5:30AM, we were up. The cold and moist air was very refreshing. There was no time for breakfast, we quickly packed and
were on the track by 6:30AM under headlamps.
The sun was rising to the east, but back towards Torres, it was cloudy. As we made our way down the mountain, we felt
some sprinkle but the sun eventually poked through the sky and we got an early bird special treat - a full
double rainbow - right before we descended to the valley.
8:30AM, we walked into Hotel Las Torres hoping to catch a bus to the catamaran. The receptionist told us the park
shuttle bus would be there 9AM and 2PM. And then, when we added where we could have breakfast, he politely pointed us
the direction of the refugio. The hotel restaurant had breakfast for $18/pp, we had mud-covered hiking boots, sweaty
shirts with stains, everybody else inside wore leather shoes - we got the picture.
Perfect timing. A small shuttle bus picked us up around 9. As it went, we tried to size up what it would be like to cycle the
road and was kind of glad we didn't come all the way into the park 4 days ago.
There was a wooden bridge by a lake, Lago Amarga. A real one-way bridge because not even a fly could squeeze in from the
other side. In fact, the driver had to fold the mirrors in while a couple of tourists were entertained by his superb
driving skill on the other end.
From there, we were transferred to another bus which would take us to the catamaran. Inside, we anxiously waited for
more uphill as we would be cycling back this way to get out of the park -- we had some happy moments, and some more
worrying ones too.
12:00 noon, at the catamaran. No problems with our bikes except one of Brian's water bottle got some teeth marks of
mice. We had some chocolate bar and then started gearing up for cycling. After waiting for a quick shower to go away,
we started riding at 1PM.
Quite some hills inside the park but nothing like those on the back road coming in. With very little wind and incredible scenery
around, it was such blessing to ride. I still though, managed to fall off my bike going up a steep one and hurt my chest
pretty hard on the handle bar. Once in a while, we ran into a herd of guanacos - wild llama - grazing innocently by the road.
25km in the park and we were at the main entrance. We filled up our water bottles and played with what seemed to be baby
foxes, like some 20 of them. The woman at the guard house told us Cerro Castillo, our destination for the night was
With the wind to our back and the relatively flat terrain, we made good speed especially after the loose ripio turned
into hard packed dirt track a few kilometers after the park. After at least 10km, we came to a fork and the road sign
said 38km to Cerro Castillo! I would never trust the locals for their numbers again.
And smooth ripio didn't last very long either. Once going downhill, my bike fell victim to the washboard and started
twisting, turning as I tried desperately to stay on. Miraculously, I did not crash. Brian watched me performing the
stunt from behind only to get sucked right in to the same washboard himself.
The sun was going down. 6:30PM, we found Cerro Castillo after almost giving up hope that it ever exists. It was getting
cold. For all day from 5AM, we had only had 2 chocolate bars. We were starved. Inside the only cafeteria in town,
we ordered two sandwiches with fries. Brian loaded his up with mayo, mustard, and hot sauce, and it was gone before I
could put a dent on mine. After another order of fries and a 1.5 liter Sprite, we were happily full and totally spent.
We chatted with a group of 4 geologists from Stanford on their research project and a British couple on holiday.
The professor looking guy seemed hush-hush about what they were doing so we didn't ask more. They passed us earlier
on the road. "Too much work." He said to our way of travel.
The lady who runs the cafeteria also owns a hostel in town. With the night and temperature quickly falling, we felt we
needed something better than a tent. Pushing the door out, we were immediately blasted by gale force wind and found our
bikes blown on the ground, wheels spinning in the air. And we were just in for a couple of sandwiches?!
We pretty much flew to the hostel. Thank god it was down wind. Brian offered me to take a hot shower first, and when it
was his turn, he got only 2 minutes before the hot water ran out. Unhappy, he gorged several cookies before
we retired to bed.
The wind was on all night and so did the heater in our room. How could it go from T-shirt to sub zero in one day - what a day!