Sunday, 15 December 2013

14/12/2013 Stage79 Forest wild camp – Ushuaia

2013-12-15 click for more photo's
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
14/12/2013 Stage79 Forest wild camp – Ushuaia
We woke up with ice on the tent but there was some early morning sunshine. It is nearly the longest day here and their summer. It seems an inhospitable climate to me, the noise of the cold wind which blows off the ice fields nearly all the time would drive me insane. For three months of the year everything is covered in snow and ice. We learned that the government tries to encourage people to come and live down here by offering much higher wages and no taxes. I don't think I would be tempted.
It was strange to realise that this would be our final day on the bikes. We only had less then 50 km to go so there was no rush. This last stretch had some proper climbs in it which we haven't had for ages. There were some snow capped mountains as well so that made us happy. The road was quite busy though but a lot of drivers gave us the thumbs up which is always nice. We were very lucky because there wasn't much wind and we rolled into Ushuaia by lunch time after just over 4 months on the road and nearly 8000 kms on the clock. I didn't even have one puncture!
It has been an amazing journey and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to undertake it. The memories will stay with me for a long time to come.

The bad
  • losing one wallet in a snack bar
  • losing one wallet from trouser pocket
  • losing £300 in cash
  • losing 3 debit cards
  • losing a pair of Goretex overtrousers
  • losing an expensive Rab fleece
  • losing a woollen hat
  • breaking one camera in Cusco
  • breaking the second camera with dust, insect repellent and flooding
  • breaking an iphone
  • breaking a Samsung Note phone [ subsequently repaired for £60]
  • breaking a Kindle e-reader
  • cracking the last debit card [ kept for safety in a shoe in case of mugging ]
The good
As you can tell from the above nothing bad happened really. We weren't robbed we weren't threatened we just lost and broke some stuff and we are both in excellent health the most important thing of all.
  • The bikes have been amazing. No maintenance what so ever. They just kept on going. Malc had punctures on one day. I had none! Hard to believe considering some of the roads we cycled on. The ceramic rims show no sign of wear and the brake blocks are similarly preserved. The Rohloff hubs have been faultless
  • No saddle sores.
  • We have had rain whilst cycling on less than a handful of days and months of sunshine
  • The wind has been kind to us overall
  • The incredible breath takingly beautiful scenery we have seen along the way and how good that made us feel. No amount of photo's can do justice to that but it will be in our memories for ever.
  • And most of all the privilege of meeting kind and wonderful people in such a diverse and fascinating continent.


13/12/2013 Stage 78 Tolhuin to forest wild camp

2013-12-12 click for more
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
13/12/2013 Stage 78 Tolhuin to forest wild camp

2013-12-13 click for more
Yesterday had been spent walking around the lake which almost turned into an epic long distance hike when we got lost taking the short cut!
The ride today was going to be a short one of only 50 kms through the pass of the last mountain range before Ushaia. Pablo who owned the cabin had forewarned us of the predicted 60 kph headwinds and rain in the afternoon. Grim. The reality was much better with a moderate headwind which eased and became a tailwind up the final climb although it did drizzle slightly in the afternoon.
The scenery was once again spectacular with great views over lakes Fagnano and Escondida and a gentle but persistant climb to the snowline through the pass.
Just before finishing the day we met Petter a Swedish cyclist who was on day one of his trip to Quito where we had begun. He was brimming with enthusiasm and we spent a long time passing on what we hoped would be useful information and let him have our map which at this stage was of no use to us. It will be interesting to read his blog as he does our route in reverse.
We managed to find a flat spot in the trees at the side of the road surrounded on all sides by snowy mountain tops and lay in our tent with the flaps open just enjoying the views. A fab' last night of camping.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

11/12/2013 Stage 77 Rio Grande to Tolhuin

2013-12-11 click for more 
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
11/12/2013 Stage 77 Rio Grande to Tolhuin

