Where is Ermanno

Ermanno has been working at the Westlandpeppers webshop for the past year, when he studied in Delft. When we heard of his adventurous plan to discover South America by bike, we wanted to share his story about this extraordinary continent. Via this blog you can follow his journey and adventures! 

List of blogs

Click on the link to read previous blogs

Blog 1 

Blog 2 

Blog 3 

Blog 4 

Blog 5 

Blog 6 

Blog 7 


Blog 8: Northern Patagonia (11 March to 30 March 2022) 


Loud monkeys and parrots of all kinds do their best to distract me while I am writing on a wooden deck in the Brazilian jungle. I’m trying to set my mind on Patagonia´s memories, both distant in time and space (half a continent and almost half a year back to be honest) . I will be volunteering for a month in this beautiful place so there are no more excuses to postpone those past stories that I feel I owe to the readers that are still waiting for updates. I sincerely hope that once this burden has fallen off my shoulders, I’ll regain the enthusiasm to keep you updated in real time! Fortunately, I won’t have to rely on my precarious memory to take you on this dive into the past. I might be a sloppy blogger, but all the information I need is neatly recorded in my diary. I had no idea that crossing the border with Argentina would put an end to the relative loneliness of the past months. I met Etienne, Brice and Pierre, three adventurous Belgians on their way to Bolivia, on a dusty road in the afternoon heat. Several hours and several beers later we were all gathered around the dying ashes of our barbecue, slowly falling asleep to the combined effects of good music and sore muscles. The nostalgia for Chile had already been replaced by excitement for the road to come. 

Entering Los Alerces National Park after we had temporarily lost Etienne due to a broken spoke. 

The Park is famous for centuries-old native trees and pristine lakes. Once again I couldn’t help but notice the devastating effects of immense fires in the valley. It seems like a shared faith for most natural reserves I have passed through. 

We spent some days together, enough to remind me how everything suddenly appears easier and more fun when you have company around. It made me reflect, with a pinch of envy, about my decision to embark on this journey on my own. I happily concluded that solitude, generally speaking, makes for harder times but greater lessons and emotions. Nonetheless, I´ll always be happy to share the road when the opportunity arises. 

Apple compote lunch in the making. 

I arrived alone to El Bolson, a small town and famous starting point for numerous hikes. I thus procured myself a map of the trails and started looking at the immense valleys ahead in trepidation. I suddenly got a reply from a Warmshowers contact and half an hour later two strangers were helping me drag my bike uphill into the thick of the surrounding forests. I arrived at a chakra (small farm) where Mauri, a former bike traveler, welcomed me with open arms. I was told this was an ´ocupa´ (pacific occupation of unused land) where two families were living: around me naked children were running between permaculture gardens and natural construction sites. Later that night I shared a table with Mauri, his toddler son and a young Argentinian traveler called Henri. We spent hours uncovering and discussing some of Latin America's open wounds. I recall some disagreements with the last: ironically we both shared common ideals but where we were born and raised had a dramatic influence over our vision and methods. Once the candles died, I gratefully exchanged the cold flysheet of my tent for the warm wooden floor of the cabin. I fell asleep asking myself how many of my ideas and thoughts were passively absorbed by growing up in Western Europe. 

Details of the adobe and timber house. 

I slowly woke up the following morning, on my side laid the map I had previously picked up, full of trails I wouldn't walk. I had seen enough mountains for the moment, it was time to embrace this human experience. I spent the day helping out on the foundations of a dome with Henri and Dami. While working I got invited to celebrate the new moon with a Rapé ceremony. This is how I ended up getting tobacco and ashes blown into my nostrils while dancing and singing around a fire in honor of Pachamama. I stared at the moon with my bare feet in the remaining ashes until the last branch was consumed by the flames. Only then we were forced inside by the frigid cold. This cult for ´Mother Earth´ has been and still is fundamental for most cultures and peoples across the continent. I´m always impressed by the profound respect and reverence shown equally by both old and young. 

Henri, Dami and myself in front of the foundations of a soon-to-be new dome. 

I left the farm deeply moved by the amazing hospitality and acceptance, ready to fulfill my promise to return again in the future. I would have loved to stay longer but someone very special was waiting up North. Dear-ones visiting results in an unforeseen consequence: on one side the happiness of reunion, on the other the loss of freedom as it states a place in time and space you should be at. 


I had to hurry up the beautiful mountains of Nahuel Huapi National Park. It was increasingly more difficult to find camping spots at night: I was warned by the police of violent truckers and was repeatedly driven away by barking dogs. I finally opted to set up the tent behind an abandoned house where I even found an apple tree: good sleep and free breakfast! 

Bariloche is one of the major tourist attractions of northern Patagonia. The city will surprise you with Swiss style looks and terrify you with very Swiss prices. I had been there five years ago on a legendary school trip with my senior Chilean class. I realized with a smug grin that I could recall foggy late night memories of numerous parties but had a hard time recognising streets in daylight. Times had changed and on this occasion all I could wish for was a hot shower and proper meal. Luckily, I had had the pleasure of meeting a wonderful couple during a distant rainy afternoon on the shores of Lake Buenos Aires. Giuliano, a physicist with Italian roots, and his wife Regina offered me to stay at their place until I had recovered my energies. We had long dinners together talking about life in the Old and New World. I´m profoundly grateful for their hospitality: it's incredible how many people are ready to make you feel at home when you are far from your own. 



