Don't worry, Hedgie, we'll save you!
Don't worry, Hedgie, we'll save you!
After two beautiful days in El Chalten it was time to start wrapping up our adventures and head home. E didn't look too happy heading out on the cobble sidewalk at 7am
First time on a bus! We almost had to leave our bikes behind because the bus was so full (I didn't even get my own seat!) but with a little persuasion it turned out there was just enough room.
Three hours and 200kms later, we found ourselves in El Calefate, and soon E had found a tiny bicycle shop in the garage of Oskar's house and scooped up the last two cardboard bike boxes in town. Found a nice little bakery and a mediocre hotel with just enough time to squeeze in one last bike ride. Such beautiful skies and turquoise blues.
My first savory waffles. Roquefort cheese and olives and hot sauce.
The mediocre hotel at least had a lovely courtyard for packing up our bikes.
The airport was busy but not too busy that I managed to get my own seat.
After I escaped from the box there was just enough time to hop across the street and have some empanadas for lunch outside in the sunshine. And check out the local bike scene down by the ocean.
They got into a lazy mode and lost track of time and forgot we had to go through customs before boarding. But we all squeaked through with just enough time to board before the doors closed. Phewwy! Next stop Sao Paulo, Brazil!
Fresh baked bread?? I woke in the forest of Argentina to the smell of fresh baked bread. Yummy. Before leaving Chile, J&E had stopped at a bakery, but the baker hadn't baked the bread yet, just made dough. So we got a big ball of dough - Awesome breakfast for a rainy morning in the tent.
No need to rush, as it was only a few kms to the next ferry on Lago del Desierto.
I stayed cozy in my sleeping nook until the rain paused and E&J were ready to venture out.
A few kms.... but it was ALL MUD.
and deep ruts
and crazy stream crossings
ever carry a bike across a flimsy log bridge? Neither had E or J. I was skeptical.
and more muddy ruts. And then the rain turned to snow. Snow? Really? It's supposed to be summer!
and then, after arriving a the ferry dock (which only had a tiny shelter), E&J left me outside in the rain!!! I was not happy. My blanket was pretty wet too. :(
We met a few other cyclists at the tiny shelter. And then we all piled onto the little ferry. The peaks were in the clouds, with a dusting of the snow we came through.
One short ride to get to the city of El Chalten - just 40k to go! More beautiful views by the river side.
And at last! The city!
And more mountains, spires and alpine lakes.
With no ferry operating in the foreseeable future, J&E looked worried. How would we get home? After chatting for a while with the woman who helped make reservations for the boat, we learned that there was an airplane in town that might be able to get us across the lake. Vincent and his blue Cessna 206 to the rescue!
Vincent (a US ex-pat originally from California) lived just across the street and operated a small charter plane business with his buddy Daniel. He was chatty, had done work with glaciologist friends of Erin's (both from Chile and the US) and said that that weather looked like we might be able to fly to the border that night, or the next morning, or the following morning. But the weather was getting worse, so we'd likely have to leave early in the day if we were going to be able to land in the small valley across the lake. E&J opted to go the following morning at 7AM if the weather cooperated. And it did.
We woke up at 6 to a mostly cloudy but calm day, so E&J took their bikes apart, and we all squeezed into the little plane (and brought along a German graduate student, just because....)
And off we went!
For an extra $25, Vince said he'd fly us over the glacier.
E was very happy to see the glacier from above. I thought it was pretty cool too! (get that - 'cool'? ha ha).
l got to ride up front with J.
And we landed safe and sound - no big hops, no skidding out. Phew!
Here's the runway from a Hedgehog's perspective. Bigger landing strip than I had thought it would be.
E&J were so so relieved to have had made it across the lake and almost to the border of Argentina that they immediately found a gravelly sandbar and took a nap. They were pretty tired after three days of hard riding (one 60 km an two 80+ km days of riding on gravelly, washboardy road was a lot for them).
After their nap, they headed for the border, just a few kms away.
Once we entered Argetina, the road turned to a muddy path and the going got tough. E&J pushed their bikes along the 'mostly rideable singletrack' (so they were told).
E&J argued more about the meaning of 'mostly rideable' -
MUD with a capital M.
I wasn't sure what we were getting ourselves into. 6 more kms of this? UGH!
Ok - it was nice to have a relatively short day yesterday, but that left us with 80 km ahead to get to Villa O'Higgins and arrive in time to buy tickets for the third ferry of the trip. J&E had emailed the ferry operator 3 days ago, but hadn't heard back yet. And rumour had it that the Ferry often gets cancelled due to high winds, with weary travellers having to wait 3-5 days in the town of O'Higgins for the wind to subside. But we NEED to catch that ferry, out flight back to Oregon is in just a few days and I'm needing to get back to Sophie and Elliot and my warm Oregon home.
