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Bump in the night

Watching those power lines next to the road I could see them snaking off into the distance over the brow.  Did they climb the hill or descend?  It was difficult to tell.  I cycled on trying to gauge whether the road went left, right or straight on.  If it went straight on, I was on for a moderate climb, to the right I would be on a more steep ascent, to the left I could relax as the road would level out.  And so passed many a day trying to read how the road, ripio mostly, would greet me in the next few hundred metres.  It was a necessary to have chosen the right gear ratios, often the granny ring on the ascents, knuckling down to the climbs that often ensued.  And so most of the days passed like this whenever the road wasn’t nice n easy.

Day 26, 25th December.  Well the excitement of the day was all but over now, Christmas card opened from my father.  It could possibly challenge for the Guinness world record for the smallest card, thankfully snuggly fitting into my wallet and weighing almost nothing.  Practically everyone had left save a guy from Arkansaw, US. He was a pleasant guy, hitchhiking his way around the Americas.  I bought my final provisions, enough to easily see me north to El Chaíten, passing La Junta.  It was getting late now and another cyclist rolled in, the same Irish guy I met in Calafate.  He still looked well travelled.  I decided on an early night so I could make the distance tomorrow.

Day 27, 26th December.  Thus after an early wake I was on the road by around 7am.  I can’t recall the exact time, but I rolled out of Puyuhuapi and started the climb out of town Northwards.  It was quiet, thankfully cool but hints of drizzle and rain in the air.  I was promised a short section of ripio, around 8km, after which I would be blessed with paved road all the way north.  And so after the ripio I hit the paved section.  My legs feeling a mix of both refreshed and tight after failing to cycle the previous days, I powered on and reached La Junta by 11.  I feasted on Manjar and biscuits, knowing this would help for the kilometres to come.  There were quite a few hitchhikers waiting in La Junta and with little traffic they may have to wait sometime.  I was disappointed when I hit ripio after 10 or so km out of La Junta.  Where was the promised paved road?  The sun was coming out now and the day was changing from the cool wet day, how it started, to a hot scorching dusty one.

The road, La Carratera Austral, has changed.  From when I cycle this section in 2008, I could barely recognise many sections.  The road widened, side vegetation cut back, and many of the quaint bridges I found back then have all but been removed.  Big steel corrugated tubes, silently replacing the bridges and allowing the now incognito arroyos under the road.  I met six cyclists of varying nationality heading south.  My legs were struggling now, but I could reach the 100+km distance and make a camping area just south of Sta Lucia.  I arrived around 4:30 and put the tent up, relaxed, took some photos and prepared dinner.  Pasta again, with tuna and a sauce of cheese and some salsa.  An Argentinian was camping when another rolled in, both from Bariloche.  The second guy had a Mapuche flag on his bike, and from the photo it seems he was trying to get it into his tent!  What some people do with their bikes is their own business, but in the midst of Patagonia on Ruta 7 there’s little need to protect the bike so much.

Day 28, 27th December.  I was off again early.  I knew I’d have a stiff climb in the morning.  I wasn’t disappointed.  The 500m ascent north of Sta Lucia was paved on the steep sections.  My legs now having recovered allowed a non-stop ascent.  I reached the end of the paved section and after a km or so of ripio I found the section on which they were working.  Whilst all the traffic had to use the single ripio carriageway I cheated and hopped the bike onto the freshly made concrete section.  Handy in many ways, not least I could ignore any passing traffic, safe on my own little section.  Again the day was warming up.  I met a few groups of cyclists heading south most not stopping but giving a short wave or nod of the head.  Many more cyclists than I’ve ever seen here.  I made El Chaíten by mid afternoon.  Found a hospedaje where I could pitch the tent, showered and dreamed of what I could cook.  I was surprised by how influential some of my cooking had been.  Several occasions now I’ve had other tourists cooking up the same or very similar dishes based on what they could see I was cooking, or just the cooking smells.  I had wondered how often this happened, when I found myself buying some potatoes, after being reminded of their value by the travelled Irish guy in Puyuhuapi.  So I par-boiled some potatoes, before shallowing frying in butter, some softened onions and possibly one of the best steaks I’ve ever had the pleasure of cooking.  Yum and I had some chips left over for tomorrow.

