27 February 2011

Back to Rio Grande

I left Tolhuin early and it was cloudy and windless. It was Sunday morning and there was little traffic along Ruta 3. There were the climbs through the smaller mountains that I remembered and the forests of twisted trees and I passed the spot where I had stopped a week earlier to eat lunch with the Canadians. A few tour buses passed me and I wondered if they were on one of them, their bikes in the luggage hold, catching a glimpse of me riding as they passed. At 50 kilometers a cold wind from the northeast began to blow. It would increase in strength as I neared the Argentine Sea and followed the coast up to Rio Grande.

A cyclist couple from Switzerland stopped and we talked. They were heading to Ushuaia from Bariloche and would fly back to Buenos Aires. As we talked two other cyclists heading south approached and stopped. One was a tall German on a huge, fully-loaded recumbent and the other an Argentine. The group of them marveled at the folding bike and I had to go through my explanations of wheel size and even had to defend the size of tires as being suitable for ripio. The German was convinced that a larger diameter wheel was best for riding on gravel. Discussions of wheel size and gearing are something I have tired of, though it is something anyone riding a Bike Friday should be continually prepared to discuss.

I made Rio Grande around 3pm and had lunch at the YPF petrol station. Then I rode down to the southernmost part of town to the Club Nautico and was happily greeted there by Norma. The place was empty now, she said. In two weeks it would close as a campsite. Everyone I had known had gone during the last week with the changing of the weather. The tourist season for Tierra del Fuego was basically over and I had the place to myself. I put up my tent on the hardwood floor upstairs and took a hot shower to warm up. I looked out over the bay where the Rio Grande met the Argentine Sea. The tide had come in. I made a coffee and sat down to research ways to get to Punta Arenas.


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