Patagonian Adventure 2017-18

Introduction

1st February 2019

Back in 2017, Linda (my wife) and I decided to cycle the length of Patagonia in South America. For Linda this was a dream come true, she had always wanted to cycle the length of Chile (the fact she was doing it with me was a massive bonus!).

Having travelled through Patagonia back in 1995 with a school friend (Rupert Darbyshire), I had mixed feelings about going back, especially as there are hundreds of other places I want to visit. Plus, what I really wanted to do was a cross country ski season!

However, after finding out that the Carretera Austral road had been finished (a route through Patagonia that barely existed back in 1995), I was convinced and was looking forward to “discovering” a new part of the world I loved.

To say I wasn’t in the best shape of my life when we headed towards Heathrow and the long 15 hour flight to Santiago is an understatement. I had had a very tough year or so in the pub. Not only was I running the business, I was also running the kitchen as I had had two chefs leave within a month of each other. With a variety of temps, I managed to get through the year, but the responsibility and long hours meant that my anxiety and weight were through the roof.

I knew I had to do something drastic to prevent my health deteriorating further, and by the point Linda and I had decided to take two and a half months off, I no longer really cared whether the pub survived without me – I had to put my marriage and my health first. 

There were quite a few discussions about training for the trip – after all, we were aiming to do 3,500km over two and a half months – but I think we managed probably a total of two rides together! Linda remains pretty fit all the time, but I was in a bad way. I went out for a group ride with the Huffers & Puffers from the pub and I could barely keep up for the first part, and was dropped on numerous occasions on the second half. I blamed it on the fact that I was on a mountain bike fitted with heavy Schwalbe Marathon Plus tyres, but the reality was that I was fat and weak!

All the time I should have spent training, I used to rebuild my favourite old bike – a 1996 Kona Cinder Cone on which I had done John O’Groats to Land’s End back in 1999. It was the perfect bike for the job – a sturdy chromoly steel mountain bike with rigid forks – but it needed a couple of new bits. Well, after I got my hands on it, it needed a few more! I managed to break more parts than I fixed, but at least I now knew how everything worked and how to fix things if they went wrong.

And anyway, I had read somewhere that the best way to get fit for touring is to go touring… Only recently did Linda admit she was worried I would have a heart attack in the first week!

We chose to start in a place called Cauquenes – a small town about 5 hours bus journey south from Santiago. The reason was purely because Linda wanted to see the Pacific coast and go to the beach! It was a tough start, lumpy headlands to negotiate and a constant brisk headwind, but it gave us a good idea of what to expect and a gentle introduction into the tour.

I kept a diary of sorts by posting to Facebook every day, at first only photos, but more and more description as we went along. Below are all my daily posts and some of the photos we took. I’ve split it into 3 main sections which reflect the different landscapes and feel of the tour.

Month 1: Beaches, Rivers, Volcanoes & Lake District

  • Distance: 1,590km
  • Elevation Gain: 20,471m
  • Saddle Time: 108:29:03

Day 1: 09/11/17 – Cauquenes to Pocillas, 52.3km, 684m elev

Day 2: 10/11/17 – Pocillas to Buchupureo, 30.2km, 620m elev

Shorter day today as we want to it take easy the first week…! 30km but into a headwind most of the way and more coastal headland bumps. Now chilling in Buchupureo!

Day 3: 11/11/17 – Buchupureo to Treguaco, 64.0km, 1,199m elev

Carried on down the Pacific coast, and our first encounter with “Ripio” – sandy and gravelly in places, very hard going… Back wheel needed rebuilding at the end of the day!

Day 4: 12/11/17 – Treguaco to Quillon, 60.4km, 694m elev

Easier day in terms of road surface, but so hot with the sun reflecting off the tarmac. Found an interesting museum run by Swiss expats who emigrated after the war…

Day 5: 13/11/17 – Quillon to San Rosendo, 92.1km, 815m elev

Longer day – 92km – nice flat and fast roads until ripio for the last 10km… only a couple of photos today as on roaming…

Day 6: 14/11/17 – San Rosendo to Angol, 81.2km, 474m elev

Another 80km day, but on horrible busy straight roads with trucks and lorries pushing us about all over the place, and 10km of ripio just to get away from the traffic. We’re both exhausted mentally and physically… Probably need a pizza and beer tonight and a day off tomorrow!

Day 7: 16/11/17 – Angol to Victoria, 102.6km, 973m elev

Another slightly uninteresting “transition” day, very straight roads, but not too much traffic unlike 2 days ago… Legs felt a bit sluggish after our rest day, but improved with time and with a tail wind going into victoria we were hitting speeds of 25kmh. Have moved away from grape vines and big rivers to rape seed and lavender – still so many wild flowers by the side of the road.