Leaving Rio Grande we immediately struggled with a strong headwind and made slow progress initially. An ominous start as the wind usually strengthens later in the day and it was already strong. After 10 kms the route headed in a more Southerly direction and the wind was now on our back. Yippee and more yippee because the sun came out and we changed into shorts and t shirts. We hadn't expected this warmth any more and coupled with good views it made for a wonderful day on the bike again.
The first 50 kms were flat and followed the coast but eventually we headed more inland and started to climb again. We were now entering a predominantly forested area with views to the South of the final snow capped mountains we still had to cross to reach Ushaia.
With 108kms planned we'd both worried that this could be a day where we might have to camp halfway if the wind stopped us but it turned out to be another really enjoyable day and we got into Tolhuin fairly early at 3 pm. Maybe the more we worry the easier it will be?
Our hotel in Rio Grande was a bit of a dive and expensive so it was wonderful to find a perfect cabana in the trees. We still have a few days in hand and only 100 kms to do [ we could walk it] and as it's so nice here we'll take a day off to explore the lakeside walks.
our home for the next two nights

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

10/12/2013 Stage 76 San Sebastian - Rio Grande

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10/12/2013 Stage 76 San Sebastian - Rio Grande
We use my Dutch nationality and keep quiet about Malc being English!
Only 80 kms today which would be fairly flat, on tarmac all the way and almost certainly with a strong tailwind. Easy peasy. A leisurely start with breakfast and a chance to chat to three UK cyclists. They had started from Ushuaia 4 days earlier and were looking a bit downhearted as they had been forced to cycle into strong headwinds for the last two days and found it hard going. Any cyclist will know there is nothing more soul destroying than head winds. It is utterly demoralising They had arrived at 7pm having taken 10 hrs to get from Rio Grande ,[ with the tailwind it took us less than 3 hrs to cover the same distance ]. In addition they had misjudged the size of San. Sebastian thinking it would have a cash point machine which it doesn't. It has an expensive hostel and a petrol station. No shop of any description apart from what you can buy in the hostel. As a result of this one of them was going to have to go back to Rio Grande to get more money. Not happy bunnies.
The wind for us was always from behind and steadily picked up and we flew into Rio Grande with a max speed of 68 kph downhill and with the wind. It is a wonderful feeling to have the wind push you along and sure hasn't happened enough so it was very much appreciated.
A gentle stroll along the beach front and stocking up again for the next stage. Tolhuin is 108 kms further but will have some into wind sections and we have to be prepared to camp. Here 's to hoping to get in on time.

If all goes to plan there will only be 3 days needed to reach Ushuaia but if wind dictates otherwise we can take 6 with time to spare to catch the flight back to the UK.
flat and featureless

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

09/12/2013 Stage 75 Wild camp - San Sebastian (Arg)

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09/12/2013 Stage 75 Wild camp - San Sebastian (Argentina)
Nice to see the Atlantic again
During the night we heard the rain against the tent and by morning the wind had got up again. We are in Patagonia after all, more specifically in Tiera del Fuego ( Vuur eiland as I remember from geography lessons as a child) We could see the The Magallanes straits whilst sipping our coffee. The straits made Punto Arena into an important port before the Panama Canal opened. Sadly no sun today and we were well and truly back to pampa. Just tufts of grass and not much else. The odd guanuco (a kind of deer) would come into view. The land is always well fenced but we are not sure what the fences are for because the guanuco's always leap right over them and we rarely see other life stock. We made good progress and soon arrived at the border where we had the usual rigmarole. Returning into Argentina is a little easier then going into Chile because Chile is very fussy about what you can take in (no fruit,veg, dairy produce or meat unless vacuum sealed ) we bought 4 chocolate bars with the last of our 4000 Chileno's. It is not too surprising that everybody uses a calculator when you deal in such big numbers. The 15 km between the Chilean and Argentinian border proved to be ripio of the worst kind and I had my first mechanical issue on the whole trip. The chain has stretched so much and I haven't bothered to do anything about it, it actually fell off. Not a big deal to be fair and it did not take me long to be on the move again. It should not pose a problem on the asphalt roads and there is only one more long section of ripio to come. We decided to stop in San Sebastian because we have plenty of time to get to Ushuaia and are pleased to be able to see the Atlantic Ocean from our room. We haven't seen that one in a while.

