Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sunday. Ruta 40 gets nasty.

Map of route

The wind dropped right down by midnight. It's amazing how suddenly not only could you then hear wildlife, distant birdcalls and unknown critters grubbing around our camp cooksite, but also there are smells that you otherwise cannot sense. There seems to be some plant that gives a strong sweet smell, not entirely dissimilar to that which wafts out of many a house in brixton, but a little more woody in nature.

We rose at 7, an hour after sunrise, ate the last of the bread for breakfast and struck camp. From here on it's dried foods only, unless beyond all hope we do discover a shop on the way.

With the wind gone we made better progress, getting through the 25km to Bella vista in a something over wn hour.

Along the way we managed to fill all water bottles and a 4L water sack, first stopping at a tiny stream with just a trickle of movement, and then the more substantial Rio Gallegos Chico river. The filter plus micropure tablets work a treat, and the water tastes better than tap water back in B-A.

Shortly after we got our first taste of the trials to come: we'd hit the head of the road improvement works, and were diverted onto temporary surfaces and eventually the original ripio road. This is tough enough, but then around midday the wind started to get serious once more, and strengthen throughout the rest of the day. I've not travelled for 20 mile stretches entirely in the granny gear before, having to keep pedalling to keep moving down as well as up hill. Sometimes a corner means the wind would switch from block headwind to slight side. This is probably worse, as it catches the front panniers making steering more difficult, and also reduces the small aerodynamic advantage you can get on a tandem. All this constant effort is not only energy sapping, but also means limbs and contact points get no rest. Coupled with uneven surface it means regular stops to drink and recover are required further slowing progress. This 200 km connection is now looking like a four day epic!

As we crawled along there's plenty of opportunity to observe the surroundings (or at least, between dodging rocks!). For the most part, this is barren scrubland burnt bear by the arid wind. Emma likens it to Dartmoor but bigger and drier. I'd add winder too.

Occasionally we saw solo of families of flightless birds. The babies are the size of chickens, the adults almost as large as human. We've not yet worked out.what they are, so for now we're calling them emus.

As the day progressed slowly the horizon changed, we worked around some low hills then onto higher moor, and now we have a view to the southern Andes. At last something significant to look at and gauge one's progress toward, and the first destination on our itinerary to boot.

By 3pm we were cold and tired from a small but cold and heavy shower, and had reaffirmed that chocolate is no substitute for a proper lunch. Out of bread, we stopped in a shelter of an old gravel pit and Emma cooked up some quick stock and polenta. Magic! We then had a few hours of contented pedalling but by 5.30 the intense wind had worn us out once more, so we started looking for the best shelter we could find for camping once more. This is of course our second full day cycling after best part of a month of due to the early UK winter, and Christmas. And it's a big jump for the body to go from midwinter fat building to midsummer fat burning mode, and we're both feeling the effects of this now. Maybe we'll get some easy miles later to ease ourselves in a bit more, but not for the next few days!

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