Sunday, 15 December 2013

14/12/2013 Stage79 Forest wild camp – Ushuaia

2013-12-15 click for more photo's
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14/12/2013 Stage79 Forest wild camp – Ushuaia
We woke up with ice on the tent but there was some early morning sunshine. It is nearly the longest day here and their summer. It seems an inhospitable climate to me, the noise of the cold wind which blows off the ice fields nearly all the time would drive me insane. For three months of the year everything is covered in snow and ice. We learned that the government tries to encourage people to come and live down here by offering much higher wages and no taxes. I don't think I would be tempted.
It was strange to realise that this would be our final day on the bikes. We only had less then 50 km to go so there was no rush. This last stretch had some proper climbs in it which we haven't had for ages. There were some snow capped mountains as well so that made us happy. The road was quite busy though but a lot of drivers gave us the thumbs up which is always nice. We were very lucky because there wasn't much wind and we rolled into Ushuaia by lunch time after just over 4 months on the road and nearly 8000 kms on the clock. I didn't even have one puncture!
It has been an amazing journey and I feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to undertake it. The memories will stay with me for a long time to come.

The bad
  • losing one wallet in a snack bar
  • losing one wallet from trouser pocket
  • losing £300 in cash
  • losing 3 debit cards
  • losing a pair of Goretex overtrousers
  • losing an expensive Rab fleece
  • losing a woollen hat
  • breaking one camera in Cusco
  • breaking the second camera with dust, insect repellent and flooding
  • breaking an iphone
  • breaking a Samsung Note phone [ subsequently repaired for £60]
  • breaking a Kindle e-reader
  • cracking the last debit card [ kept for safety in a shoe in case of mugging ]
The good
As you can tell from the above nothing bad happened really. We weren't robbed we weren't threatened we just lost and broke some stuff and we are both in excellent health the most important thing of all.
  • The bikes have been amazing. No maintenance what so ever. They just kept on going. Malc had punctures on one day. I had none! Hard to believe considering some of the roads we cycled on. The ceramic rims show no sign of wear and the brake blocks are similarly preserved. The Rohloff hubs have been faultless
  • No saddle sores.
  • We have had rain whilst cycling on less than a handful of days and months of sunshine
  • The wind has been kind to us overall
  • The incredible breath takingly beautiful scenery we have seen along the way and how good that made us feel. No amount of photo's can do justice to that but it will be in our memories for ever.
  • And most of all the privilege of meeting kind and wonderful people in such a diverse and fascinating continent.


13/12/2013 Stage 78 Tolhuin to forest wild camp

2013-12-12 click for more
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
13/12/2013 Stage 78 Tolhuin to forest wild camp

2013-12-13 click for more
Yesterday had been spent walking around the lake which almost turned into an epic long distance hike when we got lost taking the short cut!
The ride today was going to be a short one of only 50 kms through the pass of the last mountain range before Ushaia. Pablo who owned the cabin had forewarned us of the predicted 60 kph headwinds and rain in the afternoon. Grim. The reality was much better with a moderate headwind which eased and became a tailwind up the final climb although it did drizzle slightly in the afternoon.
The scenery was once again spectacular with great views over lakes Fagnano and Escondida and a gentle but persistant climb to the snowline through the pass.
Just before finishing the day we met Petter a Swedish cyclist who was on day one of his trip to Quito where we had begun. He was brimming with enthusiasm and we spent a long time passing on what we hoped would be useful information and let him have our map which at this stage was of no use to us. It will be interesting to read his blog as he does our route in reverse.
We managed to find a flat spot in the trees at the side of the road surrounded on all sides by snowy mountain tops and lay in our tent with the flaps open just enjoying the views. A fab' last night of camping.

Thursday, 12 December 2013

11/12/2013 Stage 77 Rio Grande to Tolhuin

2013-12-11 click for more 
Untitled by malcandmarjetpatterson at Garmin Connect - Details
11/12/2013 Stage 77 Rio Grande to Tolhuin

Leaving Rio Grande we immediately struggled with a strong headwind and made slow progress initially. An ominous start as the wind usually strengthens later in the day and it was already strong. After 10 kms the route headed in a more Southerly direction and the wind was now on our back. Yippee and more yippee because the sun came out and we changed into shorts and t shirts. We hadn't expected this warmth any more and coupled with good views it made for a wonderful day on the bike again.
The first 50 kms were flat and followed the coast but eventually we headed more inland and started to climb again. We were now entering a predominantly forested area with views to the South of the final snow capped mountains we still had to cross to reach Ushaia.
With 108kms planned we'd both worried that this could be a day where we might have to camp halfway if the wind stopped us but it turned out to be another really enjoyable day and we got into Tolhuin fairly early at 3 pm. Maybe the more we worry the easier it will be?
Our hotel in Rio Grande was a bit of a dive and expensive so it was wonderful to find a perfect cabana in the trees. We still have a few days in hand and only 100 kms to do [ we could walk it] and as it's so nice here we'll take a day off to explore the lakeside walks.
our home for the next two nights

