Early next morning, we met Chris at his hostel. He just got back from washing his bike.
The hostel rents bike and other equipment. The manager, Jose, speaks very good English. So after spending hours inside
exchanging travel stories, we asked him to call that questionable phone number for the Lake O'Higgins boat. Luck struck,
this time, we got someone on the other end of the phone! The next confirmed boat was less than a week away
and the one after would go sometime between April 1 and 5. We were told to be there on the 31st of March,
and oh, 8AM sharp.
Well, at least, we had some sorts of a schedule now. Still, there was no way we would be there in less than a week as
we were planing on spending 3-5 days in Paine. Even cycling straight from Natales to Candelario Mancilla, it was doubtful we could make it
in 7 days. The roads are mostly ripio and the wind can get really nasty. We decided to ponder the new information together over lunch.
After a rather tasteless pizza, we needed to formulate our plan, so we said goodbye to Chris. He was going to ride the main highways to Calafate.
We contemplated leaving our bikes in Natales and taking an excursion to Paine (Chris did this). However, neither Brian
nor I liked the idea of taking a bus there and back and then cycling it again. So we decided to cycle to the park.
Both the Dutch couple and the bike shop owner recommended a short-cut to Paine via a backroad that was still under construction.
It would cut our travel distance by about 40km, but it would be harder than riding the highway with "some difficult sections" that we might
have to push. Because the scenary was said to be very beautiful and no vehicles were permitted on this road, we decided
to go for it.
With our game plan ready, we went on a super shopping spree. Numerous people had told us there was
nothing after Natales and what little could be had was ridiculously expensive. So the plan was to load-up now and our next resupply point would be El Calafate.
Adding up the numbers - 2 days to Paine, 5 days in the park, 2 days to Calafate, and 1 floating day, we needed food for 10 days!
Shopping was the easy part. We hit every supermercado in town and then hauled it back to our hotel - four bags of groceries in each hand.
As we prepared to pack it all, first we spread everything out on our double bed and were horrified when it covered the entire surface nearly a foot deep.
We could not imagine how we could fit everything into our panniers let alone carrying all this! What seemed to be an innocent cycling trip had now
turned into a major expedition - like Burke's and Will's attempt to cross Australia. However our problem was we didn't have camels, horses or even one
mule - just two bikes. "It's time to get creative," I remember thinking.