Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | El Calafate Index Day 17 Day 19
      Day 18: Somewhere Ruta 40 -> El Calafate 67KM Caught in Another Eddie

We woke up to a crisp morning. Our tent looked very lonely amid the vast pampas with only a herd of wild horses out in the distance. The wind had gone a lot tamer (thank god). Excited and determined to reach Calafate today, we pushed out of the ditch and were on the road by 9AM.

What a difference a day made. We could now easily pedal 13kph. It was very cold. Even with hat under my helmet, gloves, and two layers of legging, my hands and feet still felt numb. Only a couple of kilometers away, we were at a construction site with a short section of good ripio. And then, it was downhill, downhill, and more downhill, all freshly paved and smooth like butter. Brian hit 62 kph and I was at a close second at 58. Such a spirit lifter after all we had gone through the day before.

We must have lost 1000 vertical meters in 20km because it started to feel a lot warmer. At the bottom of the hill is Rio Bote with a hotel/cafeteria that seemed to be closed. We filled up our bottles in the river and were cheerfully back on the road expecting to be at Calafate by lunch time.

A few kilometers down the road, a small hill on the west cast a shadow on the road and I had a weird feeling when it got a bit harder to pedal. Then, before I was mentally ready for another battle, the westerly returned. "Not another one, please." I begged, but it was helpless. We were back in the hands of the Patagonia wind. Brian caught up with me from behind and tried to put me in the draft. He was in total combat mood. We could barely keep 9kph. Calafate was still 32km away.

And then, we got sandwiched between more hills. The velocity nearly doubled and riding was like dragging a big block of concrete behind. We were getting angry and could not believe how a nice calm morning could turn into something so ugly like this.

20km from Calafate by the airport, we went up a small hill with confused wind coming from every direction except behind us. And then, everything in front of me became a blur -- the wind had blown both of my contact glasses off! I called up Brian for help. Luckily, they fell to my sun glasses and while they were dangerously dry, we managed to revive them with some water. The big problem was to put them back on. I tried and tried but the wind was just way too strong for that to happen.

Got to get creative. We grabbed a rain-cover of our panniers and pulled it over our heads. With that tiny little pocket between our nose under the cover, I got my contacts back on. "What the heck they are doing?" I could hear people talking in their cars passing us by. Seeing two people standing face to face on a hill by the airport with one bright yellow plastic bag over their heads, I'd be curious too.

Then, we saw the beautiful Lake Argentina, and then, the city right nearby. Almost there, I said to myself.

5km to Calafate. The sun had disappeared and it was getting cold, even it was only 1pm. From the other side of the road came another cyclist in a wide brim sun-hat and glasses. We stopped for a chat. He sounded very British. We were happy to find out he was another north-bounder planning on taking the same boat back to Chile. After sharing some "bloody nightmare" experience about the westerlies, we parted with promises to find each other in El Chalten, his next destination.

Calafate at last. We triumphed into the city streets. Sheltered by hills and buildings, there were very little signs what the world was like back on the highway. We celebrated with a big bowl of salad and pizza - I had been dying for some fresh vegetables.

It was at the short stop at an internet cafe when I started to feel sick. Chill, headache, thirst and all the sign of a bad cold. We checked in to a hotel, a bit pricy at 90 peso ($30), but I really needed a hot shower and a warm bed.

Brian went back out to the street for some groceries while I rested inside. I must have drunk more than a gallon of fluid and still felt thirsty. We had pretty much been wind-dried for the past 3 days. I felt terrible when Brian came back.

Index Day 17 Day 19