This is the day I’ve been waiting for since we began this trip. The consummate Patagonian experience awaits: today we ride to Torres Del Paine National Park, home to the most spectacular scenery in the entire region. And I nearly miss it all because I can’t find my passport. It’s always with my wallet, always in my left front pants pocket – but not today. Ulli takes the rest of the pack to the Perito Moreno Glacier while ride leader Eric, calm as ever, works the phone and I retrace my pre-dinner shopping route from last night. No one has seen it. We make a police report, then Eric gets a text from Chris. ”Have him check that packet of postcards he had at dinner last night. It looked pretty thick.” I’ll never know why I put it there instead of my pocket, but my passport was safely ensconced with the postcards in my luggage.
The Macna riding gear is working well for me. I needed the vents on Ruta 40 and it’s looking like the rain liner will come in handy today. Patrick Kant (Splash Designs/Macna) and Erik Stephens (Twisted Throttle) are surprised that my dual-sport boots and knee braces fit into the Alpine pants, which are more for sport-touring. It’s a squeeze to get them on, and I tell Patrick that full leg zippers would make things easier. He said they’re not necessary in Europe and can cause friction burns from long pavement slides. Macna has an adventure suit in the design stages – I’m hoping the long zips make the cut. I’m also wearing Macna’s waterproof Borax gloves on chilly mornings then changing when they become too warm. The weather has been kind to us with pleasant temperatures, little wind and no rain so far.
Pavement changes to gravel, and speeds are up today, in spite of the many cattle guards we encounter. There’s never a smooth way across these obstacles – always an abrupt cement edge, often with a hole in front of it. On the other side…well you don’t know till you get there, but it could be a smooth passage or a bigger hole. You pick your line and take your chances. The risks of not slowing are bent rims and loose dentures. At least four bikes in the group are rolling on dented hoops already.
The overcast that’s followed us all day darkens as we approach the park. The wind picks up with each turn on the winding road, and rain spits from above. Then we see the Cuernos (horns) Del Paine amidst swirling clouds – massive hunks of ice-carved rock jutting into the clouds ahead. Engines stop, mouths gape and shutters click as we gaze in quiet awe at what’s laid before us.
Continue reading: dispatch from Day 9