Southern Chile and across to Tierra Del Fuego. This trip is fast drawing to a close!
07.12.2012 - 15.12.2012
7th December – Torres Del Paine to Puerto Natales 99km / 1246 climbing
It seems like Patagonia is in catch-up mode with a smashing wind during the night, but my tent is good. (I bought it for this trip with these winds as a benchmark requirement for purchase.)
I saw this red fox before leaving camp.
Just as we went to leave it started to rain. Bugger! I’d left my waterproof pants in my lunch bag in the now-locked truck. It rained, or should I say drizzled, all morning.
The magic views that I knew were there were hidden by the grey clouds. This photo is from a viewpoint called Mirador Grey. How apt when this photo is 50 shades of grey?
It rained all morning and the road was unpaved and muddy. My mudguards worked, but it was passing traffic that did a better job of making me dirty. By the time I got to lunch, I was wet and numb and over it. The rain didn’t let up during lunch, so I got changed into warm clothes and went in the truck the rest of the day. The bonus with this option is that we stopped at the cave of the Milodon on our way to Puerto Natales. It’s a huge cave in which a 10000 year old milodon skeleton and skin was found in 1890. The plastic life-sized replica is worth the entrance fee alone!
Fred and Harry use the fire in a cafe next to the cafe to dry their clothes before continuing to ride in the rain to Puerto Natales.
What's this I see? A wooden slide. What cruel person made this? Mummy! Mummy! I have splinters in my bum!
Puerto Natales is a cold windy town. The weather changes frequently. It was sunny when I went for a shower and by the time I came out, my nearly-dry clothing was getting wet again.
We had a lovely Bike Dreams salmon dinner indoors tonight.
8th December – Puerto Natales to Villa Tehuelches 148km / 1024m climbing
It was raining when we went to leave and I had no desire to start wet and cold and stay that way, so I took the truck to lunch which was at 65km, waited for awhile and then set off in the hope that it cleared. It did clear vand there was a strong tail wind. It was so strong that I was riding at 40kph on the flat without peddaling. Then a gust would push you up to 45kph. Accelerating without peddaling! It was too good to last. After doing 35 km in an hour, the road changed direction and I now had a brutal cross wind. It took me two more hours to do the next 35 km.
How’s this picture that Paul took of his son Sander? I was riding on the same angle just to not get blown across the road.
I had my fruit break in this little bus shelter. I would usually eat it whilst riding, but with this wind, I needed both hands on the handlebar. The shelter was shaking from the wind.
We had a ‘bush camp’ on the edge of a two shop town. It wasn’t in the bush, but we didn’t have any facilities.
Tonight was my last time on the evening meal dish roster! At breakfast we wash our own, but at night 5 of us get it all done.
9th December – Villa Tehuelches to Punta Arenas 101km / 588m climbing
The morning involved travelling south-east, so the wind was mostly a 45 degree tail wind, but sometimes was a proper tail wind and sometimes a full-on side wind. After lunch, the road turned south-west and my howling wind was now a head-wind, cross wind or 45 degrees. With 20km to go, the road met the coast, then turned westwards towards Punta Arenas. The water was choppy and covered in whitecaps. The headwind made it hard work, but the cross winds made it tricky trying not to get blown into oncoming traffic. This car was travelling parallel to my sealed road on gravel and the cross wind has blown it into the gutter.
The sheep even avoided the wind. There are only shrubs about 50cm high, but rather than stand and be blown about, the sheep were sitting hiding in the lee of a shrub. One sheep per shrub.
Tonight we celebrated 3 birthdays. Michelle's and Sander's were today and Harry's is on Tuesday. We all met in the hostel at 5pm and had drinks until 7 before heading out.
It was Sunday night and it made it very hard to find somewhere open. One of the few places open was a burger restaurant, but they didn’t sell chips. I thought that was illegal not to sell chips with burgers.
We then kicked onto somewhere else and had too many beers until 3am. Woops! I’m glad it’s a rest day tomorrow.
How's this sign as of a busting toilet-goer?
10th December – Rest day in Punta Arenas
After last nights effort, today was quite a sleep-in. For once, my rest day really was. At lunch time I went for a walk with Roffie and found a nice coffee. Their menu wasn’t true, as when we tried to order, we were told, ‘We only have tuna.’ The next café wasn’t much better. The menu of the day was soup, chicken and rhubarb crumble. We ordered 2 and waited. After awhile the waitress informed us that they only had 1 left!
We wandered the streets of PA, but didn’t find much of interest. The howling wind of yesterday was nowhere to be seen. Late in the arvo, 4 of us played cards until we headed out for dinner in an underground/basement bar, but it was disappointing. For the third time today, they waited until I tried to order and then told me, ‘Sorry, we don’t have any salmon.’ Grrr! The steak I ordered wasn’t good, had no sauce or seasoning, and ¾ of the plate being chips didn’t make it better. I’m looking forward to sharing some good meals with Erin when I get home.
11th December – Punta Arenas to bushcamp on Tiera Del Fuego 91km / 735m climbing
Today was a much better day than it looked at lunch. We began early and rode 15 minutes from our hostel to the ferry in time to arrive by 8am as our ferry left at 9. It took many trucks, including our 2, and cars and 30 bicycles.
How's this sign on a giant sea container? Super heavy! Really? Who'd have thought?
The journey across the Straits of Magellan took 2.5 hours, so I was glad to have a book and music. The book is appropriately called ‘Adventures in the Patagonian Andes’. It’s about early settlement and exploration of this region. I like this comment by an early engineer named Robert Crawford, ‘ …our tired eyes beheld a view so grand and magnificent that our fatigue was replaced by awe and wonderment. They were the Andes! Every instant the scene changed, and each transformation brought with it a beauty that hitherto had not been captured. It was impossible not to be deeply moved by this view, or to find words to capture it.’ He says perfectly what I’ve been trying to tell you for the last 4 months – the Andes are amazing!
