In August 2018 I set off at the Arctic Ocean in Alaska to cycle 23.000 kilometers to Ushuaia at the Southern point of Argentina. The journey was unsupported and I arrived in less than 100 days.
The previous World Record for the fastest unsupported journey goes back to Scott Napier who finished in Ushuaia after 125 days back in 2009, a time that I wanted to beat by almost a month. While speed and performance are important, I also wanted to have a great adventure and experience the amazing landscapes and cultures throughout the journey. What could be better than riding alone along the worlds longest land connection!
Video Playlist Panamerica Solo
Diary of Panamerica Solo
After heavy rain the last few days I can set off into a beautiful sky but strong headwind. The first 80 km are flat but the road is diet. I’m still north of the tree line. In the afternoon I reach the Brooks Mountains and slowly climb up and down through the autumn coloured Tundra. There are almost no cars but I see a few bears, caribou and mosche ox.
Just before setting my tent, I pass a few hunters who are barbecuing caribou steak and get invited for dinner.
Unfortunately the weather has changed. From the start I climb for 65 km up to the Aitigun Pass. On the pass it rains heavily and temperature is around freezing. The road turns into deep mud and I have to push a few times as I get stuck with the bike.
On the other side the weather improves a bid but the road continues muddy and slows me down.
270 km after more than 13 hours of riding.
One of the worst days I had in a long time. Heavy rain all day and the road is just deep mud. Now my gears and chain are also making problems and I’m low on food.
At noon I cross the mighty Yukon River, 200 km left to Fairbanks and I have hope to make it at night. One step climb after another and further worsening road make it impossible.
I continue riding until midnight before sleeping hungry.
After just one cereal bar for breakfast and no dinner the night before I struggle heavily on remaining 60 km to Fairbanks.
In Fairbanks, I spent several hours cleaning my stuff. The mud was just everywhere.
I continue riding in the evening and still make it to more than 200 km.
Today I pay the price for not having eaten before. The whole day I don’t feel very strong. A strong headwind and rain doesn’t make it any better. In the evening I meet a French cyclist coming the other direction. He cycles the same route as me and took off in Argentina 2,5 years ago.
Feeling better today and make it into Canada at noon. It’s 650 km to the next supermarket so my bike is heavily loaded and slow on the many climbs. I stop at a few parking spots to refill water and get offered food from RVs that stop there. In the evening I find a beautiful lake to pitch my tent. A family from Washington also stays there and invites me into their van for a tasty pasta dinner.
Finally a tailwind and very good legs. The scenery is beautiful and I cycle past big Mountains, lakes and endless wilderness. In the morning a moose family crosses the road in front of me. Its so nice that I simply don’t want to stop and cycle until midnight. Then suddenly the northern lights appear and the entire sky is is covered by those magical green lights. Riding through was an unforgettable experience.
I barely slept the last night as it was too cold for my sleeping bag. After a warm coffee I’m on the road and face a strong headwind into Whitehorse. It’s finally sunny and the Mountains are beautiful but the wind is making progress difficult. In Whitehorse I meet Shane and Susie, two local cyclists who live another 90 minutes out of town and we ride together to their place which lies on my route. I wash my stuff, bring my bike in shape and happily accept the invitation to stay. The wind is forecasted to change direction tomorrow and a very early start is more efficient than fighting another two hours against the wind
The wind didn’t change but at least he got weaker. I set off at six into a cold morning. After an hour I see a massive grizzly next to the road and stop at a safe distance. After ten minutes comes a car and I ride past with the car as a shield between the bear and me. In the afternoon it starts raining again and gets very cold on the many mountains. Just before sunset I meet Richard, a 65 year old who is walking across Canada, pushing a trailer with him. Inspirational guy. Finish the day despite conditions with over 300 km.
Rain, rain and more rain. A cold and wet start until I reach Whatson lake at noon. From here I head into British Columbia and am immediately confronted with heavy smoke from the Forrest fires around me. The highway just reopened a few days ago but the wind pushes the smoke across the road. Very tough going as it affects my lung and eyes. After around 100 km it gets better and I enter the beautiful Liard valley. A huge group of bisons runs in front of me across the road.
The weather turns from bad to miserable. Heavy rain, cold and headwind. I cycle for 180 km to the last gas station before the pass across the Rocky mountains and stop for the night. No condition to get stuck up there at night.
A miserable rainy start but I’m running low on food and the gas station has only burgers and chocolate. In the afternoon it finally stops raining and I can make a strong push. The last hours I’m out of food but I manage and get to Fort Nelson. In the evening I find a beautiful campspot next to lake and enjoy some rest.
Finally good weather and the last hilly stage before the prairie. After 100 km my front derailer stops working. I can shift it manually and as there aren’t too many climbs that actually works pretty well. Still no long-term solution, need a bikeshop soon. In the afternoon I reach a gas station and get the oiliest fries I ever had. 270 km in the end.
