“Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.”
This last week was a difficult yet wonderful introduction to cycling through Patagonia as we cycled the small dirt route “b” from Ushuaia up to Punta Arenas. Though the first 200km of this route were paved, we quickly encountered strong headwinds which managed to slow us down to 8km/h on the flats for hours and even days at a time before we made it to the 350km of unpaved gravel roads that were to follow with just as much headwind. Though it wasn’t windy everyday, on the days it was we found ourselves pushing hard against a never ceasing barrier, as like everyone has already told us, we are going “the wrong way” through Patagonia in terms of the wind.
Though we started out in the trees, we quickly made our way into a barren sort of flat land with rolling hills which took us through Tierra del Fuego on the back roads. This meant that we were really alone with nature as we didn’t see a single town for six days (meaning we were carrying all of our food for that whole time), and only a handful of cars passed by us daily. What we did encounter a lot of were guanaco, hilarious llama like creatures which are extremely curious and beautiful, and make a crazy call that is somewhere between a loud bird and a horse. We saw herd after herd of these guys everywhere we looked, and they did a great job keeping us entertained as they seemed to love watching us as much as we loved watching them.
Another beautiful thing about cycling on country roads are shepherds or herders, or in this case, two cow boys, eight dogs, and a whole lot of sheep who were making their way back home. It was really neat to see them all at work, especially the dogs who were zipping around like mad trying to keep the sheep on task. We were also woken up one morning by the sound of thousands of sheep baahing next to our tent as another group of cow boys were trying to herd an absolutely enormous group of sheep slowly down the road. Who needs a tv when you have sheep for entertainment!?
This road led us from Argentina into Chile across this very small river.
And then we were in Chile!
Though the first few days were all laughs and smiles (especially as we are still cycling with Mike and Emily, an awesome Oregonian couple from Kevin’s small town), we did encounter a few difficulties, most notably different mechanical breakdowns due to Mike and Emily’s Ecuadorian gear. As they were living in Ecuador before they flew down here to cycle, they had to purchase their tires and racks there, both of which have failed miserably. On the second day Mike’s front rack completely collapsed upon itself and into his tire, and as you can see from the picture, it’s completely destroyed. Though Kevin and I hadn’t previously given too much though to our gear throughout this trip as everything has worked so smoothly, we now fully appreciate our wonderful sturdy set-ups and the people who helped us get them that way.
The other difficulty we encountered was the lack of water as its our first time in a region where that’s an issue. We have spent most of our time in the mountains, where there are always streams and rivers no matter how unpopulated it may be, or on roads which lead to villages at least every once and a while. Here we were no longer in the mountains, nor were we passing villages, and on the last day we actually had to stop and ask a passing truck for water because we simply didn’t have enough with us. Besides that, it was a sort of tough introduction to South America as we had to complete this section in a set amount of days seeing as that’s all the food we had packed with us (and we probably all could have done with a few more snacks!). That being said, we had a lot of fun and now that we are whipped back into shape after our six week break we are more than ready to start heading north after we take a few well deserved rest days filled with incredible heaps of food, movie nights in our tent, and lots of rounds of banana grams.
On our last day before reaching a town (which we desperately needed to reach as we were out of food) we cycled for forty kilometers against the strongest headwinds imaginable, the sort of horrendous conditions which leave you struggling to pedal downhill on your granny gears because the winds are doing absolutely everything to stop you. Thankfully once we made it we ended up spending the night in someone’s backyard, which as a bonus, meant that we all got to shower for the first time in a week. Between the shower, the chocolate cake, and the prospect of a few rest days ahead, we finished Tierra del Fiego in good spirits despite our very stiff legs.