17th till 23rd of November 2019.
Being in a rhythm of looking what the goals would be for the next days, where we would have possibilities to camp or sheltered sleep. Being in a rhythm of breakfast, pack, bike, cookie break, bike, lunch break, bike, cookie break and evaluate the reach-ability of what has been planned, bike and find place to sleep. Cook or buy food and cook. Being in a rhythm of max one resting day per week is an easy way of living.
Easy, not complicated but challenging enough. Every day new impressions, every day new challenges but basic challenges, every day so full there is almost no other time to think except about the basics. The past weeks has changed this rhythm. The closure of the pass between O’Higgins and El Chalten made us take the 40+ hour ferry from Caleta Tortel. The awesome hiking in Torres Del Paine, El Chalten en El Calafate, the forced resting days because Frank is having a severe cough. And now this Sunday again a forced resting day in the tiny Villa Tehuelches. Frank sleeping and resting, staying inside. I notice I get into a state of lethargy. Get up early but retreat to bed and sleep more than I ever did during this trip. A lethargy which creates spiderwebs in my head. Working a bit on the computer but not the best inspiration and no WIFI to really work on our website. Wandering around the 4 streets but not finding any photo inspiration. Having a coffee at the bus stop where there is WIFI available but wondering about the urge to scroll through Instagram and Facebook.
Brief bus stop.
Watching touring cars and buses spill out their different loads of people. This little stop offers empanadas and pre-packed salads, everything is wheeled in from Puenta Arenas to offer tourist their familiar coffees and snacks but the rest of the village does not have a supermarket or fresh vegetables. People getting off here don’t understand how remote these people live, since they are in and out in 20 minutes.
Time to move on.
On Monday Frank wants to continue as he feels better. No more fever, only still a cough but we decide to take it slow and will take a rest in Puenta Arenas. He doesn’t want to hear of taking a bus, wants to continue biking. As the Route National 9 becomes more busy we are happy there is a gravel alternative Y-460.
Every 20 kilometers there is a shelter, not as fancy as the one we stayed in last week but at least we know we hopefully don’t need to camp outside or at least will be able to cook and wait until it is dark inside.
The road is a bit busier than expected, with at least 10 trucks during the whole day but gravel means people drive slower than on asphalt and it is one surface so you just share the road. For trucks we stop to let them pass as the road is not super wide.
Sometimes you still find shelter and coffee where you do not expect it. The municipality, a cluster of building for the region, next to a small harbor, suddenly appears in the middle of nowhere, we get a coffee and there is even drinking water.
Come on up to the house.
After 60 kilometers we find a shelter at a beautiful spot. It was a good day and an other 20km would mean reaching the RN9 again, more traffic, more people and maybe no shelter. Sturdy building, two benches wide enough to sleep on. Windows overlooking the valley. A table. Shelter for the rain and wind, but the stove has disappeared.
Eat the menu.
My famous cooking skills left me for the second time during this whole trip, the meal turns out a disaster. We munch down a bit of the pasta but I managed to make the most inedible dish ever, even burned it completely. It is so disgusting we throw it in the pit toilet. Neither is hungry enough to make the effort of cooking something else, burned calories being replaced by chocolate. Wondering if an other cyclist will show up but happy we have the place for ourselves. Morning is better with oatmeal with raisins and walnuts (luckily found those in the small village, but no vegetables or fruit) .
Last 20 kilometers are liberating, our Travelmaster 3+ doing what he loves most (or is it a she?).
And then we join the RN9. Awful.
Bad traffic. No longer used to soo much traffic. At one moment it becomes even a 4 lane road. Space enough but hate the noise and on top of that there is a fierce wind yelling in my ears. We can’t resist to stop and chat with Jo from the UK. Just a week on the road and heading North. Solo female biker. Whauw, must be so different to do this on your own.
Totally weary we stop at a real fancy gasoline station at the beginning of Punta Arenas. With a real counter, rows of junk food, coffee and stressed people on the move.
But there is WIFI, luxury of checking where there are possibilities to stay for a few days. Frank is still not 100% and the next stretch will be with a lot of camping, so he better be his young self again before doing that. The town is much bigger than expected, a real harbor town, sitting on a slope. Cabins we find on google are full. First hostal is way too expensive, next one too crappy but happy that Don Max from the fruteria direct us in the right way.
Hotel Hain, owned by senorita Lily, can’t be wrong can it? Warm lady offers us a good deal. And we finally stay 3 nights. Gives me time to catch-up with our web-site adding to our gear-list, finalizing the bike-page, working on the blog.
Pictures of you.
Fun to discover that one of Frank’s photos of the GDMBR route was part of the Adventure Cyclist Association’s press release of the 400 extra miles extension of the route. Even more fun is that bikepacking.com used this photo to bring the news to their community. And guess which photo we printed on a very large format during our winter stop, to put on the wall in our apartment?
Being in a bigger city gives more food opportunities. We have a great shared kitchen but for a good steak we do visit a lovely restaurant.
One day we try to discover the town. Strange ghost-like feeling when in the center of town a lot of corporate buildings have their windows protected. Windows are shattered where they have not been protected against the violent protests of the last weeks. A country still in turmoil. The two museums we want to visit are closed for maintenance(?)
In the future.
Finding a lovely place at the beach with perfect coffee and drawing paper. Let our minds wander and talk about the future ahead. How will it be being back home? How will it be to really live in Belgium? As I moved to the Netherlands 30 years ago, we decided that it is now time to spend more time closer to my family. Making plans but future still being unclear.
Ship of dreams.
Punt Arenas has 3 real size ship replicas just outside of town. One ship from 16th century which discovered the first passage with captain Hernando Magallanes. The Beagle from the 19th century, sailed by Robert FitzRoy who mapped most of the area and had Darwin as a passenger. Impressed by the marks those men have left for mankind. Finding a way to cross to the other side of the world! Impressed how FitzRoys barometer and weather prediction has saved so many lives. Impressed by the story of Shacklton who stranded but managed to save his team after a hell of a time in arctic ice.
On Friday we decide it is time to move ahead. We take it slow and bike to the afternoon ferry which takes us together with 4 other bikers to Tierra Del Fuego, the last stretch.
Did you know it was named by Darwin as he saw fires licking the island, which were canoes with indigenous people who had fires in their canoes to keep them warm. Saturday is spend visiting the protected site with ancient estromatolitos sediments. Seems to be only visible at a few sites in the world.
In the tiny museum of Porvenir we learn how white man, for his benefit, also wiped out all indigenous people here. All in less than 50 years, by disease and guns. Seems that there are no 100% full blooded indigenous people living anymore.
On Sunday we are ready for our final stretch. Hope the winds will be with us! They say prevailing winds are south, will this be the case?