In an effort to not be completely lazy, I’ll post a little retrospective diary from our last three weeks… basically trip-to-date since the last retro-post. I can’t imagine it’ll get more frequent to post things like this as we’re heading into a much more remote part of the world, but we’ll see how it plays out… for now, please enjoy the following:
As I mentioned in my brief post from Valdivia, we left Chillán, Chile (despite numerous attempts to stay) while Tony departed for Valpo… you’ve all by now likely found out that he defected from our group to become a seasonal resident of Valparaiso and was immediately punished for his misbehavior there (read: voluntary assistance of a mobility-challenged old man down a steep hill) with a dislocated shoulder and broken camera. His ongoing exploits can be found here: Anthonywanderedaway.
As always, for bigger pictures you can click through to my Picasa page: here
After a night spent in the truckers’ lounge at a gas station about 5 miles outside of Chillán (where Dan slept in a warm bed with a full stomach), we returned to town and found a bus that would take us as far as Temuco, about 300km south. We opted out of this section because it would save us some time, while skipping a section of mostly monotonous farmland.
After paying a little extra and strongarming the busdriver, we were allowed to load all 4 of our bikes under the bus… (WARNING: The following picture is not for the faint-of-heart bike lover…)
Yes, there are 4 bikes in that picture… I promise.
I managed to snap a photo of the COPEC where we spent the night as we careened past it on the bus…
Doesn’t it just look comfortable? We proceeded to ride out from Temuco and were given the privilege of being able to wear our rain gear for the first time. We were lucky enough to ride a road that was under heavy construction while in a massive deluge of fairly cold rain. Eventually it cleared and we found a beautiful campsite by a river, which is almost always our goal. One problem, the road down to the river was a six inch deep path of extremely thick mud. Here’s Derek the next day…
We found the first gas station we could to clean off our bikes and selves. From there we found a road to Theodoro Schmidt that wasn’t even on our maps… it was beautiful, though unpaved, and very enjoyable.
We ate cazuela, a wonderful Chilean soup with meat, corn, and potatoes, and then stocked up on supplies. This man found us so interesting that he rode his bike home to get his two sons so they could come meet us.
We also attracted the attention of several local children (who are all endlessly amazed by my blonde hair and beard). This particular specimen was covered head to toe in chicken pox.
We rode out of town looking for a river and found this incredible spot underneath a huge willow tree.
It was beautiful and had a great, elevated dry area for us to set up our tents but still had a sandy beach for our campfire and picture taking…
From there we headed out toward the coast, which we followed down toward Valdivia.
We were greeted by some spectacular views…
And some spectacular hills…
In an effort to conserve our brake pads, we hit nearly 50 mph when the conditions are right. Our lightest rider, Derek, has topped 43 mph on his cyclocomputer, and the rest of us can go even faster thanks to our added weight.
Here’s our last campsite before Valdivia: a wheat field in between eucalyptus groves overlooking a river.
We basically pick out rivers and lakes on the map within a reasonable distance and aim to camp at them that night. In Valdivia, however, we stayed at a cabaña.
We got showers, beds, and even a mime show… this was the first time all trip that I felt unaffected by the language barrier.
We took a great gravel road out of town in the direction of Osorno. We don’t like riding on the highways, naturally, so we aim for a happy medium of ease of travel and off-the-beaten-path whenever we can.
This particular road took us way farther into remote Chile than even we expected.
This road was basically used by logging trucks and nothing else. We probably road 20 miles between sightings of other people.
We camped by a public landing on another river that night and then took a ferry across the next day for a dollar a person.
The next day we began to see the volcanoes between Osorno and Bariloche, Argentina in the distance.
After passing through Osorno and spending some time in the main plaza, we moved on again. We found another beautiful campsite on a river. We took advantage of this one to do some river laundry.
We headed toward a lake southeast of Osorno to avoid taking the highway. The lake was called Lago Llanquihue and we ate lunch in Puerto Octay, a small town right on the water. Here’s Dan admiring the view…
This was the view of Volcan Osorno from where we sat and ate…
We took another beautiful road along the lake that was all rolling hills. I stopped to take a picture of the volcano and one of South America’s four species of camelids. Can you name them? If not, find a wonderful young woman at BHCHP named Carrie Eldridge-Dickson and ask her. She knows them all.
The paved roads in Chile are almost always lined with reflectors in various colors. Here’s a close-up of one of them… If anyone knows an Ennis, tell them about it. I’m sure they’d get a kick out of it.
We took a break in Puerto Varas, a touristy little town just north of Puerto Montt that is clearly trying to capitalize on being a gateway to Patagonia. It was beautiful and had a vibrant plaza. One of the coolest parts about Chile is that just about every town has a Plaza de Armas; a park-like place in the center of town that serves as a commercial and social centerpiece for the community. I’d love to see that in the states, but it’d have to be a part of the urban planning process to work. From Puerto Varas we camped just outside of town in a very dirty campsite that, unfortunately, we never captured on camera. I’ll show you all the black stains on my gear upon my return that came from the ashy substance that formed the base of our campsite. From Puerto Varas we took a gravel road a little ways south and then charged the highway all the way down to Pargua, where we took a ferry across the Canal de Chacao to the grand isle of Chiloe. Before the ferry, we stocked up on goodies and snagged a picture of Dan with a new friend.
Seeing the ocean again was a beautiful sight as we’d been pounding out boring highway miles into a headwind.
We made sure to watch several ferry loads pass us by while crushing a couple empanadas each. Note Zach’s form in this picture: he lifts his right leg up onto the bench to increase his leverage and look way more extreme while eating.
