The Answer (AND Ville & Kristen) My Friend Is Blowin' In The Wind - Bob Dylan El Calafate to Punta Arenas, Chile
En route, we witnessed a car driving like an enraged maniac swerving and honking while plowing through a field heading straight for a herd of horses. The horses began running and the car followed chase...
I wasn't sure what the very south would have in store for WiFi, but we were in luck. Score. Some working WiFi. So I thought I would take a minute to sit down and write an update on the happenings of the last stretch. First, I wanted to take a minute to send out a massive Thank You to all of you who have reached out to us to congratulate us, praise us, and thank us for our work on the blog. Without all of you, there would be no journey nor a reason to write a blog. Because it gets read, we keep the need to write. It's a vicious cycle you see. So thank you all for reading. And looking at the pictures. All right, here's the show!
We left Robin, our friend from Bend, Oregon who met us for a week and a half of hiking, in El Calafate. She was heading out to the airport and we were riding west, with tailwind for a change! It was great to have a long break from our bike seats and to rest between hikes, but we felt recharged and ready to tackle this last big stretch of the journey. And after trying to push hard through the north of Argentina at break-neck speeds, we now needed to slow way down to meet our flight on Feb. 19th, and not sit in over-priced Ushuaia for a week. Good luck reining in these racehorses! Once we were back on Ruta 40, the road headed east and veered to the southeast up a giant canyon wall. Because of the tremendous tailwind push from behind, the long climb felt like a breeze. We made a fairly easy 60 miles and opted to camp in another road construction building with two other couples, a couple of kittens, and a wiener dog named Miguelito.
The next morning we pedaled south on gravel and luckily for us, the winds were mild and the chattering of the ripio was our only big challenges of the day. At days end, back on pavement, we scored a room in an abandoned hotel with the positives being it was out of the wind and the negatives being the howling wind blowing all the lead paint, asbestos, and threatening to rip the metal roof off while we slept. Might have to give it only 4 stars on Booking. By the next morning, the wind was howling. Of course in the wrong direction. Once we made it out to the highway, we were forced to walk the bikes for about 3 miles because the gusts were blowing us dangerously into traffic. Even walking the bikes was a challenge with the frame bags and all the panniers acting as sails. When we decided to give the pedaling a go, my gold-star husband offered to ride in front of the entire group of 6, breaking the wind for 20 miles. My husband: looks bangin' in tight shorts, sexy teased helmet hair, scores flat, free camping spots all over the Americas, speaks, like, a lot of languages, can ride a bike without hands for about 10 seconds, makes a mean oatmeal or sandwich and is the best wind breaker around!
When we arrived at the cross section heading west into Chile and the town of Cerro Castillo only 8 miles away on gravel, we opted for an end to the wind for the day. In the Argentinean Immigration stamping out, I leaned down to the glass to speak with the officer, and realized that it wreaked of cigarette on the other side. Only in Argentina would you get away with smoking INSIDE a government office while at work. Stamping into Chile went fine, other than Chile's insanely strict no fruit, vegetable, and animal product policy. Since it will be our last entry into Chile, we are both pretty pumped to be done with having all our bags scanned and then personally dug through. If I had a giant bag of cocaine, they probably wouldn't even bat an eye, but my God, you bring one orange into Chile and they will give you a full cavity search looking for the rest of the oranges!
Once in Chile, as per usual, the desert turned to a green mountainous scenic wonderland. In Cerro Castillo, Ville asked a local cowboy if we could camp on the stage of his rodeo arena. It was protected from the wind, with steps perfect to cook on. We watched the sun set, and enjoyed an exquisite pot of four-cheese, sausage pasta and talked about how these memories are what we love so much about this bike tour. The night was wrestles sleep because the wind howled so loud and shook the stage that it felt like we were in a haunted house. The next morning we had a late start, enjoying tea, coffee and oatmeal in our pot. The first 10 miles was a battle of the wind madness, but then the wind changed directions and we had a glorious tailwind the remaining 30 miles to Puerto Natales.
En route, we witnessed a car driving like an enraged maniac swerving and honking while plowing through a field heading straight for a herd of horses. The horses began running and the car followed chase. As the car roared by us, we realized these local urban auto cowboys were herding the horses, safe from exercise in a warm, dry car with coffees safely in cup holders. I can just see the next western movie like "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" where Clint Eastwood climbs into his Toyota Hilux and peels out after a heard of cattle. Now that's a REAL cowboy.
