When we got up in the morning, our tent was flapping like crazy in the howling wind. I felt like we were atop Mount Washington in
a winter storm. We took our time having breakfast and getting packed - a cold night of sleep was not enough to recover from yesterday's beating.
Looking out of the tent, we could see clearly the jagged peaks of Torres del Paine with a swirl of grayish clouds impelling violently
around the summits.
We shuttled our luggage and bikes up to the road and started facing headwinds so strong that I could hardly stand up straight.
Riding some 30km, a number that sounded like nothing, now felt like a daunting task.
The road wasn't much better either - more steep and loose hills with occassional river crossings. But it was the wind that constantly knocked
me off my bike. Brian offered to take my backpack. I reluctantly agreed. Right from the start, I could tell it was going to be a very long 30km.
To our right was a huge lake, Lago del Toro, now covered with tumbling white caps. You could see waves crashing against the shoreline.
The hills were not getting any easier. With the fierce wind,
I had to push a lot of them. Brian tried to ride as much as he could. With his super heavy load, it was much harder for him to push. Every time he did,
the front tire would just lift off in the air turning his bike into a wild bronco. On one of the steeper hills, he could not get off the bike fast
enough and flipped over backwards into a ditch filled with burrs. He got pinned under his bike. For the next hour, we painstakingly picked and plucked
all those sharp needles covering him top to bottom.
We carried on, feeling battled. For steep hills, we would push together one bike to the top, and then walk back down to get the other one. After
what seemed to be a bend on the road (Paine was straight ahead of us, now it was on our right), we met a Brazilian cyclist going towards Natales.
He told us we should be at the park drinking hot tea very soon. That lifted up my spirit a little bit, but we were still pounded by the relentless
wind that refused to let loose of its grip for one second.
Frustrated by the wind and hours later, we finally saw the sign to the end of the road. It took us six hours to go 20km.
After crossing a couple of small streams, we came to the bridge that was still under construction. We pushed our bikes across a catwalk that ran underneath the bridge
and noticed that we were being watched by every construction worker at the other end. Work had grinded to halt as they studied us like aliens from Mars.
Just over the bridge was a gravel road. Our brief moment of relief was soon blown away when we discovered riding this gravel road was no better than
being in the mountains and wind. It was deep, soft, and full of big rocks. Every time a car went by, we got blasted by a dust storm.
5km later, while looking like we just got out of a coal mine, we arrived at the ranger station only to find out the nearest campsite was
another 7km away.
We took a much needed break. I didn't feel like I could push much further. Outside, surprisingly, we saw Meg and Brandon just getting off a bus.
They just finished their 3-day hike and were absolutely thrilled. Our choice of travel didn't sound very appealing to them
as they shook their heads listening to our tale.
It was getting dark and colder, so we had to leave. After saying good-bye to them, we were back on the saddle fighting again with the wind which had
now gone totally crazy. We were peppered with rocks and dust as we battled our way along the last 7km to the campground. We hoped the terrain was level,
but unfortunately it was all uphill. "We're being punished for something we did, or did not do", I remembered
telling myself as I stood once again in the wind wondering how/if I could make it to the campground.
Suddenly, a car from behind pulled up beside us. The couple inside rolled down the window and asked if we needed their help. They offerred to take our bags to the campsite. SUspicious and worried we might never see the equipment again, we declined.
But they insisted and even offered to give me and my bike a ride if everything fit. With the stars gleaming in the sky
and the wind sweeping the ground like a tornado, I set my pride aside and accepted the ride.
Quickly, we loaded my bags and bike into the hatchback. Somehow I managed to wedge myself into the last remaining corner and off we went. They were from Brazil and here for
vacation. At first, Brian rode close by but with more steep, uphill ahead, he started to struggle. The husband drove as slow as he could
and finally, Brian asked him to roll-down the window so he could hold onto it like holding a tow-rope up a bunny hill.
It was already dark when our "rescue vehicle" arrived at the campground. We could not thank the Brazilian couple enough. Without them, we
would have been in pretty bad shape still out on the road somewhere.
The wind was going non-stop all night long.