A result of the tourist boom in the area, Puerto Natales stopped looking at the Torres del Paine jealously and became a destination with an identity of its own.
Riding a bicycle is a practical way of visiting new places in the shortest time. It is possible to cover greater distances than on foot and it allows visitors to observe the surrounding environment with much more accuracy than from a car. If we add a mountain path, beautiful panoramic sights around the Torres del Paine National Park, a lagoon whith crystal-clear waters where visitors may rest their senses and vertiginous descents among rocks, the program that the people from Sendero Aventura have preprared is mandatory for visitors who wish to enjoy an intense cyclo-tourism day. A 4 x 4 truck carrying the mountain bikes in the roof rack took us 30 kilometers to the North of Puerto Natales. Pablo and Cristian –both guides– would explain the circuit around the surroundings of the lagoon. We left Route 9 and took a rubble road to the left and got the bikes ready to start our adventure.
During the first few meters, Cristian reminded us about the speed gear system. I adapted the mountain bike to my needs, fixed my safety helmet on and let myself be carried away by the first slope to the very shore of the lagoon. A pretty water mirror would reflect the Andes Mountain Range, at the same time, a thick Magellan forest would invite us to enter. We continued our march watching the condor nests located on the walls around us. The road turned into a trail and, on our way up, we watched how the panoramic view would open up before us. We made a stop to eat some fruit and chocolate. An awesome silence took hold of the moment. In the distance, Mount Prat, the Tenerife Point, Mount Almirante Nieto and the impressive Torres del Paine massif – with its horns included– became the owners of the horizon.
At Full Speed
We continued cycling up and down. Everything is much better by bike. We can have a higher appreciation of the sounds and odors and the context of the experience is widened up. Furthermore, each biker may regulate their own speed according to their own interests and capacity. When doing this kind of exercise, it is important to take into account hydration. A sip of water every fifteen minutes guarantees the minimal amount of liquid needed to finish the ride successfully and without feeling exausted. We began to climb up an endless hill. “Come on!” screamed our guide trying to encourage us to get to the highest part of the tour. The trail was so steep that we had to set the gear in the smallest plate and the largest crown in order to make it to the top. Once there, we abandoned the bikes for a few seconds and skirted the hill passing through a cave until we got to a point of land. Again, we let ourselves be fascinated by the landscape, which looked like a realist painting. With our thumbs and forefingers, we framed the postcard of the Sofía Valley, the Última Esperanza Inlet, the Eberhard fyord and, far away, the Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers. The landscape -pure and outflowing– is the unquestionable protagonist in these latitudes of Patagonia. We rode our mountain bikes again. The best of prizes awaited us behind every climb: an endless descent, among small waterfalls, rocks and natural fords, led us straight to the entrance of the Mylodon Cave
The Prehistoric Cavern
After the vertiginous 40-km/h descent, we visited the well-known cavern where the remains of a prehistoric animal called mylodon were found in 1895. In the inside of the cave, we learnt that the mylodon was a large herbivore that became extinguished in the late Pleistocene period. This area also has a great archeological value, as it used to be the dwelling of the primitive Patagonian man some 12,000 years ago. After visiting the cavern, we went to the restaurant opposite in order to recover our strength. We tasted some delicious pork ribs with salad. The long chat after lunch made us loose track of time. The sky went reddish and we resolved to get the bikes on the vehicle again to go back to Natales. An intense day of activities was coming to an end. With our legs in a relaxing position spread in the back seat of the truck, I turned around and looked at the desolate rubble road for the last time. Behind, the mountains ... always the mountains.