08/12/2013 Stage74 Punto Arenas - Wild camp Tiera del Fuego

2013-12-08 click for more
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
08/12/2013 Stage74 Punto Arenas - Wild camp Tiera del Fuego
Our oasis of trees looming in the distance.
Up at seven to cycle to the harbour and buy tickets for the ferry. The crossing to Porvenir was 2 ½ hrs and surprisingly smooth as the wind appeared to have finally abated. We spent a lot of the time during the crossing chatting to the man seated opposite to us who was a radio reporter and was travelling to report on the football match in Porvenir. Goooooaaalll he demoed.
From Porvenir it was going to be 160 kms of ripio to San Sebastian which is just in Argentina again. In between there was going to be lots of wilderness and we would have to wild camp in the middle somewhere. San Sebastian on Google earth was tiny and probably wouldn't have a hosteria so we took food for three days and expected to camp for two nights.

The weather continued to improve and we enjoyed nil wind conditions with lots of sunshine whilst cycling along the shores of Bahia Inutil. It was once again very beautiful with great views to the mountains across the lakes to the South. It was good to have a really enjoyable day again as some of the last few days had been tough going on occasions. The first half of the day the road was rarely level and seemed to just go up and then down without any level parts but none of the climbs were greater than 100m although the climbes were quit steep.. The second half of the day became easier as the land levelled out to the point that finding a pace to overnight might be difficult. However we had read some of the bogs from other people who had done the same section and it was reported that there would be 14 trees after 85 km and behind these we would be able to shelter .Sure enough the 14 trees were found exactly as predicted and we set up camp feeling more secure with a barrier against the wind. We went to bed listening to some very odd animal noises.
Not a bad oasis. Sea in the background

Saturday, 7 December 2013

07/12/2013 Punto Arenas

2013-12-07 click for more photo's
07/12/2013 Punto Arenas
When the alarm went off at 6.15am I wasn't sure we had made the right decision to book on this trip. It looked utterly miserable outside. Cold and grey and wet but we set off anyway. It turned out to be an amazing trip. Just eleven punters on a small boat with three crew. You have to be pretty jaded not to revel in seeing dolphins up so close. Watching them dive and leap under and along side the small boat was utterly captivating. This was followed by a visit to Magdalena island inhabited by the  Magallanes penquins. Thousands of them in fact. You can not help but love watching penquins and to be able to walk so freely among them was fantastic. we were told not to touch them or feed them which of course we didn't but one penquin just nipped Malcolm's leg. Not quite sure why. We then sailed off again to the next island. Island Martha. On it's shore where hundreds of sea lions and cormorants. Before we returned to land the skipper found some more dolphins for us to watch. what's not to love!

06/12/2013 stage 73 Tehuelches - Punta Arenas by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details

the Patagonia Wind Symbol 
06/12/2013 stage 73 Tehuelches - Punta Arenas
06/12/2013 stage 73 Tehuelches - Punta Arenas by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
First lap by bike second lap in pick up truck!
It is really hard for me to comprehend the emptiness of Southern Patagonia. To have to travel 100 km exactly to the nearest green grocers is just beyond me. There are no trees and hardly any shrubs over 50 cm high. The landscape is bleak and featureless in the extreme yet it does have it's own appeal. Every now and again there is an 'estancia' a kind of farm settlement. Usually surrounded by poplars to protect it from the wind. It is just so isolated. The landlady in the hostal in Puerto Natales which was quite a bustling little town had told us she has planned to move to Arenas 245 km away a month before the baby is due because there is no adequate care in Natales and when her baby is due the roads are likely to be blocked by snow so she has to make sure to arrive in good time. In my head, living in Bude or Holsworthy is out in the sticks! The road we are riding on is the 'Fin del mundo circuit' and it feels that way. After starting in ' the middle of the earth ' in Quito on the Ecuator it sure feels we have come a long way. It is very quiet and it is still beautiful riding even though there isn't the dramatic beauty of the High Andes. However battling with strong side winds is only attractive for a little while and when we turned into a full on head wind after 50 km on a clearly much busier road my heart sank. Not for long however! We hadn't dared to join the main carriage way because of the amount of traffic and fear of being blown into it when a pick up truck stopped and offered us a lift to Punto Arenas. It took us less then three seconds to accept gratefully and we were very glad we did. The road remained busy,the wind strong and the landscape remained the same. We sorted out the ferry times to Porvenir and scouted out the available eating places in Arenas and spotted an 'all you can eat' That seemed right up my street and the perfect chance to stock up on calories before we hit the sticks again.  
As if camping wasn't uninviting enough in this inhospitable landscape

