. A bicycle, a guitar and a girl to sing about is all you need.

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On my way back i stopped at the Pão de Açúcar, the Sugarloaf Mountain. Since i didn’t plan to visit the statue of Christ the Redeemer, i at least wanted to visit one viewpoint to overlook the famous natural harbour of Rio de Janeiro.

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The weather was nice though sometimes cloudy. While ascending with the cable car, the top drifted in and out of the clouds. Once up, there were enough sunny and clear moments to enjoy the view, like here over Copacabana.

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With a group from the hostel we spend the next day exploring Santa Teresa. But first we were playing some russian songs in the lobby of the hostel.

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We met up with some more people at the ‘Espirito Santa’ restaurant before ambling along the cozy streets of the quarter. Then we headed over to the ‘Parque das Ruinas’ before descending on the famous Selaron Steps.

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Where soon after we passed this mural depicting musicians of Brazil.

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While walking a bit aimlessly through the streets we came across an old building and were wondering what it is. While chatting to some of the people busying themselves around the house we found out about a party with live music that same night. The place being just a bit above Largo dos Guiamraes. It turned out to be a cracker of a night with superb music and vibrating atmosphere. A great last evening before leaving this great continent.

Thanks for reading and sharing. Maybe some more updates will follow or we will hear from each other during the next trip. Until then enjoy the adventure that life is!!

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iguazú

May 26th, 2015 · No Comments

On the border between Argentina and Brasil lies one of the natural wonders of South America: The Iguazú Falls. The setting is brilliant and once you blend out the touristy infrastructure of walkways, trains and such, this is a great place to visit.

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One path takes you to the top of the falls,

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while the other explores the lower parts, gives you a panoramic view…

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until it takes you close enough to the falls for a shower and to cool down a bit.

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With a small train one can get to the starting point of a walkway over the river before the falls to the garganta del diablo.

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Once there, it is no wonder why this place was given this name. The roaring of the water and the foaming of the water is a spectactle. The spray of the water lit by the sunlight is sometimes too bright to look into, and every couple of seconds a gust of foam taken up by the wind blows in your face and takes the vision so you can’t see the opposite side of the gorge only fifty meters away no more. I spent a good four hours in the park before cycling back to the city of Iguazú, where i arrived at the bus terminal just in time to pack up the bike and get the night bus to Rio de Janeiro.

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rosario

April 20th, 2015 · No Comments

Buenos Aires was just a stopover. My singing coach who is living there part of the year, was still in Berlin. And another girl from the capital i met during my time in Colombia, was still travelling in Mexico. So i had no real reason to stay, especially since Maggie and Bryan would be coming to Rosario for a visit. I spent only a day before taking a bus to Rosario where i met Andrea on the terminal. We had a day to ourselves before the Canadians rolled into town. It was quite exciting when the door bell rang and we put two more bikes first in the lift and then on the balcony, where mine was already leaning next to Andrea’s. The next day we all went to the river where there’s usually a refreshing breeze and enjoyed once more being together and leaving the bicycles on the balcony for a while.

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Taking a bus first and then hiring a boat, we went to one of the island in front of Rosario. We brought the guitar as well as hot water to prepare Mate and spent the day at the beach.

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We had already met Soledad, Agustín and Patricio, a cycling trio, when we stayed in Cafayate. For our reunion they organized an Asado next to the river. This is our lovely group.

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Asado is a big thing in Argentina. Almost a form of art to some, the procedure takes time until the coal breaks into tiny pieces and can be spread out to get an even and constant source of heat. One could argue if all this is necessary for a get-together but the social aspect is integral part of it. Leaving enough time for the asador to socialize and tend to his drink, which here in Argentina is usually a Fernet mixed with Cola.

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A lot of people we met are musicians and so music was also an integral part of our days here. Once they were a duo playing the clubs in Rosario. Now for another time Andrea & Nieves were singing in the living room.

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Food was abundant these days and we made something special out of each meal. Fruit and Bryan’s pancakes for breakfast, or Maggie’s Chili for dinner, there was always an idea ready when we were getting hungry and we enjoyed preparing and sharing our meals.

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It was a sad day when Maggie and Bryan were finally leaving after staying an extra three days, but as we all know: goodbyes are a part of travelling. And there is always a part in you that knows that you are left that much richer then you were before, which outbalances the sadness. They would be going to Gualeguaychu for its famous Carnival celebrations. You can read about it here and their account of Rosario here.