A very early start before sunrise. I have an invitation for tonight by Adele, a cyclist I met two months ago in Jasper. She lives in Grande Prairie, 300 km away but the possibility of a shower, bed and great company is motivation enough. At noon I reach Fort St John and from here on everything changes. There are fields, villages and well, civilization. I have a nice talwind and make good progress. The last hour I ride in the dark but make it and am rewarded with a tasty homemade chicken dinner.
Finally a tallwind and a perfect road. I say goodbye to Adele in the morning and enjoy some homemade cookies. From now on its populated and I cycle most of the day through flat farmland. I planned ahead to reach White Court at night as this is a larger town with supermarkets and restaurants. I get there at 10 and find a nice campspot at the outskirts.
The wind picked up but unfortunately it’s mostly crosswinds. I go on smaller roads as I’m now close to Edmonton. It goes continuously up and down and I make good progress. In the evening I notice that I quickly have to change my bearings. My original route avoided Calgary but I adapt to get to a bikeshop. 300 km today.
A terrible headwind and I follow the Edmonton Calgary highway. Not fun riding but I reach Calgary in the early afternoon and get my bike fixed. I also have an interview with CBC who waited at the bikeshop. At night I stay with a lovely couple south of Calgary who I met at the bike shop. Great food and a bed.
The headwind gets even worse and I struggle to average 20 kmh in the flat. At noon I stop and take a nap, it’s still to early in the journey to go all in against the wind. In the evening the winds gets weaker and I cycle until past midnight to make at least some progress.
The next day of strong headwinds. I set off at 5 am after just 4 hours of sleep to get a few riding hours before the winds gets really strong around noon. The landscape is so boring, just endless fields, a straight road and headwind. Can’t be worse for my motivation. In the afternoon I finally reach the us border and from now on there are a few hills that slow the wind down. I push hard in the evening to make it to Shelby for some supplies. Again I ride until late into darkness and then sleep next to the road. It’s the first night that I don’t need the tent and the stars are incredible.
The worst headwinds I had so far. I struggle all morning until I make it to great falls for a much needed lunch. Today is also the first very hot day, a welcoming change. In the afternoon I run out of water but find a small farming community with a bar to refill. The bar seems to be the center of the village and the friendly ranchers inside tell me the story of the village, and it’s drinking problem. At night the wind gets less and I ride almost till midnight to make some progress.
I set off before sunrise when the wind is still weak. Today I’m on small roads through beautiful hills and mountains. I’m riding past cattle farms as big as a city. Like everything in North America, it’s just such a different scale from Europe. In the afternoon I push hard to make it to Montana’s capital Billings where I get dinner and some supplies. Already at sunset I set off for another 80 km. I’m on the highway now which is much safer due to a broad shoulders but there are some metal parts and I hit one that deforms my derailer. Luckily, I can continue riding and end the day with 290 km.
Finally better winds. A mixture of light cross, head and tailwind today. I take this rare opportunity to ride all day in constant up and down and manage 320 km. At night I find a little hill, some 50 km from the next village and sleep under the stars. An incredible night so far away from noise and distraction.
An early start into strong headwinds. After two hours I reach Casper where I find a bikeshop and get my derailer fixed. From now on the landscape changes. More people, farms and less mountains than the lady few days. In the afternoon I reach the 5.700 km mark, 1/4 across the Americas. I make a perfect arrival in wheatfield just when it gets dark. I go to the only Mexican restaurant in town and get a burrito before riding out to find a sleeping spot.
Worst headwinds ever. The wind blows with such a force that I struggle to stay on the bike. After 6 hours of fierce fighting with an 18kmh average I reach Cheyenne to get some supplies. I had run out of food and water long ago as it had taken me much longer. After Cheyenne I reach Colorado and the shaddow of the Rocky mountains where the wind gets less and I can still make good progress. I got an invitation by Courtney, a local cyclist outside Denver. Nice change.
An early morning start into Denver. By far the worst city I cycled in so far and I detour, get flats, get lost and finally cross the city with several hours delay. Outside the city there is still heavy traffic and string headwind. Not my favorite day but now I’m out of the metropolitan area and can speed up again tomorrow.
An early start out of Colorado springs. Already yesterday I had two flats, this morning I have three, all caused by small metal wires on the highway shoulder. It’s enough and I stop at a bikeshop in Pueblo to get a tape between Tube and Tyre. In the afternoon I ride through beautiful hills and enjoy the ride despite heat and headwind. Already in the dark I climb the 2.400 meter Raton pass and descent into New Mexico for dinner and a cold night.
In the morning I ride through beautiful table mountains in new Mexico and make some good progress until I reach the Texas border at noon. The road turns into a straight, flat line through endless boring fields and the headwind blows with 35 kmh. I run out of water and food and struggle heavily to make it to Dalhart before sunset. 210 km but it feels like a king stage in the mountains. Forecast looks equally bad so I will switch completely to night cycling now to escape the headwind a bid.