Met a Belgian couple who are also on their way to Ushuaia, but at a slower place… Booked into the Hotel Royal Victoria – hot and cold running waitresses on tap!

Day 8: 17/11/17 – Victoria to Curacautin, 56.7km, 716m elev

Shorter day as we set off late after sorting out home insurance… Both thought we were broken for the first couple of hours, after too much pampering last night, but it was one of those stealth climbs into a cold headwind. Didn’t get as far as we wanted, but we’ve seen our first glimpses of the Andes and look forward to Parque Conguillio tomorrow and the volcanoes 🌋

Day 9: 18/11/17 – Curacautin to Cherquenco, 61.9km, 947m elev

Our steepest climb today, on ripio, through monkey puzzle trees and Volcano Llaima… so steep in places we had to push our bikes… still, one of the most beautiful days we’ve had, the country round here is simply stunning…

Day 10: 19/11/17 – Curacautin to Lago Colico, 76.8km, 1,076m elev

Another big climb today, on ripio… relentlessly uphill for a good hour or so, Linda broke so jumped in the back of a pickup! The descent was phenomenal, so much fun, and beautiful views, just stunning. Found Linda at the bottom, phew! Then a bit of a drag down to Lago Colico – a bit like lake Como, without the people… Linda braved a swim, I’m not quite so masochistic!

And the tent has finally made an appearance, after lugging it up all those damn hills!

Day 11: 20/11/17 – Lago Colico to Quinenahuin, 76.9km, 1,675m elev

Well, day 11 was an epic… 1,675m of climbing on ripio, ripped two spokes out of my back wheel and broke another, but again, beautiful surroundings and snow capped peaks, baby wild boar crossing the road, Mapuches on horses herding cattle and general rural life.

Day 12: 21/11/17 – Quinenahuin to Pucon, 61.8km, 482m elev

Managed to limp our way to Pucon today, broke another spoke in the process, but had our first sight of Volcan Villarrica which I climbed 23 years ago with Rupert Darbyshire.

So, new wheel by 6pm tomorrow after we get back from the thermal baths, and then on our way again towards Argentina for the first time…

Day 13: 23/11/17 – Pucon to Niltre, 81.4km, 948m elev

Good to get on our our bikes again after the chaos and gringos of Pucon – didn’t feel like Chile but it was a good place to be for a couple of nights. Road was very busy out of Pucon and Linda was very nervous, I did have an inkling, but it was confirmed when she admitted she’d eaten half the chocolate before we’d even set off!

Eventually got onto quieter roads after a Mapuche lunch of goose eggs and fresh blackcurrant juice. Long slog up a hill but were rewarded with incredible views of lago calafquen and no fewer than 4 snow capped volcanoes!

Off to Argentina tomorrow.

Oh, and got into a race with a digger!

Day 14: 24/11/17 – Niltre to Lago Lacar, 65.1km, 1,369m elev

Had to catch a ferry yesterday, by 12noon, about 47km, 3.5 hours should be fine on a good road? 12km to do in the last hour, having averaged 17kmh to that point? Only thing was, we didn’t know there was a 450m climb… I had collapsed in pain on the last climb, legs done, brain gone… Linda comes screaming past me shouting “Get out of my way! (P.S. don’t give up)”… I manage to pull myself together and get back onto her wheel, and she drags me up the final hill, both of our lungs roaring… Down the final hill, swerve round some cows, look for the ferry, shout for them to wait, and just scrape on at 12:01, both dead…! A cheer practically went up from the gallery… people came up to us during the crossing saying they’d seen us and never thought we’d make it!

Post beautiful ferry crossing, we crossed over into Argentina and found a beautiful free campsite by lago lacar.

Day 15: 25/11/17 – Lago Lacar to San Martin de los Andes, 45.0km, 876m elev

Day 15 was difficult, linda was tired, the ripio was very unforgiving, and there were some very dusty long climbs in searing heat. However, we made it to San Martin de los Andes, and have gone a little upmarket, which means a functioning shower!

Day 16: 26/11/17 – San Martin de los Andes to Lago Espejo Grande, 95.8km, 1,497m elev

San Martin de los Andes is a lovely place well worth a visit. We left on Sunday a bit later than we hoped after Linda decided to have a tinker with her disc brakes…

Our progress was hampered initially as the road was closed by a bike race coming in the opposite direction. Anyway, we sneaked past the police and started pushing uphill passing hundreds of cyclists coming the other way.

