Mileage eater Sander (24) is cycling 10,000 kilometers solo through South America.  'I feel like I've seen everything I wanted to see'

Mileage eater Sander (24) is cycling 10,000 kilometers solo through South America. 'I feel like I've seen everything I wanted to see'

Carts, tours or stairs. Dutch people regularly take to their bikes with newfound courage or reluctance. One to exercise and the other to get where he needs to be. Sander Wijdenes (24) took a big approach: he cycled 10,000 kilometers through South America in 99 days.

“I've done cycling trips before, on my own, but across Europe. I wanted to go back to South America. Wijdenes discusses his travel options with Klaus den Veen from Den Veen Tweels in Oldmark. “If I go on my bike, he'll be my sponsor, he jokes. .” One thing led to another.

“I started in Ushuaia, on the southern tip of Argentina.” It is also the southernmost city in the world, located about a thousand kilometers from the South Pole. “From there I wanted to cycle to the northern part of South America. A guy I met through my cousin who was traveling in South America before showed me the ropes in three days. After that I was alone.

The wind is blowing at a speed of 120 kilometers per hour

With two bags of food and drinks on the handle, a bag for electronics and a tent, spare parts, a stove and clothes in the luggage carrier, he sets off to cover the first kilometer in Patagonia. Vijdenes knew that it was often windy there. “That area is known for the north-westerly winds. Of course, not good for me because I was cycling north so had to pedal straight into the air,” he explains with a laugh. “I also understand that it is normal to cycle the route the other way.”

Sometimes he has trouble keeping his bicycle on the road. “Winds of 120 kilometers per hour are not uncommon there. At a certain point I just couldn't move forward anymore. A lorry driver saw him sitting on the roadside. “He asked me if I wanted to ride.” After some deliberation, the 24-year-old decides to go for it. “I cycled at twelve kilometers an hour through areas where you didn't really meet anything or anyone. It was still 160 kilometers to the next town. Due to strong wind, we could not pitch our tent anywhere along the way.

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He never slept in a tent during his 99 days on the road. “I think I've stayed in a hotel ninety times. Everywhere I went, I asked people I met for places to sleep. They were very helpful. I once spent a night in a church.

'You're surrounded by salt'

Camping has its charms in some places though. For example in Bolivia, at Isla Incahuasi. An island full of cacti located in the Salar de Uyuni: the largest salt flat in the world. An area of ​​about 12,000 square kilometers and billion tons of salt. “I thought it was really cool. There's salt all around you and you can't see anything else.

Is he not afraid of getting lost? “No. I had a compass with me, so you always knew where you were. You could see the tire tracks from the cars and buses full of tourists visiting the plains,” he says with a shrug. “By six o'clock I was the only one left.”

At the beginning of the journey something was difficult for him at times. “You come to villages, houses or uninhabited areas. In the beginning I sometimes wondered: 'Is this what I want?' But after a week you will get used to it. Of course there are times when you don't want to do it and you have tips, but I never consider quitting.


Although being alone is not a challenging thing. “The route I rode was ten times the longest distance I've ever cycled.” So he agrees with himself beforehand. “I didn't have to cycle all the way to the North Pole, I was allowed in. I had set up several interim checkpoints for myself. If I was satisfied, I could stop.

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At each checkpoint Wijdenes asks himself: stop or continue? “Well, it went well, I liked it. Then you cycle every time,” he admits with a laugh. Although the height meters are a thing. “It bothered me a lot. It really gave me a headache. I am not used to cycling at altitudes above 4,000 meters.

He travels an average of 100 kilometers a day. “It took me five or six hours. Sometimes even nine. The roads, the climate: it's really different from the Netherlands.


He covers most of those kilometers alone, although he occasionally meets fellow sufferers. “Before I left, I joined a utility group. Cycling South America, the group is called. There are about six hundred people,” explains Vijdenes. So he knew there was a chance to meet other cyclists along the way. “There was always room for a quick chat along the way. .”

He had long conversations with those he met in their sleeping quarters. “I slept several times at the Casa de Ciclistas. Loosely translated, it's a sleeping place for cyclists. There I met two Brazilians. With them I did a bike and hike trail to cross the border from Argentina to Chile. I was happy that we could do it together. The route was not marked anywhere and The trails are very steep and the 7 km trail took us 3.5 hours.

After the trio crossed the border, they again went their separate ways. “We were happy together, it was a pleasure to do it together. They cycled seventy or eighty kilometers a day, while I would like to pass at least a hundred. Then it is difficult to work together for a long time,” explains the 24-year-old.

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“I was told several times along the way that I was crazy for finishing the trip so early. That's how I met an American who had been on the road with a bicycle for seven years. I don't have that time and have to go home again sometime. 99 days of travel is enough for him. “I feel like I've seen everything I wanted to see, so I definitely don't regret my choices.”

'Be careful on the road'

He drove his first kilometer on October 20 and took the plane home on February 1, tired but satisfied. He never reached the North Point. “I came to Ecuador where I couldn't cross the border,” he explains.

With 10,000 kilometers on the odometer, he concludes, it was good. “Would I do it again? Of course, but not for a long time. Anyway, I haven't put the bike away yet,” Vijdenes explains with a laugh.

He thinks the best thing about a long bike ride is that you get to see everything along the way. “It goes by quickly, but you have time to look around.” He has many more cycling goals. “I also think it would be great to cycle from Vienna to Athens again. Who knows what else will come.”

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