Bike Touring


In a real bed! With a TV! And central heating, no less (excellent for drying clothes). Sheer luxury I tell you, here in Punta Arenas.

Not bad, since I woke up that morning in a gravel pit, by the side of the road, only 3 degrees in the tent. Took a crap in view of northbound trucks (luckily not that many at that time of day). Then rode most of the day in crosswinds, apart from when it started hailing. Rain I can handle, since I was wearing all my rain gear as protection against the wind. But hail stinging a man in the face does wear you down.

Captain Stokes, the first captain of the Beagle killed himself not far from here, writing beforehand:

“In the south…a man’s soul dies within him.”

Now it didn’t all work out badly in the end, because he was replaced by Robert Fitzroy, who would choose a young Charles Darwin to accompany him on his next voyage. And I am certainly not in the same situation as Captain Stokes. But I tell you…if I had to spend years sailing around here, dealing with day after day after day of gales, sleet, hail, snow, rain, well…I could understand his choice of exit. This Thing of Darkness is an outstanding book about the Beagle, I highly recommend it.

I rode down from Puerto Natales in a couple of days, with the winds being more manageable in this direction. I met an American couple who had been on the road five days, and now had 35km (out of 245) left to go. Here’s some free advice for would-be bike tourists in Patagonia:

  1. Do some research into the wind! Do not ride north or west, unless you have an astonishingly good reason to.
  2. Get some decent wet weather gear. Yes cold is a problem, but rain is a constant too.
  3. Do not, under any circumstances, take your girlfriend on her first bike tour to Patagonia. Take her to France, or South East Asia, or Switzerland. Nice, easy, non relationship-breaking. I have met several couples where she has given up on the bike, and gone onto the bus. If this is their first experience of bike touring, why would they come back?
  4. Get a decent bike, and test your gear out first. I’ve seen plenty of bikes broken by the ripio. Mine too, but so far only minor.

So since I’m staying in a nice place, and it’s a reasonable town, I’ve decided to stay a few days. Riding in Patagonia has taken a lot out of me (or maybe I didn’t put enough in?) and I need the rest. 3 days off would have been enough, but due to ferry timetables, I will have to take 4 days off. Plenty of shopping around here, and I needed to get a replacement camera. I could get a new GPS – same model as before, or a shiny new touchscreen one – but the prices are too high. Even at the duty free area, the prices for cameras were a little high. Annoyingly, they’re also refurbished ones, although you don’t find that out until later. Oh well. It’s still better than the one I had.

I’ve also been eyeing up a netbook, as there are so many for sale here. Around $400-$500USD for a reasonable little notebook computer, it’s very tempting. But given the weather, the roads, and my propensity to get stuff stolen, I think I’ll hold off on that. It can wait until the next trip, when the iPad has taken over the world.

A final note: Google is removing the FTP publishing feature I use for this site, to publish content to They want to further assimilate me, and host the blog at It’s something I could really have done without, especially since they’ve not given us much notice, and these things are always a pain to sort out on the road. So I’m going to have to look at my options, possibly move to WordPress. The timing is bad – if it was a month later, I could get it all sorted when I get home, but instead I may have to migrate, then shift again later. Argh. You get what you pay for. Anyways, there will be some changes over the next few weeks – if it all goes well, you shouldn’t notice too much difference, although RSS feeds will probably need updating. Will let you know.