...we were standing in the front of the boat with our bikes and witnessed a bowling ball of a guy on shore (who worked for the ferry company), waving the ferry to come straight back onto the dock. The ferry obliged by gunning it and slamming straight into a giant lamp post on the shore and leveling it with wires spewing out everywhere...
Well, well, well, last blog post I left you all with a cliff hanger! What to do, what to do? Continue down the Carretera Austral to Villa O'Higgins and catch two different ferries, pushing bikes on a long trail and pop out at El Chalten OR head back to Argentina and battle the maddening winds down Highway 40 to El Chalten....
Last post we were lounging a day, with the sun finally gracing us with it's presence, in Coyhaique, Chile. Catching up on rest, blog, to-dos, and hanging with our friends Roy and Lana from Canada. After our day of rest, we rode south, with the sun shining and a plan to make it to a campground in the national forest. The day turned into a solid day of climbing up a canyon with biting horse flies and when we were still a bit from the campground, petering out on steam, Ville opted to ask a nearby farmer to camp in their field. Lana insisted she could push on to the campground, but Ville suggested we ask a nearby farmer to camp in their field. I think Lana and Roy were not as excited about it at first, but after having a field all to ourselves (with no other noisy campers nearby) and stunning views back down the canyon we had just climbed, I think they were sold.
The next day, as we finished the last push up the climb, Ville pulled over to help a Brazilian couple with a broken rack, and ended up with one of their giant panniers strapped to his bike until the next town where they might be able to fix the rack. What a guy. Luckily for my husband, he has built himself quite the pair of thunder thighs and I don't even think the extra weight fazed him :) The long, slow decent opened into valleys covered in sprawling wildflowers with a clear stream cut through meandering along the road. We wound down the "infamous" switchbacks and down to Villa Cerro Castillo. Unfortunately for us, word on the street from northbound cyclists was that the ferry in Villa O'Higgins had been broken for a month (and we are still in Latin America, so let's be honest, that thing will be broken all season) and only a small ferry had taken it's place with a long line of cyclists waiting to cross. After further research, we decided with a date set to meet our friend, Robin from Bend, we were not willing to risk missing her and made the decision to head back to Argentina. We took another day off in Cerro Castillo with our buds, got a sweet cabana for our last night together, and made a feast to celebrate our last night on the road together.
The next morning, we hugged our goodbyes as they rode south to the gravel, and we headed back north to the cross section dropping us down, with epic tailwinds for a change, to the town of Puerto Ibanez. There we missed the only ferry that crosses Lago Gral Carrera by an hour, and had to stay overnight in a dump motel and wait for the next ferry, at 6pm the following day. The all day sit at the lake shore promenade, only stirred questions of why anyone would choose to live in a gusty, windblown town of 50 or so residents with not much else to do. We were thrilled, however, to get off the hitchhiker/backpacker/cyclist freeway of Carretera Austral. After not seeing hardly ONE cyclist since busy Baja, we were hugely overwhelmed by the lack of quiet camping spots and the attitudes of the locals left in the wake of the chaos of travelers was less than kind. Not so cool for us.
We met a nice backpacker, David, from England to chat with for the day and made it onto the packed ferry that evening. Upon our arrival to the boat ramp of Chile Chico, we were standing in the front of the boat with our bikes and witnessed a bowling ball of a guy on shore (who worked for the ferry company), waving the ferry straight to come straight back onto the dock. The ferry obliged by gunning it and slamming straight into a giant lamp post on the shore and leveling it with wires spewing out everywhere. Since bikes were the first to disembark, we had a front row seat of the action! Both Ville and I were hysterically laughing, not able to hold it in, and they just proceeded to unload cars like this just happens everyday. Safety, schmafty, who cares if people get electrocuted. That's a risk they are just fine taking. I still wonder how long that lamp post will sit there before someone gets around to fixing it. Probably never.
The south shore of Lago Gral Carrera was blustery, and we opted to pay for an overcrowded campground because it had a bit of shelter. The next morning we rode to the Chilean Border, stamped out, and had about 5 miles to ride to the Argentinean border where we would stamp into Argentina. We passed hoards of backpackers carrying giant packs the 5 miles, unable to hitch rides. One of the few times we were grateful to be on bikes and not walking. Stamped into Argentina and the first town we rode through, Los Antiguos, was a circus!
