Andes Trail Stages 89-92, Nov 24-27, 2019

Stages 89-92 of 109, days 118-121 of 142

Photos and routes on Strava

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America9,2841,64797,144
Andes Trail8,9861,63893,423X

Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)

Before starting our longest block of nine riding days we had a rest day in Coyhaique. Staying in a nice modern AirBnB house gave us a great base and the day was perfect although everyone agreed afterward that we could’ve used another. My legs still felt tired and used the next day. We had breakfast in a nice cafe downtown, lunch likewise, did shopping, and ate dinner at “home”. It was strange to see so many signs of political unrest, even tear gas right by the cerveceria we went to our first night.

Tear gas right here right after we left, how crazy

Banks were boarded up, some windows were broken, there was a fire in the central square – people just looking for an excuse to cause a little mayhem I guess. Supposedly it’s like this now all over Chile.

We packed up and left at 7:45 and got a ride to the campground, no thanks to the two taxis I ordered which didn’t arrive. After breakfast with everyone, we took off at 9:10 and rode back up the hill to town, then south. It was easy riding and I was out in front.

Others caught up at a road construction site with another long traffic light. Lunch was supposed to be at a lake around 62km so I waited with Cees just before for the lunch truck. When the other truck came, Anneke explained the bad news: Wytze had crashed and was being taken to the hospital. She gave us a sandwich each and we headed up to the lake and ate with a bunch of riders. Riding down to Puerto Ibañez was easy and very scenic. We took lots of photos and really enjoyed it.

We found the campground but no one knew yet how bad Wytze’s injuries were. We set up, ate, then rode downtown (tiny town) to find some internet. It wasn’t really successful, so we headed back after a look at the pier. We could see the Chilean border crossing from downtown. Back at camp, it was shower time, then dinner. The lunch truck with Wytze arrived after I went to bed.

In the morning we got the story from Wytze: a momentary glance down at his Garmin, a deep pothole, crash and a couple of broken ribs, scrapes on his face and hand. No more riding for a while, if any, on the tour. That was really sad but the show moves on and we took off together for the border at 9:20. Getting out of Chile wasn’t too bad – you had to have kept the form received at entry and then your passport gets stamped. Unlike most border crossings though, we then rode into a 20km long no-man’s land! It had a Chilean-style highway sign, but was a dirt road with the hills (and it was at least half hills) paved with paving stones. Sometimes in our lowest gears, we headed up, with an amazing view of the giant two-named lake: Lago Buenos Aires (Argentina name) / Lago General Carrera (Chilean name).

After a rough, steep descent, we arrived at the Argentine frontier at 11am. The first truck was cleared, then we ran into trouble. Unlike at the other crossing, they were enforcing the “no fruits/veggies/cheese, etc” rule. We had some sacrificial fruits set out in the fridge which they of course found, but then got suspicious and checked more carefully, finding lots more. We had to throw all this food in the trash which was such a waste. Rob came up with a new plan though: lunch time. So the food came out of the trash and we ate it, then got ourselves cleared. I was one of the first few riders to make it through so started the last 86km of dirt road at 12:20. There was more steep climbing, now into the wind, but after a short time, a sharp “good” turn, meaning into the tailwind. The road was rough but it had almost no climbing and the tailwind stayed true and friendly.

I rode and rode and rode, had a little hailstorm, some rain, got passed by Remco who was on fire, then made it to the town of Perito Moreno at about 5pm. The campground was quite nice so I set up, had a shower, food and then a nap after a long day. Dinner was nice indoors and I slept hard and long.

Looking at the wind forecast in the morning was pretty scary. Constant winds of 40-50 with gusts to 79kph! It was also a long stage at almost 130km, so many people were in the van from the campground. Lunch was at 65km, and it turned out most of the first 50km was really easy with tailwind. Then 15km with modest headwind to lunch. I rode with Greg and it was fun to this point. After lunch, he wanted to slow down, so I headed up the hill into the wind at the amazing speed of 12 kph. A hailstorm started and I made a huge error: I stopped to put on my jacket without looking. As soon as I had one sleeve on, a pack of four led by Bastiaan on fire blasted by. I had no chance to catch them and was then doomed to ride alone for the rest of the way. But I figured it was a good challenge so just tried to keep spinning and keep a good attitude. By now the wind was pretty much howling and I was down to 11 kph on the flat. On one up hill, when one of those 79 kph gusts hit, I saw the speed go as low as 7.4 kph. With 40km to go that is brutal. I had to stop a few times – peeing was really hard, standing up was not on. I saw on the map that the last 18km or so would be in a better direction so just focused on getting that far. The constant roar in my ears was really annoying. At some angles it sounded like a truck coming from behind, echoing in my head. I couldn’t take a hand off the handbar so snot was blowing from my nose, sometimes up onto my glasses. I had never ridden in conditions like this. As it got stronger I started to worry that it would blow me off the bike or into traffic. And it would’ve if it was a little stronger but I just kept going and finally came to a big round left turn. After this turn I was going 65 kph on a slight downhill, feeling no wind on any part of my face or head. Amazing. At 55 kph, a cloud’s shadow passed me going quite fast. A few parts were even a little scary as the wind gusts and is not constant, but it was fine really. The lunch truck passed me on the last hill, then I rolled into “town” (really just a hostal and a couple of houses). It was a little grim, with no camping sites visible and the wind howling. Andrew and some others had set up tents in an abandoned house far away. I looked around and found a sheltered spot and set up there, kind of a garbagy place, but my tent was on smooth grass and behind some trees. There were showers in the hostal, internet and food as well. After a nap, dinner was on, in doors, then I crashed hard in my tent. Riding all that way solo was silly I guess – it takes too much power. The wind howled all night and was still strong at 1am.

I woke up at 6:15 and the wind had dropped but it was still there and the temperature was …cold. I packed up, breakfast indoors at 7am, checked the wind forecast to find winds only in the 30s and gusts only in the 50s. Much better. We left at 8:25 and no way was I going alone. Twan was back in action after taking most of the previous day off. He took the hit for me and Cees all the way to lunch! Amazing effort, especially at the beginning, climbing straight into a 30 kph wind.

We saw lots of Guanacos and even a rhea. It was startled by us and ran along side the road in our direction – looked like it couldn’t jump the fence. We had a tailwind at the time and were going 35 and it kept pace perfectly. We came to lunch at 55km and sitting behind the truck actually did work. We had a nice lunch with a new ingredient: pesto!

Then back at it. The second half had a much worse angle, no more side-tail wind. Mostly side-front wind with a healthy portion of just headwind. But Jan joined us so we each only had to lead 1/4 of the time. When it was your turn it was not a happy time, but still we generally kept 15-18kph, since the wind was never as strong as the day before. At just over 100km we made a left turn and then did the last few km at over 40, very very nice. The place we stayed is just a hostal in the middle of nowhere but quite nice. I immediately upgraded to a room (1500 pesos per person, about $25) since I was very tired of being outside in strong wind. After soup, shower, nap, and watching Netflix we had a great dinner, then relaxed in the evening.

That’s four of the nine days to El Calafate done. Just five more… and only 17 more stages to Ushuaia! We’re now at 48.15°, equivalent to midway between Seattle and Vancouver in North America.