Closing a Chapter

Awhile back we clicked buy now on some plane tickets. Punta Arenas is meant to be the end. Consistently let down by tourist towns in Argentina, we have no desire to go to Ushuaia. That said, we arrive at our destination early. We have two weeks to spare. We hatch a plane that involves four wheels instead of two, a lemon pie and a giant sack of produce.

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Resupply points on Chilean Tierra del Fuego are few and far between. The roads we want to explore are all dead ends. We use the car to carry the supplies we cannot on our bikes. It also happens to be a very sturdy four walled shelter should the need arise.
We drive and walk and drive and bike, working our way around the island. In between we eat pie and grape fruits. With unlimited fuel, we have hot drinks three times a day. It keeps the damp away.

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For one glorious day the wind stops and the sun shines. There’s not a cloud in the sky. We ride along the coast, returning from Puerto Arturo. I can hear dolphins breathing when they surface and birds flapping their wings as they lift off from the water. We spend hours combing tide pools looking for treasures. I look up and Tyndall has jumped into the ocean, unable to pass up the chance to pickup a sea urchin. He will have wet feet for days, I think. We return with a bag of shells, basking in the glow of a perfect day at the beach.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

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Tyndall catches fish with $15 worth of kit and a water bottle. First a brown trout, then another, then a rainbow. I inspect the beaver construction projects in the area. In the 1940s the Argentine military imported 25 pairs of North American beavers, hoping to start a lucrative fur trade. The plan backfired, and now beavers roam at will, having even made their way to main land Chile. They have no natural predators here and acres and acres of suitable habitat. I figure the only hope is to bring the beaver hat back into fashion.

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Above treeline we climb to a saddle, then walk a no name ridge. Again the sky is cloudless. The snowy peaks of the Darwin Range come into view.

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At Caleta Maria the road ends. There’s another road that Chile is building to the south to Yendegaia, but it’s not complete. We walk the beach as far as we can, then scramble on the rocks when the beach runs out. When the rocks become too tricky for scrambling we stop. Somehow, this place and this time marks the closing of this chapter. Perched on an uncomfortable rock we remember the things we don’t want to forget then turn back towards home. Winter is imminent.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

There’s daily weekday bus service between Cameron and Porvenir. We also think it would be possible to arrange to send a food box ahead to Cameron and to the Wildlife Conservation Society park office in Parque Karukinka. With some upfront leg work in Punta Arenas and these services it seems possible to ride these roads by bike only. The completion of the road to Yendegaia  (sometime after 2020…) will also open up additional options for cyclists.

Pampa, Parakeets and Penguins

There’s only one road south from Puerto Natales and it’s not memorable. We hope for a tailwind but it never materializes. For once, the pampa is still. The grasses stand tall.

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Nevertheless, we take shelter in a large barn in Morro Chico for the night. The wind here is a shifty character, untrustworthy and liable to change at any moment. Iria pedals up late in the day and we share the space. In the morning we share conversation, a distraction from the diminishing kilometers. She has the patience for my Spanish and I find that I know more than I thought.

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Bus stations here are a more serious affair: four solid walls and a door that closes.

In Villa Tehuelches we part ways. We head for hills and for the coast. She heads to town.

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For a moment or three we turn into the wind. It’s manageable and soon we turn south again and it becomes a friend, allowing me to pick my head up and look around. At the Rio Verde municipal building we ask to pitch our tent and are given permission. The whole complex exists for a coal mine on the island across the way. The big trucks we see on the road service the salmon farms up the way. Parakeets fly around. These are the same birds we saw in the lakes district and it seems they live here, too.

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We turn off the gravel road, go through a gate and down a two track to the beach.

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The wind stops and the sun comes out. It is a good day to be here. We stop and go, stop and go, puttering along the hard packed sand looking for treasures. Tyndall walks just to prolong the bliss.

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While investigating the dunes for camping, something catches Tyndall’s eye. Upon closer inspection we discover sea lions: two big ones and a little one. They are resting in the dune and throwing sand around. They give a gurgley roar and we scurry away.

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We search a bit more and find an unoccupied dune, making it ours for the night. The night is calm and still.

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Sound carries. In the morning we hear other sea lion noises, seemingly closer. We take turns going to investigate, but see nothing. It is a good thing, because neither of us is sure how to deal with a creature like this.

The beach riding ends and we return to empty dirt roads. We learn the coal mine nearby ceased operating three years ago and the penguins that used to nest here in the summer have been chased off by wild dogs and too many tourists.

