The bikes were put back together. We bought some groceries and got ourselves mentally prepared for the infamous Patagonia wind. The weather was beautiful in Punta Arenas: sunny and warm, although the wind would hit us occasionally as we turned a corner, reminding us that this is not necessarily an easy place to cycle.
The road out of Punta Arenas was a little busy but an hour down the road the traffic died down and the landscape opened up. The wind was not too bad but blew steadily from the west as we headed north, still a little dazed from travelling but happy to back on the bikes after two weeks of not cycling. It’s strange how our bodies crave the repetitive motion of the bicycle.
We had some information from other cyclists about where to get water and find possible places to camp. There are not many towns along this road. We ended up in Villa Tehuelches, a tiny town with a very basic store where we got some water. One of the locals told us we could camp by the rodeo arena, which we did. Not the greatest camp site but it did the trick. We were tired from the 104 KM ride on our first day so we crashed early.
The weather continued to be brilliant: sunny and warm but the wind really picked up the next day. We rode from Villa Teheulches to Morro Chico where there is a police station. We had lunch there and stocked up on water at the station. The wind was now blowing at a steady 45 KM per hour from the west with the occasional gust up to 60+. The road to Puerto Natales turns due west from Morro Chico.
Head wind! Unrelenting, soul-sucking head wind. It took us four hours to go 36 KM from Morro Chico to Rio Rubens. When we arrived, we were completely spent. Not enough food and the constant pounding into the wind had taken quite a toll on us, especially since we had done a long ride the day before, and not cycled the two previous weeks.
We went into the hotel and had a big dinner for Valentine’s Day. Jan had salmon with fries and I had a steak with fried onions, fries and fried eggs on top (I know. But it’s a thing here, and quite delicious) All washed down with a couple of Polar Imperial beers.
We inquired about camping at the hotel but it was a fair bit of money and no shower so we filled up on water and rode a few kilometres out of town and camped off the road behind a hill along a fence. Not the prettiest camp but we were so tired that it didn’t really matter. It was just a place to sleep and rest our tired bodies.
We awoke to another crystal clear, sunny morning and… and no wind! The first hour we cycled 25 kilometres. It was brilliant. We arrived in Puerto Natales just after lunch time and found a place to camp at one of the hostels in town where me met a lot of other travellers.
Puerto Natales is the jumping-off point for Torres del Paine National Park, the reason everyone is here, including us. We spent a great evening eating and drinking with our camp neighbours swapping stories and planning. All of them have been travelling for some time. Some of them by bike and others hitchhiking or using public transport. But we all have one thing in common: our love of adventure.
We have spent today stocking up on food and getting ready for a week-long hike in Torres del Paine. The weather forecast is good but down here it can be sunny and calm one moment, only to blow a gale with driving rain the next. We will see what Patagonia has in store for us.