After being stuck in Villa O`Higgins for four days (too windy for the ferry to run) we finally got the thumbs up from the boat captain that it was time to leave. Early morning, out to the port, and we see for the first time why the captain was so worried about the wind. The regular ferry that holds 60 passengers and looks like a small cruise ship is broken, and our ferry was basically a canoe.
The ferry ride was stimulating, big waves, small boat. When we reached the other side we were greeted by a crowd of people who had been stranded like us only there was nothing where they were. 3 uniformed Army dudes were reading out a list and keeping the peace, 16 lucky souls were granted leave from their desperation.
We leap frogged a French couple for the 20kms to the next ferry. It`s always nice to see others suffering with you. 20kms is not that far to ride, but to push... The first 10-15kms was mostly rideable, and super scenic. Unfortunately on two seperate occassions, cyclists heading in the opposite direction stopped to ensure we knew we were in for a battle, thanks?
And that`s when the fun began, 6 kms of real single track, or horse track if you`re a lazy backpacker with dollars to spare. It was just like riding easy trails at home, only we were on fatty fat super fat touring bikes, which simply made things more interesting. A number of times one of my front panniers would snag something and pull the bars out of my hands and allow me to gracefully sail over my bars. The mud was up to Andrea`s knees at one point, that was fun.
Down at the Argentinian border with Mt. Fitzroy in the background I knew my plans to catch the next ferry would have to wait until the next morning. Free camping with a clear view of Fitzroy, that was nice.
Our friends Mark and Salka caught us the next morning (they`ve been chasing us for weeks) and we all caught the ferry across Lago Desierto. A short windy ride brought us to the tourist mecca of El Chalten where you can watch all of the latest outdoor fashion walk by. We ended up camping behind a hostel and I spent most of my time outside of the tent worrying about the tent flying away, it was our first real taste of the wind down here.
Riding due East out of Chalten was a treat, 30 kms an hour with very little effort, why don`t we do that more often? And then we turned South and our beautiful tailwind turned into a not so nice cross wind. That`s what hitch hiking is for. But we kept our thumbs to ourselves and chased a strong German because if he can suffer why can`t we?
Three days later and we were in the even bigger tourist mecca of El Calafate, made popular by the most amazing supermarket in South America - La Anonima - and a huge glacier named Perito Moreno.
I forgot to mention that our route to El Calafate took us straight into the wind, it was ugly, but riding out of that town was incredible, the wind was absolutely pumping. We ended our day by sailing up a 600m hill and finding nowhere to hide... so we set up our tent next to a mound of dirt and proceeded to watch the top of the tent continuosly get blown to the ground, yikes. Better take that down. Thumbs out, five minutes later and we`re lounging in the back of a van headed for Rio Gallegos, we weren`t planning on going there so we jumped out in Esperanza and camped behind the poilce station, safe.
The following morning we rode West directly into the wind, covering a total distance of 10 kms, seriously, it was bad. Thumbs out, two hours later and no ride, back to town where the gas station has wifi and cheap coffee. Mentally regroup and decide to ride Southeast towards Rio Gallegos, that lasted at least ten minutes before Andrea got blown off her bike, back to town. Someone mentioned a bus to Rio Gallegos at 5 pm and they`ll deifintely take bikes, oh good. 5:00pm, no bus, 5:15pm no bus, 5:30pm is that our bus? The driver of a Sprinter van waves at us and pulls off in the opposite direction, we`re not excatly sure what his wave meant but his passengers were getting out and no one was paying us any attention. Ten minutes pass and the driver gives us a very clear two arm wave to come over, happy days. We didn`t even ask how much it would cost, it didn`t matter.
Turns out the driver and his family were using his work van for a road trip and were on their way home. We spend too much time trash talking Argentina because of aggressive drivers and bad weather but hitch hiking offers up the sweetest people we`ve met. And just like that, we were in Rio Gallegos, where we never planned to be.
And our last hitch hiking story, my favourite. Leaving Rio Gallegos the wind was bad, the rain was bad, and everything else was generally bad. No thumbs out, and we get offered a ride, excellent. two minutes later and we were trying to figure out how we could get out of the truck, drunk driver... He got out to pee, we hesitate, he got out to pee ten minutes later and I was outside the truck, when he came back around I asked if I could drive using bad Spanish and worse hand signals, and then I drove to the Chilean border where we happily got out and the drunk retook the wheel with his wife by his side. What a douche. Andrea reported him to the Argentinian police but they were too bus drinking mate tea.
We slept in a small storage shack behind one of the border buildings and made an early escape the next morning trying to beat the wind. You can't beat the wind... But we made it to the ferry which would take us to Tierra Del Fuego and we were both happy about that.
Author - Nyle (last blog post I have to write!)