Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | El Calafate Index Day 15 Day 17
      Day 16: Cerro Castillo -> Puerto Rubio 94KM 5K to Iceland

Brian opened the door at 8AM like a little kid at Christmas eager to see what we were getting for breakfast. To his astonishment, the table right outside our room was well set-up with tea, coffee, a full basket of bread roll, butter and jelly, ham and cheese, a glass of nectar, hot water, and hot milk resting on a wood burning stove. What a luxury.

The wind was howling outside. It looked cold. We were not very motivated to leave this warm shelter. (Other than having to reach inside the water tank to flush the toilet, our room was quite cozy.) But we knew we had to go. The boat to O'Higgins, if as scheduled, was leaving in a week, and we wanted to spend some time hiking in Fitz Roy too.

Reluctantly, I packed and headed out to the storm. The good thing was we were heading east, with the wind, but it was nonetheless cold and dusty. The Chile/Argentina border is right outside Cerro Castillo. We got stamped on our passport without any problems just before a full bus load of people poured in.

With gale force wind on our back, we were flying. Brian had to stop once in a while to wait for me. Bad ripio and high speed were just not something I liked to tinker with.

Several kilometers away at the Argentinian customs, my passport was carefully inspected by the border control inside. They had never seen a digital photo on a passport. We played with a cute little dog at the door and with a "good luck" which usually meant "you are crazy" from the officer, we were back to the wind tunnel.

Our fast speed, wind powered, pedaling-free ride didn't last very long. A huge sign with "Calafate" on pointed us back north/north west. We got hit hard by the wind. And it was only the beginning.

Out of total surprise, we saw the Mexican, Eduardo, we met in Torres and two of his friends waiting to hitch by the road. They were in down jacket, hats, and gloves. I don't know which one is better, waiting in the cold or riding in the wind.

As long as we were not turning left, we were okay. After 20km of very tough ripio, we hit unexpected pavement. With wind at our back, we were going at 40km/hour without much pedaling. But, that didn't last for more than 25 minutes and we were back on ripio, the notorious Ruta 40, fighting the wind.

Really bad ripio. Bumpy, rocky, loose that required constant focus to find the best possible track. Brian had his headphone on earlier and later passed it on to me when the condition got really tough. A good tune is better than a chocolate bar at that time.

We covered a long stretch of nothingness. There were no signs of life for hours except a couple of cars passing by. A small dot on our map, supposed to be some sorts of outpost or farm house, was nothing but a cattle ranch with a horse stable. We kept hoping to see something, anything that would resemble a village but there was none.

When our trip computer hit 80km, we turned right on to the headwind and our progress came to a crawl. I was exhausted, even music could not help too much anymore. We agreed to stop at anywhere with water and some kind of wind protection. Nothing. One hill after another, we pushed on. At 90km, it was getting dark and we saw two figures coming towards us in a very slow speed. In the middle of nowhere, we met two more cyclists from the States. One had a guitar strapped on his back. They had just had some coffee at a truck stop only 5km away and wanted to cycle into the night. We thought we were crazy enough.

A house of any kind was a welcoming sign to us at that point. It was a police station with a lot of construction vehicles in the back. We knocked on the door and asked if we could pitch our tent somewhere. The police guy took us instead to a garage that was shielded from the wind. It was freezing cold.

We were low on water and fuel - not a good combo. With what was left in our water bottle and thermos, we cooked 3 packs of instant noodle and crawled in our sleeping bags absolutely exhausted.

Index Day 15 Day 17