Daniela and Manuel are volunteer fire fighters in Puerto Montt, Chile. Not only they work for free and combine this activity with their studies, but they actually have to pay for their license and get their uniform/equipment.
"It's a vocation" they told me proudly.
In Chile, all fire departments are entirely based on volunteering.
Matt, his wife Amy and their two kids Finlay and Liam, are a Canadian family traveling with their bikes since 4 months. First across Europe, now in South America, the journey is meant to last for a year. Notice the little trailers for the kids, equipped with pedals. (when there is a will, there is a way...)
Enrique studies Tourism in Santiago. He hopes that the asphalting and improvement of the Carretera Austral will help him to have work in its sector when he graduates.
Puerto Aysen it's home town where he cycle to for the summer holiday, is still isolated from the north by long sections of gravel road.
Ana-Luz rent rooms in her wooden house in Cochrane, Chile, since 10 years, when her husband died.
Today, the offer of 'hospedajes' (Bed and breakfast) is saturated in Cochrane, she said. The cause, is the abandonned "HidroAysén" plan, a controversial megaproject that aimed to build five hydroelectric power plants in Chile's Aysén Region.
The dams were approved on May 9, 2011 under the government of President Sebastián Piñera, and soon after, numerous people migrated in town to start businesses, hoping to get profit from the thousands of workers that would invade the region.
But in June 2014, the project was rejected by the government of Chile, due to calls from environmentalists.
Gian is from Seattle, USA. He just married Kayla and both decided to spend their honeymoon crossing the Carretera Austral.
Gian rides 40 miles every day to go and come back from work. He is also an experienced climber.
I met the couple the day I lost one shoe and we crossed road several times after this. We ended up doing the "border crossing" between Chile and Argentina all together
Self-Portrait. I took this picture on December 24th, on the Carretera Austral, near Caleta Tortel.
It was at the end of a hard day, almost 130km cycling literally without seeing any human soul and with pretty bad weather. I was tired, cold and the atmosphere on that Christmas Day was very gloomy.
On the other side, the landscapes I crossed that day were among the most spectaculars of the route, and the sense of loneliness and desolation certainly participated to the uniqueness and intensity of the moment.
I perfectly knew that after a few days, I would only remember the good side of all this, which is a great thing about how the human brain works.
I'm not used to take selfies, but I somehow wanted to remember the uniqueness and harshness of that day
Paula is English teacher and lives 500km north, in Coyaique, the biggest city (50.000 Hab) of the Carretera Austral. Although she is the daughter the mayor of Villa O'Higgins, she had never seen the glacier so she took advantage of her visit to her parents for the summer holidays, to finaly see this natural wonder that she has "next door".
Sepulveda works on the boat that crosses once a week the O'Higgins lake and eventually make the detour to the glacier. On the zodiac he used to get us closer to the ice blocs, he would make sure to fill a big bottle of water directly from the lake to make a warm 'mate' (traditional infusion) on the way back to Villa O'higgins.
In Candelario Mansilla, at 3h by boat approximately from Villa O'higgins, endpoint of the Carretera Austral, Manzilla lives with her son, in the only house you will find, apart from the migration office.
The house was build by her parents and she never lived anywhere else. To get food and supplies she relies on the boat that makes the connection to Villa O'higgins only once a week in low season. With no mobile phone signal, she uses a radio to communicate with town and order what she need. Manzilla offers a few beds to passing bikers and hikers that wants to make the border crossing.
Melisa studies to become a teacher.
This summer holiday, she controls and sells the tickets on the boat that crosses the Lago del Desierto.
I casualy asked her if there were any bike rental shops in El Chalten, the first town we had ahead of us, as I had had now the necessity to sell my bicycle in order to continue the journey to the north. It happens that she was just looking for a second hand bike to make her first big trip across Uruguay and Brazil in April.
As incredible as it may sound, she is the first person I talked to (after the immigration officer) in Argentina.... and she is the person that bought my bike....
Florencia runs the "Casa de los ciclistas" in El Chalten, #argentina
She offers a free shelter and shower in her humble house for any person that travels with the bicycle.
She wants to extend the concept to other cities to help bikers on a budget to realize their dream.
Flore hasn't done any big trip herself but she plan to it soon to the Carretera Austral in Chile.
Claudio is a truck driver living in Rio Gallegos, on the Atlantic coast of Argentina. Strange coincidence, he was born and lived till age 11, in Coyaique, Chile, (a town a crossed 2 weeks ago) before the Carretera Austral even existed. At that time the town was completely isolated and only accessible via a small path. He never went back to his home town ever.