05/12/2013 Stage 72 Hotel Rubens-Teleheuches

2013-12-05 From the middle of the earth to the end of the earth

Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
05/12/2013 Stage 72 Hotel Rio Rubens to Villa Telehueches
bus stops make amazing shelters.good enough to sleep in
The wind remained strong and WSW , why do we bother looking at the forecast!. The first 45 kms to Morro Chico were with the wind assisting us and the kms clocked fairly quickly, the rain clouds were always perilously close but we managed to avoid a good soaking. I suspect our luck won't last for long though. Just befor Morro Chico we met Gavin an Irish man who had only recently started out from Ushuaiai and was unimpressed with the wind and scenery and had grazes down his thigh from a fall after being blown from his bike. He remained determined however and we did our best to point out that it just gets better and better.
The landscape remains very flat and is often featureless but in the distance snow capped mountains can still be seen. Although it is very cold and we cycle with gloves, coats and overshoes it is still surprising to see lots of parrots and some flamingoes which we normally associate with warmer climes.
Having passed Morro Chico the route headed South then SSW and the wind picked up. Now we were struggling with a cross on wind and at times we were,as before,blown across the road and had the bikes at nearly 45 degrees at times.
The final 20 kms were a struggle and Villa Telehueches was smaller than we thought but managed to find the one and only place to stay and had a lovely cabin with log burning stove. After an hour or so we looked out the window to find a skunk eating the cats food. We took some pictures and were surprised at how unperturbed he was by our presence. We were even more surprised 30 minutes later when he tried to push open the cabin door with his snout!
The village gets its food from Punto Arenas , 100 kms away, and this is done once a week which meant that because of our arriving on the wrong day there were no meat or vegetable supplies so we had to have yet another meal of eggs but fried this time. I' m sure the skunk got into the cabin at night , he sure left his tell tale calling card.

Looks can be deceiving!

This is a road side shrine not a tip. The bottles are an offering.

04/12/2013 Stage 71 Puerto Natales-Hotel Rio Rubens

04/12/2013 Stage 71 Puerto Natales-Hotel Rio Rubens
04/12/2013 Stage 71 Puerto Natales-Hotel Rio RubensUntitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
After Puerto Natales there would be no significant settlement until Villa Telehueches 148 kms further on. We had 12 days left and 7 days cycling still to do and so it made sense to aim for Hotel Rio Rubens which is completely isolated and is only 65kms from Puerto Natales.We knew it would cost a bit more in a proper hotel but it would spread the remaining cycling out more evenly.
It was sad to leave Puerto Natales where Loreto the landlady had been so welcoming and it was even more tempting to stay when we realised that the strong winds hadn't abated much. Still, with the direction we were heading it shouldn't ever be full on against us. It seems strange to think back to cycling in the North of the continent where the biggest worry was always the amount of climbing or the heat but in Patagonia only one thing counts and that's the wind.
After a week of not cycling my legs were slightly stiff but eventually loosened up. The wind was mainly crosswind for most of the day which although it neither pushes you back or forwards is still at times hard to cope with as you will be blown of track and have to lean sidewards into the wind.
Non the less after only 4 hours we arrived at the hotel and paid twice the previous rate for a room with shared bathroom, no bulb and no light and no electric plug. We cheered ourselves up with a steak sandwich and a bottle of wine.
The weather forecast for tomorrow suggests that the wind will swing to WNW and our route turns south. If so we should have the wind on our side but if it remains SW we will be struggling with a headwind again. Fingers crossed.

Marjet managed to experiment often enough to discover that the dead camera would in fact work if you took the battery out and replaced it for every shot which is a bit tedious but will have to tide us over until we can replace it.

