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(79) Blown away by Patagonia

January 7, 2014

Saturday 16th November

After had having a nightmare with bus drivers and the Andesmar bus company arriving in Ushuaia seemed to reset the balance and give us a new faith in the kindness of the Argentinian people with happy shop keepers and hostel workers, families and locals it was now time for us to start heading north and once we finished ironing out the few niggles we could get going.

It was the day of the start of the pedal north and we still needed to finish packing.  Tim also had to go to the bike shop to try and fix the problem with his chain slipping over the rear cog so we got up and had a shower before breakfast. We were joined by Manu, Jo and Shaun the Canadians we had met the night before. While Sharon and Sara packed the panniers, Tim went off to the bike shop. It didn’t take long to swap the sprocket around and he soon returned to help load the bikes. We headed off around 10.30 and headed to the garage to fill our fuel bottles.

We were soon on the highway heading out of Ushuaia. It was so good to have Sara with us and what great scenery. It was a cold day with snow tipped mountains that surrounded us but as the clouds built the rain started. It felt strange to be riding in the rain – it had been so long since we had been in wet weather and would take us a while to adjust to adjusting our clothes constantly as we would get hot on climbs cold on descents and soaked inbetween.

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P1090336Tim greeting one of many dogs on the road

With a few climbs to keep us warm in the cold temperature we were happy. We stopped at the top of Pass Gariboldie and took some pictures before descending to the lake.

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The descent was great although cold on Tim hands. Sara had her gloves on while Sharon had her woolly gloves with rubber gloves over the top. We looked for a good spot to have lunch and it wasn’t until we found a ski lift that we spotted a large open roof covering a sign. It was perfect and we soon had soup and tea on the go.

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We made steady progress but with the cold and the rain we were all feeling tired. Thinking about stopping for a cupper we rode on to the lake only to pass a nice looking cafe. We called in to find the people were lovely and they made amazing cakes. Tim had a layered biscuit caramel base with a large layer of soft meringue on top and Sara and Sharon had ricotta cheese wrapped in pastry. We were in heaven and once washed down with a hot chocolate we all felt a little sick 🙂

DSC_0424Preparing for a cake feast

DSC_0425Preparing for a meat feast the traditional way – unfortunately not for us!

After managing to warm up we headed out in the rain heading towards the town of Tolhuin. We were hoping to reach the famous bakery the following day in time for ‘elevenses’. With 15 miles to go we started to look for a camp and spotted a settlement. We asked in Sara’s best Spanish which was much better than our impressions although a little less amusing. However, it was a resounding ‘no’ so we rode on with our eyes peeled. Passing a few locked gateways we found one that was open and found a good spot out of sight of the road. The rain got harder so we put the tent up trying to keep the inner dry. Sharon got tea on the go and we were soon sat in light rain eating tea. With a chill in the air it was hard to stay warm, so all of us were looking forward to a warm wash and a warm sleeping bag ready for another day.

Sunday 17th November

We tried to stay in bed as long as possible not only because we were tired but it was also freezing. We heard Sara put the stove on so we got up slowly and joined her for breakfast. Sara had heard strange noises in the night only to find it had got so cold the rain had frozen making the ice slide off the tent. The sky was cloudy and everything was damp but with a light breeze it did dry our tents enough to pack them without everything else getting soaked.

P1090368Morning camp

The day looked like it was going to brighten up and with little wind it was a good day. We headed on to Tolhuin riding along a large lake. It was stunning with the snowy peaks off in the distance and the water like glass it made for a picture postcard.

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We climbed the last hill into town and looked for the infamous bakery in town. We saw a big sign on the side and found ourselves going in the back of the shop. We made our way through to the shop front to find it looked more like the witches house in Hansel and Gretel. There were pies, cakes, chocolates, pasties and all kinds of breads – it was amazing and as cycle tourists it was heaven.

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Feeling tired and in the warm the thought of heading outside into the cold whilst being surrounded by cakes was hard. We did get out before we were thrown out for staring too much at the delicious food. We headed out to the highway passing a really lovely dog – it was so fluffy and just wanted to play.

