Patagonian dirt

Also writen by Pam with some intergetions by sagot(scott)
We were heading to El Chalten, which is around 100 km off of Ruta 40. When we arrived at the junction, it was really blowing quite hard, as much as it had been blowing the whole time we´d been on 40. To get to El Chalten, we need to turn west, into a 60-80 km/hr headwind. But we were pleasantly surprised to find that the road was freshly paved! What a treat. So we blast down the road at 70 km/hr and the headwind is much easier to deal with with good pavement under our tires, but is still quite tricky. However, about 40 km along, we find that they are actually still in the process of paving the road and we find ourselves directly downwind of the sand pit they are excavating for the roadwork and there is sand blowing across the road is this ripping wind. Now, we have run into these little sandy bits before and I usually take a deep breath and exhale as I ride through- the sand blows inside your helmet so breathing in is not a good idea. But as I finish exhaling, I still can´t see the end of the sand!!!! So I stop to put my head down and take a breath and look behind me, under my arm and Scott is doing the same. Since this is so unexpected, and the visibility is so bad, I decide to turn around and retreat and as I ride by Scott, who is maneuvering to do the same, a huge gust of wind comes along and blows him right over!!! With our bikes fully loaded, neither of us can pick our bikes up on our own so I need to go back on foot but the only place to park the bike is on the pavement (the shoulder is sandy and unstable and my bike would blow over too). So a flag down a SUV heading towards us on the road and he puts his flashers on, so hopefully no one else will drive into the sand and into the KLR and I run back to help Scott pick up his bike. Then the poor guy in the SUV gets out in T-shirt and shorts to try to help us (at least we have kevlar and helmets on). We get the bike upright before he can get there, so we holler "gracias" at him but I would be surprised if he could hear us through our helmets and the wind. We retreated to a hut for the construction workers (actually an ashphalt testing lab in a portable container) and evaluate the situation.... The guys in the testing lab are laughing at us but like the bikes so they let us stay.

We ended up wrapping t-shirts and stuff around our necks and mouths, sealing the helmet(and I mean sealed!) so hopefully sand can´t get inside and we set off again, but after Scott takes off, I go to leave and I have gotten sand inside the sidestand kill switch cable (bike won´t go forward with sidestand down, for safety) and it thinks the stand is down when it is up so I stall about 5 times before figuring it out and shaking/rattling the cable to let it release the kill switch. By now, Scott has figured out that I haven followed him and tries to turn around to come back for me and guess what, the wind blows him over again!!! Its pretty comical as I type it now but at the time, I was like "why are we braving this hostile environment to go to this place again???". Ah right, Mt. Fitzroy, the Holy Grail for a climber like Scott and the only place he said he really wanted to see in all of South America. So, once we are both upright and mobile again, we head back into the sandstorm and ride through the other side, both of us keeping a close eye out for each other blowing over. And we made it to the other side. But then, another 15 km down the road, the pavements runs out and there is a crappy desvio with deep gravel. Very difficult to ride in under good conditions and virtually impossible with this crazy wind. So close and yet so far away but it is 7 pm and we aren´t sure whether we can make it period, never mind making it before dark. We gave up and went back to Ruta 40 to a yucky-looking hotel near the junction were they had no rooms but he let us camp in their backyard, which was surrounded by trees for a wind-break. By this time, the sun is low in the sky and our visors are difficult to see through. But not because they are dirty, per usual, but because they are SANDBLASTED!!!! As are the fronts of our bikes and our teeth as well. We made an easy cheesy pasta dinner and fell fast asleep. Next day is - surprise, surprise- high winds again. The road between the junction and the place we stayed is actually one big desvio too with large round pebbles for the bikes to swim through and since we don´t even want to face that chunk of road, never mind the road to El Chalten, so we carry on down Ruta 40 to the turn off to El Calafate and we.... rented a car. Yes, we completely gave up and rented a car and went to El Chalten on 4 wheels. The rental company stored the bikes in the warehouse and we hit the road in the evening, after the wind died down and we kicked ourselves the whole way for not trying it again on bikes. Ah well, it was nice to travel and talk and not have to pack up everything so carefully and the only accomodation we could find was in a hostal where we had to share a room with a couple of Irish girls so the secure car was a nice change. Get this, the car was a Volkwagon Gol, not a Golf, but a smally and crummier sibling, the Gol. Hilarious.

We were extremely lucky the next day and awoke to no wind and clear bluye skies in El Chalten. We could see the peak of Mt. Fitzroy from town and we hiked 10 km into the glaciar at the foot of Cerro Torre and it was perfectly clear too- a very rare ocurrence for it not to be cloaked in clouds. By 3:30 the clouds rolled in and covered Cerro Torre up but by then we had been staring at it all day. Peaple have to wait, sometimes, weeks to get a glimps of these mountains!
Sagot- Its probably not a good idea to get all of your exercize for the month in one day! 20 KM! I could hardly walk the next day.- Our visors are screwed and we only have one spare. Take a spare when you travel!


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