Big smiles and beautiful views exploring the vast mountain ranges that surround the city. I had to limit myself to a quick trip to Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral. I love the freedom of a light day-pack and fast pace! 

North of the city starts a road whose name alone seduces riders from all over: Ruta de los 7 Lagos. Stretching a little beyond 100 km, this spectacular route connects seven crystal blue lakes in a breathtaking succession. I spent some incredible nights under the stars, both lit in the faraway sky and reflected by still dark waters. I could only start my days when the sun rays finally hit my tent, wrapped into all of my clothes and both my sleeping bags. Autumn was just starting and my equipment proved to be by far insufficient … Nonetheless, the day would eventually start with the mechanical repetition of movements that will neatly arrange all my camp into the panniers. This daily ritual has by now acquired a dance-like rhythm to it, a constant play on an ever changing stage. 

Descending towards the first lake after fierce headwinds 

An abundance of blue 

I finally arrived in San Martin de los Andes. Opposing feelings were battling in me: I knew the time of my first break from cycling had arrived. My little sister (temporarily living in Argentina for an exchange) came to visit with her lovely host family. It was wonderful to see her after so much time in such a remote place. I enjoyed their company and handed them my bike. I was left with a small backpack containing the essentials and a plane ticket to Buenos Aires. 

I spent some days sleeping in the garden of an old lady while waiting for my sister. All basic commodities were inside her house so I found myself spending long evenings watching Mexican telenovelas with ´la señora Pato´. She definitely had a unique character which made those lazy rainy hours lapse like some strange dream. It's almost unreal how she became one of numerous improvised families I encountered on my journey. The picture shows me adapting to an Argentinian-sized house to wash the dishes. 

The route, around 5800 km cycled since I left home.


Blog 7: The Carretera Austral - 26 jun 2022


The first views on lake Buenos Aires were hinting to me about what was to come. The second biggest lake of South America is surrounded by long mountain ranges on both sides while suppressing clouds were hiding the view of the Chilean shores. I crossed the border in Paso Jeinimeni and immediately recognized the familiar accent. Somehow, I was feeling home. I just had to make sure to quickly forget all the Argentinian slang I had picked up!

There are two ways to cross the remaining section of the lake that changes its name to General Carrera on the Chilean side of the border. The first is to take a convenient ferry, the second follows the steep mountain slopes on a single lane gravel road. You can easily guess where I ended up complaining about my life choices. At least the heat, dust, horrific climbs and terrible conditions of the road surface were compensated for by the wild beauty of the landscape.

Impressive rock formations, solitude and loads of dust welcomed me back to Chile!


Steep gravel climbs are unfriendly to my heavy touring setup … I often had no choice but to push by foot! The constant dance between mountains and lake was mesmerizing!

The night sky's company is the undisputed reward in isolated and dry regions. Every night, I was slowly learning to recognize those new foreign constellations!

The Ruta 7, better known as Carretera Austral, is another one of those legendary names that are intertwined with Patagonia. The complex construction of the road began in 1976 as the military regime wished to reinforce Chilean sovereignty on the remote region during territorial disputes with Argentina. The result is a 1240 km long twisty connection between Puerto Montt and Villa O'Higgins, the perfect playground for adventures!

My official start on the Carretera, just after Puerto Guadal.


I happily exchanged my bike for a raft to visit the famous Catedrales de Marmor. Those impressive marble structures are formed due to slow carsic erosion by the lake's water. It was fun to change perspective: mountains and lake had swapped places for a while!

The road´s conditions were making for rough times. I recall spending some days in a row constantly complaining about stuff. Bike touring is not always a vacation and I was feeling the fatigue building up. The situation required a change of mentality: I reminded myself for how long I had craved being there and started focussing less on my aching leg muscles and more on the beautiful surroundings. Somehow it worked and soon I was cycling again with a smile.

The landscape suddenly changed as I crossed to the Western side of the Andes. The bike’s pace is slow enough to notice details, but also fast enough to cover significant distances: this allows one to notice how the climate itself is influenced by the region´s morphology. The Cordillera is blocking all the humidity coming from the Pacific. Big clouds constantly condensate and precipitate on the Chilean side of the mountain range, leaving Argentinian Patagonia almost completely dry. The consequent difference in flora and fauna is astonishing considering the relative proximity!

I reached Villa Cerro Castillo under a rare clear sky. I was even able to shave down the last kilometres by getting offered a ride by two brothers who I had already seen on previous occasions on the road. Their kind offer was stronger than my ego to ride out the last bit of road to the very end. The town’s campground welcomed me with a beautiful dome where I could wait out the terrible weather conditions before starting for the hike to the top of Cerro Castillo. I can confidently state that I met more people under that sheet of plastic than in the previous three weeks!

Chilly campsite under the imposing presence of Cerro Castillo, my coldest night so far: -4°C! My sleeping bag was not warm enough... I reminded myself of the necessity of doing some shopping before the upcoming winter.

