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.

A view worth hitching for: Glacier Perito Moreno

A view worth hitching for: Glacier Perito Moreno

Taking in the view of the glacier spreading up the valley

Taking in the view of the glacier spreading up the valley

Collapse of a giant results in a tidal wave

Collapse of a giant results in a tidal wave

Glacier Perito Moreno, still advancing!

Glacier Perito Moreno, still advancing!

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.

Leaving El Calafate with new friends from Scotland and Bulgaria

Leaving El Calafate with new friends from Scotland and Bulgaria

Early morning pampa sun, and nothing to see, nothing to do, just pedal

Early morning pampa sun, and nothing to see, nothing to do, just pedal

With Antonio and Esteban about to eat dinner

With Antonio and Esteban about to eat dinner

A Grecian dinner all ready for our host Antonio

A Grecian dinner all ready for our host Antonio

Entering Chile for the fifth time at Paso Dorotea from Rio Turbio

Entering Chile for the fifth time at Paso Dorotea from Rio Turbio

Cycling past the sculptured sea-front of Puerto Natales

Cycling past the sculptured sea-front of Puerto Natales

Enjoying a treat in Puerto Natales: Cadbury's Chocolate, sooooo good!

Enjoying a treat in Puerto Natales: Cadbury’s Chocolate, sooooo good!

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.

Welcome to the Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine

Welcome to the Parque Nacional Torres Del Paine

Guanaco reflection on the way to Lago Pehoe

Guanaco reflection on the way to Lago Pehoe

Setting off for the hills

Setting off for the hills

Entering the Valle Frances

Entering the Valle Frances

The snowy ridge of Mt.Frances framed between rocky peaks

The snowy ridge of Mt.Frances framed between rocky peaks

More icefall, this time from Glacier Frances (left). It results in an ice waterfall (right)

The two-toned mountains of Valle Frances

The two-toned mountains of Valle Frances

Up early for the Torres Del Paine sunrise: not as red as normal!

Up early for the Torres Del Paine sunrise: not as red as normal!

Old friends! Stefan and Emma from Costa Rica (www.kontraer.com)

Old friends! Stefan and Swantje whom we first met in Costa Rica (www.kontraer.com)

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.

Usually the wind blows the other way!

Usually the wind blows the other way!

The only shelter from the wind round these parts: the bus stop

The only shelter from the wind round these parts: the bus stop

Early in the afternoon we see the lump of rock signifying Morro Chico

Early in the afternoon we see the lump of rock signifying Morro Chico

The beautiful colours of the Pampa (when the sun is out)

The beautiful colours of the Pampa (when the sun is out)

Relaxing at the Morro Chico playground

Relaxing at the Morro Chico playground

Sharing information as the sun goes down with the Cycling Doctors

Sharing information as the sun goes down with the Cycling Doctors

More beautiful pampa

More beautiful pampa

117km down, 35km to go: Punta Arenas in touching distance

117km down, 35km to go: Punta Arenas in touching distance

The Magellan Straits, and we're almost there

The Magellan Straits, and we’re almost there

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:

So close you can almost touch it!

So close you can almost touch it!

 

2 responses to “Pampa pampa pampa”

  1. Jörn Tietje says :

    Hi Sarah & Geoff – now you know why I love Patagonia 🙂 Don’t miss the cemetery in Punta Arenas and a trip to Isla Magdalena with about 300.000 penguins!
    Take care and good luck on the way to your last destination – Jörn

  2. Anderson Lima says :

    Almost There … good luck !!! Amazing trip !!! Cheers …

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