Hello from Hornopiren! I’m two days and 100km outside of Puerto Montt, in a hostel with wifi. The last few days have been wonderful, full of every sort of weather and road condition possible, Chile’s Fiestas Patrias, and many delicious empanadas.
I had to stay an extra day in Puerto Montt because I hadn’t anticipated that the government would mandate that every business in the country give its workers the days of the 18th and 19th off. Turns out that the Fiestas Patrias, Chile’s weeklong celebration of its first government, are basically like the 4th of July, except with more mandates. Everyone is required to hang the Chilean flag out their window, and all businesses have to close for the 18th and 19th. However, there was a military parade one day outside of my hotel, which made for a cool sight. Anyways, I spent one of the days wandering around Puerto Montt looking for the gas station that would sell me the one good map of the Carretera in stock, and another morning rushing around for last minute supplies.
So I started off, at about 11am on Saturday the 19th. And as it is supposed to happen, something went wrong within one kilometer. As I thought “Why is my ride so shaky?” I looked down and my tire was about 30 degrees askew from my handlebars. I hadn’t tightened down the bars, so queue unpacking at kilometer 1 to get my tools out just to tighten two screws. Whoops.
It was about 45km from Puerto Montt to a ferry crossing at La Arena, and it turned out to be a very wet 45km. As expected, I guess, this is going to be a wet trip. My waterproof gear is holding up, however, which is good. As I got further from Puerto Montt, the towns became more and more sparse, and houses became less well maintained. In what would become a common occurrence, a stray dog ran at and chased me for a bit. Some recommend dog spray, others recommend throwing rocks. I recommend outrunning them and a stern voice.
La Arena was a small fishing community with two competing empanada shops. I met two guys who helped me with ferry times and suggested riding distances. They told me that my original plan to make it to Hornopiren the first night wouldn’t be possible. After a short ferry ride and a large hill, I realized they were right. The nice pavement ended 10km outside of the ferry end in Puelche and my progress slowed. At the beginning of a downpour, I took refuge in and camped in an abandoned house by the side of the road at 60km. I couldn’t figure out what it had been originally. There were signs offering “expediciones”, so maybe an old house/tourist venture shop. Some dump previous camper had set a fire inside the house, and a corner of the roof had come down.
A dinner of bread, tuna, pasta, and rum while watching the wind and rain outside made for a great first night on the road. What I woke up to the next morning made it even better.
But it wouldn’t last. 40km to Hornopiren, and this was the most sun I’d see all day.
The reason that the ripio (I won’t call it gravel) is so difficult isn’t only because you can’t go as fast as on pavement. It also is tough on your butt, and the inclines are steeper. There were a few today that I had to walk because they must have been 10-12% grade. The government is improving the road, but it’s happening slowly. Nevertheless, dodging potholes gives the mind something to do while riding, which is much appreciated. This was also my first day in the true boonies. For a few kilometers at a time all I’d see would be road work and the occasional passing bus or 4×4 truck. Still not sure whether the honks are encouragement or trying to tell me to get off the road. In Oregon, it’s about 50-50.
Hornopiren is a small town at the end of this part of the Carretera. From here, you have to take a ferry to Lepetu, ride about 10km, and take another ferry to continue on to Chaiten. The ferry runs once a day at 10am, and I’ll start tomorrow morning. For what it’s worth, this hotel room is the best thing about bike touring. Breakfast is included, and I can take a shower! Until next time!