28/11/2013- 04/12/20 Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park

Sadly our tent wasn't on a platform like this red one. Ours was in the 3" deep pool in the middle of the night!
28/11/2013- 04/12/2013 
Not our picture. Camera got drowned!
Puerto Natales and Torres del Paine National Park 28/11/20
National Park Torres del Paine. The Eighth Wonder of the world.
We had long been looking forward to visiting this famous National Park and we were not disappointed. It was absolutely amazing from beginning to end. I hired a big backpack in Puerto Natales because as well as all the camping gear we had to carry most of the food for four days as food in the park is scarce and very very expensive. Getting to the start of the 'W' walk (the route we planned to follow) involved a bus journey and a boat trip. Luckily we could pitch the tent and leave most of our gear in it before we set of on the 7 hour return trip to Glacier Grey. It was a beautiful walk along the lake with views of the glacier and it stayed dry for the duration of the trip.
We got back to camp after 8 o'clock and were soon ready for bed having started the day at 6 am. It was the first time this trip that we had pitched the tent on grass which was a luxury. The second day we weren't so lucky with our pitch! It was a ten hour day with stunning views of the Torres from the French Valley. Luckily the majority of the walk was in the woods which offered protection from the wind. We heard far too many stories of people who got hurt because the were blown of their feet by the wind and smashed into rocks etc, and met someone in the evening who had been blown over injuring her legs and was unable to walk. She was waiting to be rescued which meant radioing and waiting a day or two for a horse to arrive and carry her out. The winds are too strong for helicopters, there are no roads and the boats can only land at certain points which makes rescue access difficult.

The final part of the second days walk was along another lake. All the lakes is the park are a different colour and this one was a beautiful turquoise. The wind was incredibly gusty, creating massive walls of water which you could see coming from afar. When a gust came you had to hold onto something or shelter behind a tree or similar. We arrived late at the Cuernos camp site and all the platforms on stilts were taken by other campers so we had to settle for rather a damp patch but at least it was quite sheltered from the wind. Even so at times it sounded as if an express train was coming through and you were shaking on the mattress. However that wasn't our biggest problem that night. Luckily Malcolm woke up just after 12o'clock and realised we were camped in a pond. The water was very nearly coming into the tent and our shoes were floating away. We had to get out of the tent with great care because an unguarded move would bring the water flooding in over the 6”bath tub seal of the tent. We moved a massive picnic table that was on drier ground in order to find a new space to camp. Sadly I left the camera in the pocket of the rucksack in the porch and of course it was submerged under water. Alas the camera and the memory card got ruined so no pictures of the stunning views we had the first few days. From here on in Malcolm's phone will have to double up as a camera. The following day we woke up to a blue sky and we enjoyed every minute of the walk that day. Loads of condors were flying overhead and it was bliss to eat our lunch in the warmth of the sun just wearing a sleeveless top. It was a different story the following day when we woke up to snow and a biting wind which comes straight of the icefields. I wore four layers and was only just warm enough. We climbed to try and catch the most famous view of the Torres ( as in the Patagonia clothing label) but had to settle for a rather cloudy shot. Never mind we had seen the Torres in their full glory from the French Valley even though all the photo's are ruined. It was an easy day walking today (only 8 hours) although the downhill was hard on Malcolm's ankle and we made it back to the bus stop with plenty of time to spare. Unfortunately another hour and half was added onto that because the buses had to wait for the catamaran which was delayed because of the wind. We arrived back at the hostel at 11.30 but luckily the land lady was still up and we were given the same room. Four nights in total in the same bed ( and yes Julie with the same man)hasn't happened for a long while. Tomorrow we will set off for the final 700 or so kilometers to Ushuaia. A little bit apprehensive because of the winds. Luckily we have enough time left before our return flight to sit it out for a few days if it is too wild or there is always the bus! 
Not our picture. Ours was much better ofcourse.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

2013-11-28 click for more photo's
Calafate Puerto – Natales

Calafate attracts many many tourists because it is the nearest town to the famous Perito Moreno Glacier. It is much smaller then El Chalten and has a very different feel to it. It caters more for mass tourism than for serious mountaineers. Having said that, it is not for nothing that the Moreno glacier has been declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO. It's 5 km wide front rises 60 meters above the water and it is a spectacular sight and sound when great masses of ice crash into the lake. There are ramped walks so you can see the glacier from all angles and we spend a very relaxed and pleasant day. I wouldn't have missed it but neither Malc or I are very good at just sitting and looking at beautiful sites we would rather be doing something. Even though the Viedma glacier in El Chalten wasn't as big walking on it in crampons and crawling into the caves left a much bigger impression. Next stop will be Torres del Paine National Park where we hope to walk the 'W' a four or five day trek.

