Life on the Road


We realize what may be routine to us these days still falls outside the realm of ”normal” for our friends and family back home, so we want to share a few more details about the life we’re leading followed by a brief update on our whereabouts. Don’t hesitate to email us if we don’t assuage you’re curiosity (katieandjames@taperedwings.com).

Typical Day

Wake at 7:45 am (depending on daylight and temperature), pack our bags, then our bikes, break down the tent while a liter of water boils, eat oats with a shared mug of coffee (tea if we’re at extreme altitude), ride for 6 hours, arrive in a town and immediately seek out homemade bread, buy vegetables, cook in the plaza, set up our tent in the municipal campground, take a bathing suit shower under our 5 liter MSR dromedary, do our laundry, read on our kindle (sharing one), and fall asleep at 10pm. There’s not much time outside the daily routine of staying alive. When we’re wild camping we try to find a spot within two hours left of daylight. We hardly have ”free time,” unless we take the day off from riding (which we do every nine days or so).

Luxuries

Hot water, putting our tent on a strip of grass (we’re using on fine, sandy dirt), a soft chair in the evening, toast, a non-glacial shower, days without dust, butter, the unofficial Argentine exchange rate of 9:1 versus the official 5:1.

A Bit More on Laundry

15-20 min daily by hand in river water or sinks, scrubbing, wringing, and hanging it off our bikes under bungee straps. We use a collapsible “kitchen sink” by Sea-to-Summit that we fill with usually freezing water and work over the clothes with our hands and a bar of bath soap. We cycle between two sets of clothes and have a third as a safety net if we don’t have access to water. Lately the clothes have been frozen to our handlebars in the morning.

Provisioning

Done every 2-3 days (occasionally we wait up to 6). We buy vegetables, fruit, oatmeal, soup mixes, crackers or cookies, and pasta. When in a town, we buy homemade bread (every town has a woman who makes an eight-inch round, flat, dense, delicious loaf). We also try to find homemade marmalades, honey, or goat cheese (we just bought 500 grams for less than two dollars, while the goats watched). “Pit stops” to provision in larger towns can take a couple hours out of our day.

Best Gifts from Artisanal Folks

Raisins, dried figs, grapes on the vine, pomegranate, and more raisins

Protein Sources

Hardboiled eggs, walnuts (local to La Rioja province of Argentina), and dried milk in our oatmeal

Water

After 5 months of taking directly from glacial streams, we’re now occasionally filtering water because of mineral contamination from the mines (lots of locals in small towns have thyroid issues from the water). We have capacity for 13 liters of water which we can stretch to two days if necessary. It’s still not enough and we’ll be looking to up our capacity when we re-gear this summer.

New Roadside Concerns

A flat-backed beetle that bites and poops on you, transmitting a disease much like lime disease. Thorns, which exist everywhere now in the high desert. We went five months in Patagonia with no flat tires, now we’ve had five in a week. Dust has begun covering everything and we routinely wake with a fine layer giving us a charming yet filthy antique look in the morning.

Interesting Side Notes

Each town has a patron saint, and they regularly hold festivals, marching with figurines of the saint clad in beautifully ornate garb. We’ve benefited a few times from the local gatherings that always have affordable empanadas. Also of note, for centuries locals have used the cardon cactus to build anything from rafters to drums to the parish confessionals.

Internet

Very hard to come by these days. Internet cafes are challenging to visit, since we can’t leave our bikes alone at a municipal campground or behind a church where we also often camp. Limited daylight means we have to prioritize riding and then setting up our tent, before the temperatures drop. We prefer finding wifi, so we can type emails and blog posts on our phone and save them until we encounter the web. Yep, this means all our blog posts have been typed with our thumbs on a phone. We use a swipe feature that sometimes confuses words, explaining our occasional seemingly erratic inclusions.

Current Whereabouts: UNESCO World Heritage Site

A week ago, we reached the summit of Abra del Acay, then descended for 30km through sweeping hills laden in foot-high grass blooms and swaths of sulfur-colored peat moss that tucked into the joints of the hills. Vicuña, donkeys, guanacos, and llamas grazed on all sides. One section was home to dozens of chinchillas darting across the rocks in the late sun. We then traversed past a giant salt flat in the high desert before coming upon a celebration of a saint where roughly a hundred locals had gathered to eat a free beef and hominy stew called locro provided by a regional church. We too ate bowls of stew before following national route 52 to Purmamarca, which took us once more to 4170 meters before we descended into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Quebrada de Humahuaca. The metamorphic and sedimentary rocks of the ravine are that of an ancient ocean, giving it the lively colors of a tropical reef (violets, magentas, ambers, smoky blues, and rich greens). The descent swept forty kilometers down a road shaped like a child’s drawing, each switchback bringing a new visita of sandcastle shapes and underworldy colors.

Now we’re in Humahuaca, Argentina, waiting out a protest that closed the bridge and therefore the border with Bolivia. We heard it’s possible to hire a canoe to the other side, which we’ll try to do tomorrow. We just finished off a jar of homemade apple marmalade and another of spicy preserved llama meat, so our bikes are back to a reasonable weight that should make the river crossing possible. This evening, we’ll head to a restaurant to listen to folkloric music and treat ourselves to dinner ($8 per person), a nice respite from instant soup with vegetables.