If I had known how hard this first month would be before I began, I doubt I would have started.
Often in my life I have to kid myself to make a big decision.
Deciding that the idea sounds great but not to dig to deep into the details. If I do I will find something to convince me not to do it. Once I have begun then my determination will keep me going.
I’ve found the beginning section between Ushuaia and El Chalten (the first month) a massive challenge. Ninety five per cent of it was not fun. I wasn’t enjoying it. I was just getting on with it because that was my only option.
I had to figure out pretty damn quickly that I would have to dig a lot deeper than I have done for many years to be able to continue. More than once I thought I was done.
Virtually every day I cycled there would be a point where I considered my options on how to get a lift. But I didn’t get that lift.
I cycled it.
I know I would have regretted it if I had taken a lift or caught a bus. I came here to cycle from Ushuaia to Alaska and that is what I am trying to do.
I’m not a martyr to it. If I thought I was putting myself (or others) in physical danger or I was injured then I would have stopped. I used this formula each time I wanted a lift. Never did I get to the point where I thought I should stop.
Each time I realised, I just didn’t want to do it. I wanted to stop because it was hard.
The weather was unrelenting at times, draining me of physical energy and mental reserves. I wanted it to be over.
I had to harden up quickly, to lose the airs and graces of day to day life. My mental energy was reserved for keeping moving, seeking shelter, water and food. The basics of life.
I became that Frenchman who didn’t care about getting petrol on his hands. It didn’t take long.
Getting over that first huge hurdle at San Sebastian was the key. The decision to try and do that section was a rubicon moment. If I hadn’t cycled it and taken a lift instead, I would have backed down at every other challenge that came my way. Now I fall back on that memory when times are tough.
The futility of riding a bicycle into a crazy wind* is balanced by the confidence it gives me that I can look after myself, I can achieve things I don’t think I am capable of. Yes, it is a pointless endevaour to the casual observer but not to me, not to those other cyclists that ply that road from the south to the north. Chapeau to each and every one of them.
I never thought that cycling would reduce me to tears, firstly through sheer frustration and latterly through sheer exhausation. The last 10km into El Chalten just emptied me of every emotion I had left. I called a previous post the Broken Man, however I truely was on that last section. Knowing that it should be the end of this crazy wind. A months worth of blood, sweat and tears came out, leaving me utterly drained.
I made a sorry, sorry sight, sat in the dining area of the hostel in El Chalten, shovelling food into me. My face completely blank, devoid of any recognition of being in public with other people. Dishevelled from sleeping in the dirt for several days, no one spoke to me. I doubt I could have managed anything civil in response.
Even though it was over, no sense of accomplishment or joy, just nothing. That would come later, I would get my reward.
From El Chalten things should be different. El Chalten sits in the valley of the mountains, the bottom end of the Andes. Fitz Roy, towers some 3400m high above the town. From here the adventure begins; dirt roads, mountain valleys, boats across remote lakes where there are no roads.
This is what I signed up for. This is what kept me going on those long days in the flat pampa. This is where the fun should begin.
I truely hope so, not because I feel I deserve it. I need parts of the trip to rekindle my fire and love for cycling if I am to make it to Alaska.
That is my hope for the next month.
*Crazy wind – this is the top end of my windscale, reserved for wind that it’s not possible to stand up straight in. You need to lean into it to remain upright, walking is very difficult. Cycling on the flat is possible in lowest gears, cycling uphill into it requires extreme effort.