The Road to El Calatafe

On January 23, 2013

The first day leaving Puerto Natales was quite eventful. The first 63 km were paved to the border at Cerro Castillo and we made quick work of that with only one break. Next we crossed the border to ripio (yay… not). I crashed in the 6 km between checkpoints and cut my leg and messed up my chain. Then we took a wrong turn which added a few steep hills. Oh well. Next was an extremely long and strenuous hill. On the way up my chain got stuck between two chain rings, causing quite a mess and I wasn’t able to pedal. I had to break the chain to get it out. There were a few nicks but it didn’t look too bad. Since my hands were dirty I cleaned it and in the process lost half of the master link. I couldn’t find it so I ended up replacing the whole chain and saving the old one. New chain day!

We made quick work of the last but of ripio to Routa 40, then we really flew. Tail wind and pavement. We got to our sleeping location at 3, had a late lunch, then decided to push on 80 more km to make it a two day ride between cities. We rode 45 km in a little over an hour. When we stopped we realized we were on Routa 7, going the long way around the triangle to El Calatafe. This route was over 250 km to go rather than the 160 km we were expecting. After realizing this we decided to try to hitch back to the original first camping spot for 15 minutes before continuing the long way. The first van we tried stopped. Just our luck! He had a 15 passenger van but kept asking if we had a flat or something wrong. We just said we were tired and the wind was strong. This was true, but that whole time we had a tail wind. He relented after we showed him how to fit the bikes. On the way he gave us each a Coke and a sandwich to split. So nice. But karma sucks and in that process KC lost his quick release to his front wheel. After setting up camp and a few minutes, we managed a temporary fix out of my extra BOB skewer. Whew…. Close one.

At camp two Columbian riders joined us, Luis and Alex. This gave us a chance to practice Spanish and ask bike part names (chain, quick release, axel). Helpful seeing as we’ll need this info to get replacements. They are super friendly and are taking 4 months to bike up to Peru before flying home. They aren’t really stopping and only spent a day in Torres del Paine. Super cool guys sharing some boxed vino with us. Che (my Surly) got a badge of honor for starting Routa 40. I need one for route 7 in Chile and route 3 in Tierra del Fuego now.

Starting at 3am it started raining. Not the best thing to wake up to, hastily closing up the rain fly. I never would’ve put the fly on if other people didn’t camp next to us. Close call. Leaving in the rain with a wet tent, the first 10 km were painfully slow. On the way KC’s Salsa everything cage broke a second bracket, all 3 of our bottled water bottles sprung leaks, and towards the end my fenders kept filling up with sand making it impossible to ride. Riding rough rock, deep sand, sticky clay with sand (cement), massive puddles (lakes), and mostly mud was exhausting. I switched to sandals early in the day because feet dry the fastest. It was the bad road day…. with rain. I didn’t take any pictures of the really bad parts since it was torturous going through them and I didn’t want to get my camera wet.

Arriving at the end of the ripio where we start heading north we stopped for the night. There’s a government outpost (maybe snow plows?) and the guy let us stay in the garage/hanger. We can let our stuff dry and sleep out of the wind and rain. Yay! Alex and Luis caught up to us here as we’ll as one other biker.

The morning sunrise was great. Check the time on the photos, I don’t remember when that was. This day was harder than the last. Once again, the Patagonian wind got the best of me and I was hurting something fierce. Nothing like cruising at 8 km/hr down hill and working hard for it. I also had another chain mishap but I think I fixed it with a derailleur adjustment. We got to El Calatafe and I made KC stop at a bakery so I could gorge on sweets. We met up with Alex and Luis at our hostel and saw Gotye at the grocery store. I still can’t get over seeing the same people. It’s awesome. We also found a replacement quick release and I’m still looking for a plastic spoon. I’ll probably get a cheap one at the grocery store before we leave.

Tomorrow we take the bus to the famous Perito Moreno glacier. Stay tuned for some pictures of that!

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