I start in the dark to avoid a bid of the headwind and make some progress before it picks up. At noon the wind is so strong that I barely move forward. I stop early and sleep, will switch to night cycling completely.
I set off at 1 am and ride the whole night on a small straight road. The sky is so bright that I can see well. At six I reach the first city and find an open gas station for a coffee and second breakfast. When the wind picks up at around 10 I already have 190 km. I push a bid further and stop after 230 km, that worked well today.
An even earlier start at 1 pm. I cycle under a perfect sky through huge gas fields. The burning fires from the oil towers around me at night are a strange athmosphere. I have to stop a few times for a nap but manage 320 km. Now I’m close to Mexico.
I set off again at night . Finally there are some hills and I’m happy about the change. At noon I touch the border to Mexico. Charly, a Mexican cyclist waits for me on the Mexican side, he will ride the next two days with me. After a nice lunch we went to the country club and spent the evening in the pool. 150 km today, the first rest day and much needed after two weeks of headwinds.
Today and tomorrow Charlie joins me and we even have place to stay. Monclova is 300 km away and his family invited us so we set off at 6:30 into a strong headwind. The first 100 km are in a small road without traffic. After two hours we are overtaking by a pickup that then stops 100 meters further. Charlie gets nervous and tells me whatever happens don’t stop, this is border region. Turns out it was the father of one of his friends and he gave us some fresh lemonade and food. In the afternoon we reach the federal highway. There is barely any traffic, a big shoulder and apparently it is very safe. We push hard ( of course I don’t use his windshadow) but due to the headwind we only make it to Monclova at night. Luckily around 15 cyclists, newspaper and police escort wait outside the city to join for the last 30 km.
We spent the night at his parents house and wake up when the local television knocks on the door for an interview. So we start a bid later and ride through beautiful desert and then mountain landscape. It’s a lot of climbing but the wind is weaker and I feel pretty good. We reach Saltillo just after sunset and stay at his brothers house. For dinner we go to a close restaurant with delicious Tacos and life Mariachis.
I say goodbye to Charlie and his family and start directly into a steep and long climb up to almost 2.000. Once on the top I’m on a high plateau that will be flat almost all the way to Mexico City. While the last week was very hot, up here it’s a very pleasant riding temperature. Without headwinds and climbs I progress fast and make it to Matehuala just past sunset. I enjoy the first hotel night if the trip as I have to write my blog, do some planning and office jobs.
A completely flat day in nice weather. During the morning I ride past huge cactus plantations and ranches. At noon Carlos Santamaria joins me and we ride around 100 km together. Carlos set the Panamerica World Record a few years ago and lives on my route in San Luis Potosi. Great to share some adventure stories and get insights into the challenges ahead. Colombia and Peru were the toughest for him, so I have something to look forward to. After saying goodbye to Carlos I continue another 60 km to Santa Maria del Rio. A little town with a beautiful colonial center. I stay in the center, enjoy some Tacos and the nice atmosphere.
The village I’m in is a maze and I get lost on the small roads until I finally find a dirty road back to the highway. A few straying dogs chase me out. In the morning I ride through beautiful mountains before the traffic gets bad. When I pass Queretaro, there is a construction site for 20 km and only one lane. The trucks pass me with just a few centimeters. A first taste of the conditions that will await me tomorrow in Mexico City.
I set off before sunrise to make it to Puebla today. I’m now close to Mexico City and the traffic is terrible. After a wile I get on the ring road around the city and traffic gets a bid less. I push hard and arrive in Puebla around 6pm, just on time to catch a tropical thunderstorm. It rains for 15 minutes but with such a force that the roads flood. In the city I have to carry my bike through knee-deep water. I still make it to the office of my tool sponsor, the Hoffmann Group. They have prepared a little reception and a fantastic dinner. We spent a wonderful evening together and I’m happy for a change from my usual routine.
After saying goodbye to my friends from the Hoffmann Group I descent from the high plateau at 2500 meters to sea level in a nice 120 km descent. While it was pleasant on the top, at the button it is hot and humid. In the evening I get a problem with my derailer. Luckily I find a good bikeshop in Oriza that can help me.
First completely flat day and a tailwind in the morning before it turns. I’m in the tropics now and it is very hot and humid.
I cycle past endless sugar cane and pineapple plantations. Just before sunset I reach a small village but the only hotel is closed. I have to detour around 10km until I find one. Of the highway the road is terrible and I almost have an accident hitting a pothole that I see too late in the darkness.
I wake up with fever and food poisoning. Turns out the tasty meat yesterday wasn’t so fresh. The whole day I suffer and at noon I have to lie in the shadow for a bit to recover. I still managed 315 km and find a decent hotel for the night. Hoping for better days.
