When the pavement ends

Posted by on Jan 19 2009 | 13 Chile 07/ 08, 14 Argentina 08/09, English

Back to Argentina

I left he internet cafe in Curarrehue, the last chilenaen town before the border, where the paved road ended. Flo and Chan waited in front of a supermarket and were chatting with people. What a surprise! It was Rosa Maria and Reto, a couple I’ve met while working at VeloPlus in Switzerland. They are riding around argentinan and chilenan Patagonia as well. We spent the night together on a campsite at a river. Chan loved playing with Rosa Maria and the campground girl.

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Next day we started up the road to the border pass of Mamuil Malal. Rosa Maria and Reto headed in the other direction. There was road work done on this part. Gravel truck after gravel truck passed, leaving us in a dust cloud. The ground was loose, soft washboard going slightly up hill. I couldn’t ride and started to push my bike. It was crazy and I looked out for a ride. Finally a pick up stopped. It was the boss of the road construction and he brought us to the entrance of Parque National Lanin, where the construction ended. The ride had been quite bumpy and when we put our gear back together, we discovered two missing screws on the follow me. I could still pull Chan’s bike but he couldn’t be riding it anymore, until we would find replacement for the metric screws.

From here the road wasn’t as soft anymore but still “washbordy” and for the next 3km extremly steep. It took us three hours for that bit of way! We didn’t make it to the border by 3km but camped on a beautiful lake with view of vulcano Lanin.

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On the argentinian side we were back on pavement quickly. On our way to Junin de los Andes there was something big moving out of the pasture next to the road. Slowly it circled its way up into the sky. “Wow, that bird was huge!”, I said.  Flo and I had both stopped at the side of the road and only now realized that we had just seen a Condor!

Fancy invitation

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The roads beteween Junin de los Andes all the way down to Calafate are very popular with cyclists. From here we would meet bicycle tourists almost every day. In San Martin de los Andes we met Sara and Beni from Switzerland. They are riding down Patagonia as well. We stayed together on a campground. Chan loved it since both, Beni and Sara, are wonderful playmates! For the next few weeks we would meet them on and off. We took the route of the siete lagos which was partially paved.

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 It was nice warm and we stayed an extra day on a river to rest and play. But the weather changed and on the last day of gravel it rained. A screw on Flo’s lowrider broke about two kilometers before we reached pavement again and he fixed it with quick ties for now.

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In Villa La Angostura we had to fill up on food again. It had cooled off quite a bit and was raining hard now. We wanted to ride on to a campground but were stopped by a pick up driver:” You are riding in this weather? And you have a child? This must be really hard. I can offer you a dry and warm place and a meal. Just follow me!” After he asured us, that his house was only about 3km further and close to the highway, we finally followed him.

We rode along a dirt track and after about 15minutes stopped by a huge gate. In front of us was some kind of english garden. We were led to the guest house. Now we weren’t sure if this was a hotel and the guy wanted us to take a room here,  so Flo explainde to him, that we couldn’t afford this kind of hotel. But Sr. Eduardo had invited us. We were his guests. From now on the chief of his servants, Carlos, was taking care of us. After we had a nice hot shower, Carlos brought us over to the main building for a tasty meal. We went back to our room to rest a little. It was late afternoon by now. When we started to be hungry again we got our own food out, thinking that we had already been served a meal and should be eating our own now. But around 6pm a servant brought tea: milk and cereales and a fruit plate. Around 8pm they came over with pizza and tortellini and cake for desert! Sr. Eduardo came a bit later to tell us, that he would be showing us around in the morning. We spent a really comfortable night. In the morning we got our stuff ready. It wasn’t raining anymore. Carlos came to pick us up for breakfast. Sr. Eduardo came a bit later and then showed us his huge house: The walls were decorated with lots of stuffed animal heads from all over the world. On the ground was an ice bear skinn with head. There was an indoor-outdoor spa, a room for the children and a huge garden. There was a granja with deer, lamas, guanacos, peacocks, sheep, ducks, horses and donkeys. When we’ve seen everything it was already past noon.

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Holidays

We went to the La Bolsa hostal in Bariloche, recommended to us by cyclist freinds. It was a great place to spend the holidays. There was a superb kitchen and a slide in the front yard. Chan played with almost all the backpackers and Flo was able to fix his lowrider. In Bariloche we met Randy and Nancy again, the US couple we’ve already met along the US west coast. They’ve been riding the same route as we did, working on various projects along their way. With them, some of their friends and Sara and Beni we celebrated a potluck Christmas.

