El Chalten – Pink Hotel (27 Jul, 2017) – El Calafate (28 Jul) – Perito Moreno (31st Jul) – Cerro Castillo (13th Aug) – Refugio Central (Torres del Paine) (13th Aug)
On the vast open stretches of Argentinian pampa even a small headwind can induce boredom and I occasionally fantasised about a speedy arrival in Ushuaia after so much time on the road. These thoughts were normally fairly fleeting, however, and would be rapidly alleviated by a favourable change in wind direction, the appearance of a world class geographical feature or some kind of entertaining interlude. In these moments my feelings would swing to euphoria and I would bask in an appreciation of how lucky I was to enjoy such experiences in my life. Not unlike the hills, my emotions rolled up and down on the road that never seemed to end.
The notable highlights of this section were the “Pink Hotel”, Perito Moreno glacier, distant views of Torres del Paine and the delightful estancia meat feasts. This is the tale of those interludes…
Leaving mid-afternoon with a strong tailwind out of El Chalten I cycle 120+km to reach the notorious “Pink Hotel” an hour after dark. From the outside these look like just any old ruins, but the inside tells a different story…
After getting to the intersection, I cycle for 100 metres and, since I must come back this way, decide to stick out my thumb to the first passing vehicle. I immediately get a ride into El Calafate in an old pick-up truck. This is an out and back stretch with fast moving traffic; the decision is an easy one.
The Ice Field is the reason that the Southern tip of mainland Chile is not connected to the rest of the country by its own roads. It feeds dozens of glaciers, many of which have receded dramatically in the last 50 years providing a useful barometer for climate change. A few kilometres from El Calafate, the Glaciarium museum provides more information on the matter and you can enjoy its Ice Bar after learning about one of the world’s most pressing problems.
Next post: Trudging around Torres del Paine in winter in 3 metres of snow.
Useful shelters: Pink Hotel (see embedded map), Vialidad (see embedded map – normally open to doors to cyclists – marked near Estancia Tapi Aike on Google maps) and Cerro Castillo bus terminal (we climbed through the window and slept on the floor).
You can cut out the big zig zag to Esperanza but I was warned the road was very bad when wet so I avoided it.