Jan 18/19, 2019 – 85km to Castro
After the relative ease of my previous leg I was overconfident for Ancud to Castro.
It didn’t start well. My front tire was low. … A slow leak?
I had to stop at a hardware store to buy more bungee cords. For some reason my ugly load wasn’t stable today.
And — though the day was atypically lovely again, there simply wasn’t anything unique on the ride. I took only these 3 photos.
Though the highway shoulder was mostly good, I still struggled to make more than 10km / hour into a slight headwind.
I was happy to return to Castro (pop 40,000), however. Tourists love the bustling capital of Chiloe island.
One big problem. Looking for my Hostal … Google Maps offline sent me to the wrong address. It was another accommodation with slightly different spelling.
Happily my cellular data saved the day. I telephoned my host for the night and he directed me up the STEEPEST hill in Chiloe. I could only barely push the bike up this monster end-of-day.
I decided to take a zero day 6. Castro is a great place to hang out and recover.
Despite the hill, Hostal Altos de Gamboa turned out to be a terrific, relaxing and friendly overnight. I got my own room even though I’d booked a cheaper dorm bed online.
It’s more of a homestay than hostel.
For my day off highest priority was to get my ferry booked from the island back to the Carretera Austral … where my fellow cyclists are no doubt suffering more than my good self. 😀
The ticket office in Castro was open on Saturday. Was super efficient. And super helpful. All of those were a happy surprise for this tourist. Having gone a week unable to buy a paper map, this office gave me one for free.
Last year when I was here researching this option for accessing the Carretera Austral I thought Castro was remote. I realize now that almost everything is available in Castro. The mall looks like Santiago.
The only bike shop in town was closed. That was a minor disappointment.
But I got over it by going site-seeing.
Everything is made of wood here. Buildings burn down all the time.
Boats are everywhere. Some sunk and/or abandoned after big storms.
With my groceries I bought a half kilo of flash frozen vegetables. And cooked them up with grilled chicken. This might be the last vegetables I see for a while.
Tomorrow I’ve got a big cycling day to reach a northern trailhead of Parque Tantauco . One of the world’s 25 Biodiversity Hotspots, it’s a private natural reserve created by business magnate and President of Chile Sebastián Piñera in 2005 in order to protect 118,000 hectares of the region’s unique ecosystem.
Tantauco doesn’t see many visitors in a year. The southern half is accessed only by boat or floatplane.
I’ll start hiking in on Jan 21st. How far I get depends on the quality of the trail and the huge, annoying horseflies (tabanos) which start to disappear end of this month.
Jan 17, 2019 – 90km to Chiloe
I checked out of my Puerto Montt Hostel as late as possible. My plan was to take 2 easy days riding to Ancud on the island of Chiloe. I’d take more frequent rest stops, as well.
Chile had promised to ban plastic grocery bags last year and seems to have followed up. Here and there recycling is getting organized, too.
I’m finally semi-happy with how my gear is loaded.
I took this road last year by bus. From the bike you see much more, however.
And you can easily stop for weird local tourist attractions.
I again enjoyed an inexpensive and efficient ferry over to Chiloe.
Each day I cycle past dozens of these small memorials. This is the most elaborate I’ve seen so far.
On pavement I made much better time than expected. Early on — feeling strong — I decided to do the entire 90km in one day. Here’s Ancud, a town everyone in Chile regards with fondness. (pop 40,000)
I rode the old bridge into town.
Chiloe is famous for rain and wind. But not tonight.
My hostel from last year was full so they sent me down to a lovely place on the ocean called Mundo Nuevo. New World.
Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.
Jan 16, 2019 – 85km – Change in planned itinerary.
It had rained on and off most of the night. Happily the liquid sunshine quit when I got up.
A little friend came to visit my camp.
Weather was clearing.
I finally hit some rough road. 30km of gravel, mostly steep up and downs. ☹️ Not to mention the goat traffic.
By the time I got to the ferry at Caleta Puelche, I had decided to change my plan. Instead of continuing south on the undeveloped Carretera Austral, I’d detour to the island of Chiloe.
Instead of many days of rough roads and no amenities, I’d be on pavement enjoying the occasional hostel, hot shower and excellent supermarket. 😎
I’d decided not to do the entire CA because the last 600km sounds like 10 days of NOT FUN. Therefore I’ve got more time to detour off the main road and enjoy the sights.
