...we were standing in the front of the boat with our bikes and witnessed a bowling ball of a guy on shore (who worked for the ferry company), waving the ferry to come straight back onto the dock. The ferry obliged by gunning it and slamming straight into a giant lamp post on the shore and leveling it with wires spewing out everywhere...
Well, well, well, last blog post I left you all with a cliff hanger! What to do, what to do? Continue down the Carretera Austral to Villa O'Higgins and catch two different ferries, pushing bikes on a long trail and pop out at El Chalten OR head back to Argentina and battle the maddening winds down Highway 40 to El Chalten....
Last post we were lounging a day, with the sun finally gracing us with it's presence, in Coyhaique, Chile. Catching up on rest, blog, to-dos, and hanging with our friends Roy and Lana from Canada. After our day of rest, we rode south, with the sun shining and a plan to make it to a campground in the national forest. The day turned into a solid day of climbing up a canyon with biting horse flies and when we were still a bit from the campground, petering out on steam, Ville opted to ask a nearby farmer to camp in their field. Lana insisted she could push on to the campground, but Ville suggested we ask a nearby farmer to camp in their field. I think Lana and Roy were not as excited about it at first, but after having a field all to ourselves (with no other noisy campers nearby) and stunning views back down the canyon we had just climbed, I think they were sold.
The next day, as we finished the last push up the climb, Ville pulled over to help a Brazilian couple with a broken rack, and ended up with one of their giant panniers strapped to his bike until the next town where they might be able to fix the rack. What a guy. Luckily for my husband, he has built himself quite the pair of thunder thighs and I don't even think the extra weight fazed him :) The long, slow decent opened into valleys covered in sprawling wildflowers with a clear stream cut through meandering along the road. We wound down the "infamous" switchbacks and down to Villa Cerro Castillo. Unfortunately for us, word on the street from northbound cyclists was that the ferry in Villa O'Higgins had been broken for a month (and we are still in Latin America, so let's be honest, that thing will be broken all season) and only a small ferry had taken it's place with a long line of cyclists waiting to cross. After further research, we decided with a date set to meet our friend, Robin from Bend, we were not willing to risk missing her and made the decision to head back to Argentina. We took another day off in Cerro Castillo with our buds, got a sweet cabana for our last night together, and made a feast to celebrate our last night on the road together.
The next morning, we hugged our goodbyes as they rode south to the gravel, and we headed back north to the cross section dropping us down, with epic tailwinds for a change, to the town of Puerto Ibanez. There we missed the only ferry that crosses Lago Gral Carrera by an hour, and had to stay overnight in a dump motel and wait for the next ferry, at 6pm the following day. The all day sit at the lake shore promenade, only stirred questions of why anyone would choose to live in a gusty, windblown town of 50 or so residents with not much else to do. We were thrilled, however, to get off the hitchhiker/backpacker/cyclist freeway of Carretera Austral. After not seeing hardly ONE cyclist since busy Baja, we were hugely overwhelmed by the lack of quiet camping spots and the attitudes of the locals left in the wake of the chaos of travelers was less than kind. Not so cool for us.
We met a nice backpacker, David, from England to chat with for the day and made it onto the packed ferry that evening. Upon our arrival to the boat ramp of Chile Chico, we were standing in the front of the boat with our bikes and witnessed a bowling ball of a guy on shore (who worked for the ferry company), waving the ferry straight to come straight back onto the dock. The ferry obliged by gunning it and slamming straight into a giant lamp post on the shore and leveling it with wires spewing out everywhere. Since bikes were the first to disembark, we had a front row seat of the action! Both Ville and I were hysterically laughing, not able to hold it in, and they just proceeded to unload cars like this just happens everyday. Safety, schmafty, who cares if people get electrocuted. That's a risk they are just fine taking. I still wonder how long that lamp post will sit there before someone gets around to fixing it. Probably never.
The south shore of Lago Gral Carrera was blustery, and we opted to pay for an overcrowded campground because it had a bit of shelter. The next morning we rode to the Chilean Border, stamped out, and had about 5 miles to ride to the Argentinean border where we would stamp into Argentina. We passed hoards of backpackers carrying giant packs the 5 miles, unable to hitch rides. One of the few times we were grateful to be on bikes and not walking. Stamped into Argentina and the first town we rode through, Los Antiguos, was a circus!
As we had done on the entire bike trip, one of us always watched the bikes, while the other ran the errands (we have everything to lose if we took the risk of leaving them even locked up). This time it was my turn, so I watched our bikes out front as Ville hit the market and ATM. Standing there I was able to witnessed the "People of WalMart" Reunion happening around me. I saw a woman in leopard-print Daisy-dukes WAY too short for her portly self sashay by with her pooch, a guy with a "Top Best" shirt roll by with tiny legs and a massive upper body walking as if he were carrying oranges in his armpits with his matching son in tow, a cop car squeeze by with 3 handcuffed, frazzled and wasted looking dudes in the back, a man about 17 months pregnant with triplets and a rockin' mullet saunter by, man it was a show! Every single campground was packed to the max and we were pumped to be riding out of town. There was even a line of people waiting to take their selfie with a crappy paper-mache looking statue of a hand holding cherries. I wanted a selfie with the people waiting in line, but Ville said no.
