The battle with the invisible enemyThe bright-red sun sinks slowly beneath the horizon. A golden glow rest for a little while on the raw landscape. The little traffic on this offshoot of the Ruta 40 is blotting out. On the left and on the right only wasteland - yellowish stiff grass and dark-green dry scrub for miles. A bit further down a herd of Guanacos, an descendent of the llama, disappears behind a hill. Their neighing drifts on the bursts of wind in which our campers rock back and forth. Hopefully the wind will calm tonight so we can sleep. Hopefully we don’t have to battle for 42 kilometers with this invisible enemy tomorrow.
A marathon runner has many enemies. With a few of them we dealt with along the way. The snow and cold in Alaska, the stormy weather in the north of the United States, a murdering heath in Central America, the insane height in Bolivia, and now the merciless wind in Patagonia. Again and again we were tested as if we need to earn a free pass towards Ushuaia. The deafening roars make you completely mad and every step you take is a hard one. The wind is an invisible hand that tries to push back. Whenever the wind drops you almost go flat on your face if you don’t react quick to the sudden change. It’s a battle. There is nothing like the wind in Patagonia. It shows no mercy. Not even for a lonely marathon runner.
We turn away from the Andes and run towards the east of the country to start form there on our last marathons towards Ushuaia. The route hobbles through plains that seem to have no end. Stiff yellow grass and dark-green scrub bend into the wind that rages across the land. Only guanacos, emus, sheep and once in a while a armadillo thrive in this part of Argentina. We reached in the Santa Cruz province - the last province before we hit Tierra del Fuego. Diehards settle down here pay 0 euros taxes and you quickly realize why. The few villages are very far apart, the land is unable to provide any crops and the wind blows too hard. We’re trapped in a dull roughness that at times lights up during the golden hour to extinguish into an endless lonely wasteland soon after.
We’re running low
Meanwhile we leave the Ruta 40 and turn onto the Ruta 3, an important highway that connects several port cities. Trucks fly down and up the small road. Travellers on heavy bikes lean into the wind towards the end of the world. Cars have to brake hard when a herd guanacos decides to cross the road. And we are repressed towards the shoulder again. It’s cold. A choppy wind blows from the south in front. Weather is unpredictable down here. We not only fight with the wind, but also face rain and hailstorms. The cold slashes into our stiff body. Muscles and joints suffer from the sudden change in temperature. We no longer adjust that fast to new running conditions. Physically we’re not up to much anymore and mentally we have to dig deep to keep on running. We’re running low.
Curled up I try to protect myself from the cold. The sky in front of me becomes cloudy very fast. In the far distance rain already pours down. It looks ominous and I still have to run a fair bit. It’s a busy morning. Lots of freight traffic at this time of the day. Luckily most of the truck drivers give me some space to pass in the opposite direction. In this way I’m blown away every time they pass. Occasionally a chauffeur flickers with his light while he pushes his horn. Enthusiastic they give a thumbs up. Two years ago the chauffeurs on the Dalton Highway in Alaska encouraged us and now again the emperors of the road support us while we suffer through. Being on the road creates a bond - especially between strong and weak of the road.
As the kilometers are counting down, the fear of going home increases. So many things we left behind we have to pick up again once back in Belgium. Where are we going to live? Of what are we going to live? Do we want to do the same job as before or do we want something different? All those questions pop into our mind and lead to difficult and animated conversations from time to time. We still dream a lot, even though reality is close by. Our nomad existence is almost over. But what did we learn these two years? Are we strong enough to change direction if we tend derail again once home? I see Charlie Chaplin getting stuck between the cog wheels of a giant unstoppable machine. Then a lot of people already struggled with the scorching temp of society. Then a lot of people desired a simple, manageable and honest life in a topsy-turvy world. Maybe this will be our next adventure? Our new challenge.