The road also passed right along the shores of a giant crystal clear lake and after 4 days on the road, we couldn't resist a dip. Stripped to skivies and dove straight in. Made it to Puerto Natales in good time and checked into a pricey (because EVERYTHING is overpriced in Chile and Argentina) Hostel. We opted for a day off here, since we are still too early for our end flight in Ushuaia, and walked around town checking out the sights. We really enjoyed Puerto Natales. Cute little port town with the very first bike lane we saw in all of South America (better late than never I guess), and met a super nice couple, Luciano and Mercedes, at the residencial (similar to a homestay) we stayed at. Thoroughly enjoyed our conversations of politics and history (both are college students from Bariloche and Buenos Aires, Argentina) and have found that we learn more from locals than only relying on news outlets as we travel. Mercedes' family lived at the residencial and her great grandma (in the pic below) is the youngest of 5 ladies, at 100 years old! And even better, she still lies about her age, telling everyone she is 84 (if I even make it close to 84 it will be a miracle). Thanks Luciano and Mercedes for hanging out, hope to see you in Buenos Aires or Oregon!
After riding out of Puerto Natales into the wind, the road headed east and south with mainly tailwind for 2 of the 3 days it took to Punta Arenas. It actually was difficult to slow down. Nearing the end of the first day, I turned around to discover a missing husband. After waiting for nearly an hour and not able to flag down any cars to ask if they had seen him, I began pedaling back into the headwind to search for him. Very soon after he rode up and had stopped a ways back to fix his break that decided to lock up and I had been in the Tailwind Zone and not noticed. Being that we are nearing the end, literally all our things are on their last legs of functioning, Duct tape and glue are keeping us moving forwards at this point. We both were panicked, but were happy to reunite and found an abandoned ranch house near Morro Chico that was actually clean and quiet to camp in.
The next day was rainy, and after battling swirling storm winds all day, we opted to call the day after just 30 miles in Villa Tehuelces. We had coffees at the one restaurant, chatted with bunches of nice motorcyclists heading north on tours, and met up with another cycling duo heading south. We all camped inside food stalls (we greatly lower our standards in the wind), and had a lazy start to what turned into a crappy day. We had thrilling tailwinds for the morning, then bad side-winds the remainder of the day into Punta Arenas. A few rainy storms hit, we struggled to find shelter and then it took hours riding all over town to find a hostel that wasn't booked. Not a fun unplanned 70 mile day, but at least the shower was hot!
And here we are, resting up, with tickets in hand to take the morning ferry to Porvenir tomorrow. For those interested, we have reached the last town in the continental Americas (Ushuaia and the next 260 miles or so are all on an island). We have only about a week left of our ride to Tierra del Fuego (Land of the Fire) and Ushuaia! We are planning to try and see the King Penguins, camp a lot, and are hoping to afford a hotel in Ushaia to get out of the rain and wind to celebrate and pack our bikes into boxes. We hear hotels are wildly expensive there, so we might have to be creative. Our flights are booked, we fly Feb. 19th to Buenos Aires and then we party it up hopefully with some friends and family! Huh, huh, anyone, anyone? I imagine last minute airfare to Buenos Aires as well as time off to do so is impossible for all, but if anyone wants to try and meet us for a celebration, we will be in Buenos Aires Feb. 19-March 1st. Would love to share in the revelry. Otherwise, Bend peeps, see you back home soon. Everyone else we know and love, connect with us. We are always looking for the next travel plan, you just might get a surprise visit ;) Thanks all for following this wild ride, until next time (and for real this time, the next time may just be the last post!), keep on, keepin' on...
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Years to everyone! Hope you made it through with smooth sailing and are charging ahead on all the new resolutions you made. Go get em' tigers!
These two loonie bins are still moving south, if you can believe it. We had quite a long stretch of "rough patch," but the sun came out yesterday and today and things are looking up. Our last update from Entre Lagos, Chile, we were celebrating Christmas Eve together in a cabin with it raining outside, but were happy to be warm and dry for a day. On Christmas day, we ventured out heading south and east around Llanquihue Lake (just north of Puerto Montt), to a farm on the south of the lake near Puerto Varas. Our friends Paul and Sarah were there for a wedding and invited us to join them for Christmas dinner. It poured on us the entire ride, but was nice to have a roof over our heads and some friends to give us some love at the end of the day. Thanks so much for taking us in guys and we really enjoyed the evening with the family! See you soon in Bend :)
The next day, our friends headed out and we hopped back on bikes and rode back to Ensenada and south on the V-69 with some semi-decent weather and views, camping at the mouth of the Rio Petrohue where it dumps into the Estero Reloncavi. The next day was our one nice sunny day (if we had known it would be our last for a couple weeks, we would have rejoiced in it far more than we did), and biking through the tiny town of Cochamo we had stunning views of all the surrounding snow-capped volcanoes while eating our lunch at the shoreline. The road that hugged the east bank of the estuary was gravel and a roller-coaster of steep ups and downs, but incredibly scenic and almost hot! By the evening, we stopped in Puelo to cook dinner and quickly found shelter as the skies opened up and poured on us. We rode a ways further and then Ville asked a farmer if we could camp in his barn and he offered us the tool shed because he said it was way more "hygienic" than the barn full of poop and animals. Little did he know our standards are very low by now, especially when it rains!
