A recalculation now showed that I had made up the time which I had lost, and some. I took the opportunity to spend a rest day in Pichilemu. I walked down to the coastal road and would have taken a few photos were it not for a faulty camera. The camera had played up on a damp trip to Winsford, Exmoor. The symptoms were the same, “Refusing to cooperate”.
So I wondered past a restaurant where I picked up wifi the day before. I loitered around to get a connection and was partly successful. The day was so much quieter than the previous day and I put this down to the weekend footfall.
After lunch I made it back to my private campground and had a few beers. The owner offered me the use of a hot shower, not because I was pongy but I guess she was happy I’d fixed her front gate and charging for hot water was no longer necessary.
I left early the next day, aware I was to ascend 650m in the first 20km. Whilst 550m altitude the dips added another 100+. It was nearly 10 when I rounded the final bend and was pleased with my legs. They were holding out ok and no hint of complaint after the days rest and rehydration therapy.
The countryside turned from fine coastal forests to dry and arid desert. As the day wore on I was making good progress and decided to push on to make Melipilla. With the heat building it was turning into a tough afternoon, riding the bike and getting a good selection with the handicapped bike was like playing the hurdy gurdy; thumb to push the selector ring round while flicking the selectors followed by a pull and snap release of the cable ensured I could reach the top three gears.
I was now downing all liquids that I had but it was not enough. By late afternoon I rolled into Culipran, a few km from Melipilla. It was time to stop for the new year.
Sheep shearing the old fashioned way was on the cards and I had to ensure my sheep shearing friend didn’t try anything on with my lengthening beard. A nice feast for new year followed by barbecued lamb. Yum and lots of wild brevas (figs).
My legs felt wrecked but I still had a good 95km to Santiago. So on the 3rd I eagerly set off and by lunchtime I had a tailwind pushing me onwards. Rather ironically I proceeded to crash the bike on a clear road onto a nicely cut sidepiece of grass. Couldn’t have timed it better. I brushed myself down to find another puncture. The first one caused by glass, which the use of puncture resistant tyres had previously held at bay. Still I was getting practised at the repairs and without much faff I was rolling eastwards once more.
By mid afternoon and temperatures into the mid 30s (shade as it was 45+ in the sun) I reached La Moneda and then Plaza de Armas. Odd folk wandered around with bags on their front consulting bits of folded paper before pointing in various directions and wandering off. Me, I had secured accommodation.
I must get those warm clothes ready!
I left Chillán, glad to be away although it wasn’t a particularly bad place. I now kept checking the GPS to ensure I was always on the planned route. I hadn’t travelled far when I came across some busses parked up and converted to cafés. Time to pull over. 🙂
What would I like? “Food!” I replied.
I had to push on. The day was going to be long and the heat was building.
I cut across on a ripio road towards Cobquecura. The going was tiresome although I made Quirihue by 2pm. Thanks to free plaza wifi I made contact with Mrs O’ but bandwidth wasn’t enough to call my parents via skype.
The heat was truly killing. I bought some fruit and had late lunch. I waited until post 4pm to leave town but on the way my rear tyre was going down. Damn slow. I pulled up to meet Holgert. He was heading south, alone like me but with only half the gear, skin tight clothing and dire warnings of the route I intended to take. “Up and down” and soft ripio, you’ll have to push for km.
What with a late schedule and tough route I started to plan a new journey north.
I made another 25km and had to stop at the side of the road. The worst spot I’ve had but I was seriously flagging in the heat. In the end I felt quite unwell. Still I’d had fun toying with a truck tooting horns as we both raced up the steep slopes. They won in the end but I think they enjoyed the rare challenge.
The 24th was to be another slog but the first thing I noticed was the cold damp air of the Pacific wafting across the hills. I made Cobquecura by 8am. Later I passed Buchupureo which was also still asleep. The cool air was invigorating but the the ripio started. Still it wasn’t too bad and then after a few ups n downs the rear tyre went down quick. I pulled the tube out and it was a previous patch which had failled. Not GSWS compliant I suppose but it had got me this far. A Geep pulled up wondering which way to go. I mean it was pretty clear!
