Andes Trail Stages 105-107 Dec 13-Dec 15, 2019

Stages 105-107 of 109, days 137-139 of 142

Photos and routes on Strava

DescriptionDistance in kmDirt kmClimb in mEFI
South America10,4741,995105,553
Andes Trail10,1751,986101,812X
    Ecuador9123016,265
    Peru2,62251528,702
    Bolivia1,1012227,426
    Argentina4,50598838,945
    Chile1,03322910,574

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

We had a rest day in Punta Arenas and I think most would agree it was really needed. I was sore and hammered by the previous days. Mostly I think it was racing so fast on stage 103, but also the stress of the last week caught up with me, and others. I carefully made no plans at all for the rest day. Quite a few people were more ambitious and took a boat to visit the penguin colony on a nearby island. I just went out to breakfast, lunch and dinner and otherwise hung out in our nice little cabana.

Breakfast at the Wake Up Cafe
Punta Arenas waterfront

We left Punta Arenas on Friday the 13th quite early due to the ferry schedule. It had started raining in the night and it was coming down as we headed out at 7:30am. Best line: “Don’t even think about laughing” – Wytze wearing his rain pants up to his chest. It was 5km down the coast to the ferry terminal and there was a sheltered place there to wait until boarding.

Crossing the Strait of Magellan

We walked on with our bikes then headed upstairs and sat in the warm cabin. We crossed the Strait of Magellan to Tierra del Fuego from 9 to 11:30. During the ride, Anneke told us that we would be staying in a hotel in Porvenir, the port town, rather than riding 85km to a bushcamp. The rain stopped and we rode into town, had lunch by the shore, then rode around looking for a coffee shop, eventually finding the Bike Dreams truck and Anneke, at a pair of hotels, with rooms for all of us. It was a little strange ending with a total of 12km for the day, but we had a relaxing afternoon, then went out to dinner at a nice restaurant.

Rainbow in Porvenir

In the morning, it was gray, cloudy and windy, but the wind was blowing in the right direction. We left at 9 on a dirt road. We had to do nearly two stages today, a total of 138km, but Rob had heard that instead of being unpaved the whole way, the last 40km was now paved. The dirt road went up and down, sometimes steeply, with a good surface, and the tailwind was awesome.

With Twan on the 96km of dirt

The downhills were fine at over 50kph and we typically went 30-35. But you know that neither good things nor bad things last. Sure enough, it started raining, the wind shifted to the side and the surface got quite muddy. We slowed down drastically.

It rained for the next 50km to lunch which was at the “14 Trees” campsite. This area really is barren, just some grass and a few bushes, as far as you can see. But there is one place with 14 trees and a new little 2-person refuge hut which we sat in to eat our lunch. I think everyone was glad to not camp there.

The wind was from the left so everyone was muddy on the right side
Power lunch with Bastiaan and Twan
Rob plus our ace lunch team at “14 Trees”: James and Ype

After lunch, the rain died off and we cranked out the last 22km of dirt to an intersection where we could take a 15km detour to a King Penguin colony, or just head the last 40km to our campsite at the border.

The view back of our dirt road, the last serious dirt of the tour
Some bike love needed

I opted for the direct route since the wind was strong and tailwind that direction, although I would’ve loved to see the King Penguins. I rode with Cees and we had a great time, although by the end we were both ready to be done. The place where Anneke and crew were cooking was sort of an abandoned set of buildings with graffiti from many cyclists. It was really dingy and we heard the crew did a huge amount of clean up before we saw it. The ground was really wet, puddles everywhere, so I upgraded to a room, a small triple in the hotel across the street with Winnie and Cees. There were only a couple available so many people set up their tents in the small yard. Not our finest campsite for sure. We had soup and snacks, then dinner later, a special dinner since it was both a weekend and James’s birthday – he’s 69 years young – he’s the guy who won the whole Andes Trail in 2014 back when it was a race. He’s now our lunch truck driver. In his honor, we all had Pisco with rhubarb cordial cocktails with dinner, very strong and nice.

James’s birthday dinner
Typical graffiti
Poster at the hotel bar

After dinner several of us drank many beers over at the hotel – I had already used my last Chilean pesos but many others threw it all down so there was plenty of beer. Around midnight I staggered in to bed, climbed to the top bunk, and fell asleep in one second.

In the morning the sun was partially out and it was quite windy. The wind direction looked great and I was thinking I might finally get what I had been wishing for: a full day of strong tailwind. Breakfast was at 8, a special one with champagne and other treats, shocking the three Swiss cyclists who were staying with us.

Now that’s breakfast!

We left at 9:20 and riding the 600m to the border took just a couple of pedal strokes to get going. The wind was blasting! We got out of Chile pretty quickly but had to wait for the trucks to get cleared.

Waiting for the all clear signal

After that, Twan and I headed out at 40-45 on the beautiful paved road into no-man’s land. That ended after 3km and we were on hard-packed dirt, 10 more km to the Argentine border. Entering this time was easier and they didn’t look in the trucks. It’s so unpredictable. Soon we were blasting along at 45, pretty effortless. The sound the tires make at high speed when you’re going just the speed of the wind is so great.

Getting so close we can smell it…

Then a funny thing happened that hadn’t happened since stage 88. Wytze came cruising by at warp speed. His bike makes a great sounding hum and he looked happy to be back at full speed. Everyone wondered if he had authorization from his wife, and of course he didn’t. He just couldn’t resist. Lunch was at 48km, and most everyone was together again for the second day in a row, very unusual. The shelter of the truck was imperfect and at least one lunch took a face down tumble into the dirt. After that, we had another 44km to Rio Grande, where Rob said we’d be at a hotel rather than camping. There were a couple of sections of side/head wind, but mostly it was quite fast. The total for the 93km day was 2:39 for me and only 2:26 for Wytze. I rode the last 10km with one of the Swiss guys. They’re out for a month and a half with SO little baggage, it’s amazing. They go the same distances we do and are fast and strong.

Fully loaded touring – with tents, sleeping bags, stove and pots etc!
Taken at over 50kph, the Atlantic Ocean visible
Wytze at the hotel showing how he goes so damn fast

Sure enough we were at a hotel, a really nice one. I got a double with Andrew, and after hot showers, we had snacks downstairs. Jan had spent all his Chilean pesos on beer in the morning which he stashed in the truck, so we had cold beer, then naps, then Wytze bought an impressive amount of beer and snacks that needed quick drinking. By the time we finished most of that, it was dinner time. 10 of us walked to a pizzeria and had massive pizzas, I skipped beer in favor of strawberry juice. Ice cream for dessert finished it off.

Dinner, biking style
Good marketing for cigarettes

Now there are only two more stages to go! We’re so close. We’re sad and happy at the same time I would say. Everyone is so comfortable with the life and each other, it’s magical. But we all know that life has been going on in the real world without us and our life can’t go on much longer. We plan to get as much as possible out of the last two days.

2 thoughts on “Andes Trail Stages 105-107 Dec 13-Dec 15, 2019

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