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bahia blanca

April 19th, 2015 · No Comments

After crossing to Argentina again, the bicycle part of this trip had come to an end and i continued by bus. First towards the Atlantic and then towards the north. After the privitization of the train network in the 90s, the majority of railways had closed down and now only a fraction of the network is run by several small companies. To break up the journey to Buenos Aires, i took a bus to Bahia Blanca to continue from there by train. After buying a ticket, which costs less than a fifth of the bus ticket, i checked into a hostel close to the train station.

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Ants are usually not what you want your hostel to swarm with, but here they added to the atmosphere.

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The yard was filled with them as well and next to them parked a freak or tall bike. The first use for these machines was for make it easier to light gas lamps in the late nineteenth century.

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Old bicycle parts were also used in creating some of the ants. Here a cogwheel was used to creeate for the fangs.

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The next day at the station, it felt like travelling back in time to the early days of train travel.

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The railways and the station look almost abandonned and nature is taking them back one grasshalm at a time.

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The sky was darkening and once we were finally on our way, the rain blurred the vision out of the windows and together with the smells and noises added to this unreal atmosphere.

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The train ride itself is an adventure. There are more comfortable classes, with the ‘pullman’ even one above the first class, but they are generally booked out quickly and all that remains is the tourist class. Which isn’t very comfortable but has a nice little feature: You can convert two double seats facing in one direction, so that they face each other, by folding the backrest of one seat to the other side. Thus enabling groups to suit their news best. After chatting to a father and son duo for a while, they asked me to get up and created that new seating arrangement in seconds. All the while the son was holding his new guitar he was too reluctant to put in the overhead compartment. Later he played a little bit and after only four weeks of lessons, that were included as sort of a test run to see if he has the motivation to play, i was glad the father was satisfied and willing to let him continue. Even though, the train ride takes at least twice as long as with the bus and is less than half as comfortable, it might be the richer experience for some. Soon some news about Buenos Aires and beyond.

 

 

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lago carrera

April 13th, 2015 · No Comments

After taking the turnoff to Puerto Ibañez, it was mostly downhill towards Lago Carrera and a tailwind was pushing me swiftly along. And then one last look back…

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A common view in Patagonia, a body of water with snow capped mountains looming in the background. This was my goodbye to this wonderful place.

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Then the Lago Carrera came into view and in the evening i took a ferry across it together with two other cyclists from germany.

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The wind was blowing strong but i still preferred to spend the crossing on deck. I camped in Chile Chico and tried one of the homebrewed cervezas, the son of the familie running the campground made himself. The next day it was only some kilometers to the border before crossing into argentinian territory again. One could see the road for miles ahead and besides the changing colours of the lake…

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…not much was to be seen besides some armadillos.

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The road kept following the lake with the only difference being that it now was called Lago Buenos Aires. And it was pleasant enough with another tailwind keeping the pedaling effort to a minimum until reaching the small town of Perito Moreno. On the nice municipal campground my neightbour had pitched the same tent as mine in the other available colour less optimized for stealth camping.

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From here it would be all buses, and hopefully a train in between, until Buenos Aires.

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cerro castillo

March 6th, 2015 · No Comments

We continued as a group of three after Kevin had left Coyhaique before us, as he has only two weeks of holiday, and Ariel got a flight back to Santiago. First stop was at the CONAF camping sixty kilometers south of Coyhaique.

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One more pass and we entered the valley of the rio Ibañez. Flo on the descent to the pueblo of Cerro Castillo, while the mountain with the same name is seen on the right, half hidden by clouds.

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Just along the main road when you enter the village, our first stop was this nice café which consisted of two old buses joined together. The menu consists mostly of burgers, which are huge, and they made quite an effort for the vegetarian version, which turned out to be the most delicious looking on our table.

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After checking out different campsites with either no person present or a lack of shade, we booked ourselves into the one closest to and with the best view of Cerro Castillo. The next day we started the trek.

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At the beginning most of the path was leading through forest. The horseflies kept us company, especially once out in the open, which luckily ended more or less at the point where the guided tours left their horses because it was getting too steep and slippery. The views were nice throughout the trek…

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the weather superb, as surprisingly during most of our time on the carretera, and there are great views of the mountain with its lagoon at the end of the trek.

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A great place to have a picnic with galletas and frutas.

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A perfect day trip, not too taxing even after some days on the bike. For me this was as well an endpoint. This was as far as i would be following the carretera to the south. The next day i said my goodbyes to Florian and Samuel, who would continue together to Villa O’Higgings and the end of the carretera austral whereas i would retrace my steps a bit and then continue to Puerto Ibañez from where the ferry over the Lago Carrera towards Chile Chico leaves.