Luciano, my new friend and spontaneous companion for this hike. The summit you see in the background gives the name to the whole area: Parque Nacional Cerro Castillo. This immense national park is part of the millions of hectares that have been donated by the Tompkins Conservation foundation. The story of Douglas Tompkins is a wild and amazing one, I will just highly recommend you to watch the following video to get started: 


Big smiles despite the freezing winds!

I had promised myself to rest a bit and was finally able to do so upon my arrival in Coyhaique, the capital of the Aysén region. I have to thank Claudia, whom I had previously met on the lake’s shores, for her amazing hospitality. I spent my first night in a bed in months. I had almost forgotten how comfortable that actually is!

My legs felt strong and my spirits were high as I followed the Simpson River downstream, well-knowing that the forecast was calling for a ten-day shower. This time, unfortunately, it didn’t lie: long days of humidity and pouring rain followed. The downfall complicates everything, from cycling itself to finding adequate break or camp spots. Even the persistent, low-hanging clouds didn’t bother me: an old lady told me that was the real Patagonia and I had all the intention to fully experience it.



Moody misty roads and fine rain. I recall those cold days of solitude as a serene immersion into the surrounding nature. The gentle patter of drops and the rhythmic pace of my cranks had finally silenced all thoughts. One quiet night in the woods I had a close encounter with two grey foxes while I was completing my stretching routine. The couple froze as they saw me in my bright yellow outfit, they looked confused. It took them a long minute to assess the situation before disappearing again in the bushes, I would have loved to know their thoughts.


My reward after conquering the Queulat pass on mud-flushing slopes: the spectacle of the Ventisquero Colgante or ´hanging glacier´.

I found a peculiar shelter in Puyuhuapi where a lady was offering a house under construction for protection. I wasn’t the only smelly humid traveller and found a lot of interesting company while I waited out a particularly intense stormy day. Everyone had his own reason to end up in such remote regions, most are attracted by the mystery and genuine sense of adventure. I recall an intense conversation with a young man from Israel. It was ten in the morning and he offered me some of his second bottle of red wine, his way to deal with the pouring clouds. He was just two years older than me but had spent all his adult life fighting in the Israeli army. I couldn’t help but think about my own path, so different from the violence and discipline I was hearing about. I later hoped that the rain could extinguish some of the fire in his memories.

Quiet night on the shores of Yelcho Lake. I had to abandon the Carretera on a small gravel road to reach the only border crossing that still remained open. I gratefully recalled the past weeks in front of a sparkling fire.

I crossed the border in Futaleufu with a heavy heart. Returning to Chile had been my dream for the last five years. I sadly realized that I had no idea when my next visit would be, painfully conscious that the next big trip will probably be outside of Latin America. Nonetheless, I crossed with a smile, breaking the silence on the notes of some improvised song.

I was able to have one last puncture 10km before the border. Luckily, I got picked up by a van: I was given good company and craft beers for my last night in Chile!


An update on the progress so far


Blog 6: Patagonian's adventures! - 4 apr 2022


I had to cheat a little to get to Punta Arenas. The Southern hemisphere's summer was slowly approaching its end and I couldn't afford to lose precious time arriving by bike. The flight itself was disrupted by a myriad of turbulent thoughts: I chose a seat by the window and didn't lose sight of the Andes until the sun was long gone under the horizon. A couple of hours later and my bike was finally back to its shape and ready to go. I could hear the rain pouring in the dark and my phone was warning for sub-zero temperatures. The hallways of the airport were deserted until I got approached by the night guard, the first of many saviors I would encounter. I ended up laying under a bench in the airport’s small chapel and sleep came late and didn't last long. My buzzing mind couldn't stop thinking: now it's for real!

My first (warm) sleeping spot!

I departed early in the morning, eager to make progress, as someone would be waiting for me at a small outpost 90 km to the north. I am lucky enough to have an old friend in the region and he offered to pick me up, quite a luxurious start! It was amazing to see him again in the middle of the steppe and I was warmly welcomed in Puerto Natales. Something happened over there: I was supposed to stay for a few days and ended up growing roots for almost two weeks. The area is well known for the Torres del Paine National Park and attracts adventurers from all over the world. I had been dreaming for a long time to walk one of the trekking circuits but found them all overbooked. We ended up going to the park for five nights during two different expeditions. I was by no means disappointed: your eyes will bounce from the massive granite peaks to glaciers, rivers and pristine lakes. We were blessed with excellent weather and good company, I'll let the photos speak for themselves!

Quiet roads in Puerto Natales are always framed by unbelievable mountains in the
distance!

Approaching the massif

Base Torres viewpoint with my friends Ronnie and Dani

We used the bike to travel to different sections of the park. My tire didn't survive the
bumpy roads … a few moments later and I found myself in the back seat of a police truck.
What would normally mean big troubles was in this case just a very welcomed ride home!

The park has suffered several devastating fires in the last years, all caused by clumsy
tourists. Therefore visitors nowadays are only allowed to stay at official campsites, the photo
shows Ronnie's afternoon stretch at our beautiful spot on Lake Pehoe.

A little sun and the park discloses all its colors.

The real cause of my longer stay was the rather incredible hospitality of Ronnie and his family. I accepted an invitation to join them on a weekend trip to visit some friends in Punta Arenas: having and, if necessary, taking the time to really experience alternative realities is one of the reasons I travel. It allowed me to go beyond just being a tourist and beginning to know, appreciate and tune into the rhythm of life at those extreme latitudes. I’ll need the aid of several photos to take you on a journey to the Chilean definition of ‘vida de campo’. Many people in the city will still be connected to the rural surroundings and own a small piece of land with a ´quincho’, which is a simple, but covered structure where folks prepare their ‘asado’. The house is dominated by the presence of the ‘estufa Magallanica', a heavy duty iron stove which serves as the beating heart of the house. We spent our days gathered around the fire, patiently waiting for the ‘cordero’ to cook. Hours passed alternating long silences and heavy laughter. The elders would usually make questions about Italy first, and later just continuously refill my wine glass with a conspiratorial grin. This drinking and feasting cycle repeated for several days until the mirror started showing signs of my growing belly fat. Family and friends would worry and ask about my condition, imagining I was suffering food-deprivation in the steppes … the irony of the situation convinced me to gratefully say goodbye to the family and start pedaling with my strategically acquired energy reserves!

The stove is used to cook and heat the house. A big pan of water is always kept on it
when the freezing temperatures will otherwise turn everything into ice. In the mornings I
would sit right next to it and patiently wait for a warm piece of 'churrasca’, a soft bread which
is directly cooked on the iron surface.

The fire has been going for a while and the ‘cordero’ is receiving its salt bath

Good company

Deeply questioning myself about a refill

Puerto Natales offers an easy crossing to Argentina. Unfortunately Covid is still a thing and I had to embark on a 340 km long detour to reach the only accessible border crossing in Monte Aymond. I couldn’t complain on my first day though: I was pushed by crazy tailwinds that drove me down to the end of the scenic ‘Ruta del fin del mundo’. I couldn’t get rid of an enormous smile on my face while racing the cloud’s shadows and enjoying the changing colors in the landscape.

The ‘end of the world’ route, quite a promising name!

Riding along the Strait of Magellan. Growing up, I associated this place with
adventurer's diaries, antique maps and wild storms … It looks a lot friendlier on a sunny day!

Murphy’s law: “Any wind that can blow against you, will blow against you”

Once in Argentina, I entered the small city of Rio Gallegos. I was observing every detail with a child’s curiosity. Do you remember that game where you had to find the differences between two apparently identical images? I was doing the same comparing these unknown streets and their inhabitants with my more familiar understanding of Chile. I proceeded to stockpile food and water for four days: a conservative estimate for the 303 km of absolute nothing I would need to cross. A few hours later on the saddle and a lonely car pulled over, a window was opened and I was served my first Mate by a group of smiling students. This beverage is obtained by the repeated infusion of bitter herbs and is sipped with a metal pierced straw. The country probably wouldn’t function without it and the beverage is ever present in all social interactions.

Argentinians profess a deep faith for their saints. Small chapels and shrines are a
common sight alongside roads. Two figures of popular myths are Difunta Correa and
Gauchito Gil. I highly invite you to search up their fascinating stories! The image shows my
first refuge in the steppes, the candles offered great comfort during the freezing night.

I met someone to fight the loneliness of the steppes. Guille is on a mission exploring
the vast sceneries of Argentina on his bike. We quickly got along and shared a week of
cycling. I was grateful for the amazing adventures and for having a local guide in front (he
was way faster than me…).

Angry clouds on the southern tongue of the Perito Moreno glacier.

The road I was following has almost a legendary status: the Ruta 40 spans the entire country on a 5000 km long cocktail of dirt roads, tarmac and immense scenery in the most different climates. I crossed the entire section of the Santa Cruz region going North. Many travelers had warned me that the famous Patagonian winds mostly blow southward, but I didn’t give it much thought at the time. I must admit I struggle to describe my lonely crossing of the steppes. Those weeks were dominated by the constant action of the wind and I spent long days slowly grinding those immense distances. My mood would jump from moments of extreme ecstasy and freedom to long and tortuous thoughts. My sight enthusiastically followed distant mountains and the high flight of condors, and at times just fell into obsessively staring at the front wheel in search of some aerodynamicity. Those days are already fading into a dream-like state, I’ll let some pictures compensate for my fuzzy writing.

‘Los 73 malditos’ is an iconic stretch of gravel road between Tres lagos and
Gobernador Gregores. I had never felt so far away from everything else! I was rewarded with
an incredible view of the ascending moon while setting up camp.

This time I couldn't make it to the next refuge and was forced to take shelter by a
culvert under the road. It was the only spot which offered a small protection from the wind.

One animal thrives in the vast steppes: small herds of elusive Guanacos would keep
me company.

Those intense colors in the Parque Nacional Patagonia originated from the explosive
volcanism that separated Latin America from the ancient continent Gondwana.

I thought it might be nice to show the route on a map, just to get a sense of the
distances and terrain. I’m sorry for the poor quality and visualization: this is all I can do from
this old library’s desktop! This blog ends on the shores of Lago Buenos Aires as I try to
obtain my PCR test to enter Chile. I hope the upcoming Carretera Austral will gift me
with the presence of some green trees (I really missed having those around) and the
absence of wind!

