Just got back into Puerto Natales after a 210km cycle up into Torres Del Paine.
I started out early on Wednesday morning, 7am. I was still unsure if I should go as now my whole face has swelled up from the sun and wind. My bottom lip was worst. Just imagine those knarled faces after they come back from topping everest. Well I looked like that.
Despite careful planning and seeking advice at the tourist centre I ended up going the wrong way, but after a minor detour I only lost about 5km. By 10 I had reached Cueva del Milodon. I was feeling bushed, as the road 16km out of Pto Natales turns into Ripio. Ripio is a bit like a gravel road. The way was long and windy. Still I´d stocked up on provisions. My hearty meal of pasta, chorizo and queso (cheese) the night before was doing me good. I´d put some in a spare container and I had brought this with me. I also had three bread baps, three avocaods, two tins of tune, a large tin of pineapple, 350gm of cheese, more chocolate and some dried sugary fruit stuff that I could add to water and make a refreshing fruit, sweet, drink.
La cueva del Milodon was examined
& I was just about to head out when I met a fellow cyclist. Italian. He liked the camioncita, trailer, and wished he´d got one. His was Alu and had been wrecked. His bike also. He was now renting. We discoursed a while before I had to head out. I was feeling bad once more. I was thinking of turning around as the road descended into a long valley. No the road surface is such that you have to go slow downhill for fear of loosing it. You have to go slow uphill because it´s hard work. The fastest is on the flats. Well there were few flat sections! I ate some of my pasta from the evening before. I didn´t feel hungry and had to force it down. After an hour or so I started feeling better. The mountains now surrounded me on all sides with the odd vast lake. I saw more nandus, condors, and even a couple of Caballeros, real Gauchos on horse back tending to the cattle.
I soon realised the distances I´d been given were wrong. I estimated I would just get there before I´d peg out. The road twisted and snaked up hill then downhill. I was juist giving up hope of ever getting to the end when I could see the large delta that I had to cross. The time was now 5:30 pm. I ate more pasta and headed out across the delta. The road was very bumpy, caused by the oscillations of the vehicles which travel along the road. They´re about 18" apart and can be as much as 20cm high. This means slowly navigating them at about 6kmph.
I reached the park entrance at 6:15. I talked to the park guardas. The people tend to open up and talk more when you can speak the lingo. The told me the main track to the campsite would be closed at 7 pm. I had a good 10km to make and wouldn´t do this by then. They offered me to stay by the central administration office. So that´s just where I camped.
I´had the last of my pasta and opened my box of wine. Ohh, maybe that´s why my trailer was so heavy! If I was going to torture myself going into the park, I was going to do it with some comforts. I downed a few mug fulls before dropping off.
I awoke to the sound of rain. That meant two things. 1) I´d get wet. 2) It would be cloudy and spoil the views. I decided I would be staying another night under canvas before heading back into Pto Natales. So I slept in until 8. I packed and set of once more. I had about 18km to do to reach Salta Grande. I´d been there before in ´98, but not this way. I got there by 10 and decided to eat. I downed a litre of fruit juice, bread, avocados and cheese. I photographed the falls before heading back to my bike.
A guy, who sounded like he was from the states, started talking to me. He was a guide and had driven people in from town. He suggested that if I needed help just to wave and he would pick me up if his van was empty. I thanked him for his kind thoughts and decided to head back to civilisation. The sun was coming out now. Crossing the river from Lago Pehoe, an old looking wooden affair I met a guy walking. He was staying in one of those middle of no where hotels. Sounded expensive! He was German and admired my trailer. I sadly had to inform him that it wasn´t of German origin, but had come from the states. He took a photo of it. I showed him my collection of cameras and GPS gadgets. He seemed very happy and impressed, although he only spoke a little spanish and no English. Likewise I couldn´t speak German.
I set off once more and parked up by the administration centre and had a late lunch. My food was going down quickly but I needed the energy if I was going to make it back over the hills. I pressed on leaving the grand peaks of Torres del Paine behind. I passed Guanacos, saw more condor and lots of pretty flowers, birds. You´d have missed these in a tour bus.
I parked up at around 7:30 and ate my remaining food, bar the pineapple, I would have those for breakfast. I slept.
Again I awoke to rain. I guess it rains at night here. I headed out and passed La Cueva del Milodon once more. I fuelled up with chocolate, more sugary energy drink and donned a fleece. It was getting windy again and cold. The air temperature had fallen since yesterday, but that didn´t matter, I was only 30km now from town.
Just as I came in to Pto Natales I saw a group of people on bikes. Several had the Bob Yak and one had the Bob Ibex, like what I had. They had had the same difficulties getting up from Punta Arenas, several nights camping and spending several hours in ditches recovering energy. I knew the feeling only too well. I guess that because there were about 6 of them, they could share carrying cooking equipment, tools, and tents. This is the only downside of dooing it solo.
I made my way back to Maria Jose´s hospedaje. I´ve sent my sleeping bag liner and my clothes off for a wash, well once I caught them! I type this note with great difficulty, as my right hand is virtually numb, from the vibration and persistant breaking down hills. My left hand´s fine!
Day1: 95.3km 1155m altitude climed
Day2: 78.1km 1145m altitude climed
Day3: 46.5km 485m altitude climed.
I think I´m off for a beer to celebrate.