 

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carretera austral

March 6th, 2015 · No Comments

Arriving in Santa Lucia at the Carretera Austral, i was somewhat taken aback when there was a perfect asphalt road starting just a few hundred meters out of the village. I’m not a dirt road fanatic in the sense that i grumble at any sign of asphalt, but in my mind the carretera austral was like patagonia, wild and rough around the edges. Recently a lot of stretches were paved and in others, works were in progress. Sometimes with explosives to make room for two lanes, and so some parts of the road are closed at certain hours. At least the second half towards Puyihuapi were dirt and i arrived somewhat relieved that at least some parts remained untamed.

At the plaza, i met Boris from the casa del ciclista in Coyhaique. Some minutes later Samuel from Spain, and since two years a resident of Santiago, arrived and we had a cyclists’s chat.

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There is a hostel next to the lake which also offers camping. After dinner we were presented with this view.

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Back at the hostel i met Flo from Germany who was travelling with Ariel from Santiago. They both had participated in the race in Futaleufu the day i was passing through. The next morning they started early but we made plans to catch up later as we all in to intended to make a stop at the hanging glacier in the Queulat National Park.

There is a campground at the side of the road which was already packed with other cyclists and an old bus who now served as common room and sleeping quarters. In the afternoon we first walked to the mirador which is a two hour walk uphill.

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When we got down again we found out that the fifteen minute walk to the lagoon at the bottom is not only shorter, less streneous but also offers views just as good.

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We thought about taking a swim and the colour of the water looked inviting, but after wetting our feet we were content to leave the rest of our bodies unfrozen.

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In some parts the influence of which part of the globe the people came to settle here is obvious. Not only the name giver to this bridge but also to one of the many local beers or cerveza artesanal.

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The paved part towards Puerto Aisén doesn’t see a lot of traffic and for the better part of it, we could cycle side by side occupying one lane while chatting. Here with Flo and Sam, who took the photo.

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In one of the villages we met Kevin from San Francisco and continued as a group of five. Only some kilometers from town we found a nice camping next to Lago Las Torres. We had a swim and relaxed at the shore until it was time for dinner. Here with Kevin, myself, Ariel, Samuel and Flo.

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We had our share of bike problems: broken racks, punctures, a snapped spoke and trouble with the brakes. While working on Flo’s broken rack,

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Ariel preferred to have a siesta.

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Water is plenty around here. If you are not seeing a waterfall on the side of the road…

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you’re likely to follow a lake or a river.

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When arriving in Coyhaique, we first had a hearty lunch in a restaurant before making our way to the casa del ciclista and occupied the last remaining space in the garden with our tents.

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Boris was still on his way to Puerto Montt but his friend Paulina took care of the place. Such a lovely person and such a great group of people we had to pleasure to meet during our stay.

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los alerces

February 14th, 2015 · No Comments

The road kept follwing lakes towards the south. First the lago Gutiérrez and then lago Mascardi. I passed El Bolson, a town many hippies from the capital chose as their new home in the 70s, and also known for its surroundings and outdoor activities. What seems like a place well worth visiting, the description reminding me of Vilcabamba, where i spent more than a week relaxing and exploring its surroundings, i just passed as i didn’t feel like making a stop for a longer period of time. Just as i was about to exit town, somebody yelled my name, and i was pleasantly surprised to see Simon, one of the lovely folks of the Huayra Sanipi family of Cafayate and had some time to exchange our latest experiences.

From Cholila, where i spent a nice hour with good coffee and wi-fi at the café above the tourist information, i cycled the last part of asphated road towards the PN Los Alerces.

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Camping not far before its entrance, i was up early and had the whole day to explore. When i stopped to filter water, this curious fellow was hopping around the bike for a while, closer than most birds would dare to in other parts of the world.

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While looking for a place to rest along the road, i stopped at the beginning of the path to the viewpoint over laguna verde and postponned my planned picnic for a while. Which was well worth it to see this.

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If someone would want to study the colour blue, this would be a good place to start as almost every body of water seems to add another shade to the palette.

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Some of the lakes had beaches…

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And on one of these i pitched my tent for the night. There are only a handful of free campings along the road through the park and a good place to meet other travellers. I met some Argentinians who invited me to have mate with them while preparing dinner over the fire. The next day i already left the park again as there is just so many lakes you can look at, which probably holds true as well for photos of lakes…

so how about some clouds…

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or rivers…

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This is already in Chile on my way from Futaleufu towards the Carretera Austral.

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