Dave Adlard assured me this magic bracelet would keep me on the bike when I really, really wanted to quit. 🙄
It doesn’t work, Dave.
The ferry system in Patagonia is impressive. And inexpensive. And efficient.
I was back in civilization on the other side.
On the other hand, I was headed to Puerto Montt.
Though I’d originally planned to miss Puerto Montt, I ended up staying overnight. Only 22km from where I started. 🙄
It’s got a bad reputation as a rough port town. Locals call it Muerto Montt, meaning ‘Dead Montt’.
Still, it does appeal to me in a few ways.
The location of the bus station is stunning. It’s no problem to wait on your next ride, as most travellers are doing when they get here.
The waterfront is well done. And fun.
As the only good hostel in town was full I stayed instead in inexpensive, friendly Hostal Jacob .
Definitely not 100% healthy, I wanted my own room.
I was really tired for the last 20km into town, resting frequently at bus stops where I could sit.
I’ll take it easy for the next 2 days en route to Ancud.
Jan 15, 2019 – 64km
So I bypassed it yesterday to get a bigger jump on the CA.
My first night in the tent was a perfect evening. No wind. Very warm.
It dawned a gorgeous day. Scenery great in every direction.
I tried to reorganize the system on the bike. It worked. A bit better.
My legs — cramped in the tent the previous night — felt surprisingly good on the bike.
I made good time … until hitting the first gravel of the trip so far.
Quality of roads degrades as you get further south. The last 600+ km entirely gravel.
I chatted with 3 other touring cyclists, all German.
One couple was just finishing the CA northward. They said they enjoyed the southern end least. ☹️
I stopped in pretty Cochamó (pop. 4000). Internet has only recently made it here. And it’s SLOW. I used the free service in the public library. And the faster free service at Municipal office.
It’s known as the Yosemite of South America. Rock climbers from around the world come to climb the valley’s several 1,000 meters (3,300 ft) granite walls.
The hiking is hard core. Too difficult, I felt. At a hostel I met an American who’s been going to Cochamó Valley since the early 2000s. His own project is linking ridges up on those cliffs. While there he’s been volunteering for trail building and rescue operations.
Unfortunately the valley is getting too popular. Unprepared people are arriving and getting injured on the trails. There are even more hassles now than when I was there. On my hiking site I try to discourage hikers from making the trip.
None of the restaurants in Cochamó looked appealing. So I ate only ice cream.
Roads were excellent continuing out of Cochamó. It’s very rural.
Fish farming is a huge industry here too.
Surprisingly, I seemed to run out of gas. It was general fatigue. Nothing specific. Legs were pretty good despite cramping the previous day.
I got the tent set up at 6:30pm just in time. Showers began.
Jan 14, 2019 – 64km
day 0 | 1
It’s about 200km to the ferry at the bottom of this map. If you head south. South on the Great Southern Road.
Not the shortest route, but more scenic. It adds at least 100km.
But I did avoid Puerto Montt, nobody’s favourite tourist town. That’s the traditional start of the Carretera Austral.
Though I checked out of Casa Azul hostel at 10:30am, it wasn’t until 1:45pm that I finally rode away from Austral Bikes to start the trip.
I’m covered up because of slight sunburn day 0.
It took HOURS to get my Canadian phone loaded with data for the trip south. In fact, it was Juan Pablo at the bike shop who got most of it done. He came in special on his day off to help me out.
Why can’t someone figure out an easy way to get a local phone number abroad?
Of the 6 phone providers Entel is best in the south. Weirdly you can’t buy a sim card from Entel — they send you to a department store for that. Weirdly, the normal place to top up a sim card is in a pharmacy. Chileans call a sim a “chip” or “chip card”, similar to credit cards with chips.
I’d planned to take an easy half day out to Petrohué. Juan Pablo challenged me to make it all the way to Cochamó as it would be the best stop. 🙄
Another beautiful day.
I stopped only once for a quick lunch.
Turning south on to a smaller highway left me with a tiny shoulder.
I actually preferred this road over the dedicated bike lane on the tourist highway. There was very little traffic headed south.
Keeping up my speed I would have made Cochamó by about 8:30pm.
Unfortunately my quads were cramping so I quit about 30km short. Set up the tent in a construction site about 6pm
An Andean Fox — as is so often the case down here — was lurking around my campsite after dinner.