I am writing this time from southern Chile, where I have been bicycling with my mom since early January. We started in Puerto Montt, rode down the Carretera Austral, crossed into Argentina for a while, and now we are back in Chile (Puerto Natales), on the cusp of the next part of this adventure.
All told, we have cycled about 1200 kilometers, plus 400 kilometers of bus riding and hitchhiking. The Carretera Austral was beautiful and always interesting, although the road itself was challenging and slow in places with our bikes fully loaded. We choked on dust, dodged trucks, and struggled up steep hills of loose rock. The landscape reminded me a lot, sometimes, of my home in Southeast Alaska, with dramatic mountains, fjords, and glaciers, and small seaside villages. The flora and fauna, on the other hand, were completely alien. The forest could easily have been considered a jungle, and I didn't recognize any of the animals except the domestic ones. "Small dark-colored bird," or "large shiny beetle with scary mandibles of death" is about as specific as it gets.
At the end of the Carretera, we made the bicyclists' and hitchhikers' pilgrimage into Argentina by foot and ferry across two lakes with a horse trail in between.
In Argentina we found the pavement again, but also encountered the monotony of the Argentine pampas and the infamously fierce vientos patagonicos (Patagonian winds). At first, we were excited to have them in our favor, but we soon ground almost to a halt due to headwinds, and friends less lucky than ourselves were literally blown off their bikes by crosswind.
This trip has been quite an experience for me, largely because of the people, both native Chileans and international travelers like ourselves. We frequently find ourselves more or less traveling with other groups of cyclists from all over the world. We have made Chilean, Irish, German, French, Dutch, British, and Argentine friends, among others.
Our bicycle trip, though, is officially over, as we sold our bikes to a pair of service station attendants. Then my dad flew in with our backpacks to join us for a ten-day hike in Torres del Paine National Park. After he heads home, my mom and I have two weeks to get to Ushuaia by bus, boat, and foot to catch our plane.
Before I go, I have to put in a good word for Montana State. I was just getting into the swing of things in my last post, but I quickly settled in, made friends that I'm sure I will keep, and found that MSU has a good honors college and a respectable engineering program. I'm much less concerned about my first math class at Olin, and after a semester in mechanical engineering, I know that I would miss electronics and programming as an ME, so I'm going to figure out how to pursue mechatronics at Olin!