Rainy paradise on the southern road – another 500km

First injection, New Year’s Eve party, rainy days, theft and the last hours in paradise

We are not starting being hungry again but we sit at the table full of food from yesterday again – it needs to be finished. Except Alex in pain rest of us is content and happy.

Boris goes for a pharmacy tour in the town and returns with everything needed for this case of medical help. And it’s here – Evit hasn’t thought twice what she said “Of course I can give him the shot, I’m not going to feel it” – and now I have the injection, liquid drug and Alex in pain here … OK, I just cannot think about that too much and act! One shot of pisco for me because my hands are shaking, get the drug into the injection, disinfect his shoulder, smile to three cameras pointing at me and stick it in …

My first shot, nobody collapsed, we have more photos that from yesterday’s Christmas, Alex is alive and getting better. I would like to thank my mom (former nurse) who took us to her job and we were watching her secretly giving shots to patients.

It’s done – good reason for day-long celebration, relax and talk. We construct new alcohol beer-can stove and test it’s efficiency (boils 0.7l of water in 5min). In the evening we solve a mystery of disappeared bag with our rain equipment. We find it next to a neighbor house, all torn (but the clothes undamaged). The thief is running around with ears down and is looking how we are taking his catch back … dog-kleptoman :).

Two more days and we are leaving Coihayque – many posters offering our bicycles for sale stay there and one great friend Boris.

First day is mostly uphill on tarmac in beautiful nature and trying to escape a storm and against such a strong wind that we rather build the tent. We have company of young 21years old Australian cyclist who is exactly the type of hyper motivated traveler – one just wants her to shut up but is also thankful for the reminder how is to be excited by every small … thing.

The luxury tarmac disappears in Cerro Castillo village (known for a citadel shaped mountain), we have gravel under the wheels and enter the less inhabited southern part of Chile.

Still we meet many cyclists – French couple on cheap bicycles, Klaus from Germany, American, Australian girl, Italians, US/ES couple, another French on a tandem…

But the everyday company is unfortunately the rain – it’s raining almost every night and every morning we pack the tent wet. Days vary – nice, rainy, wind that it’s not even possible to push the bike, drizzling, fog, warm, cold … and sometimes all of it in one hour! We are changing clothes more ofthen than models :).

The nature is getting it’s amount of water, it’s 31.12. and we are sitting in front of tourist office in Rio Tranquilo (calm river), surfing internet on free wifi and deciding what to do … camp and company or continue and safe time and money?

Even when the weather gets better we decide to stay in camp with another 6 cyclists and 5 other travelers. The evening is in party mood and then we just stay staring when the elder French couple hits the dance floor – full of energy with perfect moves…

The New Year starts with laundry, drying things which are wet and smelly after pisco we had in one of the waterproof bags (yes, it’s waterproof also the other direction :)).

The biggest tourist attraction of Rio Tranquilo are beautiful marble caves formed by incredibly turquoise water in the lake. Jan doesn’t want to go for the tour because we need to wait for another people (min. number of people on the boat is 4).

We decide to continue bicycling but we have many thoughts in our heads … yes, the commercial touristic stuff looses its attractiveness but when many people from around the world come to see it, there must be something on it … yes, Machu Picchu is also nice, but the tourist business destroyed it’s power and beauty and we wouldn’t go there again … yes, we should hurry and don’t loose another day without pedaling, but on the other hand, the trip isn’t only about the transport …

Considering all pros and cons we decide to return. After some waiting we get on the boat and what we see is truly amazing … Marble curved by water into arcs, caves, towers and surrounded by that awesome turquoise water. If there are places worth to see and spend money, this is definitely one of them!

After this we are able to make only 12km out of the city, but we are content … the days aren’t only about counting kilometers but should be mainly about the experiences. Before sleep we are counting the days left and we see that we won’t have time to visit Torres del Paine (one of the most beautiful and known national parks in south America). Or we could get there but with so few time that we would need to hurry and couldn’t enjoy the sights peacefully. But this will be another reason to return one day! 🙂

The morning is slow but the timing is perfect to meet Klaus who started early from Rio Tranquilo. We go with him the whole day and he tells many stories and information – he’s an experienced cyclist who did trip around the world and many “shorter” trips and is finishing the Panamerican highway now.

Most of the time we stay next to the General Carrera lake which is even after 5th day still amazing – turquoise water, mountains with white caps – much much nicer that the know Titikaka lake in Peru/Bolivia!

We camp next to the riverhead of Rio Baker – full of energy right from the start, 20m wide with strong waves. Plus it’s blue color, nice surrounding and the valley full of the water noise. There is another Italian group of cyclists who almost start a forest fire when the bark of one tree start to burn (the fire place is just next to it). Firemen Jan holds small talk about it and even when he’s much younger that all of them, the fire-awareness gets better. 🙂

Next day we would like to start earlier, but destiny doesn’t like it. Everybody else is already cycling when we are trying to find solution how to fix our broken tent pole (the repair kit is a big fail – like for a different tent). We also fix torn panniers and realize that our racks are broken again and need to fix them too which creates another hour of delay.

2 days we bicycle along the light-blue artery of the south on incredibly inclined roads, We eat many calafate (like blueberries on spiky bushes), have amazing views. We stop at the viewpoint to Rio Baker and Neff confluence and leave our fully loaded bicycles just leaned on to the gate while we go for 20min walk to the water (Patagonia is one of the safest parts of the world and who would like to bicycle on this kind of roads, no?). We are a little scared on the way back, when we cannot see the bikes where we’ve left them … OK, we have the passports and some cards and camera with us, we can survive the lost of the other things… Fortunately somebody just needed to pass the gate and moved the bikes a little from the way, so we can just think of how we would react and if really wouldn’t miss the things (I doubt it :D).

