november 30 to december 9
In the end I spent 4 days in Punta Arenas, Chile. It took 2 days for my body to recover and I spent most of that time relaxing and walking around town.
I stay at a hostel, where I could camp with my tent in the yard, giving me a little bit of privacy and saving some money.
While I was in Punta Arenas, the culture shock and loneliness set in for the first time.
The hostel had mostly French speaking guests leaving me on the outside of most conversations and enhancing the feeling of loneliness. It’s funny how being excluded from a group is so much lonelier than being on your own.
I spent a good amount of time considering, if I really wanted to continue traveling like this, or if I should consider doing something else. But as my body started to feel better, I also got back the excitement for getting back on the bike, and I was in a great mood, setting off Monday morning after having spent all Sunday watching NFL and eating everything in sight.
Even though I’m the most alone, while cycling I don’t feel lonely at all, just enjoying the road passing and whatever I’m listening to. If you have a book or podcast recommendation, send it my way.
I stopped on my way out of town to pick up food at a big supermarket and have some fast food. For the last few days of cycling Tierra del Fuego I had been thinking a lot about fast food and breakfast buffets. I found out that I still need to practice my Spanish some more, because I ended up with 2 menus instead of one, but luckily, I was able to eat most of it.
I set off and soon learned that my delusion that the I was out of the windiest area was completely false. So again, cycling in strong wind, I set my goal for a small town 100 km to the north, where there was a big bus stop other cyclists had slept at.
I know this because of the app iOverlader, which is a great little app for sharing information about places to camp, shop, and stuff like this.
After a few days of recovering and fueled by a double portion of fried chicken with fries I made it to the bus stop without completely killing myself and feeling really good about doing another long day after a night of sleep out of the wind.
Next day the wind had picked up a little bit more and cycling north northwest it felt as head wind the whole way, and I was just working to get to the point where the road would take a turn going straight west to get more of a side wind.
But – always a but – as I turned west, the head wind got even stronger, and I made slow progress.
After an hour going west at about 8 – 10 km/h I came to a pile of gravel giving shelter, so I stopped and cooked some lentils for lunch, and as it was the first time out of the wind and with hot sun, I decided to take a nap. It was almost warm, like an early spring day back home.
When I finally got back on the bike maybe an hour and a half later, the wind had picked up even more and as I was struggling to even keep a pace of 8
The wind kept getting stronger to the point, where I was almost unable to keep the bike going. I kept having to stop, as I was almost blown over. I came across a bus stop, and even though it was just 4 in the afternoon I decided to stop there and hope the wind would get better the next day.
It was really not the best-looking bus stop I had cycled past that day – it lacked a door, had a broken window and a pile of trash in the corner that I didn’t dare to move, afraid that I would find something nasty at the bottom of it. I had a very long night there. At some point the wind changed direction enough that it blew on me a little bit, making me cold to the bones. But I still got some sleep somehow, and when I got up next morning, the wind had settled down making it possible to cycle on.
I made all the way to Puerto Natales the next day and got excited, when the landscape started to change with the snow-covered mountains appearing in the horizon. It makes it more fun being on the bike while having a nice view to look at. It was a weird day on the bike, since I spent the last 3 hours looking for a good place to stop and cook, but never came across a place I liked, So I just powered through.
The main reason to go to Puerto Natales for is the Torres del Paine national park, which has some of the best hiking in the world/South America. This is also my plan – ever since reading about it I really wanted to do it, and that desire didn’t get smaller going north as with everyone you meet it’s one of the first points of conversation. Everyone is either going there or have already been there. The problem is that the organization around this park is terrible, and it is so popular, you must have a reservation for camping inside the most popular treks, and it’s next to impossible to do it beforehand. The campsites are divided between 3 different companies, that don’t work together.
So you hear the story of people going without one and just showing up hoping for the best, and stories of how it was no problem getting reservations, when you were in town and could talk to them directly.
In Torres del Paine there are the main hike called the W and a longer hike called the O. The W takes 4 to 5 days and the O takes 8 to 9 days.
Before coming to South America, I thought that I would be nice to do the O. I have never done a multi-day hike carrying everything, and it would be perfect, as I’m already carrying everything for hiking except a backpack, so as the last thing before leaving Denmark I decided to also bring my backpack, hoping I would enjoy hiking.
In Puerto Natales everything went smoother than I expected. The owner of the camping/hostel I stayed at gave me some good advice on what to do in the park and told me that there are two places, that control reservations and don’t let you pass without one. Everything went smoothly and in a couple of hours I had reservations to do a modified O trek in 8 days. I went home, made a plan to cycle there and do a couple of small treks before, as I had an extra day.
That evening Roger, a guy I meet at Expanish school in Buenos Aries, and again in Ushuaia texted me that he was arriving in Puerto Natales too. We met up, had a beer and when he heard my plan, decided to join. So, the next day we went off again to the park offices. At the first there was a little problem, as we could only get the reservation, if we went in the day I had originally asked for but had been told it was unavailable. Second, we went to the other place, which was closed, even though it was in the middle of their opening hours. In the end we didn’t get a reservation for the first two camps but decided to just go anyway.
Then we had to get the food, I had already been calculating how much food I would need for 2 days cycling to Torres del Paine, hiking for 8 – 9 days and then cycling 3 days to El Calafate in Argentina.
It comes to quite a lot of food, but we managed to get what we needed buying mostly cheap local stuff and not resorting to dehydrated meals at 10 € per bag minimum.
So here starts my first real trip into the mountains with a bike that is way too heavy with food for almost 2 weeks.