I feel a bit better but still sick. I want to make it to Guatemala today and it’s 230 km to the border. At noon I reach the notorious state of Chiapas and follow a small road through dense rainforest. This is one of the most dangerous places in Mexico despite heavy military and police presence. With 50 km left to the border, two police men tell me that it closes at 6 pm and that there is nothing on the Mexican side. I push heavy and make it 20 minutes before closing. On Guatemala side there is the small Narcos town of El Ceibo and I’m happy that I find an overpriced, dirty hotel without water or electricity. Not the place to wild camp.
Last night I had to spend my last dollars for the hotel. Unfortunately, there is no bank around and credit card is nowhere accepted. After 80 km I come to the first town with a bank. There is a line of around 50 people waiting and when I’m half done the bank is closed as they are out of money. I continue hungry but luckily a man has pity with me and gives me sth. to eat. With the food I manage it to La Liberdad. The first two ATM ‘s are out of service but at the third one I get money and then some food. I already felt very weak but now it goes better and I continue. I don’t make it to the town I had planned before sunset and just when I get worried, I find a cooperative in the middle of the jungle who invite me to sleep there. Turns out they are ex guerrilla fighters from the FARC and founded the cooperative to finally get their peace. Usually, it is me who tells the crazy stories but this night it is different.
One of my favorite days on the bike. I ride through beautiful rainforest with many short but steep climbs. In the evening I get into the dark as the hotel I was told about had closed down. Luckily, a family invited me home and for a tasty dinner.
After 50 I reach Honduras and am shocked by the violence. I have been to many dangerous places but this is far worse. In the afternoon I cross San Pedro Sula, sadly the most dangerous city on earth. Restaurants, gas stations and even small shops have their private army with shotguns in the front while police and military are patrolling the roads. Gang violence has got out of control and there are an estimated 50.000 members. I get out of the city as fast as I can and onto the federal highway. It’s controlled by the police with many road blocks, so it’s relatively safe. I finish the day after 200 km and find a good hotel behind a gas station.
A first warm up for the Andes. Already from the start I climb for 20 km through deep rainforest and past coffee plantations. It follows one long and steep climb after another. High up in the mountains the temperature is very pleasant and the people are friendly and curious why a Gringo cycles across their country. I expected to be in the capital Tegucigalpa an hour before sunset but due to the climbs I run late. There is simply no safe place to sleep and I end up in the slums of the city while it is getting dark. Luckily, I find an hour motel just when I start getting scared. Not a place I would ever consider spending a night but under the circumstances I’m just happy to be out of the streets.
A scary start through Tegucigalpa. Terrible drivers, roads and crime. To get out of the city I have to cross the infamous Villa Nueva slum. Halfway through I get stopped by the military police who tell me: “Gringo, you are crazy! You shouldn’t be here!” As there is no other way out they give me an escort until I reach a safer neighborhood. From there it is an up and down to the border and I’m well on time to make good progress. Sadly the border crossing takes three hours. Corrupt officials on the Nicaraguan side simply drink coffee until you place money into your passport. Almost at dark I arrive in the first town after only 172 km. Still I’m just happy to be out of Honduras at good health and with my bike and valuables. Feels like 100 kg are of my shoulders after the constant tension of the past days.
I’m amazed by Nicaragua. I follow a small but good road through coffee plantations and endless hills. The country has a past of heavy conflicts and the people just want to live in peace. At noon I get back on the Panamerica and cycle past the capital Managua. Even here the traffic isn’t bad. I manage almost 250 km and find a lovely hotel in a small town for the night.
Today it rains – not like in Europe but proper heavy tropical rain all day combined with a strong headwind. The roads are flooded and I have to carry my bike several times through knee-deep water. The nice drivers still pass me too close, so I get wet from all directions. No day for cycling but I still managed to 235 km and am now I in Costa Rica and at the halfway mark.
After a rainy start it finally stops. At noon I reach the Pacific coast, it’s the first time since Alaska. I stop for a short swim and then follow a beautiful coastal road through deep rainforest and along stunning beaches. At night I struggle to find a place to sleep and do some extra kilometers.
I continue along the Pacific coast into a strong headwind. Today I meet a lot of roads cyclist who are training here, the first ones since Colorado. In the afternoon I reach the border to Panama. This is an easy and smooth border crossing and takes me just 20 minutes. Central America was very slow and that’s partly because of a border crossing all two days. Will be nice when I reach south America with bigger countries.
The first dry day in a week but it is very hot and humid. For a long time there comes no shop and I run out of water and dehydrate. The whole day is a struggle as it goes constantly up and down. Only in the evening I feel better and cycle until late at night to manage my distance.
