Straight after my arrival in El Calafate I packed my stuff, bought food for the next 3-4 days and headed towards El Chalten. The first 30 kilometers out of El Calafate, I enjoyed having nice tail wind. As soon as I turned into the famous “Routa 40”, the wind played ping-pong once again with me. Moving forward with 10km/h I had a fantastic view over the lago argentino. It was already 8pm when I saw the first house next to the road and I wanted to ask if can put up my tent somewhere nearby. On the straight road I saw 2 other cyclists a few hundred meters ahead, they had the same idea. In the end I camped together with Ludo and Emilie in and next to the hut of the road workers house. I was quite impressed when they took out of their bags different kinds of cheese, chips and beer for the “aperitif”.
The next day started smoothly, only in the afternoon when I left the “Routa 40” towards El Chalten I had to fight against the wind. Ludo and Emilie went the same direction and so I met up with them several times that day. In the end of the day we camped together in the garden of an Estancia right at the Lage Viedma. While having dinner we had a very scenic view on gauchos riding their horses towards the sunset.
On the last kilometers to El Chalten we were very lucky to see the Fitzroy without any cloud ahead of us. Knowing that this were supposed to be the last kilometers of Pampa (and very strong winds), even the upcoming rain in combination with the usual headwind didn’t matter.
El Chalten itself is nothing special, I spent the afternoon organising the next days (2 boat rides and crossing the argentinian-chilean border towards Villo o’Higgins, the start of the Carretera Austral).
The first boat was supposed to go twice per day over the Lago Desierto, but the second one over the Lago o’Higgins goes at the end of the season only every Saturday. I left El Chalten on Thursday morning, so that there was plenty of time to get to the Lago o’ Higgins. The 30km ride to the first lake gave me a first impression of how great the scenery will be at the Carretera Austral. Arriving at the Lago Desierto in the afternoon, I met up with the French couple and Martin from Germany. The captain of the boat told us that the boat broke down and he doesn’t know when it will be fixed. At that point we had to choose between waiting for the boat to be repaired (and maybe missing the other boat) or walking along the lake at some path which should be between 12 and 16km long. The four of us, we decided to do it by ourself and hike with the bikes and luggage along the lake. After a few meters it became clear that there is no point in pushing the bike with the bags, because the track was very narrow, in some parts very steep and many fallen trees had to be crossed. Every part of the path we did 3 times, once with the bags (around 30kg), going back to bike and carrying the bike. At the beginning it was a great adventure for us, but already 3 hours later – we could still see the beginning of the lake and haven’t moved more than 1-2km – we realized that it will be hard to get with the bikes and luggage in time to the other side of the lake.
We hiked until the dawn, while Martin continued to hike, I had a huge dinner with the Ludo and Emilie, because the three of us had bought a lot of food in El Chalten and we wanted to carry less the next day. We slept in our sleeping bags right at the narrow path, directly at the lake and got up with the first light. It was Friday and we knew that we had to get to the other side of the lake today, as there was still the famous bike pushing passage between the 2 lakes ahead (every cyclist has to to do the pushing between the 2 lakes). It was very hard to carry especially the bags (are not designed to be carried by hand) and the constant time pressure did the rest. In the afternoon I didn’t see the French couple anymore but was focused on getting until dawn to the other side.
Around 8.30pm, the sun was already behind the mountains I made it to end of the lake, where the stamp in my passport at the argentinian immigration office.
By the way, the boat must have been repaired very quickly, we saw it passing that day while we sweated hiking along the lake.
The next morning I started the “normal” pushing passage between the argent and the chilean border. Compared to the path at the lake it was easier, because mostly I could push the bike trough the mud and uphill with all bags on the bike. I met 2 Czech girls with backpacks who gave me great support and an update about where they have seen the French couple. We were seriously worried that they wouldn’t make in time.
Somehow I got my bike pushed through the mud and several streams and got into Chile, where I could even cycle the last kilometers down to the boat.
Only five minutes before the boat left, Ludo and Emilie arrived at least and we were all happy that everyone made it in time to the boat. Absolutely we let the last days pass , while we went to Villa o’Higgins. I made friends with the crew and got even food from them.
In Villa o’Higgins we stayed all in the a nice Hostel and I took a day of to recover and clean everything.