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Sara rode on and as trying to evade cycling wasn’t working we soon caught her up and got our heads down. The wind was now picking up reaching speeds of 30 – 40 mph slowing our progress and making it tough going. The road gently undulated but with the wind made it felt much harder than it should have been. We stopped for lunch looking across at the mountains surrounded by a strange woodland covered in a bright green lichen which gave it a magical look.

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P1090395A bird of prey – answers on a postcard to what it is…

With around 28 miles to the sea we ploughed on through the wind when the rain started. The cars were pretty good apart from the odd one passing within inches of us.

P1090400Following route 3

By around 6pm we were feeling tired and needed to stop. We saw a farm advertising camping but wanting to keep our costs down after an expensive start we rode on. After a couple hundred metres we saw an open gate and headed to the coast. We soon found a spot out of the worst of the winds and pitched our tents. We wrapped up and sat eating tuna pasta in the shelter of the tent. With the sun slowly coming out it gave us a little respite from the wind but with it still chilly we headed to bed tired and ready for a good night’s sleep.

Monday 18th November

With an undisturbed night we woke up from a deep sleep to another cloudy and chilly day. If it wasn’t for Sara getting up and putting the stove on we would have stayed in bed for another hour. We should have been the slick well-oiled machine having been on the road for 18 months but we were still the same Tim and Sharon. We sat eating our porridge noticing that the wind was picking up.

DSC_0495Morning camp

We loaded the bikes and headed out along the dirt track back to the highway. As soon as we turned right we hit the wind and soon we decided to take it in turns doing 3 minutes at the front and pull over for the next person. It worked well but soon we had a slight cross wind that gusted between 30 and 40 mph.

With the wind now a side-wind, we were thrown all over the place combined with the fast cars and large trucks that pulled us into the road (as they would disrupt the wind flow) it felt really dangerous. After a few very close shaves and grinding to a stop many times we pulled over after spotting a cattle water hole. Tim went to collect water when he spotted a sheltered spot out of the wind. Deciding to take an early lunch stop we made soup and pretty much ate anything we could to try and get some energy back. It was so good to be out of the wind but the longer we stayed the colder we got.

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We took shelter letting a potential hail storm pass before re-joining the road in even stronger wind. We were constantly battered and being forced off the road by the wind but we kept going knowing that in a few miles the road would turn east giving us a tail wind.

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P1090415It was pretty windy!

DSC_0522The long and windy road

DSC_0524Horses seemingly not bothered by the wind

It felt like ages to cover any distance and at an average speed of 5.1mph we weren’t going anywhere fast plus it was zapping all our energy, the riding into the headwind was hard enough combine the watching for cars trying to stay in a straight line and just getting battered we just exhausting. We finally reached the bend and cruised the 4 miles into the town of Rio Grande at 14mph without peddling. Tim noticed a bakery on his GPS and after 15 minutes we were greeted by a lovely lady some delicious fare.

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After making ourselves nicely full, we left for the supermarket and picked up supplies for our next windy section. We headed out of town and after finding a road leading to what looked like a new housing project we found a spot in the corner and pitched our tents feeling exhausted after another slow and long day.

Tuesday 19th November

We woke in our gravel campsite pleased to have slept well and probably would still be sleeping now if Sara hadn’t woken us.

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We made porridge and got on the road and into an instant headwind. We collected water from a police station and hugged the buildings to keep out the wind. We were soon exposed to its full force though. We met a German man who was one of 17 driving from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia then Alaska. We said ‘see you on your way north probably in just a couple of days’ knowing how the winds were.

P1090425Enjoying a quick cake stop

We continued on trying to shelter each other but as it was a cross-wind we needed to be alongside each other and the road was too busy. We eventually stopped for lunch out of the wind and got excited as we remembered we were carrying eggs and could make fried egg sandwiches. Oh how the little things that please us!

