“Let the dream devour your life so that the life does not devour your dream.”
Two-hundred and thirty kilometers is all we needed to complete before we reached El Chalten, a very small town at the bottom of Fitzroy, and those two-hundred and thirty kilometers would be done along a nicely paved, not so busy, flat and easy road. That is, if the headwinds would let up for a few days, and though we did have one afternoon of peaceful cycling, the rest of the time we struggled hard against our nemesis meaning that those two-hundred and thirty kilometers could have just as easily been a thousand. With the wind literally roaring in our ears, we pedaled hard to maintain an 8-10km/h pace (while I drafted behind Kevin who was literally pedaling as hard as he could) and one afternoon when the winds pushed us down to 5km/h (and then even worse, to us walking instead of riding our bikes) we decided to call it quits. After three days of slowly trudging along we had forty kilometers left to go when, during a break, I signaled down a passing truck who picked us up and saved us another day of misery by speeding us along to the town in under half an hour.
We arrived to El Chalten and found “la Casa de Flores,” an extremely famous “house of cyclists” here in Patagonia where every passing cyclist seems to stay. “Casas de cyclistas” are simply houses (or gardens) which locals have opened up for cyclists to stay for free as they pass through, and there are a handful of them – whose locations are passed on by word-of-mouth from other cyclists – found throughout South America. This particular one has become especially popular as the lady who owns the house is wonderful, and because route seven (or the Carretera Austral) which ends or starts just on the other side of the mountains in Chile has now become one of the most popular cycling roads in the world, with hundreds of short and long term cyclists coming up or down through Patagonia along it every week. We had heard about this house for the last few weeks from cyclists coming the other direction, but I was still astounded to find over twenty-five cyclists already there, with fifteen tents crammed literally pole to pole in her rather small garden. This lady has opened up her garden and house in a way few can imagine doing, as with only one bathroom, and a small kitchen she lets others use, there are always dozens of people in and around her house at every hour of the day and night throughout the summer.
I’m sure it would have been an interesting scene to walk in on: over a dozen tents of all shapes and sizes all smashed together in a garden with various people constantly cooking on their petrol powered stoves wherever there was space, with bicycles of all kinds lining the fence and a whole bunch of dirty people of all ages and nationalities sitting around outside talking about bikes, politics, the wind, and life.
Though it was sort of overwhelming at first, we had a great time hanging out with the various cycle tourists and listening to their stories and route suggestions since many people do South America in the opposite direction of us. There were a few people coming down from Canada and the USA (meaning that they are all within a month of finishing their one to two year long tours in Ushuaia), including one English gal who has been cycling for the last two years with a few different cycling partners for months at a time. There were also a few people coming down from Columbia or Educador, as well as many short term cyclists doing just two or three months down here in Patagonia, including an American couple on their honeymoon. There were a few people going our way as well, including two Americans (cycling with climbing ropes, harnesses, and shoes in order to rock climb as they cycle), an Argentinean, and a French couple all of whom we met a month ago in the bakery of Thulin, another casa de cyclista in Tierra Del Fuego, as well as two Italians we met just a few days ago on the road.
With the Italians in charge, six of us made pizzas for twenty-two of the cyclists (meaning twenty-two pizzas because us cyclista are notorious for eating incredibly amounts) one night for a community dinner which was a whole lot of fun. As we were making them, laughing and fooling around as we watched everyone else in groups of five or six talking animatedly about various different things, it struck me how different it is when you stay at a casa de cyclistas like this rather than at a hostel because, unlike at a hostel where everyone is in their own world absorbed by their iPhones or computers, here everyone is constantly laughing, cooking, and talking together throughout the whole day and most of the night.
After two day of socialization and relaxation, we did the famous hike into the iconic lake and the view of Fitzroy was definitely worth the easy walk in. We definitely enjoyed our stay in El Chalten and the National Park here around Fitzroy more than in Torres del Paines, and we are now excited to cycle and push our bikes around the back side of this peak through a rural boarder crossing and into Chile!
Sorry there has been a bit of a break in posts, but there isn’t much internet down here and when I do occasionally find it, it’s not usually strong enough to upload photos. So to you worried friends and family out there, no news is good news because no news means that we are really enjoying our time on some rural roads weaving between some stunning mountains and rivers, so there is no need to worry about us, we promise to keep in contact when we can!