The route was one of the best so far: “Ruta de los Siete Lagos” and especially as there was little traffic. We bumped into our Belgian cycling friends again, but managed to push on and complete a big day. We were a little worried towards the end of the day as it was getting dark before we finally found a free campsite.

Day 17: 27/11/17 – Lago Espejo Grande to San Carlos de Bariloche, 111.0km, 1,252m elev

Today the road was a little tough, no hard shoulder apart from gravel and lots of trucks and buses… We became experts at listening out for the various noises made by different vehicles coming up behind us and then we’d just pop onto the hard shoulder if we heard something big.

The gorse was out in full colour all along Lago Nahuel Huapi and the lupins were just starting to flower. Finally reached Bariloche which was just a village when I last came 23 years ago and now is a sprawling, busy and noisy city. The road in was narrow and busy so we opted for a ripio road instead. However, still our biggest day so far (111km). For me, Bariloche always felt like it was the real start of the Patagonian Adventure… anyway, 2,500km to go!

Day 18: 28/11/17 – San Carlos de Bariloche to Estancia Peuma Hue, 29.5km, 384m elev

Just a short ride today (30km) as we’re putting our feet up for a day and a half in a lovely Estancia on Lago Gutierrez.

Day 19: 30/11/17 – Estancia Peuma Hue to El Bolson, 104.1km, 1,238m elev

Very sad to leave the wonderful Estancia Peuma Hue where we spent 2 very relaxing nights in beautiful surroundings, with fabulous food and great company. A spot of kayaking and riding (on a horse!) and just lazing about. Highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Bariloche…

Had to put in a big day today to get to El Bolson, but there was a net drop in altitude of 500m so not too bad even though there was a fairly brisk headwind. Both a little quiet today as we got back to “work”, but we’re both looking forward to popping back into Chile in a couple of days and starting the Carretera Austral.

Back to earth with a bang tonight as we’ve got 2 top bunks in a shared dorm…!

Day 20: 01/12/17 – El Bolson to Lago Rivadavia, 102.2km, 1,138m elev

Terrible night’s sleep in El Bolson, well, certainly for everyone else who had to share a room with me. According to Linda I took snoring to a whole new level…

Last couple of days have been incredibly hot, very unusual for around here we were told. Lots of climbing yesterday, which broke Linda temporarily, especially with the heat, but her bouncebackability is impressive and we put in a big day despite a few lady troubles…

Day 21: 02/12/17 – Lago Rivadavia to Lago Futalaufquen, 52.9km, 814m elev

Cycled through Los Alerces national park today which have trees thousands of years old. We managed to find one that was 300 years old! But a beautiful place and very still and quiet. Feels a bit more like Patagonia now with the open landscapes, wind and glaciers.

Hopefully back into Chile tomorrow, and then a rest day to do some rafting for a change?

First day of rain forecast tomorrow.

Day 22: 03/12/17 – Lago Futalaufquen to Futaleufu, 85.5km, 603m elev

Good start to the day with a decent road surface and not too much up and down… big descent into Trevelen, a town founded by Welsh settlers. Found a classic welsh salon de te, and had a huge “high tea” with the best pot of tea we’ve had since we’ve been here. Not gonna lie to you, it was lush, it was.

Afternoon of ripio, but not too bad without much climbing. Visited the beautiful Nant Fach mill, and saw some tidy old tractors for the agriculture fans out there.

Crossed the border into Chile, which was a bit of a palaver, almost got arrested for having Argentinian honey in my bag… anyway, got away with a warning! Short little trip down into Futaleufu, where we had our first drizzle of rain – was starting to think I was Noah’s evil younger brother…

Month 2: Carretera Austral

  • Distance: 1,270km
  • Elevation Gain: 16,761m
  • Saddle Time: 90:53:21

Day 23: 07/12/17 – Futaleufu to Villa Santa Lucia, 79.1km, 1,013m elev

Was laid up in Futaleufu for 3 days with pharyngitis, still not right now, but was getting cabin fever so decided to get back on the road. Linda had a nice rest, went “duckying”, and did some yoga… I lay around watching films on my iPhone all day, my eyesight is terrible now…!

Fairly easy day downhill, but we were both feeling a bit useless so took our time. Followed the Rio Futaleufu down through a valley and gorge – big rafting and kayaking area, but a bit early in the season. Absolutely stunning valley, probably one of the prettiest we’ve seen, and very underdeveloped.

Ended up at Lago Yelcho which felt like a Norwegian fjord. Very atmospheric and funnily enough, nice to see it on a grey day! Nasty little climb at the end of the day, with seemingly everyone on the road out to kill us – they just drive too fast and usually don’t slow down for cyclists, so you just bow your head and hope a stone doesn’t come flying towards your face…

Hopefully we’ll feel more energetic tomorrow, at least we’re back on Tarmac for a while, and eventually we’re onto the Carretera Austral!