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After lunch we got back out in the wind and it felt even stronger. We were feeling tired but had no choice but to keep going. We met 2 cycle tourists heading south – they had done 140km (about 87 miles) the day before as they had a tail wind! They told us we could sleep in the waiting room at the Argentina/Chile border which would be a nice break out the wind and a free night. However, it would mean a total of 50 miles to ride that day which was a long way in the wind. The thought of being indoors and having hot water was a great incentive though. Around 6pm with 15 miles to go we stopped for a short soup break as the weather had come in and we were getting cold. The last miles were the hardest especially when Tim realised his frame had snapped on the chain stay and finding that it was only the chain holding it together. This meant that being in the wind was out of the question so Sara and Shaz protected him from the wind to prevent it from shearing completely.

DSC_0540The snapped frame

P1090436Nearly there – feeling cold and exhausted

We eventually got into the small border town of San Sebastian exhausted at 9pm. We headed straight for the warm cafe and had beer, steak burger and chips J We rode across the road, asked if we could sleep in the waiting room – to which they eventually agreed, so we warmed up and snuggled down to sleep after a hot wash. We would worry about the bike frame in the morning. It had been a very tough day and with the next section heading west on a gravel road directly into the wind we needed to get some rest.

DSC_0535The waiting room which would prove to be a cosy home

Wednesday 20th November

As we slept in the waiting room we were soon frequented by the morning shift of border guards on duty making their morning brew. They were very discreet and moved through quietly as we dozed. We finally got woken by Sara who once again had tea made and delivered it to us as we tried to lift our heads from our pillows.

DSC_0537A snug place to hang out

The next problem was how we could cancel her flight so she could do this every morning… One job we weren’t looking forward to was getting Tim’s frame welded although we admitted we could have been in worse places. We sat and had breakfast before Tim was blown on his bike up the road 1km to a house that may have someone who could fix it. He found no-one home apart from lots of dogs and a giant pig. He returned to the border post where we planned ‘plan B.’

We decided that Tim would try and get a lift back into Rio Grande to go to a bike shop and Sara and Sharon would stay put in the waiting room – it was looking more and more homely the longer we were there. We managed to get a note written in Spanish as to what we needed and Tim went out to stand on the road with his bike. He was stood for ages with truck after truck driving past, most of which were either full our not going to Rio Grande. It was a depressing sight in the wind. Finally giving up his position after over an hour of waiting, he went to the other side of the border and asked a guy in a 4×4 support car for a motorbike trip, but was told  he wasn’t allowed to carry passengers. In the end a kind truck driver carrying 2 VW trucks to Ushuaia said he would take him.

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Tim found it really exciting being in a large truck and with a nice driver they got on well despite the language barrier. Meanwhile Sharon and Sara were back at the border bread making, writing the blog and resting their legs. Yes – we said bread making! Sara had brought out a camp oven – known as an ‘outback oven’ (if you’re interested look it up – it’s amazing!) It makes bread on a camp stove which is delicious. It was good to have a break even though an unplanned one.

Tim hopped off on the outskirts of town and gingerly rode the streets in search of a bike shop. With it being 1pm everyone was having lunch or a siesta. After asking a few people with not much luck he found a nice lad who spoke English who was willing to ask around. After 10 minutes Tim was sat outside a bike shop while the owner had his lunch learning his Spanish numbers from Sara’s Spanish book. It wasn’t long before the door was opened and Dolly had her back wheel off and the brazing to torch was lit.

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Tim found it was really great watching him weld and soon Dolly was back in action and a bunch of cool stickers and a pen(for a mere £5)  with only one thing left to do; head for the cake shop. With a pile of nice cakes for later Tim popped to the supermarket for a few more bits for dinner before heading off out of town into the strong headwind once again. He got to the roundabout and stopped next to a police check point but with most of the trucks heading to an industrial estate further on he needed to get past it. It took a while to reach but he was soon on the other side waiting for a kind person. After yesterday being happy that the road was quiet it was now a curse and so with only a few cars or trucks it felt like a lifetime. He must have been there for almost 2 hours in the strong cold wind before a truck stopped. It had a huge trailer but with no room on it the driver said to put the bike on the roof of the truck. This was great and so finally they were on their way back to the border.

