Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Rain Rain Rainy rain

Battling through the wind in Tierra del Fuego some weeks back we met a number of cyclists heading South off the carretera (with the wind very much in their favour!!) who were bemoaning the weather in Chilean Patagonia; many had not seen a day without rain, and on occasions there had even been sleet and snow. At the time we considered it would be a welcome change to be out of the wind, and after the near drought levels of dryness on the estancias, thought rain would be an absolute pleasure!! Thinking about it now, it's a harder to make a call as to which is worse! Part of the reason for starting in the South and heading North instead of vice-versa was an attempt to miss the worst of the rainy season in this region. Unfortunately however, this year there has been a freak weather front (being blamed on everything from El Nino to global warming) resulting in there having been no let up from the rains at all yet! All this water makes for extremely beautiful terrain to cycle through (and photograph in the brief reprieves that we have had), but makes it quite hard to pinpoint why or when we decided against taking the turn off for (the supposedly hot balmy climes of) Chile Chico, and instead continue on in the wet for Coyhaique.

The 331km from Cochrane to Coyhaique is on quite poor, undulating ripio with a number of high passes (around 1200m) to negotiate. We had thought to complete it in 3 to 4 days, but with the elements still conspiring against us, and with the addition of a mild bout of illness it ended up taking 7 days to get to there (although this did include a number of unplanned rest days).

Some weeks back, much to my disgust but in keeping with his slightly anankastic side, Ja discovered the delights of calorie counting. Previously, when calculating how much food we would need to get us between places I have used an (oh so Conservative) calculation for shopping purposes based on the number of meals we would require in that period. Ja has consistently insisted on reducing this down to a weight calculation; estimating that we need to eat around a kilo of food each per day, irrespective of from what that might consist. This accompanied by his new habit of 'doing' food, rather than eating it (something like...“hmmm, I could do another one of those” uttered after most ingestions) has been making recent meals more of a tiresome mathematical exercise than a pleasurable gastronomic experience, and make me fear for his reintegration into the London restaurant culture. Discovering calories has added a whole new dimension to this, as now our individual daily intake not only needs to weigh at least a kilo, but also to contain at least 5500kcals (which I am assuming it always has done, since the only change to what we are eating since Ja's discovery is the semantic one of how he refers to it, and his quest to find food stuffs containing ever higher quantities of calories!!). After his recent delight at discovering a cracker that contained more calories than bread I fear he has started planning a recipe for the ultimate cycling snack, which will probably look something like one of those fat balls you put out for the birds in winter and consist mostly of crumbled dry crackers mixed with peanut butter and dulce de leche (which is apparently obligatory in all south american cooking). Anyway, I mention this because I found it really interesting that what seemed to slow us down so significantly whilst trying to cover the kilometers between Cochrane and Coyhaique was not so much being slightly unwell, as the resulting loss of appetite which made it impossible to consume anywhere close to either of Ja's calculated recommended daily intakes.

We have now, finally; after a number of tears and tantrums, and for the first time doubting whether we should continue solely by bike, arrived in Coyhaique. The largest town on the Carretera (with a population of 50000) Coyhaique has been a much needed break from the road and with appetites returned we have taken the opportunity to visit a number of the local restaurants and have once again been able to enjoy food for more than simply it's mathematical, density or nutritional qualities.

After a few days off we now plan to leave in the morning, heading north towards the town of Chaiten, which is still officially closed following the recent and ongoing eruption of the Chaiten volcano, but which we have heard may still be passable.


  1. Well done guys ... especially you Jen. You have borne through J's chaffing, griping and presumably boring conversation with flying colours. We are surprised that J's body is still in one piece as it is connected with Duck tape and lentil paste. Lotsa love the Irish Rowe's

  2. Hi Jenny,
    Thinking about you. Interesting read, hope you are okay after the earthquake and you were not to near!
    Devin et al

  3. Hey Adrian! Good to hear from you! Your description was eerily accurate!, although now that he has embraced the carnivorous lifestyle at least the ductape is supplemented with chorizo...