I tried biking with team 'Personality Plus' from Switzerland but that did not jive for either party so I left Punta Arenas, alone again, with my mind in a haze. The haze was part confusion and part meditative. The former being why am I going to battle the elements of cold and wind again, and the later the natural birth of the unique state to endure those elements.
Starting the day I had every intention to bike 50 or 60km, a short day, and find a place to camp in the wilderness. The headwinds proved to be consistent but relatively light so I was able to fight fight fight until I got the tipping point of being able to reach the next town, only 100km away. At km 85 the wind turned on all its fury and I was left dry crying the remaining 15km to reach the campsite and water in Villa Telhuenin, which took 2.5 hours. I wanted to stop along the way but there was no shelter from the wind for miles- only a flat prairie with little desert shrubs and sickly wind slapped flowers with arched backs desperately clinging to the thin soil, like me desperately clinging to my bike.
Believe it or not there is another solo Swiss German biker setting up camp when I arrive. We chatted for a bit while propping up our tents and making food. We compared notes and observations of the day´s ride, none of which were very profound. ¨Last 15 km were tough.¨ Agreed. And then nothing more. The guy is 35, an independent carpenter with no girlfriend or kids, and as mentioned, also a Swiss German.
¨I have noticed some big differences between the Swiss if they are from the Italian, French or German part,¨ I threw out the comment to see if he would even care.
¨How so?¨ was the curious response.
¨Well, if you meet a biker from Switzerland 9 times out of 10 it will be from the German part. The Swiss Italians cannot be bothered with the inconvenience and do not see the point, and even more so for the Swiss French who are connoisseurs of fine wines, fine food and fine living. That most certainly excludes a lifestyle of bike touring. The Swiss Germans are the only ones organized or stubborn enough to bike tour, and they love it. I think more than any other country, or so it seems,¨ I explained.
Like a well-made Swiss German machine his mechanical reply is, ¨I would have to agree with your observations.¨
What?! Did he just say that? This is surreal.
The conversation then mainly went into biking and camping gear pros and cons. Keep it factual. My mind started to wander and think about the ´types´ that bike tour, at least those that bike tour alone. They are strange. Are they biking from something or trying to prove something or perhaps a little of both? I guess the same can be said for all solo artists like the extreme hiker or mountaineer. What is that wild look in their eye that drives them? And come to think of it, are not I one of them as well? I like to think I am not one of them because I would prefer to bike with someone else, but then I cannot stand the company of what I deem ´incompatibles´ and that puts me right back into the same group I just mentioned.
The Swiss German recoils into his own shell of a world and I get the impression he would rather eat, and bike alone the next day. I am right.
Briskness hung in the blue air of a long overdue sunset while I greedily ate dinner. In the process I nearly ate the tips of my fingers off. ¨Food me,¨ is the most profound thing I can think at the moment. Your jaw muscles cramp and give out before your stomach gets full. The legs are like unappreciative children- taking, taking without a thought except being satisfied. Try as I might to feed them and do my best, just like a parent, it is like throwing pubic hairs on a fire- they go up in smoke before they even hit the flames.
My brain has turned into cycling putty. Does the brain need stimuli from its surroundings to create thoughts? Perhaps I am happy like a Buddhist is happy. All thoughts are blown clear, in one ear and out the other. Happy like a clueless monk. Not sad cause you need a thought to be sad. Happiness a default state from a lack of thoughts? Perhaps. Ignorance is bliss, and this landscape is bliss inducing.
Morning. Dew and a grumbling stomach. The Swiss German has already packed camp and split.
Shadows of showers approach and I hop back in the saddle to try and outrun the weather. Rain means lighter wind, but then again, you are getting wet. From a squinty grimace I can see an abandoned farm house about 500 meters on the other side of a barb-wired fence keeping sheep and ostriches from becoming road kill. Each of the four bags were removed from my bike and I threw my bike over the fence, only getting one sensitive underarm caught in the barb wire. The animals scattered as I approached the empty hut with broken windows and I cautiously scanned for any guard dogs. None seen. Although there is a lock on the door it is only for appearance and I am able to get inside and take a respite from the weather and cook up a warm spaghetti meal for myself, and then take a one hour nap on my blue roll out foam while listening to my iPod on my little battery powered speakers. I am in squatter heaven. All it takes is a little trespassing to feel so free free free! I slept like a baby with mononucleosis, and upon waking the clouds had dissipated. Voila! I considered staying the night in this wind and water proof miracle of modern engineering- never had shelter been so appreciated.
I decided to take advantage of the good weather and pushed onward. Good choice. 30 min later it is raining again and I am looking for a place to set up camp, in the rain. That is always fun.
I pulled up to 90km for the day and found another great spot under some trees in a field of sheep, again, just a barb-wired fence jump away. My wind and rain tree block I had picked from the roadside also happened to be the best spot for the sheep to take cover. They scattered as I approached and I was left to find a sheep poop heaven of a camp ground. Along the route I have seen sign-posts warning of mine fields (you want to make sure NOT to hop those fences and camp there!) left over from the cold war between Chile and Argentina in the late 70's. Now I am in a different minefield of sorts, a sheep shit mine field. I cleared a place and put down the tarp and read in my tent under the pitter patter of rain droplets collecting and dropping from the tree above. Nature's drum solo played all night accompanied by the ¨blahahahah, blahahahaah¨ of the woolly clad singers. At times I do enjoy this parsimonious existence. In the morning, like the fog in my eyes, the countryside looked like gorillas in the mist. Goose bumps wont do, I had pterodactyl bumps.
The always predictably unpredictable weather continued. The wind subsided and I flew through the countryside like a horse freed from pulling a wagon. 26km in one hour. I stopped to refuel and unload. The well water I have been drinking gives me stomach cramps with period-like bloating (ladies, you know what I am talking about). My movements are profound as they are poetic and I imagine a tracker being mistaken for an existence of a Shetland pony in the area. These are not your feeble ´ribbon´ India traveling breed of movements. These make you want to light a pipe, nestle one hand under your elbow and ponder with a confidently tilted head.
Lighter and hopped up on chocolate I sang at the top of my lungs until I gasped for air while pumping as hard as I could. I thought the chain would break or my wheels would dissolve into gummy bears. The downhill joy of arriving into Puerto Natales had me yelping like a wolf with its nuts in a rat trap. Pure animalistic joy and a smile that I could feel giving me permanent wrinkles. Arriving in Puerto Natales damp and rainbows burned in my cornea I had finished another leg of a journey that has no end point.
Caption, ¨One of the many rainbows. Sometimes you see something amazing and you cannot muster the ganas to stop the flow of biking to take the photo to remember the moment. This time I did even though it was the least spectacular.