The Golden Fleece

Date: 24th January – 28th January 2013

Where: Coyhaique – Villa Cerro Castillo – Fly camp – Rio Tranquilo

Distance: 7218 to 7374 miles

So, thanks for all your guesses (both public and private), but the answer was ‘D’: Geoff’s fleece. We have no idea to the second question of ‘how?’ though! Maybe with the extra information below people can help, but we still don’t understand how such a force was possible. Anyhows, more on that later…

…We left Coyhaique a day later than planned, and keen to make up time, we managed to make it all the way on the tarmac to Villa Cerro Castillo. Little happened on the way other than Geoff losing his first life in our Fly Game (Sarah has been bitten five times thus far, but managed to recuperate lives by drinking chocomilk in Coyhaique). The road climbed over to over 1000m for the first time since Paso Tromen to the North of San Martin de los Andes. The scenery on this part reminded us a lot of Bolivia, with little snow, but many colours and shapes to the rocks. The Carretera Austral has amazed us for the variety of its views along the way, around every corner is another ‘WOW!’ moment. We’re really enjoying the ride. The time above 1000m was short-lived as we descended back down to around 400m in one swooping set of hairpins and into Villa Cerro Castillo, named after the rampart-laden mountain towering above it.

Rolling countryside as we leave Coyhaique

Rolling countryside as we leave Coyhaique

The highest altitude of the route, and the scenery looks more like Bolivia, with not a glacier in sight

The highest altitude of the route, and the scenery looks more like Bolivia, with not a glacier in sight

The heavenly downhill curves to Villa Cerro Castillo

The heavenly downhill curves to Villa Cerro Castillo

Geoff approaching Villa Cerro Castillo, with the ramparts clear in the background

Geoff approaching Villa Cerro Castillo, with the ramparts clear in the background

Leaving Cerro Castillo another breath-taking view was round the corner as we entered yet another river valley. This river was characterised by having every shade of blue imaginable in its depths. We stopped to admire it for some time, only leaving when we began to get cold in the wind.

So far with only a few exceptions we’ve only suffered head-breezes, now we understand the true meaning of a head-wind. It’s arrival made us feel like we had truly arrived in Patagonia. The going was tough down the wide river valley and we only made 50km that day, hiding in the bushes after following some more cycle tracks. We were found in five minutes though, so much for being secretive. Urs has been traveling down from Alaska and he easily saw our tracks bumbling off the road. It turns out he was in the La Paz Casa de Ciclistas only one day before us! The small world of cycle touring. Another five minutes and the horseflies found us, so we hid in the tent only popping out occassionally to attend to the pressure cooker for dinner. We slept well that night.

Off into the unknown

Off into the unknown

Sarah (left) appreciates the many colours of yet another river valley

Sarah (left) appreciates the many colours of yet another river valley

The open valley left us exposed to the full force of Patagonia winds

The open valley left us exposed to the full force of Patagonia winds

Time for bed as the moon makes its nightly appearance

Time for bed as the moon makes its nightly appearance

As we left that morning, we were amazed to see a cloud almost obscuring our view of a mountain. How dare it do such a thing! Oh, hang on, we’re in Patagonia, normally we wouldn’t even know the mountain was there! We have been REALLY lucky so far with the weather, long may it continue, but all good things have to come to an end sooner or later. The sun was shining merrily though by the time we reached the end of another river valley (the Rio Murta) and had clambered up to a cemetary on top of a hill for yet another spectacular view. Lago General Carrera is the second largest lake in South America (after Lago Titicaca: see last Peru post) and the most fantastic blue colour (in the sun). It was to be our companion for the next few days cycling South. Tracking the lake that afternoon was really special cycling, and it felt like a reward for all we’ve been through on this trip so far. We arrived in Rio Tranquilo and met friends from Coyhaique who directed us to a nice campsite to settle down and relax for another day’s rest.