In Cochrane we do shopping (they say it’s the last relatively cheap place), we meet cyclists and socialize in a camp.

Carretera austral is an interesting place on earth … It’s so beautiful when sun is shining, one thinks he just found a paradise full of lagoons, forests, white mountains, waterfalls … and when it’s rainy and windy, it’s a mystical paradise on earth :). Just the never-ending fence along the road is weird – even the most remote lands is owned by somebody!

We reach Tortel which lies on a cliff at a fjord. Because of the steep terrain the houses are build on pilings and connected by wooden stairways and bridge-walks. We’ve heard that at the end of the village is a free camp, so we carry the bikes 200 stairs down, up, down, bicycle on the bridges, up again, another long bridge and there is the open shed with electricity, burned fireplace, dry latrine and many calafate bushes around – just the nearest water is 1km walking…

We build the tent under the roof and because it’s still raining, we stay for 2 days. We write articles, relax (I’m taking antibiotics for my sore throat again), I almost burn my hair while flambing calafate and during a walk to a library (leaving all our stuff in the camp), we become victims of theft!

It’s suspicious that we find Jan’s glove in the town – he’s 100% sure he left his on the bicycle and is considering that it’s somebody’s else who has the same ones, torn and dirty 😀

We are making fun of it the whole way, but then we see that really somebody was stealing here … but we are missing just our old, destroyed, stinky gloves ( 3 of 4 of them :)). It’s funny, but probably some children wanted to have a souvenir. Anyway it was probably our destiny and we are happy we’ve lost just the gloves!

It’s terribly raining when we are leaving this interesting village – normally one should stay under a roof in such weather and definitely not even think about bicycle. Unfortunately we are short on time and when we want to catch the ferry to Argentina, we need to move.

First 2 hours we spent only in the village carrying the bikes up on never-ending stairs. But we invented perfect technique – I have a strap attached to the front rack and Jan lifts and pushes the loaded bike from behind. It’s like catching up months without gym and at the end we are soaking wet from the rain.

Our USA/ES cyclist friends invite us to their warm apartment and we are able to dry us at least a little bit. It’s perfect time in their company but we decide to continue…

After half an hour bicycling we have shoes full of water and also our technical rainproof clothes don’t work. In these conditions one would need a neoprene layer, rubber boots and plastic rain jacket to stay warm and dry – our gore-tex jackets let the water through after 15min of strong rain when we don’t just stay without movements.

And then a steep uphill comes and we cannot pedal anymore – wet chains with the fine sand get stuck on the chainwheel and we can only push… The hitchhiking plans doesn’t work when there is no traffic at all – it wasn’t good idea to go in this weather.

Car! Miracle! Stop! It stops! 🙂 In less than one hour and we are hanging our soaking wet clothes in the ferry waiting room. One cyclist told us about the military station here so we try the luck and we spend the night inside in warmth, with good food, hot shower and great company.

Another day and half of pedaling in mountains, partly in rain and cold till we reach Villa O’Higgins – last village on Carretera Austral. The excitement about getting to the end is disturbed by two facts:
1. Even after sticking so many posters about selling the bikes and making big effort we still not have real buyers!
2. 200USD for the ferry tomorrow is too much …

We are sitting at the square, eat bread and decide what to do next. While I surf on internet (free wifi again), Jan goes to get more information about the second possibility to cross to Argentina – it’s for free, but it’s long way around and it’s not so easy (wading rivers etc.). I’m thinking … we still have some money, we are tired – the ferry is expensive, but acceptable option. Then smiling Jan comes back – “there” is a road and it’s an official boarder crossing … we just need to go 20km uphill, then another 20 to the boarder and the it will be more complicated but they’ll show us the way…

Normal people at the end of honeymoon write facebook statuses like “last massage before we are returning” and we are thinking if we are going to inform somebody to search after us after couple of days … crazy!

My mood is bad because I was mentally prepared for the last day of bicycling (this will be at least 3 more) but smiling Jan makes it better 🙂

We are lucky and stop a truck. Even when there are some rests of dead sheep next to us, 10km uphill is a big help. The inclinations get better and we continue through beautiful valley next to a big river Mayer surrounded by white mountains. This way is longer and more difficult but it’s really nice here.

Only one hour before sun set we reach the boarder police station and they send us 1km back to a cottage because they are closed till tomorrow 8am. We are alone in this small cottage with big fireplace, the sun set shines on mountains – the last night in Chile cannot be more beautiful or romantic. 🙂

We start to cook, hang our clothes around to dry and start fire next to which we can later nicely … suffocate from smoke! What kind of “architect” projected chimney here??? Everything smells like smoked sausage and because we cannot move the stove while it’s working we are crying and coughing till we finish our dinner. Then we try to extinguish the fire to lower our suffering from the smoke.

Hmm, at first it looked like an ideal honeymoon evening … on the other hand, this isn’t typical honeymoon and therefor it looks like we wanted: beautiful, together and with unexpected surprises. 🙂

Last night in Chile! In country which amazed us with its people and nature. Country which we put together with Cuba and Colombia on the top-list of our trip!

Tomorrow – Argentina ….

One Reply to “Rainy paradise on the southern road – another 500km”

  1. Evit and Jan, I enjoyed this post – just randomly picked one to start with – and I will savor the other “chapters.” I will have so many more places to put on my bucket list now. Thank you for doing this, for sharing your trip. It will make a nice memento for you, too, of course, but you’ve made the special effort to put this into English and make this available to us English speakers, so I thank you for that very very much. You two are something else. I wonder what you are thinking of next in your lives…?

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