Patagonia I (Tierra del Fuego)
Finally, on Monday Feb 7th, I left Ushuaia and started my big trip.
Two girls from the hostel waived me goodbye when I took off, at the beginning with some problems to keep the balance. I didn’t know it at the moment, but within the first week of riding I would get a good balance over my bike.
I left Ushuaia towards the north, it was great landscape of Patagonia as you always see at pictures, the road went trough steep and rocky mountains, at every turn I saw something new and spectacular. I also had to climb for a while, which seemed very hard with more than 30kg of luggage on the bike. I think I had tail wind the hole day (this point I will elaborate a bit more in the following paragraph). After all I made more than 100km on the first day and put up my tent on the end of the Lago Fagnano (it was hard to find a spot where it seemed possible to put up the tent due very strong winds.
The second day started smoothly and I thought everyone must has been overestimating the wind in Patagonia. But after about 40km the road made a turn (the landscape has already changed very much to the one from the first day, mainly wide and flat farmland -> the Pampa) and suddenly the wind came from the front.
I want to keep the word of Joel (another cyclist I’ve been cycling with for 2 days) in mind: Don’t talk about the wind!
Only one thing, Patagonia is famous for its constant and strong wind, which blows always from West/Northwest. If you look at the map below you can see that my route took me until now always in the direction North and West, therefore strong headwinds.
I planned to get to Rio Grande, a bigger town in this region, but I gave up in the afternoon after about 60-70km and asked at the Estancia Viermont if I could put a up somewhere my tent and get some water. The farmer Simon, who had German roots (and spoke even german) offered me then to stay in one of the empty houses.
I got up very early the next day and enjoyed the period of lower winds which sometimes last from the night to 8am to 9am.
After stocking up with food in Rio Grande I headed further North-East. After fighting against the wind for a few hours (full power, but only 10-12 km/h) I stopped at a place where the road was right at the Atlantic and saw a few workers building houses. I could put my tent next their shelter and got some water from them. This was until now the nicest place for a camping, right at a long stretched sand beach. Later in the evenning a british couple, who go by kayak once around Tierra del Fuego put up their tent next to mine, they had some interesting stories to tell!
Looking at the map you see some villages, so I first I thought they would have a grocery store and so on. But in fact the villages often consist only of one or two houses or a petrol station.
I thought I could buy some food in San Sebastian, which exists according to the map 2 times (once on the Argentinian side and once on the Chilean side, but one of them is only a petrol station and the other one a restaurant. As soon as I crossed the border to Chile the nicely paved road, I was riding on since Uhsuaia, was gone and changed into a gravel road.
After 30km more on the gravel road (and obviously against the wind), I put my tent in the wind shadow of some shelter next to the road.
As I already mentioned the only time without wind is the night, therefore I thought it would be very clever to start already in the night. I started cycling at 3am, with the torch on my head. There was really no wind, but it was hard to see where to cycle on the gravel road in the dark and after 10km I decided to wait until sunrise (5.30am) and slept for an hour right next to the road. When I got up I had lost the orientation for short time and didn’t know which direction I had to go, fortunately the GPS could tell what the right direction was. I cycled another 30km without wind. At my 2nd breakfast I met for the first time 2 cyclists who were going in the same direction like me, so I joined them and we were three. I was happy to ride with Joel (France) and Alexander (Berlin) who had both been on the road for about 6 months. When I met them it was 9am and I had already more than 40km done that day. The wanted to get to Porvenir within one day and catch the ferry in the evening from Tierra del Fuego (= Feuerland) to the mainland of the American continent and the biggest town in Patagonia “Puenta Arenas”. It was hard that day, but cycling in a group makes it easier and so I had more 130km done that day when we arrived at the ferry.
Then I took a day off from cycling (mainly for maintenance and stocking up with food for the 250km ride to Puerto Natales)