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

10/12/2013 Stage 76 San Sebastian - Rio Grande

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10/12/2013 Stage 76 San Sebastian - Rio Grande
We use my Dutch nationality and keep quiet about Malc being English!
Only 80 kms today which would be fairly flat, on tarmac all the way and almost certainly with a strong tailwind. Easy peasy. A leisurely start with breakfast and a chance to chat to three UK cyclists. They had started from Ushuaia 4 days earlier and were looking a bit downhearted as they had been forced to cycle into strong headwinds for the last two days and found it hard going. Any cyclist will know there is nothing more soul destroying than head winds. It is utterly demoralising They had arrived at 7pm having taken 10 hrs to get from Rio Grande ,[ with the tailwind it took us less than 3 hrs to cover the same distance ]. In addition they had misjudged the size of San. Sebastian thinking it would have a cash point machine which it doesn't. It has an expensive hostel and a petrol station. No shop of any description apart from what you can buy in the hostel. As a result of this one of them was going to have to go back to Rio Grande to get more money. Not happy bunnies.
The wind for us was always from behind and steadily picked up and we flew into Rio Grande with a max speed of 68 kph downhill and with the wind. It is a wonderful feeling to have the wind push you along and sure hasn't happened enough so it was very much appreciated.
A gentle stroll along the beach front and stocking up again for the next stage. Tolhuin is 108 kms further but will have some into wind sections and we have to be prepared to camp. Here 's to hoping to get in on time.

If all goes to plan there will only be 3 days needed to reach Ushuaia but if wind dictates otherwise we can take 6 with time to spare to catch the flight back to the UK.
flat and featureless

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

09/12/2013 Stage 75 Wild camp - San Sebastian (Arg)

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09/12/2013 Stage 75 Wild camp - San Sebastian (Argentina)
Nice to see the Atlantic again
During the night we heard the rain against the tent and by morning the wind had got up again. We are in Patagonia after all, more specifically in Tiera del Fuego ( Vuur eiland as I remember from geography lessons as a child) We could see the The Magallanes straits whilst sipping our coffee. The straits made Punto Arena into an important port before the Panama Canal opened. Sadly no sun today and we were well and truly back to pampa. Just tufts of grass and not much else. The odd guanuco (a kind of deer) would come into view. The land is always well fenced but we are not sure what the fences are for because the guanuco's always leap right over them and we rarely see other life stock. We made good progress and soon arrived at the border where we had the usual rigmarole. Returning into Argentina is a little easier then going into Chile because Chile is very fussy about what you can take in (no fruit,veg, dairy produce or meat unless vacuum sealed ) we bought 4 chocolate bars with the last of our 4000 Chileno's. It is not too surprising that everybody uses a calculator when you deal in such big numbers. The 15 km between the Chilean and Argentinian border proved to be ripio of the worst kind and I had my first mechanical issue on the whole trip. The chain has stretched so much and I haven't bothered to do anything about it, it actually fell off. Not a big deal to be fair and it did not take me long to be on the move again. It should not pose a problem on the asphalt roads and there is only one more long section of ripio to come. We decided to stop in San Sebastian because we have plenty of time to get to Ushuaia and are pleased to be able to see the Atlantic Ocean from our room. We haven't seen that one in a while.

08/12/2013 Stage74 Punto Arenas - Wild camp Tiera del Fuego

2013-12-08 click for more
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08/12/2013 Stage74 Punto Arenas - Wild camp Tiera del Fuego
Our oasis of trees looming in the distance.
Up at seven to cycle to the harbour and buy tickets for the ferry. The crossing to Porvenir was 2 ½ hrs and surprisingly smooth as the wind appeared to have finally abated. We spent a lot of the time during the crossing chatting to the man seated opposite to us who was a radio reporter and was travelling to report on the football match in Porvenir. Goooooaaalll he demoed.
From Porvenir it was going to be 160 kms of ripio to San Sebastian which is just in Argentina again. In between there was going to be lots of wilderness and we would have to wild camp in the middle somewhere. San Sebastian on Google earth was tiny and probably wouldn't have a hosteria so we took food for three days and expected to camp for two nights.

The weather continued to improve and we enjoyed nil wind conditions with lots of sunshine whilst cycling along the shores of Bahia Inutil. It was once again very beautiful with great views to the mountains across the lakes to the South. It was good to have a really enjoyable day again as some of the last few days had been tough going on occasions. The first half of the day the road was rarely level and seemed to just go up and then down without any level parts but none of the climbs were greater than 100m although the climbes were quit steep.. The second half of the day became easier as the land levelled out to the point that finding a pace to overnight might be difficult. However we had read some of the bogs from other people who had done the same section and it was reported that there would be 14 trees after 85 km and behind these we would be able to shelter .Sure enough the 14 trees were found exactly as predicted and we set up camp feeling more secure with a barrier against the wind. We went to bed listening to some very odd animal noises.
Not a bad oasis. Sea in the background

Saturday, 7 December 2013

07/12/2013 Punto Arenas

2013-12-07 click for more photo's
07/12/2013 Punto Arenas
When the alarm went off at 6.15am I wasn't sure we had made the right decision to book on this trip. It looked utterly miserable outside. Cold and grey and wet but we set off anyway. It turned out to be an amazing trip. Just eleven punters on a small boat with three crew. You have to be pretty jaded not to revel in seeing dolphins up so close. Watching them dive and leap under and along side the small boat was utterly captivating. This was followed by a visit to Magdalena island inhabited by the  Magallanes penquins. Thousands of them in fact. You can not help but love watching penquins and to be able to walk so freely among them was fantastic. we were told not to touch them or feed them which of course we didn't but one penquin just nipped Malcolm's leg. Not quite sure why. We then sailed off again to the next island. Island Martha. On it's shore where hundreds of sea lions and cormorants. Before we returned to land the skipper found some more dolphins for us to watch. what's not to love!