If we had sails attached to the bikes, we would have made it to Perito Moreno in minutes. The ride was along the shore of Lago Gral Carrera, and the waves on the east bank were surf-able curls from the wind. In Perito Moreno, Ville's tooth pain was becoming nearly unbearable and luckily the tourist information lady directed Ville to a dentist who was able to get Ville in right away. After he Ductaped his tooth in place, just kidding, he actually fixed it for a mere $25 (take that US overpriced medical) and we opted to camp at Mini Camping Raul nearby for the night. And what an experience that was! Raul happens to be the real life Latino Kramer (Seinfeld T.V. Show character) and one of the kindest, generous Tasmanian Devils around. He talks non-stop, with a very thick Buenos Aries accent (lots of "che", "sho", in place of the double ll or y in the spanish language) and about everything and nothing. I would find myself zoning out and completely miss that he had just asked me a question and really, it didn't matter. It was best to just sit back, listen, and let the man pile food on your plate ("no" and "no gracias" is not in his vocabulary). "You want eggs?", ""No, gracias" , ""You want eggs?", "No, gracias", "I'll make you some eggs". Alright, Raul, how about some eggs.
Now on a schedule to meet our friend Robin in El Chalten, we had some miles to do. We spent the next 6 days fighting hurricane force winds swirling in all directions in the boring Argentinean desert. We saw only the occasional armadillo scitter across the road, get blown over by the speeding traffic, and had to be very creative with camping spots out of the wind. We realized that to ride the 60 miles straight to El Chalten off Highway 40 would be into straight headwind and opted to push on south to El Calafate, where Robin would fly into, and was only 20 miles off Highway 40 into headwind. We made it just in time for Robin to arrive and boy was it great to see a friend from home!
Robin rented a car and we zipped back north to El Chalten with even the rental car being blown all over the road. We stayed for the last week in El Chalten doing day hikes, eating tons of good food, ice cream, staying in cabanas and relaxing. We had fantastic weather, were completely spoiled and lived like kings. We heard from our friends, Roy and Lana, that the Chilean sky cried when we left them for over a week and now that another storm has blown in, the ferry will not be sailing again for a while and they are stuck in Villa O'Higgins (VERY relieved we opted to bail out of Chile early or we surly would have missed our friend). However, the handful of nice days we had brought some luckily cyclists through and we ran into a friend on the hiking trails who told us a whopper of a tail. You ready?
Remember how I had spoken of the stray Chilean dogs that follow people around looking for a home? If, not, check out our last blog post. Well, when we had left a pizza place back in Chaiten, we hopped on our bikes in the rain, and were heading up the road a ways to the ferry dock. There was a small, brown, mangy Spaniel mix breed dog that took off after us and chased us all the way to the ferry. This savvy little whipper snapper waited until they waved us onto the ferry to follow us on board. It waited as we situated our bikes down below, and followed us up the stairs into the main cabin of the ship like a boss. Once inside, it split to mosey around giving puppy-dog eyes to all the passengers begging for food and attention. Once the ferry sailed, we heard the staff asking around who the dog belonged to. That's when they realized it didn't belong to anyone and it was too late to kick it off. It even took a dump in the middle of the floor that someone cleaned up. By the time we docked, the nice Finnish family we met on board had kids that begged to keep the dog and at least Dad was nice enough to take the dog off the ferry. Once onshore, this nice lady that owns a big resort in town, took a shining to the pup, but was flying back to the States and unable to take it with her. Last seen, pup was a wandering around Raul de Balmaceda making friends with all the locals.
Update: Same pup followed two other cyclists for unknown distance down the road, and then met up with our British cycling friend, whom it then followed for 60 k/40 miles down the road scoring a sandwich. Traveling pup last seen on the Carretera Austral looking for cycling friends to share in the journey. A pup with a traveling soul :)
The plan, we arrived by car back in El Calafate this afternoon and Ville spent the day putting new chains on the bikes. Robin relaxed and I punched some keys to bring this latest update to your hot little hands (screens). Tomorrow we plan to drive up to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and pack up. Robin leaves day after tomorrow back to Bend (we can't tell you how grateful we both are to have a friend come see us and spoil us rotten for a whole week. It will give us the charged batteries we need to charge back into the desert. Thank you Robin, see you again so soon in Bend my friend). From there we continue back to Highway 40 and battle the winds another couple weeks south. We have a flight from Ushuaia booked for Feb. 19th to Buenos Aires, and will shoot to arrive before then.
So folks, this might be it. Our last post before the end. We are hoping to find WiFi one more time before we get to Ushuaia, but in case we don't, keep us in your thoughts, say some prayers, we thank you all for following this journey, supporting us in all the ways everyone could and see you at the end of the world! Out into the winds we will go...to keep on keepin' on!
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
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