This was supposed to be an easy and flat day in Panama but turned out to be challenging. At noon the rain started and flooded the road which made the already difficult crossing of Panama City worse. It’s one of those places that have outgrown their infrastructure. The road I had planned to take closed down as they open both directions for outgoing traffic during rush hour. With my map being useless it took me almost three hours across the city and to the bike shop that saved a box for my flight. However, it had moved and I managed just last minute to organise a new one and head to the airport for a short night and a 5am flight to Cartagena. There is no road connection across the Darien gap so the Panamerica has a flight section in between.
A terrible night with just three hours of sleep at the airport. My flight goes via Bogota to Cartagena and I arrive at noon. After putting the bike together, I find a bike shop and change the chain, cassette and some general maintenance. I cycle through the old town, such a beautiful town and for sure I want to come back with more time. The route out of Cartagena is a nightmare. There is so much traffic that it is stop and go for 30 km. It already gets dark at six and I cycled just 100 km. The one and only proper rest day of Panamerica Solo.
I set off before sunrise and face the worst road conditions since Alaska. it feels like endless cobblestones with some construction sites where I have to wait. At noon I reach Sincellejo and join a big and good road. Despite the headwind I’m making good progress. At night I got into another tropical thunderstorm but luckily I reach a town with a hotel just 10 minutes later. Tomorrow the Andes start.
I set off into heavy rain and strong headwinds. Again the road partly flooded and it doesn’t stop raining until late afternoon. The first 180 km were hilly but then I have finally reached the Andes. The road goes steep up, first through dense rainforest, then into the clouds. I can definitely fell that I’m carrying luggage and struggle on the 20% ramps. On the top I have a fantastic view across the valley and the clouds below. Although it’s tough I’m happy to be in the Andes. I always prefer climbing rather than headwinds.
I start in the morning mist and the road directly into a 2.300 meter pass. The final part is very steep and I only manage standing in my first gear. After a nice descent it goes up again to over 2.700 meters. Up in the mountains it’s a lovely weather with sunshine and a pleasant 22 degree. In the afternoon I take a long and steep descent into Medellin with gorgeous views across the valley. Medellin is a nightmare for cycling through and it takes me three hours. But out of town I can directly start the next climb tomorrow morning.
I directly start with a steep and long climb up to almost 3.000 meters. This is a main climb for the cyclist from Medellin and there are plenty of riders I can overtake. From the peak I descent 2.400 meters in a winding road with spectacular views into the valley. In the afternoon the road starts climbing again but this time on gravel for almost 100 km. It’s all road works and constant stop and go on a dusty road. In the evening I descent again into the Cauca valley and already in the dark find a dirty hotel for 5 Euros. There is music and party on the streets and I barely sleep the night.
A much needed break from the heavy climbing. Today I follow the Cauca valley for 240 km on a hilly road. It’s a public holiday here and there are plenty of cyclists around. I’m surprised how little traffic there is as I’m riding around Cali, Colombia’s third largest city. In the evening I’m back to climbing but the day still felt like a nice recovery. Just when it gets dark I reach a little village and am surprised by police everywhere. Apparently, they were chasing the drug cartels here in the area.
Back to heavy climbing. Directly from the start it goes up to 1800 meters into the city of Popayan. Here I go to a bikeshop. My bearings suffered from the heavy rain and floodings so I get them cleaned. When I want to pay they refuse my money but instead give me an inner tube and a pair of socks in the national colors. In the afternoon I have a long descent into a wild beautiful valley. I have been warned about this region and am happy when a family invites me just when it gets dark.
King stage in the Andes. Today I climbed and climbed and climbed. Three high passes and a total of 4.800 meters of elevation definitely brought me to my limit but the views were rewarding. The toughest climb started at 600 meters and went to over 3.000 in a steep winding road through deep canyons and past 5.000 meter mountains. Close to the top it started to rain heavily and the temperature dropped to around 5 degrees. Freezing I went into a long descent with a gorgeous sunset behind the mountains. It was tough but a day to remember.
Directly from the start it went up to 2.800 meters. On the top was the border to Ecuador and a big crowd of people. Many refugees from Venezuela try to reach Peru which causes delays. After 20 minutes in the line they open a separate counter for the gringos and I’m done in 5 minutes. What follows is one of the best descents ever. Perfect pavement, serpentines and gorgeous views across 5.000 meter mountains. In the valley it is hot and arid. Seems like I’m getting into a different climate.
Tough climbing in the morning with a long and steep ascent. My crank starts getting loose again and I hope to fix it in Quito. At noon I cross the Equator, a nice feeling but foremost an important milestone. From now on days will get longer and so will my daily riding time. In Quito I head to a bikeshop that was recommended. The nice guys quickly figure out that both bottom bracket and crank are damaged. The heavy rain and road floodings had made them uneven. It would be possible to continue riding for a few hundred km but then there won’t be any bike infrastructure. Unfortunately, I use a compact crank that is very uncommon here. The bike shop and even a few customers basically call every bike shop in Ecuador and two hours later we have the only fitting crank in the entire country. With a smooth Cazadora I still cycle another 60 km until it is dark. Total time loss is half a day but it could have been far worse. Big thanks to Dos Ruedas in Quito!
