Friday, January 21, 2011

Tuesday & Wednesday: ruta 40 strikes back

From tapi aike we had two options, paved ruta 7 to la Esperanza and then double back onto ruta 5 towards El calafate, or keep with our friend ruta 40 to shortcut some 50km off the total distance but this would mean a day of rough ripio. We'd been warned this was a particularly poor condition section, but chose to use it anyway as it would mean much less traffic, and as it turned out it wasn't all so disagreeable as we had a southwesterly tail wind all morning that helped us through all but the worst of it. The worst being where a short rain shower turned a sandy section to porridge, which stuck between wheel and guard making progress twice as hard. Other than that, a glorious sunny morning.

Shortly after lunch we reached the junction with ruta 5, where we turn north west, finally towards our destination. We knew this would be a transition from tail to side wind, and heavier traffic, but better condition roads. Still we were doing well as we'd heard others took a full 12 hours going the other way on the shortcut, so decided to press on a bit further before sleeping.

For the main part this was high exposed ground with little shelter. As we climbed higher, the wind picked up too, but remained tolerable. At one point we passed a couple touring bikes stopped by the road. We could not see the riders, but eventually decided they must be well hidden away from the wind as we had been several days prior.

Eventually the road topped 1000m altitude, and then we got our first proper descent of the trip, down for 10km on the way into the lago argentino valley. Part way down we paused to see if the estancia there might offer camping, but spotted a tree line another 10km or so across the floor of the glacial valley floor, so reasoned that must be Rio bote and headed for it.

Our assumption was right, and when we finally reached it we found a good sheltered spot under the trees by the river. (You'll notice by now rivers are the only place you'll ever see a tree in the steppe)

Shortly after pitching camp, a pair of cyclists appeared, clearly with the same idea. It was the riders of the bikes we'd see earlier. (Shoham & Amit - http://shohamit-southamerica.blogspot.com/) We pointed them to an area right under the bridge that looked good, and they joined us. They cooked up a huge evening meal, and insisted we could help them consume it, so we had a second supper of a delicious Arab/Israeli lentil dish. 

Next day we only had the remaining 40km straight into El calafate to do, so we took it fairly easy but were still away soon after 8. What a job of work! It took until 1pm to finally make the town, the headwind was that strong. Along the way we passed Amit and Sha's abandoned bikes once again - it took them an hour or so more, so perhaps the tandem does still hold some benefit in blustering headwind.

We found the central campsite and spent the afternoon shopping, and washing clothes and ourselves and went out for a big evening meal.

Unfortunately the campsite parella libre (all you can eat carnivores BBQ) we'd been recommended was fully booked (who ever heard of booking the campsite restaurant?) But we eventually found another in one of the town side roads. It was a little more plastic canteen buffet style than the swish faux log cabin of our the campsite, but it did the job!

 map (Tuesday)  

 map (Wednesday)