We climb on an empty two track and then descend to the main road that leads to Punta Arenas. We go over gate after gate, finally arriving in an industrial yard. The security guard tries to tell us where we went wrong in our navigation, but we don’t want to go back. He lets us pass and we spin into Punta Arenas.

Where we rode: Puerto Natales – Villa Tehuelches – Rio Verde – Seno Otway – Punta Arenas

Route details can be found here.

Closing In

I have two messages from Katie. She’s writing to say the last 100 kilometers of the Austral are the best. Don’t miss them she says. I leave Cochrane with high expectations.

The road gets narrower and narrower, windier and windier. Thick vegetation lines the roadside. Mist hangs heavy in the air. Lucky for me and for Katie, she’s not wrong. At the very end, the Austral finally becomes the kind of road we love.

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In Villa O’Higgins we learn that our friend Scott is only a day behind, but with tickets for a boat the next day, we’ll miss him again. We kill time, waiting for the grocery store to open again after lunch. I watch two boys kill a large, beautiful moth outside the library and then get mad.

Late in the day we leave town, going down the road a short ways to camp on Rio Mayor. A strange animal making strange noises circles our tent in the night. I lay still, not even breathing, hoping it just leaves. I have no idea what it is. In the morning we learn there are pumas in the area. Maybe it was a puma. Maybe it was a very sick dog.

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We take a boat across Lago O’Higgins, stamping out of Chile before riding a gravel 4×4 track to the border.

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There the track becomes a muddy mess of a trail. We slip and slide and even ride a bit to the shores of Lago del Desierto.

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I watch Fitz Roy come out on the other side of the lake while waiting for our second boat to arrive. By the time it does, the mountain is gone and the rain has moved in.

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We arrive in El Chalten in a deluge. Soaked to the bone I search out a room. We warm up and dry out, the rain still falling outside. It quits, only to come again in the night. We decide to stay.

Late in the day I get a message. Scott has arrived in town. We go searching for beer and ice cream together, only to end up with fernet and Coke instead. We pass the evening, telling stories and catching up.

Heads foggy from too much fernet, we leave town in the morning, Fitz Roy still hiding behind dense clouds. Wary of wind, we look for sheltered camping. A tip from a five year old blog post helps us find this.

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Since then, someone has moved in, but he’s more than happy to share his space. For him, the observatory is only a place to store hay and meat. We sleep the sleep of the dead.

We wake in the morning only to find it has rained again in the night. We squish through mud back to the paved road. Back in El Chalten we had debated the merits of other, smaller dirt tracks south verses the merits of just kicking it down the paved, main road quickly. With inches of recent rain, our final decision came easily. The earth here is sticky when wet, quickly becoming a muddy mess that’s no good for biking. So, for the second day in a row, we find ourselves spinning easily, covering ground on the main road.

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At the end of the day we crest a small climb. We poke our heads up around the corner only to see a blank, featureless landscape.

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With no where to call home for the night in sight, we retreat to a small gravel pit next to a mirador. It will do.

Again with the help of the wind we make quick work of 85 kilometers, only turning to battle it for the last 15 to Tapi Aike.

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Guanacos and rheas don’t mind the wind, neither does a flock of flamingos. But we do, camping early in the shelter of a stand of trees at the police station. Perhaps the morning will be better.

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The wind howls like a banshee, roaring across the pampa. It works it’s way into my head, prying open all the carefully shut doors and compartments, making chaos out of order, making my shell crack. Even with a tired body, sleeps eludes me.

The morning is no different. We resolve to find another way. Hours later, a man with a small Fiat Adventure delivers us 80 kilometers down the road, away from the worst of the wind. Instead of a Chilean National Park, we find ourselves in an Argentine coal town.

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The weather makes the decisions for us these days. We’re just along for the ride.

Where we rode: Cochrane – Villa O’Higgins – El Chalten – Tapi Aike – Rio Turbio – Puerto Natales

Another Austral Detour

Conversation lags. After all these months of traveling together through empty places it seems we have finally run out of things to say. We move together in companionable silence down the road. There’s still plenty to look at.

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Years ago, giant trees were cut down for pasture. They now lie, wasted and decomposing, only a shadow of their former selves.

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Here on the Austral, other cyclists are a dime a dozen. I find I don’t have much to say to them either, never having been keen on talking just for the sake of making noise.

But then in Coyhaique we’re given a tip, an idea, and it sparks hours of debate.