One of my favorite days on the bike. Two cyclists from Quito joined me in the morning and it was nice to break my usual routine. Then I climbed up to 3.600 meters and cycled past spectacular volcanoes and through ancient villages. Despite the climbing I cycled 250 km and will leave the Andes tomorrow.
Last day in the Andes. I set off at 5:30 to climb a steep pass. Halfway up the sun rises above the mountains and provides an incredible view. I now follow a small mountain road that turns into gravel and I struggle to climb the ramps. Luckily it’s paved again for a 2.500 meter long downhill. From now on its hilly until I reach Chile and cross the Andes again. 250 km today and more than 2/3 of the total distance.
A rainy and flat start through endless banana plantations. After two hours I turn inland into the mountains to avoid the strong headwinds on the coast. The landscape is changing and it gets dry and semi dessert. A strong headwind picks up and I push hard to make it to the border. I arrive just at sunset and the border guards tell me to sleep on the Ecuadorian side as it is safer. I put my sleeping bag behind the customs house. Unfortunately, the straying dogs bark at me all night and I can barely sleep.
I cross the border before sunrise. At noon I reach the desert that I will be following for the next 2.000 km. Once out of the bushes the headwind gets extremely strong and I struggle to keep above 20 kmh. I know that my chances of any improvement until I reach Chile are close to zero as the wind always comes from the south. When it gets dark I struggle to find a camping spot. The winds would simply blow my tent away. After 30 minutes of searching, I find a cell phone tower that has a brick wall around and put my sleeping bag behind it for shelter.
I set off at 4 am as the wind is weaker at night. After 50 km the sun is rising and it is beautiful. The few minutes of the day when I love this inhospitable place. At noon the wind developed into a storm and I struggle to keep Cazadora straight. It’s an endless flat road without trees or anything, just sand and wind. I still managed 220 km but it was very slow and painful.
I set off in the dark but today even before sunrise the wind is very strong. After 50 km I reach a stretch of desert where the wind almost blows me off the road. I averaged 17 km/h when I reach Trujillo at noon. It’s a long and annoying way through the city as no one respects any traffic laws. On the bright side, it is sheltered from the wind. After a few more hours against the wind I reach a small town where I stay for the night. Want to set off at 3 am tomorrow as the wind will be less.
I set off into the dark with very little wind and already reach Chimbote at 9 am. It’s a big and crowded city and it takes a while to get through. At noon the landscape changes, there are huge sand dunes and the road goes constantly up and down. The wind has picked up and turns those hills into proper mountains. It’s a constant struggle, one hill after another but the beautiful scenery makes it easier to keep motivated. In the evening the road follows the coast, offering spectacular views to isolated beaches. There is no easy way to get down to the beach, I hope I get an opportunity to swim the next few days.
Only a medium headwind today and I take this rare opportunity to cycle 252 km. Again the road went through desolate desert landscape but with more signs of civilization. In the evening I cycle a road that goes for 20 km along a mountain, 200 meters above the ocean. It’s on of the best sunset rides I ever had. I’m close to Lima now, will be a hard day tomorrow crossing a mega city.
An early morning ride into Lima. Luckily it’s Sunday and the traffic is much less than expected. I meet two American cyclists who follow me on Instagram and waited on my route. Then Cazadora gets a new chain in the bike shop before heading out into the desert. Today the wind is weaker and comes from the side. I already heard from other cyclists that they experienced the same in Lima. I make good use of this rare opportunity and cycle 270 km
Back into the cross/headwinds. In the morning the road goes through the most desolate stretch of desert so far. Completely flat and absolutely nothing around. At noon I reach some mountains and lovely, oases. It’s tough going with climbs and wind but at least something to see.
One of the worst days I had on the bike. From sunrise to sunset a strong headwind is making my life tough and the worst road conditions since Alaska are no help either. In the morning I ride through a moon landscape before reaching the coast at noon. The wind comes from the side/front and pushes the sand into my face while I struggle to keep the speed above 15 kmh. 175 km after the whole day on the bike. Longing to get out of this endless desert.
Again a strong headwind but less than yesterday. I now follow a rough and deserted coastline. The road is built into the dunes and cliffs and offers spectacular views across the Pacific. If there wouldn’t be the wind, it would be a wonderful ride. In the afternoon I pass a village and get chased by a pack of the dogs. There are coming more from the front and while I’m trying to escape, one of them runs into my front wheel. I land on my shoulder and side. It’s painful but I will survive and continued riding. The unbreakable Cazadora also survived without any damage. Not sure about the dog who run screaming away. Luckily a local chased the remaining dogs that were fiercely barking while I was on the ground.
