Hey wonderful people!
First of all I want to thank you all for the great feedback I got on the first post, this gives me a lot of good energy which is needed when it’s tough going on the bike or just in general. It’s great, because the last couple of weeks I’ve been very much craving for good energy!
I left Punta Arenas in a confident mood after some days of rest, thinking that my knee was fine. The confidence disappeared very fast when I restarted my war against the wind. This time it was a really strong and irregular sidewind, which forced me to use half of the width of the road just trying to keep the balance. My plan was to start very slow to spare my knee but with this wind it was just impossible. After 80 km I started to feel the pain again, and I had to stop. After a long and mentally difficult analysis of the situation I decided to hitch a ride to the next town to get some proper medical advice. I managed to get a lift with a really old truck which, because of the wind and the huge windows it was carrying, was going fairly slow. The driver said he was sorry for this, but I told him that I’m used to cycling pace, so there was no need to worry.
I arrived at Puerto Natales in the night and the day after I went to the doctor. He said after a very quick examination that it was just an inflammation and prescribed strong anti-inflammatorials. I arranged to stay with a family via Couchsurfing, and the stay with them was just what I needed. It was actually more like a hostel than a home; they were receiving couchsurfers all the time and had two rooms just for us. We always ate together with the family, and they were super-talkative. The fact that none of them spoke English improved my Spanish a whole lot, but it was also very power-draining and I was always exhausted in the nights after a whole day of trying to understand what they were saying!
Puerto Natales is the town everyone arrives to before going hiking in the famous National Park of Torres Del Paine. Because of my injury I decided not to go there, but it was frustrating to see all the people coming to the house all excited to go to this beautiful natural reserve. So after 5 days of doing nothing I was so restless that I decided to go along with an Argentinian doctor, who were also staying with the family, in his car to El Calafate. It didn’t feel right to go with the car, but my knee was not getting better and I just had to get moving.
After having read a lot of information about cycling-related knee injuries, I still didn’t have any clue about what might have caused my problem in the first place. Now I think I have an idea;
First of all I put to much force on it in the beginning. I am used to cycling, but not for that many hours a day and not with that much load on the bike. It’s always a good idea to start slow and make a progressive increase of intensity.
An even more important factor is fitting the bike to the body. I made small adjustments to the saddle and the handlebar, and it just made the whole difference. As I’ve now learnt from own experience is that the main adjustments for preventing injuries when cycling long distances are: It’s better if the saddle is a bit too low then a bit too high, and it’s good to have the foot on the center on the pedals and not near the toes. It’s also good to have the weight of your body on the saddle, and by this I mean that it’s better to have the saddle more pointing upwards than downwards. Does that make sense? 🙂 Try to adjust the saddle so that it is as far back as possible. As far as the handlebar goes, it should be as high as possible and if you can you should buy a stem which allows this.
Last but ABSOLUTELY NOT least, is stretching!! Because you flex your legs a lot when cycling, it’s very important to have flexibility in the knees. That’s why stretching the quads is the most important, but going through every muscle of the legs is good.
Those things combined with plenty of anti-inflammatory pills and gels made the job and I think that my knee is fine now. I still feel it a bit, but after cycling for a while it usually goes away. I AM SO HAPPY!! 🙂
OK, so one problem less. But my second worst enemy, the wind, showed no sign of giving up. I’ve found out that these winds are called the roaring fourties, because they exist between the 40th and 50th latitude south of the equator. They are so strong because there is little land at these latitudes to work as friction. They are created by the warm air moving from the equator to the south pole and turns from west to east because of the rotation of the earth. A little meteorology lesson there…
I stayed in El Calafate for two days just resting and visiting the spectacular glacier Perito Moreno.
