Mud and head wind in the Land of Fire

450km of remote back roads the next village made me excited. When had I had such long distance between villages to stock up more food earlier on my trip? Never. Not in the Kyzyl Khum desert in Uzbekistan and Kazakstan, nor in Taklamakan desert in China nor in the Tibetan Plateau I have had such a distance between villages. Distances between places to stock up food have been always less than 300km, where ever I have been on this planet so far. I allocated five cycling days for 450km and I stocked up food for for six. Eventually I was eight days on the bike.

Day 1. It rained through the night. I packed my tent in the morning in thick drizzle. The road had gotten softer over night. Hard packed gravel did not feel that hard packed anymore. My average speed dropped from 18km per hour below 10km per hour. A location I had hoped to reach by lunch, I reached an hour before sunset. Clouds cracked after 20 hours of rain and a hint of sun coloured the sky red and purple. I camped under full moon in a clearance in the woods along an unused 4×4 road.

Slow going, but beautiful on a shortcut through an estancia.

The next day the morning sun defrosted my tent after the first properly cold camping night for a while. I rarely had problem with ice in southeast Asia. Riding on the fully grown old road was fairly efficient as the muddy sections had frozen overnight and they stayed frozen over in the cover of the forest. For an around 20km the ride was excellent in the old woods which occasional clearings full of guanacos.

Backroads of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina.

Then I reached a more used road again. Even though it sucked to leave this beautiful track behind I was happy to get on faster roads again as well. I still had over 300km to the next shop and it was already day three from Tolhuin. Rolling from the forest track to the black  ‘gravel’, as I thought, I got stuck immediately. The days sun had turned the gravel into a perfect sticky mud. The type that literally stops you after a couple of meters. Both tires locked I dragged my bike sideways into the woods. I have always wondered how mud can really completely stop a bike tourer. Now I know it. The following 30km I pushed my bike in the woods and in the open Pampa on the side of the road.

These roads were unfortunately not ridable. I pushed my bike on the open Pampa to avoid mud gathering on my tires.

Then the famous Patagonian winds started, strong and heavy directly against me. I was suppose to nail 100km a day for the following three days to avoid rationing of my food supplies. After a day on the saddle I reached the Chilean border my GPS evidenced that I had camped just 45km away the last night. This speed the following 250km would take me five days. I had food left for three. Crossing to Chile raised my spirits, I was the only person to get across at Paso Bellavista on that day, and the border officials spent an half an hour chatting with me.

The following days are blurry. I remember that I did not eat as much as I should, I found less water than I needed and the wind got stronger toward the coast in Chilean Tierra del Fuego that I would have liked. I made two litres of water to last full cycling day and 500g of pasta two. Got more petrol for my stove from a remote wood processing facility of Russfinn.  If I had not been taking pictures, I would not have much to tell. Pictures evidence that it was much prettier what I remembered.

I wish I had ridden this road to different direction. Audiobooks and podcasts kept me going when the Patagonian winds tried to push me back to Argentina.

I reached the west coast of Tierra del Fuego in the end of day six. By heavy rationing I had still pasta, olive oil and sardines for two more days left. As my positive surprise I found a minimarket in Camerun, which showed to be a real village, unlike all the other places marked on map, which had only an abandoned house. Red wine and empanadas as my guide I was reconsidering my route plan in a piss smelling bus station at night. The wind and mud had slowed me down much more that I ever thought possible. My plan had been to cross back to Argentina and ride a railroad service road along the Rio Gallegos, but more than 200km more of direct head wind, despite the excellent fishing opportunities, put me off. I took the easy way out and decided to ride to the town of Porvenir and take a ferry to south American mainland to Punta Arenas. I do not regret that decision.

Tierra del Fuego, Chile.

The Route

Below is the whole route across Tierra del Fuego. Comments on the Ushuaia-Tolhuin section, see previous post. From Tolhuin to Porvenir the route follows mostly public roads, apart from one section through the lands of two Estancias. Mostly good hard packed dirt road, but some sections could get really soft and muddy after rain, where bigger tires come handy. In dry conditions 2.0 tires would be absolutely no problem. Worst rippio actually only the last somewhat 50km to Porvernir.

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