Day 530 / El Chalten – Esperaza, Argentina / 100 miles (Total 14,545)
Not a good night sleep thanks to my noisy neighbors. I wanted to get a jump-start on the morning, but didn’t get out of bed till 8:30 and out the door by 9:00. Last night, I made a last-minute decision on my up coming route. I was pondering 3 different ideas. One was to take a bus from Calafate to Puerto Natales, which would bring me back over to the west side of Chile. That included an expensive bus ticket and a very chaotic border crossing. The second, was to take my chances and ride the route. This road can be very desolate in spots, some dirt roads, and heading into some stiff headwinds. I have heard from others of a full days ride with only 20 miles to show, or not even getting anywhere. The third option is one that many bikers do not do, and I really don’t know why. I would jump on Route 40 which heads southeast to Rio Gallegos on the eastern side of Argentina. This route is paved and I should get some decent tailwinds with the predominate winds blowing from the north-east. At the last-minute, I decided with the third option. But this means I will not be able to see Marko and Anja one last time. Kinda bummed I will not be able to say goodbye to my German friends.
Right out-of-town the wind was blowing in my face and I wondered to myself if this would be the story to come. I jumped on Route 40 and a hill climb was a head of me. Nothing steep, but I knew it would be around an 1,800 ft climb. Soon as I started the ascent the winds did a 180 and was now at my back. The higher I climbed, the stronger the tailwind pushed me. ¾ up the hill and the ride was effortless. I was averaging 10-12 mph and was loving the Patagonia winds today. Once I made it to the top, I knew it would be a flat ride for the rest of the 170 miles to Rio Gallegos. After the pass I had crosswind coming from my right, with a hint of tailwinds to help the ride.
I was still riding faster than normal with speeds around 18-20 mph, and when the road turned to the west, the ride was full throttle. I ran out of gears with me pushing 30 mph on the flats with no effort. The road twisted from south to west throughout the day making for an interesting ride with a crosswind and tailwind. My plan was to stop in El Cerrito and ask a local business man if I could spend the night, and he usually opens up a building for passing bikers. I made it there by 3 pm and was still fun of energy.
I had to make a decision at this point to stay, or commit to getting to Esperanza. That would be another 40 miles to the small town. What I mean by commit is, I would have to make the 40 miles no matter what. There is absolutely nothing here between towns, and you don’t want to set a tent up in this part of Patagonia. There is no shelter, no trees, no ditches, nothing to get out of the wind. The winds here are so unpredictable. One minute it can be calm, then the winds could reach 80 mph in any direction. Not really keen on having my tent shredded from the winds.
I pushed on after a small lunch and found my groove right away. I was speeding a long with music playing out loud and enjoying the physical push of the day. It was 6:30 by the time I made it to the town and I was ready to get out of the winds. Found a not so cheap hotel, but it was the only thing in town. It was a good feeling putting in a long day. After the last two weeks of riding a rubbish dirt road, I guess I was a little gung-ho to feel a little speed under me. Shower, ate, cleaned some gear and the bed felt great. 10 o’clock came by and I was out cold from the long day