A Crazy Christmas: Puerto Natales – Punta Arenas

Monday 25 December

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
09:04:20 07:30:04 148.19 19.76 52.56 1,081.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

On Christmas day I got started a bit later than usual, but so did my host. At breakfast I got a large piece of cake in addition to the usual bread. As I walked out the sun was shining and I got quite warm, so I was thinking about removing a layer of clothing, but decided against it for now. When I got onto the road the sun disappeared and I was soon adding layers instead.

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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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The End: Cochrane – Villa O’Higgins

In Cochrane I started by going to a car mechanic I had already seen when I entered town. He couldn’t weld my rack and according to him there’s no aluminium welder here. He had another bike rack out of steel, but there’s no way that will fit my bike because of the rear suspension and generally non-standard setup. Then he suggested using strong hose clamps to hold the rack in place and sent me to a hardware store.

I got a few clamps there, but I already didn’t like them much when I bought them. Indeed I found out they won’t work for me. As I was trying this at the hostel a motorbike rider arrived who also took a look. He suggested to just use strong zip ties or otherwise use small steel L-brackets. But that will have to wait for tomorrow. Looking at my bungee cord fix I think zip ties, applied correctly, are indeed likely to hold and it’s easy to carry spares in case they break. Update: I had contact with the bike’s manufacturer and they also suggest a fix using hose clamps in combination with a piece of wood, so I’ll try that soon.

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Into the Wild: Coyhaique – Cochrane

The meetings continued in Coyhaique. When I was walking back from picking up my laundry I saw Tim and Timo entering town, who will stay here tomorrow.

The fuel bottle for my camp stove was almost empty, so I’d been looking for white gas for a while, but unable to find it. Thus I went to a fuel station before leaving the city and had it filled with regular petrol. The lady operating the pump filled the bottle all the way to the brim, so now I have too much fuel to cook safely.

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Cyclist Central: Puyuhuapi – Coyhaique

Monday 27 November

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:36:05 01:32:28 21.35 13.85 37.44 237.00
hours hours km km/h km/h meters

 

On Monday I didn’t feel like spending a full day in Puyuhuapi, there’s not that much to see and do in town. So I got on my bike for the short ride to Parque Nacional Queulat. The road was good and easy, but some 10 km in it was blocked completely because of construction work. Luckily the road is next to the fjord here, so ferries were operating as a replacement service. On the ferry were also a few riders of the South American Epic, as well as a group of motorcyclists.

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Pinochet’s Prestige Project: Futaleufú – Puyuhuapi

I’m currently heading from one legendary road to the next. Just a few days ago I left Ruta 40 in Argentina behind, only to soon join the Chilean Carretera Austral, the southern highway that Pinochet started building in the 1970s with the goal of connecting remote settlements in the south to the rest of Chile by road. Previously they were only accessible by infrequent and slow boats, by air or through Argentina. The reasoning was that the road would make the region feel more united with the rest of the country and also makes military troop movements easier if Argentina decided to attack.

This road is a must-do for every bike tourist in southern South America, so that’s where I’m going. 45 years later the road is still under construction, so some sections are quite bad, and there are a few ferries where no reasonable road could be built. In summer the road is said to be full of bike tourists (maybe a bit too full), but it’s not summer yet.

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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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South America 2017-2018: The Plan

After successfully completing my PhD I’m going on a bike tour in South America. I fly to La Paz, Bolivia on Tuesday the 19th of September and I will return from Buenos Aires on Thursday the 11th of January of 2018. This means I have almost 4 months in South America.

What happens in between is still open, though the plan is to cycle south from La Paz, visiting among others:

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