I awake one Autumn Patagonian morning. I am cold. My sleeping bag is soaked through. I try to open my tent. I can’t. The zipper is frozen shut. Why is my sleeping bag wet? I panic and force the tent’s zipper open. Everything outside is white. I am cold. Why is my sleeping bag wet? My bicycle looks all pretty, white and sparkly!
I run my hand over the tent. It’s frozen. The tent being frozen fills me with excitement. I have no idea why. Defrosting will take hours in such coldness and I make the executive decision to pack up frozen. I’m in a remote part of the world. A road to this part of Patagonia was only completed in 1996. Such remoteness means I can’t be sure I’ll even pass a house this day. Having a wet tent and sleeping bag could well be a problem when temperatures plummet as night arrives. My fingers hurt with cold. Pack up fast Ishbel and get cycling!
I stick my head inside the tent. My hands touch the wet sleeping bag and my mind flashes back to the long climb the previous day. My thoughts consumed with each pedal stroke of sticking my thumb out and hitchhiking. A ridiculous state of mind to be in. There is no traffic on this road!
Day was already fading upon reaching the summit. My shivering spoke loudly. There was no way of camping at this height. Tired but with no time to rest I descend. My fingers freezing and struggling with the movement of pulling the brake levers. Carbon and race face are replaced at age 35 with a steel frame and 125 kg load and I use my years of road racing to get me round the corners safely at high speed.
It got so dark I struggle to see in front of me so I stop and wheel my bicycle over to a river. I love camping by rivers but tonight I had no energy or time to enjoy. My body was shaking with cold and I was desperate for food.
When my body is pushed past it’s limits of operation, I talk out loud. Coaching myself in third person form until I’m out of danger.
‘’You’re doing good Ishbel.’’
‘’You keep going now. Do you hear me? You keep going no one is coming to help you’’
‘’You know what you’ve got to do Ishbel now get on doing it!’’
‘’You’re such a good girl Ishbel keep going. I’m proud of you. Keep going. You can do this!’’
A thick fog had fallen by the time I pitched my tent and I’m propelled into the likely set of a horror movie. If I wasn’t in such a hurry to save myself from the onset of hypothermia I would be scared wondering ‘what’s inside the woods?’
I climb into my tent, hair and clothes damp from the wet fog.
I need to eat. My body is still shivering bad. I miss my jacket which was stolen a few hundred kilometres back.
I’m in survival mode and cook up the pasta inside my porch with the door zipped shut. I eat the pasta lying in my sleeping bag and as soon as I set the empty pot down I fall asleep.
This explains why my sleeping bag is soaked through. My damp clothes from the fog plus the evaporated water from cooking dinner. My sleeping bag was inside an emergency foil bivy bag so there was nowhere for the water to evaporate to during the night.
Confusion dissolved my attention comes back to the task at hand and I pack up like I’m going for an Olympic medal.
I’m happy to be cycling but struggling to change gears or use my brakes. Not because my fingers are freezing this time but because the bicycle cables themselves have frozen. These conditions would only get worse into winter and I decide i’ve finished cycling Patagonia for 2016. Once I reach the next town 150 km away I will get a boat more north.
Cycling with the usual amazing Patagonian lakes, mountains and forests I reach a road block. They are blasting the mountain sides for 30 km to create a new road. I’m astounded by my bad luck the last couple of days. The road will reopen in 5 hours time. Normally this would be no problem as I’d enjoy a rest day pitching my tent next to the road block. But today my tent and sleeping bag are wet. I explain to the guard. After 5 full minutes of pleading he gets on his walkie talkie. Another car arrives and the driver looks me over then instructs the barrier to open. I weave in and out of huge trucks. I felt I was in a sequel to the Transformers movie. I arrive to many more road blocks used to keep back the work vehicles when blasting. Each time the walkie talkie’s are used and the barrier opens. All the workmen stop, stare, laugh and whistle with lots’ of Hola’s.
On reaching the other end I cycle past a long queue of stopped cars on the other side and I’m glad I’m on a bicycle.
I cycle another couple of hours until I reach a village where I stick my thumb out to hitchhike. It takes me 3 rides to reach the biggest town in Patagonia, Coyceike where I would get my boat up north in my bid to get out of Patagonia.
Thanks everyone for joining my journey cycling around the world solo. Sometime sI get cold. Sometimes I am hungry. But this girl can! Be inspired. Live out your dreams in life whatever they may be! love WBG xxx
Ishbel, creator of World Bike Girl, has spent her life on bicycles, from road racing, to velodrome sprinting to cycling the world. She has pedalled across 20 countries solo and promotes commuting by bicycle. Much to the dismay of her friends, she is an avid wearer of socks and sandals.