Without a care in the world we were sitting there. After a few days of rest and and glaciers, me and my newfound riding pals Greg and Moritz had gladly let what started as our last tuna sandwich session in El Calafate turn into an evening of wine and campsite BBQ.
We were happy. Well rested. And absolutely clueless of what we were in for the following day.
Skip forward 12 (or was it 36?) hours.
Crazy winds can be fun..! Even when you’re on a bicycle. And even when they’re throwing themselves straight in your face. It is all about perception, really. Trust me. After having cycled Tierra del Fuego from south to north quite recently I feel like I know what I’m talking about.
However. There is a limit.
And on this particular day, we all reached it.
There are headwinds. Big headwinds. And then (apparently) there are ‘downhill-on-smooth-tarmac-and-yet-you’re-pushing-in-4 km/h’ kind of headwinds. Winds that can be described in many different ways. Though certainly not with the word fun.
With nothing (except a whole lot of nothing) around we had absolutely nowhere to hide. The force of the wind made anyone attempting to mount their bicycle look like an absolute fool and the deafening howl of it stole the sound of our shouting voices even before they’d even left our mouths.
Physically we were still together, but since making that turn straight into the wall of wind we were all on our own. Pushing. Getting onto the saddle only to get thrown straight off the road. Pushing again. Going nowhere.
Until a few hours later when we finally found our salvation.
Signs sent straight from above.
For the average person I think drainage pipes might not be the most appealing hang out spot in the world. Ask me in a different situation and I’d probably agree with you. Then and there though, this cylinder of bliss were no doubt the best thing that’d ever happened.
Mr. Bike playing hardcore as always.
For a good 12 hours we were hiding under the road. Munching chocolates, laughing at each others’ attempts on the ukulele and simply sitting around in each others company. Times like these there’s no denying that the good old Swedish proverb ‘Shared joy is twice the joy, shared grief is half the grief’ is as true as it’s always been. And evidently also highly applicable when it comes to spending the night in drainage pipes.
4.30 am our alarm set off. The familiar tune from the iPhone softly echoed through the pipe in which we were all laying cuddled up in our sleeping bags.
‘Can you hear that..?’
This was a hoarse voice of equal parts drowsiness, excitement and relief.
One second. Two seconds.
The sound of three zippers simultaneously being pulled open.
‘Let’s do this.’
Minutes later Moritz was the first one on the road. This was it – our window of opportunity. A chance to beat the winds and make those last 50 odd km to El Chaltén before they’d have us in a new chokehold.
We were quick. But luckily relaxed enough to realise that this wasn’t merely early. This was one of the most beautiful morning rides any of us had ever experienced.
…followed by what was no doubt our most picturesque cycling yet in South America. And oh yes. This piece of road was just as absurd as the photos tell you. The day before we’d been smacked in the face by winds from hell. This day – by something else entirely.
Breakfast on the go
Then – before the winds – we did make it.
We were in El Chaltén! Happy. Clueless. Yet again about to make absolute fools out of ourselves.
In the next one, I promise to tell you all about it.