Blog 5, 11 jan 2022


I took a look at my travel itinerary: only 37 hours should separate my hometown in Italy from the final destination. It must have been lying: the regular passage of time completely lost its sense as I dragged myself through customs in my last connecting airport. An intercontinental flight on a budget is an experience on its own, a simple but beautiful neologism perfectly describes it: airports are nonplaces. An uncomfortable seat, crowded corridors, infinite successions of gates and anonymous bathrooms; all of those places do not really exist. Not in the sense that your grandparents' house or your favorite beach exist. I was just transiting, following one signboard after the other, in constant reminder that slipping on a detail could cost you the next connection or arouse suspicion in a grumpy officer.
By now you can imagine how I felt when I set foot on the streets of Santiago de Chile. I was able to arrive at the Airbnb with my bike and immediately went on a quest for some food. The city just hit me. A South American metropolis could scare a foreign visitor at first. It is chaotic and crowded, a cacophony of voices,cars and music stuns you for a while and then invites you to explore the old 'avenidas'. My looks and cycling outfit convicted me as a ´gringo´, I was an outsider like never before. This feeling slowly drifted away as I started recognizing the traits of the country I had previously been living in for a year. The physiognomy of faces, brands of sweets and grocery stores, small and fearless buses called ´micro` … My memories were slowly realigning with what I was seeing.

First picture in my room before falling into a 14 hour sleep at the arrival.

My thoughts really started to get overflown by excitement as I left Santiago on a bus that was clearly not designed for the road and speed it was traveling at. My bike was still safely packed, I wanted to reach Valdivia as soon as possible. The landscape slowly changed as we headed south: the arid peaks of the Precordillera gave place to fertile valleys at first and greaner forests at last. I knew I was approaching home as I started recognizing trees and road signs. There is something very special about returning to the place where you lived such meaningful experiences as during a student exchange. It has been over four years; everything feels alien and familiar at the same time. The first days were ruled by the strong emotion of reuniting with my host family and catching up with the city. A lot has happened to this country since I left. A series of massive protests, referred to as the ´Estadillo Social´ took place in October 2019 as a response to rising inequality, living costs and corruption. Stuff like this, exacerbated by the pandemic, really obliges individuals to take a position in their society. It also leaves physical traces for the observant eye: streets, walls and fences tell their silent stories.

A view on Valdivia’s riverside, generally referred to in Chile as ’Costanera’

Chile is one of those countries that I believe one should definitely visit at some point. Take a closer look at a map of South America and you will understand why. This strip of land, trapped between the high peaks of the Andes and the vastness of the Pacific ocean, stretches more than 4000 Km from North to South. It's as if it pretends to bridge the Equator and Antarctica! I'll try my best to share my love for its scenery and people. I have been lucky enough to already discover the Northern plateaus during a backpacking trip to the Atacama desert. It was now time to truly appreciate the region around the city of Valdivia. Fernando, an old friend from the 'colegio', took me to the beach of Mehuin. This place is infamous for being the epicenter of the earthquake that devastated the region in 1960, a 9.6 on the Richter scale … the highest ever to be recorded. Luckily it is also known for its beautiful waves and I spotted some Toninas (a kind of dolphin) from the surfboard!

The roughed Pacific coast

A safer beach for a surf newbie like me

My second adventure was offered by another friend I couldn't wait to meet again. I followed Fabian to Playa Colun, located South of the city. Arriving isn't easy, it took us a bus, a ferry, a pickup truck and a three hour hike to reach our spot. You really feel the distance from everything else in such an isolated place. We spent three days exploring the forest, sand dunes and infinite coastline!

From this point you either take a horse or walk

You can guess what my budget allowed for …

The beach is famous for its massive dunes

Standing on the border between sand and jungle gives the impression that reality is
just glitching and mixing up landscapes in front of your eyes!

Chile's low population density implies that it only takes a few kilometers from the
main square to find yourself on beautiful roads.

An old fisherman gifted me some kind of crab after helping him with his boat. I ate
what I coud and left the remains nearby on the sandy beach. I didn’t have to wait long with
my camera to snap a picture of this ’Gaviota Cahuil’!

As Christmas approached, I found myself to be grateful for how my time planning had come along. According to my initial plan I should have been somewhere in Patagonia at that moment. I don’t feel particularly attached to the 25th. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help having mixed feelings about a warm Christmas. I felt very lucky to spend the day with my host family and took some time to catch up with my people at home.

Every excuse is good to eat a ’cordero’ (lamb) in Chile. The ’parrillero’ will
patiently turn the meat for up to four hours.

The start of 2022 broke the bubble I was happily living in and brought some restlessness to my thoughts. I was feeling as if I was just standing on a trampoline without really making the jump I had dreamt off for so long. I realized that proceeding southwards by bike from Valdivia would result in losing the small window of summer in Patagonia. The best option was to take a flight, I hope it will be the last one for a while. It's time for packing and some difficult goodbyes, I’ll land in Punta Arenas next week … The journey can now start for real!

Blog 4, 20 nov 2021


I started my Camino de Santiago just over the border with France, in the city of Irun. I enjoyed a beautiful night discovering the city while being hosted by a generous Warmshower. I decided to follow the northern route as I heard wonders about the beauty of its landscapes. I soon realized I wasn't going to be disappointed: the Basque country unfolded between green mountains and the constant presence of the blue ocean. I was fascinated by the Basque language (called Euskera, good luck trying to make sense of it!) and its people.

