Chile

December 24 : Unexpected stay in Buenos Aires

I woke up at 5:30 but managed to go back to sleep until nearly 9. Then I got up, showered, and went down to the restaurant. I am a whinger I know, but I was disappointed that the water for the tea was lukewarm, as was the coffee. I asked for some hot water but was still waiting when I left. Unlike the two airline pilots who had hot water rushed to them as soon as they sat down. Apart from that the hotel staff were excellent.

After breakfast I went to find out if transport was arranged today to the international airport. Not as far as they were aware, so after discussion with them I booked my own transport at 3pm which they assured me would give me plenty of time to get to the airport,with 2 hours to spare. Off to the cash flow machine to get money to pay for it (equivalent of $100 USD).

I could not believe how warm it was. When I got back to the hotel I changed into a dress and sandals for the first time in weeks. It was nearly 11 am and I was feeling guilty about not taking the opportunity to explore at least some of this city. But I was over being away and decided to catch up on the last few days of the blog. I decided to charge my iPad – unbelievable the plugs here use a different charger than the rest of Argentina that I have been to. The plug for Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia also did not work.  Fantastic I think, I have no phone and now no iPad as well. But thankfully the NZ plug worked.

Luckily I decided not to go touring as at midday the phone in my room rung and the Lan arranged transport had arrived 6 hours before my flight. I had to frantically repack as I had unpacked everything looking for the NZ charger plug. The ride to the airport went smoothly, not a lot of traffic. The hotel staff had said it was much quieter than usual as it is Christmas tomorrow, and lots of people have gone away or already started being on holiday. The international airport is in a totally different part of the city and usually is a bit of a nightmare getting between the two due to traffic.

There are hundreds of apartment buildings, most 20 levels high, stretching for ages after we left the city and got on the motorway. I guess in a city of 15 million there are too many people not to mostly live in apartment buildings. A number of apartment buildings had big grass areas out front.

I got to the airport just before 1pm, two hours before I could check in so I went to find a cafe that I could fit in with my bike box and bag. The airport today (and yesterday) had free wifi but it was pretty overloaded and took forever to send a simple email (up to 3 hours). If you moved a fraction it would log you off! I discovered (what most people know already) that for some reason Facebook messenger was much more likely to actually send and receive messages, so at least I could keep my children updated with progress with the various flights.

I needed to go to the bathroom, but as I had the bike box and bag I couldn’t go and leave them. Thankfully Brett arrived at the airport, so I was able to leave my box and bag with him. Unfortunately they clean a number of women’s toilets at the same time with a different cleaning crew. By the time I found the 4th and it was also being cleaned I was getting pretty desperate and pushed the cleaning trolley out of the way. The cleaning lady was not happy but let me through when I managed to convey to her that if she did not, she would have to clean the floor again!

Brett was flying home to Australia a day behind me, but due to my delay we were now on the same flight from Buenos Aires to Santiago.  At 3pm I was able to check my bag and bike box which made it much easier getting around the airport without lugging both of them around.

The plane to Santiago boarded and left on time. I managed to get a few glimpses of the Andes out the windows of either side. I was in the middle row of seats.

The connection at Santiago was fine, and I got to the boarding gate in plenty of time and the plane took off 😀😄😄😄😄

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Day 162/164: Bush camp to Rio Grande – 123km

400 meters climbing and 400 down

Thankfully when we woke up the wind had dropped, it was no longer raining, and the day was warmer. I put plastic bags over my feet to stop the wet shoes making my feet cold.

Today we had our last border crossing whilst riding. We crossed back out of Chile and into Argentina for the last few days of the trip.

There was wet and muddy gravel for the first 42 kilometres, and my coat, helmet, bike and me got covered in mud.  The gravel was mostly hard packed so managed to ride along quite quickly.

Until the border there was really no wind and then after that was mostly a side wind.

Final border crossing, now into Argentina for the last time!

Final border crossing, now into Argentina for the last time!

