Bikepacking Patagonia – days 12-13

Jan 25-26, 2019 – Caleta Gonzalo to Chaitén 70km

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5/6 |7/8 | 9/10 | 11

It’s been a year since Pumalín became an official National Park. One of the world’s great conservation stories.

Click PLAY or watch it on YouTube.

Pumalín gets around 6 meters of rain / year!

Though it had been lovely weather for me so far in January, here it started raining hard in the morning.

I had a C$22 breakfast at the only restaurant in the park, hiding from the downpour.

Happily it cleared up about Noon and I began my return to Chaitén, hiking en route.

First stop was the Laguna Tronador trail. Physically demanding. Gorgeous.

Next the very popular, short Alerce trail. This park protects the Alerce trees, the largest in South America. They grow to more than 70m with up to 5m trunk diameter. Charles Darwin reported finding a specimen 12.6 m in diameter.

They had been heavily logged before conservationists weighed in.

One is 3622 years old, the second oldest fully verified (by counting growth rings) age for any living tree species, after the bristlecone pine.

Weather was now excellent for riding. The only annoyance pesky horseflies.

My third hike of the day was Cascadas Escondidas trail. I’d actually planned to camp there as well, but it was too crowded.

Late in the day I pushed on to Lago Blanco campground.

I love sites which keep my tent under roof. If it does rain, no worries.

Fantastic as they are, these sites are not inexpensive. This one is C$32 / night. The Park guys didn’t collect this night, however. Perhaps I arrived later than they had made the rounds.

A beautiful, calm night. Superb morning.


Next morning I stopped at Volcano campground for the bathroom. Gorgeous. The best of about a dozen camps in this part of Pumalín, I’d say.

It’s alongside the Park airstrip.

I walked their excellent interpretive trail.

My only major hike of the day was Chaitén Volcano trail. Fantastic. And very popular.

I arrived back to the hostel in Chaitén about 3:30pm. Rene from Germany and Victoria from the States were just heading off to Amarillo Hotsprings about 30km away. I hopped aboard the shuttle van with them. A long soak is the best way to remove dust from nails and pores.

Another big meal at the hostel.

Another glass of wine at sunset.

This trip is going well. 😎

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Bikepacking Patagonia – days 9/10

Jan 22-23, 2019 – Parque Tantauco to Quellón, ferry to Chaitén

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5/6 |7/8

Plan is to catch the ferry over to Chaitén where I’ll rejoin the Carretera Austral (highway 7).

Departing my campsite in Tantauco, I was in great spirits.

I had only 38km of rough gravel park road. Then 14km of highway to make Quellón, Chile. An easy cycling day.

The following morning I’d be catching the ferry.

I was in no rush to get to town. Lonely Planet is normally fond of weird, remote places. Yet they call Quellón a ‘drunken-sailor‘ kind of a place. A ‘get-in, get-out sort of town‘.

For one thing there are no hostels. ☹️ I stayed in an unfriendly hotel called El Chico Leo.

Quellón did seem to live up to billing. A rough port town. Plenty of daytime drunks with nothing better to do. Rundown and weather beaten buildings.

I did my last shopping in Chiloe before heading back to the wild Carretera Austral.

Taking maximum advantage of (perhaps) my last speedy internet, I slept only about 4 hours.

Weather was brilliant next day. So fine that even Quellón looked appealing.

Ladies and girls sell / swap used clothing in the park.

This is a fishing port.

Surprisingly I was the only cyclist making the crossing Quellón to Chaitén on the ferry this day. In either direction. This route is only offered a few times a week. And only during summer.

The volcanoes are gorgeous, of course. Especially Corcovado. And And many are active.

Chaitén is a travel hub with a population of about 3500. When I was here 15 years ago, it wasn’t much to see.

The town was evacuated in May 2008 when the Chaitén volcano erupted for the first time in more than 9,000 years.

2008

The government wanted to rebuild 10km north. But citizens decided to stay … even though the volcano is still smoking in the distance. 🙄

As a result, Chaitén has a fresh, exciting vibe.

I’m shocked, in fact. It has speedy internet. Decent grocery stores. OK restaurants.

