To Punta Arenas; donuts in Patagonia.

Puerto Natales-Morro Chico-Villa Tehuelches-Río Verde-Beachcombing-Punta Arenas

I have Skyler, a Canadian cyclist travelling a few days ahead of me on his Surly ECR, to thank for this wonderful slice of beachside good fortune.

The note I found stuck to my bike – aslumber as I trekked in Torres del Paine – was the kind that’ll bring a broad smile to the face of any dirt-loving bikepacker. It read: “I wasted a lot of time on Google Earth the last couple of days, trying to find a good off the pavement route between here and Punta Arenas – pavement sucks. What I found is promising. I scribbled it on a map for you, assuming that with even fatter tires, you also hate asphalt and motorized ***holes. The beach section looks rad.” Certainly, his would be sentiments I share.

So, still feeling a little tender after our knee-grinding hike – but knowing that winter draws ever closer in the southern hemisphere – Myles and I wasted no time in clambering back aboard the iron horses, and heading out once more into the wide and windy expanse of the pampa. Pedalling under lilac skies, we raced the wind, beneath bloated clouds that hurtled across the skyscape. First we paid our dues on pavement (which, as it happens, was quieter than expected). Then we returned to the tranquility of backcountry ripio, which neatly deposited us onto the shores of the Seno de Otway, a prelude to a beach traverse that resonates soundly as a Patagonian highlight. I can imagine no finer way to reach Punta Arenas, Chile’s most southerly metropolis; a settlement that lies just a ferry ride away from the fabled Tierra del Fuego, aka the end of the earth.

If you would like to keep up with where I am between blog entries, I try and keep my While Out Riding Facebook page regularly updated – along with posting extra photos and gear ponderings. You can find it here

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It turns out the Pugs really isn’t so bad on pavement. Especially if there’s a tailwind.

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Blacktop or no blacktop, I’m going to miss these Patagonian skies.

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A forest that lined the roadside, brought to ethereal life by the sun breaching the clouds.

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Patagonia has long been the home to immigrants from around the world – as the names of its estancias attest.

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Nice attention to detail…

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A gaucho’s tools of the trade. This is cowboy country; in fact, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were once to be seen galloping around these very parts.

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For fascinating Patagonian insights, get a hold of this book: Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.

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Enjoying it while we can. A tailwind propels us down this paved wind tunnel for the last 30kms of the day…

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… to our accomodation for the night, at Chico Morro. Spacious, dry and out of the wind, if a little wonky.

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Yep, wInter is closing in, that’s for sure. Cold enough for Myles to don his luxurious down puff jacket, aka the binbag.

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Ruta del Fin del M U N D O O O O O O O!!! (best yelled over the wind in a Latin football commentator style).

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Whichever way you look at it, this is a long way from everywhere.

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Patagonian bus stops. Not quite big enough to sleep in.

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At last, it’s time to hit ripio again…

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… destination Río Verde.

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I can’t get enough of these gravel roads. So darn moody.

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Wooden cattle guards and all.

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This would be the backroad, then.

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If it had been any later in the day, we’d have holed up in this unlocked and distinctly luxurious roadside refugio.

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But we pedal on, as spirits are especially high. Drivers, horses, birds, trees, they’re all greeted with a salute. Peace out, Patagonia. (photo by Myles)

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Meanwhile, Myles communes with the clouds.

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Later that day…

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The last light dash.

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Beam me up, Scotty.

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Then, gravel turns to grass, as we turn off onto the backroad of the backroad.

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To this: campsite bliss.

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Complete with outdoor seating.

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Sea views.

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And a light show.

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Breakfast the next morning. Note to self. Sea water and pasta goes makes for a harmonious meal. Sea water and porridge… a definite dischord.

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Hopefully the birds will enjoy it more.

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Time to drop the pressure…

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Somewhere…

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…in Patagonia…

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… lies a slice of beach riding heaven.

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Happy fat bikes like donuts (and so do their owners, as Kurt would say).

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Caught in the act. Myles just can’t contain himself.

