Bikepacking Patagonia – days 21-23

My Bikepacking trip has ended after 23 days.

I shipped the rental back to Puerto Varas.

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Feb 3, 2019 – Coyhaique (0km)

Exhausted from my 120+km very hot day, like God I rested on Sunday.

There is one very good hostel here.

Got the laundry done. Bought shoelaces. Tried to get my Chilean phone service to continue working past the first month. (You have to register it with the police.)

When backpacking you have 1. clean clothes and … 5. filthy, wet, ammonia-reeking clothes … and about 3 categories in-between.

Nothing feels better than getting everything washed. 🙂

I did some planning for my life after cycling. I’ll continue to head south on the Carretera Austral.

Feb 4, 2019 – Coyhaique – wild camp (38km)

It was a scorching 33+C again … so I waited until 3:30pm before heading south.

This was the first day I was unenthusiastic to get going. And I was still tired from my last long ride.

A much less wild environment. But I still loved the more open scenery. A nice change from rugged mountains.

As you can see, autumn is coming.

On this ride I lost my old, trusty Elf camera. It was near end-of-life, in any case. From here on I’ll be carrying only my iPhone X camera and an old camcorder.

I set up what would end up to be my last bikepacking wild camp. Close to a little stream.

It was a another gorgeous, clear night.

Feb 5, 2019 – wild camp to Coyhaique (0km)

In no rush I enjoyed the morning at camp. Then packed up my steed for the run to Cerro Castillo. And further south.

Within the first km my chain jumped off 3 times from the rear wheel. (A cyclist later said problems with the spokes and thrown off the wheel alignment.)

It didn’t take me long to decide to end the trip.

As it happens, it’s easy to hitchhike anywhere if you have a broken bike.

An entertaining campground owner / caballero picked me up and drove me back to Coyhaique.

I had a bit of trouble finding the shipping company AGM. But they turned out to be very friendly and well organized. My cost to return bike and some other gear C$42.

After dropping the bike the Patagonian wind was like freedom. I felt terrific walking the 3km back to town.

The trip was excellent. I’d do it again for sure. Most of my distress came from worrying about mechanical issues with the bike. I’m terrible ☹️ at all things mechanical.

It was easier than I expected too. Things have improved since I last travelled the Carretera Austral 15 years ago. For one thing, free internet is easy to find.

So … here’s the map of the total trip. Perhaps 1400km when you count all the side trips.

I’ll be catching the bus south tomorrow. On the same roads that I would have cycled if I’d continued to the very end.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – days 19-20

Feb 1, 2019 – Queulat National Park to wild camp (74km)

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In bright sunshine I rode out of Queulat National Park.

And immediately had problems. ☹️

No cyclist likes to see something like this coming up ahead.

That means I’d be pushing my bike up a long hill.

But the scenery over these next two days was the best so far.

When taking photos I’m tempted to crop out the road.

Quite quickly it became obvious that my self-fixed pannier rack was not working. The fix I had installed was gone. ☹️

All I could do was replace the spacer with a sunscreen lid held with a zip tie.

To keep this one from breaking I decided to carry my hiking pack rather than try to strap it on the rack.

NOT HAPPY ☹️

The great weather and gorgeous scenery kept me going, however.

I stopped at tiny Villa Amengual to use their library wifi.

And bought my first completo.

These are the super popular Chilean hotdogs. Mine actually turned out to be some kind of ground beef.

Little towns like this on the Carretera are all trying to become more attractive to the passing tourists. All are being improved in 2019.

Not to mention the spiffy statues!

As there were no long hikes en route today, I tried to put in some miles. The sooner I get to a bike shop for repair, the better.

About 7pm I happened upon a perfect campsite. Couldn’t resist.

A lovely night. No fly.

Fine dining with red wine.

Feb 2, 2019 – wild camp to Coyhaique (121km)

Next day dawned perfect again.

I decided to try to push though about 120km to Coyhaique in one day.

I took very few photos.

My biggest cycling day of the trip.

In the sun, I worried about heat emergency at times.

Though I drank 4 litres over the day it wasn’t nearly enough.

There was a huge hill to climb just before the city. End of day.

Exhausting.

Still, I was thrilled to actually make Coyhaique. The population is about 55,000 — a megalopolis compared with the other towns I’d seen all 4000 or less.

Too tired to eat I had, instead, chocolate milk, Diet Coke and Rum & Raisin ice-cream.

This is it. The end of the line for this cycling trip. I’ll be shipping back my rental bike from Coyhaique … but not until I do some days cycling around the city.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – day 18

Jan 31, 2019 – Puyuhuapi to Queulat National Park (38km)

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Queulat is another of Chile’s newly announced Route of Parks (Ruta de los Parques) – a chain of 17 stretching 1500 miles.

Since I’d had a rest day in pretty Puyuhuapi town I felt I had to push on … despite the rain.

My bigger problem than H2O was my detached pannier rack. I’d fixed 🙄 it with a metal spacer, but didn’t have much confidence it would last the 218km to the next bike shop in Coyhaique.

Also, I had to attach my ugly load far to the left in order to keep it stable. Not good.

Though I got muddy, I actually like gravel road in the rain better than dry. The tires roll more smoothly. And there’s less dust.

Each year more of the Carretera Austral is getting paved.

I’d really been looking forward to getting to Quelat. And it is great. They are very used to rain here.

I stashed my bike in the forest. And hiked to Ventisquero Colgante: The Hanging Glacier of Queulat.

This is a land of great lakes. Pristine rivers. True wilderness.

