Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Tortel to Villa O'Higgins

And so it begins....the last two days on the Carretera Austral. Up early again so we could get over the pass to the ferry on time. Really tired and sore from the big day of riding yesterday but made good time back to the junction with the road to the ferry. Climbed up the switchbacks to the pass and would have had wonderful views of the Rio Baker valley if the weather was not cloudy and closed in. Still it was not too bad. After the steep climb the road seemed to climb gradually forever!! Well it seemed like forever to tired and hungry cyclists. The scenery was beautiful though with thick green forest and lots of impressive waterfalls.  But still not a lot of photo opportunities due to the continuing drizzle. We finally dropped down off the pass and cruised into the ferry terminal at Puerto Yungay. We had enough time to cook up a hot drink and some instant mash for our lunch before the ferry turned up to take us across to the other side. The journey was about 40 minutes across a silky smooth water. Once on the otherside we followed the Rio Bravo up, up, up!! I found it pretty tough after yesterday but it was highlighted by a close encounter with a Huemul deer, which are apparently really rare and shy but this one was not bothered by us. We made camp at the top of a pass in the scrub when we were too hungry to keep going. One more day to Villa O'Higgins!!!

We had one more more day!!! Villa O'Higgins is our dream destination, the place we have been planning and aiming for. The scenery and the weather really turned it on for our last day on the Carretera Austral. Lakes, rivers, mountains, glaciers, beautiful was like a collection of all the things we loved about cycling in Chile. Also we were heading back towards a town, which meant food. Hurrah!! We had a lovely day cycling and really enjoyed ourselves. The only downside being that you can see Villa O'Higgins about 12kms before you get there. It is located across a swampy area that you have to go all the way around...nooooooooo. So mean!!! I reckon the road builders had found they had money and time left in the budget so decided to make the road longer. It was such a relief to arrive after the last four days of pretty hard riding. We were both tired and pretty hungry. We rocked up to a hostel/camping area and set up the tent and had a well deserved shower. We could cook in the kitchen inside, which was a treat, and demolished a whole packet of pasta, box of wine and a lot of biscuits. Best celebration ever!!!

Bikes above the Rio Baker

Cooking up lunch in the ferry waiting room

Ferry across the Rio Bravo


On the other side - Rio Bravo

One last road to Villa O'Higgins

Cycling beside the river.

Close encounter with a Huemel

Rocky and rainy campsite

More valley views
Downhill for cyclists

Following the lakes and rivers

ANOTHER waterfall

Lago Cisnes

Last bridge........

Nearly there Bruce!!


Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Cochrane to Tortel

After a relaxing weekend we intended to head out of town early and get on the road. Our attempt was thwarted by the supermarket being closed all weekend and not opening till 10am on Monday. We were pretty much out of all of our food and had four days with no shops till we got to Villa O´Higgins, so we needed to stock up.

We left town at about lunchtime and headed up the hill. Today we were following a string of lakes down the valley. The first, Lago Emeralda was comletely still and gave us a perfect reflection of the surrounding hills. We faffed around a bit there taking photos but knew we had to keep going due to the late start today. We hit a bit of roadworks and road grading, which slowed us a down a lot. But we made ok progress and did about 50km in the afternoon. We found a spot beside a river to camp and have a wash after a dusty day. Sunset across the river was beautiful.

The next day we started early because we had a lot of ground to cover today. More cycling beside beautiful rivers, lakes and farms. We are in a truly beautiful and quite isolated part of the world. While we were having lunch Emmanuel, who we met in Coyhaique,caught up with us. He was going to head straight to the ferry, while we were still deciding if we would get the ferry today or tomorrow. After lunch we reached the junction between the ferry and the road to Tortel. As we were to late to catch the ferry we decided to head down the road and check out Tortel. Not a decision made lightly as it was a no exit road!! Well we thought it would be worth is but as we started cycling and the headwind picked and the road got steadly worse I begun to curse our decision. On the way we were loking for a campsite to come back too once we had been to the village. We reached Tortel in midafternoon. This town is located on a fiord and has no roads. The houses and shops are connected by boardwalks. It was pretty cool to see and we had time for a quick walk around, some food and then back on the road to a campsite we had spotted. The road did not seem so bad going back and we reached the campsite in good time. It was located beside a stream but in FULL view of the road. Not really sneaky camping. What was hilarious is that all the cars that went past gave us a big toot and wave as we sat eating our dinner. It had been a long day and we had done nearly 100km with backtracking. This is pretty tough on the gravel. For the first time an entire packet of pasta was consumed and we could have eaten more!!!

