Saturday, 19 October 2013

Chilean border to Puerto Montt - Snow, rain, sun, ferries.

To celebrate being back in Chile we went out for a hot drink and some hot chips after settling into our campsite. When I say campsite I actually mean someones backyard. That is how they roll here. It takes a bit to get used to going into peoples houses to use the toilet and shower.

We woke in the morning to snow (again!!), which got worse as we made breakfast and then better. With nothing really to do in town and a date with a ferry we had to get on the road. Whenever you set off cycling in the snow and rain you have a rathe long think about what it is you are doing and why. Once you are warmed up though it is not too bad. We had a hard day in the saddle over the hilly and rather poor gravel roads. This culminated in searching for a campsite by the side of the road in the pouring rain when we were both exhausted and starving. Not cool. All we could find was an unused quarry which was high above the road and had space to pitch the tent and string up the fly for cooking. It was a pretty rough camp but we got food and some sleep and stayed relatively dry. The next day was just as wet and just as hilly and the gravel road was just as bad!! Joyous!! We took shelter under a bridge for lunch and brewed up some tea to lift our spirits. Hitting the asphalt about 30km before we thought we would definitely lifted our spirits too!! We rolled into Chaiten in the pouring rain looking like a pair of drowned rats. After failing to find a campsite and being rather unwilling to use the saturated tent and gear we took refuge in a nice warm hospedaje and went out for dinner. It was smiles all around once we were clean and dry. Also we had hit the Carretera Austral, the famous road from Puerto Montt to the south of Chile. We were there and we were cycling on it!!! Unbelievable.

From Chaiten we headed north through Parque Pumalin, which is a park set up be some really really rich dude. The park was beautiful but a lot has been devastated by volcanic eruptions. These eruptions have also lead to Chaiten looking like the dive it was, most of the population has left. It rained on and off all day but we were happy as because we knew tonight we would be camping under shelter. The campsites in the park have shelters that can fit a whole tent, both our bikes and a table for cooking. We arrived early, got everything out to ´dry´ and settled down with some tea and popcorn.

As predicted the weather improved and the next day we were cycling in the sunshine. Just a short 20km because we had the first of 3 ferries to catch. The first took about half an hour and then we had a nervous wait for a van that was coming to pick us and our gear up to transport us 10km to the second ferry. We had to get a ride because there is only one ferry per day and they want everyone to be together. Once we arrived all the ferry workers helped us load our stuff on the boat and we were off. This was a four hour journey through the fiords (pretty much Marlborough or Doubtful sound) to Hornopiren. Here we had another night in someones backyard.

It was two more days and one more ferry on the road to Puerto Montt. The sun was shining and the gorse was flowering and smelling delicious. Man I love the smell of gorse flowers!! One night we stayed on a campsite in the backblocks of someones farm. We had to push our bikes through the fields and across the streams but ended up in a sweet as spot beside a river. Oh the peace and quiet!!!

On the last day to Puerto Montt I had completely lost interest. I was super grumpy, super hungry all the time and could not be bothered cycling. This was when we worked out we had been cycling for 10 days without a break. Well that explains it! One needs a break more often than that thank you. We arrived in town, took a bit of time and lots of pushing bikes up hills to find a place to stay and then lucky for us the rain started. I was not going anywhere............................

A break in the snow and rain by Rio Futaleufu
hahaha Bruce´s face looks funny

Glimpse of the mountains and Lago Yelcho
Trying to warm/dry my gloves while making a hot drink

Quarry Camp. Saturated and uncomfortable but still had some food and got some sleep

Cycling in the snow
Lunchtime out of the rain underneath a bridge
A quick glimpse of the mountains on the way to Chaiten
By the seaside!! Settimg off from Chaiten
Parque Pumalin
Sheltered camping Parque Pumalin
On the road in the sunshine, Parque Pumalin
Ferry No. 1
Ferry views
Ferry No. 2 Bike boat, no cars and small bikes
Ferry views
Arriving in Hornopiren with the volcano of the same name in the background
Church lunch in the sunshine
Gear explosion at our farm camp. Trying to dry everything afer a couple of days of rain.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Bariloche to the Chilean Border (again)

We had a pretty chilled out morning after our big ride to Bariloche the day before. Did not head out from the campsite till lunchtime and then rode about 10km and stopped for lunch. We had to break up our ride to El Bolson so were on the look out for a campsite. Most organised ones seemed to be 10km or more off the road, which is not cool at all when your cycling. Too much backtracking. We stopped at a gas station to ask if there was anything around and the dude in charge pointed us to a sweet as free campsite beside the lake that was completely hidden from the road and out of the wind that was whipping down the lake. Getting there involved taking everything off our bikes and carrying it down a steep slippery hill but it was totally worth it!! We had a relaxing afternoon laying in the sun reading and generally chilling out.

