PUNTA ARENAS – PUERTO NATALES

We planned an early start to beat the wind.

By 4am we were on our way to Puerto Natales 245km north of Punta Arenas. We figured it would be a 3 day ride. The early mornings are great, traffic free and the wind is relatively calm (for Patagonia that is). Chile feels more developed than Argentina, which surprised us, given you seem to hear so much more about latter. Maybe though, it is that we are heading into tourist zone – Torres del Paine national park, Perito Moreno glacier etc. We look forward to them – and hopefully we’ll make it there in one piece, provided those air-con gringo buses keep their distance!

The Patagonian wind seems to build through the morning, reach its peak by mid-afternoon and blows itself out through the night (a theory which is holding for now). Its force is simple incredible. You literally wrestle with your bike to keep it on course. Side gusts are so strong they can blow you across an entire lane and onto the gravel. The howling in your ears never seems stops. It is patience testing stuff.

The road’s pretty flat, so how far you get in a day depends entirely on the wind. At times we can only go 4km/hr (walking speed!). On our first day, we managed 75km before making camp 20km before Lago Blanco. It wasnt much, but we turned our roadside thicket of trees into a pleasant home for the night. The next day we pushed onto Morro Chico. A sign by the roadside promised a roast lamb lunch and no wind on earth was going to stop us getting there. We devoured our lunch then hid out in a bus shelter across the road. We were on track to make Puerto Natales tomorrow. The wind howled all night, at times we thought our bus shelter would actually topple over! By morning it seemed to be getting stronger (there goes our theory). What do we do? We’d waited 18hrs in a bus shelter. If it was this strong now, what would it be like in the afternoon?? We made the difficult decision to hitch the last 100km into town.

Did we cheat ourselves? A purist may think so, but that’s not what this trip is about for us. You can ride across Patagonia no problems, all you need is lots of time (and patience). We gave it our best shot. Today the wind beat us, and we take our hats off to it!

Early morning starts

Early morning starts

Friendly locals

Friendly locals

Sorry Tom - Mums cooking a lamb roast

Sorry Tom - Mums cooking a lamb roast