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Feb 19, 2012:

An Unsavoring Taste of Ripio

Kilometers to Date: 1039 km (623 miles)
FYI: Next update will probably be in 7-10 days, but not sure from where.

Wow, the 65 km of ripio (gravel road) on Route 40 to El Calafate dealt us a hefty one! We were able to ride comfortably through the ripios of Tierra del Fuego; but this section of ripio humbled us. The rocks and loose dirt made it difficult to keep the tandem steady... in addition to our visual challenges.

The weather made it difficult for Tauru to captain the bike. At times he couldn't see his line to avoid loose gravel -- either the sky was overcast and made the road a monochrome grey or sunny with glare and made the road a monochrome white. Christi assisted by providing Tauru with the view around him and ahead of him since he was focused on the immediate ground in front of him.

We know there will be more ripios ahead. South-bound cyclists have told us that we have passed the most difficult section of ripios and that others north of us will be easier. We can only hope!

El Calafate is a nice rest after that bone-jarring experience on the ripio. It's sunny and warm (shorts and t-shirts!) and, well... there's La Anonima (Argentina's supermarket chain). It's so fun to check out food! Food! FOOD!!! Such fun gives us the confidence that we can tackle more ripios!

Wow, we're at 712! Help us reach 1000 "Likes" by Santiago, Chile (end of Stage 1). 300 to go!

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In Puerto Natales, we pick up a new tent. Our old one, which saw many nights under the stars from years of use, fell apart on the road from Punta Arenas.

Tauru checks his list for anything else he may need. Trekking is popular in Puerto Natales, so camping equipment is available.

Not necessarily a "shopping on Fifth Avenue" experience with name brands and hefty price tags, but fun nevertheless. The tent is a Doite, which is popular brand in South America.

We couchsurfed with Dan, a Chilean from the Santiago area who is also couchsurfing this house. Back home, we do laundry and hang our clothes over the heater. Thanks for the hard work, Christi!

We hear this is called a "pannier explosion." All of our things unloaded and laid out.

We use the kitchen to prepare a meal.

The following morning, we take a photo with Dan, who is a self-taught guitar player... in addition to origami artist... in addition to English and German speaker... and so many other things. An incredibly smart guy!

Christi locks the fence as we prepare to leave Puerto Natales. It is gloomy and cold.

It is cold and drops of rain sprinkle the streets of Puerto Natales. Dan's couchsurfing home is so comfy. So nice. So warm. So dry.

Okay, if you haven't noticed by now, we're not hardcore cycle tourists. We like to enjoy our experience rather than just clock the miles/kilometers. We decide to return to Dan's house!

Perhaps this van is a better comparison of the length of our bike and trailer. If the photo could speak, it would say, "It's cold!!! Cold!!"

Back to the house past this red car that probably hasn't experienced the road some 30 years ago.

Smile = warmth. We run into Henrik, a great Dane (he's 6'5" and from Denmark), and Vicki, a great Dame (she's a classy gal from England), in town and invite them over. So now they're guests of our couchsurfing of Dan's couchsurfing.

We first met Henrik and Vicki while taking the ferry from Porvenir to Punta Arenas. They are also heading north, and so our paths will most likely cross again. To solidify our camaraderie, instead of cutting a chocolate coated lemon cake into individual slices, we share it by passing it around.

Vicki sets aside any "proper English etiquette" she has left (which is not much) for a bite.

Christi takes hold of the cake and can't stop laughing.

Okay, the following day we head out of Puerto Natales. Like true easy-going alpinists, we start out of town at 2 PM and pass this Milodon (an herbivore that lived in the area more than 12,000 years ago). He's like a vegetarian bear.

The sky is grey, but it's not as cold. We ride along the coast.

Looking back, Puerto Natales is to the left and disappearing out of view. Thanks, Dan, for your warmth and warm house!

The afternoon warms up with the sun. Along the way, we run into 8 south-bound cyclists. They're either in pairs or individuals but have consolidated for the ride to Puerto Natales. To our surprise, they knew about us! One of them heard about our project way back in Peru!

Further up the road, we run into a German couple who has a "Just Married" sign on the back of their yellow stuff sack. Horray! Congrats! Talk about honeymooning on the road! Christi shares a card with them and talks about our project.

Their tandem is pretty amazing! The person in the front is on a recumbent while the back person is on a regular bike.

After 56 km, we stop in Cerro Castillo for the night. It's Chile's border town. We are shown this spot next to a horse ranch with a restroom facility. Sweet! The tent is perfect! We don't mess around -- it's a 4-person tent.

Christi approaches the Chilean border a couple of hundred meters away the following morning.

We pass through frontier land and approach Argentina.

Like the Chilean border, there's not much.

We come to a crossroad where the ripio starts. But we camp here for the night. The top of our "palace" is to the right of the white building behind the white brick wall.

We had heard about this 65 km section of ripio.

At closer look, "that's going to be tough."

This Dutch couple also spent the night at this little outpost in the shed. They are southbound and had come through this section of the ripio.

We pack up the palace the following morning.

The bike hesitates for the upcoming 65 kilometers.

Stay on the tire tracks!

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