Steepest climb yet! (they weren't kidding!)
Many a waterfall
And lots of "wildlife"...
E&J powered through, got to town before 7:00, only to find that the big ferry boat is broken, and the little one is full (no room for bikes), and the next ferry we could take (if the weather cooperated) would be Monday, five days away, and would never get us across the border in time to make our flight back home on Tuesday morning from El Calafate, which is still more than 300 kms away.
what to do?
The second ferry of our trip left at 3pm and is 42 km away, which doesn't seem like much, but involved a significant climb winding up a pass to get to the sea on the other side. E&J panned to leave at ten.
I was still recovering, feeling a little soggy, and hoping for some brilliant sunshine to warm my damp fur.
And sunshine it was!
The climb switch-backed up a narrow canyon, steep enough that a few french cyclists were pushing their bikes and saying words I don't like hearing! E&J passed them on up, and it seemed like we were making good time. Stopping to enjoy views of beautiful alpine lakes at the top.
We saw lots of signs for Huemel protection and crossing, like this one, they are a deer-like animal. I wanted deperately to see one! But no, despite all of the signs, never a wild animal of any kind. Just cows and sheep.
Between J getting a little distracted chatting with some cyclists from Britain going to opposite direction, and the proported "downhill" which included lots more uphill, J&E discovered they were still 12km away 40 minutes before the 3pm ferry departure (Google claimed 27 minutes by car). J&E went into overdrive and pounded down the valley. Where are my googles? The wind in my face!
Phew, we made it with 10 minutes to spare. Just long enough to buy empanadas at the little cafe in the hut at the ferry landing.
20 kms later, wind at our backs, we found ourselves at a beautiful campsite along the rio bravo.
Yummy lentil ginger coconut curry for dinner.
Breakfast of champs. Now I'm glad that they "wasted" time going shopping in Cochrane - yummy fresh veggies today.
Just a couple of kms past our camp we Arturo and his wife, who served us fresh bread and homemade jam (some variety of rosehip), and showed us all around her garden. All for $1.50. And the only place to stop in the 130 km stretch from Cochrane to Tortel.
Smooth roads, mostly a tail wind and beautiful scenery... I can get used to this kind of riding!
First in a couple of long days - 80 km today.
Perhaps not the best decison, considering the change of weather, but J+E decided to push through the final 40 km in rain and strong opposing winds to the seaside town of Tortel - known for being built on a steep hillside and with no roads or cars - only wooden boardwalks and stairs stairs stairs (called escaleras down here), which meant leaving bikes at the top of the hill and carrying everything....
Here's the view back along the "main treet" boardwalk the following morning.
And more views.
Stairs up to the little house we stayed in. (this photo doesnt include the other 100 stairs down to get to this point).
S, while it is a funky interesting seaside town, arriving drenched an cold around 9pm was no fun. It took a lot of logistics to get settled in a room and by the time we did, all restaurants were closed. A local hotel took pity on us and fed us an 11pm meal. Tired.
Resupplied food, ate empanadas, and wandered the streets of town – didn’t head out until 3:00. J&E were taking so long that I jumped on my own bike in hopes of getting out of town earlier.
It rained a bit heading out of town, but soon cleared up. Roadside lakes, mild climbs and steep rivers cutting narrow canyons through the rocks.
Wouldn't want to fall down there!
Road felt less travelled and more remote than days passed. Passed burned-out bus.
I loved the screaming downhill winding beside a narrow and steep canyon and tumultuous rapids.
Passed a Russian couple with a one-year old baby boy off an a many-month adventure. Found a beautiful campsite in the wide valley below, mountains and waterfalls and ominous clouds in all directions.
Morning at the confluencia was spectacular - roaring waterfalls, blue skies, tasty cheese egg bacon breakfast. yummy yummy. So nice there that E+J didnt leave camp till noon. What do you think of my new hat? Keeps my ears warm on the steep descents.
So instead of taking the 'normal road' E+J had this fabulous idea to take a short cut through the mountains. While technically a shorter distance, it involved a fairly significant climb on super steep (>15% grades) cobbles... E+J pushed me and their bikes on more than a bit of it. Not a single person or car on the whole 5-h ride. No wipe-outs on this day!
The short cut started with a suspension bridge across the Rio Baker.
Then climbed high into the hills, beneath super cool rock formations, lots of beautiful flowers, and the occasional bull that frightened me and J. (E not so worried).
