(January 1 – written by Dave)
Happy New Year everyone!
We didn’t manage to stay awake until midnight last night – such is the life of two tired touring cyclists. Thankfully all of the other guests in our group of cabanas were quiet with either their celebrations or at least when they returned. We slept well and were ready first thing for an early ride to the ferry across the Straits of Magellan – we left the cabana about 7:15. On the way to the port we passed a number of NYs revellers still making their way home – such a different life.
As you would expect, the 9AM NYD ferry was not very crowded. There were only a handful of cars and motorbikes. There were 5 cyclists, Sarah and Andy, Marcel (from Switzerland) and us – we just about outnumbered “normal” passengers. The ride itself was quicker than scheduled due in large part to a ripping tailwind – yes ferries like tailwinds also. The sailing got a wee bit rough as we approached Porvenir but the pilot/captain skilfully guided the boat into the side wind for a spell and the boat settled before Nancy, or anyone else for that matter, had major issues.
The ferry dock is about 5k from Porvenir but we had nice tailwinds taking us to town and we made quick work of this section. We ran into two other touring couples along this road. The first were nervous about getting the ferry and didn’t stop to chat. The second stopped and looked kind of shell-shocked from days of busting it into the prevailing headwinds. We were more than happy to be going the way we were. We didn’t stop in Porvenir as we bought all of our provisions in Punta Arenas – we were also carrying an extra 9k of water.
The road from Porvenir heads a bit south out of town, before cutting back to the east. In this section we had a pretty good cross wind but we knew that it wouldn’t last. With today and tomorrow being mostly gravel, we stopped and let some air out of tires. The road surface was ok – bumpy at times but it improved throughout the day, the further we got from Porvenir.
We stopped for lunch about 20k into the day but it was after noon at this point. We had toyed with staying in Porvenir for the night and in fact Marcel had done just that. Nancy and I rode to lunch with Sara and Andy, stopping at one of the mostly rough-looking fishing shacks along the shoreline. We contemplated calling it a day at a fishing shack a bit later but all of our leads turned out to be dead-ends. Shacks were either locked, not where they supposed to be or overly derelict for us. So we pushed, catching back up with Sarah and Andy for a late afternoon tea at 4PM.
We still had a good 45k to ride at this point to reach the last possible stopping point – a lone bus stop at a junction of the two highways that cross the island. And by lone, I mean lone. The bus stop is the only structure for miles and miles. It stays light late here but I was anxious about reaching the bus stop as the gravel road was not super fast to ride on. I needn’t have worried as the west wind continued to build and the road surface got a bit better. We flew along at close to 20kph for the next two hours and pulled in at the bus stop at about 6:20.
We had read that the bus shelter would sleep 7 in a pinch but that 6 were really more comfortable. We were disappointed when we arrived to find two cyclists already inside, along with their bikes, as we were worried about not fitting and having to camp outside in the wind. Disappointment faded however as the two cyclists turned out to be Curtis and Jenny. Not only did they greet us warmly but they also immediately pushed their bikes outside and cleared room for us. Four tired cyclists and all of our stuff completely blew Curtis and Jenny’s tranquillity. Sorry guys but thanks for being good sports.
We had dinner and pretty much got sorted for bed. The door of the shelter opened inward so we had to work out where people would sleep and not get whacked on the head. Plus is was really cold outside (30F overnight) so we had to rig up a system to keep the door mostly closed whenever someone needed to get up to use the outside facilities. 6 people and their gear was really all that fit in the tiny shelter, but cosy or not, it was better than being outside. Curtis and I were the only two known snorers so we’ll see how that works out for everyone in the morning.
We are not sure what we’ll do tomorrow. We had planned on a 15k out and back cycle to a penguin colony but the wind speed and direction tonight means a solid headwind to get out there. Plus it is a gravel road. The other four are going that way. Sarah and Andy will ride onwards from there and do a rougher route to Ushuaia than us. Curtis and Jenny are going out and may stay out for a night as their flight out of Ushuaia is a week later than ours, plus they need water and the penguin park is the closest known source. We’ll make a game day decision in the morning – there is no rush as the refuge only opens at 11AM.