(November 23 – written by “10K Dave”)
I ticked off a lifetime bucket list item off today – 10,000 miles in one calendar year. Nancy passed this milestone a few days ago. Before now, I was known as Dave. Heretofore, I shall be known as “10K Dave”, or if it’s my Mom who’s calling, “10K David”. Woohoo. We didn’t stop for a party at the specific moment that it happened but I called it out and even Nancy let out a little whoop for me. We would have stopped but we didn’t have cake and candles, plus we were on a muddyish gravel section. How fitting is that, my 10,000th mile came on a muddy gravel road in the middle of Patagonia – a moment to remember for sure.
We had a bit of a longer day today – riding 82k, climbing 4,200 feet and riding over half of it on gravel. There was one big climb in the middle that took us over 2,000 feet. We started the day at sea level. The entire climb and descent were on dirt. We didn’t reach camp this afternoon until after 2PM and really didn’t stop all that much during the day.
We had rain in the morning – surprise! But it was light and while we wore all of our rain gear, it wasn’t long until we were taking off the rain pants – it was too hot. The first 25k were along the Queulat Fjord, or as they say in Spanish, Queulat Fiordo. It was along this stretch where the road had washed out twice in the last couple days due to the heavy rains. The road crews did a great job clearing the debris – leaving only mud and muck behind for us to deal with – no big rocks or anything close to impassable. The fjord was quite scenic – one can only imagine what it would like in the sun.
We turned what felt like inland at about 25k only to find that the fjord wrapped around the point and worked its way up towards a river. This was the pretties part of the fjord with the water here almost glass like. It was near the end of the fjord, as we were just starting the day’s climb that we had the 10K non-party.
The climb was steep in places and had a few work areas where there was new, loose gravel. We both came off on a steep section but were soon up riding again. Near the bottom while we were still on the asphalt section we ran into Adrian the skateboarder and three other cyclists – the cyclists were Brice from France, whom we met in La Junta, and another two, a German and Chilean, that we’d seen the other day as well. All of us started the climb together.
Adrian was first up the climb as he hitched a ride – you can’t skate uphill in dirt. Brice, Nancy and I came up next, all reached the top at about the same time. It was only 5C at the top so we had to stop and put on warm clothes for the way down. At over 2,000 feet, we could see the mountain tops covered in snow, in the few brief moments that the clouds parted. The 6k downhill was fast and cold – we were happy that we’d rugged up. We had a quick lunch stop with the others at the bottom.
It was only 25k from lunch to camp and the sun came out on this section. We had to stop and take clothes off again – it was one of those days. About 5k from camp we started to see rain forming off to the right and decided to push hard and try to outrun it. At about 3k it looked like we weren’t going to make it. Nancy wanted to stop and put the rain gear on again but I told her to just ride faster and we’d be ok. Luckily for me, it stopped raining at 2.5k and we made it to camp more dry than wet. The others came into camp 30 minutes to an hour after us looking like drowned rats. Some days you win, some days you don’t – today at the end at least we won.
We are staying at Refugio Río Cisnes, about 6k short of the town of Villa Amengual. We heard about this place from other travellers. The town is supposed to have very few options so we stopped here, as did most of the others. The refugio has two tiny cabins and 4 camping shelters. We decided to get one of the cabins as it has a heater. It didn’t cost much more than a campsite and we can stay warm and dry this way. It has been raining pretty hard since we arrived. Even though the camp shelters would have been more or less dry, we are happy with our choice of the cabin.
The refugio has hot showers and a nice little home/restaurant where the owners live. We spent a good chunk of time in there this arvo and will be back later when the fresh blueberry pies get delivered. The owners are super nice and welcoming. Given that there are not many options in the section, I suspect that they will be very busy in 4-6 weeks when the bulk of the cyclists start heading down the Carretera Austral – it is nice to be here in early season to miss the crowds, perhaps not so nice as far as the weather.
Tomorrow we have shorter, flatter day. We are aiming for the town of Manihuales at only 65k. Today’s forecast was so far off the mark, I hesitate to call out that tomorrow is supposed to be drier. We are two days from Coyhaique, the largest town on the CA and just about the half-way point. So far, the CA has been pretty good. We’ve had about 160k of gravel but it was mostly very rideable. We know that the bottom half is more gravel than paved and have planned shorter days accordingly. Less rain would be nice but at least we are not complaining about passing cars kicking up too much dust. But more on all of that later – for the rest of today, I’ll be thinking about today and hitting the big 10K. Probably won’t have many (if any) 10K days down the road, so I say “bring on the celebratory blueberry pie!”
And oh yeah, and as Peter says “it’s about the smiles, not the miles.” Couldn’t have said it better myself mate!