Monday, December 27, 2010

New blog - new address -- better!!


I have set-up a new blog where you can easily see photos and the Google map where I am.

See you there

I will no longer update this blog from today, Dec27th


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A bike in the wind

I finally left Ushiaia.

On Saturday, after a nice pub lunch with Rob, I went down to the harbor with Gene and a nice guy from Vail (his name escapes me right now. sorry). Gene took my photo by the sign and here I went. The trailer felt heavy as it was the first time I rode with it fully loaded. I waved goodbye to Ushuaia which I have grown to really enjoy with all the time I spent there. The first few kilometers went well. Then some rain started and I pulled over to get into my rain gears. As I did not get myself properly organized, I had to searched in all my two bags to get everything out. I climbed the first mountain pass slowly while enjoying the scenary. Then I came to the second one after about 35km. A long and slow climb. The positive part was that so many drivers gave me their encouragement by flashing their lights, honking or just giving me the thumbs up. It is amazing how much energy you get from these little gestures. So please, next time you see some cyclists with bags, give them a little thumbs up, it is always appreciated. On top of the climb, my body was killing me so I found a small dirt road off the main highway and set up camp. There was a small glacial creek so I filtered some water for drinking and cleaned myself a little in very cold water. I quickly cooked up dinner, stretched and felt asleep right away once I entered the tent.

I woke up the following morning full of energy and after a quick breakfast, I re-organized all my equipment to make it more compact and efficient. I left camp by 10:00am. After less than a kilometer, I reached the top of the hill and there was a superb view from some lakes (photo above). Then I had a unexpected yet fantastic 10 kilometers downhill in front of me. A great way to start the day. As the road was good and the wind somewhere else, I biked 60km in about 3 hours. As the rain was starting to pour, I pulled into a small gas station. To my surprise, two other touring bikes were there. I then met Neil and Svendes, 2 germans bikers. They had met on the internet to do the journey from Ushuaia to Alaska in 2 years. As my legs felt good, I decided to ride with them a few more kilometers. During the afternoon, we met a dutch couples on their bikes on their way to Ushuaia. They spent the last 5 months biking from Peru. In the meantime, so many touring motocycles and RVs passed, all honking or waving. So nice! We bikes 27 km before we pulled from the road and set up camp in a small area away from the wind. I was pleased with 87km on my second day.

So yesterday, the remaining distance to Rio Grande was 80km. We knew it was going to be windy but did not think much of it. So we started to ride at 8am and the rain started a few minutes later. Heavy rain and strong wind. It was not the most pleasant ride but still ok. Around 11:00am, the rain stopped and the sun appeared out of nowhere. As we were exhausted, we rested in an area away from the wind and soaked some sun rays while it lasted. 20 minutes later, the clouds were back and were we, on the road fighting the wind. The wind was so powerful by moment that we were pushed off the road. To make matter worst, the road was long, flat and straight with nothing to break the wind. We could see sometimes up to 8 km ahead of us. We were biking at a fast speed of 8km/h (5 miles/h)!!! By noon time, we only had done 30km. Disaster. We were already exhausted, tired and in pain. This stretch of road is 107km long with nothing in the middle: no gas station, no houses, nothing. Only wind, wind and wind. At 6:45pm, we arrived on top a long climb to finally see Rio Grande at the bottom, by the ocean. A small 3 km  in straight line if we could fly. Yet, it was still 14km to go. Imagine, you see the town and know it wil take another hour and half to get there. So depressing! As the wind was strong than ever, we biked down the hill to a day speed record of 15 km/h. As we bike slowly fighting against the wind, we had the welcome surprise to have atail wind for the last 5km to town. I could not believe it. No more harsh wind in my face after 75km. The speed increased to 30km/h and I arrived in Rio Grande feeling like the Tour De France champion on the Champ-Elysee in Paris. To celebrate, we cheered our spirits up with some coca-cola and chips. It could not have tasted any better. The clock was showing 8:30pm. 12 and half hours on the bike! As we were all in pain, we opted for a day off for tomorrow. The day has been so exhausting for Neil than he was sick the entire night and had to stay in bed today. He is now thinking on taking the bus to Punta Arenas, Chile instead of taking the road on his bike. Sendes and I will start riding again tomorrow. And we looked at the weather forecast and the wind seem only to get stronger as we go north. Until Portvenir, Chile (for the ferry to Punta Arenas), we have about 230km of nothing but wind. It will be a mental game and we are ready to face it.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you