Day 24: 08/12/17 – Villa Santa Lucia to La Junta, 70.8km, 860m elev

Struggled to get going today, but once we did we were rewarded with a lovely looping Tarmac road for 20 or so km. Unfortunately, after that, the road turned to crap as they’re in the middle of paving the ripio. Not many photos as had to be watchful and dodge big trucks etc…

Lots more cyclists on this stretch though, mostly French for some reason, actually, there are quite a few French all over the place…

Still feeling the effects of man flu, Linda’s legs seem to have deserted her somehow and the weather is definitely a lot colder today… Haven’t given in yet though!

Day 25: 09/12/17 – La Junta to Puyuhuapi, 45.1km, 583m elev

Shorter day today as it was the first real day of set in rain. Plus, still pretty much in man flu mode… Funnily enough, we both quite enjoyed it, being a contrast to very hot weather. In fact, it was probably Linda’s favourite day so far!

Nice and easy and well surfaced road for the first 30km. Linda made friends with a stray dog that must have followed her for at least 3 clicks! Gentle climb up to a lake and before we knew it we were here. Delicious lunch of hake and salmon and we’re both feeling pretty good…!

Oh, and I think we’re about halfway…

Day 26: 10/12/17 – Puyuhuapi to Villa Amengual, 90.2km, 1,612m elev

Really varied day today… little short ride along the side of a couple of fjords, had to take a ferry where the road was being repaired, then follow the Rio Queulat up to a climb which everyone has been scaring us about for the last few days. We were told up to 21 switch backs, 8km length, 500m climb, all on ripio… So we got our heads down, lowest gear engaged and set off. Without sounding conceited, we got to the top without too much trouble… I suppose we had prepared ourselves well on much steeper climbs on worse surfaces. No need to push our bikes up at all!

Good down hill and then a climb up through the Rio Cisnes valley, another stunner! Had a little snack on a coach and then had fun finding somewhere to stay… no one was that bothered to give us anything… all rather unfriendly and strange! Eventually some kids picked us up and took us to the Refugio de Ciclistas, basic but friendly… Phew!

Day 27: 11/12/17 – Villa Amengual to Manihuales, 59.7km, 510m elev

Shorter day today, as there aren’t many places to stay without camping and I still have remnants of man flu…

It’s getting quite ridiculous now, every day the scenery is breathtaking, almost would be better to record a video for three hours. Loads more cyclists now, going in both directions, mostly French, but we met Dutch, Italian and Brits today. Nice early finish before heading to Coyhaique tomorrow and hopefully a rest day!

Day 28: 12/12/17 – Manihuales to Coyhaique, 93.3km, 1,390m elev

Fairly long day, down then up. Saw a couple of waterfalls and our first tunnel. Have now done over 2,000km… Rest day tomorrow.

Day 29: 14/12/17 – Coyhaique to Villa Cerro Castillo, 97.4km, 1,530m elev

Left Coyhaique after a good rest day, though very late as usual… the wind was very fierce, but fortunately for most of the day it was behind or to the side of us. A lot of deforestation for the first half of the day until we hit the national reserve Cerro Castillo.

Some major climbing up into the park, with lots of false summits and the wind had decided to change into our faces. Having to pedal hard downhill into a headwind is a fairly new experience… fortunately the wind was behind us on the last major climb and then a beautiful and exhilarating descent down into Villa Cerro Castillo.

Day off today 15/12/17 as it’s pissing down with rain…

Day 30: 16/12/17 – Villa Cerro Castillo to Rio Murta, 68.3km, 1,322m elev

Back on the road after a filthy day. The rain was so bad that it destroyed a village we stayed in a week ago, at least 5 people died: https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/world-latin-america-42382413

Rode most of the day with a Belgian couple we met in Coyhaique. Really strong and cold headwind for most of the day, up the side of the big and wide Rio Ibanez, with great views of Cerro Castillo. Up over a bit of a lump the second half of the day and found an abandoned hut to sleep in last night (abandoned apart from a French couple!)

Day 31: 17/12/17 – Rio Murta to Puerto Rio Tranquilo, 56.6km, 859m elev

Today was a lot easier with the wind behind us and following the Rio Murta down to Lago General Carrera, the second largest in South America. Amazing colours and light today with the threat of rain all day. Met a cyclist who’s been on the road for the last 7 years… puts our 1 month into perspective, though he did seem impressed by how much we’ve done in that time!

