“Todos los pasos están deshabilitados (All the passes are closed)….It’s very complicated here in winter my friend.”, the Villa O’Higgins carabinero officer explained. “The river can be up 100 metres wide and 3 or 4 metres deep.” After days of strangely warm weather and high rainfall in Villa O’Higgins, his words made some sense. Maybe it was impassable? After all he should know what he’s talking about, right?
Villa O’Higgins, the end of the Carretera Austral and the start of our planned escape route out of Chile: a ‘wade’ across the multiple freezing water channels of Paso Rio Mayer (next post).
The last few posts are all centred around Patagonia’s favourite subject: the weather. But down here in Winter it really is the primary consideration for any day’s activity and it’s a topic that’s hard to avoid. … Several ‘rest’ days holed up in Hospedaje Ana Luz gave us time to contemplate how bloody cold it might get. Dropping to -10C and lower at night with undeniable consistency.
“Even in March, people were arriving from Ushuaia telling us how we’re ‘gonna die down there’. But it turns out it’s all hype. It was colder in Bariloche than it was in Ushuaia! It’ll be fine. I mean, really, I’m not sure what the big deal is.” The words of travellers in Villa Cerro Castillo. A few days later we were camping in -11C and 3 foot of snow.
…Heading into Patagonian Winter and all the inevitable suffering it would entail, I started to question whether it was all worth it. Then the temperatures started to plummet and the landscapes turned white and my unhelpful attitude started to changed. I came to realise this would be a whole new experience for me and the excitement I once knew and associated with this trip began to return. A whole new set of logistics and challenges would be surfacing and I felt that I would be growing once more.
After accidentally timing Paso Sico and San Antonio de Los Cobres perfectly with the busiest days of the year (or possibly ever), due to peak tourist season and flooding roads, it was a relief to finally leave. My route continued via the famous Ruta 40 and after climbing up a pass of nearly 5000 metres it descended for 260km down to world famous vineyards through dry rugged cactus terrain intermittently following a divine river oasis. It was spiced up further by crazy wild donkeys, beautiful shaded plazas, leeches (!) and incredible rock formations.
“Is this fun?” I think to myself stopping briefly to gasp on Ausangate’s thin air and ponder the value of my efforts. Stopping means no forward progress so I quickly get back to work and continue to haul my laden bike up the steep grassy slopes. I feel slightly dizzy due to my lack of good acclimatisation but, at last,…
We all have dreams that we fantasise about. ‘Fantasise’. Most of the time that’s about all we do. Trapped by dogma and other people’s expectations, we often feel that too much has to happen. So, what do we do? Nothing. We don’t even try. Perhaps at best we tell ourselves “someday in the future I’ll get to it”. It’s…