There were some climbs, but also some nice down hills. The shoulders were not good for riding on as they were thick gravel so I tried to stay on the road as much as possible. However a few motorists took exception. even when there were no cars coming the other way and tooted angrily at us. Cristiano told us at camp that at least one motorist had rung the local police to complain that “We were riding dangerously”.

I move onto the shoulder/ gravel if there is a truck coming towards me or if I can hear one behind me, but if you stayed on it all the time you would add hours to your day.  One local cyclist riding ahead of me moved onto the gravel when a truck was passing, and then skidded and somersaulted down the grass bank. Thankfully he was not hurt although his bike was bent a bit. He was really strong and was able to bend his forks back, get the handle bars that were twisted untwisted, and kicked the gear shifters back into place, so was able to ride off again.

We camped on the outskirts of town at a camp ground which had two toilets and one shower, but no shelter to sit in but luckily the weather was fine. I was able to get my tent, my gloves and my sleeping bag dry. My shoes are dry from riding today, but I will continue with the plastic bags as they certainly help keep out the wind.

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Day 161/164: Punta Arena to Bush Camp – 109km

802 meters climbing and 817 down. 109 k gravel 😳😳😳😂

Today we had to catch another ferry at 9am. The ferry was over 2 hours long, then we had to ride 112 kilometres, 109 of them on gravel.

Last ferry of the trip

Last ferry of the trip

On the ferry the day started to look very dark and overcast and about 30 minutes before we landed it started to rain. Feeling not at all enthusiastic, I put on all my wet weather gear and warm clothing. When I got off the ferry it was only spitting and then within 5 kilometres the sun came out and it was warm. Spirits lifting I removed a few layers of clothing and rode off.

The next 10 kilometres were pretty good, nice coastal road, and while the gravel was a bit treacherous in places nothing too bad. Then I noticed the ominous clouds above my head, and within another few minutes the rain was bucketing down and it was really windy.

Ominous clouds

Ominous clouds

I nearly got blown off my bike a few times. I also nearly fell off a couple of times as the camber of the road was very slanted and the combination of sloped treacherous gravel and wind was not good.

About an hour before getting to the lunch truck I came across Jo and Nick. Jo was having bike problems and was also feeling over it with all the long days, cold, and gravel. Luckily she managed to get to lunch and Luis and Antonio were able to fix her bike, something  to do with a cable.

I had not closed the ventilation zips on both sides under my arms on my jacket, so got wet inside and got my cellphone soaked. Given the horrid wet windy weather, treacherous gravel, being blown all over the road and being wet and getting cold, I decided my riding day was done and rode in with the lunch truck to camp. The riders not riding in the lunch truck were mainly those who had to maintain their EFI status, and none of them looked cheerful.

The road got really muddy, and also really busy with cars and trucks splashing mud over all the riders. I was pleased not to be out there.

The camp ground was wet, bleak and miserable looking, with no shelter apart from one small awning on the dinner truck. The ground under the awning was already a quagmire. It was still pouring with rain and the choice was to stand shivering under the awning or put up the tent. I decided to put up my tent and the floor of the tent got wet in the process.

My shoes were soaking wet, something to look forward to tomorrow. Thankfully I have more than one pair of clothes and other riding clothes. Three more nights in a tent! Oh yah! Beam me up Scotty! Fingers crossed the weather and the wind will be much kinder tomorrow.

final ferry

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Day 160/164: Rest day in Punta Arenas

The town we stayed in got the power from a generator, so going to sleep you could hear it but at midnight it switched off until 6am.

I enjoyed the restaurant breakfast: toast and lemon meringue pie, plus nice tea bags. I spent most of the morning writing notes to each TDA staff member to go with their gratuity. They don’t get paid a lot for doing this trip and the rider notes suggest $100 USD per person (so 12 for this trip, not counting April and Sharrita that I have already paid). I like to take the time to acknowledge their individual strengths and contributions. It took most of the morning. Then catching up with emails and the blog.

I went for a walk around the wharf in the afternoon.

The waterfront

The waterfront

Wharf in

In Punta Arenas 

Tonight I had a nice salmon and octopus ceviche for an entree, and a pretty average steak for a main.

