Patagonia day 31: Police station to Tapi Aike

January 28, 2020. 45 km.

I thought maybe today would see me to Cerro Castillo (the second one) back in Chile, but it was not to be. Instead, I made it all of 45km to the end of the gravel shortcut. With the combination of constant headwind and bad road surface, even that distance was an all day affair.

Sometimes the wind dies down in the morning, but not this morning. I could see and hear the wind tearing along from inside the police station when I woke up. At least the panoramic windows in my sleeping room provided a really nice view of the sunrise. The wind forecast (last I checked) predicted wind all day today and less tomorrow, but I decided I wanted to make some progress anyway. I figured I could certainly make it to Tapi Aike, and maybe to Cerro Castillo and I would decide later in the day which to aim for. In the end I got to Tapi Aike around 4pm and there was no way I was going to try for another 50km.

This part of Argentina has very little variety in landscape or flora, but there are is a surprising amount of wildlife. Not long after I started in the morning, a parade of ostriches (or something?) decided to run across the road in front of me. I got my camera out just in time to get a picture of the straggler at the end.

Later in the day I saw a couple of foxes, a bunch of guanaco, some flamingos, and some other unidentified water birds. But mostly I saw road winding on and on in front of me. And wind. So much wind.

One of the more exciting moments of the day was coming over a small ridge and suddenly getting a glimpse of mountains in the distance. Days away still, but something different on the horizon.

I spent a while trying to decide whether one particular set of mountains in the distance was Torres del Paine. I decided that it was.

Crossing the windy plains of Argentina here made me think a lot about what it would be like to cross them without roads or maps or knowledge of what there was to find. Seems like that would be a pretty intense experience, especially given how scarce water is in general.

The road surface was highly variable. Sometimes ok, often really bumpy. I did end up walking some, often because it was just too much effort to deal with the wind and finding a path through the rocks in the road at the same time. But mostly the wind. Everything around here is about the wind.

The afternoon brought wetlands, relatively speaking. A few small lakes which looked more like salt flats from a distance. They featured quite a few birds though, including flamingos and others that I couldn’t identify. I guess when there aren’t many water sources the birds congregate.

By the time I glimpsed the first signs of buildings at Tapi Aike I was more than ready to be done. I was walking as much as riding, and the wind was just getting stronger.

Tapi Aike is an AGVP (road maintenance) building, a police station and a tiny gas station. I knocked on the door of the AGVP and didn’t get an answer, but peaking through the window of the next room over found all the people watching TV. A woman offered me a semi-sheltered tent spot or a room in a trailer for 300 pesos. Easy choice. The room was nothing special and not all that clean, but it was indoors. It also came with a tractor tire in the corner. Judging from how much the trailer swayed in the wind overnight, I’m guessing the tire was there for weight.

The room was nothing special, but there was a hot shower and (surprisingly) really good free internet. I cooked myself dinner and poked at the internet and really appreciated not being out in the wind.

Bronwyn Woods