Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Dependence on Fossil Fuels

[Our Hostel in O'higgins] We have felt more than a little guilt over the fact that we are burning gas pretty much for the sake of burning gas this entire trip. My back of the envelope calculation says that between our two bikes we have burned 525 gallons of gas to get from Seattle to here. (around 17000 miles at 65 miles per gallon times 2 bikes). I justify this in my head in that to fly down here would take more gasoline than this and people fly down here all the time. But then when we flew back to Chicago for just a week a felt very guilty for that gas consumption.
Two main thoughts come to mind about gas.
1) It seems like nothing less than a miracle that we can drive all the way from Seattle to the Southern tip of the Austral and be able to find this extremely hard to find and manufacture substance called gasoline. That even the most remote places of the earth, we can find places every 200 miles or so that allow our machines to keep running for another 200 miles. That the price for this stuff is so inexpensive (ranging from $1/ gallon in Bolivia to $9/ gallon in Chile- ironically there are far more cars in Chile than Bolivia) that we can actually drive all over the place just for fun. I know full well that those times are quickly coming to an end and that in 20 years time a trip like this will be so expensive that almost no one could afford to do it. Look how lucky we are!
2) The was cooler way to do a trip like this would be to do it on bicycles. This would remove most of the guilt of fossil fuel dependance (except for the pesky plane ride home) and would be like our experience times 1000.

This dependence on fossil fuels for our trip was made down right apparent in Villa O'Higgins. O'Higgins is 170 miles south of the last gas station. Although we carry an extra gallon of fuel (60 miles range for 1 bike), the 340 mile round trip is must too far for our bikes. However, we heard that it was possible to buy gas in O'Higgins, so that even if the gas cost $15/gallon we could make it work.
Our plan was to go to O'Higgins, spend the night and then work our way back north the next day and onward to Argentina and the Bariloche area. With about 2 weeks left in our trip we have time to go slow, but we have to keep moving a little bit. We celebrated with our Tequila and coffee, then turned around and went to little place that sells gas. The guy turned on the pump, put the nozzle into my tank, squeezed the trigger and nothing came out. He went inside and got a can of WD40, sprayed it in random places on the pump, tried again and still nothing came out. 
He looked at us, shrugged his shoulders and said "Sorry, no gas today." We asked him when there might be gas and he said he didn't know. It depends on when he could fix the pump. We asked about other options and he said we could go to Cochrane which is the town 170 miles north of here. When we pressed him further on the time to fix the pump he said that maybe he could get it working later in the day but that he would probably have to call someone to come down and that could be several days.

[O'higgins] So here we are in O'higgins. Stranded without gas until we don't know when. But this is Patagonia and we are very far from anywhere. The fact that we can get gas at all is amazing so waiting a few days for it is no problem.
In fact we welcome the break. The temptation is to ride everyday and see a lot of things. But as we have been asked a few times-in my paraphrased spanish- No pueden conocer nada si siempre estan manejando. (You can't get to know anything if you are always driving)- ***Side note: I really like the word Conocer in spanish. Spanish has two words for "to know"- Conocer and Saber. Saber is to know something- like in theory or knowledgable. Conocer is to actually know something- like to get to know or know it first hand. There is a big difference and one that english doesn't always make.***

Yesterday we went for a hike up a valley towards a very large glacier. We hiked on a muddy path for 6-7 miles up valley, and then turned around and came back. We saw lots of second growth forest (I still don't understand how they extract the trees without roads) but also saw some amazing Patagonian Old Growth Cypress forest. 

At the end of the line for us was a cute little hut where people could stay if the wanted. I ate a yummy can of Salmon and burped fish all the way back.
The trail was extra muddy because a few cows had decided to always go for a hike and they destroyed the trail but we made it to be a bog game of hot lava monster and it was kind of fun.

Today we are going to bake bread and write on the blog, and perhaps tomorrow we will leave, if our dependance on fossil fuels will let us.

Moto note:
We found a mechanic in Coyhaique to "fix" megan's leaky fork seal. They didn't have the part, but they did take apart her fork, clean up the seal, put a firmer spring around it, and replace all the fork oil. It seams to be holding. However, later that day, my fork seal started to leak. And then it really started to leak. The problem is that once there is oil on the fork, dirt sticks to the oil which then gets pushed into the seal and makes it worse.

I fashioned this homemade boot around the telescopic part to keep dirt off by using an old rag, a ziptie and our sewing kit. It seems to be keeping dirt off of the fork which is good, but I am still loosing quite a bit of oil. I hope I can make it to Bariloche on this thing where I hear there is a good mechanic.

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