26 January 2011

Puerto Madryn

During the night the temperature dropped and I had to put on my wool sweater. It was cloudy and dark and cold when I awoke. But it was windless. I hurriedly packed and started south on Ruta 3. I wanted to make Sierra Grande before the wind picked up and I rode hard.

My legs felt good despite the tough day in the saddle yesterday and I was turning a high gear on my second chain ring. It was chilly and I wore my rain jacket for warmth and to make me more visible to traffic. I had been in the saddle an hour when the sun burned through the cloud cover and it warmed and I took off the jacket.

It was rolling country through the scrub and I came up the to the top of a hill and beyond I saw mountains, gray in the distance. There was a range of smoothly shaped mountains and then a series of jagged, irregular peaks, as if a child had torn them from a piece of cardboard. I knew I would find Sierra Grande near these mountains and I descended and ascended the hills toward them.

The wind was just a breeze when I made Sierra Grande. The town was five tree-lined blocks of shops along Ruta 3 and I stopped at a mercado and bought some pastries and juice, and some apples and cookies to replace the ones I had eaten.

The mountains began beyond the town and the wind began to blow. The gradual climbs and long descents, the road stretching out below, inspired me and I rode to see the next view of the valleys and the mountains at the top of the next climb. I felt excellent in the saddle and powered through the wind and then Ruta 3 shifted and it was now a cross wind and I was crushing it, attacking the ascents and driving down the descents and catching some of the cross wind to power me. My spirit was light and I was dancing in the pedals. It was as if someone had affixed steroid patches to my legs during the night, or transfused my blood as I slept.

I hit a zooification checkpoint at the border of the Chubut Province and from here the road was resurfaced and fast with wide shoulders like a bike lane, and I started to push the pace anew. There were no kilometer markers and I was unaware of how far I had gone or where I was. It was just me and the landscape and the rhythm of the pedals.

Bike lanes of Chubut

I saw a hospedaje and restaurant called El Emplanade and stopped. There was a town indicated on my map with that name and the lodging and restaurant was in fact the town. I had a meat plate with bread and then a soup of vegetables and beef and a café solo. It was 2pm and I had gone 120 km. I had 81 km to Puerto Madryn and started to think I might try for it. What I had planned to do in two days I was now considering doing in one. I could always camp if I got tired or the wind changed.

The mountains ended and it was rolling country again and I was taking it as aggressively as before. A flatbed truck carrying a car pulled over ahead of me and a man in a red and blue jumpsuit waved me down. You are tired, he said. You may put your bike here and I may drive you to Puerto Madryn. I wanted to tell him that I had been dancing in the pedals prior to his disturbing my rhythm and that I had often a tired look about me, but I simply said that I cannot accept rides in vehicles. This trip is to be made only by bicycle. He smiled and I thanked him for his offer and he wished me luck.

50 km out of Puerto Madryn the wind became a headwind and I could feel I was becoming depleted and did not know if I would be able to fight through it. But then it changed and was a pure crosswind and I was tired but felt good to ride through it. I was too close to the city to camp and wanted only to complete the 200km day. The resurfaced road ended and I was back riding on the edge of the blacktop on the white line, the trucks blowing by me or honking to tell me to get off the road and onto the shoulder as they passed.

The headwind returned and smelled of the sea and I knew I was close and slowly rode into it. I saw a petrol station which meant I was very close and pulled in and had a Coca-Cola and a 1.5 liter bottle of water with gas. A homeless guy I had seen in Sierra Grande was at the petrol station and could not believe I had ridden so far. He must have hitched a ride but he had only one tooth and was difficult to understand and I could not speak with him for long.

A man and his wife and son approached my table and asked me about the bike and where I was going. They were from Buenos Aires and the man gave me the address of his website and we talked about Patagonia. The sun was going down and I had 10 km to the port and we said goodbye. The woman gave me a handful of pamphlets of prayers and religious instruction and I thanked her and told her it would make for good reading in my tent that night.

Puerto Madryn was a ride into the wind east and a descent to the water, the city built up south of the port. There was a campground on the edge of town and I pulled in and put my tent up. I cooked a pasta dinner and had coffee and dried apricots and cookies. I went to sleep and wondered what my legs would have in them tomorrow. I had done 200 km today. If I needed I could make it a short day to Trelew, another city 55 km to the south.


Kurt Dahlstrand said...

200km in a day? You're a beast!! Really enjoying the blog. Keep it up cuz!

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