Saturday, 2 November 2013

Rio Tranquillo and Sexy Rocks

After being gruuuuumpy yesterday and not feeling the cycling love we decided to stay an extra day in Rio Tranquillo and take in a tour of the marble caverns for which the town in famous (maybe only in Chile though).

The tour took a total of 2 hours on the boat and the caverns were beautiful. Well of course all rock is lovely but these ones were especially so. The marble was beautiful white and grey shades and had been carved into awesome shapes by the water. The water all around was a translucent turquoise.

Really stunning all around.

Then we had a lovely afternoon relaxing in the sun, reading and taking a wander around town and to the lake. Also aired out all our gear in the sunshine, which is always good for it. Bought some more groceries and packed ready for cycling tomorrow. Both of us now in a much better frame of mind for hitting the raod again.

I heart rocks

Rio Tranquillo Cemetery

Coyhaique to Rio Tranquillo

After a long than usual stop in town and with Bruce`s bike fixed we set off southwards in the sunshine. The road south of Coyjaique is paved for more than 100km - what a treat!! The countryside we cycled through was beautiful. Rolling green hills with lots of blossom trees and snow-capped mountains in the distance. I was cycling along thinking it would be a good place to make cider or fruit wine with all these fruit trees about. Due to leaving town at a rather later time than usual we did not get far in the first day and found ourselves, after about 60km and a nasty headwind, at another national park campsite. We had another day on the paved road to take us to Villa Cerro Castillo. However, it was a nasty, cold, windy day. Not made easier by the pass we had to cross over. We were completely rugged up in all our gear (including covering our faces) and battled into the wind all day. Luckily we managed to find a spot sheltered from the wind for some lunch and a moral boosting hot drink. The landscape was not very inspiring. We seemed to have lost the green trees and everything (trees, mountains, sky, rivers) was in shades of brown, white and grey. We were very happy to get to town and find and cafe for a hot choc and a campsite out of the wind. The campsite also had a kitchen where we could cook and warm ourselves on the fire - perfect!!

After Villa Cerro Castillo we lost the paved road and will not see another till we are back in Argentina. The wind was still around but the sun was out and we had glorious views of the mountains and rivers as we wended our way up the valley following Rio Ibanez. It was a tough and slow day into the wind and the road was pretty rubbish. We only got about 50 to 60km done and then found a quiet spot off the road to pitch the tent. The traffic (what little there is) pretty much disappears overnight so camping by the road is not a problem. Just have to make sure you have enough water.

We had one more day to Rio Tranquillo and due to our tough ride the day before we had a more kilometres to cover. We were up early and on the road, which turned really rubbish after about 2km. They were grading the road AKA `fixing it`, which actually makes it very soft with lots of loose rocks. Not great for cyclists. Made for slow riding and in some places even pushing the bikes. So lame. Once we dropped down to the river it improved a lot and we moved a lot quicker. In the afternoon we reached the northern end of Lago General Carrera, which is the largest lake in Chile. It was a beautiful sight to see its blue waters with the snowy mountains as a backdrop. The love of the scenery soon turned to a hatred of the road....aaaaarrrggggg. It was rubbish again and both our moods got blacker and blacker as we inched our way towards town, which felt so close!! Turns out I was hangry (hungry+angry), which is no surprise, so we ate the last of our bread and some fruit and made the last push to town. On arrival a friendly tour operator showed us the campsite, which was once again under some blossom trees and run by a lovely hostess. We finally had a shower after four days, chowed down on some delicious dinner, made use of the internet and collapsed into bed much happier cyclists.

Scenery on the road south from Coyhaique
Another nice campsite
Yay dinner time!!! We are most pleased.
A rare photo of us together at the Cerro Castillo lookout
Switchbacks on the road down to Cerro Castillo
Old road sign still going strong

Mountains on the road south from Villa Cerro Castillo
Bruce and Cerro Castillo
Rio Ibanez valley
Cool bridge on one of the side roads. Love the older bridges here!!

Roadside shrine to San Sebastian. Normally have money, smokes, flowers, water, candles and even old cellphones in them.
Back on the gravel road.....
Always excited about dinner!!!!
Sneaky roadside camping spot
I am riding with some kind of wannabe gangster

Nice views along the Rio Murta
Nice relaxing lunch on the way to Rio Tranquillo
Lago General Carrera
Me acting enthusiastic but actually swearing and cursing inside my head. Lovely views but a terrible road.
Bruce is still smiling though.......

Friday, 1 November 2013

Puerto Raul Marin to Coyhaique

The ferry did actually leave from Chiloe at 2am, which is ridiculous, and after faffing about for a bit we attempted to get some sleep. This was pretty much impossible. The gap between the seats was too long for my short stumpy legs and the seats too small for me to curl up on. Made worse by the fact all the lights came on when we stopped at the port before our stop. It was about 11am, and cloudy, with rain promised, by the time we touched down in Raul Marin. We spoke to the local Carabinero (policeman) about how long the ferry over Rio Palena was going for today. He hung around while we sorted out our stuff and looked as though he wanted to chat (he knew some english). Turns out it was 75km to La Junta with no camping spots and mucky weather. I was quite exhausted after our long ride the day before and only about 2 hours sleep so we decided to stay in town and hit the road on the next day. The Carabinero said he would show us a campsite but ended up taking us to stay in his house!!! Result!! Here we finally got some breakfast, hung out all day in front of the fire with the crazy weather going on outside and got fed the best empanadas we have had on this trip. Thanks Hans!!!

