So a little over 10 days into God knows how long. We have experienced all four seasons more times than I care to recount and have even been blown off the bike, I think this is a passage of right when cycling in Patagonia, you have to be blown off your bike to know you are getting the true experience...
Ushuaia was a cool little town that took me back to living in Wanaka or Banff, mainly due to everyone wandering around in full ski gear, this was a little unnerving to think we would be cycling out of this place but we were told the roads were being cleared and it should be fine. We left early on our first day and realised just how tough it was going to be, nothing quite prepared us for just how heavy these bikes were. The first day involved lots of ups and downs with one big up that really really reminded the legs what is expected of them over the coming months, Jess was also learning that South American flat is not the same as Asian flat... 50km in and we were done, our first night was spent in an old shack that I'm sure used to be a lovely holiday home, however with knee deep snow everywhere other than the road I was glad we didn't have to try and pitch the tent, the log burning stove was a real touch and ensured a cosy night was had.
The next day saw us into Tolhuin, motivated by the stories of the famous 'casa de ciclista' "home of the cyclist' we were in, another 50km day and too good of a place not to spend two nights, free accommodation and as many baked goods as you can eat. I was also having issues with my front racks causing a wobble so I was keen to try and fix this before going much further.
From Tolhuin it was north to Rio Grande, before we made it we had our first wild camp, a perfect spot to spend our first night in the tent even if it was slightly chilly!
Rio Grande is a dump, there really is nothing more to say of this place and one night was enough for us to want to jump back on the bikes and get the hell out, I did manage to fix the issue with my front rack, a loose headset was the culprit and with a quick tighten it was like riding a new bike, well, newer bike, I'm already on a new bike.
Our next stop was the border, this cycle tour malarky is easy, already ticked off one country and we have only been at it a week! All the way to the border we could see cars and lorries coming the opposite way covered in mud, this did not bode well for our next stint on the bikes, mud bath comes to mind.
We spent the night at the border sleeping in the waiting room like the true homeless bums we are. The staff are used to cyclists by now as it has become a luxurious stop over instead of pitching the tent. With a full day to tackle our first South American gravel road or 'ripio' as they call them, can't you tell my Spanish is improving we were in high spirits and managed 60km to a truckers shelter, another night without having to pitch the tent.
It was from here that our luck changed... the previous days had been relatively wind free but when we awoke we could already hear it howling. We managed 26km, granted 10km of these I did with my back brake locked on after I had been blown from my bike and not realised! We managed to make it to the only trees on the stretch of road and waited out a hailstorm before pushing on, literally pushing now, the wind had got so strong that it was impossible to ride without being flung off the side of the road. After only 5km of pushing we were broken, it was at this point, while searching for somewhere to pitch our tent for a long windy night that Gloria and Hector turned up with their Toyota Hilux towing a rally car. Their offer to take us to Porvenir was too good to turn down so we chucked our nobel steeds on the back and hopped into the heated cabin.
The journey to Porvenir was spectacular from the back seat and we found ourselves starting to feel slightly guilty at not riding, all guilt disappeared when we jumped out of the car in Porvenir and got pummelled by the wind again, we had 5km left to go to the ferry to Punta Arenas and it was hell, we couldn't get over 10kph and as we arrived another storm rolled in. We weren't regretting that lift now, It would have been a very miserable night in the tent.
We arrived in Punta Arenas and are mentally preparing ourselves for the arduous battle ahead of us. Our next stop is Puerto Natales, all that stands between us and there is 243km of wind and rain. Who's idea was it to cycle South America again????
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.