Rio Grande (Argentina) to Punta Arenas (Chile)

In Patagonia the wind notoriously blows from the west. The only question is how hard? The next section of our ride from Rio Grande to Punta Arenas was from east to west and therefore was ‘full of wind’.

Day 1 – Rio Grande to sheep shed

We set off from Rio Grande early morning after saying farewells to our new found friends, straight into 30km head winds (we could have walked faster). About 6km in we turned a corner and had a tail wind assisting us up to the police check point. The police officer was super friendly and advised us not to ride because of strong cross winds. We explained that this would not be a problem, as we were heading west towards Chile. He agreed, and gave us some emergency contact numbers before we bid him farewell.

The track was a little muddy but not too bad, apart from the water filled potholes and the odd inconsiderate driver going through them too fast and covering us with mud (we were not happy bunnies ). We made very slow progress into the wind for the next couple of hours. Just as we were thinking about stopping for lunch, it started to rain so we headed for a nearby estancia. We let ourselves in through an unlocked gate, Jon quickly made friends with the two dogs while Vanessa hid behind her bike. We knocked on the front door but no response, so sheltered against the wall whilst we made lunch.

Time for lunch
The weather turned nasty with rain/wind. Jon suggested using our ground sheet as a make-shift shelter over Vanessa’s bike so that we could hide under it. This worked for a short while, then Vanessa’s toes/fingers lost feeling and an emergency ‘get warm’ assembly of the tent was under way. Once inside and in her amazing down sleeping bag, Vanessa warmed up quickly. We remained in the tent for a good few hours sheltering from the weather,  blog writing and general chit-chatting.

Once the rain had passed we packed up and were off again. We had around 20km left before a large bridge, which we thought would be a good shelter from wind and rain and where we could pitch our tent for the night.  Luckily,  we stumbled across a better alternative just before the bridge; an empty, clean, sheep shed complete with bench and table. Perfect sleeping quarters for two weary travellers. We ate, read and fell asleep ready for another day.

Shear luxury
Day 2 – Sheep shed to Radman

We got up reasonably early, hoping for calmer weather and to our relief there was minimal wind. Around 20km into the day’s ride the Patagonian wind reared its ugly head. We have decided that we don’t just love trees but are obsessed by the shelter they provide. We reached the top of a climb and in the distance could see the majestic Andies mountains  (our goal).

We stopped for lunch and sheltered from the wind for a couple of hours. After finishing lunch a passing motorist stopped and handed us a pizza from the back of his ute, which his dog was guarding (very bizarre but a nice gesture).

We kept on going until we reached the Argentinian border patrol.

Argentinian border control

We had our passports stamped, then Vanessa asked if they knew of a place we might pitch our tent for the night? One of the officers mentioned we could pitch a tent in the grounds of the migration department. Even better, another officer suggested we stay in their recreation center (awesome for us). He showed us to an empty room with dozens of spare matressses.

Now which one to choose?

After eating we decided an early night was needed and lay down to sleep. Shortly after there was a knock at the door and 2 ladies came in offering a plate of food and orange cordial…we thanked them both, although we had already eaten and it was a meat dish, but fell asleep thinking that Argentinian generosity had been exceptional.

Day 3 – Radman (Argentina) – Russfin (Chile)

After our night’s kip at the Argentinian border control recreational centre, we got up super early and left at 6.30am trying to avoid the famous Patagonian wind as it was relatively calm.

We cycled 2km to the Chilean border control, however we were a little puzzled when we arrived, as there seemed to be no one around. We even walked into the border control office and could have stamped our own passports, as it was deserted.

Hola…. anyone home?
We knocked on a few doors; getting one of the border control officers out of bed, who then told us that they didn’t open until 8am (so much for the early start!).

Two hours later we were ‘eventually’ on our way.

Chile here we come
To our pleasant surprise we found the dirt roads in Chile to be marginally better than the corrugated ones we had just left behind in Argentina. With the wind relatively benign we made good progress and for a few brief kms we had an assisting tail wind and sailed along, spotting the odd guanoco.

I’m not a llama I’m a guanaco!
We kept going until hunger hit and sheltered beside a bridge for food and a quick rest.

