Patagonia day 22: Rio Bravo ferry terminal to Villa O'Higgins

January 19, 2020. 99km.

It was easier to get myself out of my sleeping bag because I was inside where it was warmer. Didn’t have that usual “but it’s soooo warm here” back and forth. Also easier to pack up since I wasn’t very unpacked to begin with. I was a little startled by the trucker coming in at 5am to use the bathroom, but other than that it wasn’t a bad night of sleep. I cooked myself some oatmeal and was on the road by 9am.

Shortly after leaving the port I misinterpreted a sign and found myself in a construction zone that I think I was supposed to wait to go through. I suspect the let people through around the times when the ferry arrives, so I was probably lucky that they took sympathy on the clueless biker and paused their pushing around of giant rocks long enough for me to get through.

There were a couple other short construction sections on the flat(ish) section near the port, but nothing too major. At one the construction worker directing traffic tried to chat with me and was clearly rather amused at my nearly complete lack of ability to understand him. There are at least some Chilean accents that I just can’t parse at all.

I had nearly 100km to go, but early in the day I passed a sign saying I was entering the O’Higgins commune, which made me feel like I was getting close right from the beginning.

The first few tens of km were along relatively flat roads along rivers and streams. It was pleasant cycling, except for the relatively frequent large trucks going by filled with rocks from the construction projects. It wasn’t exactly raining, but it was drizzly and cold enough to warrant socks and my light jacket.

As I started on the first of three significant climbs of the day, I passed a large gravel area with trucks and construction equipment. I hoped (correctly) that that was the end of dealing with pulling over for large trucks to pass. I exchanged that for climbs and switchbacks.

I did get a really nice view over the valley I had just come from.

As I expected, the sequence of three climbs and descents took a while. I walked a few short steep sections with loose gravel, but it was definitely manageable. Once I got over the climbs, the next 30km or so were really nice, despite the rain. I had a pretty strong tailwind that pushed me along easily. The road was rolling, but mostly flat. There were lots of tumbling waterfalls and rushing streams on one side of the road. On the other, there was a variety of damp landscapes - swampy trees, streams, lakes, and the like.

I was quite damp by the middle of the afternoon, but it wasn’t cold so I didn’t really mind. And then, gradually, I started to see sun! With the sun, came increased wind. LOTS of wind. Really nice at my back. A little disconcerting later, when it was blowing from the side.

The road looped around a large lake, going down the western edge and then turning to head east along the shore.

As soon as the road turned east, the wind became a cross-wind, and it felt like I was biking at an extreme angle just to stay upright. If the wind had stopped suddenly, I almost surely would have been knocked over, and I did get pushed to the side a few times. No cliffs to fall off of, fortunately. I suspect this was a bit of a preview of what the winds are supposed to be like on the Argentinian side. We’ll see.

Fortunately, it was only a couple km before I got some shelter from the wind in the trees.

A bit more up and down, and then Villa O’Higgins!

It wasn’t hard to find El Mosco, and it is indeed a very nice place to stay. It’s not too hard to find anything in town (it’s not very big), but it’s quite pleasant. Lots of tourists (probably mostly tourists, really) and a nice backdrop of mountains.

I got myself a private room upstairs. It came with a bed and a comforter and a full-sized towel for the hot shower. They also washed my clothes and provided lines to hang things on to dry. Feels like extravagant luxury. It’s amazing how one’s standards shift so quickly on these trips.

I stopped by the Robinson Crusoe offices to ask about the boat crossing toward El Chalten. They said there might be a boat tomorrow afternoon, or perhaps the next day. I’m rooting for the next day as I wouldn’t ming a little bit of a break. But I’ll go as soon as there’s a chance to go, for fear of getting stranded for a week. There are people here who have been here for 3-4 days waiting for the boats to go. I guess it’s mostly the wind that stops them. The folks at El Mosco seem pretty used to people showing up and not really knowing how long they are going to stay. They told me to come pay them once I knew.

It’s not the end of my trip (I still have about 2 weeks before I need to be in Puerto Natales for the ferry), but it still feels like an ending of sorts. Once I get across to El Chalten and don’t have the uncertainty of the boat, I suppose I’ll be able to plan out the rest of the trip with more precision. Probably have time for a bit of hiking and sight seeing in El Chalten, El Calafate, and Torres del Paine.

Bronwyn Woods