Summer Is Hot? Buenos Aires

The flight from Ushuaia was uneventful and we landed in Buenos Aires about 15 minutes early. The approach from the east to the domestic Aeroparque airport is very nice if you have a window seat on the left, with great views of the city. Clapping in the plane still appears to be a thing here and strangely it started right at the moment of touchdown when many things could still happen, including a go around. According to the pilot’s announcement it was 29 degrees at 19:30, a far cry from Fuegian summer, to put it mildly. The bike and box appear to have survived just fine.

The drive into the city was “interesting”. Wide avenues, busy traffic on a Sunday evening and large monuments and buildings are quite the change. The city proper has 3 million inhabitants and the urban area well over 10 million. The last metropolis I visited was Mendoza in October, so this took some getting used to. I got to the hostel at 21:00 and I was glad to find out they have a bar that also serves pizza, so I didn’t have to go out for dinner. Of course this was a perfectly normal or even early time to do so, but I was tired enough that I took the easy way out. Another welcome change is the return of the litre bottles of beer as well as reasonable prices for everything. A big bottle here is cheaper than a pint in Patagonia.

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Tierra del Viento: Punta Arenas – Río Grande

Thursday 28 December

The ferry leaves at 9:00 and I planned to leave the hostel well before 8:00 to make sure I would certainly be on time. By about 7:00 I had all my bags packed and went downstairs. The manager was preparing breakfast and said it would be available at 7:30. He also said that 8:00 would give me plenty of time to catch the ferry. Thus I sat down in the common room with one of the hostel’s books to wait for breakfast. And boy am I glad I waited! This was probably the best breakfast I had in South America, with yogurt, cake, fresh fruit, bread and even an omelet. I was the first at the breakfast table and also the first to leave just before 8:00. The ride to the ferry terminal is about 6 kilometres, so no problem there. It is still a good idea to arrive early, since there was quite a long line of people waiting to buy a ticket. Cyclists only need a passenger ticket, the bike is taken on for free.

The boat is quite a lot larger than the other ferries I’ve been on, with room for several large trucks as well as a number of cars and hundreds of people. It’s also the first roll on-roll off ferry. Up to now I had only seen smaller boats onto which cars had to enter in reverse. It was a beautiful morning for a boat ride with sunshine and once we got moving there was effectively no wind on the boat, as its velocity matched that of the ship. But of course this wouldn’t be Patagonia if it stayed that way. We arrived two hours later in Porvenir with a rather different wind and rain. During the ride I felt extremely happy and a bit strange to finally be going to Tierra del Fuego, pretty much the end of the Earth and my goal for such a long time.

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An Aeolian Adventure: El Calafate – Puerto Natales

Thursday 21 December

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
07:22:16 06:15:24 116.44 18.61 54.00 1,038.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

William spent Tuesday evening and most of Wednesday in bed being ill. Thursday, the first day of summer, was our planned departure date and that morning he said he felt fit enough to ride. We left just before 10:00 the same way we had entered Calafate, heading east. We were somewhat disappointed about the absence of a strong wind this morning, which should normally help us along for the first part. There was still a little bit of a northwesterly wind, which is good.

William was having trouble riding and after 16 kilometers decided to stop for today. He would try to hitch a ride, though he didn’t know yet where to. Thus I continued alone. The first 45 km are more or less flat and I was easily averaging 20+ km/h. Then started the largest climb still left and also one of the higher ones on the whole trip. It was however a very pleasant gradient and the wind was also getting a bit stronger now, pushing me uphill. On the hill I saw two bikes parked by the side of the road and two people eating down below. Since I was doing so well on the climb I decided not to stop to talk to them.

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The Real Line: Villa O’Higgins – El Chaltén

The Carretera Austral is sometimes called the road at the end of the road, because it starts more or less at the end of the Pan-American Highway (depending how exactly you define that one) and continues south from there. But now we’ve reached its end too and there’s no more road to continue on. So what happens next?

You take the boat at the end of the road at the end of the road of course! For cyclists and pedestrians it is possible to cross the border to El Chaltén in Argentina. Many borders are just an imaginary line on a map, but there is no imaginary component to this one, so it must be real then. Bad maths puns aside, it involves cycling, two boats and biking/pushing your bike through difficult terrain for 22 kilometers between the two lakes. Like the Carretera Austral, crossing this border is is an essential part of almost every bike tour heading this far south.

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Patagonia Is Hard: S.C. de Bariloche – Futaleufú

Seriously, how am I ever going to write a blog post without dumping hundreds of photos on you, each showing a landscape that is even more stunning than the last? This place is like riding through a postcard or a chocolate box, as others have called it. I can confirm this: The box of chocolate I bought in Bariloche has a photo on its lid that looks suspiciously like the view I had from Cerro Campanario.

And yes, the riding is often hard too, but who cares? You soon forget about that climb you were fighting just a few minutes ago upon seeing the reward. The proof of that is in the notes I took for this post. When I looked back at the altitude profiles of the last few days I saw uphill sections that I completely missed while on the road.

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A New Hope: La Quiaca – S.S. de Jujuy

The bus ride from Uyuni to Villazón was long and uncomfortable. I wasn’t told that we had to change buses once in the middle of the night and the road was extremely bumpy, so sleeping wasn’t really an option. We got dropped off at the new Villazón bus terminal at 3 in the morning. Thus I had to wait for the sun to rise and also for the border crossing to open at 6.

Thursday 5 October

I arrived at the border shortly after 6, and after exchanging my remaining Bolivianos for Argentinian Pesos the crossing was easy. The lady at the counter asked me where I was going. Looking at the big sign I could see from there, I answered “Erm, Ushuaia?” The sign read:

Bienvenidos
a La Quiaca
Ushuaia 5121 km

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