And then... at the end... a cable ferry. Which we hoped was running, but had no information to confirm. Thankfully, it was running until 6pm. We got there at 5pm. Phew. Amazing how it works, using the river power alone, both ways. The operater simply changed the angle of the ferry to reverse the direction.
Happily, we made it to Cochrane, a decent sized town. The biggest town along our route. After so much climbing, E+J needed to replenish lost calories, which were easy to come by at the local cervezeria.
I can't believe they left me alone with this monster while they packed their bikes. Turned out he's an herbivore - but the didn't tell me that.
Finally on the road - did I tell you how slow they are? Another 11AM start.
Erin wanted to turn right instead of left (which would have taken us to the Northern Patagonian Icefield), but we ganged up on her and headed downstream. Note the tank top - first day of summery warm weather.
....and glass calm turquoise lake... not a puff of air to begin with. But by the end of the day, howling winds again. In my ears!
So warm that J went swimming. (not for long I might add)
More turquoise. Great view from up here - in the foreground is the lake that we had lunch on.
Best part of the day - other than the turquoise lakes - was the constrution zone. Rodrigo said it would be 'cinco minutos.' But an hour later E and R were still chatting it up, about soccer, childhood scars, etc., learning languages through babel, during which the cars piled up in the line behind us. J was convinced R didn't want us to go because he was enjoying the conversation. And by the way - construction zone means spreading salt on the road - really? Dudes, it's not winter. Anyway, that's apparently what they do down here.
Finally made it through the construction zone. And thee awesome clouds formed.
Rode and rode and rode and rode. We went through the little village of Puerto Bertrand, where J swam again and E found some most delicious mate ice cream. sweet! An hour later we all watched the sunset from our most beautiful campsite yet - overlooking the falls at the Confluencia of Rio Neff and Rio Baker.
Slept in an awesome little Cabana on the beach. I would have had a great view if I had turned around.
Resupply day. We were so excited to get to a big enough town with three (3!) supermarkets. I was just a little dissapointed that the only fresh fruit and veggies they had in the town were some bananas, oranges, onions, and potatoes (Erin doesn't really think potatoes qualify as a vegetable, I just don't understand why they are arguing about such details! It is food that is fresh). so it goes sometimes. But we now have lentils! They are dried, but still good.
We didn't leave until 4pm after an awesome lunch of samon ceviche.
I did not like being squashed between two bananas for the ride. But in the end the bananas provided extra padding for me on the rough road. Especially when we hit the giant potholes, see below.
More turqueza colors, and flowers everywhere! This is a big lake.
Erin tumbled over once (eggs survivied), J came darn close to falling too (remember my banana padding?). Rough road. Check out that pothole. So deep it could sink a hedgie-sized ship. We only made it 20km in over 3 hours.
Made it to a nice farm with a guest house. Why go farther? I was on Erin's side of the debate. Lamb dinner, complete with lamb friend "baaaa"ing outside the window.
Torrential downpour during the night as we slept just a meter and a half above the river level. But when we woke in the morning, we were just a half a meter from the water's edge. Time to get moving guys!!!!
breakfast was quite tasty, yum yum. Wish they had brought some cocoa for me :(
The rain lightened just enough to make it bearable for me to ride on the handlebars. It was a soggy few hours of slogging through the washboardy road lined with big-leaved wet vegetation and bird and frog noises we had never heard before.
As like every other day, nothing stayed constant, and the valley widened, the sun came out, the wind blew at our backs, and a little cottage restaurant appeared just as we needed a break and dos cervasas and some carne y tomatos.
It was sooooo hot Iwas ready to go swimming in the turqueza coloured lake. But my traveling mates said it was cold. We debated. I lost as usual.
The road did not get any easier to ride. Check out that sign? They even paved 100 m of the steepest bit because it exceeded the angle of repose for small boulders and bicycles. J&E appreciated that. I yawned.
At last! Puerto Rio Tranquilo. Yeah!
Started our day with the existential dilemma of whether to cross or not to cross (that is the question) the river with no name, "Rio sin Nombre." THey discussed. I had no input. I'm still trying to figure out what the word existential means.
I'm cross. The wind blew my whiskers back again. The views were still beautiful.
Ok. Ah... Actually.... pretty nice cruising ride for the morning. Wide open valley. J&E insisted on riding down another sideroad for lunch. This made the hair on my back stand up. It made the hair on the mango stand up too. We found this plant with ginormous leaves.
After lunch we met the Canadiens again. We climbed. They climbed. I climbed. The vegetation got thicker. The road got smoother. The sound of the croaking frogs signalled our entry into the rain forest. The big leaves got bigger. I got smaller (the rain matted my beautiful fur).
