The Middle of Nowhere and Torres del Paine

29/2/2020

In this story, I will for once take over the writers pencil of my tour guide, navigator, translator, negotiator and son Jelle. This story is about our route from el Calafate to Punta Arenas.

 

After our visit to the glaciar of Perito Moreno, we decided to stay another day in El Calafate to let our experience sink in a little bit. Eventually, we left on the 4th of February from El Calafate. We had a tailwind and managed to cover 50 kilometers within a couple of hours. We were cycling through a steppe landscape, which is predominantly empty and wide. It might look boring, but the opposite is true. Beautiful, slowly changing vistas are accompanying us.

 

What a massive landscape

Another infinite viewpoint

 

You just keep taking pictures...

 

Lama's in the never ending landscape

 

We did a climb with a length of 12 kilometers as if it was nothing, continued with ice cold headwind for hours and eventually stopped at a support location for road users. In this support location, in the middle of nowhere, we could pitch up our tents underneath a shelter.

 

A very decent and sheltered camp spot

 

The sun was setting and it became colder. After our pasta meal (yes, pasta again!), it was time to brush our teeth and go inside our sleeping bags. Not only to warm ourselves, but also to rest. The following morning, we wanted to leave at 7:30 AM to have enough time for the shortcut that we wanted to take. We decided to take a shortcut of 60 kilometers that consisted of an unpaved road, instead of staying at the paved road which would be a 100 kilometers more. After 20 kilometers, we passed an abandoned police station (why on earth do they have one here?).

 

This was a nice shelter for us from the wind and we had our breakfast here. Apart from this police station, we also passed some lamas and horses that were nodding their heads disapprovingly when we passed by. Around 5:00 PM in the afternoon, we arrived at our next stop, another support point at the intersection with the paved road. After about 9,5 hours of cycling over this road, we were done for the day.

 

We're being looked at compassionately

 

Not really the highway to Amsterdam...

The abandoned police station

 

In the afternoon, in an abandoned outdoor cafe without heating, we made ourselves a sandwich

 

The sunset at the second support station

 

The next morning, we left at 07:30 again. Our wind and weather app Windy predicted that we would have a tailwind for the coming 40 kilometers towards the Chilean border. Obviously, we wanted to benefit from these conditions, because the wind is normally blowing in the opposite direction.

 

Prepared with our gloves, hats and warm clothing, we left early in the morning and Windy was right! What a lucky bastards we were. On the way, we had breakfast behind a massive rock, that provided us with some shelter. The border crossing went (just like all the other times) smoothly. In the meantime, the sun had started to shine and we were cycling in our shorts and T-shirts again. What a huge difference with the morning. Later in the afternoon, it was time to start looking for a place to spend the night and after some more kilometers we reached a bunch of houses. Jelle asked and we could pitch up our tents in their yard, a very decent place in the tall grass.

 

The umpteenth border crossing

 

The next day, it wasn’t much further until Puerto Natales. On our way, we had breakfast in one of the rare bus shelters that were not demolished.

 

Our breakfast

 

Once we arrived in Puerto Natales, we treated ourselves with a nice cup of chocolate milk, a brownie and an hostal. Puerto Natales is THE base for all the tourists that go and visit one of the main tourist attractions of Chile: Torres del Paine. In short notice: The next morning we boarded a bus at 07:00 AM that took us to the National Park of Torres del Paine to go and visit this park. Once we arrived there, we had to walk over a mountainous trail for 10 kilometers in which we climbed about 1 kilometer. After about four hours, we finally reached the base of Torres del Paine and could finally set eyes on the three famous peaks of the mountain range of Paine. It was spectacular to see. While we were at the base, we had the longest lunch of our entire journey. After a couple of hours, though, it was time to go back, since we had to catch our bus back to Puerto Natales that would leave at a certain time. Once we returend in Puerto Natales, we concluded the day with a beer and a pizza. At 01:30 AM we were finally in our beds after a wonderful day.

 

It was a long road...

 ... that was not very easy

... but we made it

And the view was just amazing

The boys

 

The next day was our first real resting day, that we started around noon and with muscle strain in our upper legs because of all the climbing that we did the day before.  The day passed by quickly and we were ready for the continuation of our journey.

 

The next day (the 10th of February), we continued our journey with a recharged internal battery. We were going into the direction of Punta Arenas. The road became more and more quiet as we left Puerto Natales behind us, until the silence was broken by a spoke that decided to break. A spoke in Jelle’s back wheel broke for the second time in a short period of time. He fixed this immediately, while I prepared lunch for us. We continued until Morro Chico, a hamlet right next to some kind of rock formation that are the remains of extinct volcano. We could pitch up our tents right next to the local restaurant. We even had electricity and light, how luxurious! The space to pitch up our tents was limited, so Jelle shared his tent with me. Nice and cosy, but I’ve never been invited for a second night in his tent!

 

Approaching Morro Chico, with an extinct vulcano in the background

 

Our little camp spot with light and electricity

 

The next morning, we left early in the morning to beat the predicted crosswinds. After a couple of hours, we had breakfast in bus shelter, a cup of coffee in the small village of Villa Tehuelches and we had another cup of coffee further ahead at the intersection of two highways. At this intersection, we decided to continue until Punta Arenas. We arrived here at 07:30 PM, about 12 hours and 150 kilometers after our departure, at a decent hostel. We beat our distance record with these 150 kilometers that we covered.

 

Another breakfast in a bus shelter

 

Once we were in Punta Arenas, we took a rest day to do some groceries, wash our dirty clothes, finally eat some potatoes after all the pasta, to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and to drink a beer, of course. What a life. We realized that we have started with the final part of our journey. Luckily, we still have a couple of weeks to go and we were still curious about continuation of it all.

 

In the meantime, it was the 13th of February and we decided to take another rest day. We had breakfast with eggs and fresh coffee, we did some groceries again and prepared ourselves for the days to come. We are fully ready for the next and final part of our trip. This will start tomorrow when we take the ferry from Punta Arenas to Porvenir on Tierra del Fuego. Tierra del Fuego, the stage set for the finale of our journey!

 

The boat to Porvernir is already waiting for us

 

To be continued very soon…

 

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©2019 by Jelle.