Howlers, growlers and snow banks

If ever you think that the Cape Doctor is giving you a headache……try biking in something far worse…… There are even roadsigns indicating just how severe the wind is! It howls in Patagonia!

So a growler is the pet name for a piece of iceberg that has broken off deep down in the depths and has made it’s way to the surface, seeing lots of growlers implies that the big berg is going to go belly up…..our poor guide….alas…….

When danger pay becomes vital


Probably one of the most intense riding times on the bike. The average daytime temp of this day’s travel  was 4 degrees with lots of windchill. We had reached Tapi Aike, about 40km from the turnoff to the Torres del Paine (our primary goal) with temperatures staying below 3 and rain imminent; being sunny south africans, we did not put 2+2 together equalling SNOW! Even the bike’s display convenienently showed us a snowflake! So for the next 100km we drove through snow alternating with rain and the occasional gust of wind squelching us across the road! Bear in mind, there is nothing along the roadside on this stretch…… So no hanging out waiting;  incidentally, the storm lasted the night!

Problems with snow riding; and there are endless ones!:
– the snowflakes cake my visor, so my visibility drops to zero, the only way to rid them is to wipe your left gloved finger across your non existent field of vision. Using right hand is not an option for if you do this, the power goes out of the bike and you are on the ground.

– wet glove, hand freezes despite highest setting on heated grips, hence less control of clutch

– anti fog layer has come off my visor, so every time I breathe, surprisingly often! The visor fogs on the inside! Solution – ride with an open visor and get nailed by ice crystals in the eyes- solution, wear riding glasses, which also fog…….

– heavy snow, can’t see the road

– dreaded ice! Black tar, black ice, makes it completely invisible, hit this on a slight bend and you are off into the bushes, or in this case, roadside drop off.

Testing the riders nerves

Snow trapped

We arrived at the border town of Rio Turbio and stopped for some warming tea…….waiting out the storm. Then we attempted the pass……oops! Here we hit snowbanks, thick ice and spinning back tyre within site of the border crossing. Even cars were turning around and when the one guy whipped out his tyre chains we packed up and turned back! At this point I am thinking, if we can’t make it across, we will miss our ferry up north and be stuck here for another week! the visit to Torres del Paine has been cut very short!

How we stumbled across the only decent lodging in this small coal town, I will never know, but thank goodness. The hoteliere even invited, in fact insisted, that the motorbike sleep in the lobby! Snow covered and wet bike messing up his lovely floors! It snowed the entire night! While we enjoyed a dinner from upstairs watching things!

The next day we attacked the pass, with clear-ish skies overhead. The guy at customs warned us that the road was bad higher up and cars were turning back……we took a leap of faith and continued, never trust a customs agent! Although the snow was thick on the road, the ice was melting and we crossed the pass in just under 1 and a half hours 🙂

Snow biking is crazy, stupid, dangerous and awesome if you survive to tell the tale!

Categories: Diary | 8 Comments

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8 thoughts on “Howlers, growlers and snow banks

  1. Renardo

    Hi Guys! Enjoying your blog! Your are two toughees hey! Snow biking, black ice, gale force winds …uhm…uhm… .Please come back in one piece! Geniet dit!Renardo

  2. Guys – you’ve done it the hard way for sure: well done! Me, I chickened out when I saw the forecast and let the wind blow me up the very boring Routa 3. Still, plenty more adventures for all of us I’m sure 🙂 Looking forward to more updates!

  3. you are officially crazy!!! what amazing adventures, seriously hardcore you two. Enjoying the updates, although some I must admit gives me goose bumps. Looking forward to chathing up once you are safely back warm regards

  4. Madaleine du Toit

    Cathy, please send me an e-mail to confirm that you accept your appointment as a Part-time Lecturer in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology from 1 April 2012 until 31 March 2012. You need to do the same for Prof Odendaal’s project. Thanks a lot!!! Madaleine (

  5. Richard

    Hey Boet

    This sounds a bit too hectic for my comfort zone! I even avoid TM when there is rain.
    Cape Town was a balmy 22 today moving up to 30 by Friday.
    Enjoying your posts.
    Love Rich & Shelly

  6. nvanesch

    We feel cold for you… Well figuratively speaking only of course 🙂

    Michael, Claudia and Nick

  7. DCL

    Reading this in a warm airport in Philly makes a boring wait seem easy. Matt and I did have to deal with a stiff breeze this morning walking campuses. The we’re a lot of pink cherry blossoms wafting in the air ……. Not sure if our story of suffering compares!

  8. Andrew

    Trying to upload video footage, but slow Internet and big files!

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