Day 32: 19/12/17 – Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Puerto Bertrand, 68.1km, 1,138m elev

Left Puerto Rio Tranquilo this morning after a great day on the glacier yesterday and a boat trip to the Capillas de Marmol caves – granite caves on Lago General Carrera.

Big stealthy climb out of the town on bad ripio so we both felt we’d completely forgotten how to ride… Got easier later on with a strong wind behind us, and the road surface eased up. Great views of Lago General Carrera all day, just the most incredible shades of blue!

Couple of late climbs in the day, Linda was struggling a bit, but as usual keeps chugging away and gets it done. Nice smooth decent into Puerto Bertrand, so quick in fact I came second overall on the descent on Strava! Linda is always telling me I go too fast on the downhills… (Now I think she’s secretly proud of me!)

Forgot to mention the horseflies… they made climbing and stopping unbearable at times. Was quite funny watching Linda trying to have a pee whilst being attacked!

Day 33: 20/12/17 – Puerto Bertrand to Cochrane, 49.0km, 884m elev

Shorter day to Cochrane, last major town on the Carretera Austral. Followed the Rio Baker most of the way, it’s the main outlet of Lago General Carrera, a big, incredibly blue river, with a lot of power.

Two fairly long climbs, and quite a bit of rain around, but enough sunshine to dry us out before we got here… not the nicest hostel, everyone else who’s come to look at it has gone elsewhere…!

Potentially a long day in the rain tomorrow with a wild camp at the end of it…

Day 34: 21/12/17 – Cochrane to X-902 Junction, 44.7km, 739m elev

Left Cochrane in the rain, and it proceeded to rain all day… We were just about coping, stopping occasionally, not getting too cold as there were enough uphills to keep us warm. After a slightly longer stop for lunch, there was a long steep downhill, pissing with rain. I got so cold coming down that I started pedalling with the brakes on to try to warm up, and some primeval part of my brain took over and I started grunting like a caveman…!

We found a bus stop fortunately at the bottom of the hill, so we could get some warm clothes on. And then we realised what we thought had been rain had just been a light sprinkling, and it really opened up. So we called it quits after 45km and set up camp for the night. It was useful to have the bus shelter to cook in and leave the bikes.

Day 35: 22/12/17 – X-902 Junction to Tortel, 82.8km, 631m elev

Having been told it was going to rain solidly for the next 4 days, and we had 82km to go to the next town, we were a little slow to get going the next day. Surprisingly, it cleared up and the sun came out for most of the morning. It’s amazing how good you can feel with something as simple as feeling the warmth from the sun…

Unfortunately, it didn’t last and the final 20km into Tortel were pretty wet…! But then the sun came out when we got here, so all was good with the world again. Tortel is an unusual place, no roads, only wooden gangways everywhere. It’s where Prince William did a bit of his gap year with Raleigh International. And where, quite “coincidentally”, Kate Middleton did her gap year 8 months later!

Currently sunny here, but no doubt it will change. It gets very cold in the rain and wind, so we’re both eating like it’s an Olympic sport. Hopefully I won’t come back fatter than when I left!

Day 36: 23/12/17 – Tortel to Rio Ano Nuevo, 60.8km, 816m elev

Lazy morning in Tortel as we decided to catch the ferry across from Puerto Yungay at 1800 and only had 45km to cycle to get there. Backtracked about 20km and then over a big steep climb to Puerto Yungay. I’ve no idea how Linda manages to climb these steep hills without a triple chain set, just incredibly powerful!

Hung out in a cafe for an hour or so eating empanadas and chatting to Brazilian motor bikers. Both managed to surreptitiously buy each other knitted Christmas presents… We managed to put in a very quick 20km the other side of the ferry, and wild camped. It was pretty dry when we got there but rained quite heavily over night.

Day 37 24/12/17 – Rio Ano Nuevo to Villa O’Higgins, 80.1km, 1,318m elev

Following day we packed up a very wet tent and set off in persistent drizzle. Linda said she hoped that there weren’t any hills too early on, so of course there were 3 massively steep hills in the first 20km. The cloud lifted just enough so that we could get a gist of the landscape.

The rest of the day was quite flat with a strong wind behind us we made good progress. At one point the wind was so strong it pushed me up a small hill without needing to pedal! The sun sort of came out and we dried off a little. This is the wildest stretch of the carretera austral and the most spectacular.

The hostel we stayed at had organised everyone to cook for each other and share, so we had a lovely evening swapping stories with other cyclists. We’ve managed to secure a boat crossing into Argentina today, so we haven’t got stuck here too long.

Happy Christmas everyone, thank you for all your lovely comments and encouragement!

