Eyes Ahead: Patagonia Looming
Communications director Britten took a well deserved break from the tour and traveled ahead into Patagonia and came back with this report. The South American Epic heads onto the Carretera Austral entering Patagonia this week.
It’s a place that stirs the imagination of travelers all over the world. Rugged, iconic mountain peaks. Crystal clear river water. It’s the bottom of the world — Mordor, where Frodo fatefully destroys the ring. And getting there by our own leg-powered bikes makes it feel even more like the epic finale Tolkien wrote about in Lord of the Rings.
The final section from Puerto Montt to Ushuaia will take us through the famous Patagonia along the rough-and-tumble road known as the Carretera Austral, which is essentially a sinewy strip of gravel road that claws its way south. High wind and biting cold await us – this we know. But we also know that some of the most beautiful scenery of the entire trip remains to be seen. I happen to know this personally, as I just came back from a short vacation down to some of the places we’ll be passing through soon.
With 8 days to explore, I decided to skip ahead of the group and spend some extra time in a region I’ve wanted to visit desperately ever since a National Geographic program yanked my attention as an adventure-hungry 10-year-old boy.
I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to get near-perfect weather, especially since the Patagonia is infamous for its wild weather mood swings. It can go from sunny and calm to stormy and dangerously windy in a couple hours. My eyes were set on a couple places in particular: Torres del Paine, the Perito Moreno Glacier, and of course Mount Fitz Roy. The throngs of hikers didn’t take away from the awe these places produced. Framed in the clear blue sky, the mountains did not disappoint. The peaks stick straight up into the air, as if to angrily puncturing the sky. With such strong wind ripping through the cracks and crevices of the granite spires, the mountains erode in a unique, raw way. I’ve never seen anything like it.
As I made my way through the area in a rental car, I enthusiastically cheered on the few intrepid cyclists I saw on the road with excessive honking and fist pumping outside the window. The solidarity I felt with them was equally as inspiring as it was heavy and ominous; I knew I’d be battling the wind on these same roads with the rest of the group very soon.
As hard as it is to believe, we’re on the final leg of this ridiculous adventure. One month left?! I won’t even pretend to be able to reflect just yet but I can say with certainty that we’ve got some hardy days on the horizon. But what’s a proper adventure without an ass-kicking, humbling, and empowering finish? Not the epic one we signed up for, that’s for sure.