After that I started cycling again very gently towards El Chaltén. After a long day with only 70 km cycled, I decided to camp. As always it was very hard to find some refuge from the wind, because there is just nothing out there. It’s funny that when you search for “Patagonia” on the internet a whole lot of pictures of mountains and glaciers show up, but 99,97% (my exaggerated estimation) of Patagonia is just plane nothingness with tiny bushes, sheep, guanacos (like llamas, see previous post), armadillos, condors and more nothingness. I guess it’s not that fun to take pictures of nothingness…
Just when I was going to put up my tent, a pickup truck stops at the side of the road. A gaucho comes out with his dog and asks if everything is okay. By now I am used to this, people here are so friendly and always asks if there’s something they can do to help. I said that everything was fine but that it was hard to find shelter from the wind. Without hesitating he offered me to stay with him on the Estancia where he worked, and I just couldn’t refuse the kind offer. We went 45 km on a really bad ripio, when finally reached the Estancia. He cooked food; ribs from capon, which is sheep (not lamb) and vegetables and homemade bread.
The Estancia was really genuine; he only had electricity for when he wanted to see a football match, then he turned the diesel generator off again. There were almost no machines, everything was done by animals or humans. The life that he lived was so far from what I am used to, and mostly he was there alone with just the animals as company. I really enjoyed the two days I had with Ilodonio, and even though I don’t like to advertise that much I just have to recommend to go visit him if you’re in the area, and hopefully his hostel will be up and running by then. If not, I think his up for some company anyway! 🙂 The name of the Estancia is Santa Teresita and is located south of Lago Viedma which is just between El Calafate and El Chaltén.
The stay with Ilodonio gave me courage to move on and try to make the border passage beyond El Chaltén, which is only possible by foot or bicycle. I stayed at a camping in El Chaltén and I knew that the only boat crossing Lago O’Higgins departed only once a week so I had to be swift. I asked the people on the camping and they said that yes, the boat is in operation, no problems! Next day I cycled the long and bumpy road to Lago El Desierto where there was another boat, and just when I arrived they were pulling up the boat from the water. “No tienes suerte!” a man shouted to me (You’re out of luck). I asked why and he said that the boat doesn’t go. OK, I said, but when is next one, tomorrow? No no no, maybe a week, maybe 15 days…
My only option was to turn back and completely change route. Back out in the wind… But this time I had some luck with it and in two days I made 300 km with tailwind/sidewind.
Mostly though it was pure sidewind, and I had to fight for five more days against the wind, and with many times unbelievably poor road conditions. The worst is that the fight isn’t over once you stopped cycling. Setting up the tent in winds of 25-30 m/s is quite a hassle. After that you have to sleep in the noise of the wind smashing on your tent all night, constantly worried that the tent will let go from the ground and just fly away.
Arriving to Los Antiguos on the border to Chile was such a relief, and I was so happy to see the first trees since the few that were on the Estancia! When trying to pass the border to Chile came a new problem, now with the migrations of Argentina. I went in to the border control on the Argentinian side and gave them my passport, and after examining it for quite a while the man just shook his head. I asked what was wrong and he just asked me to wait. After 20 minutes another man came out and started to talk to me very fast and loud, and at first I didn’t understand at all what he was trying to say. Apparently when entering Argentina from Chile the last time (between Puerto Natales and El Calafate) the people working to put stamps in passports forgot to put one in mine. I had a stamp that I had left Chile, but no stamp showing that I entered Argentina. For their stupid mistake (with or without purpose I don’t know) I have to pay 600 peso Argentino to be able to enter Argentina again. “I hope I won’t return” was the last thing I said to them befofe leaving in total rage. A quick resume of Argentina; The people are as good as the system is bad 🙂
Now I’m staying in Chile Chico, which is the first city on the Chilean side of the border. Here it’s nice, but I have the problem again that they won’t take my visa credit card. Fortunately I have cash, but it’s just weird. A lot to get used to, that’s for sure. I think that once I’m used to it, I will thrive. Right now I’m just happy to be back in civilization, but I won’t stay for long. I’m soon ready for the next adventure!
You might get the impression that I don’t like it here, but I really enjoy my trip so far. It’s a completely different way of living, which makes me grow and learn. I really feel alive!
By the way, I’m sorry for the poor video editing (and quality), but my computer is too slow to be able to anything with them! When I come home I will try to put together something nice. Thanks for reading and showing interest!