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We rode the three days to El Bolson together with Sara and Beni. In El Bolson we met other cyclists which were telling us about the bad gravel roads awaiting us at the  Los Alerces Park route. We were thingking of riding around the park and enjoy pavement for a few more kilometers, but that would have meant to go back into the pampa and carrying water for two to three days.

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The gravel road wasn’t all that bad. Anyways, we have had worse. The park was beautiful and we were glad not to have skipped it. We celebrated new years on lago Rivadavia. Towards the end of the park Flo’s old aluminum lowrider fell apart. He fixed it again with quick ties. But in Trevelin we took another day off riding. There he had a new lowrider made by a “everything” welder, one like mine.

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Careterra Austral

We were now really close to the careterra austral, of which all cyclists are crazy about and from here there would be only a short part of pavement around  Coyhaique of about 150km the rest dirt or gravel. Another border crossing back into Chile brought us to Futaleufu. Here we wanted to fill up on food for a few days. But if there was fresh food, it was rotting on the shelves, the supermarkets were only half full. We ran into Sara and Beni again and camped together another night. That late afternoon it started to drizzle. Luckily Beni had mounted a tarp which kept us dry while cooking dinner. But when I wanted to prepare our tent for the night, it was wet inside. The seam sealing we had applied to it in Villarica didn’t work, or it was leaking somewhere else. We were thinking hard to find a solution and finally Flo constructed a rain coat for our tent with another tarp! It worked, we stayed dry!

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The gravel, dirt road was in parts quite bad but mostly ok. to ride on. Our surroundings made up for the bad parts. We passed streams, rivers, waterfalls, snow peaks, glaciers, nice smelling pastures and forests. Shortly before we reached the careterra austral, a part of my lowrider broke off. Luckily we had bought a bunch of quick ties in Futaleufu!

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On this picture you see ashes from the eruption of the vulcano close to Chaiten in the spring of 2008

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And then, there it was, that road that is a dream of so many cyclists! The first two days on the careterra the sun smiled at us. Here  as well, the gravel was mostly ok. to ride on until we reached the long parts of road construction. Then we could only make around 30km a day. But every night we found a cosy spot to put up our tent close to a little stream where we would wash off our sweat and Chan could play. On our second night on the careterra, altough the sky had been completely blue when we went to bed, the rains started. Flo got up in the middle of the night to put the “raincoat” around the tent. The morning was grey. It wasn’t far to La Junta. We stopped at the gas station where they were just building the roof. They had welding tools right there, so we asked, if they could fix my lowrider. One of the workers took it, cut off a tiny piece of the gas station and fixed my lowrider with it! The drizzle stopped and we had lunch at the gas station, bought a few things and jolted on.

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Wet and dry

Over the next few days we had to put on more and more layers. It had cooled off a lot. It was also raining on and off every day, so that we got into and peeled out of our rain gear several times a day.

We woke up to rain again. Inside the tent it stayed dry, but outside everything was dripping and so were we, as soon as we got outside. Just as we started to climb a 500m pass in Parque National, Quelat, a Rotel passed us. That’s a hotel on wheels. It was a truck like bus which pulled a wagon with night compartments. Around 15 people between 45 and 65 got out to see a waterfall. They stood in a row along the road as we passed and klick, klick, klick, went their cameras.

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The 17 switch backs we had to push our bikes up and Chan was walking, jumping and running, throwing rocks into the streams. Then we still hadn’t reached the pass altough we passed the sign of the pass. Only a few kilometers further up we had made it. It was freezing, because we were wet inside from the sweat and outside from the rain. Flo put up the tarp and we ate lunch under it and changed into dry clothes. Downhill it was very steep, on a bad soft and rocky road. But once at the intersection to Puerto Cisnes the rain had stopped and we even got a glimpse of the sun. We discovered, that another screw on my lowrider broke off and like so many times before, Flo fixed it with quick ties. We only rode 5 more km, then we stopped at a stream to fill up our water bottles. We were all quite tired from the pass and decided to stay right there under the bridge for the rest of the day and the night. It was a good spot. Chan was playing with the water and we had hung up all our wet clothes and got the broken screw replaced with a new one. Then we cooked hot chocolate and were happy to be all dry since it rained quite hard again. There was a small pool in the stream where we washed off sweat and dirt before going to bed.

