remote encounters introduction
In 2016 Pia and I cycled from the South of Argentina to Cusco in Peru. We chronicled our journey in a series of short films, focusing on the hospitality of rural South Americans, and the breathtaking landscapes they live in. Get to know South America, through five wonderful people who allowed us glimpses in to their lives, and the epic landscapes they call home... on Remote Encounters.
remote encounters episode 1
Our journey through South America began in the north of Patagonia, and what a way to start! We camped at giant empty lakes, crossed mountains through thick jungle, and eventually ended up in the small road-side shop of a baker named Macedonio. He invited us for coffee, and then showed us around his shop.
remote encounters episode 2
After taking our sweet time in Chile, zigzagging east and west on bumpy backroads, we realised the only way to make any ground heading north was on the highway no. 5. It was something akin to a six-lane German autobahn, and after a couple of days we’d had enough. We caught a bus across the border to Mendosa in Argentina, and started heading up the Ruta 40.
All a sudden the traffic was gone. The landscapes became endless and simple, the riding meditational, the camping spots plentiful. Where in Chile we had been making slow progress battling difficult surfaces, in Argentina we were straight out pumping on asphalt… One early morning, about two weeks in to our Argentinien leg, we stopped in a little town to buy some homemade cheese, and ended up getting cow milking lessons from a farmer named Alberto. Thanks Alberto
remote encounteres episode 3
We had reached the north of Argentina, and were bracing ourselves for a long climb in to the high Andes. Four days in to our climb, we managed to get properly ill. We had woken up ill for the second day running, feeling considerably worse than the day before, and by the time we had made it to the two horse town (officially eleven inhabitants) of Santa Rosa de Tastil, we were incapable of staying on the bike.
One of the houses in the village had extra beds for tourists who sometimes come to visit the ruins outside the town, and the owner was happy to give us a double bed to be ill in. It would have been a good time to take some antibiotics, but there were none to be had in the town, so we decided to wait it out. After five days of staring at the same tree through the same window, we recovered enough strength to wander out in to the village, and decided it was the perfect place to find someone for a Remote Encounter. After carefully approaching various shy villagers, we found Correa Santos, a local artisan, who was willing to tell us a bit about spinning wool.
remote encounters episode 4
Behind us lay the most difficult, and most beautiful stretch of our journey. We had spent two weeks cycling through a high altitude desert, surrounded by an alien landscape inhabited by flamingos, lamas and vicunas. Temperatures had been so cold at night that all our bottles would freeze solid. The whole journey was spent between 4000 and 5000m, making the pedals even heavier, and the track had been so sandy at times that we were forced to push our bikes for extended intervals.
It was all worth it of course, just to experience one of the most unique landscapes on earth, and at the end lay a great prize: The Salar de Uyuni, the largest salt flat in the world. A glistening white slab, stretching in all directions to the horizon. It was on this flat white plane that we met Andrew, a local salt miner. What a hard job! The little tank of man stopped his shoveling for a bit, to answer some questions for our camera. Thanks Andrew.
remote encounters episode 5
Our journey was coming to an end, and it was slowly beginning to register what an unforgettable and rich chapter of our life our time in South America had been. A physical challenge with countless rewards: The intrinsic happiness derived from body clocks ticking to the rhythms of nature, the feeling of strength and confidence earned by pedalling back and forth over the Andes, and with this, a broader sense of what is possible. The thing that stuck out more than anything though, were the encounters with such open people as South Americans are. None of the bad things the nay-sayers had been warning us about (robbery, swindling etc) had come to pass even once, instead we had been doted upon consistently from all sides, reinforcing our faith in the kindness of the human-race.
It was with these thoughts in our heads that we rolled past the building sight of Santusa Leon de Gonzales, a lively woman with a team of builders helping her construct her house out of adobe bricks. We were keen to investigate, and our curiosity was rewarded with jam and bread, a hot meal and bed for the night, as well as a charming guided tour of her building sight for our camera. Thanks Santusa