El Calafate to Lago O'Higgins


Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - El Calafate to Lago O'Higgins

We checked into the mostly deserted hostel in El Calafate, Argentina close to midnight. The following day, we woke late to find our room of six bunks remained vacant apart from the four of us. A welcome change from a close quarters of past accommodations, allowing us to wash clothes by hand and hang them to dry on the porch. Andres had mentioned the night before that he thought the true purpose of the Hostel/Hotel/Restaurant was money laundering, as El Calafate is known for this activity and because we were required to pay in cash... Perhaps this explained the lack of guests, but who knows.

We made the sixty kilometer diversion off route 40 and took two rest days to see Glaciar Perito Moreno. The glacier is located in Los Glaciares National Park and is part of a larger ice field system which is the world's third largest reserve of fresh water (according to Wiki). We were able to walk close enough to the glacier to watch large pieces of ice fall a few hundred feet into the water below (photo 1). It took time to grasp the actual size of the glacier. It wasn't until we saw a piece of ice the size of a small house free-fall for a few seconds and crash into the water and heard the accompanying crash, that we realized the scale of Perito Moreno.

After our time in Calafate, we began the three day ride to El Chalten, the base-camp town for Mt. Fitz Roy and other peaks in the area. The first day of riding, we made good time and camped out alongside Río La Leóna and the "Pink House" - an abandoned restaurant we had heard about a few weeks earlier. Also camping with us was a couple from Holland that Noah and Eli had met in Ushuaia. The following day we left camp with the hope of reaching El Chalten a day early, we quickly reached our turn onto Rt. 23 which pointed us into the winds coming from the mountains. This 90 kilometer stretch offered little for shelter or water and included long stretches of irritatingly straight road. Cameron and Eli rolled into town just before dark and reserved beds for Andres and Noah. After we all regrouped around 11:00 PM we got pizza at a 24 hour restaurant. For the remaining three nights in El Chalten, we found a camp ground offering comfortable indoor space and hot showers. Although having a bed indoors is a nice luxury, the "private room" our tents provide is sometimes preferred over a crowded or dirty hostel.

Once we had rested, resupplied, and said our goodbyes to our great friend Andres,  we began our ferry/trek/bike to Villa O'Higgins Chile. We had been looking at this passage from Argentina to Chile for months now and were excited to make the traverse from the south in one day. We rose at 4:30 am to pack up and start the 37 km ride on dirt roads (photo 2) to catch the ferry across  Lago del Desierto at 10:00 am (photo 3). The ferry left us at the north end of the lake, at which point we had our passports stamped as departing Argentina - our information hand written in a book. The boarder guard walked us toward a small creek and pointed us down the old mule trail winding into the mountains that would lead us to the Chilean boarder officials, some twenty kilometers ahead. Prepared for hours of pushing our bikes over the pass and potentially needing to camp along the way due to conditions we began the trek with high spirits. We found better conditions than we had been warned about by others cycling traveling South, never having to remove panniers to fit through the narrow ditches caused by decades of travel. This led us to coin a new form of bicycle travel  "Fully Loaded Mountain Bike Speed Touring" (FLMBST). Side effects include broken panniers and the desire to make dirt bike noises while weaving your 100 lb rig through tight single-track (photo 4). After a few hours of high quality FLMBST conditions we reached gravel road descent to the boarder crossing and ferry that would take us to Villa O'Higgins, Chile (photo 5). We rolled down the small winding road to the water on time to catch the ferry only to find out that it had been canceled due to wind. Also waiting at the dock was Peter, an eighteen year old from Scotland also traveling by bicycle. After a short time spent snacking and talking about the ride from Argentina, the captain of the boat at the dock notified us he would not leave that evening and that the following morning's conditions would be more favorable for the passage.

  -Eli, Noah, and Cameron

Please find the photos for this entry here: Google Album - El Calafate to Lago O'Higgins