Coyhaique to Puerto Tranquilo

Kind of in a sour mood today, in spite of the awesome scenery of Lago General Carerra. My achilles tendon is flaring up after 4 days of continuous riding, and the ripio was washboarded and/or gravelly for about half of the last 100km. This makes for rough riding, where when my bike isn’t jostling up and down nastily (washboard), its rear wheel is skidding out and forcing me to walk up hills (gravel). Sometimes a grader will come along and rip it all up again, leaving small patches of smoothness in between pits of sand and gravel. This would be great if I could tell the smooth parts from the sand, but I can’t, and I’ve almost skidded out and fallen several times in the last few days. I should have gotten a set of mountain bike tires in Coyhaique, but it didn’t cross my mind since the road had been paved for awhile. I had two of my bungee cords stolen off my bike from a shed at the hotel in Coyhaique. Who the hell steals two bungee cords from a bike? I made sure the owner knew, and she gave me a discount off my last night.

Random waterfall beside the road.
Random waterfall beside the road.

Heading up the pass.
Heading up the pass.
Top of the pass.
Top of a false pass at the end of the first day. Chanced on a nice spanish speaking gentleman who was alone here going the opposite way in a van. Pulled in at the same time, swapped iPhones quickly, snapped pics, and went our separate ways. Barely said a word to each other. The whole encounter was beautiful in its simplicity, really. With hours between seeing people, it’s replaying 2 minute encounters like these that keep my mind occupied. I knew nothing about this gentleman, he knew nothing about me, and yet wordlessly we both realized that we were thinking the exact same thing: “Man, I wish I had a picture of me in front of that”.
There's a layer of green rock. Hey, Chile, I have a name for this mountain if you want it! Montaña Verde!
There’s a layer of green rock. Hey, Chile, I have a name for this mountain if you want it! Montaña Verde!
Top of the real pass. Cold and windy. Had to work to go downhill against the headwind here.
Top of the real pass. Cold and windy. Had to work to go downhill against the headwind here.
Wait for it...
Wait for it…
Not quite. Coming off the pass.
Not quite. Still coming off the pass.
Yeah, there we go. Most fun on a bike. Ever.
Yeah, there we go. Most fun on a bike. Ever.
Finally at the bottom of the pass and rising again. Wish I could have exchanged the next day's weather for this one. This is passing Cerro Castillo in the clouds.
Finally at the bottom of the pass and rising again. Wish I could have exchanged the next day’s weather for this one. This is passing Cerro Castillo in the clouds.
Alpacas, sheep, and cows outnumber people down here.
Alpacas, sheep, and cows outnumber people down here.
Cerro Campana and Cerro Castillo in the background, in better weather. Hard to put into words how incredible this view was.
Cerro Campana and Cerro Castillo in the background, in better weather. Hard to put into words how incredible this view was. This is only a part of the sky. This day, these were the mountains that dominated my view on the previous day. Not shown are the mountains that dominated my view this day.

I’m at 839km in Puerto Tranquilo, which is one of the the only real towns of any significance between Coyhaique and Cochrane. The last few days have almost made me regret going for Villa O’Higgins rather than cashing it in and going for Chile Chico, but then I had a good day which ended with being flagged down and welcomed into the storage container home of two young homesteaders who were happy to see and offer free food and lodging to the first cyclist of the season. More on that later. I can stand one to maybe three out of a list of headwind, bad ripio, uphill, or rain/snow simultaneously, but the second day out of Coyhaique ended 10km outside of Villa Cerro Castillo with a nasty mixture of all four. The road out of Coyhaique is paved for a long time, which is good because it ends up going up to a pass at 1200m. Then there’s a long downhill, and just as the downhill ends, the pavement ends and the bad ripio starts.

No. Me. Gusta. One day, me and two particular friends of mine should rent a car and destroy its tires doing dangerous things on this road. “Uh, sorry Avis. The road was pretty rough on this Camry.”

My guide tells me that the next 120km into Cochrane are the most beautiful of the trip, but with the worst ripio. Ugh. The initial excitement of being on the road has moderated into a mix of good day-bad day emotions, with today and my touristy choice of lodging being the icing on a towering cake of sadness. (You mean I have to pay $35 for one night in a private room with wifi and TV and a shower? Come on, now. I’ve barely spent $5 for the last 3 days and every campsite outside of town was closed! No, I don’t want to take your damn boat tour around Lago General Carrera.) Thus, here I lay on this lacy bedspread and lament its general comfort and the overbearing hospitality of my host.

At of one of the days, I was flagged down by two brothers from up north in Valparaiso and given food and lodging for the night. They had, on religious zeal, purchased a plot of land in Patagonia a year ago in order to basically become modern day homesteaders. After years of traveling South America by backpack and hitchhiking, they tried out modern life for a bit, made a bit of money, decided “modern life” wasn’t for them, had a storage container sent to their land in Patagonia, and built a tiny house out of it. They proudly told me on their new porch propped up by tree trunks that they had no previous woodworking experience, and about their plans to give free lodging to every cyclist and hitchhiker passing by during the upcoming tourist season. I don’t share their names here, or give their location, because they prohibited me from doing this because they prefer to “not be famous”. However, if you’re traveling this route in the next few years be on the lookout between Villa Cerro Castillo and Puerto Tranquilo for two insanely welcoming hosts who are here very simply to meet people and live by the grace of God in Patagonia.

On a more serious note, there is a serious lack of creativity in Patagonian names. Lago… Verde. Laguna… Verde. Rio… Verde. Valle… Verde. Ok. We get it. The water’s green.

After those damn Chicharrones made with pure pig fat, how would I describe my face for the evening? Cara Verde.
After I eat Chicharrones made with pure pig fat, what happens? Mi cara verde vomita en el bosque verde.

On to Cochrane. I looked at a wall map today with the entire Carretera mapped out and suddenly realized just how far I’ve come. 335km to Villa O’Higgins and Argentina. A matter of days.

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