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This meant we still had an unbroken route by bike. It could have been so much worse – we could have been stranded in the middle of nowhere. Tim arrived just before tea time with extra food meaning we could have a feast. We sat and enjoyed a lovely dinner and watched an English comedian on the laptop. It had been a productive day even though we could have done without it – however it did give our legs a break ready for the next hard slog into Chile.

Thursday 21st November

We all slept well with no one coming in to make tea. It was a nice day and hardly any wind, this was amazing and good timing as we would be on a dirt road heading west into what would be the prevailing wind. We loaded the bikes and ate breakfast then cleared up the rest of what had been our home for the last couple nights.

DSC_0548Shaz and Sara ready to head out once more

We filled up our fuel bottles at the garage and stamped out of Argentina thanking the guards for letting us stay. With the wind almost non-existent, it was a pleasure cycling along the gravel road (known as ripio in South America) for the 9 miles to the Chilean border.

DSC_0564Trucks heading between the borders

P1090441Cows in ‘no cows land’

We soon arrived with little effort and had to stamp into to Chile – country number 25. As we stamped in we had to fill in a form to say we didn’t have any fruit or vegetables which if found could leave us subject to a fine. We declared our garlic which we were sad to lose but held on to our honey! After our bikes were checked we left the border and turned west on the gravel road towards Porvenir where we would catch a ferry to Punta Arenas.

We made good progress along the good gravel road when we met Enrico who was an Italian cycle tourist. He had been on the road for 6 years, stopping to work now and then. It was great to chat to him and we listened enviously when he told us he’d spotted a puma a few days previously. We swapped advice on the respective roads ahead and headed on.

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We stopped at a road junction where we sheltered from the cool light wind that had now picked up. With the temperature dropping as a rain cloud came in, we ate our soup and ‘empanadas’ (South American pasties – very yummy) wrapped up and headed on.

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The road got worse at this point but not bad enough to slow us too much. An interesting truck passed us at one point and we met a super friendly couple from Brazil who were driving around Patagonia. They handed us some Brazilian ‘fire water’ along with some coke and water to drink with it! We put it in the food bag to drink at some point or wondered if it might fuel our stove…

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We soon reached a group of trees that we had planned on camping at but with the wind so slight we would have been foolish not to make the most of it.

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DSC_0604A windswept landscape

We spotted many animals on the way from horses, foxes, a beaver and a flock of flamingos.

DSC_0590One of many foxes we saw

DSC_0606Bright pink flamingos

DSC_0608A lesser spotted, slightly smelly cycle tourist…

Add to that snow tipped mountains in the distance and a shimmering lake it was stunning. It was around 8 pm when we finally stopped and we felt happy with the miles we had covered. We pitched the tents with a stunning backdrop of the sea, a small hut and the sound out birds and foxes. It had been a good day but we hoped we would be blessed with little wind again tomorrow.

Friday 22nd November

As the night went on the rain increased along with the wind making us think we would once again wake to a gale. As the sun rose we were pleased to be woken by a nice partly cloudy day with very little wind. We sat and enjoyed a nice breakfast looking down across a harsh landscape to the sea with snow caped peaks in the distance.

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DSC_0624Morning camp

Tim spotted a concrete bunker which looked like it could be a well in one of the fields next to us so he went to take a look and found there was a baby lamb stuck in. He climbed down through the hole and with a lamb going crazy Tim managed to grab it and lift it up back on to terra ferma. It soon found its feet and ran off towards the rest of the flock – lucky escape.

We loaded the bikes and headed down the hill along the gravel track. With the light breeze and clear skies it was stunning and not wanting to miss out on a great day we stopped next to the sea after an hour of riding to make a cupper.

DSC_0634We spotted this winch on our tea break – used to pull boats out of the water

P1090517Curious Guanacos

We spotted lots of Guanacos which are native to South America– although shy, they are curious animals – well of cycle tourists anyway!  They can run with a speed of 56 km (35 miles) per hour, often over steep and rocky terrain.They are also excellent swimmers and have an unusual method of survival—licking all the nutrients and dew from desert cacti!