Day 38: 25/12/17 – Villa O’Higgins to Puerto Bahamondes 8.2km, 37m elev

After a great Christmas Eve, with good company, we hung out in our hostel on Christmas Day until our boat at 1800. Linda got me a very fetching new knitted hat (I keep losing hats…) Unfortunately it rained all day, so we watched enviously as everyone else baked scones and lasagne and other over the top food, whilst we ate Milo cereal…! Fortunately the rain let up and we cycled down to the port to catch our little boat across Lago Villa o’Higgins to get to Argentina. Of course, as everything is a bit crazy down here, the road was blocked by a landslide, so we had to remove great big boulders by hand and with the aid of a tree a Finnish guy had seemingly cut down with his bare hands…

Finally got on the boat and had a great crossing over to a campsite with 4 others. Beautiful sunset and a great feeling of being in the middle of nowhere, completely remote…

Day 39: 26/12/17 – Candelario Mancilla to El Chalten, 60.3km, 832m elev

The next day we had to clear customs and then cycle up a steep 4×4 track to the Chilean/Argentine border. First views of the magnificent Fitz Roy mountain. After the border, and having stuffed myself with marshmallows, the 4×4 track turned into a single walking track, very narrow and just enough room to get through with our panniers. It took us 2-3 hours, but it was great fun, wading through rivers practically up to our waists. Great sense of achievement when we got to Argentina, as often this crossing can take a few days with bad weather and cancelled boats.

Most people ended their day there, but we were keen to press on and get to El Chalten. Another ferry crossing and then 36km cycle the other side on ripio. The surface got progressively worse but at least it was flat and the strong wind was behind us. We eventually got to town at 2130, just before dark. But at least it meant we could go out for a good meal and a beer!

Day 40: 02/12/18 – El Chalten to Lago Argentino, 155.1km, 687m elev

Back on the bikes again after a fantastic but challenging trek near El Chalten (Huemul Track).

It was Linda’s birthday today and we were full of excitement getting back on the bikes with the aim of cranking out 450km over three days to break the back of the journey down to Tierra del Fuego.

The road was flat, the surface was smooth, but the wind which had been a strong westerly all week decided to change direction. Fortunately it wasn’t that strong and we made good progress and hit our lunchtime spot of La Leona (110km) after about 6 hours of cycling including breaks.

The road was a big contrast to what we were used to, and it was fairly tedious clocking up the miles, though we were making steady progress through a headwind with Linda drafting as she wasn’t feeling great.

Unfortunately, Linda’s problem with her rear hub reared its ugly head again and it was making a right racket… so big plans over and we have had to divert to El Calafate to get it fixed properly. Luckily a nice young chap picked us up in his big pick up and brought us all the way to Calafate. Lucky as it was 9:15 and getting a little dark!

So dream of cycling all the way through Patagonia is over, but we’ll restock and see what we can do after the bike is fixed. Maybe get a bus to Punta Arenas and then cycle through the back roads of Tierra del Fuego…. we’ll keep you posted!

(Plus, missed out by 5km from doing my first ever 100 mile ride today! Double gutted…)

06/01/18

So… Good news!

We got a bus from El Calafate to Punta Arenas and stumbled upon a bike shop that deals with Specialized bikes (Linda has a “clever” specialized through bolt hub which is a little different to a normal quick release hub, that you find on virtually every other bicycle…)

After a bit of toing and froing, Linda managed to convince them that the hub was completely “f*cked” and that she needed a new wheel. Anyway, they built a new one today. The cup inside the old hub had completely seized after 3 months and about 3,000km…

Upshot, we’re taking the ferry to Tierra del Fuego tomorrow and will cycle the last 500km to Ushuaia!!

(And no more discussions about decision making!)

Month 3: Tierra Del Fuego

  • Distance: 566km
  • Elevation Gain: 4,862m
  • Saddle Time: 33:01:21

Day 41: 07/01/18 – Punta Arenas to Bus Stop on Y-71 (Tierra Del Fuego), 70km, 740m elev

Well… we’re back on the road!!

Woke up early to get a packed ferry from Punta Arenas to Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego. Weather was fairly warm, and hardly any breeze which is unusual for down here.

After a lovely lunch in Porvenir (the Tierra del Fuegan Huffer) we set off on the ripio road, glad to be making progress again. The going was good, the surface was not too corrugated and the wind was behind us. Guanacos, cattle and sheep lined the sides of the roads and after a short ride we hit Bahia Inutil with views of the Darwin mountains far off in the distance…

It was too good to last, and soon the wind changed to a headwind, Linda got a bit grumpy and then she got the first puncture of the trip! Decided to quit whilst we were still slightly ahead, but had to cut 20km off the day.

Found a nice bus shelter to cook dinner in, and hopefully the foxes won’t attack us during the night!

Day 42: 08/01/18 – Bus Stop on Y-71 to Russfin, 124.2km, 878m elev

Big day today as we wanted to push on whilst the wind was low and the weather good. The winds are legendary on Tierra del Fuego and we’re now slightly short of time.

Fairly uneventful first 50km or so, until we hit a few sheep blocking the road! Eventually we got through and managed to see the king penguins, and to fill up with water which was a bigger deal. It’s the only place outside of Antarctica and the southern islands to see king penguins – they’re so odd…

Decided to push on more than both of us probably wanted to, and when the heavens opened, we weren’t sure if it was a good idea… however, after 125km, some cyclists came out of a house and told us to come and stay with them, so we had a lovely warm house to kip in. It seems cyclists love to squat in old abandoned houses!

Day 43: 09/01/18 – Russfin to Abandoned Lodge/Farm, 90.1km, 595m elev

Very slow start this morning after our long day yesterday. Linda found another slow puncture so that delayed us further, but we weren’t worried as the wind was strong and behind us. Popped up the road for breakfast at the Parador and found we were 1.5 hours late! Fortunately we managed to persuade someone to feed us, so we had some lovely fresh bread…

Lovely riding with the wind behind us, generally most of the way apart from just after the border. Linda flagged quite heavily by the end of the day, so we found a lodge on google maps and headed there. Looks like it hasn’t been occupied for a number of years, but a caretaker has allowed us to stay in a old shed with his 14 dogs and 2 pigs!

Day 44: 10/01/18 – Abandoned Lodge/Farm to Tolhuin, 146.0km, 1,043m elev

So, despite Linda’s fears, we weren’t attacked last night! But we were up early and away by 8:20… We planned to do 80km – 50km on ripio and then 30km paved and stay on the Atlantic coast.

I had some excess energy so pushed hard for the first 40km on ripio, and then the wind got stronger and onto our backs and we were flying at more than 30kmh.

First sight of the Atlantic and then we climbed towards Tolhuin. Some nasty side winds and big trucks, and then I bonked really badly with about 125km on the clock – obviously paid for my exuberance early on… Ate the contents of my pannier and then we limped into Tolhuin and the famous Panaderia la Union, where they let cyclists stay for free…! Linda was shattered but amazing as usual, and was happy tucking into some cakes and having a shower, in that order!

Day 45: 11/01/18 – Tolhuin to Ushuaia, 110.2km, 1,283m elev

Very slow start this morning as we were both knackered after a big effort to get to Tolhuin yesterday. The bakery let us sleep for free on the floor of the gym, but it was pretty horrendous with no access to a loo – I had to pee in the street twice in the night!

The cycling went very easily today considering we both were hurting a little. I suppose because we felt we had time and were only going to cycle 75km and camp. Again, the terrible things we’d heard about the wind didn’t really affect us, when it was strong it seemed to swing in behind us and when it was a headwind, it didn’t seem to bother us too much.

After a nice cup of tea and Dulce de Leche thing at 50km, we climbed up steadily past the beautiful Lago Escondido. We were told that this climb was treacherous and very dangerous and steep. But we found it quite easy – only at the top did we realise the wind had been pushing us up most of the way. Met an English cyclist at the top who had cycled from Los Angeles to Ushuaia, and then decided he was going to cycle up to Brazil!

After an amazing descent, we climbed steadily through a valley where they ski and do dog sledding in the winter (they do a classic cross country race every year, so may have to comeback for that). Linda decided we could make it to Ushuaia in one day, so we pushed on through wind and rain, up a long undulating climb (the worst), with big trucks pushing us off the road occasionally.

The final descent into Ushuaia was fast and wet, with a bus trying to overtake me on a bend, but we made it one piece! 540km in 5 days was pretty crazy, but we’re both glad we pushed on so that we had a few days to relax after the cycling. Tomorrow we cycle 25km to the end of the road and camp in the national park before returning to Ushuaia for a couple of nights in a 5* spa resort!

I’ll tot up the final stats in the next post…

Day 46: 12/01/18 – Ushuaia to Fin del Mundo, 25.0km, 323m elev

Although we got to Ushuaia yesterday, we had the small matter of cycling to the end of Ruta 3 and the rather hyperbolic “Fin Del Mundo” (End Of The World) – basically Argentina’s answer to Lands End.

The ride itself was short and uneventful, though we encountered tonnes of buses carrying tourists on day tours. Linda, who’d struggled to keep up with me on ripio the whole trip, then decided that for the last km she was going to cycle “properly” and I wasn’t able to keep up! I shouted that it wasn’t a race (as I was losing) and she slowed down and we were able to hold hands over the “finish line” ❤️

We stayed in the wonderful national park overnight where Rupert Darbyshire and I had camped 23 years ago, practically to the day. To put it in context East 17’s Christmas no 1 “Stay Another Day” had just been replaced by Rednex’s “Cotton Eye Joe”, Blackburn Rovers were top of the premiership, and Austria, Finland and Sweden had only just joined the EU. I had every intention of climbing Cerro Condor, a mountain that Rupert and I hadn’t quite reached the top of, but didn’t realise that the route actually crosses over into Chile so was off limits!

We made do with some other hikes as the weather wasn’t great and then rode back to Ushuaia and through the gates of Los Cauquenes Resort & Spa… I’m not sure they have many smelly, dusty cyclists turning up at their door! But it seemed a fitting bookend to finish in Los Cauquenes, having started in the town of Cauquenes back on 9th November!

So that’s it! Here are some stats and thoughts for you all:

Stats:
Days 46
Distance 3,425km (74km per day)
Elevation gain 42,094m (915m per day)
Saddle time 232h 23m (5h 3m per day)
Average speed 14.7kmh
Biggest climb 536m
Most elevation gain in a day 1,675m
Longest ride 155km
Shortest ride 8km
Longest day (time) 8h 13m
Shortest day (time) 35m
Fastest day 21.7kmh
Slowest day 9.9kmh
Fastest speed 68kmh

Rainy days cycling 10
Nights camping 13
Nights squatting 4
Punctures J:0 L:3 (in one day)
New wheels J:1 L:1
Crashes J:4 L:3
Inches lost on waist J:5″
Sudocrem tubs 1
Crying J: 1 sniffle L: lost count
Wild poos J:1 L:2 (surprisingly!)

So what’s next?

We fly up to Buenos Aries tomorrow and then back to the U.K. on Wednesday.

I’ve got the Engadin to stay fit for in March but I also need to work out how to keep the weight off permanently… was thinking of trying to get my cycling Eddington number up to 100 in a year, and possibly look at PBP next year… any ideas gratefully received, maybe the Transcontinental bike race?!?

Linda is always trim and healthy, so no worries there, but I hope she realises from this trip that she has the guts and determination to achieve anything, that she shouldn’t compare herself to anyone else, and that although there are hundreds of risks in life, there is nothing to be scared of…

That’s all folks…

P.S. And thank you to everyone for your support and words of encouragement, it’s been fun!

Conclusion

1st February 2019

We spent a couple of days in the Cauquenes 5* Spa Resort in Ushuaia courtesy of my Aunt Jane eating ourselves silly and just lounging about. And then a couple of days in Buenos Aires getting a haircut and eating steak and things dipped in dulce de leche.

There was a bit of a palaver trying to organise transport for us and the bikes back from Heathrow, so we decided to get the bus to Stansted and cycle from there back to the pub. There wasn’t a huge welcome party but at least my family were there with a banner and a cake!

The trip was exactly what we both needed – cycle touring allows you to simplify life to the essential parts: where am I going? Where am I going to sleep? And where is my next meal coming from? You only have to worry about one relationship with your partner and the repetitive nature of cycling is meditative for your mind. We both had a lot of stuff to work through, and it gave us the time and space to do so.

We both have some work to do in terms of learning how totour together. I tended to rush off the front and Linda was always playingcatch up. So we didn’t actually spend much time cycling together. The moreexperienced tourers we saw were very good at sticking together and as a resultprobably had an easier time of it.

I read somewhere that the faster you tour, the more you learnabout yourself, the slower you tour, the more you learn about the country you’repassing through. I think that I had a lot to prove to myself – that I was stillstrong and fit and capable, I liked suffering on hills and pushing myself to gofurther and faster. In hindsight, I was selfish – I needed to work through myproblems and feel good about myself which wasn’t always good for therelationship. Linda did an amazing job of keeping up and looking after us both,but she paid for it with problems with her knee for a long time afterwards. Nexttime, I hope we can find a way of looking after each other and going at a pacethat suits us both. Having little left to prove to myself, it should be easier!

And Patagonia? Patagonia is incredible – everyone shouldgo! Cycling the Carretera Austral is rightly one of the Great Trips. Andsharing that journey with Linda made it unforgettable!

P.S. I should and need to say a massive thank you to everyone at the pub who worked so hard to let me go off for two and a half months. It was a break I desperately needed and I can’t put into words how much I appreciate their hard work and dedication, especially Dee who ran the ship whilst I was away. I’m very lucky to have people like that in my life xx