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...
K.G. & Ville
In Ushuaia, at the end of the World!
“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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