We rode on along the beautiful coastline on the undulating road complete with the many short sharp climbs and descents.

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We called in at a farm to get water as our reserves were low wondering how anyone could survive in this environment. We rode on warmed from the sun and exercise. As we rode the wind gradually picked up and the sun disappeared behind a cloud just enough to show its face from time to time. After spotting more flamingos we climbed a hill into a strong wind – it was a tough last hour of riding and we finally crossed over the last ridge and dropped into the town Porvenir. We were all pleased to reach it.

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DSC_0702Tsunami warning sign

After the 2010 Chilean earthquake which triggered a tsunami, there are now warning signs littering towns in southern Chile along with air-raid style sirens. ShelterBox the charity we are supporting responded immediately to the disaster which affected hundreds of people – read more at this link.

http://www.shelterbox.org/news.php?id=271

With it now feeling cold and bleak with not many people on the streets we headed out to the port – according to the information we had the next boat to Punta Arena was at 7pm. Fighting the wind we arrived to find we had missed to boat by 3 hours and the next wasn’t until 7pm the following day. For some reason it didn’t run at 7pm on Fridays – maybe the captain was out partying. We headed back into town feeling annoyed that we would waste a day waiting and looked for a place to stay when we spotted Hotel Espana. After a few minutes Sharon and Sara soon arrived with big grins on their faces. It was within our price range including breakfast, was really nice and had wifi! Decision made we unloaded the bikes had a hot long overdue shower and relaxed enjoying a nice big meal of steak, eggs and chips in the warm and after all that we were shattered. We headed off to bed happy we had avoided the worst of the wind ready to catch the ferry the following day.

Saturday 23rd November

Feeling great waking in a nice warm bed we went and had breakfast. It was the sort of breakfast we loved with a choice of bread, eggs, coffee juice etc not the normal breakfast we would get at a hostel which would be bread and jam. We didn’t need to rush as the ferry wouldn’t be leaving till the afternoon so we rested, got some work done and ate another steak meal complements of Sara (thank you!!!) It had been raining pretty much all night and we felt a little guilty feeling warm and dry to then unlock a cold and wet Dolly and Daisy. We loaded the bikes and headed the 2 miles out to the port to watch the ferry arrive.

DSC_0704A lovely church we passed on the way

DSC_0709On the ferry

It wasn’t too long before we were nice and comfy sat on the boat watching the rest of the day go by leaving the windswept island of Terra de Fuego behind. As the sun started to set the ferry arrived in the port of Punta Arenas and we once again headed out on to the chilly deck to collect our bikes. We wheeled them off and discussed where to camp.

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We wandered over to what at first looked like a campsite only to find it was a military base. We asked where we could camp and they pointed to a piece of ground with trees in the middle of a roundabout. It was already quite late so we thought why not and set up camp as inconspicuous as possible (which was nearly impossible) and hoped we wouldn’t be disturbed with a night watchman opposite.

Sunday 24th November

We were worried we would be disturbed seeing as we were in the middle of a roundabout and it was Saturday night in a major city. The plus side was we were on the outskirts of town and opposite a naval base. We were woken a couple times; once by the increase in traffic and another by someone driving around the roundabout using their horn presumably at us. We got up around 7.30 and with the traffic already busy and a cold wind we packed our things and had breakfast. The longer we sat the colder we got so we finished clearing away the rest of our things and headed into to town.

DSC_0711A first for us – camping on a roundabout

We had to head south to find the centre of town and stopped at a church to take a look. It was stunning and very humbling to be there. It was a shame it was Sunday as the streets were quiet and it looked like it could have been a nice town. We stopped at a supermarket so Sharon and Sara could go in and do a shop. Tim said they had been so long in the shop that the large Alsatian dog who he was be-friending was a puppy when they went in – it was of-course due to the long queues that seem to frequent in supermarkets on a Sunday. A band went past at one point which did provide some entertainment.

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P1090563In town

We loaded the bikes with the mountain of food and headed north this time with a tail wind. We easily reached 15 mph and once on the highway cruised at 20 mph. It didn’t last long as the road headed north-west and on occasions west giving us another blast of tail wind.

