And here we go again. After adding to my ever increasing number of contact another two, Clelia, a really cool Italian hiker, and Ramon, the owner of a bicycle shop from Barcelona, it’s time to start the ride north hoping for temperature increase and dry weather.
The road out of Punta Arenas is less than exciting, nearly 10 miles of dual carriageway suck all the fun out of a country ride. After that It was just Patagonia keeping me company. I have come to understand that the fascination that this land exercises on people is linked to three well known if, lamentably, not well recognised, traits of human kind. First people yearn for things that are not good for them, why would we do archery if that was not true. Patagonia is inhospitable, lacks water, lacks charm, lacks heat, lacks…. Second people spend too much time around other people, we are said to be social animals. Patagonia is the ultimate cure for that, there is nobody here. Third and final, people are mean, if they make a mistake they like to be joined by others not to feel the only idiot in the group. That’s why they go home from Patagonia and they say it’s a life changing experience hence luring a further crop of innocent victims into the trap.
Don’t get me wrong, I probably have a rather skewed prospective given the relative range and speed of my means of propulsion, but I would whole heartedly advice people to visit roughly 10% of Patagonia, that which contains vegetation higher than four feet. The remaining 90% is just for “bolutos”.
Today I am doing roughly sixty miles hoping to find water and camp in the vicinity of Villa Tehuelche. The scenery Is nothing to write about and the only interesting thing is meeting my first Rheas, it appears that all austral regions must have their brand of big birds, and then there is the detestable wind monument.
The Rhea are apparently a threatened spices, and I did not even know they existed. More interesting still, they appear to be thriving in Germany ?:-|
More puzzling is the choice of erecting a monument to the wind. A large horizontal cement slab with engraving of cursing in all languages of the world might have come closer to celebrating this colossal nuisance.
On the other hand it protects the casual passer by from the risk of boredom induced suicide. It has to be said though that celebrating wind, in a rather wind affected area, with a tall structure might not have been the better way to proceed.
Round about mile forty I start getting tired and suddenly the verge becomes incredibly alluring. The wind, sensing a chink in my armour also picks up and I find myself going from an average of 12 MpH to one of 5 MpH.
Nobody to disturb me I indulge in the pointless exercise of pointing the camera at myself and at the sky. I’m sure in the future it will remind me of how I felt at the time.
Mile 60 is approaching and I’m now running low on water, the road is a succession of hills so it’s not easy to see too far into the horizon and I’m not sure what Villa Tehuelche looks like. My experience of antipodean maps is that the variation of what turns up when compared to what’s on the map is enormous, it could be one or one hundred buildings.
“My little legs are getting tired” too, small tribute to one of my adored wife pet phrases, and I decide to turn into the drive of an estancia to see if I can get some water and perhaps a shelter from the wind where to put up the tent.
In the end not only they give me water, not only they feed me and offer me a place to stay, but they also engage in interesting conversation on the state of the current political situation in Chile. The current president, Mrs. Bachelet, turns out is a socialist, but, in their words, “no es Allende”.
It rains all night so I am rather pleased not to be in the tent. It stops at six in the morning and I get up to join the “companeros” for breakfast. After that I get on my way for, theoretically, another sixty miles of nothing.
This particular part of the nothing is fast to start but when the wind gets going turns out to be a right nightmare.
Again I get to take lots of pictures of myself as, if not the prettiest, at least I am the only feature of the landscape.
Luckily nature comes to the rescue and I get to the Patagonian equivalent of Uluru, AKA Ayers Rock. Believe it or not there are postings on the web for this hill.
So, the westerly wind is now a good 30/55 MpH while the easterly Alex is roughly 3/4 MpH. I have done a bit more than fifty miles but it’s just one o’clock in the afternoon and I cannot set up camp for hours. One hazard of free camping is that you cannot really camp much before twilight. Continuing to ride is pointless as the wind makes it impossible so the decision is obvious “dedo”. I fold up the bike and get ready to expose my finger, if nothing else to test how people react to loading a man with a bike. Unfortunately the eventual car is beaten by a bus which duly stops and makes me cover the last 40 miles to Puerto Nadales in an hour for just a little less than £3.00.
Sometime I wonder…
As I get to Puerto Nadales I get myself a suitably cheap hostel and I get on with the business of finding out what i can do with regards to visiting the Torres del Paines National Park which, many people have told me, is unmissable.
Apparently they do hiking and kayaking but my lack of legs for the first and experience for the second is an impediment. I settle on a boat and zodiac cruise of the fiords and of the glaciers which will take place on Friday.
This pause also gives me some time to organise my move forward. I have finally found a replacement for the farm work that went. I’ll be working in a camping at El Bolson, in Argentina, for a few weeks from the 15th which means I have another ten days to get myself to El Calafate, see the Perito Moreno and catch another monster bus to Bariloche on route for El Bolson.