My tanned hand cinches the strap on my otlieb rack pack, my load feels light this morning. The week´s worth of food (470km) I carried over San Francisco pass from Chile to Argentina has been eaten. The 10 liters of water that was attached to the frame has been reduced to 6 liters. The next big food shop is only 50 km away. The morning sun beats hard on my shoulders as I park at the bank machine on the way out of town.
“Did you cycle San Francisco pass I hear”. The confident voice rings with a slight accent of someone who truly understands cycle touring.
“You travel pretty light” The man says as I turn my shoulders and smile at the full size man. His t-shirt stretches over his firm belly. He appears fit. He legs show the signs of a couple of tours. His eyes are kind and curious, he continues
“ My name is Ive, I am from Belgium but I live in New Jersey, I flew here to cycle the pass. I carry 50 kilos of gear. You only have back panniers and a rack pack, how many kilos do you have. That packing is magic!”
“ I don´t know but I only weight 47 kg. Your gear weighs more than me. I weighed myself yesterday at the pharmacy, maybe I should weigh my gear (found out later it´s 22kg) or start eating more icecream. My bike´s name is Pandemic the Magic Bicycle” I say, we both laugh as I stand in his shadow.
“I met Harriet and Neil Pike from the andesbybike.com website on New Years Eve. New Year's is when everybody talks about weight loss, is it not” I say and I adjust the baggy waist band of my new boys size large shorts, the only ones I could find in town.
At almost 5 foot 2 I have always considered myself huge compared to Asian. I chuckle to myself.
“Harriet and Neil told me they carry 12kg and 14kg each. Their website is a great resource for touring in the Andes They go light so they can climb lots of mountains and access off the beaten track areas. I am looking forward to their next project, a regional hiking and cycling guide of their favorite area in Peru. ” I say, excited to be talking to a fellow cycle tourist.
“Well that is why I am here” The big guy says. The underside of his chin is freshly shaven. My neck strains up. My eyes squint in the sun as I look up at him. My titled faded green visor hardly a sun block for the sun overhead.
“I read about the route on the andesbybike.com website so I came to try the route. You just came from there? How was it?” Ive, the man from Belgium says.
“Paso San Francisco is beautiful, I will show you the photos if you want. My water froze on day 4, the wind went wacko and stopped me after 20km on day 5. I slept at 4725 meters 15500ft on day 6. There is ample water about every 80-120kms (2 days riding). Beautiful scenery, bike trekking at it´s absolute finest” I say as I make plans to meet Ive later to show him my photos.