Day 29, 28th December. I’d managed to gain a few days spare, from burning rubber on the highway, now I had notice that the ferry left at 1pm from Caleta Gonzalo to Hornopíren.  Another early day, 6:30am and I had to make the ferry.  The road now transformed back into the Carratera Austral I remember of old.  Lots of little rises, narrow sections, overhanging vegetation, little wooden quaint bridges and the deep throng of bird song.  Volcán Chaíten smoking away I made the boarding post with only tens of minutes to spare.  I cycled to the front and saw a large flat-bed truck, which later I realised had only arrived to dump some cement bags before returning northwards; There was no way it would have been able to travel the road I’d just come along.

Now the ferry journey involves two ferries and a land bridge between the two.  The 10km section, super dusty and travelled by all the vehicles in close convoy, kicking up plumes of dust, whacky races fashion.  My options were to cycle at impossible speeds in this cloud, or persuade someone to put my bike on the back of their pickup.  The lorry was ideal, so after asking nicely Elso kindly let me place the bike on the back of this super-rig.  On board were two other Chileans, all from Valdivia.  Ow my Spanish, albeit some reckon it’s Mexican(!), is reasonably versed in coarse Chilean, so I had little trouble understanding the dialogue between the truckers.  So funny to hear their chit chat as they discussed … well I’ll let you imagine.  They even introduced me to a drink of toasted flour, water and sugar.  I suppose it cuts out the middle man [baker].

On board the final boat towards Hornopíren the bike was dismounted and I relaxed on the top deck, knowing I’d stolen another free day.  I found a hospedaje in the nearby town, but not after eating a fine meal of potatoes and meat at the local comedor.  Hospedaje Central: Never again, weird people.

Day 30, 29th December.  I was so far ahead of schedule now that I had enough time to take a detour along V-69 counter clockwise around volcán Calbuco.  The fjord was majestic albeit quite tough going as I’d now joined some loose, very undulating ripio.  I found a spot to wild camp, little spot for the tent, nearby stream, little beach area.  I washed, drank some wine, enjoyed my pasta dish once more and watched the sun set.

Sometime during the night I heard a moped sound and then decided it probably was a chainsaw.  Odd time of day, but it was really windy and I wondered if a tree had fallen over the road, with an enterprising individual keen to travel happening to have his chainsaw to hand.  Next thing I could hear crashing noises and it sounded like the part cut tree was now falling down the hillside.  At first it didn’t worry me but after a few seconds I realised it was not stopping.  It was coming straight for my tent.  Hell!  I couldn’t do very much, the crashing growing by the second.  I was trapped, pitch black outside, stuck in the enclosed tent and a tree tumbling straight towards me.  I tried to lay flat but knowing that was of little use.  I really thought I was going to die.  The ground shuck as the object thundered past, and I mean it really shuck. I had evaded death and somehow the tree, or was it a very large boulder, had thundered past and now probably in the sea not far away.  I heard the vehicle move off.

Daytime, I scanned the area.  No fallen trees, no obvious or evidential signs of a rock fall.  Maybe it was another earthquake.  I will never really know, but I do know that after asking around the following day someone said they had heard or felt a small quake in the night and the internet had recorded something around the time.  Maybe it was that, or maybe it had triggered a rock fall?  It sort of shuck me up and I’d had trouble sleeping afterwards. Talk about bumps in the night, I was quite shaken.

Day 31, 30th December. I made Cochamó for an early lunch, feasting on Empanadas de Camarón con Queso and Salmón con Queso.  Yum.  I loaded up at the nearby mini-supermarket ready for new year.  I reached Ralún where I camped for the night.  Not a nice place and I’d give it a big miss in the future.  Camping was expensive and no hot shower.  Es tibia, said the owner.  Yer, but a warm shower is nicer than a tepid one!  The sky changing now, looking very angry.  It lashed it down all night.

Day 32-33, 31st December and 1st Jan.  I had just started to use iOverlander. A nice little program which lets you log useful info such as wild camping spots.  They’re centrally shared, so it’s good to find somewhere to rest up.  I’d not used it ‘til now, and I wanted somewhere to hole up for New Year. I made the spot, alongside Lago Llanquihue.  I was later joined by Marcel, a Swiss hand gliding fanatic, who’d been travelling Chile and Argentina looking for some thermals.  I think I drank a lot of wine, but then it was new year’s eve.  I was up at 8, a late start, but then I went back to bed.  I rested up knowing I’d got myself checked in to the Holiday Inn [Express] in Puerto Montt for the 2nd!

