10th till 16th of November.
Nothing for granted.
Taking good health for granted is something we should never do. Until now things have gone smoothly, poco a poco but without major health hick-ups. But maybe Frank has been pushing too much and loosing too much weight as this week would not be as our previous weeks.
After having spent a lovely camp cooked dinner with Kyla and Roel on Saturday evening we had the luxury of sleeping in one of the containers of AGVP at the crossroad between the epic gravel RP7 and asphalt RN40. Breakfast alone with Kyla, as Roel is having a slower start. Saying goodbye to Kyla and our awesome host Damian.
Roel is still not ready when we want to leave at 8:00 so we take off as he anyhow will overtake us. Cold and overcast, clouds leaking a drizzle. Frank is in a “I did’t have enough coffee” mood which does not get better as the weather changes every 30 minutes, making us feel like in a fashion show, taking jackets and trousers on and off all the time. It feels as if we are not moving forward. Roel does catch up with us before we reach the intersection with RP7 where he will take a right turn, biking to Torres Del Paine. Awesome to have seen the Torres from far away during yesterday’s ride!
I am still temped to bike to Torres too, to see it from our bike and not only hike. It would add 150 km to the total and at least 4 more days, with passing through Puerto Natales again. Frank is totally against it and we also don’t mind to continue only with the 2 of us for the last part of our journey. After a last exchange of info of the Torres park with Roel, our roads separate. Promises are made to see each other in Belgium or the Netherlands.
Lazing on a Sunday afternoon.
The road is not remarkable. Just good asphalt and not too steep. Fun part is that the closer we get to Rio Turbio, a town dedicated to making energy from coal, the more families spill out of cars and find a picnic spot next to the river. Really lazy Sunday afternoon.
The coal deposit discovered in 1800 has first been used mid 1940’s and now a new production facility has been started, generating sufficient energy for 600,000 people. Still it is strange that they have built this production plant when you understand from Greenpeace that, if they would have spent the same amount of money, they could have generated twice as much energy with wind mills ensuring less pollution.
Feels like Frank is not moving forward and it is one of the few days during this trip that I need to wait for him when reaching the top of a hill.
When reaching the small working town of Vientiocho de Noviembre, yes founded on the 28th of November 1959, we ask around what would be the best place to stay.
As it would only be for one night and there is a real hotel we can’t resist the luxury of a restaurant and breakfast included. Super nice beds and good shower. Hoping that a good night sleep after a steak will lift Frank’s physics. Next day we call a rest day as Frank seems to have caught a cold.
Coughing and fever force him to stay in bed. More food and sleep will hopefully solve the problem. Long story short. We finally stayed 4 nights in this tiny town (5,300 people) before Frank feels well enough to continue. Again we understand how lucky we have been that we are able to do this with the 2 of us, both in good shape with only a few small issues which you probably would also have had at home. Having a few off days needs always be possible in your planning.
Frank wants to continue. Cross the border to Chile with all the fuss of checking for prohibited items and registering your bike. You are not allowed to take any fruit (also no raisins or nuts!), vegetables (also dried not allowed), meat (also no salami), honey. You are allowed to take factory cheese. They do check your bags; visual and a sniffing dog. As we don’t go to Puerto Natales but take a left turn to Punta Arenas we wonder how long it will take before we find some vegetables and fruit.
We feel the rain in the air and are grateful to find Hotel Rio Rubens after 70 km, beautiful building and friendly people. Warm room when it is pouring outside confirms we made the right choice and are happy again we can choose between roughing it or paying for a shelter when available and needed. And having a private room with private bathroom (hot shower!) including breakfast for less than 40 Euro is OK.
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?
Frank does not yet look his usual young self, but does not want to spend an extra day here. Off we go, helped by a nice side/tailwind.
Dandelions are in full bloom but also have generated already some seeds and parrots eating those let me get closer than 2 meters. You would never see them when passing in a car. Next moment at least 10 condors are soaring over our heads. We admire them in awe. They are so close that a touring car stops a bit behind us in the middle of the road to let the passengers look at these mighty birds. Nobody gets out though…
Pity the road turns to the right and side/headwinds slows us down.
I don’t see the fun in continuing after 60 km especially when we see that a new refugio is unlocked. Seems that would be the only sheltered possibility (besides a bus shelter at another 20 km) and tomorrow morning wind should be less. No objections are made by Frank and that already confirms he is not yet 100% as it is only 15:00 and we normally bike longer.
Shelter from the storm.
This is the first big refugio we see, it seems that there are a few more down south to shelter gauchos and bikers from the brutal Patagonian wind. The refugio is awesome. 1 year old, still clean. 4 beds with clean mattresses (use your own sleeping mattress or sheet and sleeping bag) table and stove. Toilet does not have water so we use the old outhouse from the old refugio.
We clean the place and claim our two beds. When Frank has lit the stove and we are almost ready to cook Vinicius enters. Glad he also can escape from the wind. He is from Brazil but speaks perfect English. Anesthesiologist wanting to escape materialism, on a quest from Colombia going South but longing for his girlfriend whom he met just before he left. Frank already goes too bed while we continue chatting a bit, but call it anyhow an early night. Interesting guy with military background.
Biking on a Specialized bought in Amsterdam. I am allowed to try it out. Racing posture, smaller wheels, less weight let me fly over the plains. He likes my set-up as he says it is more relaxed and you could bike a whole day. Can’t agree more. Racing posture is great for fast kilometers but you get a stiff neck if you want to see something of your surrounding and not only the tarmac. Benefit or disadvantage would be less photo’s! Frank is miles behind, coughing, while Vini and I change bikes and chat along.
After 18 km we arrive at Villa Tehuelches. During the coffee break we discover there is hostal in this tiny village, which was nowhere mentioned and to complete our joy there is also a health center. Saying goodbye to Vini, even if he offers to translate in the health center, we should be able to manage. Waiting in the health center for 30 minutes and then it is already our turn. Frank having 39.8 but blood saturation of 100%, high blood pressure but no other signs make the treatment an antibiotic cocktail shot and antibiotic pills for 7 days in combination with a coughing syrup.
We retreat to the only hostal in this tiny village of 150 people. No kitchen, no WIFI but two beds and a bathroom with heating. Tuck Frank in bed. I try to find some food but there is next to nothing, only a few cans of beans, no fresh vegetables or fruits. Lets see what effect the antibiotics will have on Frank. Hope next week will be better for him.