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Ok, everyone, gather ‘round.
I’m about to tell you of a tale of two cyclists and a dog who battled a terrifying creature during their cycle tour in Patagonia.
We all know about Patagonia’s beautiful mountains, turquoise blue waters, world-renown trekking and mountaineering, but have you heard about the beast? Have you heard about
Dave and Jen knew that cycling from the end of the world north to their home in Portland was a bold move. Few dared travel by bicycle from south to north, for those who did inevitably came face to face with the Patagonian Wind Monster.
Dave and Jen had met wind before in Sweden, wind so strong that it knocked them off their bikes and caused Jen to sob at a picnic bench outside of a grocery store. They hadn’t forgotten their experience with the cyclists’ worst enemy.
But they saw no other way to make the long trek, for they traveled with their dog and it didn’t make sense to fly multiple times. So they committed.
At first, the Patagonian Wind Monster helped them. For two days after leaving Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, the Patagonian Wind Monster pushed them to a bakery in Tolhuien where they met other cyclists who told them of the changes they were about to encounter.
From here on out, they were told, the Patagonian Wind Monster will reduce your speed to 6kph, your muscles will ache as you battle against his strength, and the dust from the slippery gravel roads will coat your face with grime each day.
There is little water, they warned, and no food to find for hundreds of kilometers. Shelters are scarce and estancias few and far between. The treeless barren lands provide little escape from the Patagonian Wind Monster and there is nowhere to hide.
Dave and Jen gulped nervously, bid farewell to their new friends, and set off, headed for Rio Grande, traversing along gravel roads, away from the cars zipping by at 120kph.
The winds weren’t all that bad, they thought, as they set up camp for the evening.
However, the third day welcomed them with no estancias to provide water – they cycled 8 hours with just a few sips leftover from the previous night. The packed road turned to loose sand and rocks, and the winds blasted them head on, forcing them to push their bikes many of the 40km as they moved like sloths through the constant 40kph vortex.
Upon reaching to paved road, the winds only roared more fiercely, forcing them to pedal downhill and shoving them onto the shoulder every hundred meters. The Patagonian Wind Monster howled in laughter with each attempt at restarting, their efforts futile against the creature.
What would normally have taken five hours took 12 with the wind working hard to prevent their advancement.
After recovering for two days indoors in Rio Grande, Dave and Jen set off once again, this time to the Chilean border at San Sebastian, Argentina. They relented to the wind after covering just 24km on that first day, knocking on the door of an estancia who provided shelter for the evening.
They awoke early the following morning, while the Patagonian Wind Monster was still asleep, but their efforts bought little time, for once they hit the road, the winds began to batter them once again. They must have angered the beast on this particular day, for the air was cold and numbed their fingers and toes and the freezing rain pelted their faces like tiny needles.
They arrived at another estancia several hours later. Starving and desperately wanting to hide from the wind and rain, they cycled down the gravel path, past a flock of sheep, and eventually found themselves in a busy mess hall with 20 men shoveling food into their mouths.
Oh, they had really angered the Patagonian Wind Monster that day, for she led them – two animal-loving vegans – to a lamb slaughterhouse for lunch. They ate quietly in the corner with their dog, Sora licking up fallen pieces of food off the floor, as the men watched while they grated carrots for a salad.
As they departed, it seemed the Patagonian Wind Monster almost pitied them, for the rain had ceased and the winds lessened a touch. But it was all a trick, for just 4km before their final destination for the evening, the skies suddenly darkened. Jen felt a few drops of rain on her coat and stowed away her head phones.
In an instant, icy daggers fell from the sky, pelting Jen and Dave and blinding them. Jen screamed to Dave, 200 meters ahead, but he couldn’t hear her cries, for the storm deafened him. Jen scrambled to reach Dave, pedaling with all her might, but the Patagonian Wind Monster threw gusts of wind to her side at 70kph, tossing her off the road like a bag of trash, while Dave dismounted and held onto his bike for dear life.
For 20 minutes, Dave and Jen combated the storm as the winds jostled them like a riptide pulling them to the bottom of the sea. They arrived into San Sebastian completely soaked, exhausted, and defeated. They changed clothes and warmed their hands and toes by the heater in the refugio at the border, placed there for weary travelers such as themselves.
They peeked outside after some time and found clear blue skies, zero wind, and no evidence of the storm on the roads. It was like it had never happened.
Over the next two days, Jen and Dave hid in a storage room and at a hotel restaurant, unable to face the Patagonian Wind Monster’s 70-80kph breaths. The wind rattled the roof and threw birds from the sky.
Hoards of beaten travelers shared stories over drinks and food, divulging secret hiding places along the route.
It won’t get better until you reach the Carretera Austral in Chile, they said. Just get through the next 1,000km and you’ll be glad you did it.
Jen and Dave often asked ourselves what they’re doing. Why did they chose this particular path?
It’s a rite of passage for cyclists, to cycle to the end of the world. They couldn’t just come to Patagonia and begin in the middle, it felt like cheating. And so, each day, they rise early, pack their panniers, and set off against the wind.