Day 34, 2nd Jan.  Until now I’ve been blessed with no punctures.  Well, except for a slow leak on the sleeping mat, but that can be fixed at home.  I’d loaded the bike and I was just pulling out the rig from its parking bay when I realised the front was, like a pancake.  I decided to shove some air in & hope it was a slow.  Sure enough it held and I picked up a lovely tail wind all the way to Puerto Varas.  I took some photos, to claim my visitation there, before heading off to Puerto Montt, my final destination.  The tail wind helped me make record time, but not before the front tyre let go of its air.  I pumped it up again but made only a few minutes so I decided to strip it down & fix the leak.  There was no leak I could find, it was holding fine when I had the tube in my hands.  So covered in brake dust, aluminium rim dust, ripio dust and other grime I reassembled the bike and sped in to Puerto Montt, helped by the tail wind.  All just in time to miss the heavy afternoon downpours.  I had reached the end of the Carratera Austral: Well for this trip anyway 🙂

I’d hoped for some empanadas but they’d sold out.  I had Salmón Cerviche, two lots and it was yummy.  I waited until the allotted check-in time and made it towards the sanctuary of the Holiday Inn Express in Puerto Montt.  I collected some tokens for a washing machine in the gym.  Multiple trips to lift the bike paraphernalia from the ground floor to my room on the 9th.  I had secured a balcony with king size bed.  Thanks IHG Rewards Programme.  Bike secured on the balcony I went to the nearby mall to buy some provisions.  Stella was available & cheaper than the local stuff.  I bought two six packs, I needed to wash the dust from my throat.  Phoned home and relaxed.  Here was my little place I could call my own for a day or so, soaking in a hot tub, sipping a beer, watching telly and enjoying home comforts that I’d missed over the last month.

Bar a bike dismantle, discardation of unnecessary weight, download of some gps logs and a final stretch of my legs, I’m all but ready to fly home.  Some pics attached.

Xmas & 7.6 Terromoto

Day 21, 20th December.  Overstay in Coyhaique opting for a precooked chicken with Thai frozen vegetables, cooked in the kitchen of the hospedaje.  Watched a few films before drifting off to the sounds of noisy neighbours in the room next door. Kid kicking off who needed some strong discipline! [A few slaps around the head wouldn’t go amiss]

Day 22, 21st December. The bike packed, and although I’d put some sun cream on it was wishful thinking as the rain continued to pour down.  I headed out of town and made it over the highpoint North from town towards Aysén.  I was close to the snow line and it was cold.  When they forecast snowy showers I thought not at 45o latitude on the summer solstice, but there you go.  Shortly thereafter I switched right to pick up ripio on the much less used Ruta 7.  Passed Ortega, not much happening there, pushed on and started dropping down towards the junction with Aysén and Mañihuales.  Before hitting the junction I met several Gauchos droving cattle up the road.  Another awesome sight & just another reason why riding the Carretera Austral is so worth it, despite the bad ripio, winds and almost constant rain.

I stopped at a San Sebastian shrine, as it had sheltered roof, where I met Daniele who stocked up the candles in the shrine, a truck driver with a full load of leña [fire wood].  It was a short distance before I reached paved road and now picked up a tail wind to push me into Mañihuales.  On arriving in town I met two Canadians and a German, Vic Liz and Anatolia[?].  They were heading further south but I’d finished now for the day so I stayed at a local campsite.  I finished the last of the chicken and defrosted, frozen veg, some cheese and I was sorted.  I could pick up wifi in their garage, just enough to phone home.

Day 23, 22nd December.  The day was mixed windy and I planned to make the 90km to the junction with the road to Cisnes.  It was paved all the way which was pleasant given this route was ripio back in 2008.  It was another wet day, not many photos.  Wild camping and wet to boot.

Day 24, 23rd December.  I was off nice n early and after 1km I was back on ripio.  I made the 500 metre ascent over and down towards Puyuhuapi and after sage advice I made it through the road works before they shut.  I touch scary nonetheless overtaking large construction machines as they dug, scrapped and generally made the new road to be. I soon rolled in to Puyuhuapi and passed two English guys I’ been slowly catching up, although they had a few reasons for going slow & overstaying in Coyhaique longer than normal.  A Scottish guy gladly took some of my excess suncream.  He & a girl from Montana had been picking shell fish and almost done they gleefully told the owner of the campsite.  Her face fell then she started ranting about them dying from algal food poisoning.  After a shortwhile I think they got the message, but not after using a good slug of my expensive white wine for cooking!  Oh well, in the bin they went.