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 It rained all night quite hard. When I got up in the late morning, the pool was gone and so were the rocks on which Flo had crossed the stream last night. Our little stream had grown into a river over night! We packed up everything and by the time we were ready to ride on the road, the rain had stopped again. For the first 10km we could ride nice and dry, but then the rain clouds chasing across the sky cought up with us. Bundled up in all our rain gear we made it to pavement again. We reached Villa Amengual mid afternoon and warmed up in a cafe. Then we looked for a hospedaje had a nice hot shower and stayed dry again, while it was raining outside.

Now on pavement we could ride 60km a day again. The weather stayed the same so that we changed in and out of our rain gear many times. In Villa Mañihuales we found a forestry service campground with little huts and we put up our tent in shelter. The daughter of the ranger had just made a raspberry pie and brought us three pieces over.

Next morning Chan was sick and had to throw up a few times. Along the way he had to shout out of the trailer a few times. We stopped got him out and he was throwing up at the roadside. After another 60km we found another campground with sheltered tent spaces. Chan’s belly sickness had by now turned into diarrhea. He went through all his underpants quite quickly. Next morning he seemed to be better and we rode the 35km to Coyhaique. That’s the biggest city on the careterra austral. Here we have to get parts of our equipment fixed and a lot more to do while resting to get ready for the second part of the much less populated leg of the careterra austral on ripio!

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4 comments for now

4 Responses to “When the pavement ends”

  1. Get well soon Chan!

    Enjoy the Carretera, it is beautiful. I hope you get more sunshine and less rain!

    20 Jan 2009 at 5:35 pm

  2. Rosa Maria y Reto

    Lieber Chan.
    Ich hoffe, Du bist inzwischen wieder gesund und kannst die Reise auf der Carretera Austral geniessen. Wir haben viel Schoenes erlebt und grosszuegige, gastfreundliche Leute kennengelernt. So waren wir einmal vom Regen bis auf die Haut nass und konnten uns in der warmen Kueche eines Arbeiters zwischen Puerto Yungay und Villa O’Higgins bei Milchkaffee wieder trocknen.
    Jetzt sind wir jetzt wieder in Argentinien, in Esquel und gehen 3 Tage zum Wandern in den Alerces-Park. Fuer den 5.2. haben wir die Busreise ueber Bariloche nach Buenos Aires gebucht. Nachher moechten wir noch etwa eine Woche nach Uruguay, vielleicht an den Strand, einfach ausspannen.
    Die Velos duerften jetzt schon in Buenos Aires sein, wir konnten sie in El Chalten (im Hostel “Chalten” von Ricardo Brondo) verpacken und aufgeben. Jetzt sind sie bereit fuer den Flug zurueck in die Schweiz am 19.02.2009. Stell Dir vor, ich habe Dein “Flugzeug” (Ast vom Camping in Curarrehue, wo wir mit Arismi gespielt haben) nie verloren, es hat mich auf der ganzen Reise begleitet.
    Viele liebe Gruesse an Dich, Rebekka und Florian. Ich hoffe bald wieder von Euch zu lesen, und wir wuenschen Euch viel viel Glueck, trockenes Wetter und gute Strassen auf der Weiterreise Richtung Sueden.
    Rosa Maria

    31 Jan 2009 at 8:07 am

  3. ich hoffe, dass sich chan nun vollständig erholt hat und wünsche euch weiterhin gute reise! danke, dass ihr das alles mit-teilt.

    derzeit bin ich (an einer mehrtägigen pause) auf einer wanderung mit renate und bellina vom emmental ins tösstal. das sind nur 10 tage. :-) aber ich geniesse es sehr, für einmal ganz ohne politische botschaft oder sonstige mission, einfach nur als “wir selbst” zu wandern. es gibt so viele gute begegnungen, auch in diesem land. das freut uns ebenso, wie wenn ich höre, dass ihr auch gut aufgenommen werdet, dort im “ausland”.

    ganz liebi grüess
    michael

    14 Feb 2009 at 6:04 am

  4. bic

    Great journey! I was reading your travel story like I was travelling. I wish you and your family to get 1 000 000 km by bike. Some adventure team you get there … yeah!

    13 Sep 2010 at 10:04 am

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