I decided to chuck in a new tube. Inspecting the rim for any nicks, but fine apart from thin side walls. I put enough air in to go as I found the ripio ended there, right where I’d stopped. Within 10km I stopped at a restaurant but no food. Sort of xmas you see. Still she rustled up some sandwiches and with a few beers I was off again but not far before a truck pulled over and James, Sabastian and Sabastian gave me a hearty draught of 7up. Xmas!
Later as I provisioned up I was told of fine campsite, showers the works. Never materialised but I made the side of a stagnant river. It was alive with toads that croaked the whole night.
I chose to lie in. 8:30 and I was on the road. Nice n quiet but after only 13km the for telling sound of “woosh woosh woosh”. I stopped. The rear again but this time not just a puncture but tyre failure!
Suffice to say that I had to think on how to fix this one. In the end I sacrificed the old tube to cut a 9″ section and to wrap around the tube between it and the tyre who’s side wall was rapidly detatching from the bead. I thought maybe the brakes may have rubbed but there were no obvious witness marks. Tell me?
I reckon “Volcano ash has chewed my tyre.”
I decided to make Constitución and spend Christmas there whilst I waited for boxing day and the bike shop to open.
Feasted on Merluza and mash but I could not find an open Botilleria.
By 9 am the following day I had my tyre. 🙂 Fitted and on the road by 10.
I had thought that I would need to catch up but I had plenty of time so I chose my original route: El camino de la costa. Amazing sea mists drifting on shore. I passed Iloca and Duao before camping. Gaffer tried to charge me 10 Luca! Made him 5.
Steep 300m climb the next day first thing but rolled into Bucalemu. I was proverbially robbed by the hospedaje but when I left the following morning I didn’t feel too bad waking the grumpy old dear up at 7:30 to say I was off. She wasn’t happy but she should treat her guests with a touch more care 😉
I was going great another 300m climb and pop or rather snap, the rear gear cable went. Another issue. My bike’s not happy.
I had a spare cable but with the incorrect nipple ending. I trimmed the end that was on but it broke immediately. The mist had gone and the sun was belting down. Now I really had to think there must be a solution. I tried the super glue, which I bought only the previous day to fix my glasses but to cut a long story shorter I got it all over my hands. I was here, broken bike glueing my hands together. Chuff. I had to keep my hands clear for a few minutes till I had cured!
In the end I tied a knot in the cable which was enough to get me going.
Reached Pichilemu and now I calculate to have a day and some spare so before I press on here I rest with a nice queso camarón empanada with a cool beer to wash it down.
Still can’t figure out where the bad roads are Holgert. Maybe he will re bias his view after heading south. He should try fixed forks and man up.
I had finally crossed over into Chile and a very helpful border crossing. I descended further reaching Luicura where I chose to stay over. It later turned out to be relatively cheap compared to the next few towns. I had a nice meal but had a bad choice of wine as it didn’t properly complement the food. It needed something with a fuller body.
I chose to leave nice n calm heading towards Lonquimay before I would head into the hills and down to Casas de Villacura. It was hot and the steep climb out was not helped when the road was a dirt track. I had picked up a dreaded slow, most likely from the thin steel tensile wire that gets shredded at the side of the road from disintegrating tyres. The route however was very beautiful and quite absent from anyone. The araucaria araucana trees were everywhere. Eventually I topped the climb at 1600+ metres before descending a little. Real steep and still no signs of anyone. Quite odd.
I popped around a corner and was welcomed by a stunning sight. I camped nearby as I was not making the progress I had hoped. There were old log cabins dotted around.
Still the next day I continued descending. At first I thought that you needed a 4×4 but then dismissed this as the track just deteriorated further. By late morning I was not just moving fallen tree branches but I was dismantling the bike trailer and all baggage as I went under, over, through and only once could I get around the impasse. That’s not to mention the river crossings wading across with bags n bike. I stopped wringing out my socks and even decide a horse couldn’t make this route.
This was hard going and I had to keep checking the GPS to ensure I was on the correct forest road. I was now too committed to return as I made 12km in 5 hours. No one had been down this route for a long long time. Like maybe years. Leaf litter, fallen trees all indicated this was a long unused road.