The next day we rode out in the drizzle, and had stellar views of the surrounding volcanoes and estuary, littered with salmon fish farms all along the shore. When we reached Caleta Puelche, where the ferry ports from the north, we merged onto pavement of the infamous Carretera Austral. We pedaled hard to the next town in the pouring rain, and ate lunch in a bus shelter chatting with all the locals waiting for buses. A sweet old lady told us if we came to her house, off our route, on the shore, she would make us hot cocoa. We declined, hoping to get to Hornopiren in time to catch the ferry to Caleta Gonzalo and make it to Chaiten in time for my birthday. The one wish I had for my day of birth was to NOT be on my bike seat. We made friends with the sweetest black lab sisters, and when we pedaled off into the rain, they followed right behind us. Realizing at the bus stop that they were homeless, following all the passengers getting off in the hopes of a warm meal and bed to sleep, they realized we were their only hope. We let them follow us a while, thinking they would get bored and turn around at some point, but after over 15 miles, and heading ever deeper into the thick woods with hardly any civilization, we were stressing about these poor dogs. The rain was a complete downpour, the road was suppose to be paved, but the entire 30 miles was under construction, deep loose mud from the rain, cars flying by and splattering us with mud, insanely steep hills that many we had to walk pushing bikes up the steep hills because of the thick mud, and the dogs would dive into the brush to dodge the mud flying as cars passed, but stayed right at our heals as we slowly chugged on. Were we regretting not taking up the sweet old lady's offer of hot cocoa by now? You better believe it! Idiots.
Nearing twenty miles on the road, Ville was beginning to stress how we would ever find a place to camp with two labs and was trying to ditch them. It was the scene right out of the movie, Old Yeller, where the boy is having to yell at the dog he loves because it gets rabies. OK, not exactly the same, but it really tore my heart out having to try and ditch these two sweet pups that were just looking for someone to love them. Really sucked and I was traumatized by it for days after. When we finally got a long downhill, we pedaled hard trying to lose them and I looked back to see them still running as fast as they could trying to keep up. Just stab my heart through with a knife. UGH! We made it into Hornopiren at 9pm and walked into the first market we saw dripping all over the floor. Needing desperately to strip down and dry our things, we couldn't just find camping, we needed a hostal or hospedaje, but couldn't afford the $40 USD for one.
Just then, a middle-aged man walked into the store, took one look at us, shook his head and laughed. He asked us, in English, "what do you need?" All I could respond was, "I don't know" because I was still so in shock. He said, "come with me" and I just followed him out the door. He led us next door into the home improvement shop and rolled open the shop to put our bikes. We were SO grateful and started to hang our things to dry on shelving, when he led us upstairs into his house to hang things next to a stove. He showed us the shower and made us hot tea! I was so humbled by his kindness and so grateful I asked to hug him. After we showered, he set us up in a spare room to sleep. The next morning, as the rain continued to come down in sheets, we dressed and made our plans to catch the next ferry when our savior, Aldo, came in and said that we should stay another night because of the weather. It did not take convincing, while looking out the window at the pouring rain. When Ville told him it was my birthday the next day, he demanded we stay another day as well. Turns out Aldo is an incredible cook and planned a mouth watering meal of pork ribs, potatoes, and sangria for my birthday! He was tickled watching us lick our plates. We planned to roll out the next day, but of course it was New Years Eve and Aldo asked us to stay and celebrate with him. Not going to say no, we had another late night asado, grilled meat, (very popular in Argentina and Chile and usually finished up around 1am) and watched the boat flares rocket into the sky all over town at midnight. What a great place to end an entire YEAR on bikes!