Basque country´s mysterious landscapes

A bike has its limits, sometimes a little help is needed

It took me a few days to reach the Cantabria region. It felt like a lot more as I was stubbornly following the pilgrimage route´s track, regularly having to turn around on inaccessible hiking paths. The end of October was approaching and I didn't meet a single other pilgrim on the road. This solitary condition suddenly changed as I met Sebastian, a french traveler, who was biking south from his hometown near Paris. We immediately got along and shared an amazing camp spot by the coast, just west of Bilbao.

Conquering hills in good company: the ocean´s view offers constant rewards!

Entering Galicia, we met with another bike traveler. With the addition of Tarkan, our new German friend, the team was complete. This marked the start of a beautiful week. The truth is that sharing the road makes everything easier and funnier. We suddenly had three fire pits at our disposal, allowing us to finally increase the complexity of some meals! I was glad to leave the instant noodles for a while. The weather was on our side, causing a drop in our daily cycling average to around 30 km as we were spending more and more time on sandy beaches. The great thing about meeting other cyclists is the opportunity to share travel hacks. Every one of us had something to teach and a lot to learn. Overall I recall those long days as happy and carefree, I´ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

We took care in choosing nice spots each night

Sharing the road

Sleeping under the stars

More amazing camp spots

We said goodbye to Tarkan as he was heading South and followed the sun into Galicia. The coast continued to abruptly drop into the ocean, creating spectacular cliffs. We decided to take a day off on a particularly beautiful peninsula and spent the last days on the coast before parting from the ocean into the mainland.


A day off on the cliffs


Galicia´s coastline

We immediately faced some tough hills and colder weather. It looked like we had to pay for all the gifted sunshine with a last day of pouring rain. We decided to split and sprint for the last 100 Km. I arrived in front of Santiago´s cathedral at the end of the evening, drenched to the bone. Maybe all that rain had its purpose as it allowed me to enjoy the pilgrimage site in relative tranquility.

Santiago de Compostela Archcathedral Basilica, burial place of Saint James the Great

The following days offered a rare occasion for resting, as an intimidating sky was dissuading every cycling attempt. I found myself enjoying the luxuries of a hostel, the city and all the amazing people that I met there. Santiago will remain in my memories as a crazy encounter between locals going about their lives and ecstatic pilgrims that finally reached their finish line after so much walking. It makes for some interesting situations throughout the city. I finally left the home-feeling hostel, equipped with a list of cities and road names as my phone had sadly decided to take a fatal shower under the rain. I was somehow intrigued by the idea of traveling without being connected at all times. Those days made me realize how reliant I am on all the information that little piece of technology can provide. I ended up on a variety of roads I was definitely not supposed to ride and was relieved to finally encounter the Portuguese coast, as I could easily follow it until my final destination.

It's impossible not to smile on a border crossing

I met up again with Sebastian while entering Porto. I fell in love with the city during the following days while being hosted by an amazing Warmshower. We were spending our days sitting on the side of busy streets while enjoying the views and local cuisine. On the last day, we decided to follow the Douro river upstream by bike until reaching the first mountains of the region.

A view on the Douro

Lazy afternoons in Porto

Hiking in good company

I was finally approaching the end of this part of the trip. I managed to pack my bike in the courtyard of a cheap hostel in Lisbon and somehow got to the airport. I was feeling a bit guilty about returning by plane but I knew there was no time. I had just under two weeks to prepare everything for the imminent departure to Chile, take a quick look at my future University and say goodbye to some good friends in The Netherlands. Busy schedule. I took some time reading in my journal about my pre-departure fears. Seven weeks, four countries and almost 3000 km later I could recognize their irony. I was scared of feeling lonely, and had spent hardly any time alone, as I continually encountered travel companions. I was worried about sleeping outside in unknown places and found myself repeatedly sleeping the longest and most tranquil nights in recent years! On the plane I realized I had just kind of won the home game: the next match would be in Latin America!

Leaving your bike to airport staff is frightening

Blog 3, 11 nov 2021


I’m currently home in Italy, the European part of the journey is completed and just under 3000 kilometers have disappeared under my wheels. I must admit that I ran out of decent reasons to procrastinate the necessary writing to update this blog. At least I feel like I have some good excuses: my days were spent having a good time and I didn’t feel the need to write down what was still being experienced. This accumulated for some weeks until I just gave up and postponed my duties to a future, home-based, version of myself. I’m now eager to take my time to tell some stories.

Heading to the mountains
Apparently some centuries ago, the French decided it was a good idea to let a few thousand people dig for years until sea and ocean were connected: they call the resulting channel Canal du Midi. I followed it for a few days as it was easy riding with some beautiful views on old towns and vineyards. It was once a strategic commercial route, which allowed for transport of heavy goods through the countryside; nowadays it’s mainly used by waving sweet-water yachters which really seem to enjoy themselves.

