I left Comodoro Rivadavia feeling very relieved that I now had temporary import papers. We needed to ride 420kms to Los Antiquos but had no idea that they would be one of the toughest 420kms to ride. The road was long and boring but we were quite happy to ride it until we got bombarded by the wind. Unless you experience the Patagonian wind yourself you will not be able to image what it is like. At one point I was pulling my right handlebar with all my strength against the wind just to keep the bike in a straight line. I wish I could have taken a picture of Joern in front of me but I could not let go on the handle bars in order to do so as riding with one hand in that wind was impossible. His bike was practically at a 30o angle, it was almost comical. Joern later told me he had seriously considered hanging off racing style to see if he could get his knee down while going in a straight line. Would probably be some kind of record.
I have heard of people getting blown off their bikes in the Patagonian wind and now I understand how this is possible. We needed to stop almost every 50/80kms as my neck and back started really aching (we usually ride at least 150kms before a short break) The day seemed to last forever but we finally arrived in Los Antiguos at 5pm exhausted.
Puerto Rio Tranquilo
We headed to Puerto Rio Tranquilo not to early as the border only opens at 8am but we were the first people there. The crossing was simple, the people were very nice and friendly and we did both borders in less than 1.5 hours, the only thing that took a little time was the fact that on the Chilean side the customs officers were training a couple of new recruits and they very thoroughly checked our bikes / panniers and luggage. We had two options from Chile Chico, one was to take the ferry across the lake and the other was to ride around it. After meeting a bunch of 6 bikers on the way who told us, that due to the state of the raod they had 6 punctures and had taken 9 hours to do the 165km ride from Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Chile Chico, we really did consider the ferry, but decided against it and were glad we did.
The road was okay, just a normal dirt road but with a lot of rocks and sharp stones which could cause a lot of problems. I suspect it was a bit of testoteron induced racing among boys and the fact that they were on rented bikes and had a support vehicle, that caused the many punctures.
We employed the tortoise and the hare principle, slow is fast, and it worked. We rode between 40 and 60km/h depending on the road surface and stopped to take a lot of pictures. Boy were we glad we did not take the ferry as I’d have hated to miss those views. The only incident we had the whole day was being blown off the bikes by the wind. The wind was just phenomenal and at one point where the road was cut between two rock faces which acted like a perfect wind tunnel, we came off.
I came around the corner and was hit full force by the most vicious wind I have ever felt, I could just not keep my bike upright and before I even knew what had happened I was on the ground. I was fine and jumped off the bike and turned around to warn Joern only to see exactly the same thing happened to him. We then tried getting the bikes up and found it impossible against the wind, it was just nuts. Both of us together couldn’t even pick my little bike up against the gale force winds we were fighting against. Eventually a car came along and the very nice man stopped to help us with my bike. We then started, all 3 of us, on Joerns larger bike and quickly ran out of steam. The poor man indicated that he could not stay and help as he had to be somewhere urgently and so left. We took a few deep breaths and calmly assessed the situation. I put a couple of large rocks under Joerns right side pannier a she lifted it a few inches, the thinking behind that was just to try and inch the bike up a little to get a better angle. Just then my bike crashed to the ground again even thought I thought I had manoeuvred it to a better angle against the wind. A second car pulled up and a very kind older gentleman got out, almost having his door ripped off by the wind while doing so.
We first got my bike up and Joern rode it the 100meters out of the wind tunnel where it stood as solid as a rock with no further issues. The 3 of us then tackled Joerns bike and got that up as well. When the man got back in his car he did so from the passenger side, against the cliff face so slightly sheltered, with both his wife and me holding the door steady.
What a crazy situation.
The windy mishap over, we continued without incident, just a little rain and some very cold weather. We arrived in Puerto Rio Tranquilo absolutely starving at 3:30pm and freezing cold. A chicken schnitzel, hot cup of coffee later and I was ready to start again. But we didn’t, instead we checked into a very cute hostel run by a delightful couple and with the best fireplace ever in the lounge where I spent the evening blogging.