Day 25, 24th December.  So I would take today and the 25th December as rest days.  Met Werner and his wife who were driving the green grasshopper, an RV which I first met on the first day out from Punta Arenas.  Myself, Adam, Dave and the German couple teamed up & went for a nice Christmas meal. Met Wallace and Frederica a Swede cycling, well practically everywhere.

Now the 25th, everyone’s left and I’m nice n alone. Wifi now works on the laptop.  Was around 11:25 local time when we had a bit of an earthquake.  Sounded like someone slamming the building [a wooden shack / comedor] & then I realised it was what it was & so left for the yard.  It was a bit like having ten pints and trying to walk in a straight line.  I hadn’t had ten pints and it was kind of odd to have the earth moving around so.  Epicentre still hit around just over 100 km away.  7.6 magnitude.  Locals were a bit scared, cars jumping around, trees wobbling like they were in a force 10+.  I’m advised it was a ‘big one’ by the locals & seems the BBC picked up on it pretty quickly.  We had warning to evacuate after a half hour due to Tsunami, but this was eventually stood down, although to be honest Puyuhuapi is pretty much protected due to the complex fiords around here.

Now ready to make my Christmas dinner of: Longaniza, Pasta, onion, garlic, pepper, tomato & cheese.  Ready for a mega push tomorrow Northwards.

NB: Huemules are a mythical creature, created by Chilean and Argentinian Governments, to surreptitiously get motorists to slow down.  Check out the conspiracy theories!

Some GPX tracks

I’ve attached some GPX / KML tracks for those interested in the route so far. I can’t upload to wordpress, so you’ll find them via the links below :-

here KML

and

here GPX (zip compressed)

Maybe you can upload to Google Earth or other such map browser.

I suspect my next post will be in 2017 as I head North on the final leg of the Carretera, so wishing you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

 

Ripio Grinding Paste

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……..

Al Terminal de la Carretera Austral

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:

Orange Road Kill

I’d done a quick tour of Calafate, bought some provisions for the road to Chaltén, almost ready to go.  I returned to the camp site, where I could get wifi & upload the last blog.  I’d met Patrick, from France, on arriving & we chatted some more.  He was off early in the morning South, travelling from Puerto Montt to Ushuaia but then he was returning back on a differing route.  His link is http://itinerancevelo.blogspot.com.ar/

I’d decided on an all you can eat Parilla however just before that Shaun, an Irish guy turned up on a Dawes bike.  I learned later he’d been up & down South America quite a lot, and to be fair he looked ‘traveled’ like his panniers.

I made the Parilla, but I failed to eat all I wanted of the All you can eat meat platter.  Damn, I was so hoping to eat more 😦

I left early on Tuesday, hoping to make good headway & perhaps make El Chaltén in two days.  The wind was with me for the first 30km but then on turning North, leaving the road I traveled in on the day before, I hit headwind. It was a long day, but in the end I made it past La Leona, where I could have stayed, but pushed on to meet Epauli (I think this is the spelling) and Emma, on a tandem, both from France.  I left them to push on as I turned onto Ruta 23 for the final 90km push to Chaltén.  I made a few km before I decided the ditch was a better place to be.  Windy… Phew you bett-ya.  I ate my canned Merluza and peas.  Mmmm, not again.  I’m saving my cheese & tuna pasta dish for another day.

I needed a nature break at midnight & with some stars out I took the opportunity to try some snaps despite some cloud, moon & descending sun.  The wind had died down but it was getting cold.  Orion on his head, again and the Southern Cross were visible, along with the Milky-Way.

I woke later at 5 something and it was time to get up.  By 6:15 I was pushing those pedals again, but it was without headwind.  As I was travelling due West along a very long lake I knew the wind would kill me if I didn’t move it.  Those mountains in the distance didn’t look 90km away although they were.  So the only thing that changed for most of the day was the time and the distance covered.  I rolled in to Chaltén just after 12.  After stopping at the National Park Info centre and then the town info centre I was armed with all the info I needed.  I visited Zona Austral who gladly sold me the tickets for both boats.

Now you may be wondering about the title of the post.  Well this sort of thing has happened before and it’s weird.  In the middle of nowhere at the side of the road was a squashed orange and one which had survived becoming road kill.  No sign of anyone, no indications anyone’s left it on purpose.  It seemed fresh, no cuts nor bruises.  What gives?  I decided I’d give it a lift, only because it seemed lonely after its companion had become veggie road kill.