Today I continue along the coast through a desolate desert landscape. Still a strong headwind but less than the last days. Heavy climbing as the road goes up and down and sometimes turns inwards into the mountains. I miscalculated the distance and village from my map didn’t exist anymore. So I run out of food and water and had to continue riding until late into darkness. It was scary on a road that just drops 200 meters straight into the ocean. The good thing is that I cycled 252 km and will be in Chile tomorrow.
I follow a lovely coastal road with zero traffic in the morning. It goes up and down all the time but there is less wind than the last days. At noon I reach the Chilean border and face a pretty bureaucracy border crossing that takes more than half an hour. Once across I have to enter the town of Arica to get money, sim card and food. I set off again into the desert and find a lovely spot. I saw a scorpion just a bit before but still can’t resist the temptation to sleep outside under the desert sky, it’s incredible.
I feel so motivated and strong all day
Having survived the Peruvian headwinds gives me a boost in confidence. The road now turns inwards and I ride through a dry and mountainous desert landscape. It’s tough climbing out of the valleys with climbs of up to 20 km. It’s the beginning of the mighty Atacama, the driest place on earth. I ask a local in a restaurant how long it didn’t rain. He said: “14 years, not a single drop”. Hard to imagine.
I have now reached the Atacama desert and feel the huge Temperature difference. After a freezing night it gets very hot during the day and the air is so dry that I have a headache and bleeding nose most of the afternoon. Today is very flat, on a road that passes broken soil and endless stretches of nothing. I manage 270km and reach the crossing into the Andes at night. There is a restaurant and the owner let’s me sleep in a fenced area behind. The landscape is so open that I’m happy for some shelter from the wind and a nice breakfast before starting the climb into the Andes.
Riding through the breathtaking Atacama desert. Today I climbed almost all day through spectacular desert landscape (a 2.800 & a 3.400 meter pass). I have now reached San Pedro at the beginning of the big climb. I had planned to spend the night here but I will rather head out into the desert and have a freezing but peaceful night. The tourist crowds are too much to take for me.
King stage. I directly start climbing in a single steep and long climb to 4.800 meters. I feel strong until around 4.000 but then the altitude takes over and I feel very weak. My speed drops to 6kmh on the last two km. After the pass the road stays above 4.400 meters for another 100 km. It’s a beautiful mountain and desert landscape but I feel extremely weak. In the evening I descent to the border at 4.200 meters and find a small village on the Argentinian side. I start feeling better again at this elevation.
Today I feel much better as my body has adapted to the altitude. The road is pretty flat with only a few hills but stays at around 4.000 meters. There are no cars or any sign of civilization while I’m riding past colorful mountains, across huge salt lakes and through deep canyons. At noon I reach the first village, Susque where I get food and water. Now the wind has picked up and comes fiercely from the side. Later I have a long climb that reminds me again how high I am. I reach the peak past sunset and start a long descent from 4.100 meters. The last km are in the dark and I stop in the first village for the night.
A very easy day. I start the morning with a nice descent into Jujuy where I buy supplies and a sim card. Unfortunately, foreigners have to register the card at the head office of the mobile company. It’s a slow way through the city and a long waiting line. Two hours later I’m back on the bike and ride with a strong tailwind through the hills. 270 km despite the delay.
Finally the wind god has some mercy and pushes me across the Pampa. The road is completely flat and straight for 200 km but with 80 km of roadwork that slow me down. I feel strong at this low altitude but my leg muscles make some problems. I know that the wind is soon going to change, so I push all day and manage 331 km. Second longest day since Alaska.
The tailwind continues and I ride from sunrise to sunset to make use of the conditions. Already at 9 am it is very hot and temperatures reach more than 30 degrees during the day. There is no shade and no cooling breeze as I had it in the desert. My body reacts with headache and dehydration despite drinking roughly 13 liters today. Still 295 km done and getting close to the 20.000 km mark.
Today my luck changed. Heavy rain and strong headwinds all day. I progress incredibly slow on the flat and open road with no shelter. Two flats at the worst possible time, fixing them in the pouring rain. At noon I reach Cordoba, the last big city. It’s slow going through the city but from now on there will be very little traffic and no more city delays. In the afternoon a thunderstorm gets me on a completely flat road without trees. It rains, hails and the thunder and lightning is everywhere around me. I’m getting scared by the lighting and stop for a moment, lying in a wet trench next to the road. I push further and in the evening reach Berrotaran where a local cyclist invites me to stay. A much needed comfort after a terrible day on the road.
I already start into heavy rain and strong headwinds and it doesn’t get any better. It’s very slow going, averaging just 18 kmh. At noon I reach Rio Cuarto and find a bike shop for the last change of tires and chain. The evening is horrible with a fierce thunderstorm and very strong headwind. The meadows are all flooded and my tent anyway wouldn’t survive the wind, so I continue riding into the dark until I get to a small town and a hotel.
