Stages 98, 99 and 102 of 109, days 128-131 of 142 (stages 100 and 101 skipped)
Photos and routes on Strava
- Stage 98 to Bushcamp 128.2km, 1205m climb, 5:20, 34km dirt
- Stage 99 to Cerro Castillo, Chile. 86.3km, 811m climb, 5:53, 33km dirt
- Stage 102 to Puerto Natales 59.8km, 465m climb, 2:14
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m||EFI|
Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)
I don’t really know how to write about this terrible block of days. We had a catastrophe after our first day of riding from El Calafate to a bushcamp in the middle of nowhere. Dutch Jan, who started with us in Bariloche, did the ride, had dinner, went to sleep and then had a heart attack and died in his sleep. There’s no way to make it not sound terrible because it was. His wife was traumatized of course and the whole group was shattered when we found out in the morning. Plans for riding that day were cancelled and dealing with the police etc took most of the day. We were 30km of rough dirt road from a gas station with phone reception / internet access so first Guillermo had to drive there and contact the police. Officers came from a couple of locations, and an ambulance, and eventually Jan’s body was taken away. There has been some confusion since we had two Jans. Belgian Jan, who started with us in Quito, is ok.
Jan’s wife went after and started a terrible process of paperwork etc that will be ongoing. Our cook, Anneke, who is also Dutch, went along to support her and will be with her until she gets on a plane for Holland. The rest of us stayed in camp and talked and cried and just hunkered down in the wind. The staff was hit hard of course, as nothing like this has happened on all their previous trips.
It turned out that the day we stayed in camp was very very windy, although sunny, and riding the planned 90km into the wind would’ve been very tough, maybe not possible. The next morning, Dec 6, we did exactly that, with the wind a little reduced, under cloudy, cold skies. It was still really tough just to get to the gas station at the end of the dirt road. It took me 2:32 to go that 31km and it felt like forever. We drafted as much as possible but the road was very rough making drafting dicey.
We had lunch in a shed, used the gas station wifi, then started on the way to the Chile border, along a paved road, into the wind. We had a pair of rotating 4-man pacelines, and boy did you suffer when you were in the hot seat. It was incredible how hard you needed to press on the pedals to maintain a decent speed (typically 11-16 kph). Finally after much riding, we reached the Argentine frontier and got our exit stamps and ate all our food. It was about 8 more km to the Chilean frontier, over a small pass, of course into the wind. Getting into Chile took longer but eventually we were through and camped in the border town of Cerro Castillo. I thought I was slow riding nearly 6 hours in about 7.5 hours, but others took 10 hours and many (I think most) did not complete the ride. The campground was very basic, at someone’s house, just one toilet/shower to share between 40 people, nice grass for tents, and very windy. Charlotte and Bill kicked ass and made a great dinner for us and after, some of us walked “downtown” to find a cafe and ended up in a hotel bar.
I didn’t get to sleep until midnight but then slept solidly until nearly 7am. Rob had decided to shorten the tour route a bit to try and get everyone back together and give people time to absorb what had happened. So we skipped riding to Torres del Paine and rode straight to Puerto Natales, about 60km away. This eliminated two riding stages, 100 and 101, and shortened 102.
After breakfast we started off into the head/side wind but strangely, after about 10km, it shifted and became more of a tail wind. I was riding with Twan, Cees and Belgian Jan and we suddenly found ourselves cruising at 40-45 for long periods. The ride was very scenic and nice, reminding us how lush and green Chile is compared to Argentina.
We arrived in town at the hostal in 2:14 before noon. Since we had arrived two days early, they had rooms for only some of us. I was on the list to stay at an alternate place nearby, not as nice. We had triple rooms but Andrew in my room and Bart in the other opted to find another place to stay so our tiny rooms weren’t so cramped. It took a while to have lunch, soup and get the baggage over to the other hostal. At least it has a hot shower and working internet. Wytze rented us a 10 person mini van so we can drive to Torres del Paine over the next two days. In the afternoon we did a little wine tasting then went out to dinner. I had a King Crab meal that was great, and we shared more bottles of wine. Pretty excellent.
We’re now at 51°43’S, equivalent to north of Calgary in Canada, a long way from the equator. After we leave Puerto Natales in a couple of days it’s just seven more riding days plus a rest day in Punta Arenas to get to Ushuaia.
Here are a few photos from our rest day in El Calafate, December 3. We visited the Perito Moreno Glacier and had some great food too.