Only four more riding days until the finish. It’s almost unbelievable that this time next week I will have just finished Christmas Dinner.

We have an early start tomorrow as we have another ferry to catch. About two and a half hours, and then 109 kilometres of gravel of the 120 total kilometres tomorrow.

IMG_6041

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Day 159/164: Villa Tehuelches to Punta Arenas – 100km

Climbing 650 meters and down 800. No gravel again 😀😀

The days and getting longer and the nights are getting shorter. The sun was out by 6 am this morning and I woke up in a warm and sunny tent. A marvellous start to the day.

It had rained during the night, and I was able to get my tent mostly dry before I packed it away.

We are heading into another rest day. Jo, who is the only female who is still EFI, is unwell and hopefully the rest day and today’s lighter ride will enable her to keep going.  Jo never rests on rest days, and when on one hand she could barely eat breakfast and on the other hand started talking about going to visit a penguin colony tomorrow, both Sue and I said, at the same time, we were not even going to discuss such a silly idea with her. I have shared my view with her on a number of occasions that you can not do this ride and be a full on tourist, your body needs rest days to rest. There are many places along the way that I hope to be able to come back and visit.

Today, at the 62km point, Brett reached the milestone of having ridden 50,000 on the TDA 7 Epics. He has done for of the seven epics already, and this is his fifth. The TDA staff made up a congratulations whiteboard and had a beer waiting for him at lunch. It was nice chance occurrence, after having being at sea his whole working life, that the Magallanes Strait is in the background of the photo.

A beer at lunch!

A beer at lunch!

Whiteboard for Brett

Whiteboard for Brett

Brett has done 50,000km with TDA!

Brett has done 50,000km with TDA!

I saw some more Rhea (Nandu) plus some more Flamingo. I was not sure that they were Flamingo as they had shorter necks but they are a different type of Flamingo: Flamenco Chileno.

Flamingos

Flamingos

Today’s ride seemed harder than yesterday, no doubt because of the 20 kilometres of a quite strong head wind, and it took as long to ride even though it was 48 kilometres shorter.

Southern Patagonia

Southern Patagonia

Patagonia farm land

Patagonia farm land

Riding into Punta Arenas we came across wind chimes in the middle of nowhere. Apparently when it’s really windy they whistle.

IMG_6008

Monumento al Viento, wind chimes

I was pleased to get into Punta Arenas and to the hotel. A rest day after only 2 days riding! Bliss, especially after our recent long and hard riding days.

TDA had organized for us all to get together in a nearby bar for cocktails and snacks at 7pm so I went a long to that. Unfortunately it was a sit down event at a huge long table and quite noisy, so I only stayed for a couple of hours. I had dinner at a restaurant down the road. I tried the king crab which was pretty tasteless, and had a fairly average steak, most of which I folded into a paper napkin knowing there was sure to be a hungry dog lurking around nearby.

Editor's caption: Any one who knows Kaye knows this is basically her worst nightmare

Editor’s caption: Any one who knows Kaye knows this is basically her worst nightmare! 

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Day 158/164: Puerto Natales to Villa Tehuelches – 148km

Climbing 1209 meters, and down 1120 meters. No gravel 😀

It’s a measure of how far we have come in fitness that I consider today a really easy days cycling. There was a bit of side wind at times, but no full on head wind and no horrid gravel. We had a few rolling hills but no significant climbs. Lots of lakes and farm land and trees bent in one direction.

windswept

There are a number of really large farms known as stations with either sheep or cattle.

Large cattle and sheep station in Patagonia

Large cattle and sheep station in Patagonia

Today I saw some small birds that look like ostriches, one of the riders Jason told me they are called Rhea. The indigenous people call them Nandu.

The Rhea

The Rhea

We are staying on a corner section in the middle of a town, next to some horse stables that look like they have never had horses in them. The cooking kitchen is set up in one stable, and the dishes and tea and coffee table in another.

horsestables

There is an Internet cafe where we can use the toilet. The cafe is almost 100% untainted by any food. Sue is still unwell and got to camp early today on the dinner truck, and said the Internet cafe was also untainted by Wifi until midday.

