Pampa pampa pampa
Date: 14th February – 25th February 2013
Where: El Calafate – El Cerrito camp – Rio Turbio – Puerto Natales – P.N.Torres Del Paine – Puerto Natales – Morro Chico – Punta Arenas
Distance: 7740 to 8007 miles
So, just for a moment imagine you are dreaming, looking into the future. Imagine you can see two tiny cyclists on one big island: Tierra Del Fuego. They are only 210km from Ushuaia, ‘El Fin Del Mundo’. Naturally they’re very excited. Suddenly a spoke pokes you, and you’re awake…where are Sarah and Geoff? Where have they been?
One word, one answer: Pampa. Fear it, love it, loathe it, ride it. No matter what, it is there, and must be crossed.
In El Calafate there is only one touristic destination, Hernando (our Medellin host in Colombia) raved about it: Glacier Perito Moreno. This is one of the only glaciers in the world that is stable; advancing and retreating equally each winter and summer. It was truly stunning and we’re glad we visited.
So to the pampa. A tailwind and other cyclists took us to the first crossroads, then we were on our own. The tailwind weakened and a big hill tested us. At the top only pampa remained; an altiplano of grass; cold and unforgiving. We stopped where many cyclists stop at El Cerrito and had a bad experience with the jefe (supervisor) at the time. As such we left really early, but quickly ran into a headwind of gigantic proportions. Here was the Patagonian wind we had heard off! Having been pushed off our bikes countless times within a km we resorted to pushing. Having been blown over a number of times in only a few dozen metres we flagged down a truck (in the wrong direction). Our luck was in! Esteban and Antonio were going to El Calafate for the day and then returning to Rio Turbio that same day, thus taking us South. It was surreal to find ourselves swanning around a casino in El Calafate when we had been fighting wind tooth and nail just hours earlier.
Antonio then offered for us to stay with him, and we did so with gusto, glad to have escaped the pampa. In all we stayed two days with him before finally leaving for Puerto Natales.
Puerto Natales is the base for the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, with some of the best trekking in Chile. Most people do the ‘O’, or the watered down ‘W’. We did something resembling a ‘V’, and thoroughly enjoyed it. On the last day we even met some old friends from Costa Rica: Stefan and Swantje. It is still amazing to us how small the world is for traveling folk.
We rested a day more in Puerto Natales to avoid rain, and left late for Punta Arenas, stopping in Morro Chico. There we met four Englishmen cycling North. ‘The cycling doctors’ are just that, doctors cycling for charity. If you want to see their progress (very eventful so far!), or sponsor them, please visit their page: click here. The next day we decided today was the day when we would crush the pampa, and exact our revenge. We would cycle all 152km to Punta Arenas and show it who was boss. There were times that day when the pampa looked certain to win, but eventually at 8:30pm we pedalled (nb. no cruising or rolling) into Punta Arenas and found M&M at their hostal. We paid a lot for the room that night, but it was worth every penny.
Now all we have to do is cross the pampa of Tierra Del Fuego, reputedly the windiest place in Patagonia, fingers crossed the wind is behind us! 450km to go to Ushuaia, ‘el Fin Del Mundo’, so close you can almost touch it: