(December 20 – written by “Just Dave”)
Wow, what a day. We started early with grand plans for pushing on to the Chile border, past our intended stop at an abandoned hotel. Patagonia winds however, had other plans for us. We ended up having to stop at the hotel simply because the winds were again too strong for us to ride safely. Weather wins again in Patagonia!
We had a very quiet night in the abandoned police station – no visitors or really any noise at all. Here’s a hot tip to any readers looking for abandoned buildings to spend the night in – having glass in the windows makes a big difference as far as noise and warmth. When choosing your abandoned lodging, always go for the ones with glass.
We set an early alarm and were riding by 7:11. The road surface was probably a little worse today than yesterday, with the section near the hotel being one of the worst bits. This morning I set our tire pressure to the minimum recommended – having to actually add air to mine as when I lowered them yesterday, I went a little too low. No wonder my bike was so smooth yesterday afternoon.
We had about 48k of ripio to ride today but at least the early start meant that we had little wind to deal with. We only saw our first car after we’d been riding for over an hour and traffic never really amounted to much of anything the entire time that we were on the dirt. There were some animals around in the morning however. We saw a bunch of guanacos and some rhea. We even saw a momma rhea with 6 young chicks. Most of the rhea sprint away from us but the momma and chicks were limited by how fast the chicks could run – which is not very fast. So we got the chance to get some photos of them.
We started seeing Torres del Paine mountains off to the right about mid-morning. They look pretty spectacular from a long ways off. I hope that the winds will actually let us get closer to them in a day’s time. Near the end of the dirt road, we ran into another bicycle tourist – Ralf from Germany. He was smiling broadly as our developing headwind was his nice morning tailwind. We met him at a point where the dirt had been mostly good to him – only 5k from the end. With smooth gravel and a tailwind, he had visions of riding 200k today, all the way to El Calafate. We didn’t tell him that he’d have a headwind going up to El Calafate – no point in spoiling his surprise.
We stopped for lunch at a mini-mart where we met back up with the paved highway. We had all of 45k to ride from here to reach the border. We spoke very briefly with the guy running the store and he basically said that today’s wind was “nothing” – cool. Conversations with Ralf and the mini mart guy were the only people we spoke with all day. Yet another day to cherish each other’s company!
After lunch we got out onto the highway and stuck into the ride to the border. We probably covered all of 500 metres when both of us had convinced ourselves that the border was well beyond reach. We had very strong head/cross winds and were getting blown all over the road. It wasn’t as bad as the other day but we didn’t want to push our luck so we agreed to call it a day on our original schedule – at the abandoned hotel.
Our hotel at (-51.13191, -71.93021) on the map is, well, a dump. It is not as nice as the abandoned police station or house that we stayed in over the last couple of days. Lots more rubbish and no doors or windows. Still, it is our home for the night as riding further in the Patagonia headwinds was not going to happen today. No point in complaining.
We cleaned up one room, found some nails and plywood and covered up the window (for wind protection) and are settled in for an afternoon nap. We have most of our chores done but won’t be filtering water today because there is no fresh source of water here. We picked up a little extra water back at the junction so we’ll have enough for dinner and brekkie tomorrow. We didn’t get too much water, however, as we didn’t plan on stopping here. Nancy would like more water; I say we’ll be fine. Boy, if I had a nickel for every time we’ve had that conversation on this trip, I’d be a rich man! (Senior editor’s note – and if we’d only got more water at the junction like I suggested we’d have enough water to make a proper meal and not have to ration what we have…)
So tomorrow we’ll be up early, really early. We hope to be on the road around 6AM. We’ve not really sure that these winds die down overnight but we can only hope that they do and start earlier to try to catch some calm moments. We have a couple of options at the border, head north into the park and headwinds, head south away from the park and tailwinds and finally, stay in the border town. We’ll figure out what to do based on how the wind feels once we’ve reached the border. Assuming the Patagonia is willing to let us get that far at least…