DSC_0722Sara and Shaz – 200 km to Puerto Natales where we would take a rest day

Getting close to 1pm we spotted a hut on our right and asked if we could cook lunch behind the hut. They showed us to a room where we made fried egg sandwiches only to be brought bread rolls and steak and mash by the guys that worked there. It was so kind and just what we needed. We exchanged contacts and thanked them for their kindness heading out into the cold wind.

P1090566Our friendly lunch hosts

The afternoon dragged on due to the tough going in the wind. We rode past a small truck stop which had a café and gratefully pulled in for a hot coffee.

Stirrups hanging up in the café along with lots of other memorabilia

We reluctantly dragged ourselves back outside and carried on passing large areas of land which had a sign reading ‘danger mine field’ and made a mental note not to camp there.

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Not really getting many miles done due to wind we stopped in a sheltered spot to have our evening meal planning on riding on for another hour afterwards. The problem was the sheltered spot out of the wind was also out of the sun and with the tiny amount of heat it was giving off we soon started to get cold. Sharon was freezing and with a bad back it was getting worse. Sara dug out her down jacket and combined with Tim’s hat she started to warm up. With the stove playing up it seemed to take ages to cook the hot food and by the time we had packed everything away the sun was going down. All feeling cold we rode on for another hour and we looked for a good camp spot.

DSC_0730About to jump the fence

After the first few not being good enough we saw a good flat spot in between some bushes in a field. We lay low as cars passed and we quickly put everything over the fence to where we would camp. We don’t know why we hid seeing as the night before we slept in the middle of a roundabout but we just went with our instinct which was a little icy at this point. With the tents up and now dark we all went to sleep in our homes whilst the wind whistled and battered our tent.

Monday 25th November

Sara woke us both from a deep sleep (sorry Sara, you had a tough job on your hands) It had been windy in the night but at one point it was silent which made us think it may help us on the road that heads west. We got dressed and Sara brought us a cupper and already had the porridge on the go. She joined us in our tent to keep warm until the sun warmed the day a little more.

DSC_0738Morning camp

We packed our bags and carried them over to the fence and dropped all our things off on the road side. We were soon packed up and on the right side of the fence to get going. We had only covered 400 metres when we were pulled over by the police. We wondered if someone had rang them after spotting us in the field but they were nice guys and just wanted us to put on our fluorescent vests. One police officer showed us his jacket to which Tim held out his hand saying ‘gracias’. The policemen laughed saying no but it was worth a try. We rode on into a steadily increasing wind that was coming from the front left but taking it in turns to take the strain helped and was now much safer with very little traffic. We soon came across a German cycle tourist who had started- 800 miles further north enjoying the best bits of Chile with a tailwind. We didn’t give him too much sympathy when he said he had ridden for 2 days into headwinds from the start. We wished him luck – we knew the road turned more northwards in around 3 miles time which should be a little easier.

We headed on stopping at a tiny hut which we assumed was a bus shelter to have a snack. With the tiny shed being battered by the wind we packed the food bag away quickly and then stopped for a break at a tiny small windswept town.

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DSC_0750Feeling a long way from anywhere

We sat and enjoyed a really nice hot chocolate and again with the building being buffeted by the huge gusts we weren’t looking forward to heading out. Sharon bought an amazing new woollen hat – nice and snug with fleece lining to keep her noggin warm 🙂

With it already being 12.30 we decided to ride on for a little while longer, enjoy the little tail wind we would have and find a quiet spot to have lunch. We rode for about 40 minutes before stopping to cook soup and a cheese sandwich. It felt so still where we were and we even thought the wind had eased but no, as soon as we re-joined the highway we were thrown from left to right backward and forward and as the clouds moved in front of the sun we then became cold then hot then cold.

DSC_0754Heading from our sheltered lunch spot back into the wind

By mid-afternoon it was Sara’s turn to find it tough. This wind would pick out anyone who was feeling a bit tired and make them stand out. It was hard and with Sara normally very strong we realised everyone would have a bad day at some point. We took five minutes out which gave Tim chance to change the brake pads on his front brakes and we all set off again taking it easy. We passed a few lamas, sheep, ostrich and more flamingos.