I made the juntion with another route to find a gate which on the other side said “Propiedad Privada” or something like that. Oh now they say. Still hadn’t seen a soul for over a day now. The villages that I was hoping to see turned out to be an odd shack.
Maybe due to height drop the rear tyre had somewhat deflated after fixing the puncture before I suffered a double puncture, likely from a pinch hitting a bad rock in talcum powder consistency track.
Fixed I was going again but to be true I was suffering. I had some snacks and was deciding to perhaps take the southern route back to Lonquimay when I met the first person since previous lunchtime.
She offered me bread and cake as she suggested I could take the Northern route. All I had to do was return a few clicks. Not good really, although she seemed genuine through. The weather was turning and the wind was gusting severely blowing huge clouds of dust skywards.
I made the junction, now a day behind and started on the northern route through a tunnel when I saw the official government street sign saying something about el fondo privado at some point which meant nothing to me.
I decided to cut my losses and back out South, especially after the morning’s escapade.
It rained. I was drenched the brakes now completely failing and the first ring was getting severe chain suck. I stopped by a small shelter and dismantled my brakes. Fixed the issue and was quite pleased given it was lashing down and I was covered in sand, mud, Aluminium dust. I decided enough was enough and was just going to put the tent up next to the river when I saw a guy crossing what I’d only just seen suspension bridge. It would be rude to just slap up a tent so I asked if there was anywhere I could camp or stay.
Listen he said over the bridge is a Mapuche community, you can stay there just knock at the house where me brother lives.
Well to cut a long story short I was very wet, very cold and another chap, Sergio Silva, opened up the community centre hut for me. Gave me some firewood and the Salamandra was lit. I dried and got out of the wet clothes. Ate and was just nodding off when Juan arrived and invited me for onces. I had to declinethat evening but thd next morning at 9 I was invited for tea and a Light breakfast. The view from his house was awesome.
I made Lonquimay later that day totally bust. I focused on recovery as it tried to snow outside. However I now was four days behind and would have to risk the 4.5km Lonquimay tunnel and do some serious cycling hours on a long detour to get north.
Left by 7:15 and as expected I couldn’t ride through. In fact it is only single carriageway. Sunday mornings and there was about one vehicle every ten minutes. After an hour went by and failing to fit my bike in a bus a pickup arrived. Raul and Sophie with their two children. Bike and trailer in the back and off we went. I expected them to stop after the tunnel but I made Curacautin. My energy levels were shot but I pressed on stopping for lunch at one of those restaurants that you meet every 8 hours or so. If I didn’t eat here I wouldn’t. Lovely mixed kebabs n chips. In fact afterwards I felt so much better. The headwind was a nice tailwind as I turned up the dreaded Ruta 5. Only issue was the crunching noises. Me thinks the bottom bracket, which has had a hard life has started to really fail with wobble on the crank arms. We’ll see how it goes, I mean they have big bearings so another 800km should be ok. Right?
Now miracles upon miracles I am back on track despite a major route detour but a nice tailwind helped out.
As this will be my last post prior to Christmas have a good time.
Well I now write this a third time after wordpress app blew my previous post after a media error on uploading! Grrrrr.
Following which I then pushed on to Angostura taking the pavemento (paved) option of Ruta 40. After 100km in to the day (40km from SCdB) I met Robert who seemed to be completely out of his depth. First day ‘ever’ cycling with a brand new Brompton-esque bike. Only a banana and a little water he’d set out for San Martín. He also confessed to having an apple. I was a touch worried for him. I suggested he sit behind me as I ploughed on in to the strong headwind. After 10km he gave up having to rest his legs. Still hope he made it ok.
I was up and past Angostura by 9 heading north. I passed some Argentinians who were ‘free’ cycling with a guide who started to rave about my Diamondback. I’m not sure they were listening but, take note James, he respected quality. I lucked out later at a campamento libre and enjoyed some afternoon sunshine.
During the night we had a touch of rain and thunder but then as I past San Martín and made Junin it turned into a full on storm with hail stones and lots of thunder. Never rains here apparently. Ok so why’s it not a desert then? Some delinquents had to play some music in the car, doors wide open and base completely distorted. I was also awoken by nearby gunshots but as no holes appeared in the tent I went back to sleep.
