Villa O’Higgins, a proudly end of the road town, angled cooked dirt streets desert thorny plants growing along paths linking the tiendas, the horsetack shop, a panaderia, a smart looking new community activity center. Curious, on surface empty but folks hiding from heat or the appearance of bustle, the border beyond and across no mans lakes and glaciated cragtops witness to the imaginary boundary between Chile and Argentina. I book passage on the two ferries for the next day, return to the hostal with cyclistas and mountaineers loitering against the boat schedule, each eyeing the other friendly cautiously suspiciously across the sport divide, climbers not nearly as cool as they hope and cyclists far dorkier than they realize. Swiss friends roll up in the afternoon, we drink tea and beer alternately, talk about nexts or who we are returning to and when.
Ride to the ferry in the morning, the Swiss guys leave well before my chronically late to my best intention start, worry that I’m going to miss it so put the foot on the gas and it takes the duration of “Swim to the Moon,” well in time. Ferry drops me off solo — the boys doing a glacier tour and turning it into a two day border jaunt — passport stamped and I climb into the woods. Once over the country line this is the section people talk about pushing their bikes through, it’s proper singletrack like riding in Flagstaff, rocks twists loghops stream crossings. The Fat Bike bikepack setup howls brash confidence through these kilometers, I’m grinning at the familiar but five months dormant feeling of being on a mountain bike ride, find rhythm and then I’m for kicks racepace, fifty five minutes of what the absurd conservative warnings said was a two to four hour effort. Get to the next dock in time for the 3:00 ferry but it’s full so wait for the 6, on the other side find an easy gravel pedal past breathtaking Fitzroy and into Chalten.
Wide boulevard, young and old walking with poles glacier glasses 40L packs and those eurostylee pants with black panels on the knees and ass over khaki. I zero in on pizza and porter and watch another pink splendorset.
Photo by Alex Morgan.