14 February 2011

Laguna Azul

I was up early because of the guy snoring in my room and went to the kitchen and made coffee. It was very cold and raining and from the window of the lodging I watched the wind gusting and blowing the trees over. You will not ride today, smiled the old lady who was cleaning the place. But I will ride, I said. I will not stay here one more day.

Johann came down later and we talked until it was nearly noon. The rain had stopped and it was sunny now but the wind was very strong and very cold. Johann was having his bike delivered to Rio Gallegos that afternoon and he was anxious to get it. I loaded the panniers onto the Bike Friday and said goodbye to him and started off into the winds towards Ruta 3.

There was nothing from Rio Gallegos until a town in Chilean Patagonia and I bought a load of cookies and snacks at a mercado on the edge of town. Where the town ended the wind was devastating. I rode leaning off the side of the saddle into the wind, almost as a motorcycle racer takes a corner, but trying to ride straight. When the gusts didn’t come I almost toppled over onto the shoulder. I was barely moving. It should have been a rest day, I thought to myself.

Ruta 3 shifted so that the wind was a headwind and crosswind. I set simple goals for myself. Go 6 kilometers and stop and eat some cookies and have some water. The 65km to the Chilean frontier did not seem possible. Even going 20km did not seem possible in this wind. Those numbers were too big to think about at the speed I was moving. Just do 6km. Just 6. Rest. 6 more. Its only 6. C’mon, 6 is nothing. And that was how the day went. As the sun was starting to go down over the small mountains I had gone 50km and began looking for a place to camp.

But there was no protection from the wind. I kept riding and figured if I saw nothing the Argentines or Chileans at the frontier would let me camp behind a wall or a building at the crossing. Then I saw an exit sign for Laguna Azul. It was a tourist spot 4km west off Ruta 3. Maybe I could camp there. At least I would be off the busy main route.

The road was paved toward the Laguna Azul and the fields here were strewn with pieces of lava and in the distance were black mountains. The last kilometer was gravel ascending into the sun setting over the far hills, the wind beating back at me fiercely. I almost could not go further but I saw there were two cars parked on a hill and a cinder path that ran up it and I rode there and laid the bike down and walked up.

The hilltop was the edge of a large volcanic crater and far down below was the Laguna Azul. The Blue Lagoon. It sounded even better in English. It was poetry. I walked further around the edge of the crater and met a Swiss couple huddled around a nook in the lava. On a little stove they were cooking their last vegetables before crossing the border into Chile. You couldn’t cross with fruit or dairy either and they gave me a banana and some cheese dip.

I realized I was getting chilled walking around the lagoon in my sweaty clothes in the cold and wind. I had forgotten to change into dry clothes and didn’t even have my tent up. I hurried back to the bike and pushed it near the crater edge between two lava formations that blocked the wind. I quickly pitched the tent and got inside and changed, but it was too late and I was freezing. I wrapped clothes around me and balled up inside the sleeping bag. I was hungry but that could wait. I needed to get warm first.

I had pasta I wanted to make for dinner but didn’t want to spend so much time outside the tent cooking. I made a bowl of soup instead and ate some cookies and an apple. It had taken a few hours but I could feel my body temperature warming. It would be cold every day now and I had to be more aware of getting out of sweaty clothing before I became chilled.

I was still hungry and ate a box of crackers with the cheese dip of the Swiss couple. It was dark and I was the only one up there on the crater’s edge above the lagoon. The wind had stopped blowing and it was silent and peaceful. Through the tent window I could see the Southern Cross. In the distance I heard the baying of sheep. Then I was asleep.


Ron Clark said...

loved it!
You took better photos of the Laguna than I did..
You should like the black top roads.. the main roads were gravel full of pot holes when I was there. ( 2004 ) Difficult for a Ford Ranger..Ha Ha.

Post a Comment

Copyright © S O U T H