Part Fifty Four: Southern Patagonia

Just south of the tiny hamlet of Bajo Caracoles in central Patagonia there is a 50km stretch of road, that, for want of a better name, we will here call, ‘That-stinking-bastard-piece-of-frickin-crap’ road. It’s paved and runs straight as the proverbial arrow and flat as the equally proverbial pancake in a west-sou-westerly direction.

If you should find yourself on a bicycle and on this road (and not the lovely curly one opposite), on an afternoon when the prevailing wind is doing its thing and raging away from the West, then please ensure that you have come equipped. That means 1 x core made from Diamond and Kryptonite infused Einsteinium, Nobelium and Buffaldium. If not, you are far better off just sitting at home, having a scone with marmalade, some tea and a nice lie down.

Your long suffering (and ever-humble) correspondent spent six hours chugging away into this bastard wind and I am not ashamed to admit that on more than a few occasions I felt the above-constituted core softening a tad.

More Lakes and mountains just off Austral Highway

Late in the afternoon I made the blissful turn sweeping gloriously away to the southeast and could then blast over the next 60km in less than two hours chasing down the startled road-runners until, squawking out a defeated ‘beep-beep’ they opt for jamming their crest-fallen selves through a fence to escape rather than get rounded up by an elated bicyclist.

Road From Hell

Such is an average day riding Patagonia. Distances start to diminish in importance where 1km can take anything between two or 10 minutes depending on the wind.

Me and a guy who seemed willing to listen to drunken Spanglish in Bajo Caracoles, “miles from nowhere”.

Bajo Caracoles had been the venue for the consumption of much cheap red wine just two nights before. My Spanglish becoming oddly fluent as the night progressed.

I now find myself being blown across to the Atlantic coast where I give another prayer to Stribog then turn south for the last couple of day’s ride to Tierra Del Fuego.


Part Fifty Two: The Lakes District

Dear Readers, Know that your long-suffering correspondent is still on the long road heading south and has made it to the charming provincial city of San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia. Nestled on the banks of the Lago de something-or-other this is a heavily touristed resting spot before I head towards the Chilean border to ride some of the Carratera Austral highway in a few days. It’s now about a month before I will be in Ushuaia and I can now feel the end of the journey approaching. Only a couple of thousand kilometres to go between now and then.

North of Bariloche

Small shed was shelter from fierce winds

The country has been just beautiful coming through the Lakes District of Patagonia with clear water streams, lush green fields, forests surrounded by snow peaks and clear skies. The ski-lodge towns have lashings of chocolate shops and over-priced accommodation, which is lovely. The Argentinians continue to make it a pleasure to pedal through this part of the world and thankfully I have hit the much anticipated and dreaded patagonian winds on only a couple of days so far. Grasping for loads of wood right now as I still expect to have some hard days riding in the weeks ahead. I was ever so thankful to the Gods of bicycle touring providence when I saw the little shed photographed as the winds were absolutely howling across the barren slopes and a tent would simply not have held up at all that night.

In front of a water fall north of Lake Something-or-other


Part Fifty One – Into Patagonia

Well it’s certainly an interesting sensation to finally be pedaling through Patagonia. The land is flattening out towards the pampas as I have left the last of the high mountains behind me. Am tempted to think of this as the final leg of the journey but even a cursory glance at the map reveals that there is still quite a way to go before I find myself in Ushuaia (about 3,000km). Still best therefore to keep the minor destinations ‘chunked’ so I don’t get overwhelmed by the distances. A troubling lyric that comes frequently to mind is, ‘the last mile is the hardest mile’ (Smiths).

Yet the country to come will be interesting.  From the city of Zapala, from where I write to you tonight, I will now cruise down through the Lake District of Argentina before crossing back into Chile for a bit of pedaling along the Caraterra Austral and then I cross back into Argentina to continue down towards Tierra Del Fuego. In theory this will take about another five or six weeks.

For some odd reason I decided that it would be a good idea to study early modern literature while I traveled. This was a moment of inspiration that struck, somewhere in Ecuador I think. This now means that I spend a good slice of each day while pedaling through the Argentinian countryside thinking of weird and wonderful new ways to reinterpret the witches in Macbeth. Quite an interesting departure. If all goes according to plan I will qualify for a University of Oxford T-Shirt sometime next year. All very exciting.

Northern Patagonia flat lands

With each day on the road south I am adding to the huge database of fascinating insights and accumulated knowledge from this trip. For example:

– Steven Seagal movies are much better in Spanish

– Never ride through South America with a Rohloff Hub as if they stuff up (eg. a bearing wears out), you are a long way from help. Refer the photo of the bike with its Shimano XT drive train.

– Never attempt to study from distance while you are bicycle traveling. You find yourself in an endless state of worry as to whether you will find a viable internet connection in the towns down the road.

– SPAM and other related meat products are just not very good and over consumption can make you feel quite ill. (definitely not the quality of the Buffy Burger)

– It takes about a year on the road to perfect your camp pasta and sauce. Mine is now verging on the edible.

– The average touring cyclist swerves around approximately 100 cow, horse, yak, llama or bear turds on the side of the road every day. That means that on this trip I have swerved around about 30,000 turds.

New Shimano XT drive