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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.
Thursday we had bad weather all day, so we spent most of it in the Casa del Ciclista. I had some things that needed repairs or replacement, so I looked around town for these. I succeeded with my bags, but did not find anyone to repair my phone.
El Chaltén is one of the hiking and trekking capitals of South America, together with Torres del Paine, so some hiking is in order. While it would be great to walk the Cerro Huemul circuit that gives one a view of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, this was not really an option for various reasons: It takes too much time and you need four days of good enough weather. Some people were already waiting for a week for weather to improve, so that won’t work for me. I also think that my current setup is not that great for such an extended trek. Thus, William and I decided to go to the more accessible Laguna de los Tres and Laguna Torre on Friday and Saturday.
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.