Sunday, January 16, 2011

Saturday: got to Torres del paine


Another day where cycle tourists are king of the road, moving freely where others struggle to.

We left camp around 9 this morning, as our other cycling companions were organizing their breakfast. We wanted to make good time to get best chance of meeting up with our friend Jonathan who we met in new Zealand 2 years ago, and who is currently volunteering for the the park rangers.

We had fantastic warm start to the day, first time cycling in spd sandals and short sleave top this trip. After 1 hr the smooth road was replaced by ripio, but it was not awful and we got to the park entrance around 1pm. Like yesterday the roads were virtually empty, just a couple cars or vans today ferrying strandees towards the border. Given January is peak season you'd normally expect constant traffic, with large buses every few minutes, so we were truly lucky to have the road to ourselves.

As we neared the park a steady stream of folks hiking the other way, something like refugees, on the 90k slog to the border. Petrol must be running low within the park soon now too, and it seems there's still no end in sight to the protester blockades. In this situation, cycle tourists really do have a freedom to roam like no-one else. It's quite surreal, even unreal.

Tent pitched, we made use of the hot showers and then lit a camp fire near our tent using the free logs supplied at the site. Cooking over an open fire is great fun, even just boiling up water, and making an omelette! Relaxing by the fire next to a stream, with a mug of cheap Chilean red, we felt more like we're on holiday than anytime up to now!

Whilst waiting to meet up with Jonathan one of the camp attendants came by and let us know they had free food available, presumably for the benefit of those who'd be stuck here for days without means. Never one to pass a free dinner we hurried up there and found a couple picnic benches loaded with campers tucking into mash spud with chicken casserole. In amongst them were our 4 cycling companions from earlier, typical cyclists they'd arrived just a few minutes before and headed straight to the free food.

After a very agreeable second supper, Jonathan arrived and we sat around the roaring fire catching up on the last two years. Back in NZ we helped him survive his first multiday hike on the routeburn trail. Now, he's training to be a mountain guide!

map or route