The Unrideable Road

So, after a wonderful say at Casa Lili’s, in Puerto Natales, armed with a new gas stove and provisioned up I had to say farewell.  After the crazy winds coming up Ruta 9 to Pto Natales I decided to head straight for Cerro Castillo, saving a day on the itinerary.  It was raining, so I wouldn’t see much of Los Torres, the winds had worried me for the schedule and I preferred to make the ferry in mid December to O’Higgins, which I just could if I was one day ahead of schedule, else loose four days.  I set out, bike loaded up with water, plenty of food. I missed the opportunity to pickup some Parmesan cheese for my pasta, especially annoyed as there was a free bag for the picking in the hostel.

After 60+ km I reached the frontera.  I saw another bike, CH plates.  He was engrossed in a plate of lomo alo pobre with papas fritas, he must have suffered but he now seemed to be in 7th heaven!  I bid farewell to Chile & made it the 7 km or so up a ripio road to Argentina. Ahead of me in the queue was an Australian guy having problems getting in, seems like he hadn’t printed out his receipt for the reciprocity charge; He was stuck in no man’s land between Chile & Argentina.  I made another 4 to 5 km and reached the main Ruta 40, Argentina’s superhighway from North to South on the western flank.  I knuckled down & set off hoping to reach Aike Gas station from where I’d turn left to head for Calafate.

I met Grys (something like that), who was cycling southbound & he warned me off the route.  2nd cyclist to do so.  “It’s unrideable” he said, “Bad ripio”.

So I had a dilemma, to listen to the Arthur & Grys, or just go for it.  If I took the long route I’d be adding a cool 80+ km on and wiping out any advantage I’ve just made, or take the route and perhaps suffer to regret the decision.  At the junction I turned on to the unrideable road.  After about 5 km I met Manuel, “from Spain”, he told me, although I wondered if he was from Barcelona.  “You’ll have to walk sections, it’s quite lumpy with big rocks.”  Well we’d find out!

I camped after making 132 km for the day, nearly 8 pm, as I had wanted to get as much distance as possible, shortening the 70 km section, now by another 18 km.  Just 50+ km more to do in the morning before proper asphalt again.  It had been lumpy so far.  Fired up the stove & had my first pasta dish, Tuna in Tomato sauce, without the cheese. 😦  I’m regretting the cheese.

I had to force myself out of bed the next morning, after the distance the previous day I wasn’t for it.  Still I was off by 7:30 and it wasn’t long before I hit the rough stuff.  By 9 I met Tim & Mikayla both from Switzerland.  How so, wasn’t this the unrideable road?  They both agreed that the road wasn’t easy but it was no different to other tricky routes.  Maybe the rumour came about by those starting in Ushuaia not having experienced bad ripio, and attributed the state to impassable without hours of pushing.  They themselves had started at an ungodly hour of 4:30, worrying about the rumours!  I certainly have experienced far worse for much longer durations, so I was eventually glad when I finished the 70 km long section, and it was only around 1 pm, without much ado.  I forgot to mention, with only 7 km left on the route a car pulled over & asked if the road was like this all the way, hoping I’d say yes, or maybe gets better.  I said “No it gets worse!”  They weren’t best pleased, but then they were on the easy stuff.  “Hey look, I made it haven’t I, you’ll be fine” I said.  I wonder how they got on.

Still exhausted I had to eat biscuits and swill some precious coke down, I pushed on & passed two more sets of cyclists, ??? & Raul, and then Lucile & Tim. Lucile & Tim having started in Santiago were heading South.  I advised that the route was rideable.  With around 55 km left to go in to Calafate I rounded a bend & beheld the vista of the Calafate valley, with a good 600 m descent ahead.  I went 5 km on, and halfway on the descent found a nice-ish spot to camp.  Wasn’t ideal again, but it had a nice vista.

I reckon I now have around 50km in to Calafate, arriving the 5th, putting me two days ahead and making the O’Higgins Ferry on the 10th a possibility, hoping this will save me four to five days on the overall schedule, given ferry timetables, which I will gladly use on the Caraterra Austral, as rest days and visiting Tortel.

Post Edit: I made the 54 km to Calafate, even after a grilling by the city’s border patrol quizzing me on every aspect.  Hell it’s a good job I’m ok with Spanish, albeit I can’t understand the Spanish Spanish, it’s all Dutch to me. Thus after a quick reck’y of town I opted for the camping.  Great spot, cheap and avoids being cooped up.  Bought more provisions & looking forward to the all you can eat Parrilla.  I’m quite pekish…..

I thought once a washing machine was finished, it was finished, but not so here.

Quilmes anyone?