DSC_0776We were excited to see lamas!!

With the clouds shooting across the sky covering the sun, the landscape became ever harsher and more bleak.

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We counted down the miles but with Tim’s GPS having a bad day wanting to turn off at will, it meant he had to keep an even closer eye on it. We finally reached the bend taking us directly west straight into the wind and spotted a police checkpoint. By this time both Tim and Sharon’s knees were hurting and so we were all looking forward to stopping. We asked the policeman if we could camp to which he said yes and pointed to a large shed. This was perfect and out of the wind. We pitched the tents inside and sat listening to the large barn creek squeak and groan to the constant blasts. It had been a hard day and we knew it wasn’t going to get easier with a west road to start it was going to be hard from the start. While Sharon cooked tea Sara made some bread for the morning. It was the most surreal moment sat in this windy shed in the middle of no-where, with Sara shoving bread dough down her jacket to make it rise then smelling it baking on the camp stove. Amazing.  It was so great being able to make bread as it was going to be another 2 days before we reached Punto Natales and we would just have enough food.

DSC_0784Our windy shed

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DSC_0795The view from our shed – notice a play park in the middle of no-where!

Tuesday 26th November

Sharon woke Tim at 7.15 to say there was no wind. We called to Sara and agreed to get a couple hours done on the bike before we stopped for breakfast. We were soon packed all be it bleary eyed we joined the road by 7.30 and took it in turns at the front. We covered the first 10 miles in an hour which when we were tired and still with a slight headwind was good going.

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We stopped for a short break and decided to try and get to the point where the road turned north-west out of the main wind before having breakfast.

After another hour and a bit we arrived at a hotel just after being passed by a tour bus. We had covered 23 miles by 10am which was almost a record in Patagonia unless we were heading the opposite way then we could have done it in 10 minutes. As we arrived at the hotel we were greeted by a large group of mainly English tourists and a few others who started asking us about our trip. Sharon got chatting to one lady and when she mentioned Sara she suddenly darted off to talk to her. It turned out to be the niece of a lady called Betty who lived next door to Sara when she was young and knew the family well. It must be so strange to meet someone you know in the middle of no –where and so great for them to meet again. We joined them for a hot chocolate chatting to the many lovely people on the bus before they had to depart to their next destination on their nice warm bus.

We left the hotel and walked up the road and found a sheltered spot to have a breakfast and another cuppa. We took it easy from then on riding for another hour and a half before stopping to have lunch. It was a stunning spot and with the snow-capped peaks behind us in the distance and amazing and strange cloud formations would drift past. We were looking forward to what was in store further north.

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After a bit of a sleep in the sun we loaded the bikes and with the wind picking up we started to make slower progress. Wanting to get within 10 miles of the town of Puerto Natales – one to save on a night’s accommodation and to not leave too many miles to do the following day, we turned more into the wind which by now was gusting to 35-40 mph (we knew this as we could measure the wind on Sara’s wind measurer!) It was tough going but we knew there would be some sort of police checkpoint where we could pitch our tent. After what felt like ages we arrived at the checkpoint and were greeted by a nice policeman who showed us a place to camp. It was perfect. We picked up water and while Tim and Sara pitched the tents Sharon made a crispy cake before putting tea on.

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It had been a good day but tiring and we were happy to be tucked up in our tents looking forward to celebrating Tim’s birthday the following day.

Wednesday 27th November

As the night went on we thought the wind would ease but it didn’t. With the high pitched whistle of wind forcing its way through the telegraph poles and the cracking of the Chilean flags the wind just kept getting stronger reaching speeds of around 70mph. As our tents flapped and shook we wondered whether we were going to be blown away or hit by the odd flying car. We did sleep however and found it hard to get up. By the time we woke Sara had already baked a cake for Tim’s birthday on the amazing outback oven. Sharon busied around handing Tim’s his birthday cards and pressies which Sara kindly brought out from home.

DSC_0855Happy 40th Birthday Timo!!