Saturday, December 18, 2010


It was a relief to wake up with calm seas and no movement. I was still a bit light headed by the last 2 days of rough seas yet I managed to put myself together and went up for breakfast. As I did not see outside (port hole was closed) nor taken any fresh air in the last 48 hours, I first headed for the deck and see what the weather was up too. A beautiful sight awaited me with icebergs and tall snowy mountains close by the ship. In order to avoid a big storm, the Captain had steered the ship toward the Shetland Islands and the Argentinean Scientific base Jubany. The zodiacs were lowered to the water and we all headed ashore. Firm land under our feet. A team of scientists awaited our arrival and a guided tour of the facilities was offered. This base was quite small with only about 20 scientists, 3 penguins and one seal. The sun was shining and it was great for photos. In the afternoon, we headed for the fjords named Almighty Sound. As no landing was possible we did a 75 minutes zodiac cruise around the sound. The light for photography was perfect. At one point, the guide had the brilliant idea to stop the engine and let us enjoy the silence of Antarctica. So wonderful: no noise, no wind, the warmth of the sun over our red cheeked faces. The best 4 minutes of the trip so far.
In order to avoid heavy ice, we arrived this morning to an unexpected landing: the Argentinean Base Esperanza. Being very sophisticated, the base is one of the very few with children. There is a school, small theatre, entertainment complex in addition to all the normal scientific installations. The location is also shared with a delphia penguins rockery. Hundreds of penguins are just walking around the base. We had a tour guide and visited the facilities. The school was the most impressive with computer rooms and small laptop for the kids. It was large for the size of the Base and offered all the scholar need from kindergarden to high school.
During the afternoon, we sailed through icebergs and ice sheets. The ship being a mini-icebreaker, it helps as we could go through ice easily and go further south. In the afternoon, we landed on Paulet Island; a volcanic island home of over 100 thousands delphia penguins. Nothing else but penguins. As they are all similar, it was fun to walk around them. They were nesting so we had to be careful as where to step. We took a hike on the hills where some penguins where even located. It was a far and long walk for them from the sea to the nest. The photo opportunities were endless.
This morning, we cruised between tabular icebergs. They are flat top, long rectangular icebergs. Their size varies but they can be up to 10 miles long. The colors are beautiful and being a cloudy day, it helps make the icebergs stand more dramatically. Jordy is our zodiac driver and we cruise around the icebergs  and snap lots of beautiful photos.
In the afternoon, we arrived at Astrolab, an island chain. We do another zodiac cruise and as our luck goes, Jordy is again our zodiac driver. Our group really enjoy him as he loves taking photos with his massive Canon lenses and we have then time to take photos too. And he likes to dare, so we get really close to icebergs and try a very narrow passage between an iceberg and some rocks. It is so narrow and Jordy tries to put the zodiac through. We are all excited until one small rock block our way out. We have to reverse. A leopard seal is resting by a bluish iceberg and we stop to admire him. As we are cruising back to the ship, we saw in the background 2 humpback whales jumping and splashing around. It is far from us but we cannot stop watching. We asked Jordy if we can go but he has to bring us back onboard so the other group can go to. We are so disappointed. But as there is only one group left, we stand by and are able to re-enter the zodiac and go after the whales. A strong drizzle come on us as we are cruising full speed toward the action. As we watch, the whale displayed a beautiful tail. Photos are great.
We entered a beautiful bay today surrounded by small iceberg and snow capped mountains. The sea is dead calm and the water is flat. As we are on deck enjoying the sun, two humpback whales come right by the ship to greet us. They are massive animal and we can admire their features, the skin texture and the different colors of their skins. I have never seen whales so close. As the whalse went away, we saw many other whales, cruising the area. The zodiacs were lowered and the first group went for the chase. We could follow them for the top deck and we saw how close they got from the whales.  We all waited anxiously for our turn to come. It finally came and we jumped excited in the zodiac. We cruised only about 200 meters from the ship went we encountered the whales again. Wow, their size was impressive. So big. As everybody wished, they showed some amazing tails and we were delighted as they photos were awesome. We chased them for a while and quickly realized that I took 400 shots already. Then we cruised to a penguins rockery. One peculiar thing about penguin’s rockeries is the bad smell. One penguin’s poo-poo is nothing but place 5000 of them together and let the sun warm it up. Wow.  Anyhow, they are still so cute and I walked around them in awe and charmed by the clumsiness. After a short hike to a viewpoint, we were allowed to go down the snowy slope on our bottom, surrounded by penguins. So much fun! And it got some warmed that I ended up in t-shirt for a while.
Deception Island. We arrived on a beautiful sunny day at Deception Island. I had admired the island from the Symphony’s deck last year yet as the ship is too big, we could not enter the interior lake. This time, we could. We anchored off a former whaling station. The station was first used by whalers then it became home of one of the British Antarctica Survey Base until 1969. Several mega steel tanks still stand rusty, some houses remain and a hanger. The wind was blowing fiercely and I tried to imagine how it was like to live here almost one hundred year ago and chase whales on a small row boat. It must have been quite a challenge.
As we were cruising the afternoon, the sun was warm andthe wind lowso Rob and I went on deck to talk. So nice, sunbathing in Antarctica!
And now, we entered the Drake passage again... 20-30 foot waves for almost 2 days. Not fun...
Overall, the trip has been amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone.
OK, take care for now

