Torres and Tomo's Japanese curry

Villa O’Higgins tends to funnel cyclists back into groups. As the terminus of the Carretera Austral, the southern connection to El Chalten depends on ferries and weather to work harmoniously.  After a few days in Hostel  El Mosco, we [Flavia (Brazil), and Esther and Finn (Germany)] managed to line up Captain Lorenzo and his trusty boat to get us moving south again. 

 

With a bit of this

and a bit of this 

we got new stamps in the passports and piled everything into the ferry to cross Lago Desierto.

Basking in the shadow of the mighty Fitz Roy we eased into El Chalten. 

If there’s one truth to Patagonia, never assume the weather will remain the same for more than a few minutes. Flavia, Esther, Finn and I ditched our bikes in town, and headed out of the valley for a few days.  We dropped our packs at Basecamp Poincenot and headed up to Laguna de Los Tres to play hide and seek with Fitz Roy.  With spectacular views of the base or the top but not the full extravaganza we counted our blessings but yearned for more.

Hopes of Fitz Roy morning glory were dashed as light snow fell through the trees so we made our way over to Laguna Torre.  Cerro Torre was equally veiled, but we raced against building winds and headed up to Mirador Maestri for a view of the glacier.

Wind lashed on the return, the Laguna unleashed its full fury as we ducked back into the tree cover of Camp Agostini

to fire up another feast of pasta and tuna mousse

Christmas morning brought a mix of sleet and snow.  Esther and Finn braved the weather to head out on the Huemul trek, while Flavia and I hiked up to Lago Capri to enjoy the new snow and make sure the Brazilian didn’t miss out on her first white Christmas.

Pink Floyd, The Doors, and a mixture of languages filled the campground's main building as we huddled around the fireplace trading stories and multiple cups of coffee.  Each person’s hope for changing weather hung palpably in the air until the clouds magically parted after two days of rainy greys. We quickly stuffed empanadas into our packs on the way out of town and bombed up to the Mirador to enjoy some clear sunset time with Fitz Roy.

In the glow of headlamps as we descended, sunrise "H" plans were quickly hatched to retrace our previous three days.

A blue bird day continued and offered up fantastic views of Fitz Roy for our second vertical kilometer up to Laguna de Los Tres.

Flavia maintained interview ready posture while the rest of us slouched about on the rocks and "watched TV" at Lago Sucia.

Cerro Torre offered only a sneak peak as we rounded the corner from afar with clouds quickly easing back in by the time we made it back to Laguna Torre.  Patagonia makes sure you don't get too greedy.

With weather rolling in for the next few days we sadly left a few hikes and views on the table for future travels, and eased out of town into the quite openness of the pampa. There is something indescribable about Fitz Roy that has long occupied a place in my mind since leaving Bariloche.  I left feeling extremely grateful for those moments seeing it change with the changing light and cloud cover.  And most importantly, grateful to be sharing it with new friends.  

A little bikeshaking brought us closer to El Calafate and the Perito Moreno Glacier.

Flavia and I enjoyed a mellow NYE day listening to the glacier calve building sized chunks of ice into the turquoise waters below.

A truly spectacular site.

Back in town, we were honored to feast on Tomo's fantastic Japanese curry  he'd been carrying since Santiago for a wonderful NYE dinner. Tomo is soul through and through.

A bit too much wine and bubbly made for a foggy start to 2016 as we headed out deeper into the pampa reminding me of this summer's time in the Great Basin.

Flavia worked her magic on Fabian who ran an old police station in the middle of nowhere.  Over a mate, she grinningly turned to us, "this is were is all starts..." A dinner, bed and breakfast later we rolled out with full stomachs and each a hearty handshake.

The term "grinder" was learned by all today, as we ground our way through a punishing headwind.  A short but beautiful stretch of ripio without a soul in sight other than a gaucho inched us back closer to Chile.

Ripio always rewards the extra effort even if it means nosing deeper into the wind.

The Argentinian border was nice enough to let us turn one of their empty buildings into a temporary Casa de Cyclistas for the night as we traded stories with northbounder Jonas.

Sadly, team Villa O'Higgins had to split up as Finn and Esther pushed ahead to get to Puerto Natales a bit quicker while Flavia and I noodled into Torres del Paine for a few days of ripio and mountain air. Who doesn't like a fatback?

The following day, we dropped our bikes off and hiked up under a clear, windless skies to spend the afternoon on one leg of the "W" at Base Las Torres. Busy with people, but perfect weather and a refugio beer made for pretty easy going.

Fueled up of empanadas, we headed out of the park to Lago Amarga to enjoy the sunset on a deserted beach.

Ahh, those beautiful Patagonian skies.

 

Route Notes:

Villa O'Higgins - El Chalten - El Calafate - El Cerrito - Tapi Aike - Cerro Castillo - Torres del Paine - Puerto Natales