Day 16, 15th December. It was around 6 am when I stirred awake, someone else was already moving. I had the Rig all loaded and was moving by around 7:45. A slow getaway and the bike super heavy with 5 days nosh on board, but the day looked good to leave Cochrane, “The Ultimate Frontier Town”. So behind me was the classic General Stores shop, from days when the west was still wild. I’d left Andy & Andy behind, both on classic travels. I climbed out of Cochrane and before long I was on sound ripio. I climbed, descended, hit bad ripio, climbed, decended, climbed. I made approx. 32 km and I made the confluence of the Rio Brávo and Rio Neff. I met several cyclists heading south, and the NZ guy who was at the campsite, setting off behind me. He’d sort of caught me up with my 30 min break, and he had less food to carry.
The weather was a changing and now it rained solid. Not much I could do, but I started to suffer from bad chain suck once more, making riding difficult if not sometimes impossible in my climbing gears. I made a modification to the rear mudguard which helped a little, preventing it dumping most of the road surface onto the front ring & chain. Still it didn’t prevent it. The ripio grinding paste was crunching away, minute after minute, hour after hour. Jeeze, it sounded awful, crunch crunch crunch, but I had no choice. My chain and rings were being ground away at a very high rate. How much more can they take?
By around 3 pm I had made Puerto Bertrand where just after meeting a Japanese woman on bike who suggested I stay nearby given the weather. I started the climbed out when the front pannier seemed to be engaged with front wheel. Luckily the bottom bolt had decided to sheer clean off when I was doing only 4 kmph. I had a spare for such eventuality with a few drivers stopping by and seeing if I was ok. Well if it wasn’t raining, being wet and covered in the worst grinding paste the ripio road could throw at my chain I’d be fine, Panniers ok!
Still it was around 5:30 come 6 pm when I decided I would no longer continue I stopped at Bahia Catalina. The last place habitable place, in a paying sense, missing the big bridge I was hoping to reach. Met Patricio and Muriel, or at least I think that was her name. I’m sorry but she told me numerous times, as she was sampling her local vineyard output whilst I used her estufa to cook my pasta while she cooked bread. I think her name was Muriel, I wished I’d paid attention, but boy was I tired. All I wanted to do was eat and get into my tent to sleep.
I hung my clothes on a make shift line under the only dry tree, showered in an unused cabin, to find on returning that the rain had made it through the humongous tree and was now liberally pouring water onto what was semi-dry underclothes. Sadly wet was I and the clothes sopping. I decided they could do no harm staying put and by some un-Godly hour I rescued some, a bit drier with the ferocious winds and a cessation of the rain.
Day 17, 16th December. I was hoping to make Bahia Murta today, although the first 49 km to Puerto Rio Tranquilo were tough, ups and downs, head wind, bad ripio, heavy showers. I met a French woman, many French in Patagonia(!), travelling south who gave me some good info on places to stay, 1 km past Bahia Murta Junction.
Made Puerto Rio Tranquilo where I bought some cheese after deciding I need Kcals when I noticed my five day rations included “Atun en Agua” and after entering various restaurants and declining their wares I ate a sort of pasty made with salchicha and cheese, washed down with coke, I needed power. The restaurants were selling sandwiches and tourist tosh. I needed a proper “El Menu” and it wasn’t there to be found. Still I pushed on and the ups and downs slowly petered out as I past the lake edge [notably where North Face Founder passed away last year, Laguna General Carrera] to take on the river running south from the cross roads with Bahia Murta. I had semi-contemplated running another 10 km further up the river valley where there was a good wild camping spot. However I made the 1 km past Bahia Murta and chose to stay there. It was raining solid again. 2,500 CHP for camping, so it was a deal, although only 7,000 for a bed. I ate there too, although the wine at 187ml was smaller than I’d hoped for. Still a bargain, camping, wine & food at 10.000 CHP (about £12). I try to take photos of my camping spots and now this my 17th night under canvas I had a nice rainbow. Shot, as some others are in HDR, so colours may look a little bloomed, but that was all I could muster from the rain.
Day 18, 17th December. I was turning the pedals shortly before 7am, great, not so heavy rain, but light rain. The lovely winding road, came to a head at ~25 to 30 km. I ate 200g of mangar and half pack of biscuits washed down with coke, around 1000 Kcal, but then I reckon I’m burning 7-8000 Kcals per day. The sugar load would counter the tricky climbs to come. Sure enough legs were tired, struggling but after some coaxing they hauled the bike up and over the pass onwards. Once they’re wound up they just keep going, it’s getting them wound up. I made the summit and now with a tailwind instead of headwind I made it down to Bosque Muerte quite quickly. I would have stayed there but setting off early & the power in my legs I chose to forgo the overnight there and instead try for Villa Cerro Castillo. The last 30km were a tragedy. Chile is now extending the paved route south, so widening the road was one thing, but it could only be described as the worst road ever. Very loose stones, rocks and with cars and trucks occasionally passing at >>80 kmph throwing stones in every direction as they weave and snake around on the road spewing debris everywhere as they powered on, was grim – worse than the unride-able, rideable, road in Argentina! Still by 6pm I made it, 11 hours in the saddle and needing some wine I went to the local super. Wine & an avocado to go with dinner of pasta, tuna and sauce. Sorted! Camped at Silvia Urrieta, hot showers and shelter from the wind. One day ahead of my planning, so I’m now resting for the 18th Dec. Crisps, more white +1 red ltr of cycling juice, more avocados and onions and chocs away!
Day 19, 18th December. A rest day, sort out my photos, and realised my video camera shots had not recorded, new & cheap camera after my contour roam was dead. Right will get that fixed hopefully for tomorrow, there’s some steep climbs & nice descents to come. A good day to rest up as it was blowing a hooly once more.
Day 20, 19th December. Although I met a Japanese woman backpacking around South America, learning English, which didn’t sound right to me, saying she’d stayed places with barking dogs, I assured her it was nice and tranquil here. So at about 5:45 with dogs barking mad, I decided to up sticks. So I was turning those pedals once more by 6:50. An early start, but then I had a monster climb. No wind but gentle drizzle saw me make the 750m ascent before heavy rain started & then head winds. Before the next climb I met around 8 cyclists heading south. I stopped to speak with the first, an Italian chap on his way from Puerto Montt South, the rest… well there were too many.
I was soaking once more and with the strong head winds I loaded my carbs and prayed I’d get the 95km to Coyhaique. I just had to keep turning those pedals, avoid burning out and push on. The final 20 km were tricky as the winds were quite strong, gusty and with the road winding it was important not to hang around on the blind bends as this road was a heavy thorough fare. Damn sun came out around 3 km to Coyhaique, although the skies are pretty broody.
I found the area roughly where I’d stayed before so I should find accommodation. I opted for the first one I came across, and so now this is where I will rest up, setting off on the 21st. Hoping my Achilles tendon improves, as it’s been sore and quite swollen since the monster battle with the winds since Punta Arenas; well my foots not dropped off yet, so hoping it’ll stay on for the duration. Now I’m off for some grub……..