I vaguely remember one of my last updates being two days before I had spent one month on the road, so I’ll start where I left off and give a rather dry progress update. I’ve reached Villa O’Higgins at the end of the Carretera Austral, 230km from Cochrane and 1193km from my start in Puerto Montt. Time-wise, I arrived in Puerto Montt on the 17th of September, and left on the 20th. That means the entirety of the Carretera took me almost a month to the day (October 18) to complete, with plenty of rest days. As I’ve gotten further into the trip, I’ve started to take more of these rest days, as the ripio has generally been tougher down here on me and my back/rear end. But as my body has gone, my bike has not. My noble steed has officially made it through the entirety of the Carretera Austral, a road known as a bike-eater, with no problems save for two small patchable punctures on the front tube. Racks are intact, rims are true, and I haven’t even needed to pump up the back tire once in a month of riding. My most heartfelt shoutout to Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life on Alder St. in Eugene for building me one hell of a durable ride.
Well, my camera and its three spare batteries ran out two days ago. I forgot to recharge fully in Puerto Tranquilo, and I always forget to turn it off as I put it away. So, shucks. I ripped a big hole in my tent window last night, my tire tubes are patched in multiple places, and I need to replace both sets of brake pads. This should give you some indication of how tough going the last 120km were. Up (walking a lot), down (carefully) , sideways (blown off the road), stop (in rainstorms), go (with a tail wind), laugh (at swanky resorts), curse (all of the above). Nonetheless, I’ve reached Cochrane, the capital of the General Prat region and the “final frontier” of the Carretera. The road did not extend to Villa O’Higgins until 20 years ago.
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.
Enough fun. Back to the grind tomorrow. After consulting with a few people in town, one of whom was kind enough to call a friend in Villa O’Higgins, I’ve decided to go for the pass into Argentina at Rio Mayer, about 550km away. Good beer, good company, and wonderful times in this gorgeous city in paradise. There will be less updates from here on out as I get further south.
The weather’s great in Coyhaique and I’m going to give myself an early birthday present and enjoy the city, and its few cervecerias, for a few days. I’m not really about wine/beer/food tours, but if there were a stop that I could do it at, it’s Coyhaique. So, I’m at about about 600km, pretty much halfway to the pass into Argentina depending on which one I choose, and this seems as good a point as any to take a small break, watch some football, and bid farewell to my 22nd year. I really pushed through the last few days, going about 200km in 3 days. I did 70km which I’ve already written about on the first day, 105km and an unanticipated 750m climb on a “shortcut” yesterday, and limped the final 35km into Coyhaique this morning.
Down here it is much drier than further north. I’m in the rain shadow of the Andes, and spend most of my time closer to Argentina than to the coast of Chile. Gone are the rainforests, and over here spring has definitely sprung. Nothing but fantastic riding weather, with frigid mornings and moderate sunny afternoons. (I heard they had snow a few days ago, but I refuse to believe that) Yesterday was supposed to be a nice mostly downhill ride from Villa Amengual to Villa Manihuales. However, once I hit Villa Manihuales at about lunchtime, about 60km in, I was still enjoying the pavement and pushed on. I’m glad I did now, but man was it tough.
Before I begin, I want to give a shout out to the two places in Eugene that I have gear from down here. The first is my Ninkasi Brewery hat, which I show off over beers with people I meet. The second is Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, who built up this tank of a Surly LHT that I’m riding. Everything has performed perfectly. The rims are still intact, and I haven’t had one flat in the 450km that I’ve ridden. The only spokes that have broken are the extras, which were attached to the chainstay. It has welcomed the nasty bits of the Carretera, spat them back out and said “give me more.” She’s a little dirty, and needs to be lubed up pretty regularly, but she’s thriving. Thanks, Paul’s!
Now on to the good stuff. I haven’t updated in a few days, mostly because the hostels down here with wifi are, for the most part, closed during this season. The ones that I have stayed in have mostly been hosting road workers during the night, most of whom I have passed at some point during the day. Nevertheless, they’re an expensive luxury and I usually prefer to camp and make my own food over staying in one and forcing the owner to make dinner for the one crazy gringo that is coming through in spring.
The days are sort of starting to blur together. Rain, eat, bike, rain, eat, bike, camp. When did I last have wifi? I try to update my journal and have trouble remembering how many kilometers I biked on which day and where I camped. I guess it’s been 3 days or so since I updated my blog, and I’ve slowed my progress a little. The last 2 days I’ve gone about 50 km, savoring a small stretch of pavement which has now ended. I have a large pass ahead of me at about 650m elevation, and I’m going to take my first rest day today and tackle it tomorrow when the weather’s supposed to be better.