Canal du Midi


I had some easy rides in the hills as I headed south-west: not every day will grant you breathtaking views so I spent a lot of time listening to history podcasts and watching ruminant cows in the fields. These were also the moments I realized I was really getting used to living on the road. I was sleeping long hours every night and enjoying the subtle flavor differences of a variety of canned food. I will comment a bit about personal finances on the road as I would really like to send the message out that this lifestyle is feasible for most. You don’t need a lot of money while cycling. I found out that I could comfortably live with under 10 euros per day. That's more than enough to eat a lot of fresh food when cooking and camping outside. When on a tight budget, stay in natural and rural areas: cities and hostels are money traps in the long run.

Unfortunately, the weather wasn't sharing my optimistic worldview and continued pouring water on me. I remembered some old advice and decided to give Warmshowers a go: an app that links smelly cycle tourers to generous people willing to share their roof. It's really amazing how this community can open their houses to complete strangers. I got to meet some amazing people and gratefully reloaded with warm food and comfy nights. Both were quite necessary as I was definitely leaving behind Mediterranean temperatures.

Lots of fields


Gaining altitude

The Pyrenees
The conditions appeared to be favorable for my first real climb as I approached the Pyrénées National Park. I stubbornly pushed on the cranks until my 50 kg companion and I had conquered the Col du Tourmalet (2115m). It took some time. After a quick rest I locked my bike and switched to hiking boots. In two more hours I reached the top of the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2877m). I was definitely feeling my legs by that time but the view made it worth it. Fortunately, on the way down, I met a French bikepacker: chatting helped me maintain focus during the spectacular descent and we shared camp during the night. The following day, he gave me a call explaining the conditions of the road I was supposed to follow. They were bad: an entire section was blocked and too dangerous to pass through. I spent a whole afternoon at the Cirque de Gavarnie dwelling on the idea of attempting to cross, there was no other way around on the valley’s steep slopes. I just really didn't want to ascend the Col again. My mood only got better when I remembered it was Sunday, all shops were closed and I had no food left. I probably looked as I felt, generating enough pity for a generous couple to pick me from the street and host me for the night. We had dinner together, communicating the best we could with a little help by Google Translate. I fell asleep feeling amazed by this kind of hospitality that I didn't expect to find so close to home. I wonder how many people would be ready to open their houses back in Italy, I like to think they would. I left in the morning, as early as the cold would allow, and rode all the way up the Col du Tourmalet again.

Pic du Midi Bigorre (2877m)

Cirque de Gavarnie

Col de Tourmalet

Encountering the Atlantic
I finally felt that gravity was being nice to me as I quickly left the mountains behind. I had a stop in the city of Lourdes, a famous pilgrimage site after some Marian apparitions. I enjoyed the busy sanctuary and later found some peace in the beautiful forests behind the site, where I spent the night. The remaining days in France were spent following the river Gaves. I took a day off in Biarritz to enjoy the Atlantic and took my time to plan the crossing into Spain.

Forest of Lourdes

The Atlantic in Biarritz

Blog 2, 13 oct 2021 


From home to the sea. 
The wind makes the flysheet of my tend going crazy as I try to focus on the small keyboard of my smartphone. At least my body feels relaxed: I just spent my first rest day on a white beach near Montpellier. After crossing the Alps, the encounter with the sea was abrupt: suddenly my sight could wander freely and for once it felt like I had nowhere else to go. Reaching this milestone indicates the proper moment to catch up with some writing and show some places! 

First day's on the road 
I left my parents' house alone as everyone was gone that morning. Maybe it was for the best as it gave me the time to really appreciate the moment. Unfortunately it also gave me the time to build up some nervosism: I had been preparing for over a year but I realized I had no idea of what was coming. Would I even like cycling that much? Up to that moment I had never gone further than some 40 kilometers ... This feeling obsessed me for the first 120 km until I finally found a good camping spot near the Certosa di Pavia. It was a troublesome night as my imagination played around with every noise I heard in the distance. 

Certosa di Pavia

Pavia, Ponte Coperto

I spent the second day following the Po river. It was hard to notice any progress: farms, grainfields and villages looped through my eyes without much distinction. The scenery finally changed as I reached the hills of Monferrato! I slowly tackled the first ascends and rewarded myself with all the grapes and other fruit that late September still had to offer. After a moral trial, headed by myself as the only judge, I decided that I feel ethically entitled to "try" all growing food I can find along my way. 

Vineyards and castles

Luckily I had a good old friend waiting in Torino, I spent some days in the Susa valley at her place and also met again my Chilean host brother who happened to be nearby!

Crossing the Alpes
Happy and grateful, I thought I was ready to conquer my first mountain range. I lost some animo when I found my path blocked by the military: I wasn't allowed to proceed and got no explanation whatsoever … lost some good hours trying to find another way. Luckily I ran into some good company on my way to Montgenevre! I saw another cycling tourer and we decided to share some of the road. His name is Andi, from Bavaria, he left his job and apartment at home and is now cycling Europe for a year!

Andi and his kart descending into France

Morning views in the Hautes-Alpes

The following days were amazing. As we travelled togheter through the Hautes-Alpes, Andi tough me to take some time off the bike. We woke up for early for a sunrise on the Lac de Serre-Ponçon and shared some good beers at night. Those same nights became pretty cold as I was only carrying a three-season sleeping bag … Fortunately Decathlon seems to exist in every corner of France, therefore I currently spend my nights imbedded in a double-sleeping bag cacoon. Works fine until you have to pee at night … 

Sunrise at Serre-Ponçon

Provence 
Andi and I separated entering the Provence region. I missed his company but was also happy to be on my own again. I was splitting my time between the necessary cycling, stopping at every boulangerie for a pain ou chocolat and reading Harari's Homo Deus. I've always loved reading but university had kept me for too long on the boring stuff. I finally have the time to read, understand and develop my own thoughts and arguments. Quick tip: an e-reader is the most amazing thing ever. 