Monday, December 6, 2010

Still in Ushuaia


I am still in Ushuaia and tomorrow I am heading, finally, for Antarctica on the small expedition ship M/S Antarctic Dream. I am really excited to finally be able to step on the white continent. I got my warm clothes today from the travel agency: a warm jacket, waterproof pants and rubber boots. I bought some dramamine pills in case the Drake passage is not in a good mood. Also, as the ship is small, there is no internet onboard so I will give news once I return on Dec 18th.

Being in Ushuaia for so many days, I discovered the city very well and also the surrounding areas. The weather has been not so good as it changes every 15 minutes: rain, sun, fog, snow. You get all the 4 seasons within one hour. Yet yesterday, the clouds finally moved away and the sun shined all day and the mercury raised above 20 degree celcius (about 74F). It was welcome as the temperature as been around 5 degree celcius (38 F) everyday since I arrived 6 days ago.

As the weather was great, a hike in the natinal park Tierra Del Furgo was on the agenda. A german backpacker, Sara, came along with me. The bus dropped us off at the entrance of the park and we followed a service road all the way down to the Beagle Channel. From there, a clear narrow dirt path was following the shore edge. The scenary was great with many snow capped mountains on the horizon. Many trees were dotted of several orange colored, round mushrrom which look very much like small oranges. We still could get an answer as what there exactly were but it looks very pretty. The walk was about 4 hours with many rest stop to enjoy the view and the warm climate. Upon my return, I stopped at the port to waved goodbye to some fellow travelers from the hostel whom were leaving for Antarctica on the M/S Expedition from the Canadian Company Gap Adventures (there was a running joke they should stick their lifejacket the entire cruise as Gap's last ship, the M/S Explorer, sank in Antarctica 3 years ago after hitting some ice).

The Antarctica hostel where I live is fantastic. It is only one small block from the main street and we have a grocery store conviniently located one block away also. There is a large living room on the main floor and a well equipped kitchen on the second floor. Most people cook their own food in a way to save money. I do the same and learn our to cook slowly. I never had to really cook before as I have a private chef at home (my mom :)) and the wonderful chef team on Crystal. But so far so good. I am experiencing a lot and I am already cooking some pretty decent meals in a very short time.

One good point about hostels is the way you can meet so many travelers. We all chat together and exchange travel experiences. I was astonished to the high number of people being on the road for over one year sometimes even two. One swiss girl reached the north pole from Finland by dog sleigh then lived in the Equatorian jungle with a family for two months and as been moving around the world for 2 years now. One guy has been climbing through South America for 2 years. It is very nice to mingle with all these people. And surprisingly, they are all about 30 years old like me.

So, enjoy and my next time blog will be upon my return from Antarctica and I will have a way to show you photos.



Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Ushuaia - Fin del Mundo

Yesterday has been quite frantic and stressful day(it should not be but hey, I cannot help it). I underestimated the traffic and distance to the airport and managed to show up only 30 minutes before the flight. First, the cab driver dropped me off at the wrong terminal, C, then it was a mad dash to the correct terminal, A, located far, far away. I quickly discovered that running and pushing a luggage cart loaded with a bicycle box, a trailer box and a duffle bag is not the easiest. And to challenge me furthermore, several small concrete markers are scared around to slow me down and to make me move sideways with the bike box. It was like an obstacle course.  To my surprise and during my mad dash to the Terminal A, Giselle happened to be at the airport. She was kind enough to assist me in my running. Arriving breathless at the LAN Argentina counter and to be told I could not board the flight and that the next available flight would be on Friday. As I kindly declined their offer, they reimbursed me the ticket (nice gesture). As Aerolineas Argentinas has several daily flights to Ushuaia, I pushed my cart back to Terminal C to inquire about ticket availability and pricing. Once I manoeuvre the obstacle course once more but at a slower pace, I am told the ticketing office is located in Terminal B.What?!?  Once at the Terminal B ticketing office, they priced the ticket. A bit expensive and decide to walk back to C to check with Austral Airlines, not knowing that Austral and Aerolineas  Argentinas are the same company, we walked back to C to be told to go back to B to purchase a ticket for tomorrow and be stand by for today. The ticket was double of the price I originally paid and I had to pay for the overweigh luggage too. So back to C for the check-in. Being totally inefficient, they cannot check you in and proceed the overweight charge with the same person, you have to go the end of the check in counters to paid to another teller and get your boarding pass. Gladly, Giselle was there to help with the translation in the process, since not many airport staff speak English. So I waved good-bye to Giselle and went in the lounge for stand-by.
 I quickly realized that I did not stand a fair chance since there were several other people trying to get on the flight. First flight out, no luck. Must return to the check-in counter to get new ticket. Informed to return at 2:30pm. This time I showed up first at the counter and make sure they do not forget me. I was in-their-face the entire time. 15 minutes before take-off, they make me go on a bus with an airline staff in case there was a seat available. I patiently waited in the bus while they did a final count onboard the aircraft. Finally, after long minutes, the lady reappeared and did a quick hand move to signal to come up. Yes, i am going to Ushuaia. As for the luggage, it will follow tomorrow. Hopefully.
Flying over Ushuaia was spectacular, the sun was out and shining and the snowcap mountains were showing their best features and the lakes and rivers seem to be made of liquid gold. Too bad as I did not have a window seat to be able to take photos.
Once in Ushuaia, I had the pleasure to get a Lost Luggage report( but had no concierge to give it to J) and to find out, to my astonishment,  that my duffle bag had arrived on the morning flight. Amazing. So happy!!!!!! The bike and trailer are enjoying an extra vacation day in BA.
Once settled at the hostel, I took a walk down Av. San Martin, the main strip of Ushuaia. Many memories gave back to me from the time the Symphony was in port on January 1st and 2nd, 2010.
So today, it is pouring rain. I am shopping around for a last minute Antarctica cruise. So far, some good deal s are around but I must keep on shopping. Let see...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Buenos Aires


So here I am in warm and sunny Buenos Aires.

After an emotional goodbye to my parents, a taxi mini-van drove me to the Quebec City airport (I had to take a taxi van since my parents´ car trunk is too small to accomodate my bicycle and trailer boxes and luggage). Once at the airport, I was a bit nervous to check-in my luggage since as per Air Canada I was supposed to be charged $250.00 for the bicycle since I had 2 other pieces of luggage. I chatted a bit the staff and somehow was charged only $50.00. Yes! A good start.

Once seated on the plane, my seat neighbor, Micheline, a wonderful and adventurous retired teacher, started to chat with me. As a coincidence, she was also heading for Buenos Aires, to spend a 3 weeks vacation with her friend. After we exchanged about our travel plans, she told me her nephew has biked with his girlfriend from Peru to Ushuaia a few years back. Really cool! Micheline has an amazing travel resume with a backpack world tour in 1986 and several other breaktaking adventures worldwide since then. During the beverage service, the flight attendant, Marie-Claude, got chatty with us. As the discussion revolved around my trip, a gentleman seated in front of me turned around and informed me that one of his work partners, Damien Lopez, was currently biking from Alaska to Ushuaia. I checked his website and he is currently in Argentina so I might bump into him very soon. Later on in the evening, as I was waiting for the BA flight, Pablo, a Ubisoft software engineer from Baricloche, Argentina living in Quebec City, approached me. He was so nice and friendly and he gave me tons of information about the lake district and Baricloche. His family own a lodge in the mountains so he invited me to stay at their place once I reach the destination. I am telling you the trip starts in a very good way.

The flight from Toronto to Buenos Aires was eventless and I was able to sleep 7 hours straight in my cramped  economy window seat. Once we landed, I was a bit nervous in regards to know if all my bags had made it in one piece. To my relief, they all showed up in good shape on the conveyor belt. After clearing Customs, Gisselle and her boyfriend, were waiting for me. Gisselle is the sister of Mirna, the Hotel Accountant on the Symphony. After a bit of moving around, we managed to fit my large bicycle box, my trailer box and my bag in a compact hatchback 4 door Peugeot (like a Honda Civic). I still don´t know how we did it but it fitted. The poor Gisselle was squeezed on her back seat, the boyfriend was almost sideways on his driver seat and I was seating in the passenger seat a very awkward bent front seat position. But it is all good and it was fun. We had a good laugh and we arrived at the appartment in no time. After they settled me in, they left and I decided to take a nap to wake up this morning, 14 hours later. I am now fully rested and already walking around BA.

Tomorrow, I am flying for Ushuaia.


Friday, November 26, 2010


Hello everyone,

I am packing right now and I am exciting to leave tomorrow for Buenos Aires.

See you