Finally it’s dry for most of the day but the headwinds come again with 30 km/h. I’m on a completely flat and straight road with no trees or anything of interest. It’s just 12 hours against the wind, a pure test of the mind. In the evening two fierce thunderstorms make my misery complete as there simply is no place of shelter.
Finally it’s sunny while wind is still blowing at full force from the front. At noon I reach Santa Rosa, the capital of the Pampa. From there it’s a straight road for 150 km and almost no car. The farms are getting less and the distances between supply stations are getting bigger. I’m approaching Patagonia.
A very tough start with only dry bread for food and a strong headwind. The road goes completely straight with no house or sign of civilization for 150 km. Halfway through I spot the first sign of Ushuia, still more than 2000 km but the first sighting is always emotional and motivating. I reach the first village in the afternoon and stop for food. When I continue the wind has slowed down a bit and I still make a bid of good progress.
Finally a tailwind. Knowing that it is only today and the wind will blow with usual force from the front tomorrow, I skip any breaks and cycle as far as I can. It is a wonderful feeling to fly across Patagonia with 35-40 kmh without any real effort. I end the day with 360 km and find a lovely restaurant where I can camp behind. The food and mate are great and the old man that lives here alone in the windswept wilderness counts some great stories.
Back in strong headwinds. I fought all day with less than 20 kmh across the flat and open landscape. At noon two local cyclists joined for 90 km, great to have some company and change. In the evening the wind turned around and I cycled until midnight. 290 km in 14 Hours.
One of the worst days ever. The wind is so strong that I cycle with less than 10 kmh per hour. After 60 km I stop at a gas station and wait for the wind to slow down. Before sunset I set off again into a tamer wind. At midnight the wind picks up again and develops into a proper storm. I struggle to keep the bike straight and desperately look for a sleeping spot. The landscape is completely flat and open, it’s impossible to pitch a tent. After two more hours I find an abandoned house to camp behind. Only cookies left for dinner.
The wind didn’t slow down but without food and water I have no choice but to cycle. It’s 70 km to the next town that take me over six hours. After lunch I set off again and ride along a beautiful coast. The wind now comes from the side with up to 80 kmh. I have no control over Cazadora who is pushed across the entire road so I have push her on a flat road. That’s the first time in my life I have to do that. It’s a terrible fight pushing the bike and trying not be carried away by the storm. In the evening I finally reach Caleta Olivia where a local cyclist awaits me with a comfy sleeping spot and a barbecue. The famous Argentinian Asado helps to forget the day.
I set off at 3:30 am when the wind is less. I cycle nonstop and make good progress until the wind picks up in the afternoon and comes with 60 kmh from the side. I want to make it to the next town for food and push through. After 18 hours of riding I finally stop, having progressed for 350 km in tough conditions. Now it’s less than 1.000 km to go.
I set off into a cold headwind. The road turns inland into a deserted plateau. I feel very tired after sleeping too little the last two days. At noon I reach a gas station for food and set off into the wind again. In the evening it starts raining and the headwind get strong. The forecast says that the wind changes at night, so I camp early and set the alarm at 3am.
I wake up at 3 am and feel incredibly cold. My tent is frozen and the phone tells me that it is minus 5 degrees. However, with the wind this feels much colder. I don’t carry winter gear, so this is far below my comfort zone. I get onto the bike to get warm. It takes three hours until I finally feel comfortable. Thanks to the early start I make good progress and reach the city of Rio Gallegos at noon. Now the road turns into the wind that blows as relentless as ever. It takes me four hours to cycle the 60 km to the border. The road actually goes into Chile and tomorrow back into Argentina. In the evening the wind slows down and I reach the ferry at sunset to cross over to the island of Tierra del Fuego. On the other side I find a sheltered sleeping spot. Only 480 km to go and an estimated time of arrival on Saturday morning.
A strong tailwind for the final push. The road goes through beautiful hills past huge sheep farms. I mostly go with 45 kmh but a few times the road takes a turning into the wind. The turnings are short but just 5 km in this wind are a struggle to keep Cazadora on the road. At noon I reach the border and follow the coast. Now the wind is so strong that I don’t even have to push in the uphill. I ride into the night and manage 380 km. The last 100 km are mountainous and in crosswinds. A nice final tomorrow.
I start after 4 hours of sleep. The road goes along a beautiful lake, through rainforest and the to a pass past snowtopped mountains. Outside of Ushuaia, two locals wait with a car and camera to follow and film the arrival. It’s perfect weather and the downhill to the ocean and finish line is spectacular. 23.112 km and 195.800 meters of elevation in 97 days, 21 hours and 10 minutes (thanks to time difference with Alaska). Now it’s time for beers and fiesta.