Wildcamp at Aeródromo Laguna Redonda - The thirteenth step ... Six months in South America - CycleBlaze

January 7, 2023

Wildcamp at Aeródromo Laguna Redonda

We got the news yesterday evening that we had to be at the ferry company office at five thirty this morning.  They loaded all the bicycles and luggage onto an open truck and we all clambered into a minivan and drove to the ferry port.  At least we didn't have to cycle there in the dark like we had to five years ago.

At the port just before departure.
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We got going at about a quarter to seven in, initially, relatively calm water. Soon it got rougher with a strong wind from the stern but Marcus Campos, the pilot and owner of the ferry company, varied the speed smartly to surf the waves that were heading in the same southerly direction as we were. Eventually we had to turn eastwards across the direction of the wind and waves and the last section into Candelario Mancilla was a white knuckle ride for some of the passengers.  

A view of calm water from the stern.
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After disembarking the kilometer ride to the border control office was a sharp reminder of the tough climb ahead of us.  The challenge of the gradient is eclipsed by the looseness of the road surface and we were all forced to walk our bicycles at some point.

The border formalities were as slow as I remember them to be.  A number of folk in the queue ahead of us had lost their PDI vouchers, a slip of paper which one receives on entry into Chile, which slowed things down a lot.  The processing of our passports went pretty quickly - more time was spent showing various officials the stamp in my passport from when we passed through here five years ago than in the actual exit procedure.

We stopped at a clearing just outside the border control office and cooked up a pot of oats porridge.   With the early start and the prospect of a rough ride across Lago O'Higgins we had decided it would be the most sensible time to eat breakfast.  In the end it might have been better to eat our oats back at our apartment because neither of us suffered in any way during the ferry crossing and cooking breakfast now was just an inconvenience.

Loose gravel and a wicked gradient make hard work.
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The slog up to the viewpoint from where Fitz Roy is visible is one I don't plan to repeat.  Twice is enough!  However,  my heart lifted at my first sighting of this iconic mountain, just as it did five years ago.  Unfortunately it's peak was mostly covered in clouds and the cloud cover grew thicker as we rode southwards.   Hopefully we will get clear views tomorrow.

Fitz Roy in the distance and in the clouds.
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Our plan was to camp at the aerodrome and catch tomorrow's boat across Lado del Desierto but we were told by one of our fellow passengers that the ferry doesn't operate on Sundays.  We have two days worth of food so spending an additional night before reaching El Chalten is not too much of a problem for us so we haven't changed our plans.

We have found a lovely spot near the river at the aerodrome and soon after having lunch and setting up the tent I went off for a good wash in the river.  Not expecting anyone to pass by I wasn't too concerned about being seen.  However, as I was finishing up and reaching for my towel which was hanging on a nearby branch, I became aware of a young woman calling out to me from near our tent.  It was a Polish hiker,  Aneta,  who was coming from the Argentinian side and was worried that she hadn't found the Chilean border control office yet.  She clearly was less concerned about encountering me in my birthday suit.

I had made a bench next to the tent from a sturdy plank that I had found so, after being reassured that the birder post was another twelve kilometers further, Aneta decided to stop and have her lunch at our campsite.  She plonked herself down on the bench  removed her hiking boots and cooked up her lunch while Leigh and I sipped coffee and mate.  We had a long and enjoyable chat and after about an hour an a half she went on her way.

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The only issue we have had with our otherwise lovely campsite has been the number of flies.  They plagued us all the way up the climb from Candelario Mancilla and have been at us all afternoon at our campsite.  The evening has brought some respite and hopefully they won't bother us too much in the morning.   At least there are no mosquitoes.

We are not sure what tomorrow holds.  We may make it to El Chalten if the ferry runs otherwise we will have to spend the night on the shore of Lago del Desierto. 

Today's ride: 12 km (7 miles)
Total: 5,202 km (3,230 miles)

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