Increasingly running out of land, my ritual of unfurling my map before I go to sleep is now more than ever to search for ways around reaching el fin del mundo. Via direct route I am a week away from biking to Ushuaia though my plan of winding my worn tires through as much of Patagonia as I can has been one of my best mistakes as I shrugged off warnings from fellow travelers to hurry up and get to THE END before Winter swallows me whole.
I still have a long way to go, and this excites and ignites me. Even if I have to carry this bike on my back through snow, I will take time to soak in the intense beauty, weaving in and out of Argentina and Chile. When will I ever have the chance to be here again?
As I write this, Torres Del Paine National Park which I biked through less than a week ago is on flood alert and last night Volcano Calbuco erupted for the first time in 42 years, a hiker remains missing. Under the 12 million year old Torres, I am an ant humbled by the forces and formations of nature. To be here on Earth day 1 year and 11 months on the road, the reminder of unpredictability came my way on the ride to Puerto Natales after a tailwind sailed me uphill only to be smacked sideways into a gale force that had me cranking my handlebars at a 90 degree angle. This initiation was only a small taste, I am certain. By suspiciously avoiding the subject of wind, though checking windguru religiously, riding despite abysmal weather forecasts has been an excellent modus operandi! Afterall, if this was easy, I would’t be interested. With zero sentiment of smugness I will say I have been fortunate thus far as the elements have been on my side. One’s headwind is another’s tailwind is my consoling mantra.
The treasure that is this route is further enhanced while flanked by my new crew. An unlikely team, the 3 of us thrive on solitary travel. Our collective visions of riding off the beaten path and downright twisted sense of humors have proven to be not as conducive to record breaking momentum but sure is a hell of a lot of fun. It’s grand riding with others who tenaciously plan more involved routes.
Impressively organized Nathan has 5 years of riding under his belt since Alaska. I knew him through intrepid routes with my cycling sis Cherry).Outdoor extraordinaire Celine was cycling solo when I saw her on the Carretera Austral. At a time when I am contemplating how to sustain a lifestyle cycling the world, these two seasoned tree-huggers eminate passion and drive to live potently with wilderness and I find myself confidently anticipating my ‘what’s next?’.
I didn’t plan to go to Torres Del Paine but once I caught a glimpse, I was drawn closer by a tremendous calling. This to me is the very essence of traveling by bike; you can go wherever you like, whenever you like. The universe provided and thanks to generous enthusiasm for cycling we were in, gratis.
The towers were obscured when we entered but what was immediately visible…the lack of tourists. We saw more guanacos than people in one of the most popular hiking destinations. Splayed out in front on the mighty Cuernos, drying our tents misted from the night before and snacking we feasted our eyes. The experience of trekking would be mind blowing without a doubt but I was grateful that the clouds were lifting and I was pedaling blissfully in tranquility. I came to a grinding halt often to soak in the majestic views and imagine the mountaineers before the luxuries that we know now and who took tremendous risk to ascended such a magnificent wonder.
In the last moments of daylight the vista appears in full glory. We ride along Lago Pehoe, stunned. All day I had been taking in these peaks, slowly as the light and sky changed. I could only laugh at the amount of time spent perched in nooks on the road in awe of each new revealing, unknownst that I would be knocked to my knees by such a sight at the day’s end. When finally facing this legend, sunlight and my camera battery were fading.
What I search for most in a journey had been fulfilled. Even if it was just a day, the reward of getting there submersed in surroundings tumultuously changing was hugely symbolic of my trip. I gave long glances back as I rode into camp at nightfall with the incredible feeling of where my wheels had taken me.