(December 22 – written by Dave)
Woohoo – tailwinds today. Well, at least some tailwinds. It wasn’t pure joy as technically the wind was coming out of the west and we were riding south. In fact, we started out riding more west than anything so we started with pretty stiff headwinds. As is usually the case, you remember the last miles more than the first ones. We had blazing tailwinds as we finished the ride so that’s how we are calling the day. As such, the day gets a big Woohoo!
Our expensive hotel offered a 7AM breakfast buffet – they didn’t need to offer the all-you-can-eat brekkie twice to two touring cyclists. We had the bikes packed and sitting in front of the hotel before 7AM and ended up waiting for the cook to arrive to make our eggs. Sometimes these hotel buffet brekkies are only average. Today, they did a great job. We ate more than we should have and even pinched a couple slices of banana bread for morning tea on the road. I still can’t get over a 5-star, expensive hotel not having drinkable water and not providing bottled to its guests. But honestly, the brekkie made up for many flaws.
We were riding by 7:40 – though it was hard to tear ourselves from the warm brekkie room. As noted above we had really tough winds for about 5k. We were thinking that we might be in for one more of those days, and we just put our out heads down and got stuck into it as we really needed to get to Puerto Natales today. When riding like this it is hard to look at the views or scenery. I glanced up at the 5k mark and noticed that there was a patch of blue sky and a bunch of condors circling. We pulled over to take it all in. Sometimes you just have to stop and think about where you are, appreciate the moment and stop thinking that you have to bear down all the time. The wind didn’t stop because of this but at least we rode onwards with more smiles than grimaces. Attitude makes all the difference.
As the day progressed, the road gradually turned to the south and the wind more to the northwest. Almost before we noticed, our headwind changed to a side wind and soon a tailwind. It was really blowing as well. Anytime the road went a little sideways, we get blasted, just to help us remember how rough the last few days were. About 40k into the morning we came across a Japanese touring cyclist that was heading north. He looked a lot like we’ve looked most of the last three days. Head down and grimacing. We pulled over to his side of the road to chat and he almost rode right past us. It’s like that in the headwinds.
We had some distant, cloud filled, views out to the mountains of Torres del Paine. They are pretty impressive looking. So much so that we may take a bus up there over the next few days. We won’t leave here until after Christmas.
The last 10k to town were super fun. We had insanely blasting tailwinds for nearly all of it. There was one section near the airport where we had to loop back into the wind, which reminded us again how bad it could be. The rest of the time it was all feet up, hold on tight and let the wind take you. I hate to have to brake in those situations but it was blowing that hard – woohoo.
We stopped for a few photos on the waterfront. Puerto Natales is one of the biggest towns we’ve been in since Puerto Montt. There is some interesting architecture, plus a real windblown look. I just can’t imagine living here – I’m sure that it blows all the time. Playing golf, cycling or really any outside ball sport would be nearly impossible to enjoy. For example, while in Cerro Castillo yesterday, I saw a kid playing soccer by himself. He’d kick the ball into the wind and wait for it to be blown back so that he could kick it again. I used to do this growing up but I needed the wall of our garage. This kid just needed a normal average breeze – fun.
We stopped at information and then a nice coffee shop (The Coffee Maker, in the bottom of Kau) right on the waterfront. Thanks to the tailwind (I’ve been dying to write that about Patagonia) we got to town a lot earlier than we expected. We had nice coffees and cakes to celebrate reaching Puerto Natales – yet another town name that’s been on our goal list for a long time.
Because we didn’t make it through the park, we arrived a day early here. We asked our AirB&B owner if we could get the apartment a day early but his place was booked. No worries, he is a “super host” and took it on himself to find us a similar place to stay for the first night. He even drove with his wife (two cars) to the cafe where we were hanging out to help us move everything to the new house. It was only 2k so we told him that we could just ride. We’d rather not move but we were the ones who changed plans so we really do appreciate our host finding our home for tonight. And we are thankful to be inside as the wind howls outside.
We don’t have many plans for today, other than heading to the shops for brekkie supplies and a celebratory dinner. We are riding now on a road that Chile calls Ruta del Fin de Mundo – the road to the end of the earth. It kind of feels that way to us. And to ride the last 10k with a tailwind, well, it’s all smiles today!