Introducing: a threatening cloud

Introducing: a threatening cloud

The many colours of Patagonia

The many colours of Patagonia

The beautiful blue Lago General Carrera

The beautiful blue Lago General Carrera

Puncture repairs are becoming fewer now we’re on ripio all the time

Puncture repairs are becoming fewer now we’re on ripio all the time

The stunning road that follows the edge of Lago General Carrera

The stunning road that follows the edge of Lago General Carrera

Nearly at Rio Tranquilo

Nearly at Rio Tranquilo

That day off was spent separately to begin with, as Sarah caught up with family on Skype, whilst Geoff visited the local tourist attraction by boat: the marble caves. A whole cliffside of marble has been shaped by the lake over the years, and now is full of little tunnels and polished hallways of marble. Very surreal, and quite beautiful. That afternoon we joined forces again to settle down and watch a local horse-taming festival, which basically involved locals and professionals jumping on the back of a wild horse and trying to stay on…kind of like rodeo. Very entertaining, and quite scary at times!

Geoff’s marble caves excursion in a boat

Geoff’s marble caves excursion in a boat

Chilean local doing his best to hang on to a wild horse

Chilean local doing his best to hang on to a wild horse

Tamed horses riding along the Carretera Austral

Tamed horses riding along the Carretera Austral

Cycling towards the Campo de Hielo Norte (Northern icefield)

Cycling towards the Campo de Hielo Norte (Northern icefield)

The next day, we left as we anticipated, and made good time to reach lunch at 30km. Along the way we met a UK/NZ couple (Mel and Chris) who were good fun and they joked if we wanted to come North with them…little did they know. ½ a km later and we stopped for lunch. Food inside us we strode off, but after only ten metres, there was a loud bang and Geoff’s wheels stopped turning. ‘Another pesky stone caught between mudguard and tyre.’ he thought…how wrong he was. The view of the back wheel is shown in the photo below and basically consisted of Geoff’s fleece (placed on the back of the bike during lunch) trapped between mudguard and wheel. It had literally ripped the mudguard in half (there is metal inside the mudguard too!). Geoff called Sarah over and spokes were inspected, miraculously, none were broken, so the bike was put on its side to remove the fleece. It was then that we noticed the broken frame, the bolt-on for the rear rack was sheared completely. The next few seconds seemed like an eternity, with many words spoken, none to be repeated. We stopped the first car and like in all good stories, this man said that a) he’d give us a lift back to town and b) he can weld it. What he didn’t say is that a) he was not a welder, but a mechanic and b) he was going to charge us the Earth for it. To cut a long story short, he was true to his word and gave us a lift back into town (to meet a surprised Mel and Chris!), but the next morning Geoff’s bike was returned only half-fixed. We paid anyway, what else could we do. To give the obvious pun: we were fleeced! However … kind people sensed our distress, and after three stressful hours a proper welder had done a much better job and we located the mechanic and he gave our money back (Sarah bravely doing the asking with her now near perfect-Spanish (in the present tense at least!)). It was Midday and time to set off South again, and would you believe it…the sun is still shining!

Bicycle frame timeline: the break (TL), close-up (TR), don’t trust this man (BL), the fixer (BR)

Bicycle frame timeline: the break (TL), close-up (TR), don’t trust this man (BL), the fixer (BR)

5 responses to “The Golden Fleece”

  1. PHil says :

    Okay, a boring update on my guess. From the photo I can’t see enough to work out how the force might have been developed but did you notice the condition of the break, was it clean or partly dirty? The latter would indicate that the stress of all those miles had been weakening it and the fleece was the last straw (polymer?). Not sure since you haven’t worked it out and you’re there.

    More fantastic views….

    • Geoff says :

      I guess it just created a huge force and blew it apart! The break was clean, we just couldn’t envisage such forces. My legs must be strong!
      Geoff

  2. Martin wigham says :

    Loving the views and had a good chuckle at the way you relate the story of the fleece, more entertaining than Homer.

  3. Alexis says :

    Hola amigos !

    Es Alexis y Pauline, somos en Francia desde 4 dias. Disrutan bien de su viaje porque el tiempo pasa muy muy rapido !!!

    Disculpa de no escribir en ingles.

    Suerte y disfrutan mucho mucho mucho.

    Tchao y hasta luego

    Alexis y Pauline, los franceses.

    • Geoff says :

      Hola Alexis y Pauline,
      Gracias por pensando de nosotros! Estamos bien en El Calafate, viajamos muy despacio! Estamos feliz que volvieron seguros en Francia.
      Solo dos meses mas y vamos a llegar en Inglaterra! Ahora no mucho tiempo
      Ciao,
      Geoff y Sarah

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