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Yep. It’s this good.

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Seaweed, jellyfish… and a fat tyre print.

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Eventually, we leave the beach, and begin a series of illicit fence hopping activities, via a private estancia and a mine road.

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(With a little help from Google Earth)

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We’re pelted with rain and buffeted by an almighty crosswind that does a fine job of exfoliating one side of my face.

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Fat Tyre Friendly.

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Could this be Alaska?

In stormier times, this would make the perfect refuge.

This would make the perfect refuge – where’s that rain when you need it?

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Trees round here seem to frequent the same barber.

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That’ll be Punta Arenas at the end of the rainbow.

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A magical place of soft beds and clean clothes…

27 thoughts on “To Punta Arenas; donuts in Patagonia.

  1. Myles & Miles

    Magic stuff, my man. Shame that hobbit creature you’re travelling with doesn’t have a fat bike. That beach must of been tough for him as you cruised over it. Evocative and memorable shots.

    Reply
  2. Logan

    Lovely photos and story! Notes are surely special when found in the middle of nowhere… We discovered one attached to a sign the other day on Nyika Plateau in Malawi (after a burly a 2,500 meter dirt climb) with our names, an arrow pointing to a camping area and doodles of a beer bottle and a bowl of steaming food. Smiles for sure.

    Reply
      1. Logan

        Definitely heavenly! What made it really exciting was dodging elephant poo on half the route up. Come to find out, after the fact, that there is a rogue male in the area that has charged cars on a couple of occasions. I’ll post pics and details soon.

        Reply
  3. Nick G

    Nice post. Useful to know about seawater and pasta in tight situations with water. I had been wondering if that was edible without salt poisoning…

    Reply
  4. Aurora

    Can’t. Wait. To. Go!!!!

    Feeling inspired…. can’t wait to start my own journey down the spine of the Andes. Thanks for the patagonia-beauty!

    Reply
  5. Nicolas Legorreta

    Hey!!
    Great blog man!
    I slept in that exact bus stop yesterday! haha space for me and my bike!!
    just got to Punta Arenas today, are you still here?
    Would love to ride with you on some beaches! I’m hoping to catch tuesday’s ferry.
    By the way, the king penguins are right on the way at Bahía Inútil and you can camp at the park! (I was there for christmass holydays! those guys are quite cool!)

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Nicholas.

      I took the Sunday ferry. Oh,and I just checked and yeah! Those little bus stops are like tardises. I just fit in one diagonally!

      Saw the colony of king penguins on the way to Cameron. Incredible – the penguins wander right over to check you out. Camped there the night.

      Reply
  6. Oliver

    Another mind-blowing post Cass! Seriously, your shots and these impression from the road never cease to amaze me… Take care and keep ’em comin’!! 😀

    Reply
  7. Hana B

    Wow – the trip just gets more amazing… sometimes wish I wasn’t following your blog as I’m worried it might spoil the surprises :) can’t wait to escape and get started on our next adventure!
    Pedal on

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Thanks Hana.

      I think every trip is unique. I’m sure you’ll find plenty of surprises of your own along the way…

      Reply
  8. bridget ringdahl

    Superb! Glad you were cycling the ‘right’ direction …enough to get a tail wind. I remember that bleak feeling of pedaling down hill at 7km/hr. The only time i could get out of the wind was when i was wind-sucked off my bike by a passing truck and found myself with face in the ripio, but at least out of the wind!

    Reply
  9. Juan Andrés Nin

    Amazing as usual.
    Do you keep a map/gps track of your routes which you could share?

    Keep up the amazing riding!

    Reply
    1. Cass Gilbert Post author

      Sorry Juan, I don’t have a GPS at the moment )-:

      Most of it is relatively straight forward to find and follow on Googlemaps/Earth.

      Reply
      1. Juan Andrés Nin

        Don’t worry.
        I’ve already been exploring the area through google maps :)

        If you ever end up in Uruguay let me know. We don’t have such stunning views but riding a fatbike through the dunes in Cabo Polonio seems to be a fun plan!

        Reply
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