In a flurry of reassuring good fortune we welcomed the arrival of two crucial elements to our trip on the day before our departure. The first is a solar charger that serves to recharge our camera batteries even when our physical batteries are utterly drained. It straps onto the back of Rob´s bike trailer - which looks more like the caboose of an enormous man-powered locomotive - and was a cause for concern before its last-hour arrival.
The second stroke of luck came from a friendly British fellow (who just may have been an angel) that Rob met in the local bike shop while searching for a few last-minute bike tools. The young chap had just spent a couple weeks in man-powered transit to Coyhaique from Puerto Montt (the Chilean port city which marks the Northern start of the Carretera Austral) and was dumping his gear in Coyhaique. He complained of biting rains and awful road conditions in which the loose gravel made driving his bike trailer a true pain in the butt (that must have had something to do with his bikeseat as well.) Anyway, Rob caught Richard at just the right moment as he was cleansing his hands of his bike and trailer forever. His excitement to get rid of all his stuff was a bit alarming but darned exciting too. The exact same trailer that we couldn´t afford and had made us wonder just how we planned to carry some 50 pounds of equipment on our backs and bicycles happened to fall from the sky the very day before we hit the road. Thank you Richard.
The trip itself has been grand. We´ve sweated and had a couple noteable bonks (biker terminology for the strange -and not entirely unexpected in 95 degree heat - phenomenon that makes a person feel like they´ve hit a brick wall after strenuous physical activity) but on the whole we feel good about our progress.
We arrived in the town of Cerro Castillo (translated as Castle Mountain) after 98 up and down PAVED kilometers in about two and a half days. We have found that making a documentary while in the midst of a grand bike journey is one heck of a challenge but we are figuring it out. It gets a bit annoying to set the camera up and then retreat to get shots of us passing throught the remarkable countryside of Patagonia but it must be done.
In Cerro Castillo we have had a blast. We are able to concentrate much more on the documentary now which is our reason for being here. This small town of about 580 has been inundated with thousands for their annual cultural festival. The towering mountains and swimming holes and sunny skies have made us realize there is no place we´d rather be.
So far at the cultural festival we have witnessed lamb killings and a bevy of other typical Patagonian ceremonies on a very grand scale. There have been horse races and parades and art fairs and Patagonian yard sports. We have listened to local folk music and danced the nights away. The gauchos (Patagonian cowboys) we have spoken with have been unbelievably receptive and helpful.
If there´s one thing that our early good fortune, the beautiful weather and the amazing Patagonians have shown us it may be that,thus far for TRACKING PATAGONIA, the stars are truly aligned.