As we had done on the entire bike trip, one of us always watched the bikes, while the other ran the errands (we have everything to lose if we took the risk of leaving them even locked up). This time it was my turn, so I watched our bikes out front as Ville hit the market and ATM. Standing there I was able to witnessed the "People of WalMart" Reunion happening around me. I saw a woman in leopard-print Daisy-dukes WAY too short for her portly self sashay by with her pooch, a guy with a "Top Best" shirt roll by with tiny legs and a massive upper body walking as if he were carrying oranges in his armpits with his matching son in tow, a cop car squeeze by with 3 handcuffed, frazzled and wasted looking dudes in the back, a man about 17 months pregnant with triplets and a rockin' mullet saunter by, man it was a show! Every single campground was packed to the max and we were pumped to be riding out of town. There was even a line of people waiting to take their selfie with a crappy paper-mache looking statue of a hand holding cherries. I wanted a selfie with the people waiting in line, but Ville said no.
If we had sails attached to the bikes, we would have made it to Perito Moreno in minutes. The ride was along the shore of Lago Gral Carrera, and the waves on the east bank were surf-able curls from the wind. In Perito Moreno, Ville's tooth pain was becoming nearly unbearable and luckily the tourist information lady directed Ville to a dentist who was able to get Ville in right away. After he Ductaped his tooth in place, just kidding, he actually fixed it for a mere $25 (take that US overpriced medical) and we opted to camp at Mini Camping Raul nearby for the night. And what an experience that was! Raul happens to be the real life Latino Kramer (Seinfeld T.V. Show character) and one of the kindest, generous Tasmanian Devils around. He talks non-stop, with a very thick Buenos Aries accent (lots of "che", "sho", in place of the double ll or y in the spanish language) and about everything and nothing. I would find myself zoning out and completely miss that he had just asked me a question and really, it didn't matter. It was best to just sit back, listen, and let the man pile food on your plate ("no" and "no gracias" is not in his vocabulary). "You want eggs?", ""No, gracias" , ""You want eggs?", "No, gracias", "I'll make you some eggs". Alright, Raul, how about some eggs.
Now on a schedule to meet our friend Robin in El Chalten, we had some miles to do. We spent the next 6 days fighting hurricane force winds swirling in all directions in the boring Argentinean desert. We saw only the occasional armadillo scitter across the road, get blown over by the speeding traffic, and had to be very creative with camping spots out of the wind. We realized that to ride the 60 miles straight to El Chalten off Highway 40 would be into straight headwind and opted to push on south to El Calafate, where Robin would fly into, and was only 20 miles off Highway 40 into headwind. We made it just in time for Robin to arrive and boy was it great to see a friend from home!
Robin rented a car and we zipped back north to El Chalten with even the rental car being blown all over the road. We stayed for the last week in El Chalten doing day hikes, eating tons of good food, ice cream, staying in cabanas and relaxing. We had fantastic weather, were completely spoiled and lived like kings. We heard from our friends, Roy and Lana, that the Chilean sky cried when we left them for over a week and now that another storm has blown in, the ferry will not be sailing again for a while and they are stuck in Villa O'Higgins (VERY relieved we opted to bail out of Chile early or we surly would have missed our friend). However, the handful of nice days we had brought some luckily cyclists through and we ran into a friend on the hiking trails who told us a whopper of a tail. You ready?
Remember how I had spoken of the stray Chilean dogs that follow people around looking for a home? If, not, check out our last blog post. Well, when we had left a pizza place back in Chaiten, we hopped on our bikes in the rain, and were heading up the road a ways to the ferry dock. There was a small, brown, mangy Spaniel mix breed dog that took off after us and chased us all the way to the ferry. This savvy little whipper snapper waited until they waved us onto the ferry to follow us on board. It waited as we situated our bikes down below, and followed us up the stairs into the main cabin of the ship like a boss. Once inside, it split to mosey around giving puppy-dog eyes to all the passengers begging for food and attention. Once the ferry sailed, we heard the staff asking around who the dog belonged to. That's when they realized it didn't belong to anyone and it was too late to kick it off. It even took a dump in the middle of the floor that someone cleaned up. By the time we docked, the nice Finnish family we met on board had kids that begged to keep the dog and at least Dad was nice enough to take the dog off the ferry. Once onshore, this nice lady that owns a big resort in town, took a shining to the pup, but was flying back to the States and unable to take it with her. Last seen, pup was a wandering around Raul de Balmaceda making friends with all the locals.