Paula is a singer and old time friend who returned to her homeland, Argentina, after living for a few years in Barcelona. When I landed in Buenos Aires, the starting point of my trip, she gently hosted me and helped to acclimatize to the big city, and when I came back from Patagonia, she welcomed me again to rest for a few days before continuing my trip to Uruguay.
Gustavo is originally from La Plata, Argentina, and also cycle solo along the Uruguayan coast. He met Nacho and Marc before I knew them and when a few days later we all met in the hippie town of Valizas, he decided to join the group and travel with us. Gustavo apart from cycling, formerly did competition of gymnastic.
Graciela lives in Barra del Chuy, at the border between Uruguay and Brazil. She is the aunt of Anita, member of the "Warmshower" community and author of the book "El viaje de la vida desde una bicicleta" and therefore she offers free hosting to cyclo-travelers. Animal lover, she also takes care of more than 40 abandoned dogs. I spent one night in her garden before crossing to Brazil.
At 30km from Rio Grande, after more than 8 hours cycling on BR-471, dehydrated and desesperated, I meet Fagundes that sits next to its truck on the side of the road. He sells watermelons, "melancia" in Portuguese.
I actually don't like watermelons, but at that moment, Fagundes truck has turned in a sort of oasis for me. I ask him if I can buy a part of it but he says I can have it for free. After a little chat, he even goes to his nearby home to get me a bottle of frozen water... Suddenly, I seems like this crazy day just took some sense...
It is hard for me to explain the feeling of receiving so much generosity and attention from Matheus and it's mother when I arrived at their house, exhausted, dehydrated, after more than 140km cycling facing an unbearable heat and head wind. As a bike enthusiast and member of the "Warmshower.org" community, Matheus not only offered me a bed (and a shower), but also cooked delicious meals and helped me out with various logistical issues such as money exchange, buying bus ticket, laundry... I also was allowed to stay one day more than foreseen in order to rest after my that killing day.
It is really encouraging to witness so much generosity towards a total stranger.
Walesem T-shirt had this printed on it: "Don't hate me coz I work on the beach". Originally from Curitiba, Ale lived and work in a hostel on the Santa Catarina island, Florianopolis, Brazil. Ale has been so nice to spend 40 min of the phone with a customer service for me in order to activate my Brazilian SIM card on my phone. Sadly, years later, I realized he voted Bolsonaro...
Jon is an hairstylist from London, UK. I met him at the hostel in Barra de Lagoa and we decided to take surf classes together. As an experienced skateboarder, he was obviously much better than me. Behind a pretty quiet and humble attitude lies a talented and hard working individual that at age 24, already jumps from a fashion shoot to another between London, Paris, New York and Milan. Check out his work @jondefranc
When I asked to receptionist Joana if she could provide me a needle, she naturaly said: "ask anything, we have it!" She didn't know it yet, but that simple needle would save me twice that day. First, it was the tool that would allow me to clean the connector of my iPhone that had stopped charging. Secondly, it allowed be to stitch my only pair of shorts that were torn appart.
I actually lost the needle after using it and wasn't able to return it.
Joana is from Portugal, she first worked on an almost desert island in Bahia but today she prefers the more dynamic lifestyle of Florianopolis.
Antonela is from Buenos Aires, Argentina and now lives in Brasil. The day I wanted to shoot Antonela's portrait she kindly refused because she didn't sleep the night before and wasn't in the mood. She explained me that a very good friend of her got an accident, diving from a boat in a un-deep spot. His spine had been damaged and it's still uncertain if he will be able to walk ever again.
Her friend was about to go home in a few days after a one year trip around South America. We discussed the fact that when on a trip, you get strangely sometimes a feeling of invincibility. Nothing can happen to you... as opposed to when being home.
On one side it's nice coz it let you fully enjoy the moment, on the other, her story reminded me to still be careful at all time.
Mariela is Argentinian, from the coast south of Buenos Aires. She works since 1,5 month in the hostal Barra Beach Hostal. I initially planned to stay 2 days in Barra da Lagoa, but in the end I extended to 6 nights... And that have certainly something to do with the Hostal staff. After a few hours there you would feel at home.
People from abroad always have trouble with my French name but Mariela would call me by name with a almost prefect accent although I only told her once during check-in. It's interesting how such a small detail can make you feel good when arriving in a new place.
"Friends of my friends are my friends", they say. Paula is a friend of my Brasilian friend Iasa. She has been so nice to pick me up at Curitiba's bus terminal and take me directly to a samba school rehearsal. Paula studied communication and went for a year in Lille, France to study French. She is currently looking for a job in Curitiba but surprisingly confessed me that she would like to live one day in Brussels, Belgium.
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