Cycling Chile/Argentina '04 | Punta Arenas Index Day 2 Day 4
      Day 3: Punta Arenas -> Ruta 9 Intersection to Rio Gallegoes 58KM No Viento

Brian woke up with a strange black eye. He claimed he was fighting with demons. We had a leisure morning with breakfast inside the hostel. Our tea was hot milk + tea bag and coffee was hot milk + instant coffee. It took us a long time to pack. Both our panniers were new from Jandd. They are pretty easy to use and seem quite durable. It is very important to start the packing system right - what goes where and stick to it. Nothing is more irritating than rifling through every bag trying to find the sunscreen or hat or nail clippers.

Around noon, we went to tourist information center, Senatur, hoping to get a good area map and some information on where we can camp along the way to Puerto Natales. Unfortunately, it wasn't much help because nobody there speaks English. Even after we managed to pass our questions over, the answer was not quite what we liked to hear: no camping along the road. As for one of the biggest questions puzzling us - how to make a tricky boat crossing in no-man's land from Argentina to Chile via Lake O'Higgins - the office manager asked us if we could give him the information once we figure out the answer.

Outside Senatur, our fully-loaded, shiny bikes were eye-candy to two tourists from San Francisco. The girl, Meg, had only 3 weeks in Chile, and the guy, Brandon, had been wandering around in South America for more than 2 months. "It's great that you guys are doing it," said Meg. Both seemed very interested in doing the ride. "We don't know what we are getting ourselves into," Brian laughingly responded.

Being so close to the Strait of Magallan, we can't leave without at least taking a look at it. Well, that was about it - a look. There was a container ship or two out in the ocean but otherwise a dirty beach at the end of the road. We tried to find Conaf, Chile's National Park service, but apparently it was no longer located where our 3-year old Lonely Planet described.

With little help from Sernatur and no Conaf to be found, it seemed like we weren't getting anywhere. So we went for comfort food at Lomits. I like their Lomito Completo. Their palta (avocado in English) is very tasty. Inside, we found Meg and Brandon who were surprised to see us still in town. Seemed like we might run in to them again in Torres del Paine - just hours on a bus for them but days on bikes for us.

After getting fuel cartridges from Zona Franca and grocery from hyper mercado Confirma, we started our tour de Punta Arenas a Santiago officially at 5:00PM - odd considering there were merely two hours of daylight left. 10KM out of town, traffic lightened and we got nice views of the ocean. It was kind of cloudy and a little bit windy. We stopped to watch a military jet flying over our head into an orange sunset. With mostly flat and grassy landscape, it took quite a while for the sun to really go down. We were having trouble finding a place to camp. All the fields by the road were fenced and very exposed.

I had a flashing tail light in the back, and Brian wore his head lamp in the front. After 2 hours of riding in the dark, we arrived at a truck stop. We were cold and tired and hoping somehow we could camp here. Brian walked into the cafeteria without much confidence. Several minutes later, he walked out with a short but stout Chilean man who took him to the far end of the truck stop. When they walked pass me, the Chilean told me, "No viento."

Brian tried to translate what he was told. "They said there is no camping here, but we can stay over there." He pointed to the distance. "No viento, no viento. I don't know if he says we can't use our tent or what? There is a shed over there. And a lot more."

Dictionary comes to the rescue. No Viento = Not windy. He picked the least windy place for us to camp.

The owner, Romero, and his wife invited us inside the cafeteria where she made us ham and cheese sandwiches and hot tea with milk. What a lifesaver this was. After dinner, we settled down for our first night out in the field next to cow patties, geese, and a chicken coop. (Sorry Brian, that shed is not for you.) A full moon so big and white hanged low above the horizon like light at the end of a tunnel. It felt nice to be back under the Southern Cross again.

Index Day 2 Day 4