As I was leaving a guy told me the way was hilly but paved for a good 30km so I wasn’t worried when the unexpected 250m climb arose. I pushed on though keen to make some progress as Aluminé was a good slog off. Only after stopping to eat some wild rocket, which would have benefited by some dressing and a little salt, and photograph a bridge did I check the GPS. Now for some reason it was playing up. Nope it dawned upon me that I had come in the wrong direction, just as the Argentinian cyclists passed by probably wondering why I was there if I was going to Aluminé. No options available but an about turn back over the pass with now a strong headwind. I hummed the tune to Bonanza as this was big country.
I slid back in to Junin late afternoon to refuel and start again.
The Aluminé valley was great and would be fantastic to raft or kayak down. Still that must be for another day. I treated myself to a nice meal and a thirst quenching Quilmes.
I then hit some of the worst ripio and coupled with some exuberant car drivers filling the air with dust it was tricky on Ruta 23. Still I found a very nice camp spot south of lago Aluminé. I bathed in the warm river. Lovely!
The following day was not much better route wise dust soft or rock strewn ripio as I climbed through valleys filled with monkey puzzle trees. I made the Argentinian frontier but not before more tourists had to keep photographing me on their mobiles. Did I use sunblock some girls asked whilst their mother took some sneaky photos. They could just ask I would be more than happy. Many bus passengers interested in the Rig. Speaking of which many truck drivers toot or wave as they pass as I guess they know the rigours of the road not to mention my Rig is technically articulated.
Not sure when or if I can get this uploaded as it keeps bombing out. I’ll try once more.
770km in on Day 11.
I always find it to be a minor miracle that whilst I move from plane to plane at the various airports that my luggage also turns up. As it did this time. Shoved into the trunk of a taxi I was quickly whisked to the sanctuary of the Holiday Inn, Puerto Montt. I had the free upgrade to kingsize with balcony. All the better as I quickly turned the room into a makeshift workshop.
I took the opportunity to enquire of getting secured paisaje, ticket, on the Queillon to El Chaiten ferry. It seemed no go. Or at least the impact of an issue was too high, plus the highway south on Chiloe would be busy.
So I opted to take a less researched route. Ruta7 involving no less than three ferry trips and putting my bike n trailer into a strangers pickup as we convoy fashion raced across a spit of land to take the last boat to Caleto Gonzalo.
The going so far was good but getting better as I entered one of Chile’s national parks. I stayed at El Volcan, offering an excellent view of the nearby, now snow capped sleeping volcano which had devastated El Chaiten in 2008.
Just amazing. It was even sunny!
The next day after a fairly arduous ripio trip I entered El Chaiten to find a dramatic change from what I saw in 2008. I loaded up on food and a little wine. Well at just over £2 for 2 litres of finest white chardonnay what’s one to do? The slight tail wind quickly carried me along a new paved section to camping Yelcho. A picturesque location if only tainted by the onset of steep ripio climbing.
The following day, 4th Dec, saw me reach Sta Lucía. Ok now for the second time. Often I see roads leading away from my path and I sometimes wonder ‘what leads down there?’. Well now I had the opportunity to discover north of El Chaiten, and now after watching a past cycling friend head away towards Futaleulfú, now so would I.
I hadn’t travelled far before meeting Carolyn McCarthy of The Lonely Planet doing ground research for a cycling article. She and her friend offered biscuits fruit water etc. but I had more than enough. I made south of Futaleulfú and camped in a quiet farmstead.
After some more tough ripio I was over the boarder into Argentina. Yes now I was truly on my way, the ripio ended as I entered Trevelin and another tail wind all boded well. Sadly I had problems.
The tourist information place was great. I had found a place to freshen up but I had no money. Banco Chubut es mal con Visa. I could not take any money from the cash machine. I negotiated a USD rate for the hosteria and after some internal debate I had to detour to Esquel.
Gracias a Dios. Banco Patagonia, Red Bank, allowed me to take some, for me, desperate cash. Panic over.
I wended my way back towards Parque a Los Alerces. By now the scenery was getting better and better. I was meeting at least once a day now another cyclist (s).
