Parking the bikes in El Calafate.

Trip Start Mar 11, 2005
Trip End Jul 15, 2005

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

It gets tougher! We've completed another 144 miles since last we posted to this site and have experienced some of the worst conditions to date. The main problem has been the ferocious headwinds that seem to dominate these parts and make the apparent easiest section of road a battle that takes place at walking pace. To make it worse, much of this takes place on unpaved roads, gravel, clay, or just earth. We do get some sympathy however (Philsy can look very pathetic when he wants to!), and one kindly tanker driver saw how hard we were struggling on the 'ripio' against the wind, and indicated that we should follow close behind him; so we pedalled like there was no tomorrow not to lose the slipstream. It was a great help and we appreciated the thought.

We're constantly pushed off the road onto the 'verge' as crosswinds vie for difficulty with the headwinds: at one point Starky toppled over, ever so gracefully, onto a soft pile of earth as a crosswind hit him when cycling along a 'road' of compacted earth that was being constructed. But there can be an upside to the strong winds: we stopped at one point to take in the views when we realised that either we had changed direction, or the wind had. And guess what, there was 'asfalto' ahead, so we sailed along on a newly laid tarmac road with the wind on our backs for about 15 miles, being pushed up hills and down with barely a need to turn a pedal. Bliss!

And the scenery is breathtaking. Only yesterday, after a cold night spent in the tent in the middle of a quarry, and a long haul against the wind up a long and windy hill, we turned a corner and there was a magnificent vista spread out beneath us, a condor circling overhead, and best of all, 5 miles of downhill to savour! The landscape is awesome in its barrenness with barely a bush, let alone a tree, to be seen for miles - but the bare hills in various hues of browns, rusts and oranges, broken only by the cold blues of lakes and rivers and the occasional oasis of vibrant green, roll endlessly on. Wildlife abounds, particularly guanaco, rhea, flamingo, grey foxes, geese, ducks, eagles and the occasional condor.

It's amazing, but the isolation ensures that we have some interesting meals as we never know when we're going to be able to buy provisions: a couple of nights ago we dined out on several packets of sweet biscuits, a hunk of cheese, and a tube of paté. Mmmmm, delicious. Biscuits seem to form the basis of our diet at the moment as they are often all that is sold and they are light to carry and quick and easy to eat on the move. Some days we could die for a hot cup of coffee, but we see nothing: no shop, no petrol station, barely a house, and certainly no coffee. To give you an idea, in the last 3 days we have passed 2 very seedy hotels that, remarkably, were fully booked (we weren't too sorry!), we have passed one petrol station, and no shops. And no shower . . .

But now we have arrived in El Calafate, to see the Perito Moreno Glacier, which apparently is fantastic. We had hoped not to have to cycle all the way here as it is 20 miles off our route, so the plan was for Philsy to watch out for a pick-up truck coming along behind us, then launch himself onto the side of the road and lie with his feet in the air whilst a condor circled overhead. Starky of course couldn't do this as his Spanish-speaking skills would be needed to explain to the driver the urgent need for a lift to El Calafate with the bikes. Apparently, in a team, each member has a role to which he is best suited. But we digress, the upshot was that no pick-up came by and the condor had to look for afternoon tea elsewhere; and we had to cycle the extra 20 miles.

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