DSC_0849The proud owner of a birthday cake complete with a candle!

DSC_0851Enjoying demolishing the cake

It was funny waking on Tim’s birthday at a police checkpoint when last year we were in Cyprus drinking champagne for breakfast with his parents. We were told we could go into one if the police huts to have breakfast so we made a dash for the shelter of the hut and sat listening to the wind. After an hour the wind started to ease even though it must have still been around 30-40 mph. We thanked the policeman who handed Tim a Chilean flag badge. We took a picture and rode the last 10 miles into the town of Punta Natales.

DSC_0858Us and the policeman

DSC_0860An interesting way to use plastic bottles!

It was tough going with a head wind but with only a short distance to go we descended into the town to a bleak and wild water front after not too long. We headed into the centre where we found an English cafe and drank beer with some very lovely Irish girls and a Dutch guy. We stayed in the nice warm place for around 3 hours eating and drinking beer but soon felt shattered. We made our way through town and booked ourselves in to the Singing Lamb hostel and crashed out. It was so nice being in the warm and relaxing. We got up around 6pm and got ready to go out for dinner. We made our way to a restaurant called Afrigonia which served amazing lamb. Not wanting to stay in one place we made our way to another restaurant for desert and more wine. We headed back to the hostel via a shop to pick up extra wine and found 2 Ozzie guys, Sam and Andrew,an English girl called Jess and an American guy called  Bob still up. We asked if we could join them only to find we were up till 4.30 drinking and playing games. We had a fantastic night and didn’t stop laughing. It was so much fun and we ended up going to bed as the sun came up. It had been such a good day…

P1090672A great night!

Thursday 28th November

After an amazing meal with the three of us and far too much to drink we spent the day resting and recuperating but it was what we needed and it was a great place to do it.

We would have another north road to ride and into the wind. Sara had hoped to be much further north by now but with the time it had taken on the buses, Tim’s broken frame and the high winds slowing us down to a snail’s pace we would have to do a re-think. The next section once crossing back into Argentina would take us to a place that was too remote that it would be hard to get out in time for Sara to get up to Santiago. This was a real shame as she would miss out on the Caratera Austral but it did mean we could visit the national park Torres del Paine which Sara had wanted to go to for a long time. This would work great as it would mean we had time to enjoy the park and give her enough time to get to a ferry that would take her north and give her access to the road network north.

This however would mean Sara would leave us earlier and having had such a great time already we really didn’t want to think about it and so looked forward to the park ahead.

Thanks for reading!   

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Sara permalink
    January 7, 2014 9:28 pm

    I chuckled my way through this blog especially the early morning routine. It is hard to describe the effects of the wind but you have captured it well. Happy memories stored for ever. You are very special couple. Enjoy the Carretera Austral. xxx

  2. Mum and Dad Pitts permalink
    January 8, 2014 2:09 pm

    I felt really hungry reading this blog with all the pictures of food. But seeing 3 super cycle tourists as well made up for it . Miss you LOTS. Much love from Mum and Dad XXXX

  3. January 8, 2014 6:19 pm

    Wow, it’s all about cake and wind! That camp oven looks amazing. Dough down your blouse – such inguiniuity!! Bad luck on the surly frame. It had prob been weakened by Andy doing bunny hops off kerbs?!
    Loving reading the blog as always, and really liked the cloud photos too.
    Safe cycling,
    X

  4. Rick Steele permalink
    January 11, 2014 10:03 pm

    This is Rick and Sarah who you met in Trompsa near the start of your ride. We have just spent 10 days riding in the volcano and lakes district of Chile and Argentina. Including riding up Orsono Volcano (to the ski lift car park). Now in El Calafate looking at the glaciers. Will walk in TDP on Monday staying 6 nights. Haven’t read your blog in detail to see whee you might be. Would be funny to see you again!,

  5. Helen R permalink
    January 12, 2014 6:23 pm

    All three of you are just simply awesome! So proud of you all! Been fab to hear all of mum’s stories and see all of the photos too. Keep being amazing! Lots of love xxxxx

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