This is the penultimate leg before my arrival in Ushuaia, written back in June 2018. Probably about time I actually posted it. (Current location: I’m now in Bali, Indonesia having a had dramatic change in lifestyle – more about that soon…)
Torres del Paine (24th Aug, 2017) – arrive Puerto Natales (25th Aug) – left Puerto Natales (30th Aug) – Punta Arenas (1st Sep)
After a day of rest from a rather exhausting multi-day snow hiking adventure in the park (that some would almost certainly regard as a step too far), I managed to escape the warmth of the refuge hut and head back out into the howling Patagonian wind. As Torres del Paine disappeared from view I contemplated the closeness of the end of the continent. Soon I would be arriving in Punta Arenas, the gateway to Tierra del Fuego. Words uttered so many times to passing strangers in the last few years that they started to reach almost legendary status as I wondered whether I’d actually ever get there. Or whether indeed I wanted to. So engrained into my life this journey had become; how could I give up this way of living after it had brought me so much fulfilment and joy?
But it was not over yet and thanks to previous pioneers there were a still a few remaining adventures to be eked out before I ran out of land. They turned out to be up there with the best of them.
As with the rest of my journey, avoiding the main highway served me well and, if I remember correctly, not since the Nicoya Peninsula in Costa Rica had I ridden my bicycle on an actual beach. There was not a soul in sight and it’s hard to exaggerate the sense of peace and connection to nature I felt riding through this special place.
Here’s the story of my route from Torres del Paine to Punta Arenas via the magical beach…
(NB: if you plan to follow this route, there could be a better way into Puerto Natales. I followed Nathan’s GPX but the last bit of main road is a little grim and seems avoidable by taking a turning to the right just after you hit the large crevasse in the road (you’ll know when you see it!). On google maps this looks like it could lead right into Puerto Natales but who knows?)
A quick check of my map reveals that my care-free gallop downwind has been taking me the wrong way for 14 km and I take a moment in a picnic shelter to process the painful news. I then reluctantly re-mount my bicycle to confirm that my greatest friend is now my greatest foe. The wind does all it can to defeat my undernourished (already fatigued from days of extreme exercise in the park) and I enter into a tedious battle that is as much psychological as it is physical. Two hours later I have clawed back the lost ground and continue further into the howling wind.
The next morning I turn off onto dirt for my planned beach detour…
Then off the dirt road, through the gate and down on to the beach!
I believe we have Skyler to thank for pioneering this fantastic beach route back in 2014, his notes are here. Cass’s here and Nathan’s here. The first beach shack seemed have deteriorated since they passed through. The third (next to the fourth) was however ok (and unlocked).
Note directions coming into Punta Arenas (written below route map), there may be a way that avoids using any of the main road.
Tax free? The tax free haven is called Zona Franca. Although without tax, a lot of the stores raise the price so the deal isn’t that great (but probably better than the rest of the country). Outside of Zona Franca, the stores add on 20% if you’re not local so you need a Chilean ID to get just the normal price. Absurd. I bought a phone in “New Ark” (Punta Arenas) in the Zona Franca. Ghastly unfriendly service but cheap options (know the prices so you can bargain down).