And we’re off. At long last the tyres are hitting the ground and I’m getting some milage onto the chart. The people at the hostel are ever so kind and the host lady gives me a big kiss and wishes me safe travels.
As I get out of the shelter of the built environment I start appreciating what will be very much the theme of the day, the wind. There are roughly fifty miles to the first border crossing with Chile and then a further forty or so to the crossing into Tierra del Fuego, I am not sure what to expect but the idea is to wild camp somewhere either side of the border and get to the boat tomorrow.
The road is quite desolated, much like I’d seen on the bus in upper Patagonia, but there are wide verges and in some bits there are sort of dunes between the road and the fenced land. In the end is behind one of these dunes I’ll be camping for the first night.
Riding along without much to see affords one a lot of time to think and, along one of these meandering I reflect on the harshness of the solo cyclist life in terms of motivation. It is true that there are untold advantages in being able of making your own time and route without having to accommodate other people’s wishes, but the truth is that in the low moments of fatigue, when the mere presence of another person is sufficient to raise the game, a solo cyclist has to find in himself the strength not to keel over and curl up in a ball by the side of the road.
In the end forty miles of head wind makes me do just that, I keel over and camp by the side of the street. All is well though as I am protected by the little noise coming from the road and I enjoy dinner, wine and a sunset for free.
I elected not to drink while cycling but it turns out that I have devised a new technique which will allow me to consume in moderation while not impinging on my load. I carry a large bottle of water in the backpack and four 500 ml bottles in the front bag. If I buy a bottle of wine, decant 500 ml in one of the plastic bottles and drink the remaining 250 ml on the night, I have a two days supply at hand to keep me till I get to the next wine shop.
Genial!!! Only catch is to drink wine out of a plastic bottle, but I think I can live with it, now that I’ve been seen drinking carton wine.
The night is very quiet and I slept soundly. First thing in the morning it start to rain, but it’s over in a tic and I manage to pack dry and get going. The wind today is going in the right direction.
This means that it’s not long before I get to the Chilean border crossing and gainfully employ more than an hour of my time getting through the Byzantine bureaucracy which is the Chilean administration. I am going to criss cross between Argentina and Chile quite a bit down here and I am concerned that by the time I’m back in Europe I’ll have filled some five pages of the Passport just with Chilean and Argentine stamps.
Once the border is dealt with and the water tanks filled I get on my way again. Still pushed by the wind and still presented with the same uniform landscape. Aside from the opportunity of a few pictures there is not much of note but more pedalling and a rather annoying pain growing in my left knee.
Another couple of hours and I get to the ferry, after which I will be in Tierra del Fuego. I met a cycle touring on route yesterday and in conversation he advised me to try and get a lift for some 100 Km from the other side of the ferry as there is no tarmac on the Chilean part of Tierra del Fuego.
As I am getting to the ferry I see real dark cloud gathering and the confluence of this view with the advise received convinces me to skip the bad lands of Chile and grab alternative transport.
This is the beauty of this new setup, it does not only not scares people in cars or bus drivers, but instead it fills them with interest and desire to ferry me around. I fear this is going to turn into a high chat and low pedal time winter.
The passage takes the shape of a bus, a tenner and I have a passage to San Fernando. The intention is to get a lift to the other border to Argentina and then to camp there and restart on the tarmac of Argentina in the morning. In the end, when we get to the border, the weather is still vile and Emi, my new Spanish teaching travel companion, tells me that the bit of tarmac between the border and Rio Grande has really little to offer and I am better off stopping in Rio Grande. So I do, and there I am still now, getting ready to depart for the four days ride to Ushuaia tomorrow morning.
Any other time I would have been feeling bad about this but I have come to terms with the fact that this is going to be a winter more about learning Spanish than riding the bike.
This does not mean, however that I will come out of South America with a couple of thousand miles on the clock and a six pack to rival Peter Andre.
Naturally the stop has been good for a bunch of reasons. 1) Internet therefore blog, 2) went to visit Emi at her place and met her kids and had general wide ranging conversation collecting much flattery in the process, 3) had a look around town that, while much better then most, is not really Florence and, 4) most of all, rested my knee.
I think I might be getting wiser with age, much to my disconcert, and the two days, pause, four days, pause, etc… routine might be the best at the start of a long ride.