11 February 2011

On Ruta 3 (170 km to Rio Gallegos)

I packed up at dawn and left the river. I climbed through the cliffs out from the Rio Chico riverbed and up onto the flat of the plain. Ruta 3 turned westward into a light breeze and by late morning it had become a strong headwind. The sun was hot and I knew despite the wind that it was going to be a very hot day.

I could see another range of small mountains, blue and distant, on the horizon. As I got closer the road dropped and I descended into a huge headwind towards the Rio Santa Cruz. The riverbed was wide and flat and along the Santa Cruz it was very green and further west downriver I saw the town of Piedra Buena. Passing camions made the winds swirl and pushed the bike all over the road and it was slow, difficult riding. Piedra Buena looked bright and clean and there were many political advertisements along the road. The local politicians were allying themselves with the dead Nestor Kirchner and with his wife and advertised themselves as the true Peronistas.

I struggled down the descent and stopped at the petrol station outside of town. It was very busy and there were long lines of cars waiting for the pumps. I ate breakfast inside and then went and unrolled my ground pad under the shade of a tree and took a nap. I awoke to the chattering of a group of Asians who had come off a tour bus. The mountains at El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier were about 250km west of here.

I went back into the service station and purchased 14 liters of water and 8 packages of cookies and snacks. Rio Gallegos was 240km away and it would be my longest ride between supply stops. I had read that most touring cyclists abandoned along this stretch due to fatigue, lack of water, and even boredom. A group had gathered and watched me as I poured water into my water bladders and repacked the panniers. I had strapped two more 2 liter bottles to the back rack bringing my water total to over 16 liters. Along with the food this was as loaded as I had ever ridden. As I started out of the service station it felt as if I were pedaling a motorcycle.

Rio Santa Cruz

I crossed the bridge over the Santa Cruz and started the climb out of the riverbed. I was heading eastward now and the wind was mostly behind me and climbing was easy. Back up on the plain Ruta 3 turned back westward and into a range of short mountains around Monte Leon and the riding was back into the wind and very slow and very difficult.

Because of the heat and the climbing into the wind I was consuming much water and stopped after every couple of climbs to rest. I knew at the turn off for Ruta 9 to Calafate the road would bend back eastward and I would have the wind more or less behind me. It was a long 40km into the wind until then and when I made the intersection with Ruta 9 I was at 90km on the day and I stopped to eat and take a nap.

I laid on my ground pad in the shade of a road sign and ate an apple. Ruta 9 was behind me and it was all dusty ripio. It was 245km to El Calafate, and entirely into the wind. Before coming to Argentina I had plans to ride it. But now after my experiences with the wind and ripio and lack of supply stops, I was no longer interested. It probably could be done but I was not the one to try it.

When I woke up from my nap I felt good in the saddle and put in another 30km bringing me to 120km on the day. I had seen signs for a place called Lemarchand that indicated there was gas and food and a hotel there, but it was still another 50km and not being on my map I did not want to count on it.

The winds picked up and then the fatigue hit me and I began looking for somewhere to camp. Past a place where truckers pulled off, I found a lower lying area off a bend and a deep fence line. I pitched the tent so that only a trucker from the height of his cab could see the tent if he were looking in that direction. At night I would be entirely unseen from the road.

It was hot and I lay in the tent in just my cycling shorts and waited for the sun to go down. The wind stopped before the sun set and then a cold wind began to blow from off the sea. It became colder still and I had to put on my wool sweater and heavy socks and then later my jeans.

I cooked up a special plate of pasta using a can of tuna along with my spices and it was very tasty. I ate a package of cookies and read some Carver short stories on my computer until the battery died. I had 170km to Rio Gallegos which I could do in 2 days. I had food and water to last at least 3. I felt good about my situation and went to sleep.


Riley said...

Incredible what the body will do in response to such a challenge.

Post a Comment

Copyright © S O U T H