TDA paid for us to use to the toilet but did not tell us, and the young guy at the cafe must have been delighted when we kept giving him the 300 pesos to use the toilet.

A bus stop

A bus stop

Editor's note: Photo taken from Sue's Facebook page

At tonight’s camp (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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Day 157/164: Rest Day in Puerto Natales

I enjoyed making breakfast, poached eggs and bacon and toast. I also really enjoyed being able to make a cup of tea any time I wanted to.

It was quite cold out in the morning, so I stayed in the cabana drinking tea, sending emails, and updating my blog.

My bike has been making a click click noise every time I turned the pedal, plus a water bottle holder has broken and my speedo stopped working halfway through the day before yesterday. So off to the bike clinic my bike went at 9 am.

Antonio and Luis spent a long time on it, but the prognosis is “Fingers crossed it will get you to Ushuaia”, then it will need a major overhaul when I get home, the bottom bracket and front hub for a start.

So now when I come up behind people I sound like Tick Tock the crocodile in Peter Pan.

Puerto Natales foreshore

Puerto Natales foreshore

Brett and I went out to a lovely restaurant called Angelicas, and I had either best or second best meal this trip. I am still undecided between the steak in Lima and the lovely rosemary crusted lamb rack I had tonight. Brett had food envy when he tasted mine, as it was way nicer than his lamb chops. To solve the dilemma, when he finished his first meal he ordered the same as I had, for a second serving!

Puerto Natales

Puerto Natales

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Day 156/164: Cerro Castillo to Puerto Natales – 63km

Climbing 372 meters, down 540. Tarmac all day.

There was frost on the tent and it was minus 4 degrees during the night! This is 2 weeks into their summer! The house had three different fire places and when I went inside to use the toilet I did not want to come out again.

Dressing for the Patagonia summer I have all the layers that I had on yesterday. Initially in the morning it was not as cold, as the sun was out and there was not much wind. One of the riders commented on the lack of wind, and then about 5 minutes later it was like a switch was flicked on and it was back in all its glory.

On the way to Puerto Natales (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

On the way to Puerto Natales (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Very tired legs, very pleased we have a rest day tomorrow, and that we only had 63 kilometres today. Thankfully not much climbing, and we had a tail and side wind, no head wind all day. It was colder out on the bike and I was pleased that I was warmly dressed.

Heading into Puerto Natales (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Heading into Puerto Natales (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Gastro is making its way around the group again. Sue had not ridden the past two days and had to be picked up at 12 kilometres today. Fingers crossed I don’t get it again.

On the way into Patalano

On the way into Puerto Natales

On the way into town I stopped to look at some black and white swans, and I was amused to see the cygnets were riding on their parents backs.

Swans with cygnets on their backs

Swans with cygnets on their backs

We are staying in Cabanas (cabins) and we have a separate lounge / kitchen from the bedrooms. I was delighted to see cooking facilities, and headed up to the supermarket to buy ingredients for a cooked breakfast tomorrow.

I went out for dinner tonight with Ray, Sue and Brett, to a restaurant about a 5 minute walk away. They served huge helpings of roast lamb. Sue was not up to eating much, to the delight of a dog sitting hopefully outside who got the left overs.

All decked out for the Patagonia summer

All decked out for the Patagonia “summer”

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Day 155/164: El Cerrito to Cerro Castillo – 119km

Climbing 663 meters, and down 1110

What a day! To start off I nearly had a serious injury falling into a pit in the shed, where TDA had set up breakfast. When I came in the door I was busy concentrating on the table and the line, and never even saw the pit in the floor until I stepped back into it. Luckily I was just shook up and not hurt, but my porridge and cup of tea went everywhere!

We started early today as the direction we had to go was into the head wind all day.

The start of a very bad day! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The start of a very bad day! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

I was on my bike at 7am and didn’t get to the Chile border until 5:45! The first 84 kilometres today was gravel, mostly loose and treacherous, made worse by the wind. Thankfully there was not a lot of traffic on this road.

