Never before have I felt winds like this. The route from Tolhuin to the border with Chile was almost straight North and the winds blew almost straight South leaving me with little option but to battle headwinds all the way to the border. Cycling into a headwind is the most frustrating cycling since there is nothing you can do but fight on as the wind stops you from making any forward momentum. Patagonia is known for strong winds and I have not encountered any like this since I cycled through the Hami Hurricane in China! My average speed dropped to around 7-8km/hour and if I stopped pedalling I would stop still even when going downhill. Uphill was a push only! It was taking me almost 8 hours of cycling to reach 40-50km and all the time I was seeing South bound cyclists flying past me with a knowing smile and wave!
On my first night out of Tolhuin I decided to pitch my tent by the sea, thinking that the wind would die down in the evening as it used to in Australia. Little did I know that Patagonia winds do not stop at all and I couldn’t sleep as my tent flapped around all night! Lesson one. Put up your tent where there is shelter!
Pushing on through the wind I made steady if slow progress with the key being long hours in the saddle and any worries about me losing my fitness whilst I worked in New Zealand soon disappeared. It is amazing that the body can take six months of any real exercise and then when asked can jump straight back into long days of cycling, without really missing a beat. Luckily for me!
I was soon approaching the border of Argentina and Chile and about to cross into my second South American country when the wind stopped along with the paved road. This was my first experience of ripio (unpaved roads) and as I bounced along the corrogated road I had a massive smile on my face as with my hidden cheese I was about to cross into Chile :) Border crossing beer time….
Unfortunately there was nowhere to have a beer for the next 150km since the border town acts only as border with no shops or restaurants it meant I had to save my celebrations for the town of Punta Arenas which was 150km and 2 hour ferry ride away. Long distances between towns are very common in Patagonia and this region is even more remote than Australia since in Australia you had a camping spot or petrol station about every 100km. In Chile you must ensure you have enough food to keep you going for about five days as if the wind hits you will make very slow progress. Water however is not much of a problem with glacial streams crossing the roads along with large farms and police stations where you can get water.
The road to Punta Arenas went due West and just I awoke from my night in an abandoned barn the winds also moved due east meaning I was back pedalling into a headwind. I think something was trying to send me back to New Zealand. With my head down I decided to press on and cycle and push as much as I could. With being so far South the sun would not set until 9:30pm so I decided to use all of the daylight available to get me to civilization as quickly as possible. At the half way point of the road there is a small hut covered in graffiti and it was here where the wind was at its worst. I took shelter for a few hours whilst chatting to two French cyclists going south before deciding to jump into my bike and head back into the winds. This was the hardest of all the cycling. Ever. I had to often get off and push even when on the flat ground I must have been blown off the road about 15 times. I was knackered. But with no shelter being available in any direction but backwards I press on and as I'm pushing my bike over this big hill two police officers stop me and ask me what I'm up to! I tell them I'm going to the ferry port which is about 80km away and they laugh and tell me they will take me. It is too dangerous they tell me in Spanish and I tell them I am gringo loco-meaning crazy white man! (thank you Eddie Guerrero for my Spanish)
The police insist and soon my bike is straped to the back of their pick up and I am sat in the police car with two officers both called Marcus! Both Marcus's are sporting aviator sunglasses and neat haircuts and look like they have both come straight out of Hollywood. One of the Marcus’s even turns around mid journey to let me know he is a sex machine-his words!!!
As we arrive at the ferry port I wave both Marcus’s goodbye and they tell me that the ferry will leave tomorrow afternoon so I find a sheltered spot to sleep only to find the ferry port also acts as a fishing port so all the fisherman and their friends are up and working around 3am so I didn’t get any sleep but was glad to be enroute to the town where I could find a campsite and grab a beer :)
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.