I’ll be backtracking tomorrow to Pumalín Park. That visit is my #1 goal on this cycling trip.

Bikepacking Patagonia – day 7/8

Jan 20-21, 2019 – 98km Castro to Parque Tantauco

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5/6

I’d gotten all the information I needed at the Castro office for Parque Tantauco. I anticipated a first class operation. 🙂

For some reason cycling felt easy today.  Perhaps the rest in Castro helped.

The ride was 80km of minor highway. Then 18km up a hilly gravel road. I didn’t stop for photos.

 

About 7pm I rolled up to the Park gates. Staff was playing with a family of foxes!

Too late in the day to make it to the first campground, friendly Rangers recommended I camp just outside the gates. For free.

Next morning I enjoyed a leisurely 20km ride stopping frequently to enjoy the sights. 😀

flush toilets!
800 years old
Lake Yaldad

It’s not crowded. There are only about 8000 visitors a year. This is considered a remote part of Chile.

I didn’t think the 38km road to Lake Chaiguata was particularly difficult in dry weather. Apparently you need a 4-wheel-drive when it’s wet.

I carried up only what I needed for one night. Stashed the rest of my kit back by the Park gates.

Tantauco Park is an attractive ecotourist destination due to the remarkable biodiversity of its nearly untouched Valdivian temperate rainforest.

Chaiguata is one of two campsites. The other is accessible only by floatplane, boat  … or 5-day walk.

Lake Chaiguata campsite

The billionaire President of Chile developed this Park privately. I have to say it’s MUCH grander than if the government of Chile developed it.

Park entrance is C$7.

The campsites are fantastic. As good as anywhere in the world. At C$30 / night each, they are expensive for Chile. It was raining as I set up.

Unique are these domes available for rent.

There are hot tubs for rent too.

My favourite spot was the expensive restaurant.

I highly recommend visiting unique Parque Tantauco. It’s a memorable experience.


parquetantauco.cl

Bikepacking Patagonia – day 5/6

Jan 18/19, 2019 – 85km to Castro

day 0 | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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.

Bikepacking Patagonia – day 3

Jan 16, 2019 – 85km – Change in planned itinerary.

day 0 | 1 | 2

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.

Bikepacking Patagonia – day 2

Jan 15, 2019 – 64km

day 0 | 1 | 2

I’d hiked Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park in 2006. Surprisingly, there aren’t many trails.

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.

I’d been to Cochamó before on my way to hike the Cochamó Valley in 2016.

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.

Bikepacking Patagonia – day 0

Jan 13, 2019

Atypically, I did something smart.

Instead of dashing off instantly on a (potentially) 4 week cycling trip as soon as I got the bike … I took a test drive day instead.

There’s a super popular cycling route Puerto Varas to Petrohue. along Llanquihue, the second largest lake in Chile.

It’s a dedicated cycling lane on good pavement.

I rode out to Venado Beach. And back.

That was enough to know I loved the rental bike. 🙂

On my return I realized I’d left two items on the Lifeguard stand base at the beach. So I turned around and cycled back to the beach. That added another 2 1/2 hours to my test drive.

One item was there. But somebody had picked up my expensive Apple EarPod chicklet case. It’s useless to them without the EarPods. And my EarPods are now useless to me.

I’m forced back to headphones with wires. 😠

I stopped back at my rental agency Austral Bikes in Puerto Varas.

Happy to meet Diana who had answered in English clearly explaining costs and details. She was by far best online of any of the companies I had contacted.

Cost was US$445 for 4 weeks. In addition I’ll pay for boxing and shipping the bike back to PV end-of-trip. That might cost another $40. If I don’t use all the days they’ll credit me 50% / day back.

I’m very happy with the rental bike her son Juan Pablo provided. It’s a brand new Silverback with 26 inch wheels, recommended for the gravel roads yet to come. Basic. Durable. Hopefully reliable.

The Carretera Austral runs about 1,240 kilometers (770 mi) from Puerto Montt to Villa O’Higgins through (sparsely populated) rural Patagonia. …

This area is characterized by thick forestsfjordsglaciers, canals and steep mountains. …