Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pampa, Pampa, Pampa

Southern Patagonia is an intense place.  This region of the Andes is filled with jagged peaks and dynamic glaciers that extend almost to sea-level.  The mountains in the West give way to vast, dry grasslands in the East.  These windwhipped plains are called “pampa” here.  And they are so vast and empty that one usually says “pampa, pampa, pampa” when referring to them.

Our time has been split between riding through the mind-numbing pampa and excursions into the mind-blowing Patagonian Andes.

The pampa (pampa, pampa) is notoriously windy.  Life is spectacular with the wind at your back (30-40km/hr), horrible with the wind at your front (5-12km/hr), and frustrating with it at your side (12-18km/hr).  We count ourselves lucky that nobody has been blown clean off the bicycle … yet.

Super windy here ... better hold on!  Windy times ... better hold on!

A sign of the times.

Guanacos in the pampa.  A fox in the pampa.

There are quite a few animals who call the pampa home.  Guanacos (an undomesticated relative of the llama) and foxes are common.

A common sight on the Patagonian roads.  Patagonian sheep (not lamb) dinner.  Heads and shoulders the best meal of the trip.  So good we had to go back and talk with the chef about how he cooks the sheep.

But sheep are the most common sight on the roads as they frantically run from us on our bicycles.  Sheep (not lamb) slow cooked whole over a fire is the regional dish.  It was head and shoulders the best meal of our trip!

Torres del Paine in the distance.

Always with the gorgeous mountains in the West as a backdrop.  The world famous Torres del Paine, Chile.

Our first return to the mountains took us to El Calafate, Argentina and the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier.  The glacier extends to only several hundred meters from a peninsula jutting out into Lago Viedma.  And it advances at almost 3m a day, meaning that enormous chunks of ice frequently crash into the lake only meters from the peninsula.

Glacier Perito Moreno, Argentina.

Perito Moreno Glacier flowing downwads from the Campo del Hielo Sur (Southern Ice-Field).

Crowds on the pasarelas at Glacier Perito Moreno, Argentina.

Crowds gathered on the pasarelas (walkways) to watch the ice calving into the lake. 

With good reason, this is one of Argentina’s biggest tourist destinations.  People come from all over the world to watch and cheer when a big piece falls… ruining the atmosphere that we would prefer.  However, there were a few times when we had a platform to ourselves and could get lost in the enormity of it, hearing only the creaks and groans, then the unexpected roar, crash, shockwave, and slow tidal wave of a big piece falling.

Between El Calafate, Argentina and Puerto Natales, Chile we rode through about 300km of pampa (pampa, pampa).

Broken rear hub ... damn!  And so close to the end of the trip!

“Dave, your wheel looks really wobbly …” The most unexpected mechanical failure of the trip: a cracked rear hub.  We didn’t even know this happens!

Our wonderful home for the night in a highway shelter.

A highway shed made a perfect shelter after a frustrating day with an average speed of 11km/hr on flat roads.  Think it looks disgusting? … we thought it was paradise!

Puerto Natales is located near world famous Torres del Paine National Park in Chile.  It is a picturesque fishing village turned hub for all the tourists heading to the park.

Picturesque Puerto Natales, Chile.  Picturesque Puerto Natales, Chile.

Charming Puerto Natales, Chile.

Like everyone else, we went for a hike in the park called the “W Trek”.  It is beautiful, but known for rain, wind, snow, and suffering tourists.

The Torres del Paine massif, Chile.

The Torres del Paine massif from the park entrance.  The hike forms a W shape on the left side of the mountains.

Colours abound in Torres del Paine, Chile.  Forest in Torres del Paine, Chile.

We had lots of rain (and snow) to start the hike.  Fortunately the lush terrain kept us entertained.

Checking out the burnt forest in Torres del Paine, Chile.  Life starting to recover in Torres del Paine, Chile.

Last year a careless hiker started a fire (while trying to burn their toilet paper that they were too lazy to carry with them) which burned 10% of the park.  Jenn contemplating the ashes and, as always, life beginning anew.

Mountains peeking out in Torres del Paine, Chile.  Glacier in Valle Frances, Torres del Paine, Chile.

Sights of the Valle Frances (The French Valley).

In front of the Cuernos in Torres del Paine, Chile.

Jenn with the Cuernos (The Horns).

The famous towers of Torres del Paine, Chile.

And the park’s showcase attraction, the towers.  Our jaws dropped (and we immediately tripped and stumbled) as we rounded the corner to this viewpoint.

From here we continue through the pampa (pampa, pampa), slowly closing in on Tierra del Fuego and Ushuaia, Argentina.  Wish us tailwinds!

1 comment:

  1. Last time I checked you guys were at the tip of Peru. Very surprised to see that you are already nearing the bottom of the map. Glad to hear you are still safe and having a blast.
    Happy Riding!