Sain gilles 

The last couple days I was confronted with many empty costal villages. As most tourist leave those places start acquiring some spooky traits. I was very happy when I finally reached the immense beach of Espiguette. Nothing but sand, dunes and some nudist for miles. I took my time to load up again, store some heat in my bones and got all my gear full of sand as a lovely bonus. Can't wait to reach the Pyrenees, till then! 


Espiguette 


Blog 1, 27 sep 2021


Hey! 

My name is Ermanno, I’m 22 years old and have dedicated a good portion of the past three years fantasizing about this journey. I have had the luck of being borned and raised in what I consider a beautiful corner of Italy, just in between the Po valley and the Orobie mountains. Those have been the playground of many hiking trips and taught me to love the great outdoors. When I turned 17, I got the chance to spend a year in the south of Chile as an exchange student. The people I met and the landscapes I got to enjoy left me obsessed with Latin America. That obsession grew even larger during my time at university in the Netherlands: I was constantly trying to figure out when and how to return. I was dreaming of hiking the continent or even following the steps of the “Che” and his motorbike. At last I was introduced to bike touring and fell in love with the idea of being self sufficient while moving with muscle-power alone. As three years of engineering had told me, I started searching for answers on YouTube. I grew confident of the feasibility and began planning. 


I’m glad for the chance of teaming up with Westlandpeppers to provide this travel blog. I’m definitely no Shakespere but I am excited to bring you alongside my two-wheeled journey! I sincerely hope this will help people at home to discover something new about the continent I love and maybe get inspired to take off on your own adventure. This will be the story of a bike tourer without any previous bike experience: I’m basically a nooby with very optimistic world views. 

So what’s the plan? I want to finally return to Chile, get down to Patagonia and then follow the Andes to the North. I hope to reach Ecuador or even Colombia but time will tell how far I can get. My main focuses are the journey and lifestyle: I want to allow myself to have the time to spend where I feel I could learn something and not just endlessly grind kilometers on my saddle. I hereby introduce you to my lovely companion on this journey: a Fuji Touring Disk LTD.


Unfortunately the current pandemic isn’t very friendly to intercontinental trips. Chile’s borders are still closed and I had to quickly reinvent myself. As my flight to Santiago de Chile is rescheduled to late November, I will take you along my journey to the Atlantic ocean. I hope to enjoy the last shy remains of the European summer while cycling to Portugal. Updates will follow soon! It’s finally time to depart.






18 opmerkingen:

  1. See you soon my friend, you have a lot of memories and lessons ahead of you

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  2. Dear Ermanno, what a great experience! I will definitely talk to my son Diego about you and your journey and I am sure he will follow your adventure with great passion! Buona fortuna from your italian cousin Silvia and from my family!

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  3. Great experience Ermanno! Keep us posted about your trip!

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  4. Whoo Hoo! The Tourmalet! Nice going E.... How fantastic is that!!Damn if I was 45 years younger I would have joined ya.... if your father would have let me.... Someday when we finally meet, I'll bore you with my stories (like I have your dad) about my ride from London to the Mediterranean via the Netherlands.... Anxious to hear more of your adventure, keep on rollin'!

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  5. Hey there Ermanno. Great decision! Do the world while you can. I am now 60 years old and long to get back on the road but it is now quite difficult, as I have an 18 year old daughter who is just starting out on her first steps and I have to stand by her side on this very important moment of her life. But really, I am not sobbing. I have travelled the world as a younger man and actually reached middle age wondering through it. My name is Yannis and I am a Greek who travelled to Mexico after having been to India, Thailand and a few other Asian destinations for various years. I have also travelled Europe while a big part of it belonged to the Soviet block. But it was Mexico that captured my heart. Just like yours belongs to Chile. I stayed there for 16 years and formed a family with my Mexican wife. Unfortunately or fortunately (one can never be sure), I left Mexico for various reasons and returned to Greece. One of my endeavors now is chilesymaiz.com, a website about Mexican cuisine and the people who are involved in spreading its flavors, colors and aromas throughout Europe. That's how I found this blog. I was updating an entry we have made for Westlandpeppers in our "Directorio de Abarrotes Mexicanos en Europa" when I was captivated by a Facebook post in the company's page. Needless to say, I followed the link. So take good care of yourself during your journey and afterwards, Ermanno. I will be following your story and hope that one day, you cycle to Greece! ¡Cuídate mucho!

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  6. Just read your Blog 5... Love your writing and enjoying your adventure... Good luck and safe journey, I'm eagerly anticipating your next entry. "Zio" Don.

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  7. Share more the content!!!
    People would love Ermanno and his stories! <3

    Perhaps the blog is difficult to read with this web sites settings..
    More different sections, one section for each blog.

    Hope it could be usefull
    Love you travellers

    Ciao Ermanno <3

    Lorenzo

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