I found the cutest little high, dry, flat nook in the bamboo to set up my tent.

About 5m from the river.

The weather cleared during the night. I had red wine and a starry, starry night.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – days 16-17

Jan 29, 2019 – La Junta to Puyuhuapi (45km)

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Nice breakfast at my place in La Junta. But no milk for the coffee.

I do like La Junta. But sure wish someone would open a hostel here.

This little town is infamous for it’s highway memorial to Pinochet.

He was the horrible dictator of Chile between 1973 and 1990.

Pinochet assumed power in Chile following a United States-backed coup d’état on 11 September 1973 that overthrew the democratically elected socialist Unidad Popular government of President Salvador Allende and ended civilian rule. …

Pinochet persecuted leftists, socialists, and political critics, resulting in the executions of from 1,200 to 3,200 people, the internment of as many as 80,000 people and the torture of tens of thousands. …

It was Pinochet who pushed through this southern highway in the face of criticism. It wasn’t needed. … Only a dictator could have got it done at the tine.

South.

Soon after La Junta the highway reverted to gravel. They are slowly but surely paving the highway north to south.

I stopped at huge, beautiful, undeveloped Lake Risopatron and did a little day hike.

It was here I noticed that one of the tie downs for my pannier rack had broken off. I now understand this is the most common maintenance issue on this cycling route. They should be welded instead of bolted.

This is the good side. The other side broken.

I wobbled my way another 12km to Puyuhuapi (pop. 826) hoping to find a mechanic to fix it (somehow).

An American had run a Hostal here for 20 years but had shut down for this season. He’s selling it. But recommended the excellent Cornuy-huapi bed and breakfast. (C$60)

I unloaded the bike … then decided to wait until morning before trying to find a mechanic.

It was fiesta time in Puyuhuapi. Everything festive. Music in the plaza. Foot races for kids. Much of the town had been repainted in bright colours.

I’m sure I didn’t stop here 15 years ago. No doubt my ride rushed past on the highway.

With a bit of extra time I listened to Coffee Break Spanish lessons. Caught up on this trip report. And wandered the town.

AND I enjoyed my best meal on this trip so far … crusted salmon a lo pobre (fries, caramelized onions and eggs).

____

Jan 30, 2019 – Puyuhuapi (0km)

Nothing opens early in small town Patagonia. I decided to stay another night in my B&B to allow time to repair the bike.

I went first to the main mechanic in town. He said he couldn’t help me.

Instead I tried a temporary fix using zip ties and a metal pipe fitting I bought at the hardware. I believe it will work. #ZenAndTheArtOfBicycleMaintenance

I’ll reinforce with wire if needed.

This was my most tranquillo day so far. I peddled the area on a naked bike. Walked the village several times. Hung out in the plaza. …

AND there was a parade. Only two floats, but HEY … quality over quantity.

I’m headed for Quelat National Park next.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – day 15

Jan 28, 2019 – wild camp to La Junta (80km)

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It was another overcast / drizzly day.

I ended up cycling all day with only 1 major stop. I didn’t see any hiking trailheads through this section.

It’s difficult and costly to build & maintain trails in this impenetrable foliage.

The further I go south, the less the traffic.

The only memorable part of the day was visiting Villa Santa Lucia.

The town was devastated by a flood and mudslide on December 16, 2017. High tourist season.

21 people killed. 

The cause was heavy rainfall plus the detachment of a glacier.

Click PLAY or watch some of the mudslide on YouTube.

Here’s one house that has not yet been repaired in January 2019.

Sad.

But people are still rebuilding.

As it happens, a lot of cyclists stop at Villa Santa Lucia taking refuge from the rain by setting up tents under tarps.

I was happy to finally reach pretty La Junta (pop.914).

As rain and wind were still getting worse, I decided to get a room.

Lonely Planet and the tourist information kiosk recommended Hospedaje Tia Lety. It’s a homely, friendly place. But I left disappointed: wifi didn’t work; showers alternating from freezing to boiling.

As I couldn’t use the kitchen and was starving, I decided on the most decent looking restaurant in town.

I was the only customer at 8pm during high season. 🙄

Food was … OK.

But I did make some miles over the past 2 days.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – day 14

Jan 27, 2019 – Chaitén to wild camp 70km

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I hung around the hosteltaking advantage of wifi — in Chaitén until about noon before finally heading south.

The road was paved all day. 🙂

This is the flattest, most open Carretera Austral, so far.

I stopped in Amarillo for a hot, fresh empanada. Surprisingly it’s my first empanada this time to Chile. Some I find boring and doughy. This one was great.

In Amarillo you can buy an old airplane. A true crash pad.

I diverted into the El Amarillo sector of Pumalín Park. There are 3 hikes here the longest (20 hours) taking you to the glacier in the distance.

I decided to do the closest, Darwin’s Frog trail.

An interpretive walk, you get information at the kiosk near the park gate.

This land had been cleared for agriculture. The Foundation bought it back from the owners and are now letting it return to wilderness. And that’s good for the endangered Darwin’s Frog.

I rode 8km return of gravel through this pretty landscape to get to the trailhead.

As everything Pumalín, the hike is very well done.

Continuing south there was less traffic. Few people. Wide open spaces.

Big mountains. Huge lakes. Big rivers.

Having had a big breakfast, I stopped only one other time for a snack. Ham pate on boring bread. Riding a bike all day, you need the alcohol disinfectant close at all times.

I set up the tent next to a river by 8pm.

Here’s my vista.

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Bikepacking Patagonia – days 12-13

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

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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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