It was so cold I had on:
2 hats (one that covered half of my face and one a thermal skull cap)
2 pairs of gloves
Long johns top and bottom
Ice breaker singlet
Riding top
Long and short riding pants
Two pairs of socks, and a plastic bag over both feet inside the shoes to try and keep some heat in, and stop the wind and gravel getting in.

The road never ends  (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The road never ends (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

Within 2 kilometres of the gravel I saw a skunk flash across the road, then later I saw what I thought was an armadillo, and talking to one of the riders later it turns out they are here so it most probably was. I also saw some flamingos on a lake.

Highlight of the day: flamingos

Highlight of the day: flamingos

It was bleak and miserable, and took six and a half hours to ride the 84 kilometres to lunch. After lunch we had tarmac and even though it was still a head wind I thought it would be faster, but it turned out that it wasn’t. The average speed for the first 20 kilometres was 8 kilometres an hour.

The traffic was dreadful and you could not hear it behind you, and the wind kept trying to sweep you out onto the road. With 35 kilometres to go I was thinking “I know I can do this, but why is it that I want to?”. Just then Cristiano drove past and I got a lift with him 11 kilometres to the turn off to the Argentina border.

The road to the border crossing was 6 kilometres of gravel, but thankfully it was side wind, not a headwind. It was getting colder and colder even with all the clothing I had on.

At the border checkpoint, this is where we are!  (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

At the border checkpoint, this is where we are! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

After the Argentina border there was another 7 kilometres of gravel to the Chile border. It started to rain and I thought this is going to be a really miserable end to a pretty miserable day, but thankfully then the sun broke through the clouds and the rain stopped.

There was a nice warm cafe at the Chilean border, then only one kilometre to camp.

Border Cafe in Chile

Border Cafe in Chile

We were staying in a local’s backyard. Goodness only knows how Cristiano manages to come up with the places we stay. Cristiano has got a charming nature, and we often see him doing what we call “Smoothing the locals”, and he has them smiling and chatting.

There is no camp ground here, and the next big town is 62 kilometres away, too far to manage on top of today’s ride. Cristiano just arrives in a town, goes into a shop and starts chatting and then says “So do you think there is anyone in town who might like to rent out their backyard for the night to some cyclists?”. I bet he doesn’t mention the number of cyclists initially.

At the place we stayed they had some really cute blood hound puppies. It was really cold over night, minus 4 degrees, and we had frost on our tents.

Blood hound puppies!

Blood hound puppies!

Blood hound Mum and puppy  (Photo credit: Sue's Facebook page)

Blood hound Mum and puppy (Photo credit: Sue’s Facebook page)

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Day 154/164: La Leona to El Cerrito – 136km

Climbing 1645 meters, down 1207.

This morning there was no wind when I woke up, but like a switch had been turned on it arrived full on at just before 8am, when I was leaving.

We went straight into a climb much to my legs disgust. We had a head wind and side wind most of day. My hands were aching from the pressure of clinging onto the handle bars.

Every time there was oncoming traffic I had my hands on the brakes ready for if the wind tried to blow me across the road. With the traffic coming from behind you just had to hope for the best as it was so windy you could not hear it.

The sign is a little redundant! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

The sign is a little redundant! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

We had a 10 kilometre hill to climb, and thankfully that was the one part of the day that we had a bit of a tail wind. After that it was back to a sidewind.

It was really cold, down to 3 degrees. I was worried about what the bush camp would be like and hoping it was not going to be like the infamous lake camp in Peru where we were at 4,300 meters camping and freezing. When I got to the camp it was really cold, but we had the use of a large garage to sit in and drink cups of tea and soup. Plus access to a hot shower.

Having a nap in the cold shed (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Having a nap in the cold shed (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

When the tent was being put up there were a few snow flakes! And this is summer here! Luckily there was a hill that the tents could shelter behind.

It would have been a cold miserable evening without the shed. We did have the option of putting sleeping mats on the garage floor, but the door made a really loud clanging sound every time it was opened, which I decided would drive me to despair, so I chose the tent option instead.

Dinner time! (Photo credit: Jo's Facebook page)

Dinner time! (Photo credit: Jo’s Facebook page)

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