Siesta time
After lunch we set off again but the weather went downhill whilst the roads went up. At one stage it started to rain quite hard. We decided to pitch the tent to sit it out until the rain stopped. In the process we only managed to succeed in soaking the inside of the tent (not to mention ourselves)…to add insult to injury the rain stopped almost immediately afterwards (sod’s law).

Back on the road we continued for a few km. Luckily for us when it started raining again we came across a shed to shelter under.

Lovely little spot
Shortly afterwards we saw a sign for accomodation 20km ahead at an estancia called Russfin. The prospect of a warm shower and comfortable bed seemed very appealling after a few days on the road and we decided to make this our target for the day. When we reached Russfin we found only a large timber mill but quickly discovered the accommodation quarters behind it, complete with modern facilities….

we were later told that the accomodation was built for 180 workers but as the timber industry had declined they now had only half that number of employees and had decided to ‘branch out’ to accomodation too.

We didnt care too much the reason and were happy to be there. We also found 2 friendly grey foxes who were also happy to hang around the mill and scrounge any scraps of food from the cafeteria.

What did the fox say?
Day 4 – Russfin to 0km bus shelter

After a good night’s sleep and cafeteria breakfast we set off from Russfin timber mill, surprise surprise, into a headwind…but refreshed, we made reasonable progress. A few climbs later we came across two other bike tourers, who gave us some information on where to sleep next for free, they said that at the 0 km mark of the road we were on became our next destintion point, where a small bus shelter for cyclist was situated and could sleep 6 at a push (we had 36km left).

We had a 5km thrilling downhill ride to the coast, interrupted only by watching thousands of sheeping being herded into trucks by a handful of sheepdogs, and what we thought would be a small town called Cameron. However, when we got to the coast we realised Cameron was another 1km in the opposite direction. We were also told by some local sightseers who had stopped to rest next to a wooden monument that there were no shops and decided against going to Cameron.

Row, row, row the boat
The ride along the coast was tough. The wind was strong from the side and there were lots of rises and falls. It was getting cold and damp so we set our hopes on stopping at a king penguin tourist attraction, which was the only structure along that remote stretch of coastline and where we expected they would serve food and warm drinks. We were disappointed when we reached it to find that it was little more than a porta-cabin where each busload of tourists are crammed into for a pre-penguin viewing intro talk.

Penguinos del rey
Neither of us fancied paying a small fortune to stand in the cold watching penguins (especially when we have a pending trip to Antartica…and also we could see the penguins from the road) but we squeezed ourselves into the porta-cabin, ate some buscuits and kept our heads low whilst 3 busloads of tourists were shuffled through and given the speel on king penguins in both english and spanish. The rain didnt let up so we stayed put for a while. One of the guides offered us some coffee but had no spare cups. We quickly produced our foldaway mugs and the coffee was delivered. When the rain let up we left some Argentinian notes in the tip jar, thanked the staff and left much more knowledgeable on king penguins than we ever expected to be.

We left with only 15km until we reached the 0km mark where the bus shelter was.

0km shelter
After another tough section we reached our home for the night. We knocked on the door, as it was blocked and another cyclist welcomed us in. Micheal immediately impressed us by making his own chapti bread on a liquid fuel stove. He had travelling from Buenos Aires by bike and was headingto Rio Grande. We made our beds and snuggled in for a nights rest.

Day 5 – 0km bus shelter to Punta Arenas

This was a day to remember. With 98km to go to Porvenir, the day started with us getting up really early in the hope of avoiding the wind but we had no luck. It was really strong and in our faces. Then, as Vanessa was ready to go before Jon, she headed off while Jon fixed his panniers. Shortly afterwards Jon realised Vanessa was heading up the wrong road. He quickly ditched the panniers and chased after her.

Setting off in the right direction, the wind was so ferocious we managed little over 30km in 5 hours cycling (on a flat road). At one stage Jon got off his bike and pushed, alongside Vanessa who was riding. We quickly realised there was no point cycling further as we were struggling to stay upright and both got off and pushed.

Shortly afterwards we were excited to spot a lake with some Patagonian pink flamingos  (unfortunately we have no evidence of this as Jon’s camera skills let us down) but at precise moment a truck drove past us and Vanessa stuck her thumb out. To our relief the driver stopped and offered us a ride the rest of the way to Porvenir. We put our bikes on the back of the truck and enjoyed a scenic ride along the coast.