There was no wind yet this morning, so the journey wasn’t rough. The whitecaps and angry water I’d seen on Sunday was nowhere to be seen. On disembarking in Porvenir, we had lunch and continued our riding. It was now noon and we’d only ridden 10km. It took me 4 hours to ride the remaining 80km to camp. The wind picked up, but our direction meant it was more helpful than not.
We rode with the coast next to us. The only 'habitation' were these remote fishermen's huts.
Tonight is our last bushcamp. By bushcamp, I mean a free camp as opposed to a campground.
I used the time between putting up my tent and dinner to do what I hope is my last bike maintenance. With Richard’s help, I put on a new chain and rear cassette. I had them as spares, so I may as well change them here than go home with worn out parts on my bike. Speaking of worn out, things are starting to reach the end of their lives. Zips are breaking and other things are starting to fall apart. I just hope it’s not me that falls apart!
This photo is taken at 11pm. It's been weird in the evenings when it's light and someone mentions the time and you're like, 'Really?' So different from the start of the trip near the equator where the days were almost equal length day and night.
12th December Bushcamp to Rio Grande 158km / 505m climbing
My last bushcamp tent pull down.
Tierra Del Fuego dawn.
Another day on the bike ahead.
You think I'm joking about the Patagonian wind?
Today was literally two days in one. BD combined stages 104 and 105 and we had an unplanned rest day in Rio Grande, once we arrived. Apparently the place we were supposed to stay at the end of 104 didn’t exist. This was a better option.
Goucho herding cattle.
Guanacos in the pampas and guanaco on road warning sign. Look closely. I love the facial detail.
We left Chile today and crossed the border into Argentina. That was my last border crossing for this trip. I’ve had a lot of ‘lasts’ this ‘last’ week!
I liked this sign just after the border as it’s the first one with Ushuaia and a distance to go. The end is within reach.
This sign says that the Falkland Islands belong to Argentina. Really? I don’t think that the UK would agree. I thought they’d settled that one in 1982.
I had a long, but good day on the bike. It was windy, but not rotten. I could see this storm ahead and wondered if the road would meet it.
It did meet the rain, kind of. I just missed it in that the road went from dry to underwater, but it had just stopped raining. I put on my jacket and continued, but I got wetter from passing trucks sponging up the water than I did from the rain. I’d caught up with Tamsin when it started which was with 20km to go. We rode the rest of the way, but my average speed was diminishing. I did the day in 6 hours. Not bad for 100 miles hey? The first part was unpaved, my last for this trip. YAY!
This set-up is outside a military base on the edge of Rio Grande. Same thing- The Islas Malvinas ( Falklands) our ours. Not last time I checked.
The campsite was on the Rio Grande, but it was still raining and I was glad that I’d agreed to get a room in town with Roffie. He’d scoured town and grabbed the first place that wasn’t full. Called the Hostal Rio Grande, there was nothing grand about it, but it was warm, dry and out of the wind, which wouldn’t have been the case if I’d camped.
We caught a cab back to the campsite which was on the edge of town, for the Bike Dreams BBQ dinner. As I said, their meals are usually better than what I’ve bought in restaurants.
This is the twilight view over the Rio Grande.
13th December – Rest day in Rio Grande.
After breakfast and a Skype session with Erin, Roffie and I patronised the café/bakery across the road. WOW! So many beautiful pastries it was hard to choose, but I got one that was chocolate brownie sandwich with caramel between and then chocolate dipped. Coffee was good too.
We then wandered RG looking for gaffer tape and plastic ties to box up our bikes for going home. It doesn’t seem like 4.5 months, but in just two riding days I’ll be in Ushuaia.
With a list of restaurants in hand, we wandered town looking for somewhere for lunch and also to scope out a target for dinner. It was harder to find than you’d think in a city of 55 thousand. Eventually we ended up at a little place full of locals. No menu, so I just pointed to someone else’s spaghetti and said, ‘I’ll have that’. I got a beautiful Italian home-style meal of slow-cooked beef in tomato sauce with spaghetti. It reminded me of dinners at my sister-in-law’s nonna’s house. I don’t need fancy food, just food cooked with love. Rustic and tasty, this meal hit the spot.
I tried to find something nice about Rio Grande this afternoon, but failed. It’s a grey town that reminds me of places I Russia I’ve been to. Grey skies and buildings to match. It’s an industrial city, so it’s surrounded by factories and warehouses.
My afternoon wanderings still hunting for a restaurant for tonight did turn up a random hand-made pottery place tucked away. I saw something that made me think of Erin (It happens all the time.) so I bought two. I’d tell you more, but it’s a secret.
I like the Sinead O’Connor song ‘All kinds of everything’ and appropriately it was on my music player yesterday. “Winds that go howling, breezes that sigh. Sunshine and holidays – postcards to write. Grey skies or blue. All kinds of everything remind me of you.” Only one week and I’ll be back home with Erin. Where has the last 5 months gone?
An heladeraia / ice cream shop followed. Roffie can’t speak Spanish, but he knows all the Spanish ice cream flavours. Mascarpone and red berry ice cream? Count me in.
We did find a spot for dinner and met the ‘usual suspects’ there. Annoyingly, there was no indication what time they opened. We got there at 8 and they didn’t open until 9, but sick of standing in the cold wind, we asked to be let in at 8:30. My seafood paella was tasty. This town might be crap, but the food is good.