We decided after long deliberations to take the bus to Puerto Natales. The logistics of cycling into the park where just to complicated because you have to cross the border from Argentina to Chile. And Chile doesn't allow you to bring in any fresh food. Since buying food in the Parc is very limited and expensive it would be better to enter the Park from Puerto Natales which is in Chile. We also thought it would probably be easier to find somewhere to store our bikes and bags. We were so glad we went on the bus because it turned out to be the windiest day so far on the whole trip. It would have been totally impossible to cycle in this wind strength and we would have had to stay in Calafate until it died down. On top of that the Chilean border staff were on strike so there were long delays predicted. When we arrived in Puerto Natales much later then anticipated because of the strike it was cold and raining hard and as usual we had nothing booked and no idea where to go. But within minutes of leaving the bus station we were approached by a very kind man who invited us into his shop. He offered us coffee and rang around for a cheap hostal with space for bicycles. The owner was an ex trekking guide and was able to offer us all the information we needed regarding the trekking. We really landed on our feet in Puerto Natales. 
Puerto Natales
2013-11-25 click for more phot'os
25/11/13 Stage 70 Hotel La Leona to El Calafate
25/11/2013 Stage 70 Hotel Leona to El Calafate by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
This was a day we had been worrying about as there was going to be a lot of headwind potentially. The day didn't start to well as all the hotel staff were still in bed when we were ready to have breakfast and go. Eventually the landlady turned up and to compensate the breakfast was better than expected. 
The riding to start off with was sinuous and gently undulating which makes it more interesting than the dead straight dead flat roads of the pampas. The feared headwind was in fact crosswind and didn't slow us down too much at this stage. On the map there were several place names which we vainly hoped would be villages but whenever we reached one of the names it was either a bridge or a single building Estancia set back from the road. There was going to be nothing until we got to Calafate. The first 60kms were really nice and not too hard but having reached the SE tip of Lago Argentino we had to join a different road heading West. Kerrbam!!  At this point there was no protection from the wind which was now directly against us. Our speed dropped to 3mph at times on the flat and there are few things more demoralising than having to pedal hard to go downhill. The cuttings which have been created for the road through the hills are often the worst as they create a funnel effect increasing the strength of the wind. We were both blown off our bikes at times but we were learning to be prepared and always got blown off the road and not into it fortunately. The thought of shops and a hotel in Calafate helped motivate us to continue but it was very slow and besides there was no protection from the wind which made camping impossible. The tourist information office helped us find a nice place and we made plans to visit the glacier the next day.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

24/11/2013 Stage 69 El Chalten - Hotel Leona

24/11/2013 Stage 69 El Chalten - Hotel Leona by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
24/11/13 Stage 69 El Chalten to Hotel Leona
Leaving El Chalten in sunshine we were pushed along by an increasing tailwind and followed the lakeside with a quiet gently undulating tarmac road. Perfect. Across the lake we could see the Viedma glacier we had walked on yesterday and behind us Fitzroy and Cerro Torre were fully exposed.
This far South it is definitely a lot colder and we struggled to find a shelter from the wind for breakfast which as usual happens at the 30 km stage. After 85kms we came to the end of the lake and rejoined the Ruta 40. We were now heading directly into wind and were forced to slow down to 10 kph. This was a bit worrying as tomorrows ride will be mainly into wind and there will be nothing before El Calafate.
Our hotel for the night is the only building of significance between Chalten and El Calafate but fortunately serves food. Being so isolated and the only hotel restaraunt between the two towns means that it has a monopoly and hence it wasn't cheap. Butch Cassidy is supposed to have hidden here for several months before going to Bolivia.We keep reminding ourselves how little we had to spend in Peru and Bolivia and that the occasional overspend should come out in the wash but it still hurts to pay European prices.