We screamed down a roller coaster-like windy road to the bottom of the neighbouring valley. Erin got a flat tire. We decided to camp where tire flatted. Nice pebbly spit. Very tired. Slept.
wild ride today! One of the most beautiful curvy downhills ever. Felt like I was in a WWI biplane – wish I had had goggles on.
Made it into the small town of Villa Cerro Castillo, so hoping for big carnitas burrito. But no. Guess what? New Years day and everything was closed. We finally found an open café and mini-market and picked up a few more eggs, some fresh cheese, sausage and a red pepper. The owner’s daughter (who was still in her PJs at 2PM, being new years day and all), helped us get some data for our phone, and off we went.
Had lunch with two crazy French Canadiens from Trois Rivieres (one who has been to Japan, China,… but had never been to Ontario) who were also biking the same route as us.
Finally got on the road (at 5PM) which immediately turned to the most unridable gravel ever. Huge cobbles, ruts 8 hedgies tall, and a 40 mph headwind - unbearable! We climbed and climbed and climbed – it took more than 3 h to cover only 8 miles – but boy was it worth it. Ended up at one of the most beautiful campsites ever.
But had to cross a one lane suspension bridge that was oscillating like the Tacoma Narrows
(you’ve seen this right? https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=j-zczJXSxnw ) Well I tell you – it was almost that bad! (E+J were too terrified to take a video).
Well we made it and the campsite was magnificent! They even got the tent set up before dark this time.
Here's the view from our sleeping bags. Pretty nice, eh?
Another leisurely morning. Stopped to get bubbly water for our ride (they didn't have agua sin gas, i.e., 'water'), and climbed climbed climbed...
up up and up we went. Erin was a bit grumpy. Why did Jonathan et air out of Erin's tires? Hmm. I won't comment. (since I'm getting a free ride). Why did Erin have all of the heavy gear? We'll fix that tomorrow...
camped by a nice lake. Found an awesome campsite. Any boy oh boy did they make me feel loved. what a cushy chair they brought for me. Excellent conversation. And my favourite tea :) :) :)
Happy New Years!
At last... those slow poke riding partners of mine finally got on the road. Can you believe it - they didn't get on the road until 4:00! (that's PM)
that's because they spent the morning shopping - was the saturday before new years and everybody and their pet cow was in the store. For some reason e+j went a bit crazy and bought like 3 of everything... so they were pretty darn loaded down by the time they left town.
We started out on the main (big) road heading south to El Blanco, but my traveling partners soon got tired of it and took a detour some well-less-traveled gravel routes.
Well at least I got to reide on the front of dad's handlebar bag. Great views!
FInally got to El Blanco - and - quess what? The campground was closed. Golly darn it. Somehow we managed to find a spot by asking some caballeros (cowboys) who pointed us to some ground down yonder near the local rodeo arena (and also down by the river).
Found a barely-open caja vecino (a little market) where we picked up some supplies and filled our bellies. yum yum zonk zonk.
I didn't expect to end up in this town when we started our journey!!! Turns out that the town we arrived at in Patagonia has nothing but an airport. Nothing. nada. zilch. really? Not a place to get a coffee or fuel to cook me dinner?
Plan B: we got on a bus and headed north. North? Really? We're supposed to be heading south. gosh darn it E+J, can't you get your act togther? So here we are again.... still not on our bikes. So we get on this bus and they put these silly party hats on again. Enough birthday guys. Let's get on to riding.... those birthday hats sure were tasty. E+J not impressed.
We ended up chatting with these German cyclists, who were also in the same boat, I mean bus. So we followed them to a German hostel in the next little town to the north - Coyhaique - which turns out to be not so little.
Unboxed our bikes - everything in one piece - yeah!
It's a ski town, and has a HUGE hardware store (read Home-depot sized), so we picked up fuel, bought cherries on the street, and dinner. Meat Meat Meat! Who knew hedgehogs ate meat? Well apparently Chilean hedgehogs do.
And guess what they also have down here? Chilean monkeypuzzletrees! You wouldn't believe how hard they are to climb, but I perservered!
bedtime. Time to sleep. First real bed in 3 days.
Its been a long day. I'm exhausted. But at least this plane has movies. Erin and dad woke me up at 2am because it was dad's "birthday" which he's been making me celebrate all day.
It took a LOT of coffee to get me going this morning. Like my hat? Was a gift from a stranger in line who was also having a "birthday". Whoa.
Have been traveling all day - finally we're on the big plane that will take us from Dallas to Santiago. Yippee. Aparently it is summer down there.
Doors closing. Erin says we get to watch Wonder woman on the flight.