(December 26 – written by Dave)
We could have easily have stayed another night at our lovely AirB&B in Puerto Natales. As Nancy accurately pointed out to me, “we never get to finish all the chores and then stay one more day”. It always seems like there is more work to do than there is time and we end up rushing around on the last day, and into the last night. And yes, I get how ridiculous that sounds to all the working stiffs out there who are really, properly, busy. I mean, how busy can one be when you are on a perpetual bicycle tour/vacation?
Victor and Patty came out to say goodbye to us this morning. It was almost like we were leaving home. I’m not sure but we might actually be older than the two of them. But still, they treated us so nice – almost as if we were like Mattias, two more of their children home from college for Christmas break. It felt a little like we were “leaving home” this morning. If you’re reading this guys, thanks again for making our “long ways from family” Christmas feel a lot more like home.
We were supposed to have tailwinds today and we did almost as soon as we exited town. But as almost always seems the case, by my reckoning, they were nowhere near as strong as they should have been. In fact, it seemed like we had more side winds for the first 63k than we had tailwinds. The true test of wind direction is getting your riding partner to answer the question, “would you rather be riding in the opposite direction”. Today, like most days when your hopes are much higher, Nancy still answered an emphatic NO.
The scenery today reminded us a lot of riding in the outback of Australia – not so much for the colour, more for the “shape” of the land. The Patagonia steppe is mostly flat, with a few rolling hills and an occasional distant mountain view. Of course, there are no distant mountain views in Australia and also way more dust there than here – ok, maybe it’s not that similar – haha.
We stopped for a late morning tea at the Hotel Rio Rubens. If we’d been in Australia, this would have been called a roadhouse. It seemed like all of the buses going between Puerto Natales and Punta Arenas stop here to let the punters have a break and the drivers a smoke. We saw lots of guanaco today, but most of them were the printed variety – printed on the side of the coffee cups at the Hotel Rio Rubens.
The last 40k we turned more eastward and finally we got a good, proper, Patagonia tailwind. We could have taken a car, sort of. A nice Chilean gentleman in a work truck pulled over and asked us if we wanted a ride – while kind, getting a ride at this point in the trip, when we have a ripper tailwind section coming up – thanks, but no thanks. We covered the last 40k in a bit over an hour and were not really pushing ourselves. We’ve heard mythical tails from other cyclist of these magical Patagonia tailwinds – it was really fun to have them today, finally. We stopped for the day at Morro Chico, not because we were tired but more because from here the road turns south and the blasting tailwind would have been side on for the next 40k. We hope that tomorrow morning we can sneak out and get those first 40k done before the wind picks up.
Morro Chico is nothing more than a police checkpoint, a few police cabins and some abandoned buildings on the other side of the highway. We stopped at the police station and asked for permission to camp in one of the abandoned buildings, and to get water. Permission was granted by a very friendly constable (also named Victor). And we were given all the water we could want from the station tap.
The yellow building across the highway, just behind a heavily leaning barn, has been cleaned up by other touring cyclists and turned into a casa de cyclists. It is not an official campsite but it seems that a lot of bicycle tourist stop here for the night. There aren’t a lot of options out on the steppe and for sure, the bored police at the checkpoint seem happy to have someone stop and talk to them. We are not very far from another Chile/Argentina border crossing – we don’t cross here but it helps explain why there is a police checkpoint out in the middle of nowhere.
We’ve filtered water, taken cowboy showers, had a coffee and are now resting in our little yellow house. The wind seems to have gotten stronger – the roof is making more banging and squeaking noises than it was an hour ago – but its home to us. If we were forced to be outside, I’m sure our tent poles would be getting tested by the winds. So thanks to the police for letting cyclists stay here, and to the cyclists who’ve come before us and made the effort to clean things up.
How far we go tomorrow depends on the winds. We hope to cover another 115k or thereabouts. If we can get that far, we’ll have a short run the following day into Punta Arenas. If the wind swings around about 20 degrees to the northwest, we’ll be laughing and maybe we’ll just keep going until we get to Punta Arenas. If it goes 20 degrees the other direction, well, we’ll be crying. Either way, we’ll be up early to give a proper go. NYE in Punta Arenas awaits!