Update: Same pup followed two other cyclists for unknown distance down the road, and then met up with our British cycling friend, whom it then followed for 60 k/40 miles down the road scoring a sandwich. Traveling pup last seen on the Carretera Austral looking for cycling friends to share in the journey. A pup with a traveling soul :)
The plan, we arrived by car back in El Calafate this afternoon and Ville spent the day putting new chains on the bikes. Robin relaxed and I punched some keys to bring this latest update to your hot little hands (screens). Tomorrow we plan to drive up to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and pack up. Robin leaves day after tomorrow back to Bend (we can't tell you how grateful we both are to have a friend come see us and spoil us rotten for a whole week. It will give us the charged batteries we need to charge back into the desert. Thank you Robin, see you again so soon in Bend my friend). From there we continue back to Highway 40 and battle the winds another couple weeks south. We have a flight from Ushuaia booked for Feb. 19th to Buenos Aires, and will shoot to arrive before then.
So folks, this might be it. Our last post before the end. We are hoping to find WiFi one more time before we get to Ushuaia, but in case we don't, keep us in your thoughts, say some prayers, we thank you all for following this journey, supporting us in all the ways everyone could and see you at the end of the world! Out into the winds we will go...to keep on keepin' on!
Happy Holidays and a Happy New Years to everyone! Hope you made it through with smooth sailing and are charging ahead on all the new resolutions you made. Go get em' tigers!
These two loonie bins are still moving south, if you can believe it. We had quite a long stretch of "rough patch," but the sun came out yesterday and today and things are looking up. Our last update from Entre Lagos, Chile, we were celebrating Christmas Eve together in a cabin with it raining outside, but were happy to be warm and dry for a day. On Christmas day, we ventured out heading south and east around Llanquihue Lake (just north of Puerto Montt), to a farm on the south of the lake near Puerto Varas. Our friends Paul and Sarah were there for a wedding and invited us to join them for Christmas dinner. It poured on us the entire ride, but was nice to have a roof over our heads and some friends to give us some love at the end of the day. Thanks so much for taking us in guys and we really enjoyed the evening with the family! See you soon in Bend :)
The next day, our friends headed out and we hopped back on bikes and rode back to Ensenada and south on the V-69 with some semi-decent weather and views, camping at the mouth of the Rio Petrohue where it dumps into the Estero Reloncavi. The next day was our one nice sunny day (if we had known it would be our last for a couple weeks, we would have rejoiced in it far more than we did), and biking through the tiny town of Cochamo we had stunning views of all the surrounding snow-capped volcanoes while eating our lunch at the shoreline. The road that hugged the east bank of the estuary was gravel and a roller-coaster of steep ups and downs, but incredibly scenic and almost hot! By the evening, we stopped in Puelo to cook dinner and quickly found shelter as the skies opened up and poured on us. We rode a ways further and then Ville asked a farmer if we could camp in his barn and he offered us the tool shed because he said it was way more "hygienic" than the barn full of poop and animals. Little did he know our standards are very low by now, especially when it rains!
The next day we rode out in the drizzle, and had stellar views of the surrounding volcanoes and estuary, littered with salmon fish farms all along the shore. When we reached Caleta Puelche, where the ferry ports from the north, we merged onto pavement of the infamous Carretera Austral. We pedaled hard to the next town in the pouring rain, and ate lunch in a bus shelter chatting with all the locals waiting for buses. A sweet old lady told us if we came to her house, off our route, on the shore, she would make us hot cocoa. We declined, hoping to get to Hornopiren in time to catch the ferry to Caleta Gonzalo and make it to Chaiten in time for my birthday. The one wish I had for my day of birth was to NOT be on my bike seat. We made friends with the sweetest black lab sisters, and when we pedaled off into the rain, they followed right behind us. Realizing at the bus stop that they were homeless, following all the passengers getting off in the hopes of a warm meal and bed to sleep, they realized we were their only hope. We let them follow us a while, thinking they would get bored and turn around at some point, but after over 15 miles, and heading ever deeper into the thick woods with hardly any civilization, we were stressing about these poor dogs. The rain was a complete downpour, the road was suppose to be paved, but the entire 30 miles was under construction, deep loose mud from the rain, cars flying by and splattering us with mud, insanely steep hills that many we had to walk pushing bikes up the steep hills because of the thick mud, and the dogs would dive into the brush to dodge the mud flying as cars passed, but stayed right at our heals as we slowly chugged on. Were we regretting not taking up the sweet old lady's offer of hot cocoa by now? You better believe it! Idiots.
Nearing twenty miles on the road, Ville was beginning to stress how we would ever find a place to camp with two labs and was trying to ditch them. It was the scene right out of the movie, Old Yeller, where the boy is having to yell at the dog he loves because it gets rabies. OK, not exactly the same, but it really tore my heart out having to try and ditch these two sweet pups that were just looking for someone to love them. Really sucked and I was traumatized by it for days after. When we finally got a long downhill, we pedaled hard trying to lose them and I looked back to see them still running as fast as they could trying to keep up. Just stab my heart through with a knife. UGH! We made it into Hornopiren at 9pm and walked into the first market we saw dripping all over the floor. Needing desperately to strip down and dry our things, we couldn't just find camping, we needed a hostal or hospedaje, but couldn't afford the $40 USD for one.
Just then, a middle-aged man walked into the store, took one look at us, shook his head and laughed. He asked us, in English, "what do you need?" All I could respond was, "I don't know" because I was still so in shock. He said, "come with me" and I just followed him out the door. He led us next door into the home improvement shop and rolled open the shop to put our bikes. We were SO grateful and started to hang our things to dry on shelving, when he led us upstairs into his house to hang things next to a stove. He showed us the shower and made us hot tea! I was so humbled by his kindness and so grateful I asked to hug him. After we showered, he set us up in a spare room to sleep. The next morning, as the rain continued to come down in sheets, we dressed and made our plans to catch the next ferry when our savior, Aldo, came in and said that we should stay another night because of the weather. It did not take convincing, while looking out the window at the pouring rain. When Ville told him it was my birthday the next day, he demanded we stay another day as well. Turns out Aldo is an incredible cook and planned a mouth watering meal of pork ribs, potatoes, and sangria for my birthday! He was tickled watching us lick our plates. We planned to roll out the next day, but of course it was New Years Eve and Aldo asked us to stay and celebrate with him. Not going to say no, we had another late night asado, grilled meat, (very popular in Argentina and Chile and usually finished up around 1am) and watched the boat flares rocket into the sky all over town at midnight. What a great place to end an entire YEAR on bikes!
The next morning, it was time to go. We could have stayed with Aldo for weeks he was such a great guy, super kind and with a great sense of humor, but we needed to move on. We caught the day ferry to Caleta Gonzalo and rode only 6 miles before it started raining and pitched a tent to sleep and stay dry for at least one night. The next day's 35 mile ride was in a downpour again, and by the time we arrived in Chaiten in the evening to wait for our night ferry to Puerto Marin Balmaceda, we were soaked and in sour moods. We tried to dry out in a cold coffee shop, offended all the other patrons by stripping off our wet socks and shoes in the place, but what are you going to do? We jumped on our bikes, and as we rode off towards the ferry, a small brown cocker spaniel looking pooch took off running after us. What is with us and dogs? We were put on the ferry before the cars and this smart little pooch jumped onto the ferry like it was with us and no one questioned it. Then it waited until we tied up our bikes and when we walked up the stairs into the lounge, it followed us like a boss. It wasn't until we were all loaded and moving south at 11pm, that the guys working on the boat realized the roving dog didn't belong to anyone. However, this smart little whipper snapper knew just how to bat it's eyes at all the passengers, especially the kids, to get some snacks. It even got carried off the ferry by a family and was last seen looking for a new home in Puerto Marin Balmaceda. (For all of you wondering why we didn't take the labs to a shelter, or what poor family is missing this pup, there are no shelters and there are hundreds of roving homeless mutts all over Chile and they are ALL homeless looking for homes. It's quite depressing)
On the ferry we met the coolest Canadian couple, also cyclists, heading down the Carretera Austral sitting next to us, Roy and Lana. Because this was a special ferry, added only because there was a massive landslide that took out three sections of the Highway 7 and the town of Santa Lucia, we didn't have to pay for it. But when we arrived in the early morning at Puerto Marin Balmaceda, the winds and rain were so bad we had to stay on the ferry out in the bay and wait four more hours for the weather to get decent enough to embark. Once we arrived, Roy, Lana, Ville and I rode straight to a hostel and checked in for the night. Forty dollars or not, we could not ride 50 miles up a crappy mud pit road in the pouring rain another day. We opted to be broke and dry. We had a fantastic day chatting with a Finnish family we met on the ferry (careful speaking Finnish cause you never know where those Finns will pop up!), and hanging with Roy and Lana sharing some laughs. By the evening the sun popped out for a minute for us to take a short stroll down the beach and we all agreed to take another ferry to the next town, Puerto Cisnes, since the weather forecast looked horrible and we would be able to catch better road from there.
When we hopped onto this ferry, we were very quickly disappointed to learn that this one would be like riding a Greyhound Bus across the US. The majority of the people on board were mainly men, lots of missing teeth, pot bellies, du-rags (tight head caps), and staring types. I was fully clothed in rain gear and was gawked at like I was in lingerie. I refused to let Ville leave me alone. And they put on some real stellar films, such as Too Fast Too Furious 8 and The Shallows. There was an obnoxious family with two young kids in front of us and just watching the Dad swear at his kids while being deeply engrossed in the films (he was drooling every time Vin Diesel came on the screen), made me want to vomit. We eventually changed seats to try and get some sleep and found ourselves right next to another boisterous family playing video games at full volume. After not sleeping a wink, we docked at 3:30 am and pitched our tents in the rain under a shelter right on the main boardwalk of a less than happening town. We woke up early to the chattering people waiting at the bus stop right next to our tent and headed out in the drizzle of rain east on, at least, pavement. The views were amazing, even if we could only see glimpses through the rain and clouds. The waterfalls were going off thanks to all the rain.
From Puerto Cisne, we rode up to the cross section where it connects with the Carretera Austral again, and climbed up to Villa Amenguel. Lana and Roy have done a few different bike packing trips, but being early in this current journey, Lana was struggling with the aches and pains associated with being all day on a bike and we were thrilled to take it more easy and stick with our new pals. We grabbed coffee in a bus cafe and then opted to stay at a hostel out of the rain. The next morning we, yet again, rode out in the rain and had peek-a-boo views through the clouds of the epic Patagonia scenery. In Manihuales, we found a decent campground in town, with working hot showers, and a boisterous latino posse rolled in right at dark to break branches, light a bonfire, and drink loudly all night. I know we all travel for the experiences of cultural differences, but we are getting a bit anxious to have a break from the latino culture for a while.
From there we rode, in rain, to a bus stop for lunch out of the rain, and made it to a nice campground 20 miles out from Coyhaique, where we opted for a sheltered place to camp out of the rain together. Lana and Ville are coffee addicts and have enjoyed making their crack in the mornings to get them on the road. We were SHOCKED to wake up to a sunny blue sky and were overwhelmed to ride 20 whole miles climbing with spectacular views into Coyhaique! We took today off the bikes in town, catching up on laundry (although the rain has washed us and all our stuff every day), this blog and some food resupply. We are struggling a bit with some logistical planning. We really want to continue south down the Carretera Austral, finishing it in Villa O'Higgins where we would take a very overpriced ferry ($125 each is word on the street) to get to El Chalten. The views would be far better than those in the desert of Argentina, but we would have to push bikes a ways on a trail at the end and weather permitting, this can be hell if you are doing it in rain, the ferry is out-of-our-budget expensive, and the ferry doesn't run in bad weather. And well, let's just say it's been raining a bit. If the crappy weather continues, we may not be able to catch a ferry and meet our friend Robin in El Chalten. And we need to decide soon because we will lose our options of routes back to Argentina soon so gotta make a plan.
Well folks, not sure when we will score some decent WiFi again. If we head south in Chile, the road will turn to dirt and we hear we will lose WiFi access. If we end up heading back to Argentina and moving south, we may have options. So, hang tight, we promise another update at our next able stop. And thanks everyone for still following this wild ride! Until next time, keep on keepin' on...
K.G. & Ville
On a cruise ship, heading north up the west coast to Los Angeles.
“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” - Hunter S. Thompson
Make a Difference!
Help us directly with PayPal or Credit Card