22/11/2013 and 23/11/2013 El Chalten

2013-11-23 click date for more photo's

22/11/2013 and 23/11/2013 El Chalten
We are so glad we detoured to El Chalten. It is a really nice place to hang out. The town itself is nothing much to write home about but when you see the setting it is quite something. From almost anywhere in the town you see the silhouettes of Fitzroy and Cerro de Torre usually with their peaks covered in cloud so all the more special when you catch them 'naked'. There is a mix of really expensive hotels and restaurants which cater for the many tourists but also budget hostals (£5.- pp including access to kitchen etc) because the town attracts many hikers and mountaineers(without money but with a lot of passion) The walking here is superb, with excellent tracks and of course even better views. We have come across many dead trees whilst travelling in Patagonia which troubled us somewhat but after talking to people here, we realise that it is quite normal. The roots of the most common tree species here is very sensitive and if the temperature is wrong whole forests will die. This has always been the way but because the wood doesn't decompose as it would in Europe, the dead wood stays around forever.
We went to do a trek on theViedma glacier today and were truly impressed. We were very lucky because we ended up as a group of six with two guides who were passionate climbers and very knowledgeable. Walking on the glacier with crampons and under the glacier in a kind of cave was amazing. This particular glacier is receding rapidly. Partly because of less snow fall in the high mountains and partly because of increased melting.(global warming??? We felt compelled to take hundreds of pictures but of course none of them really capture it. You have to see it for yourself.

Tomorrow we will be back on the bikes again which is just as well really as although our legs are cycle fit they're still complaining after all the hiking.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

2013-11-21 click for more photo's
19/11/13 Los Antiguos to El Chalten
The day started well with only seven people on the coach, no difficulties loading the bikes and leaving slightly early. When we arrived at Perito Moreno a handful of people boarded and we continued the journey with plenty of space to stretch out which as things turned out was just as well. The journey was going to be 12 1/2 hrs but after only 2 hrs the trouble began. the driver had been going slower and slower and eventually had to stop as the air compressor enabling the brakes and gears failed. The driver and assistant worked for a long time trying to repair it and after 1 1/2 hrs we were able to limp to Bajo Caracoles, a village of three houses where further repairs were attempted.
After a lot of discussion on the phone as to how to repair the vehicle it was decided to give in and call in the cavalry which meant sending a replacement bus from Calafate 6 hrs away. We eventually rolled into El Chalten at 5.15 am the next day 7 hours late.Despite the delay we were glad that we had taken the bus. The landscape was very uninspiring throughout and by bussing it we were 'buying' ourselves some time for walking. It was just starting to get light but of course everyone was asleep. Not a chance of finding a hostel open. We cycled up and down for a while hoping for a camp site but didn't have any luck with that either. Not one of the finest moments on the trip until we bumped into a young man from Columbia 'David' who was incredibly kind and offered to take care of our luggage and bikes. Every one we have met on this journey has mentioned how wonderful Columbia and it's people are. It is one of our regrets that we never went there since the days of drugs and violence in Columbia are so of the past. David solved all our problems and after offering us coffee and useful information about the hike send us on our way for a hike up to Lago Los Tres with views of Mount Fitzroy. It turned out to be a fabulous walk even though Mount Fitzroy never quite revealed herself to us in all her glory.The top always remained in cloud even though we could see her shape through it. Because we had started the day so early we were the first people to reach the top which was quite special particularly when we saw so many people climbing up when we descended. What wasn't so good was the fact that we undertook this 10 hour plus hike after not having walked for more than a few hundred yards at the time since Casablanca weeks and weeks ago. We might be fairly cycle fit but we are certainly not walking fit. We limped back with very tired legs into town and found a hostel for £5.-pp and a very good supermarket filled with a wonderful choice of food and dirt cheap wine.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

18/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili-Chico - Los Antiguos

2013-11-18 click for more photo's
18/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili-Chico - Los Antiguos by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
18/11/2013 19/11/2013 Stage 68 Chili Chico to Los Antiguos

 We had breakfast with a French couple who were on a 6 week trekking holiday. He is a mountain guide and holidaying in the off season. You do meet some interesting people whilst travelling. We had stayed the night in a very homely hostel and had breakfast in the kitchen which was lovely and warm. The landlady toasted a never ending supply of home made bread on a kind of wood fuelled Aga whilst telling me her full family and medical history. We were also joined by her mother who suffered from Alzheimers and more family members. We only had a short day from Chile and back into Argentina and it was lovely to be able to take our time.
The first thing to do on arrival was to check out how to get to El Chalten by bus and we were slightly disappointed to discover that the relevant bus had left at 9.30 and the next one would be 48hrs later. Shame, but at least it seemed that the subsequent bus trips were more frequent and there seemed to be a general feeling of optimism that we would be able to get where we wanted with the bikes. The section from the next town, Perito Moreno to El Chalten is ripio and uninspiring pampas territory notorious for the strong winds. We are pleased to be able to bus this section so we can have more time for the things we want to do. The theme is going to change from mainly cycling to mainly trekking over the next 10 days or so and the difficulty is deciding which places to visit. Mount Fitzroy has beautiful mountain scenery and an enormous glacier and will be our starting point once getting to El Chalten.
our home for the next two nights yippee
The rest off the day and the following day was spent cycling to the various miradors and enjoying the views, not to forget a lot of downtime and eating and drinking.

