Bicycle paradise at the southern road – first 500km

Long awaited carretera austral, beautiful nature, many cyclists and nights in paradise

After the night between the seats we are leaving the boat around 8am. It’s foggy and Chaiten doesn’t look very attractive, so we keep moving … Newly paved road along a curvy river and the valley surrounded by steep rocky mountains with the tops in clouds – it reminds us Viňales.

We are at the carretera austral! 🙂 It’s hard to believe.

Havana seemed to be too far for us when we started to bicycle in Santiago de Cuba. And Patagonia? That was unreachable place at the other hemisphere far far away… and now, after 7000km pedaling and 10 months on the road this is our cherry at the top of the cake :). The clouds disappear and and we are in middle of beautiful nature without people, few traffic just paradise around us.

In a small village Amarillo we visit the best souvenir/sport equipment/hardware/food store – they have everything and it’s even possible to find it (there are many other places where they have everything but nobody knows where). After buying some basics we continue on a forest road 5 km up the hill to the known thermal springs.

We are here – destroyed but satisfied that next 2 days we’ll just lay in the hot water and relax … no no no! The man on the other side of the fence says “CERRADO” – closed. Are you kidding me?! Where was some information down at the crossroads or in the shop? I’m so pissed off that the *** can be happy he’s behind the fence. These people don’t realize that “only 5km uphill” is totally different for cyclist and car driver.

At least he tells us about a free camping in a private nature park Pumalin which isn’t on the maps because it’s in private hold of millionaire Thompkins – the founder of North Face and Esprit (the Chileans don’t like him).

I put the sign “CLOSED” on a road sign to the thermas. The passing workers tell me it’s not allowed – so what, it’s only on a paper.

Pumalin is neat and tidy with nicely cut lawns and a camping spot with a shed and dry latrine and view to glaciers. There are many big burdocks – like from Alice in wonderland. We do loundry in the river and then also wash ourselves (tough moments in freezing water :D). Just the big horse flies make us mad. Romanian cyclist Alex comes in the evening and we stay up long in the light of a candle (found next to the wooden church in Colo).

In the rainy morning we wait and tell funny stories – like the one about the expired insurance in Peru when we totally forgot about the date … “Oh fuck, what date is today? We are again not insured!” OK, we need to find internet as soon as possible.

Next night we spend in a camp with Belgian family traveling in a off-road car in South America. With milky tea from the water from glacier river we talk till night. Next day we go for a 5-hours walk in a primeval forest (our forest would look like this if nobody takes care of them for 500 years), through rivers until a glacier. Walking on steep rocky slope isn’t very comfortable without insurance. There are many beautiful stones there – if we could just teleport them home, we would create a private stone pit :).

Next 3 hours we slowly climb a steep rocky gravel road but the view awaiting us there is magnificent and we stay staring at sharp rocky hills like our Tatras.

After renewing the insurance in Villa Lucia we are on the bad roads again. After 30km of this torture we see a tandem bike – opportunity to have a rest and chat. It’s a young French couple in our age but as most of the French we met – they speak bad Spanish and almost no English. After 10min of difficult communication we want to leave, but the road workers just closed the roads for 15min … great. We stand on the road and think if we’ll return to the French guys, but we don’t want that much…

After a while Christian comes and invites us for coffee… In the meantime the worker waves on us 3 times and lets the traffic go twice. Christian and Cami are great! Just their Spanish is weaker – like our at the beginning (arm and leg language:)) and we forgot that everybody has the right to learn. Our bicycling speed is different but many times in next days we meet for coffee or we camp together.

The worst habit here is definitely the siesta – of course they are Spanish who have the afternoon nap in their blood but they have at least the weather condition reason for that, but here? No hot weather here and still everything is closed from 1pm to 3-4-5pm – depends how they feel … and we are always so lucky to get to the village at 1:30. And because the villages and therefor the shops are 40-50km from each other (one day of cycling) we don’t have any other option that waiting – we are addicted to their great bread, pates and chocolate milk :).

Patagonia is also a great source of fresh water – it’s drinkable in every stream without purifying. We also wash in the streams and curse the beautiful glaciers above us (yes, the rivers start there).

There are also many cyclists here. We met really high-tech ones whose bicycle with all luggage is lighter than our pure bicycles and which cost more than half year of our traveling … but also guys who bought theirs for 120usd in supermarket and just go.

Carretera Austral (the southern road) is worldwide known bicycle paradise and more than half of the cyclist come just for this part here (another reason is that not everybody want to quit job to have half-year holiday for longer traveling :D). The main characteristic of these “short-distance” cyclists is their irritating excitement from every flower, tree, hill, waterfall or river … on the other hand, surviving a day with this kind of guy helps to realize that maybe it’s time to go home! Yes, everybody should be this excited, enthusiastic and amazed from every little thing here in one of the most beautiful places on earth … unfortunately, we aren’t anymore.

But the bosque encantado (delighted forest) amazes us – it looks like from a fairy tale. Everything is incredibly green and full of life – plant grows on another plant and another two are growing on top of those. Above the forest we find a 200m waterfall and build a snowman from some unmelted snow there. The Belgians told us there is something amazing at the top of the trail so we continue walking … really, awesome blue lagoon under a glacier with 2 waterfalls full of big pieces of floating ice.

Bicycling in this part of Chile isn’t easy: up and down, bad road, wind and rain … but still the sceneries around are like nowhere else. Glaciers, clear rivers, beautiful lakes and lagoons, dense green forests, fields full of violet and yellow flowers, fjords, small towns and few car traffic … it deserves its name – bicycling paradise!

Also the cyclist who we meet again and again give us feeling that there are many friends around. One of unforgettable meetings was meeting Joey Shonka who is walking from the most southern point of South America to the most northern (yes, just waling!). His worn and destroyed boots don’t allow him to walk in mountains now where he normally goes and so we have the luck to meet him on his 166th day on the road (2 more years to go). Is is perfect noon break in his company – big man with great hearth.

It’s morning and the sun shining on the tent wakes us up. I get out of the tent and see that we’ve found again a exclusive camp spot – field full of flowers surrounded by mountains. Jan wears big smile and with a bunch of wild flowers he wishes me all the best for my name-day. Yes, it’s Christmas again (or – in the morning still my name day :))!

The plan is clear – get 30km more to Cohyaique, meet the French, find a camp where we can cook something better than pasta with dried soup and find internet to see after 2 weeks our parents through skype again…

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