Getting closer to the end of the Carretera Austral!!

Shrine on the road from Cochrane

Lago Esmeralda

Lago Esmeralda

Memorial to those who died building the road

Bruce on a switchback

Sunset at camp

On the road..................

.................and enjoying the scenery

Back by the Rio Baker again. This time closer to the sea

On the road to Tortel

Down by the sea in Tortel

Heading back to the campsite from Tortel. It has been a long day....

Campsite by the stream

Rio Tranquillo to Cochrane

Woke to another sunny Chilean day and it was time to hit the road again. In a much better frame of mind after a day off we headed out of town. We had wonderful views of the lake all day. It was hard to capture the glacial blue colour with my rubbish camera - just imagine Lake Tekapo but WAY bigger. The road was undulating but in much better condition than expected. By the afternoon of the first day we reached the outlet of the Lago General Carrera and crossed over a cool bridge. From there we had more undulating roads but this time we had views of Lago Bertrand and the ice falls coming off the northern ice fields. Very impressive in the afternoon light!! We had heard of free camping by the Rion Baker so we bypassed the town and cycled for about 1km out of the village and found a sweet spot by the river. We were close to the outlet of the lake and the water of the Rio Baker roared past in a fury of foaming white and blue water.

We only had one more day to Cochrane and we were hoping we would be there by midafternoon. Ha!!! Best laid plans and all that. The morning started off grand. We had great views and a pretty good road following the Rio Baker. Before lunch we passed a sign that said 30km to Cochrane....sweet!! Be there for afternoon tea. HA!! Just around the corner the road was closed and we had to go via a detour. Obviously the guy on the road block thought it was obvious because he just pointed us down the road. Hmmmm not so much. The detour was not signed (not unusual here) and we ended up in a gravel pit down by the river. We then backtracked to the road block and asked again. No we could not go on the road, yes it reopened at 3pm and the detour was actually that way (pointing more directly) and then you cross a bridge over the river and cycle up over that hill.......oh ok thanks. By this point I was seething because to add to the fun, I was starving!! After a calming lunch we headed off in the right direction. Well we found the bridge and it was really cool and then we sloggged our way up the hill in the intense dry heat. It was very steep in places and we had to push the bikes. There were great views from the top. It was quite steep going down the other side too and our hands were very sore from braking. Once we reached the river again, which we needed to cross to get to town, there was no bridge. WHAT!! No bridge and no obvious boat. Hmmm feeling quite foolish right now. Then a car turned up and we saw what we thought was the dock on the otherside start floating over. Phew!!! A punty, boaty, bargy thing. A slow journey over the river and the last leg to town past a lovely trout fishing river. Finally!!! Another nice campsite in someones backyard and a delicious dinner with cold beer. We had a break for a couple of nights in Cochrane and did pretty much nothing because it was a Sunday and everything is closed. But to be honest there was not much in town anyway. There was a childrens party at the campsite on Sunday with a bouncy castle and everything. It was very entertaining to watch AND we got cake. Perfection.

Cycling by Lago General Carrera. I think I am a little dot on the road.

Cycling in the middle of the road as usual..

Bruce, long straight road and the mountiains

Bridge crossing the lake outlet

Another untrustworthy sign.......never believe the distance they tell you!!

Puerto Bertrand

Camp at Rio Baker

Rio Baker flowing from Lago Bertrand

Confluence of the Rio Baker and Rio Neff

A splash of colour in the dry landscape

Cool bridge to make up for our hot detour

Pretty colour

Bruce pushing his bike on the detour road. Punishing when it is that steep and hot.

Looking back over the Rio Baker

Reaching the end of the detour - how are we meant to cross the river?......

Oh right, that is how. The barge turns up.

Camping in the blossoms and dandelions in Cochrane

Always happy to eat some birthday cake!!