So, after a wonderful say at Casa Lili’s, in Puerto Natales, armed with a new gas stove and provisioned up I had to say farewell. After the crazy winds coming up Ruta 9 to Pto Natales I decided to head straight for Cerro Castillo, saving a day on the itinerary. It was raining, so I wouldn’t see much of Los Torres, the winds had worried me for the schedule and I preferred to make the ferry in mid December to O’Higgins, which I just could if I was one day ahead of schedule, else loose four days. I set out, bike loaded up with water, plenty of food. I missed the opportunity to pickup some Parmesan cheese for my pasta, especially annoyed as there was a free bag for the picking in the hostel.
After 60+ km I reached the frontera. I saw another bike, CH plates. He was engrossed in a plate of lomo alo pobre with papas fritas, he must have suffered but he now seemed to be in 7th heaven! I bid farewell to Chile & made it the 7 km or so up a ripio road to Argentina. Ahead of me in the queue was an Australian guy having problems getting in, seems like he hadn’t printed out his receipt for the reciprocity charge; He was stuck in no man’s land between Chile & Argentina. I made another 4 to 5 km and reached the main Ruta 40, Argentina’s superhighway from North to South on the western flank. I knuckled down & set off hoping to reach Aike Gas station from where I’d turn left to head for Calafate.
I met Grys (something like that), who was cycling southbound & he warned me off the route. 2nd cyclist to do so. “It’s unrideable” he said, “Bad ripio”.
So I had a dilemma, to listen to the Arthur & Grys, or just go for it. If I took the long route I’d be adding a cool 80+ km on and wiping out any advantage I’ve just made, or take the route and perhaps suffer to regret the decision. At the junction I turned on to the unrideable road. After about 5 km I met Manuel, “from Spain”, he told me, although I wondered if he was from Barcelona. “You’ll have to walk sections, it’s quite lumpy with big rocks.” Well we’d find out!
I camped after making 132 km for the day, nearly 8 pm, as I had wanted to get as much distance as possible, shortening the 70 km section, now by another 18 km. Just 50+ km more to do in the morning before proper asphalt again. It had been lumpy so far. Fired up the stove & had my first pasta dish, Tuna in Tomato sauce, without the cheese. 😦 I’m regretting the cheese.
I had to force myself out of bed the next morning, after the distance the previous day I wasn’t for it. Still I was off by 7:30 and it wasn’t long before I hit the rough stuff. By 9 I met Tim & Mikayla both from Switzerland. How so, wasn’t this the unrideable road? They both agreed that the road wasn’t easy but it was no different to other tricky routes. Maybe the rumour came about by those starting in Ushuaia not having experienced bad ripio, and attributed the state to impassable without hours of pushing. They themselves had started at an ungodly hour of 4:30, worrying about the rumours! I certainly have experienced far worse for much longer durations, so I was eventually glad when I finished the 70 km long section, and it was only around 1 pm, without much ado. I forgot to mention, with only 7 km left on the route a car pulled over & asked if the road was like this all the way, hoping I’d say yes, or maybe gets better. I said “No it gets worse!” They weren’t best pleased, but then they were on the easy stuff. “Hey look, I made it haven’t I, you’ll be fine” I said. I wonder how they got on.
Still exhausted I had to eat biscuits and swill some precious coke down, I pushed on & passed two more sets of cyclists, ??? & Raul, and then Lucile & Tim. Lucile & Tim having started in Santiago were heading South. I advised that the route was rideable. With around 55 km left to go in to Calafate I rounded a bend & beheld the vista of the Calafate valley, with a good 600 m descent ahead. I went 5 km on, and halfway on the descent found a nice-ish spot to camp. Wasn’t ideal again, but it had a nice vista.
I reckon I now have around 50km in to Calafate, arriving the 5th, putting me two days ahead and making the O’Higgins Ferry on the 10th a possibility, hoping this will save me four to five days on the overall schedule, given ferry timetables, which I will gladly use on the Caraterra Austral, as rest days and visiting Tortel.
Post Edit: I made the 54 km to Calafate, even after a grilling by the city’s border patrol quizzing me on every aspect. Hell it’s a good job I’m ok with Spanish, albeit I can’t understand the Spanish Spanish, it’s all Dutch to me. Thus after a quick reck’y of town I opted for the camping. Great spot, cheap and avoids being cooped up. Bought more provisions & looking forward to the all you can eat Parrilla. I’m quite pekish…..
I thought once a washing machine was finished, it was finished, but not so here.