How we battled against the infamous wind in Patagonia
We knew the wind in Patagonia was going to be strong. Very strong! With nowhere to hide. And the risk of getting blown off our bikes. We also knew it was going to be headwind all the way. So yes, it was going to be quite a battle. Want to know how we survived?
There we were. On our way out of Rio Gallegos, on route 40. Our struggle with the wind had started. It was blowing from the front and then the side at over 25 m/s. It was way stronger than expected.
Route 40 is quite notorious. It runs from the north to the south of Argentina, or in our case from the south to the north. We followed it for about 1000 km from Rio Gallegos, the capital of the province of Santa Cruz in Patagonia. The first night we arrived at a small campsite. We were lucky to pitch our tent out of the wind. Little did we know how much time we were going to spend in the following days finding sheltered spots while wild camping!
Our first town was Esparanza. There we stayed in the garden of the police station. Our dinner consisted of 8 empanadas from the petrol station.
Cycling in southern Patagonia, we were getting used to the wind. But now the intense sun was burning us! We had forgotten to put on sunscreen because the wind was cooling us down, but it quickly became part of our daily routine.
"Where we had just rested our heads was a black widow spider
The steppe or pampa as they call the barren lands of Patagonia offered little shelter from the weather. For lunch, we often looked for hideouts in a ditch next to the road and this worked well. We were not the only ones doing this. One day we were resting in the ditch after lunch and when Katja was packing up she noticed a spider. We should mention that Katja is not best friends with spiders! Anyway, it was sitting in the little bush, where we had just rested our heads. It turned out to be a black widow spider known for its bad reputation. We were a little shocked to say the least.
Most of the animals were new to us. Every day we saw different species. We especially liked the Guanacos that we often saw on the steppe. They looked like llamas with less fur. For some reason they were hanging out near the road. Not smart if you don't want to get hit by cars. There were fences but probably to keep other animals such as sheep off the road. Not the Guanacos as they know how to jump over these fences. In most cases that is... as we also saw dead ones trapped in the fence. We even saved one from this faith by cutting the fence so it could run away.
During our now 1270 kilometers on the Patagonian roads, we can't say that we have made peace with the wind. But we have learned to live with it. We have also experienced that an involuntary rest day to avoid the worst wind is 100 times better than a day, where we try to fight the wind and do maybe 5 kilometers an hour. Some days, we had no choice. But we have also been lucky and have had days, where it was possible to find a place to rest away from the wind.
"We stayed with a guy named Walter, who worked in the middle of nowhere
On one of those days, we stayed in a small container owned by a company that is out in the steppe to do work. We never really understood what kind of work, as our Spanish still needs to improve. We stayed with a guy named Walter, who worked in the middle of nowhere. He was very sweet, and let us stay an extra day, when the weather turned for the worse and a storm hit us. The next day, he thought we were “loco” (crazy) to want to go cycling again. The weather was still bad, but our weather app forecasted it was going to brighten up with some tailwind. We could definitely do with some much-needed help from the strong wind.
Walter wasn´t as optimistic as we were. He kept offering us a ride to the next city, El Calafate, where we were going to stay for three days. When we declined, he offered us a lift to the top of the mountain pass that we were going to climb on the first part of the route. Still, we did not accept. Later that day, he drove past us and honked and waved. We had made it to the top of the mountain with the help of tailwind, and in two hours we had cycled 50 kilometers, as much as we had cycled all day on other days. So we decided to cycle the last 45 kilometers too and make it to town.
We were extremely tired when we reached the hotel. All we wanted was a shower! However, our luck seemed to have run out. We first got a room with no functioning bath. It was unclear whether we could get another room, as the whole city was buzzing with the Argentinian summer holidays. Fortunately, everything was fine in the end. Even without a shower! We went down to the hotel restaurant to have dinner. We ate a a delicious steak with fries and ordered desserts as well. Then we found out that because of the shower situation, we got it all free of charge. Very nice!
"As the evening fell, the wind died down and everything turned completely silent
We had spent so much time on asphalt roads that we were really looking forward to some offroad cycling. Away from cars and motorcycles who were speeding by at 100 kilometers per hour. Fortunately, a small section of route 40 turned out to be gravel. We had just left a small and very outdoorsy town, El Chaltén, where we had stayed and trekked in the Andes Mountain. Now we were heading north to another small town, Governor Gregores.
Full of energy, we embarked on our first 80 kilometers of gravel and we loved every minute of it! However, the problem was to find a good spot to sleep; with shelter from the wind AND drinking water. After having cycled the whole day, we had to spend another 3 hours looking for a place to sleep... We ended up having to compromise and could not find any water. All the small rivers that we had seen on the map were dry. Luckily we had already been nervous about just this. Therefore we had brought enough water for 1 extra day! We ended up staying in the middle of the pampa in a beautiful sandy landscape. As the evening fell, the wind died down and everything turned completely silent. No cars, only the sound of birds nearby. And a spectacular red sunset that made this day another unforgettable one!