December 20 to December 29
So far no, it will not. At least I got to try cycling with the wind at my back leaving Torres del Paine heading towards El Calafate. It was really good to be back on the bike and to my surprise I felt fresh with strong legs despite the 8 days of hiking.
Unfortunately for me, it was a cloudy day over Torres, so I didn’t get to see them from a distance while going east. Going east, for the first time I was going east since cycling out of Ushuaia, and it meant that I had the wind in my back and could drive at a whole other speed than I had gotten used to. Shortly after lunch I made it to the Argentinan border and the only village before El Calafate. There was a restaurant, so I decided to treat myself to lunch, fried chicken, Milenesa de pollo, and fries before crossing the border.
A few hours of cycling later my stomach started to feel weird, and I kicked myself for having eaten such a high fat meal after 10 days of almost no fat in my food, but I had the wind pushing me forward, and I couldn’t let an upset stomach stop me. I knew I was coming to a crossroad further up the road, where I could take a shortcut of 65 km on a bad gravel road or go 160 km around on the asphalt road. But as I was getting closer, my stomach got worse and worse, and I had to stop and throw up, not a good sign, but I was just under an hour away from a gas station with a toilet, and I really wanted to make it there. At the same place there was also a windshelter, where I could camp for the night.
When I finally arrived, I ran to the bathroom, and now I knew for sure that it was definitely more than just too much greasy food, I was not feeling great at all. I went and put my tent up feeling horrible and throwing up a bit more as I was getting settled. Then I really tried to convince myself that I should try to eat some pasta but just the thought made me feel sick. So I drank some Coke, that I had picked up and went to bed with a fever.
Next morning I still was unable to eat anything, I just had a bit of chocolate and Coke before setting of. I still didn’t feel great, but I was too busy keeping the bike going on the dirt road to really pay it any attention. My energy level was low, and I was still unable to eat anything. The only “food” I had the whole day was some sugary energy drinks I had been carrying.
My mental state and reasoning must also have suffered, because when it came time to look for a place to camp I realized I was almost out of water and that i had forgotten to fill up at the last river, but according to my map there should be a couple of water sources another hour or two ahead, so I put my head down and kept going.
When I arrived at the first stream marked on the map it was completely dry, no water to be seen anywhere, but there was a small lake no too much further, which I could probably use. But alas there was no lake to be seen, where it was supposed to be. I gave up and went back a bit to a wind shelter I had seen at the side of the road, aka a ditch. I decided that as I was still not feeling great about eating anything and keeping it down, so it would better to save my last water to drink next morning for breakfast. Looking ahead it looked like it was 30 – 35 km to the next river or about 3 – 4 hour with the wind I was facing. I decided that I could make it that far, and if I couldn’t, I would have to try and stop a car and ask for water.
I got up early and set off, hoping the wind would be less fierce in the morning, but it wasn’t. Luckily I did catch a break after 20 km, as it started going downhill, giving my morale a boost. In the end it took me a little more than 3 hours to get to the river, where I quickly filtered all the water I could drink and made the best pot of pasta with salami and tomato sauce that I had had on the entire trip.
Having eaten for the first time in 48 hours and having plenty of water I set of with a new wave of energy. It didn’t last long as I continued fighting the strong wind. I only had 42 km to El Calafate, but my energy was running low. I was so exhausted that I had to get off and push at every rise, as I just couldn’t find the energy to make it on the bike. I was hoping to come across any place that I could camp and cook and hopefully recharge the energy needed for the next day. But there was no wind shelter anywhere, so I just had to keep going. On one rise I was overtaken by a cyclists from Brazil, who was coming from the airport. We met again at the police stop at the entrance to the city, where he was sitting and waiting for a ride, he had given in after just 15 km against the wind.
In the end I made it to the city and stopped at the first shop for coke and piece of chocolate that I had been fantasizing about all day. When I made to my hostel I had been going for 14 hours and I was dead, I couldn’t even find the energy to make dinner before collapsing in bed.
I was at the hostel in El calafate for Christmas. It was nice, as it was full of other travellers, and we spent Christmas evening talking around a bonfire, drinking wine and BBQ’ing.
I spent 5 days recovering in Él Calafate before feeling ready to continue to El Chaltén further north In Argentina. In that time I saw a lot of movies, slept and ate. I also went to the Perito Moreno Glacier, bought myself a set of walking sticks as a Christmas present and had some fast food.
The trip to El Chaltén took 3 days, another 3 days of merciless wind, but for the first time I had a warm sun and was able to cycle in just a t-shirt and take breaks in the sun making everything just a bit better and the wind easier to live with.
It really gave me another level of energy knowing this was that last part of the Pampa and that after El Chaltén I would cross back in to Chile and the Carretera Austral.
The last part in to Él Chaltén is an approximate 90 km road going straight west with winds coming of the mountains that just never seems to take a break. It made for another long day on the bike, where I only just managed to arrive in town at dusk and find a campsite.
Él Chaltén is a little town laying in the shadows of Mount Fitz Roy and is a paradise for trekking and mountain climbing. With lots of trails and free campground in the mountains around the city, yet it still being close enough that you can do all day tours and be back in town to eat at a restaurant and sleep in a bed every night if you wish.
Arriving I had picked up my first real injury, I woke up with pain in my Achilles tendon, and really feeling it whenever I was walking or cycling. So I settled in to be staying for a while to give it a rest before doing some of the amazing treks in the area.