Day 9/10, 8th & 9th December and it was time to head away from Chaltén. Two US guys there, I’ll call them Beavis & Butthead as they reminded me of them with their unique chitchat, were heading south. One of them was making a frame bag, although how successful he was going to be was not known.
The wind had really whipped up and the first 10 km up the winding road to Lago del Desierto was treacherous; Small pebbles were being thrown at me in the almost never ending sandstorm. After the first 10 km things improved. I met a guy walking his bike the other way. “Anything I can help you with?” I asked, but he was not in a good mood, broken chain, broken rack, broken bike. Reminded me of “Cycle Killer, Qu’est que c’est?” or some such track which was playing at the burger bar where I ate yesterday. So I now had another ear worm playing in my mind as I made the way up towards the first of several boat trips to get onto the Carretera Austral.
I judged the timing well so I had a short wait of a few hours before setting off across the lake to the Argentinian Frontier. On landing there were quite a few cyclists heading South, who’d come across from Chile, matching the eight I’d just seen in the previous few hours. Doe, from Japan, Tibi & Isoli from South Korea. All looking at me as if I was bonkers. Comments ranged from “You’ll struggle with the trailer” to “Impossible”. Then a Swiss guy joined and said immediately “Impossible!” I hadn’t done six impossible things in the morning so I had to skip a trip to Milliways, but I’m getting close.
The Argentinian Border post was really great, awesome views. I had it all to myself, the lake, some geese with their chicks, even Carlos Flores, one of the Army Border guards, offered to assist with lugging some gear up the steep sender [footpath]. Sadly his offer didn’t materialise, but I’d packed all the heavy gear into my dry-backpack & the rest I put onto the rear rack. Bob trailer was now empty and so with a heavy load on me and the bike I pulled, pushed, lugged, dragged and eventually hauled the rig over, under and through multiple streams, ditches, bogs and so I arrived at the limité with Chile. From there it was a pleasant descent down through unspoilt silvestre to the Chilean Border post. The guy there asked me if I had any fruit etc. Only some packs of biscuits one tin of tuna & that was about it [I had chosen to eat the orange as it was the only way it could continue its journey north-wards. I made camp at Candelario Mancilla. As the day drew on a few other straggling backpackers came in, wondering how I’d made the trip, how was it they’d ask. Well not easy but I’ve had worse.
I ate at the only house on the peninsula, Casuela and then rice with some meat. They had some wine, wasn’t cheap, but very nice.
Day 11, 10th December. I’d eventually made the early boat, saving myself some precious time for later on. The day was beautiful, blue skies with some touches of cloud here and there. Still a stiff wind, but I was to spend most of the day on the boat, totalling 130+km on a very, very choppy lake. Still the additional 40USD to go to the glacier was worth it, especially when sampled with a large slug of whisky. Bike strapped on the foredeck I noticed the large waves crashing against the cockpit window only to realise that I’d forgotten to put my sleeping bag into it’s dry-bag. Crap!
I cycled the 7+ km or so into Villa O’Higgins after we reached the port on the other side of the lake. I headed straight for El Mosco, a camping spot and hostal recommended by a rather keen Belgian in El Chaltén. The tip paid off, as well as the app Maps.me, which he was keen I give a go. I paid & went straight to get food at a nearby restaurant. The baked salmon in butter was delicious, washed down with some more Chilean wine. A couple, from Andalucía, came in and we talked a short while. I was going to buy some provisions in the morning before heading off Northwards. Mmm, the waitress didn’t seem to think so. “Don’t open until afternoon at best!” she said. Oh yes, it was a Sunday and at the end of a 1,000+ km cul-de-sac known as the Carretera Austral, I was going to be either hungry or set off a day late. I bought some bread off the restaurant, 10 pieces of pan amasado. That should do, along with three packs of biscuits, a Marathon [snickers bar!] in the new post austere size of 40g, and my tin of tuna. I made it back to El Mosco, put the tent up & now at 11:20 pm I went to sleep.
Day 12, 11th December. North from Villa O’Higgins and the ripio road was good. The weather less so as I awoke to the sound a Geiger counter would make at Fukushima; Damn rain pounding on the tent at several hundred rads per second. I first ate some chocopics, leaving a single portion for the three to four day trip North. I made perhaps 20 clicks north before my Andalucían friends, passing, stopped and asked if everything was ok. Sort of, just getting bad chain suck on my climbing gears. I stripped out four links to tighten the chain up, didn’t really help. The grit was getting jammed between chain and cogs on the front ring, as the high force was applied it just jammed up more. I struggled on wards and the weather lessened for a while. I passed two sets of cyclists but they weren’t interested in stopping. I made the final 98km and caught the last ferry from Rio Baker to Porto Yungay. “Stay in the refugio” said one guy on the boat. I entered the Refugio, a dominant wooden building, for Ferry goers to wait in. There I found I was not the first to stay as I met Marchin, another German from Berlin. He let me have some of his pasta & I swapped for some chain oil and the use of a tightly strung washing line. He was going from Osorno to Punta Arenas having a ten more days than I.
Day 13, 12th December. Marchin had indicated no significant climbs for the day, but a fellow cyclist I met in 2012, Helmut Pucher, had warned me of the joys to come. So with further ado I hit the 500m ascent, to quickly loose the same amount before I met two backpackers hitching at the junction to Tortel. One Dane and the other Ukranian. I made the 23km down to Tortel on the heavy ripio, tough going and I was so hoping I wouldn’t be in energy deficit on my return. I took some pictures and had a meagre lunch of lentils. All the shops were shut until 4pm; No good. I set off wondering if I had invested the efforts wisely, Still I made it back to the Carratera Austral and then another 20 km or so. Shortly before stopping I saw bags and bags of some sort of moss. I wondered if it was food for horses or something. A short while further on I met the two who’d been filling the bags, who informed me that they were bagging the moss for horticultural purposes, storing water for plants and what have you. So that was Sphagnum Moss!
I found a cool place to camp, quickly got inside before the mozzies ate me. Dry bread and water for tea today.
Day 14, 13th December. I got up early, although it didn’t feel cold. I closed the 82 km down to 40+ before I hit the major climb of the day. I’d just past four Brits, one on a recumbent, with two Bob trailers heading to Tortel, from Manchester, Hebden Bridge and a bit further north I think. I was now struggling with energy. I ate all my rations bar a half pack of biscuits. I made the climb but then the ripio fell into complete disrepair, rutted very badly. There was a nice 22 deg halo around the sun, indications of changing weather. I struggled and struggled and without any power left in my very wobbly legs I rolled in to Cochrane.
Camping again, 14th night, and quite a nice spot. Lots of other cyclists there, several from the UK. I went the General Stores in town. I could buy whatever I wanted there from cheese to chainsaws, spurs to shotguns. It had everything and makes Asda’s and Tesco’s seem a bit behind the times.
Day 15, 14th December. Rest day, and chosen well it’s raining. First internet access for a week. Next will probably be another week away in Coyhaique.
Difficult uploading photos, but almost in random order are some pics, flora y fauna: