Touring Patagonia on the New World Tourist

TOUR OF SOUTHERN PATAGONIA – CHILE – 2017

COYHAIQUE TO VILLA O’HIGGINS

By Gordon & Kay M.

Touring Patagonia on folding bikes

The “Ripio” is the Carretera Austral’s road surface made from rounded riverbed gravel. Ripio is used from Cerro Castillo to Villa O’Higgins and makes enjoying this amazing region by bike it’s greatest challenge.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

  • Coyhaique to Cerro Castillo
  • 96 Km or 60 miles
  • 6 hours, 25 minutes riding time

We did well for our first day – 100 Km. Up hills, down hills, tailwind, headwind, cool (cold) rain, rainbows and great scenery – high rocks and blue streams. The last climb was significant and the descent down switchbacks.

Around 3:00 a pickup stopped in the middle of the lane to tell us they had a cabin they would hold for us. It’s called Ma-Ju for Marrisa-Juan. Considering the rain and how tired we were – the offer was perfect. Two hours later we arrived. Marrisa said she had her husband stop because she felt sorry for a wife out in the elements.

We are now snug in our cabin in Cerro Castillo. During the night Kay had a dream that it wasn’t rain we heard – it was the cabin being power washed. It rained all night long.

A cabana in Patagonia, Chile

Gordon in the doorway of our cabaña in Cerro Castillo – “Ma-Ju”

There is a Chilean phrase – “Quien se apura en la Palagonia, pierde el tiempo.” Anyone that hurries in Patagonia, wastes time. We kept this in mind – often

Sunday, February 19, 2017

  • Cerro Castillo to Puente Cascada
  • 33 Km or 21 miles
  • 4 hours, 29 minutes riding

Started at 10:30 AM. Made lots of stops at Miradores for photos. The climb out of Cerro Castillo was arduous. The “ripio” was horrible – large stones, loose with washboard and potholes. Also the headwind was so strong, we had to dismount and walk the bikes, fighting the strong winds and inch at a time. Kay’s bike handling skills improved as the day progressed. Kay fell twice and had one miraculous save. Gordon almost crashed into the guardrail but managed to remain upright – his skills are adjusting as well. Lots of rain in the afternoon. Challenging day all around; the wind making it particularly so. Met two nice young men heading north who started at Ushuaia (Tierra del Fuego) and were riding to their homes in VT and NY State!!

Ready to call it a day by about 4:30, we found a place to wild camp near a roaring waterfall and the river in a nice stand of trees. Made hot beverages after putting up our tent. Edgar who lives 1 Km down the road came by for a visit and a chat. He and Gordon shot the shit for about half an hour. We made pasta and sauce for dinner. Gordon made whacking big pancakes for dessert and breakfast tomorrow. Edgar came back to ask if we wanted to stay with him because of the “Feo” weather. We thanked him but declined. We were in the tent by 9:20 and the rain hadn’t started yet.

After we got in our sleeping bags for the night, we heard dogs and a racket going on outside – We reluctantly opened the door to find a herd of cattle with two gauchos and four dogs going past right next to the camp site.

No rain tonight! Great night of sleep. Up at 7:30 with a start when a vehicle passed and seeing how light it was, Kay thought it was a meteor.

Bikepacking in Patagonia

Our first campsite near Puente Cascada outside of Cerro Castillo. This turned out to be a great camp with a beautiful river close by with clear water. The water is glacial water and although safe to drink, we did treat it with a UV purifier.

Patagonian mountains in morning sunshine

This was the view from our first campsite early the next morning!

Monday, February 20, 2017

  • Puente Cascada to Bahia Murta
  • 69 Km or 44 miles
  • 6 hours and 1 minute riding time

We left at 9:30 AM after a good breakfast. A group of four cyclists passed just before we left. We ended up catching and passing them – young Chileans from Santiago. We climbed out of the Ibañez Valley (10-12 Km of climbing) and then down into the Murta Valley. There is less wind today but steady rain – never too heavy, although we wore our rain pants all day. We decided to drop down into the little town of Bahia Murta even though it is 4 Km off the route. We are back in a comfortable cabaña with a hot shower. We made pasta with tomato sauce with tuna and a huge salad – onion, tomato, cucumber and avocado (called “Palta” in Chile). Stocked up on cheese and good homemade Patagonian bread from a nearby home. We are snuggly tonight and tired.

Chilly morning in Chile

Kay in our campsite Monday morning. Yes, it was a little cold, but we warmed up quickly once on the road.

A small Chilean cabana

This was our small but comfortable cabaña in Bahia Murta. As Bahia Murta is off the Carretera route, not many cyclists go into the town. It had a small store, which also owned the cabañas, and we were able to get food and very basic fresh veggies.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

  • Bahia Murta to Puerto Rio Tranquilo
  • 32 Km or 20 miles
  • 3 hours riding

This was an easy day as we planned to spend time in Pto. Rio Tranquilo. We left at 10 AM – favorable weather and wind with mixed ripio surfaces but some bad! Ups and downs as we went on the side of General Carrera. Met a lone cyclist – Israeli. He wanted to know if Gordon felt he could make it to Coyhaique with 3 missing spokes and no brakes! Gordon told him “no problem” – what else could you say? Scenery and more scenery – beautiful.

We arrived in Pto. Rio Tranquilo around 1:30 PM and had a little scare – the first 4 places we checked were full. The university students are still on break – Pto. Rio Tranquilo is a great place for excursions and backpacking – students are everywhere. However, we found a B&B at the entrance to town. We rested, changed and walked about and then took a boat ride to the Capillas de Marmol. We had HUGE chicken sandwiches and French fries for dinner.

Mountain in Chile, Patagonia

A view of the Capillas de Marmol. They are extensive. 

View of a lake in Patagonia, Chile

The view of Lake General Carrera from our room. It is about 45 minutes from here to the “Capillas de Marmol.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

  • Puerto Rio Tranquilo to Puerto Bertrand
  • 68 Km or 42 miles
  • 6 hours, 51 minutes riding

Our goal today was to get to Puerto Bertrand – 68 Km – a little ambitious from the description we had of the road. We left at 8:30 and the first 20 Km met all the expectations of difficulty – mostly climbing on bad surface. We met a couple from Poland who seemed to be on a perpetual ride. When off the bike, they would stop and work when Wi-Fi was available (nice work if you can get it). Kay took a spectacular spill setting up for our lunch break – nothing seriously injured, but it was close. The middle section of road had some relatively flat sections but bad ripio. After the split in the road with an easterly route going to Chile Chico (the three lakes region) it was climb and climb again. We made it to Puerto Bertrand around 5:00 PM – happy to be there but tired.

It took awhile to figure how to contact Kay’s brother’s friend Jim. We had a Movistar (cell phone provider) phone chip from recommendations in Coyhaique but south of Coyhaique you needed an Entel chip. The result was that we had an unusable phone. Kay found a tourist who let her use his phone. Jim was just across the lake with his friend, Mary Ann and her four dogs. They came across the river in an inflatable boat and took us up to Mary Ann’s house. It turned out that, next to her house, she had built a cabaña for her mother (who is younger than Kay) who visits for three months every year. Since her mom wasn’t visiting, we were able to stay in this fabulous cabaña for two nights. There was a restaurant in town (this is a very small town) run by friends of Jim. After cleaning up we went with Jim and Mary Ann to the restaurant and had tomato soup, grilled salmon, plain potatoes, bread and custard or crepes for dessert. Jim and Mary Ann had wine – a great meal. Back home to bed at 10:30. Boy, were we ready. 

Ripio on the way to Puerto Bertrand. Wonderful views.

Puerto Bertrand

  • Thursday, February 23, 2017
  • Puerto Bertrand
  • Rest day

Lazy morning – coffee with Mary Ann’s homemade organic whole-wheat toast. She came by and we chatted about our plans. What a font of information!! She has contacts for everywhere we were going. She knows someone who can drive us up from O’Higgins!! We walked around town and checked out the two grocery stores and bought pasta and veggies. The pizza place was closed so we came back and made a huge lunch of pasta, sauce and salad of fresh chard, parsley, chives (from Mary Ann’s greenhouse), tomatoes, carrots, avocado, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper – absolutely heavenly. A long siesta for Gordon while Kay started planning the rest of the trip (using Mary Ann’s suggestions) We have enough time to do everything we want plus now know we could spend extra days in Tortel, O’Higgins and Los Antiguos in Argentina. We’ll be going back a slightly different way than we came! Jim came by and took us on a boat tour of the lake, the rapids and his primitive house. We walked up the road and had pizza for dinner. Home to bed.

beautiful cabana in Chile

Mary Ann’s Cabaña

Friday February 22

  • Puerto Bertrand to Cochrane
  • 46 Km or 28 miles
  • 5 hours, 37 minutes riding

This has been our hardest day to date. We took the “shortcut” to Cochrane. This was described on one of the blogs and recommended by Mary Ann. The route veers off the CA to the right at 17 Km and descends to a suspension bridge but then has a 5 Km uphill that was mostly bike pushing. This route is a little shorter than the CA with less traffic. However, the scenery doesn’t compare with the CA route and with the hills, probably not worth it. Just before the shortcut, we stopped and hiked to see the confluence of the Baker and Neff rivers, which is a spectacular blending of glacial waters. The shortcut continued up and down over ridges before descending to a ferry across the Baker River. It was incredibly sunny and hot – Gordon thought his head was going to explode. From there it’s still up and down into Cochrane. We were out of it with fatigue by the time we found a place to stay – Cero a Cero – very basic but a bed.

We saw the four Santiago youths from day 2 in front of the grocery store in Cochrane. We didn’t recognize them at first, being out of their biking gear. They had finished the biking part of their trip and were heading to Tortel by bus. They intended to celebrate tonight – beer and wine.

Cochrane Chile suspension bridge

The suspension bridge just after the beginning of the “shortcut” to Cochrane.

A Chilean Farry

The ferry (balsa) crossing the river Baker just before Cochrane.

Note: a lot of the English names are from English Admirals: Cochrane, Baker, Neff and others. The British helped establish the Chilean navy. Cochrane was an admiral in the Chilean Navy.

 

Saturday, February 25, 2017

  • Cochrane to about halfway to Tortel
  • 62 Km or 39 miles
  • 7 hours, 25 minutes riding

We had a minimal breakfast at Cero a Cero (not our favorite place to stay). We stopped by a panaderia for water and picked up a bread pudding cake, which turned out to be great for snacking during the morning. There was lots of climbing in the morning and sucky ripio. We stopped for lunch at 2:00 PM. Passed a cyclist who was stopped on the left. He told us that it was downhill from then on. There was a huge downhill to a lovely flat and shady section. We stopped at a little house offering tea/coffee, bread and plum jam. Bought some jam and gave the señora a big tip. A dog started following us around 40 Km and spent the night sleeping next to our tent. We found a great camping spot by a river at 62 Km; another cycling couple arrived at dusk and camped across the river from us. We made pasta and sauce with tuna. We also had some bread and butter, hot milk and tea. There were more headwinds today but they kept us cool. These last two days turned out to be the only warm days of the tour.

Our “dog” slept about twenty feet from our tent. One good thing about having the dog follow us – cars gave us a much wider space as they passed and slowed down. They seem to be more worried about the dog than of us!

The "Tea House" cabin in Chile

The “Tea House” 

Campsite view of mountains

View from our campsite

Chilean campsite and stream

Another view from our campsite

Sunday, February 26, 2017

  • Finished the road to Tortel
  • 65 Km or 41 miles
  • 5 hours 48 minutes riding

We left our wonderful campsite at about 8:30 – Nice road for maybe 20 Km. The dog is still with us. We took the detour road to Tortel. Half way to Tortel our dog started getting a little crazy and started chasing after cars. In one spot, he got in front of Kay who had to break hard to keep from running into him. That was it for the dog. We managed to get rid of the dog. There were long stretches of flat road into Tortel. For cyclists, Tortel is hell. It’s hard to adequately describe. There are no roads. The first area you run into is an upper parking lot. There are about 20 flights of stairs to get down to a boardwalk. After about a quarter of a mile our lodging was to the right and up about 10 flights of stairs to “Entre Hielos”, our hotel. At least we were above the Tsunami zone! All deliveries are made up and down the stairs and along the boardwalk along the water’s edge. Due to the distance and stairs, we had to leave our bikes with most of our gear on them in the upper parking lot. The information office said they would be safe. Note: we never locked our bikes while in southern Chile and never had any safety concerns – people were very open and honest. The hotel was architecturally interesting but necessarily compact. As soon as we got there and got on Wi-Fi, Gordon checked the weather forecast. Our beautiful weather was headed south quickly with our departure date being right in the middle of the forecast storm: rain, cold and strong winds. Kay and I had a minor melt down just after getting into our room. After a lot of deliberation, even though we planned on two nights with a rest day in Tortel, we decided that the best thing we could do would be to spend only one night, leave before the rain and take whatever happened. Otherwise, we risked staying a third day and getting stuck in Tortel. The other thing about Tortel was a lack of food to eat in the restaurants and total confusion about when they were open or closed. It seemed totally random. We finally found a place to eat dinner that was barely OK after about six attempts.

Entre Hielos was lovely – the beds heavenly. Hot shower! But Torte itself had little to do, unless you took a long boat trip to see the glaciers. Nothing to eat. Worried about bikes alone and in the weather. Kay had a little cry. She didn’t mind the idea of riding and climbing in the rain, but the idea of trying to set up camp/stay warm/eat if it was raining terrified her. Staying in Tortel, though, felt suffocating. We had to get out of there, come what may.

Tortel Chile and its boardwalk

The main boardwalk in Tortel. An interesting town, but hard to say if it will be sustainable. It would be hard for it to grow.

Monday, February 27, 2017

  • Tortel to Rio Bravo + 12 Km
  • 55 Km or 35 miles
  • 5 hours, 28 minutes riding

After a good breakfast at 8:00 AM, we got organized to leave. We needed to reprovision, but on our way to the parking lot with our stuff, we found nothing open. At 9:30 AM, finally found one place that sold us a nice loaf of whole wheat bread. By now it’s after 10:00 and one mini mart finally opened. Bought 2 packs of cheese, butter and more tuna. Because of hiking up and down the Tortel stairs, we left at 10:30 AM. Down the road we went and within a few Km – there was our dog! Gordon chased him away. At least he went from being abandoned to getting near Tortel – a better chance for food. We were then joined by a small herd of cattle, but finally lost them as well.

We arrived back on the CA and started climbing immediately. Lots of bike pushing was required but the road surface was good! We arrived in Yungay at 3:07 – Seven minutes after the ferry left!!! The next one would be at 6:00 PM. Nice little restaurant to wait in – empanadas, coffee, tea, cake and rain.

A Canadian couple (Doug and Karen) showed up and helped us pass the time until the 6:00 PM ferry. Crossing was fine and one hour later we were finally in Rio Bravo. Back on the bikes for about 12 Km. We found a campsite and made chili just in time for the rain to start. Into the tent by 9:00 PM. We’ll see about tomorrow. Doug and Karen stayed at the ferry terminal.

Ferry in Chile

The ferry from Yungay to Rio Bravo. The ferry is run by the Chilean government and is free. The cost of building a road that would take the place of the ferry is so costly that it makes sense to run the ferry instead of building the road. Unless traffic would increase, it works out just fine.

A campsite on Chile's Rio Bravo

Our camp just down the road from Rio Bravo. Waiting for the storm!

Rio Bravo + 12 Km to Villa O’Higgins

  • 88 Km or 54 miles
  • 8 hours, 37 minutes riding

We didn’t have the greatest night – lots of wind and rain. The bottom of the tent had lots or water – bags wet, clothes wet. High winds, off and on sleep. Worried the river might rise – it didn’t. Up and at-em early – 7:15 AM. No breakfast – just stuff the wet things as best as possible and ride away into the rain. Strong tail wind! At 10 Km we found a bridge and got under it for a good breakfast – a Birthday breakfast! Still raining, but back on the road. The blog we used for information talked about 30 Km with four ridges to cross – they were right – tough climbs with the ripio. Glaciers, rocky mountains, waterfalls and Condors – too cloudy and rainy for pictures. After the climbs there is a “refugio”. The owner of the land had left it for cyclists to use – it used to be for passing gauchos. No sign – just a gate. Somehow everyone finds it. We found it only because a Brazilian was standing out on the road eating from a pot and hoping to find a ride to the ferry. He had been there for two days, waiting for better weather and possibly a ride and spent the time cleaning it up. We only stayed a few minutes, ate a quick lunch and left just in time to see our Canadian friends arrive. They may have stayed to spend the night there. Even though it was raining and cold we took advantage of the tail wind and made it all the way to Villa O’Higgins at about 6:30 PM. We took the first available cabaña we came to in O’Higgins. The cabaña was reasonably priced and comfortable. We had a good meal in the comedor for my birthday – salad, bread, salmon or chicken, hot sauce, potatoes and semolina pudding dessert with “Calafate” sauce – wonderful!!! All followed by a good night’s sleep.

NOTE: Calafate is like a blueberry but grows on a large bush. The local saying is that if you try Calafate – you will return to Patagonia.

Eating breakfast under a bridge in Chile

70th Birthday breakfast under a bridge

A sunburnt cycling tourist in Patagonia

A tanned, tired and wet Kay under the bridge

Chile's Villa O'Higgins

Villa O’Higgins

VILLA O’HIGGINS TO COYHAIQUE

We spent four restful days in Villa O’Higgins. We had picked up two extra days from our schedule; we had spent only one night in Tortel and we went from Tortel to Villa O’Higgins in two instead of three days. We had arranged for a driver to pick us up on Saturday in O’Higgins and take us to Puerto Guadal with an overnight stay in Cochrane. We would then pick up Carretera 265; head to Chile Chico then take the ferry to Puerto Ibañez and back to Coyhaique. Carretera 265 is ripio from Puerto Guadal to Chile Chico but paved from Puerto Ibañez to Coyhaique. Kay and Gordon came to a compromise about the return and decided to start in Mallín Grande instead of Puerto Guadal.

The time in O’Higgins was spent walking and riding around town, eating, clothes washing, drying equipment, getting an Entel phone service, hiking and even some shopping. There is an artist in O’Higgins with a wonderful little shop. We kept going back there for souvenirs. We also spent a lot of time in the library. The library has free Wi-Fi and the librarian was the perfect information person. She told us who could cut Gordon’s hair, where we could have our clothes washed and how to get to trail heads for hikes.

Our driver picked us up at 8:00 Saturday morning. He had a twelve year old Mitsubishi, crew cab pick-up that was in great condition. Gordon looked it up and that model of pick-up is not available for sale in the USA – too bad – it is a great little truck. We spent the night in a hotel in Cochrane, “El Ultimo Paraiso” a little pricey but otherwise OK. Sunday we were off to Mallín Grande.

Villa O'Higgins cabin

Our comfortable little cabaña in Villa O’Higgins.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

  • Mallín Grande to Fachinal
  • 38 Km or 24 miles
  • 4 hours, 33 minutes riding time

We had a good breakfast at Ultimo Paraiso. Our driver, Juan, picked us up right at 9:00 AM and off we went. We made a quick stop in Puerto Bertrand to visit Mary Ann and her mother, Anne. It was a short visit but good to see them. We started in Mallín Grande around 12:30 PM with the goal of getting as far as Fachinal. The road winds along next to General Carrera Lake. We knew it would be slow going with several climbs – it was – but at the same time it was just spectacular scenery. We ran into two Belgian cyclists around 5:00 PM. We had briefly seen them earlier when we were headed south and they were going north. We met them while we were looking for a campsite. We had found one by a bridge but decided to continue to Fachinal. We made it to town, which was on a detour off route – a ghost town. We were about out of camping options and sites – it looked rather bleak. While I was looking for a better section of irrigation ditch, Kay found an ideal site in a manger that would protect us from the brisk wind. We headed to the nearest house and found la señora home – it had looked deserted. She said it was OK for us to stay. She got her water from a small earthen irrigation ditch. We set up and got water, which we treated. Kay, tired of eating the same meal, made a tuna caserole – pasta, milk, tuna with beans and corn and curry powder – Yum, followed by cookies and tea. We went back to la señora to give her some pesos. She reluctantly took them. Into the tent at 9:00 PM – hopefully for a “tranquilo” night.

manger tent

Our tent-in-a-manger campsite in Fachinal

Monday, March 6, 2017

  • Fachinal to Chile Chico
  • 48 Km or 30 miles
  • 5 hours, 10 minutes riding time

We spent a cozy night in our tent, however, the wind howled and blew all night but no rain! We were up at 7:15 AM but didn’t leave until 9:30. It looks like the dogs found our trash bag and took it. The first 20 Km of the day were hard!! On one hill, it took two to push one bike. The last 20 Km were great – smooth – no large hills. Chile Chico is a nice, clean town – best looking so far. Services, though, lack a little – meals were slow. We stayed at Hosteria De La Patagonia. The topography has totally changed! It looks like the western US!

the Ripio in Fachinal Chile

Leaving Fachinal

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

  • Road around Chile Chico and into Argentina
  • 42 Km or 26 miles
  • 3 hours, 12 minutes riding time

We got off to a slow start today. We went to the ferry terminal to make sure there wasn’t another ferry other than the one at 4:00 PM. Nope. That is the only one so tomorrow we wait until 4:00 PM to get to Puerto Ibañez and we’ll have to spend the night there. After the trip into town, we took a leisurely flat ride into Argentina into the town of Los Antiguos. Cute town and we ended up eating lunch at Taura. We met Carla who owns the restaurant and is a good friend of Mary Ann.

When we arrived back in Chile Chico, we stopped at the Hosteleria and went back into town. We were met and stopped by a group of officials on the side of the road. The group included carabineros (police) and the local health department. They were giving our frees safety vests to cyclists. We even had our picture taken. Gordon used his vest the rest of the trip – can’t be too safe. We returned to the Hosteria where we had a wonderful meal. We’ll see what adventures we have mañana.

General Carrera Lake in Chile

View of General Carrera Lake from Chile Chico

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

  • Chile Chico to Puerto Ibañez
  • Mostly a ferry ride

We still weren’t real sure about the ferry other than it left at 4:00 PM. We arrived early and were with the first group to purchase tickets. We had time enough to watch the entire boarding process. The bikes were no problem, but they squeezed as many vehicles on board as possible. We found a nice cabaña just as you are leaving Puerto Ibañez after the one hour ferry ride.

Chilean ferry full of vehicles

Vehicles squeezed onto the ferry from Chile Chico to Puerto Ibañez

Thursday, March 9 2017

  • Puerto Ibañez to Lago Chiguay campground
  • 56 Km or 35 miles
  • 4 hours, 40 minutes of riding

We had a strong head wind on the climb out of Puerto Ibañez climbing up to meet the Carretera Austral. Clouds hid Cerro Castillo again so we never got to see it. We did pick up a tail wind that helped us climb into Cerro Castillo. Our day was spent back on asphalt and climbing over the pass after Cerro Castillo. This climb has more than twelve switchbacks – I lost count. After the pass, more climbing follows to get up to the CONAF (Corporacion Nacional Forestal) campground. You have to walk up a hill on the roadside opposite the campground to get to CONAF office and pay the camping fee – $5,000 Chilean pesos. However, I’m not sure anyone else but us ever paid the fee. Volunteers built the camp in 2004 and NOLS was somehow involved. They could have used a professional plumber. At the office they told us how to heat the water for the shower. In the bath house there is a tank (about 20 gal) that has a small space below where you can build a fire. Small sticks are provided – no other open fires are allowed. You light a fire and in about an hour you have hot water??? However, the valve for the hot water in the shower doesn’t work and it stays wide open. To control the hot water in the shower you have to use the shut-off valve at the tank. Taking a shower would be a two-person job. We skipped the hot shower. All the valves in the camp were threaded valves and to get them pointed in the right direction, you had to loosen them. The valve at the sink, when tight, pointed straight up. The sink had no siphon – just a straight drainpipe. After rinsing off a few dishes, the water built up without draining. The next morning the water had not drained at all. The men’s toilet was locked. The women’s toilet was the only thing that worked well – we skipped it anyway. The campsites themselves were great for us. Each had a shelter with a table inside. We could cook out of the wind and if it had rained there would have been some protection. Each shelter was a unique design. There were maybe six sites.

Campground in Chile

Our site in the CONAF campground

Friday, March 10, 2017

  • CONAF Campground to Coyhaique
  • 63 Km or 39 miles
  • 3 hours and 53 minutes

We started out from the CONAF campground in 35 degree temperature. We were all bundled up. We had a wonderful downhill at first and many Km went by quickly – then the rollers began. There was a lovely valley off to the right. We stopped in a small town just beyond the turn off to Balmaceda. We had bananas, some sort of sweet fried round bread and nuts. Then it was on to Coyhaique. Lots of ups and downs and our legs were still sore from climbing up the switchbacks the day before. Kay was happy to be able to stand going up the hills – she was never able to do that on the ripio. We arrived to the outskirts of Coyhaique but still had at least three climbs to get over before town. There had been some traffic on the Carretera but not bad until we got into town – crazy drivers. We rode straight to Rui Bardo for an incredible shared lunch of grilled octopus with pumpkin, calafate salad, pasta primavera and Tres Leches Cake! We researched recipes for this desert – will have to try it at home – delicious. Then it was off to get back to our wonderful Home Base – Belisario Jara.

A chilean house

Our “Home Base” in Coyhaique – the Belisario Jara

Some quick notes on gear and all:

We flew on American from Washington DC to Miami and then on to Santiago, Chile. We flew from Santiago to Coyhaique on Sky – a Chilean airline. We had a comfortable layover in Santiago that allowed us plenty of time to retrieve luggage and bikes and get them through customs to Sky. Sky airline turned out to be a positive experience. They took very good care of our luggage and us and were very reasonably priced. Gordon rode on a Bike Friday “New World Tourist” and Kay a “New World Tourist Light”. Our Bike Fridays performed just as they should. Packing, flying, security and assembly all went smoothly. The one non-issue was going through Chilean customs; an agent asked Gordon if he had receipts for the bikes. He didn’t, but told the agent that the bike was twelve years old. That was good enough for the agent. The next time I travel with the bike, I might consider bringing a receipt, just in case. We used Schwalbe Marathon Plus 1.5 tires without a single flat and no broken spokes. There was enough brake wear that I had to adjust them a couple of times. There were many different bikes used on the Carretera. I never determined the “perfect” bicycle and set up – the “ripio” evened out the playing field – it was hard for everyone. We took a lightweight two-person tent that was not free standing. At this point I think we could have used a larger freestanding tent even if it weighed more. We carried enough equipment that another pound or two wouldn’t have made a big difference. We did not use cleated shoes. We both used light Solomon hiking shoes. Gordon used mountain pedals with aggressive pins. Kay used touring pedals with a strapless toe clip. This set up kept us from needing a second pair of shoes. It was just right and we wouldn’t change it. Mixed feelings about the UV water treatment, but I’d probably use that again.

Once we were back in Coyhaique, we did take an unloaded ride out and back to Puerto Aysen. In total we rode 1044 Km with 635 Km on ripio.


Have questions for Gordon and Kay? Shoot us an email at info@bikefriday.com and we’ll pass it along to them!

 

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