Dienstag, 2. März 2010

English Summary No. 2

Hi Mike and all other English speaking people, here comes the promised next English summary, I hope I can remember everything correctly.

We left Puerto Natales in direction of the Torres del Paine National Park, our bikes loaded with provisions for nine days. Whoever has been to this Park knows how steep the roads there are, it's mad. But, for the first time during this trip we had tailwind and got virtually blown up the hills. Thank God, otherwise I would still be there pushing my bicycle uphill. The next day we hardly moved out of the tent for it was pouring down all day. After that we were more lucky and did two overnight hikes which we quite enjoyed despite of the snow we got one morning.

We spent seven days in the park, ran nearly out of food and had to make it to Cerro Castillo to stock up. The road there was mostly slightly downhill and, unbelievebly, we had tailwind again! The "supermarket" in Cerro Castillo was very small but they had empanadas and we were hungry. The only problem, my stomach didn't appreciate six fried empanadas and I was sick all night. I'll never eat fried empanadas againg, I swear.

On the way to El Calafate we took the "short cut" on Ruta 40, which is one of the lousiest roads we have seen so far. Basically it is like a flatend out river bed. I still felt miserable and all the big stones, holes and ripios did their best to make me feel even worse. We camped on a windy sheep pasture and that night got snow for the second time. Which is to say it really was very cold there! Another wild camp later we arrived in El Calafate and slept in real beds for the first time since we left Ushuaia. We took a bus to the Perito Moreno Glacier and spent half a day watching impressive ice blocks crush into Lago Argentino. That was expensive but well worth the price.

I didn't look forward to the road to El Chaltén, which is told to be extremely windy. The early morning of the first day was relatively ok, the second was ok too, until about 10 o'clock when we turned into Ruta Provincial 23, the road to El Chaltén. After one hour and hardly 6 km I refused to go any further, not against that wind. Fortunately, we found a halfway sheltered spot where we pitched our tent and spent the day and half the night. The wind is suposed to be much less strong by night, so we got up at 2 am and rode until 8 am. After this successful nightshift we tried to cover the remaining 40 km the next night. However, this night the wind was as strong as during the day and after half an hour pushing our bikes through the night - we made not even 2 km - we returned to our dell and went back into our sleeping bags. Later that morning we hitched a ride to El Chaltén.

Interesstingly, this part of Parque Nactional Los Glaciares is free. In the morning, we were surprised by Mount Fity Roy and a a brilliant blue sky with no wind. We did a few easy day walks and one overnight hike to Laguna Torre. There we got up to see the sunrise on Cerro Torre and were rewarded with the most stunning scenery one could imagine. The mountain looked like it was on fire. Awesome! We were incredibly lucky with the weather there anyway. We spent five days in and around El Chaltén, four and a half of which were sunny.

On another bright day we cycled on a very bad road to Lago del Desierto. The landscape there is beautiful, all green and lush. This felt so good after weeks in the dry pampa where all you could see was brown grass and some grey bushes. The lake itself fits its surroundings, the only dawback is the quite expensive ferry. On the ferry and on the campground on the other side we met many oder cyclists coming from and going to Chile.

Luckily we could organise a guy with a horse to carry all our luggage over the pass. Some people did it themselves but I'm happy we didn't try. The path on the Argentinian side is a steep and narrow hiking path, the "road" on the Chilian side is partly so bad that it was hardly possible to ride our bikes down to Lago O'Higgins.

It rained all next day, so six cyclists and six hikers were cramped into a little shed at the port, all waiting for the ferry. In El Chaltén we were told that it goes at 4 pm. Apparently, on their website it says 5 pm. We were all happy when it came into sight shortly after 7 pm. The problem was that it was nearly 10.30 pm when we arrived on the other side, so all the cyclists camped in the parking lot of the port.

After a day in Villa O'Higgigs, where we acutally managed to find everything we needed to make it to Cochane, we started out on the Carretera Austral. That road is very hilly, leading through rain forests, steep valleys and it passes bright blue rivers and lakes. The landscape is often so beautiful it's hard to believe you're really there in the middle of everything. That sounds like paradise, but if you are cycling on that road, it's not. The hills are often so steep I had to push my bike, which didn't make it much easier because my feet would slide in the sand and gravel. When a car wanted to pass we often had to pull over into deep gravel to give it enough space and then dig ourselves out and get going again. It's very hard to ride a bicycle here!

On some days we had company on the road. An Australian guy travelled with us for a few days, than he took off again, sometimes waiting for us again. We also met many other cyclists which always was a reason to take a break and talk. We also had other company. After sleeping in a very nice campground we were followed by two little puppies for at lease 15 km. We finally shook them off, but we felt bad for it and we don't know whether they ever found their way home. After Puerto Bertrand we had another dog following us for three days until she lost us on a long downhill ride because she couldn'd run as fast as we went.

Now we're in Coihayque and can't believe how lucky we have been with the weather so far. Since Villa O'Higgins we've had sunshine, and that in a area which is well known for it's heavy rainfalls. Let's hope that keeps up for a while, we'll start out for Bariloche tomorrow.

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