It’s a tough one! Don’t get the wrong idea when we write about tough routes, we kind of actually like it! It’s our fetishism apparently… 😉 So, crossing from El Chalten to Villa o’Higgins is more of a pushing adventure than a bicycle one, but a must!
El Chalten, Fitzroy and the backdoor into Chile
For the last couple of days we kind of forgot about the wind, but heading West to El Chalten is a good reminder; straight in the face. Over a 100 km with nothing in between and it’s very difficult to find a spot to pitch our tent without being blown away. But, we really want to be here! I have this photo in my mind and a bucketlist thingie is waiting to be crossed out. We are being sandblasted, but I do get my photo: photomodel Elmar is looking good again on his Santos Travel Lite with Mount Fitzroy and Cerro Torre in the background. It’s worth it!
We stay a few days in El Chalten and hike to Fitzroy, which decides not to show himself to us, but nonetheless, it’s a great hike. Besides hiking we enjoy waffels and buy groceries for the crossing into Chile. It should take no more than three days, but when it’s too windy you could get stuck waiting for the boat on the other side of the mountain. And by now we know, it can get a bit windy here…
The first day we cycle to Lago del Desierto to take a tiny boat to the other side where the Argentinan customs is situated. At the dock we meet three other cyclists: Cesar from Tenerife, Mickey from Germany and Al from Australia and the next couple of days we will be spending together. On the other side of the lake we all camp together next to the customs office and have dinner with a fire, until it starts to rain and we all retreat to our tents. But the next morning the view is incredible! Fitzroy is there lit by the first rays of sunlight.
We break up camp and head for our exit stamp. Behind the customs building a narrow track is our way to Chile, a small wooden sign confirms that. Immediately we have to stop and start pushing, it’s just not rideable. Al already went ahead with his very light bike, Cesar and Mickey have teamed up and are a little behind us. It’s steep and after a few meters it’s supersteep.
Again a few meters further it’s supersteep and supernarrow! This means, loose the panniers and hike up and down a few times. It’s muddy and slippery. After the narrow and steep part, we have the streams to cross. Too deep to just wade through with our shoes. What’s next? Angry bees??? No, it’s a swamp! It’s like a computer game with every time another, more difficult level. After the swamps it’s the thick bushes and then… after pushing 7 kilometers in more than 5,5 hours… “Bienvenido a Chile!”
But, what is our reward? A 4×4 track with steep descends and an amazing view on a huge turquios lake. The ride to the Chilean customs is 16 kilometers and when we finally get there, we are exhausted but proud. We can camp at the estancia and Mickey opens a bottle of wine to celebrate our victory! We made it.., or didn’t we?
A short boat ride to Villa o’Higgins
Is the boat coming or is the boat not coming? That’s the question! We ask the owner of the estancia and she replies with very wise words: “When you see the boat, it’s coming!”
So, the five of us are waiting at the dock from 9 o’Clock on, staring into the open waters. At 11 a boat arrives, but it’s full! But, maybe, another boat will come.., so we wait. At three PM an old and run-down fishing boat arrives, that must be the one! We all jump on board and as soon as it hits the open waters, the waves are eating the little boat. Throwing us from one side to the other. Everybody is laughing, oh what a joy! But that doesn’t last long… within fifteen minutes it’s quiet and people are throwing up. Lucky for us, the whole ride only takes about 5 (!!!!) hours! That night, at campsite El Mosco in Villa o’Higgins it still feels like I’m being thrown all over the place! But, now we can actually say.. yes, we made it! We can cross this off our bucket list!