Sunday 3 January 2010

CHILE- Region X11 Puerto Natales-Punta Arenas

Now in Punta Arenas and almost at the end of the journey to the tip of South America. The town of Punta Arenas with a population of 150,000 sits at one of the necks of the Straits of Magellan.

The final leg of the trip will be a short 60km ride down a ripio (dirt) road to Fuerte Bulnes, then we stash our bikes in the bush again and walk for three days along the rocky shores to Cabo Froward, the southernmost point of the South American continent.

Double click on the map to see the route from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas. Cabo Froward is just south of Punta Arenas.

WHEN THE WIND BLOWS (across the Patagonian steppe)
The ride down the southern tail of Patagonia - from El Chalten to Punta Arenas - has had one common theme - WIND. Eric Shipton called it the `Land of Tempest´ but it´s really hard to describe the wind phenomenon of Patagonia. I guess you have to be here, stand out on the vast open spaces of the pampa and just physically experience its incessant and howling ferocity.

The road signs say it all....

Note the standard costume for cycling here - hi-visibility black (I hate to stand out from the crowd) and no helmet.. just a skin-tight Icebreaker beanie (the only headwear that stays on the noggin in this wind).

...but Jude´s not saying anything as she pushes her bike into a fierce and roaring headwind. She´s muttering something I know.

Video 1 Tailwind
On a flat 10km stretch of sealed road (50kms north of Punta Arenas) I was pushed along by the wind at an average of 42kph. Without turning the pedals at all for this distance I hit a maximum speed of 57.3kph! In the first short video the odometer is showing 43kph and there´s a view below of the stationary pedals and the paved road flashing by. It was a real hoot!

Video 3 Crosswind
Judy took transport on this section as the wind really upset her. The crosswinds were blowing us across the road into traffic. To stay upright you have to lean to the right into the wall of wind. But as cars and buses go by they break the wind barrier and you almost topple over. The drivers are very friendly (and courteous) on these far southern roads and bip their horns and wave but all you can do is nod your head vigorously in appreciation. All hands on deck!
It seemed like the tempestuous wind was very angry with all the foreign cyclists invading Patagonia and tried blowing us into the icy cold waters of Magellan Strait, just like it had done to some earlier maritime explorers from Europe.
In this video Jude is getting buffetted by the severe and angry crosswinds. Blow wind, blow!

Interesting mode of travel
We met this lanky Swiss cyclist, Martin, on his way to a conference with a Bike Friday copy and a Samsonite case in a trailer. He seemed to be handling the awful road and strong winds quite well on such a funny little contraption....just hope he made it to the meeting on time.

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