That night the wind continued along with intermittent rain and became quite cold. I awoke early but was reluctant to leave my cozy little tent. We were camping in the yard of a hostel/restaurant and had the use of the kitchen and dining room for cooking and dining. I dressed in my sleeping bag but waited until the hostel doors were open to get outside. It was really necessary to have indoor facilities in this kind of weather. Plates fly, full cups skitter across tables, milk pours sideways into someone else if you give it any chance. Too much. We had a big day with 148K to travel and are leaving an hour late to give everyone a little extra rest after yesterday. The first hundred K’s we traveled east and southeast. It was really delightful to have a big tailwind to push you along. Big, but very controllable. I rode with Deb and Brian. Often we didn’t have to peddle at all. The wind just moved us along freely. Brian and I tested the strength of this force by seeing how fast we could go without pedaling at all. I hit 53K/hr and Brian was close to that as well. Very little energy was spent getting to the lunch truck. We knew, however, that once the road turned southwest at around 100K we would have problems. At best it would be a sidewind that we could control – however, turning that corner it hit us with an alarming force. The blow came directly across us from the west and wanted to throw us over into the other lane. It took tremendous effort to keep the bike under any kind of control. We were actually leaning sideways at about a 45 degree angle against the wind just to keep the bike under us. We came across a field where the soil was being lifted and which engulfed us with dust and dirt so we couldn’t see anything. Very frightening. My eyes were choked with dirt. I couldn’t clear my right eye and had to stop temporarily to try to improve my situation. The wind blew my bike shoe cleats along on the pavement and it was all I could do to bring me and the bike in my hands to a halt. After getting through that section we had no more dust storms but the sidewind made for a trying afternoon of riding. Brian was blown right across the road in front of the Bike Dreams truck as it approached him. We all struggled to keep our bikes in some kind of a straight line. Eventually the road turned slightly and we found ourselves with somewhat of a headwind. We were now moving quite slowly into it but more safely. Our destination, Villa Telhualches, was a welcome sight. It was really nice to get off he bike and into a bowl of hot soup. We celebrated a Dutch tradition after dinner. Everyone had earlier picked a name out of a hat – they then bought a gift for that person (limit of 100 Argentinian pesos) and wrote a poem about the person. These gifts were pulled out of a gunneysack one by one last night with the recipient reading the poem about them out loud. It was a lot of fun, some great limericks, and cute gifts. I received a Perito Moreno glacier shirt and a very cute poem which contains language not appropriate to include in this blog. This Dutch tradition takes place on December 6th and celebrates Santa Claus.
The winds subsided today and allowed us to have a pleasant ride to Punta Arenas. We all got in early for a change, I have checked in to a hotel in town as we were booked into a hostel with three and four to a room by Bike Dreams. I just wanted wi-fi that works and a little quiet to get a few things done. Including writing this blog. I’m meeting some of the gang for dinner this evening. I’m going to go to see the replica of the iconic James Cairn – the lifeboat that Shackleton sailed from Elephant Island to South Georgia in his epic journey to save the rest of his men left on Elephant Island. If I have time tomorrow I would like to take a boat out to see penguins and sea lions at one of the outer islands from this city. An indication of how far south we have come now – penguins! We have only 4 more riding days until we arrive in Ushuaia, the end of our biking adventure,