17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico

2013-11-17 click for more
17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
Garmin cut out several times during the ride and I forgot to switch it on after the ferry crossing.
17/11/2013 Stage 67 El Blanco – Chili Chico
We woke up to a very overcast sky and blustery wind and were greeted affectionately by the dog from the night before. Fortunately the wind was still blowing in the right direction for us. We quickly broke camp and were on our way. We knew there would be a lot of climbing today from the Garmin Basecamp programme. We both prefer to have some idea of what lies ahead so you can prepare for it in your head. This cycling lark has more to do with the mind than the body. You can always push on another mile if the mind is willing. As we slowly climbed up we realised the dog was following. At first we weren't too concerned. He wasn't the first dog to follow us after all but he was still there after 50 km and we didn't know how to stop him. He was a well fed dog with a clean coat but we could only assume he was a stray in need of some company. We thought he would stop following once we picked up speed on the down hills. Twice we thought he had gone but he turned up again when we stopped for breaks. The second time with paws bleeding. We felt awful. This trip I have absolutely hated some dogs that have come chasing after me growling and barking and have had my heart in my mouth repeatedly as I feared they were going to bite me. But we have also met some lovely dogs and this one was the nicest most affectionate dog ever (apart from Diesel of course) and it hurt to see him like this and knowing that we could do nothing for him.
Our waterproof gear was fully tested again today as it continued to rain for hours on end. The Goretex lined over boots which had been sitting in the bottom of our bags unused for months sure proved themselves worthwhile. We were warm and more or less dry and I didn't really mind the rain. On reaching Puerto Ibanez we found a little spot out of the howling wind and made some coffee and eat empenada's ( the S.A. Pasty equivalent) while we waited for the ferry. We were worried the dog would turn up again but this time we had managed to lose him.

The sun decided to come out and the 2 hour crossing with views back to Cerro de Castillo were superb if a little hair raising. The boat was seriously leaning at times and waves were crashing on the windows. We were surprised that we were allowed on deck where we had to cling onto the railings. It was pretty wild. 
Should have been sponsored by Gore Tex

16/11/2013 Stage 66 Puerto Aisen to El Blanco

2013-11-16 click for more 
16/11/2013 Stage 66 Puerto Aisen to El Blanco by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
Road sides where covered in lupins

We left Puerto Aisen with partial cloud cover and some sun and a tailwind fortunately. The road was narrow but quiet and threaded its way up the valley along the river with lots of waterfalls along the way. We met Johan again just outside of town, he had found Puerto Aisen too expensive and had slept in his mini tent [ a fly sheet held up by trekking sticks ]. He was heading for Coihaque and we were going beyond and so we probably wouldn't see him again. Bye son.
The tailwind picked up and definitely helped us cover the kms. The climbing was in the main quite gentle apart from a 400 steeper section which led through a long dark tunnel. We were a bit worried that the following traffic might not see us but fortunately the first vehicle stopped behind us and slowly followed us illuminating the way to the other side.
Reaching the top of the climb afforded us a beautiful view of Coyhaique in the valley below where we found the tourist office and confirmed the ferry times from Puerto Ibanez. 7 pm . That meant the best option would be to push on today and then reach the ferry tomorrow night but with a 2hr crossing we would reach Chile Chico at 9pm.Not ideal but Hobson's choice.
We passed a mini rodeo en route which occurs once every year during which they let the bullocks into a small paddock where ten “cowboys” lasso them after a few circuits. They were then branded and castrated. Eye watering to watch.
During the afternoon the sun came out and we had to strip off. It was lovely to cycle in the sunshine again and have the high mountains back.
El Blanco our destination turned out to be very very small with the two shops being just the front room of someone's house. Worse still the one and only Hosteria was going to close as they were all going to Coyhaique to vote the next day. Still , they let us camp in their backyard and sold us a meal and bottle of wine. A dog befriended us and stayed huddled up to our tent all night.