After our ridiculously short day we had quite a lot of kilometres to get through before we got to El Bolson. Luckily the sun was shining, the scenery was beautiful and for about 15 to 20 glorious kilometres we had a killer tailwind which pushed us towards El Bolson and the brewery in time for a quick 4pm beer. It was time for a break from cycling and we rocked up to a hostel, were offered a nice cabin, took it and proceeded to explode cycling and camping gear everywhere. We were so glad we stayed in El Bolson instead of Bariloche. It is a much more chilled out town and has loads of breweries!! We tried out 7 of the breweries, had a lovely dinner out, got our washing done, watched lots of Friends on TV and chatted to some of the other lovely people at the hostel. It was very hard to leave but with the sun still shining after 3 nights we decided it was time to head off.

A long boring day bought us to Cholila and the most unhelpful info centre in the world. I cannot talk about it or my head will explode. Suffice to say we ended up in an expensive hostel after wanting to camp and as pay-back cooked all our food in the bathroom and could not wait to get out of there the next day. HA!!

The road to the border took us through another national park and another totally awesome free lakeside campsite. Serioulsy, they know how to camp here. As usual everything was made better by the sunshine. As you can imagine it is getting rather difficult to keep coming up with descriptive words about how beautiful the countryside is, so I am kind of giving up. ........I know very poor but you can look at the photos and see.

The highlights of our trip across the border was 1) Stopping in Trevelin. This town that was settled by welsh people and had scones. SCONES!! I tell you. Seriously the excitement in our campsite was immense. As was our consumption of jam. 1 jar, 2 days. Boom!! done 2) Crossing the border took less than one hour, which has to be a new record. AND on the Chilean side the road was asphalt, which I am sure is just them thumbing their noses at the Argentineans who only have gravel.........

Lunch by the lake outside Bariloche
Pretty sweet free lakeside campsite
Yaaaayyyy free cmping!!

Dorky cyclists

Birth year of old person

Mountains on the road to El Bolson

Officially in Patagonia apparently

Beautiful scenery, Parque Los Alerces
Snack stop at Lago Verde, Parque Los Alerces
Another sweet campsite
Evening at the campsite
Cycling through the park
Two little cyclists standing on a wall
On our way out of the park towards lunch and scones!!
River before the border crossing into Chile
We are back Chile!!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

7 Lakes Route - Junin de los Andes to Bariloche

After a nice hot shower and a good sleep we woke in the morning to snow on the tent and it still falling outside. Hmmmmmmmmm. We got up anyway and were rewarded by the snow stopping and the sun coming out. This lasted for a while in the morning but as we got closer to San Martin de los Andes the snow got worse and combined with the wind blowing it straight into our faces it was an interesting trip into town. We made an executive decision to stay in a hostel. So good to get out of the driving rain and snow and we proceeded to completely stink out our room.

The sun was out the next day and stayed this way for nearly two weeks!! Not too bad. We headed into the Lake District proper, which means ripio (gravel) roads, snow, beautiful scenery, friendly drivers and more beautiful scenery. On the 10km uphill out of San Martin we met another cyclist!!! A crazy Columbian dude who had been going for 8 months. We saw him on and off during the day and ended up staying with him in a building in one of the closed campgrounds. The guy who normally runs the campgrounds in summer said the free campsite (where we planned to stay) was flooded so this was the only alternative. 

Another gorgeous day of cycling took us to Villa La Angostura. There is seriously endless mountians, lakes, rivers and rocks to take photos of but you just have ot keep pedalling. After lunch we hit the beautiful new paved road that would take us to Angostura and were so happy to hear our wheels singing along the pavement. In town we managed to find an open campground, which was right next to a supermarket - so happy!!! As usual we were the only people there and had the run of the place.

With no other choice we had to do the approximately 90km to Bariloche the next day. Luckily the road was flat overall and we had a tailwind for some of it. The sun was still shining, which makes it a lot easier. In general drivers on the road have been really good but as we got closer to Bariloche they got worse and worse. For some reason there was a bus about every 30 seconds and then endless trucks and cars. With no shoulder to ride in we were pretty much in the traffic. This was not very pleasant and it felt like it took us forever to get to town. Once there we found that the campsites that were open were 13km out of town......nooooooooo. After gaining an excassive dislike for Bariloche as we got closer and closer we were not too upset to have to get out of town. After a hot shower, with a belly full of food and lovely view of the lake life does not seem to bad. We were going to take a break in this town but decided to push on after we saw how busy it was. Hopefully we do not regret out decision..........

A brief moment of sunshine on the way out of Junin de los Andes

This is what we came here to see!!! Bruce very stoked with the sunshine and scenery on the way out of San Martin

View of the lake, San Martin de los Andes

Pretty hard to find a spot free of snow to have some lunch

Enjoying the view

Pretty church on the road

Staying in the hall away from the saturated campground, Lago Falkner

Scenery south of Lago Falkner

Scenery south of Lago Falkner

Me and the lucky buggers on motorbikes!

Enjoying lunch (donuts!!) in the sunshine

Happy about the sunshine, scenery and lovely new paved road, Lago Correntoso.

Lago Correntoso

Lago Espejo

Lunch by the lake south of Villa La Angostura

Long flat road on the way to Bariloche

Sunset in Bariloche.
Map of this section. We came from Junin de los Andes, which is off the top of the map.