Pampa, Parakeets and Penguins

There’s only one road south from Puerto Natales and it’s not memorable. We hope for a tailwind but it never materializes. For once, the pampa is still. The grasses stand tall.

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Nevertheless, we take shelter in a large barn in Morro Chico for the night. The wind here is a shifty character, untrustworthy and liable to change at any moment. Iria pedals up late in the day and we share the space. In the morning we share conversation, a distraction from the diminishing kilometers. She has the patience for my Spanish and I find that I know more than I thought.

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Bus stations here are a more serious affair: four solid walls and a door that closes.

In Villa Tehuelches we part ways. We head for hills and for the coast. She heads to town.

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For a moment or three we turn into the wind. It’s manageable and soon we turn south again and it becomes a friend, allowing me to pick my head up and look around. At the Rio Verde municipal building we ask to pitch our tent and are given permission. The whole complex exists for a coal mine on the island across the way. The big trucks we see on the road service the salmon farms up the way. Parakeets fly around. These are the same birds we saw in the lakes district and it seems they live here, too.

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We turn off the gravel road, go through a gate and down a two track to the beach.

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The wind stops and the sun comes out. It is a good day to be here. We stop and go, stop and go, puttering along the hard packed sand looking for treasures. Tyndall walks just to prolong the bliss.

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While investigating the dunes for camping, something catches Tyndall’s eye. Upon closer inspection we discover sea lions: two big ones and a little one. They are resting in the dune and throwing sand around. They give a gurgley roar and we scurry away.

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We search a bit more and find an unoccupied dune, making it ours for the night. The night is calm and still.

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Sound carries. In the morning we hear other sea lion noises, seemingly closer. We take turns going to investigate, but see nothing. It is a good thing, because neither of us is sure how to deal with a creature like this.

The beach riding ends and we return to empty dirt roads. We learn the coal mine nearby ceased operating three years ago and the penguins that used to nest here in the summer have been chased off by wild dogs and too many tourists.

We climb on an empty two track and then descend to the main road that leads to Punta Arenas. We go over gate after gate, finally arriving in an industrial yard. The security guard tries to tell us where we went wrong in our navigation, but we don’t want to go back. He lets us pass and we spin into Punta Arenas.

Where we rode: Puerto Natales – Villa Tehuelches – Rio Verde – Seno Otway – Punta Arenas

Route details can be found here.

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