6th till 12th of October 2019.
The first days of spring.
One thing you can’t change is the weather. Last few weeks we have seen the first signs of spring, covering tree branches like a green mist, or tulips turning their heads towards the sun, lifting our spirits. But spring has been pushed aside by the last convulsions of winter.
Leaving the campground on a 2% climb in very bad weather, snow, headwind and steep surrounding mountains makes us wonder if we will ever be able to bike in only a shirt before we leave again. Spring is here? Well, not really. Freezing, speeding, steep downhill brings us to the tiny town of Cerro Castillo where we find a tiny cabana for the next two days.
A wood stove, a small supermarket and a good bed. We don’t need anything else. We understand that the park is still closed because of snow at the last part of the hike.
As we are not camping we can spend more time on planning.
Jump the fence.
To hike the park you first cross a private property, climbing a fence which keeps the cows inside, nobody to ask permission but this seems to be the normal hikers entrance. All alone the old forest embraces us. The whole day we only see two other couples, both warn us for the snow higher-up the trail. Once having reached the snow we also decide to turn back, without crampons and waterproof shoes it is unsafe to continue. 2 km before the lake but happy to have hiked as it gives you a different perspective.
The headwind has picked-up when leaving this sweet village. It becomes even more of a challenge the moment the pavement stops. We prefer a “normal” dirt road instead of the “finished” road with a lot of loose stones. Headwind gets even worse and in combination with the road conditions we end up pushing on a flat piece along Rio Ibanez. https://www.instagram.com/p/B3dTicnlJNf/.
And then we reach kilometer marker 737 on the Caretera Austral. Roadworks, major roadworks. 15 km will be improved during the next two years. 2 years? For only 15km?
It is Tuesday and the roadblock is only applicable during the working week. They are working with explosives to clear rocks. No traffic allowed between 13:00 – 17:00. Also no cyclists. No other possibility than to accept what you can’t change. Not all people who have to wait have read the signs back on the road that roadblocks are in place and don’t accept what you can’t change. Example is an Israeli who is really angry because he still has to drive to the next village, does not have time, needs to move on even if he is on holiday. He travels by car and can easily reach the village before dark. He sounds a bit like me 3 years ago.
When we are allowed to proceed we understand why it has to take 2 years for only 15 km. Road will be made wider which has an impact on: fences that need to be replaced, trees to be removed, rocks to be blown to bits, new base to be made etc. What a massive project but at least they have a base to work from, how must it have been to construct the first road here in the middle of no-where. This is real project planning!
When we see a flat spot, hidden from the road and overlooking the valley, we decide to call it a day and enjoy quiet nature as roadworks stop at 18:00. It is one of our best wild camp spots ever! (think we have said that before)
After a healthy breakfast only a few kilometers of roadworks remain after which the quiet road opens up for us. There is still a bit of traffic so we continue to wear our bright clothing.
Riding along Laguna Cofre and Rio Murta we meet Miguel, who has just visited family 20 kilometers away.
Can I smoke in here?
As we know it will be too far away to reach Puerto Rio Tranquilo we decide to stay at Dona Dora, campground at a farm. The best eggs and a barn where we can get a bit warm at a wood fire. There is no chimney and the wood is not very dry, so it creates quite some smoke. We kept our bags inside and are still reminded of the fire when we open them now.
Passing by the largest lake in Chile, Lago General Carrera, 970km2. Meeting Boris, Badgen, Michela, Carmen, Joshue. A beautiful family from Israel which has lived in Canada and is travelling with their 3 daughters durning holidays around the world!
Puerto Rio Tranquilo is really a quiet town, the main reason of existence are the tourists who want to visit the Marble Caves. We decide to visit them the next morning as the light should be better in the morning. Juan Aldea is our captain and owner of the cabana we are staying at. He takes us to the different caves with a speed boat. You can also kayak, note they leave from a different spot. We did not know and thought we had to kayak that full stretch against the wind (20 minutes by 200 hp boat). With the boat you see more different caves, have a wild ride over the waves but are dependent on the time the captain allows, ours takes ample time to admire the caves and rocks and take photos. With a kayak you can take your own time but is would be cold this time of year.
The caves are not as deep as I imagined but the marble structure and the reflection of the light, the crystal clear water, the amazing depth of the lake and the clear blue sky make it a magical.
Young man, old man.
In the afternoon we see a biker stopping at the square in front of our cabin. We can’t resist to say hello and invite him in for a coffee. Roel, Dutch, from Friesland, age 73 (!), biking from Colombia to Ushuaia.
Juan ensures Roel can still visit the caves in the afternoon. Normally Roel would camp but as he returns really late and we have a spare room, Juan approves (against payment) that Roel stays at our cabine. Mashed potatoes with carrots and meatballs are the welcome for Roel. He has biked all over the world and was a marathon skater in the past. Still would like to bike with us tomorrow.
Titanium Van Niclolas bike with a combination between bike packing and traditional touring set-up. Up-hill he speeds passed us. Whaauw how fast he is! Amazing dirt road ride with great endless views.
Finding a place to camp ends at Pared Sur campground. First campground had no facilities and Pablo (passing by) from Pared Sur invite us, for 9,000 per person. In hindsight too expensive, but clean, spacious bathrooms and a kitchen we could have used if we wanted. We prefer to cook on our stove, together with Roel under a full moon ending a perfect week.