Puerto Natales [an error occurred while processing this directive]
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Cycling through the pampas

Blieb, bliep.... Bliep, bliep.... It is 4:00 AM. The alarm clock asks us to get out of our bed. Iris buries her head even deeper in her sleeping bag and Tore starts preparing a hot breakf(e)ast of boiled oats with milk and sugar.

Four days ago we started cycling from Rio Gallegos in Argentina to Puerto Natales in Chile. To get in Chile we have to cross the so-called pampas, which are the empty dry grasslands of Argentina, characterised by the enormous winds that blow there day in and day out. Almost no people and many, many sheep. Those sheep are owned by farmers who live in the huge farms, called enstancias. We can see those enstancias now and then a few kilometers from the main road. They look like small villages and are mostly located behind the hills to get some protection against the wind.
Today we have to get up at 4:00 AM in a desperate search to avoid the unbelievably strong winds which tend to reach their highest level around 14:00 PM. When we eat our breakfast it is still 5 degrees in the tent and even less outside. And as if this is not cold enough, it is also snowing. At 6:00 AM we are packed and covered with 3 layers of clothes.
The road we take is made of gravel and runs through a hilly country. The wind is blowing, but we can hold an average speed of 10 km/h. After one hour the temperature drops even more, and the landscape is covered with a white layer of snow. Our view is shortened to only 50 meters. Fun, mmmmm.

And then suddenly, on top of a hill, the sun breaks through and the landscape appears to us. Forever ongoing backcountry and snow mountains on the horizon. From a small lake four flamingos fly away. The pink birds, the blue sky and the white snow make a beautiful mixture of colors. Wow.
The local shop (the second after 200 km) is closed. (The owner died four days ago). Fortunately there is a nearby house where we can get some water. The man who lives there alone with his dog invites us to drink some coffee and eat some bread. Bread, how nice. We have been living on oatmeal porridge, mashed potatoes and pasta. We canīt stay long, because soon the wind will start blowing again.

At 10:00 AM the wind increases. With the wind blowing in our face we (Tore, Iris is in his slipstream) are sometimes only able to cycle in our lowest gear. That means 5 km/h on a flat road!!! A bit later the wind comes from the side. We ride on the edge of the road. Wham..., a blast of wind pushes Tore to the other side of the road. He can just stop before ending in the gutter beside the road. He pushes his bike back to the other side of the road and tries to start cycling again.
side wind...
At 10:30 AM it becomes impossible to cycle any further, we have to stop. We pitch our tent just beside the road and get some more sleep.

Around 6:00 PM the wind has calmed down a bit and we head on. A gaucho is waving to us and moves to the nearest estancia on his horse. We see small foxes. Birds fly together with us towards the mountains in the distance.

Around 9:30 PM it is getting dark and time to stop, eat and sleep. Tomorrow the alarm will ring again at 4:00 AM.

After 6 days on the pampas we are now in Puerto Natales (Chili). Eating, resting and sleeping.
Tomorrow we will cycle to the National Park Torres del Paine and hike there for about one week. After that we will pedal back to Argentina, to the Perito Moreno galciar near El Calafate.

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This page was last updated on Friday July 29, 2011