Friday, April 15, 2016


Puerto Natales-Villa Tehuelche-Rio Grande-Seno Otway-Punta Arenas

Once you start looking at maps and wondering how to connect the lines, you can't help but end up on an adventure. The route we took from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas was just this kind of thing. We took the main road to a side road, to a little track, to no road at all, just beach!

Our first night out of Puerto Natales is spent in this luxurious little shack...

...before we hit the pavement again. Rheas provide frequent entertainment on the road...

...while the trees remind us just how windy it usually is around here.

We spin through a bit of pavement, then, before we have even sighted the ocean, the adventure begins. A green van passes us going the opposite direction, then stops, turns around, and comes back towards us. Soon we are chatting with Sergio, proud owner of Estancia Rio Verde, out searching for some escaped sheep. After just a couple of minutes he has invited us to spend the night at the estancia, and off we go!

Perhaps some of our (most devoted) blog readers remember Clutch, an entertaining retired gold miner who we met in the very north of Alaska. In my mind, Sergio is his southern counterpart. Both are fantastic characters with jolly paunches and a penchant for collecting things and stories of the past.

Sergio's stories are particularly entertaining because of the way he tells them, always referring to people as "monkeys" or "crazies," and recounting tales in the same mischievous manner of a teenage girl, adding "shut up!" to the ends of sentences. One gets the sense talking to him that the world is a wild and marvelous place.

He takes us on a tour of the gorgeous old estancia decorated with driftwood, drawings of local wildlife, and pressed plants. We learn that ships traveling through the Strait of Magellan came up here to refuel on coal before heading northward. The Panama Canal ruined all that, although the coal mine still exists, but a new industry is starting to take its place: salmon farming.

Soon we´re at the beautiful Estancia Rio Verde...

...taking in Sergio´s collection of hats, among many other things.

...and how can we refuse the local Patagonian drink? For a cheap beer, it´s delicious.

We spend a comfy night inside and begin the next morning with a double rainbow and pancakes with real maple syrup! We feel a bit sad leaving Sergio; he's clearly lonely out here and struggling to care for his vast estate, but we're also excited for the road ahead.

A morning rainbow over the Estancia

A monument to the huasos, the cowboys

And there´s the owner himself, Sergio. 

Just down the road is the municipality of Rio Verde. It's a small, cozy collection of new-looking buildings. The shiny ferry terminal has free coffee and computers available for public use. The municipality has also sponsored various refuges along the road for locals herding cattle for long distances (though I think cold cyclists use them more often). According to Sergio, there are more than 100 government employees here and less than 80 residents. I don't know how accurate those numbers are, but it's clear that the government has invested a lot in this area. I'm not sure why; no one is out here!

Out here, mostly what we find are ¨flag trees,¨ so named for their branches stretching out to one side, like a flag.

All morning our road follows the coast. Early afternoon we leave the road for a track, then leave the track for the beach. Oddly, today is perfectly still with hardly a breath of wind, and thus water and sand meet with hardly a ripple. Tide pools formed amongst rocks and sandbars mirror the shapes of the long clouds and take on perfect reflections. We ride quietly, in awe, pedaling slowly through a seamlessly connected world of land, water, and sky.

Happy to be off the main road, we follow little tracks...

...past weathered fishing shacks.

I'd like to think this one was built only from what washed up on the beach.

Then we turn onto the beach...

...avoiding the thousands of desiccating, alien-like jellyfish.

The sand is a dream to ride on...

...making the going easy for numerous kilometers. No cars out here!

After turning away from the beach it takes us just a morning to get to Punta Arenas. It's clear that no one (besides cows) has used this road in a while, so various people have built their fences right across it. We finally find out why: a deep hole in the road where a culvert has caved in. The grand finale comes just before reaching the main road when we find ourselves in the middle of an industrial plant: concrete trucks driving around and active large machinery. Thankfully the confused guard lets us through the exit gate without hassle when we explain that we got a bit lost and are just trying to get to Punta Arenas.

After the beach, we don´t see any cars until meeting back up with the main road in Punta Arenas. Perhaps it´s because this is a private mine road...

...or perhaps it´s because of this giant hole.

Punta Arenas is big! It has been a long time since we've been this in a city this large, and after the tranquility of the coast it's quite overwhelming. But instincts kick in and it's not long before we've successfully found food, a good place to stay, and a friend who we last saw weeks ago!

Punta Arenas has opulent colonial buildings...

...but reminders of its hardworking, oceanic past lie everywhere.

Punta Arenas also has plenty of wonderful shops...

...and bird life everywhere. Here, a kelp gull.

Tires aren´t supposed to do that, right?

We met Horacio about a month ago and have coincidentally crossed paths with him in every town ever since. A lawyer from Santiago, he quit his job to see what life is all about. Before we arrived in Punta Arenas, we sent him a message to meet up again. The message didn´t go through, but no matter, there he was at the second hotel we went to.

Our bikes are limping to the finish, so today is for some bike maintenance, birdwatching along the beautiful straight of Magellan, and preparing for the last section of our trip. We'll be on a ferry to Tierra del Fuego tomorrow. And look for our next, and final, post from Ushuaia!

Route Notes:
In Morro Chico, the large building on the left before the carabineros is unlocked and abandoned. It made for a comfy night out of the wind and cold. Thanks, Aritz and Esti!
Kudos and thanks to Skyler for pioneering this route and to Nathan for his GPS track. Route notes here, in the comments section.


  1. Danny you are talented writer I have to say.

    It really sounds like you two are having great time down there.

    If I could, you can be sure I would have liked each and every one of the photos. My word.


  2. Danny you are talented writer I have to say.

    It really sounds like you two are having great time down there.

    If I could, you can be sure I would have liked each and every one of the photos. My word.