Stages 103-104 of 109, days 134-135 of 142
Photos and routes on Strava
- Rest day hike 12km, 365m climb, 2:31
- Stage 103 to Villa Tehuelches bushcamp 146.2km, 988m climb, 4:48
- Stage 104 to Punta Arenas 100.1km, 605m climb, 4:35, 3km dirt
|Description||Distance in km||Dirt km||Climb in m||EFI|
Missed distance 282km, 3.5 stages (19/20 and 31/32)
We had a couple of unplanned rest days in Puerto Natales after our tragedy on stage 98. Ten of us rented a mini-van and headed up into the famous Torres del Paine National Park. The weather wasn’t perfect but it was pretty good – not raining and the wind was reasonable. We ended up doing a large tour all through the park, driving about 300km, doing a few short hikes and having lunch at the fancy restaurant in the park. Here are some photos:
After we returned, we ordered take-out pizza and bought beer and wine to eat at one of the hostals.
The second rest day we had planned to drive back and do a long hike but no one really wanted to spend four or more hours in the van again. Instead we drove a bit out of Puerto Natales and found a trail we saw online. It started at a ranch by a lake and headed up a small mountain.
It was a little disconcerting when it turned out the owner charged quite a bit (total was about USD 125 for eight people) but luckily the man who could actually collect the money was out so we just started the hike anyway. It went up a nice hill, very scenic, then up more passing a condor nesting cliff, then a long way up to the top of a small mountain.
We stopped for lunch maybe half way and then decided it was a rest day after all, so we should take it easy. After a really relaxed time watching the condors, we hiked down and six of us hiked out to the main road on a little used “trail” and Cees and Miranda went back for the van (being careful to avoid paying when passing the ranch house).
It all worked out great and we were back in town before 3pm. Since we had avoided paying 96,000 pesos, we decided to check out the Hotel Singular, a luxury hotel at the edge of town. It turned out to be really fun, an amazing place built in an old Cold Storage warehouse with a museum, a little 50m long funicular to go from reception to the bar, and a fantastic dining room/bar where we had fancy cocktails and snacks.
Back in town we relaxed for a while, then went out for yet another extravagant dinner, this time at a seafood restaurant called Santolla. We had king crab and lots of wine and were living large as usual in these situations. Dessert was lots of ice cream then it was time for sleep.
In the morning, December 10, we had breakfast over at the main hostal at 7:30 then took off for Villa Tehuelches, a ride of 146km. We left in a big group but soon it was down to seven fast riders, then down to four. We powered to lunch and averaged 31kph which was nice – the wind was from the side and back which helped. That was over 62km with 500m climbing. After lunch, the road turned so it was really a pure tailwind for nearly 40km. We cranked that out in an hour so ended up at the 100km mark before three hours.
The promised coffee shop didn’t exist so we just cranked out the remaining 46km to camp. This part of Chile is not as beautiful as most of the other places we had cycled and almost looks like they should’ve let Argentina have it.
We were camping in the Rodeo Grounds in the very small town of Villa Tehuelches. After soup and lots of snacks, we set up tents – I put mine inside a little shed with a waterproof-looking roof. It didn’t look like rain but why not? Then Andrew and I rode downtown and found a cafe. They didn’t have beer but the owner let us buy it next door and bring it in. I bought 1L bottles for Andrew, Rien and me, and soon we were joined by a few more riders.
We met a couple from California who had taken 18 months to ride here from home. They were going slow, trying to stretch out the remaining trip to Ushuaia to 10 days. After we had our recovery drinks, I had a nap back in my tent and failed to wake for my 6pm dinner duty – Miranda covered for me. We had a memorial ceremony for Jan Thole who had passed away 5 days earlier. It was organized by Cees and was in a nice little church right near camp. Jan’s bike was in the center and the pews were moved to surround the center.
Anneke gave a very nice description of the few days she spent with Jan’s wife Lia and described how Lia had just made it home to Holland, Jan’s body to follow. We all were in the same boat as no one knew Jan before the trip so there were no really close friends among us. But many people stood up and told simple stories of how Jan had touched them. Andrew resisted telling the towel story which was probably good. After that, we had dinner, then I went to bed pretty quickly after dish washing. It was COLD outside but nice in my tent.
Around 3:30am, I heard rain on the roof. It ended up raining for about 4 hours, dropping off just as we were eating breakfast under a nice big roof. Standing around and loading the trucks made me really cold so by the time we started riding at 8:30, I had to wear a 4th layer – I had never had to do that on the whole trip. The dampness made the cold stronger it seemed. We headed out in a group but I just went a little faster to try and generate heat. I was also wearing my thick wool gloves and even shoe-covers. After a few km, there was a choice, the “Rob Route” this time was an extra 18km and was nearly 70km of dirt. That didn’t appeal so I continued straight on Ruta 9 which ends in Punta Arenas where we were heading. I was sort of waiting for people to catch me so we could ride together but arrived at lunch ahead of everyone. As I ate they arrived in small groups. I ended up staying a long time as the sun came out and we just sat there in our black clothes, absorbing nice heat. Finally I took off with Twan and after a while had passed everyone and caught Cees. The three of us continued the whole way to the hostal in Punta Arenas arriving around 2pm. The wind was sometimes a headwind and sometimes a side wind, very unusual for here – this should’ve been an easy tailwind day. Just our luck. We arrived tired and maybe a little sore from pushing the speed the day before. Soup and snacks were great but then we found that the 8 or 9 of us who didn’t fit in the hostal didn’t really have a place to stay. An alternative hostal was quickly found but we went to see and it was actually still under construction – no one had ever stayed there and nice as it will be someday soon, it wasn’t ready. I waited but the Bike Dreams staff seemed flummoxed so Bart, Andrew and I looked online and in 5 minutes found a nice place nearby and checked it out. We rented a little house with a bedroom for two of us and a kitchen/living room with a couch and another bed for Andrew (who sometimes makes quite a racket at night so it’s best if he’s off by himself). It was under $20/person per night. Feeling proud of ourselves, we got our bags, had piping hot showers, then went out to a coffee shop to meet Wytze and others. After pastries and drinks it was decided we needed alcohol quickly so Andrew, Miranda and I walked downtown to scope out the bars.
We found a block with many quite nice looking restaurant/bars. We picked one at random, texted everyone else and settled in to enjoy drinks – Ruibarbo Sours and beers etc. Eventually about 10 people showed up and we had a great dinner. Besides a great Calafate Sour, I had pasta with lots of smoked salmon and capers. And hand made rhubarb ice cream for dessert. I will miss this part of the life a LOT when it ends in a week in Ushuaia.
We have only five more riding days, just 470km to go. We’re already over 53°S, closing in on Ushuaia fast.