Some tough ripio (well to tell the truth most is toughish but this was undulating gravel come rocks) got me to Cholila. A peaceful spot. I was NOW going to have a parrilla. Sadly the bank holidays seemed to mean that everything was shut. Still I found a small cafe above the tourist information come bus ticket office. Firstly I apologied if I were to ask for a second hamburger. I had to apologise again as I discretely asked for two more:mrgreen:
I left good n early before making excellent progress on new paved road past Epuyén and on to El Maiten. The centre for the 75cm guage, Old Patagonia Express. I again waited for a needy Parrilla but after 8pm and they said una horita mas. I left. I found a small local cafe and had a big plate of chips, milanesa con huevo. The propriatress seemed to enjoy her own cooking so I new it was going to be nice n hearty meal. We talked about the ash cloud since el volcan chaiten erupted.
I had camped in the municipal but left latish.
The wind had now picked up to almost gale force and on very poor ripio it took 7 hours to make 46km. Uff I needed to rest but I endured more km as I was constantly promised camping further on. A big hello to Danny and Megan, two cyclists from North Liverpool (aka Formby). How did you know they asked me. Well…..
Camping Kaleuche del Manso was nearly off when the Dueño passed by and said come with me I own the place it is open for you. Cool.
To be honest I have met so many friendly and hospitable people. All having a different story. So interesting and fleshing out my journey in so many ways.
The detour to Kaleuche had cost me an hour dear. I now returned to Ruta 40 and hit the 500m climb. I saw a figure in the distance and then met Thomas Meixner. So your the guy with the trailer. Yes I replied, it helps carry food and importantly biscuits n wine.
This his 6th journey, having spent 1yr 7 months from Alaska to Ushuia he was returning north to his hometown in Germany. It turns out this is his living. Professional Cyclist. Writing and presenting his journeys to 104 countries. We had an excellent laugh at cycling jokes. He told me he’d eaten on just this trip over 100kg of biscuits. When we stopped laughing we laughed at other ridiculous nonsense such as trawling the supermarket shelves, not for diet pop but high calorie stuff.
And I seemed to have made his news page
So now I am resting a little. Checking my online life. Contacting Mrs O’ and updating this blog.
Next update maybe sometime. Thanks for all the messages. Now I’m off to explore Bariloche.
The Journey Begins once more…
Ok, so here we go again. As I’ve told a few colleagues, “I missed a bit”. Yes, back in 2008 as I left Punta Arenas I headed North. After 28 days the journey ended.
Then in 2012 I secured some valuable time off work, but due to job changes, not enough time could be secured. El Boliviano Invierno sort of meant whilst South America would be bathed in spring come summer I would be heading for a wet Salar crossing. So I had to invert my trip & head South from La Paz to Santiago. But there was now a gaping gap between Santiago & El Chaiten from 2008 & 2012 trips,
Now I have the gap and it will be closed.
However my apologies as the Blog will be limited. I’ll drop some photos on line if & when I can. There’s no promises this time, but we’ll have some special reports, I’m sure.
I’m particularly looking forward to the Holiday Inn, Puerto Montt; The once a week ferry from Quellion a Chaiten at 3am on Thurs morn; el Maiten, Bariloche, San Martin and dinosaur country before hitting Chile & soaking up several National Parks through Bio Bio then across to Concepcion. Christmas is likely to be somewhere near Bio Bio & hopefully it’ll be a sunny day so I can reflect on my family & friends enjoying the religious & annual festivities.
A coastal road takes me gently north for a week before I cross head towards Santiago via Melipilla, where I stopped off last time. Hopefully no horse gelding, but let’s see.
I’ll hit Santiago a few days before it’s time to return to return home once again.
Bags almost packed, work almost handled (impossible !) and Mrs O’s relatively content at my departure to foreign climes allowing me to pursue my dreams of a life in the saddle enjoying the wind, the sun, the open road sounds, smells and rich vistas and bird song. In some ways the solace of the open road and allowing the spirit to relax & recharge.
If the blog all goes awry Merry Xmas !
p.s. Here’s the scrubbed up Bob Trailer, ready to roll, if assembled.
and my trusty stead, The Beast, ready to fly.