We headed off the next day with the weather still showery and grey but not too bad. The ride from Raul Marin to La Junta was beautiful. After we crossed the Rio Palena on the ferry we followed the river all the way up the valley. It was like riding beside the Buller River in NZ. The weather was showery all day and decided to bucket down around lunchtime so we had to string up the fly for some shelter. When we reached La Junta we talked to more friendly policemen and they took us to a very nice campsite and another lovely hostess. In town we restocked our panniers for the next couple of days.

At La Junta we hit the Carretera Austral again and headed south. We passed through another beautiful national park called Queulat. Another day cycling in the rain and it seemed to take forever to get anywhere. Sometimes you just have those days. We finally arrived in Puyuhuapi, which is located in a picturesque spot beside the fiord, and got more bread and an empanada for the road. We were headed for a campground in the national park, which is located near a hanging glacier that we were keen on capturing a glimpse of. The road took us around the fiord, which was as still as glass, and then inland to the campsite. The park rangers seemed surprised to have people camping in the rain. Come on we are tough-as cycle tourists!!! Had a pretty sweet camp set up in no time. Caught a glimpse of the glacier in the morning when the sun came out but no good photos.

Another awesome day cycling beside the fiords and then up and over a pass to Villa Amengual. The sun had decided to come out and it was hot!! We headed away from the coast and up and pass with beautiful views of the mountains. Tough going up the pass and down the other side (sore hands from braking!!) but once at the bottom we hit asphalt.....woohoo!!

In the last couple of day Bruce`s bike had been making worrying noises as well as breaking a spoke and not free-wheeling anymore. He had been nursing it for about 150km or more and it was not going any further. So we made the executive decision to hitchhike the last 130km to Coyhaique. Not ideal because the weather had turned beautiful and sunny and as usual the scenery was awesome. We were away from the wet coast and it was dry and mountainous. But time for a break and sleeping in a real bed!!

Bikes safely lashed down on the Chiloe to Raul Marin voyage

Arrival in Raul Marin

Thanks Hans for having us to stay!!!!

Smiles when leaving Raul Marin even in the rain.

Road to Rio Palena. Long, lonely and green.

Rio Palena ferry. Only ones on the boat.

Fly strung up for some shelter from the rain for lunch

Riding beside the Rio Palena (AKA Buller River)

Back on the Carretera Austral!!

Riding in Parque National Queulat



It that an awesome camping set-up or what!!! Parque National Queulat

Up the pass and away from the rain

Views on the road to Villa Amengual

Back in the sunshine

Trying to hitch a lift to Coyhaique. Not many cars so it took a while.......


A restful couple of nights in Puerto Montt and we were ready to start cycling again. We spent a fortune at the supermarket, loaded our bikes and zoomed off down Route 5 to the ferry for Chiloe. Route 5 is the main road through Chile and finishes at the end of Chiloe. As you can imagine it is a big four lane highway with lots of trucks etc. Lucky for us we had a tail wind and with some nice new tarseal we made good time to the ferry.

For some reason we were expecting a lot from Chiloe because a lot of people go on about how beautiful it is.........we were a bit disappointed to be honest. After the lakes, mountians, rivers and fiords we had been cycling past so far the rolling farmland of Chiloe seemed a bit boring and tame in comparison. Luckily the loveliness of the people totally made up for that. Everyone was very welcoming and friendly and the seafood was really good!!!

Our disappointment with the landscape probably was not helped by the poor decisions we made about where to go. There was more than one option....aaaaarrrggg!!! Way to hard. Much easier to just have one road and stick to that.

We spent three nights on the island and at all of the locations the owners of the establishments were the most welcoming and kind people you can imagine. They all cleared indoor spaces for us to cook in and let us use their wood stoves if they had them. This made our stay on the island very enjoyable. At the island`s capital Castro we had a delicious seafood luch, which included Cuantro. This is a local dish made of seafood, pork, potatoes and dumplings and is traditionally cooked in the ground like a hangi. Seafood lunch also coincided with one month on our bikes - how quick time flies!!!

We had a limited time on the island because the ferry back to mainland Chile, and the road south, only went twice a week. We headed down to Quellon and parked ourselves in a restuarant for several hours while we waited for the ferry that did not leave until 2am!!

Camping inside the barn/event centre at Entotourismo Kaicheo on our first night

Enjoying the wood burnign stove while the wind and rain rage outside


Cuantro and beer for lunch......mmmmmm

Restuarant in Castro.  The buildings on stilts are called palafitos.

Palafitos in Castro

Camping down on the farm

Final stretch of Route 5 and the road to the end of Chiloe

Map of our route including some of the seven lakes district and the road before Puerto Montt. Blue is road travel and green is ferry travel