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.
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It turns out the Pugs really isn’t so bad on pavement. Especially if there’s a tailwind.
Blacktop or no blacktop, I’m going to miss these Patagonian skies.
A forest that lined the roadside, brought to ethereal life by the sun breaching the clouds.
Patagonia has long been the home to immigrants from around the world – as the names of its estancias attest.
Nice attention to detail…
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.
For fascinating Patagonian insights, get a hold of this book: Bruce Chatwin’s In Patagonia.
Enjoying it while we can. A tailwind propels us down this paved wind tunnel for the last 30kms of the day…
… to our accomodation for the night, at Chico Morro. Spacious, dry and out of the wind, if a little wonky.
Yep, wInter is closing in, that’s for sure. Cold enough for Myles to don his luxurious down puff jacket, aka the binbag.
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).
Whichever way you look at it, this is a long way from everywhere.
Patagonian bus stops. Not quite big enough to sleep in.
At last, it’s time to hit ripio again…
… destination Río Verde.
I can’t get enough of these gravel roads. So darn moody.
Wooden cattle guards and all.
This would be the backroad, then.
If it had been any later in the day, we’d have holed up in this unlocked and distinctly luxurious roadside refugio.
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)
Meanwhile, Myles communes with the clouds.
Later that day…
The last light dash.
Beam me up, Scotty.
Then, gravel turns to grass, as we turn off onto the backroad of the backroad.
To this: campsite bliss.
Complete with outdoor seating.
And a light show.
Breakfast the next morning. Note to self. Sea water and pasta goes makes for a harmonious meal. Sea water and porridge… a definite dischord.
Hopefully the birds will enjoy it more.
Time to drop the pressure…
… lies a slice of beach riding heaven.
Happy fat bikes like donuts (and so do their owners, as Kurt would say).
Caught in the act. Myles just can’t contain himself.
Yep. It’s this good.
Seaweed, jellyfish… and a fat tyre print.
Eventually, we leave the beach, and begin a series of illicit fence hopping activities, via a private estancia and a mine road.
(With a little help from Google Earth)
We’re pelted with rain and buffeted by an almighty crosswind that does a fine job of exfoliating one side of my face.
Fat Tyre Friendly.
Could this be Alaska?
This would make the perfect refuge – where’s that rain when you need it?
Trees round here seem to frequent the same barber.
That’ll be Punta Arenas at the end of the rainbow.
A magical place of soft beds and clean clothes…