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.