The next morning, it was time to go. We could have stayed with Aldo for weeks he was such a great guy, super kind and with a great sense of humor, but we needed to move on. We caught the day ferry to Caleta Gonzalo and rode only 6 miles before it started raining and pitched a tent to sleep and stay dry for at least one night. The next day's 35 mile ride was in a downpour again, and by the time we arrived in Chaiten in the evening to wait for our night ferry to Puerto Marin Balmaceda, we were soaked and in sour moods. We tried to dry out in a cold coffee shop, offended all the other patrons by stripping off our wet socks and shoes in the place, but what are you going to do? We jumped on our bikes, and as we rode off towards the ferry, a small brown cocker spaniel looking pooch took off running after us. What is with us and dogs? We were put on the ferry before the cars and this smart little pooch jumped onto the ferry like it was with us and no one questioned it. Then it waited until we tied up our bikes and when we walked up the stairs into the lounge, it followed us like a boss. It wasn't until we were all loaded and moving south at 11pm, that the guys working on the boat realized the roving dog didn't belong to anyone. However, this smart little whipper snapper knew just how to bat it's eyes at all the passengers, especially the kids, to get some snacks. It even got carried off the ferry by a family and was last seen looking for a new home in Puerto Marin Balmaceda. (For all of you wondering why we didn't take the labs to a shelter, or what poor family is missing this pup, there are no shelters and there are hundreds of roving homeless mutts all over Chile and they are ALL homeless looking for homes. It's quite depressing)
On the ferry we met the coolest Canadian couple, also cyclists, heading down the Carretera Austral sitting next to us, Roy and Lana. Because this was a special ferry, added only because there was a massive landslide that took out three sections of the Highway 7 and the town of Santa Lucia, we didn't have to pay for it. But when we arrived in the early morning at Puerto Marin Balmaceda, the winds and rain were so bad we had to stay on the ferry out in the bay and wait four more hours for the weather to get decent enough to embark. Once we arrived, Roy, Lana, Ville and I rode straight to a hostel and checked in for the night. Forty dollars or not, we could not ride 50 miles up a crappy mud pit road in the pouring rain another day. We opted to be broke and dry. We had a fantastic day chatting with a Finnish family we met on the ferry (careful speaking Finnish cause you never know where those Finns will pop up!), and hanging with Roy and Lana sharing some laughs. By the evening the sun popped out for a minute for us to take a short stroll down the beach and we all agreed to take another ferry to the next town, Puerto Cisnes, since the weather forecast looked horrible and we would be able to catch better road from there.
When we hopped onto this ferry, we were very quickly disappointed to learn that this one would be like riding a Greyhound Bus across the US. The majority of the people on board were mainly men, lots of missing teeth, pot bellies, du-rags (tight head caps), and staring types. I was fully clothed in rain gear and was gawked at like I was in lingerie. I refused to let Ville leave me alone. And they put on some real stellar films, such as Too Fast Too Furious 8 and The Shallows. There was an obnoxious family with two young kids in front of us and just watching the Dad swear at his kids while being deeply engrossed in the films (he was drooling every time Vin Diesel came on the screen), made me want to vomit. We eventually changed seats to try and get some sleep and found ourselves right next to another boisterous family playing video games at full volume. After not sleeping a wink, we docked at 3:30 am and pitched our tents in the rain under a shelter right on the main boardwalk of a less than happening town. We woke up early to the chattering people waiting at the bus stop right next to our tent and headed out in the drizzle of rain east on, at least, pavement. The views were amazing, even if we could only see glimpses through the rain and clouds. The waterfalls were going off thanks to all the rain.
From Puerto Cisne, we rode up to the cross section where it connects with the Carretera Austral again, and climbed up to Villa Amenguel. Lana and Roy have done a few different bike packing trips, but being early in this current journey, Lana was struggling with the aches and pains associated with being all day on a bike and we were thrilled to take it more easy and stick with our new pals. We grabbed coffee in a bus cafe and then opted to stay at a hostel out of the rain. The next morning we, yet again, rode out in the rain and had peek-a-boo views through the clouds of the epic Patagonia scenery. In Manihuales, we found a decent campground in town, with working hot showers, and a boisterous latino posse rolled in right at dark to break branches, light a bonfire, and drink loudly all night. I know we all travel for the experiences of cultural differences, but we are getting a bit anxious to have a break from the latino culture for a while.
From there we rode, in rain, to a bus stop for lunch out of the rain, and made it to a nice campground 20 miles out from Coyhaique, where we opted for a sheltered place to camp out of the rain together. Lana and Ville are coffee addicts and have enjoyed making their crack in the mornings to get them on the road. We were SHOCKED to wake up to a sunny blue sky and were overwhelmed to ride 20 whole miles climbing with spectacular views into Coyhaique! We took today off the bikes in town, catching up on laundry (although the rain has washed us and all our stuff every day), this blog and some food resupply. We are struggling a bit with some logistical planning. We really want to continue south down the Carretera Austral, finishing it in Villa O'Higgins where we would take a very overpriced ferry ($125 each is word on the street) to get to El Chalten. The views would be far better than those in the desert of Argentina, but we would have to push bikes a ways on a trail at the end and weather permitting, this can be hell if you are doing it in rain, the ferry is out-of-our-budget expensive, and the ferry doesn't run in bad weather. And well, let's just say it's been raining a bit. If the crappy weather continues, we may not be able to catch a ferry and meet our friend Robin in El Chalten. And we need to decide soon because we will lose our options of routes back to Argentina soon so gotta make a plan.
Well folks, not sure when we will score some decent WiFi again. If we head south in Chile, the road will turn to dirt and we hear we will lose WiFi access. If we end up heading back to Argentina and moving south, we may have options. So, hang tight, we promise another update at our next able stop. And thanks everyone for still following this wild ride! Until next time, 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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