We eventually loaded our stuff onto the ferry and cruised across to Chiloe.
Shortly after arriving in Chacao, Chiloe, Chile, we headed for the beach and found a washed up boat to camp next to…
The guys wouldn’t look at the camera, and you can see why.
The next day we broke camp and started out onto a long day of gravel from Chacao to Quemchi, a cool little town on the water. We never ride too long between snack breaks…
We grabbed some afternoon grub in Quemchi and then found a camp spot along the road from the town out to highway 5, with the goal of riding pavement on Zach’s birthday into Castro. It was very hilly, so we rewarded ourselves with a beer at the end of the day. We made sure to save one, and gave it to Zach in the morning of his 26th birthday.
We got ourselves a room in a hospedaje in Castro for the night and went out in search of food, drink and entertainment. The next day, we spent some time lounging in the plaza in Castro, tuning our bikes and taking turns catching up on the internet.
On the way out of town we made a point to ride past the beautiful row of traditional houses that are pictured on most postcards from Chiloe.
From Castro we had no choice but to ride Highway 5 south toward Quellon, the southern tip of the island of Chiloe. At this point it was more of a country road, which was nice. As we’d left Castro early afternoon, we didn’t make it far before looking for camp. We found a lush field of grass tucked away behind a bus stop on top of a huge hill. It may have been initially appealing because of the climb up, but it ended up being very comfortable as well.
On the road to Quellon, we passed this sign for Quilipulli and for some reason thought of our friend Tara Hostnik. Who knows why, but we figured we’ll post it anyways.
We got to Quellon in good time and found it to be a beautiful port city and not much else.
As luck would have it, we ran into a couple of other bike tourists (Eric and Kert, a father and son combo) that we’d met in the plaza in Castro. They told us about the great campground they were staying in and invited us up to accompany them to a local fair that was taking place that night. It was a wise decision to take them up on their offer because as luck, once more, would have it, we’d missed the only ferry for the week and would become old friends with Eric, Kert and the other bike tourists staying at Camping Paico. Kert and Eric are on the far right.
We got to see a DOUBLE RAINBOW ALL THE WAY ACROSS THE SKYYYYY…
Before we left, we made sure to get a picture with Omar, the proprietor of the campground. It’s a family operation at Paico’s, with Omar, his wife, and their adorable 2 year old José. If any of you happen to find yourself in Quellon (or anywhere remotely close), you have to go stay there. The location was great, the facilities were fantastic, and the hospitality was extraordinary. Omar, who is a chef in his other life, showed us a great way of cooking salmon, with sausage, onion and tomato. He taught Dan how to de-bone and prepare the salmon and helped with the whole process. Incredible.
As any of our regular followers know, we then opted out of our boatride to Chaiten (it’d have been a week wait) and took a sooner boat to Puerto Chacabuco, which lasted 28 hours. After barely making it to the boat (of course, being us, we nearly missed it), we grabbed what we needed for the ride and stowed our bikes. My campground project was whittling a wooden cribbage board, which we put to good use. The first evening on the boat was a rough one… the boat listed so hard at times that dishes in the galley broke and people were shrieking. This was no small boat, either, as it held a few hundred people and a couple dozen automobiles both big and small. When morning came, the waters had calmed and we were treated to a day of smooth sailing (motoring?). We stopped at several incredible ports, some of which could only shuttle people back and forth from shore with small boats.
Apparently, the residents of these ports are mostly fishermen and ex-convicts. The scenery from the boat was breathtaking, to say the least.
We were told that Chile has over 3700 islands, many of which we sailed through. We took the southern-most route on this map, from Quellon to Puerto Chacabuco.
We successfully made it to Chacabuco, where we were greeted by the Gutierrez family, whom Dan met while studying in Coihaique while abroad in Chile 2 years ago. They’ve been incredible hosts and we can’t thank them enough for putting us up and putting up with us. Carmen, the mother, is manager of a fish packing plant in Chacabuco. Katty, the daughter, whom Dan met during his studies, is in architecture school in Santiago but is home for the summer. Helga, the eight-year old daughter is a big fan of Hannah Montana and is destined to be on the Disney Channel some day. Their father is a deep sea fisherman who left on a 3 month trip the day before we got here. He’s gone for up to 10 months at a time, and we’re sad we missed him. The Gutierrez’ live in Puerto Aysén, a beautiful town situated between mountains. Here we are walking into the town center over the longest suspension bridge in Chile, vaguely reminiscent of the Golden Gate Bridge.
We’ve also taken advantage of being able to leave our bags at the house and ride light and nimble unweighted touring bikes out to the river farther down. We even tried our hand at fishing, Chilean style.
We’re setting out tomorrow for the Carratera Austral, via Coihaique. We’re very excited to get the next phase of our travels underway and are looking forward to being back on the road. The Carratera is a mecca of sorts for bicyclists and outdoorspeople alike. It’ll be a dream come true for the four of us, for sure.
We’ll miss the Gutierrez family and appreciate the neverending hospitality they’ve blessed us with. We’re planning to head south to the end of the Carreterra, Villa O’Higgins. From there we’ll take a ferry across to Argentina and ride farther south past Monte Fitz Roy, and head further south toward the infamous Torres del Paine. Our final goal is to make it to Puerto Natales, and then work our way to Punta Arenas to facilitate travel back north… but we’ll cross that bridge if, and hopefully when, we come to it.
For now, we hope you’ve enjoyed our exploits and pictures. It’d please us greatly if we manage to somehow inspire you to try something new this year. Bicycle touring is easy and affordable, and a great way to experience a place you know well in a new way or a new place in a unique way. Give it a try!
All the best and keep those comments coming!