North on hell ruta 40
"Watch ya got there amigo!"
My sheltered camp behind the fancy hostel Bajo Caracoles, came with the right price... $3
I was happy to leave El Chalten in good weather and a nice tail wind for 130 kms of pavement road to Tres Lagos. But I knew this wasn't going to last. I rested in the sun at the windy gas station of Tres Lagos, being interviewed by tourist driving in to get gas, asking millions of questions... " you came all the way from Canada with this bike??? " the most asked question to date.
I wasn't in a hurry to leave the gas station. The wind was blowing strong. If a truck with room in his box would of came by, I would of asked for a ride! My rear tire was getting very bald. I had a 340 kms stretch in no mans land to Bajo Caracoles, the shit town of shit town... the #1 shit town, the only gas station in the middle of nowhere. When you see it, you really wonder how can man live there? A windy and dusty place.
It was time to leave my sunny oasis next to the gas station and head to the hell track of ruta 40. I was expecting a rough ride, but not as rough as it was! the first 50 kms I couldn't ride any faster the 40 to 50 kms per hour! I was against 150 kms hour wind gusts, bad loose gravel sections, wind so strong that if I would ride on left side of the road... 3o meters later I would be on the far right side. I sometimes felt like my head was going to rip off my shoulders with my helmet. If going to slow, you would get pushed right out of the road, too fast, you loose control. So to find the perfect speed... impossible.
Eventually the road got a bit better so I could ride at 70 kms/ hr. Nearly 7 hours later I pulled into the *shit hole* Bajo Caracoles, completely exhausted, my body felt like a truck had ran over it from fighting against the wind to stay up right.
Normally I would camp along the road but around here, there is nothing, dirt and wind. So I pulled in the "only" hostel place in town where there is also a camping spot in the back for a few bucks. Drank a cold beer, put up my tent and past out for the night under howling winds. Good thing I didn't decide to continue to camp somewhere. I later found out that night had some of the strongest winds to date! - I would of ended up somewhere floating the Atlantic ocean in my tent!!!
The next morning the winds weren't any better. I went to gas station to fill up and sipped on a warm Cafe while answering more technical questions to some tourists that were on the long journey down the Ruta 40 making their way El Calafate by bus.
" You rode all the way from Canada!!!" - here we go again....
Long stretches of Ripio roads. Don't let the wind blow of you off the side! If so... you're in trouble.
I came around this corner, trying to avoid the mud puddle. The wind was so strong that it pushed me in the puddle, because of my baldy back tire I had bad traction so the bike spun and went a little too far to the side that I needed to let it go.
This was the first time I dropped my bike, (other then a time in Peru when I did an Evil Canival move in a bud puddle that was deeper then then I thought so dropped the bike).
I had to unpack my bags to lift it against the strong wind. After I lifted my bike back up, the wind was so strong I was sure it was going to fall over again. I managed to put my bags back on. While doing so, my sunglasses blew right off my face! and landed 30 feet away. Chased my shades down the road, hoping a truck wasn't coming around the corner and hoping the windy wouldn't blow my bike back down. I then noticed I was missing something... my foam sleeping pad had blown 200 feet down the field. Took me 5 minutes to find it. I was expecting my bike to be blown down while chasing my sleeping pad. Finally got everything together. Managed to get back on the bike against the wind and rode off to the border 4 kms away.
When I got to the border the Argentinean officer at Paso Roballos asked me if I was tired? I guess maybe I looked beat from the winds. He then told me that the night before, he had never seen strong winds like this. I told him... trust me, I know... I rode in them up ruta 40! for 400 kms.
Riding threw Valley Chacabuco, in the future to become Patagonia National Park. Beautiful landscape and calmer winds.
The beautiful turquoise blue Rio Baker. - The most beautiful river I've ever seen. It's color is due to the glacial sediments deposited in it. It is Chile's largest river in terms of volume of water. The river flows out of Bertrand Lake, which is fed by General Carrera Lake. It runs along the east side of the Northern Patagonian Ice Field and empties into the Pacific Ocean.
It is the site of a proposed hydro-electric project by the Chilean and Spanish owed Endesa, the biggest hydro-electric project in the history of Chile, which will flood farmland and affect the tourism income in the Aysen Region. It will produce 2,400 MW for the Interconnected Central System (Sistema Interconectado Central, Chile's main grid), whose energy consumption increases by 6% every year, making a crucial source of energy, particularly given the high price of fossil fuels and the lack of reliability of shipments of natural gas from Argentina.
I arrived at my friend Jim Donini's house in Puerto Guadal in one piece and NO flat tire with my bald tire after 2 days of hell riding. Jim has a beautiful property on Lago General Carrera, a true get away from it all place. From here I would now ride up La Carretera Austral, route 7 to Puerto Montt.