While I navigated the aisles of Unimarc grocery, Tyndall chatted up two Belgian cyclists. There is a boat from Caleta Tortel to Puerto Natales they say. It runs once a week and costs 40,000 CLP they say. It takes 40 hours and sails through narrow fjords they say. Tyndall clutches a website and a phone number in his hand.

We leave town with renewed vigor for our route south. The only problem is that all the information we have is hersey. Until we can find an Internet connection it’s just an idea, possibly even a pipe dream. Through kilometers of paved, busy road we nurse this pipe dream, debating the merits of pushing ourselves to make this alleged sailing in a week’s time.

There’s still plenty else to amuse us though. On the descent towards Lago General Carrera it seems dark.

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It’s 11:00 in the morning and a blue sky day, but somehow, it seems to be getting colder rather than warmer. The sun is dim. We look at each other in confusion, and then have a light bulb moment. A few days ago a cyclist from London told us that there would be a solar eclipse Sunday. Today is Sunday we realize. Everything now makes sense.

At the library in Puerto Ibañez we connect up. The boat does run Saturdays. It does exist. The government subsidizes the sailings, and as such, charges extranjeros like us three times what they charge Chileans. That’s a deal killer.

We return to our original plan of riding to Villa O’Higgins and the end of the Austral. But first, we make one more detour off, back into Argentina. A ferry takes us across Lago General Carrera to Chile Chico. From there it’s an easy ride out of Chile. Laden with tasty Argentine pastries, we go out into the barren and windswept pampas.

At first Ruta 41 is a wide gravel washboard monstrosity. Motivation lags. We follow a sign for a fishing spot and camp early, not ready to commit to an afternoon climb. Rain comes in the night, as it does every time we come to Argentina. The sandy river wash becomes a bit muddy. We move up the road. It’s empty and it improves.

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Past the last estancia the road gets smaller, turning into a twisting two track burrowing into the mountains.

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Rain squalls come and go. The road gets sticky. We debate the merits of continuing on. A weather update from the Delorme makes the decision for us. More rain, colder temps and possible snow. We decide to make tracks while we can, riding through Paso Roballos in the late afternoon light.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

A lull in the wind tricks us into a camp spot. Mother Nature is fickle, and soon she’s blowing from the other direction. Tyndall scopes out other options. There are no good ones. Instead, we build a wall, Tyndall staying up way past his normal bedtime to perfect it. He says it is the best birthday ever. I accept a windy night in the tent. These pampas are relentless.

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The wind blows all night. The wall works. Morning comes and we emerge. There is fresh snow on the surrounding peaks. We descend past guanacos and sheep, to the Argentine border.

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From here we turn west, going back to Chile. A greeting committee awaits us at the border.

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Tyndall asks the Carabineros if the wind is always so strong. Always always it is this strong here he says, but not down below. I insist on knowing how many kilometers until the wind abates. He says 30. I don’t care if he’s telling the truth or not, it’s something to hope for.

X-83 snakes through Parque Patagonia. It’s wild. In 2020 the park will be given to Chile, but for now it’s still a work in progress. Unfinished campgrounds provide shelter for the night. We watch the clouds whip by and a couple of guanacos mill about. The Carabinero was right. The wind does lessen after 30 kilometers.

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The road ends back at the Austral. From here we accept it and it accepts us, having become a narrow dirt road snaking through the mountains. The first person we see is a cyclist, many minutes later, a car. I can handle this.

Where we rode: Manihueles – Coyhaique – Puerto Ibañez – Chile Chico – Los Antigues – Paso Roballos – Parque Patagonia – Cochrane

Although quick drying with a bit of wind and sun, Ruta 41 through Paso Roballas has the potential for sticky, stop you in your tracks mud.

Snaking South

From Chaiten the Austral is paved. It’s hard to be bothered about this when the scenery is so good. We move fast.

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In Villa St. Lucia I look around for someone to ask for water. All I see are bikers and back packers, no locals. The back packers look like snails, lining the roadsides at intersections thumbing for rides. I wonder how long they wait until someone picks them up.

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Chilean house shingles

Laguna Yelcho has stellar wild camping, and water warm enough to swim. I clean myself and my clothes, watching the sunset light the clouds pink for a moment.

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We head for Argentina. As we go east the ground begins to dry out. The grass turns brown. The trees aren’t as thick. Chile lets us go with a smile and Argentina gives us a thumbs up upon entry. Just past the border we spot some unused fairgrounds with a couple other campers.

Solveig and Roland are traveling through Argentina by horse. They remind us of other people and other places.

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Someday Roland would like to travel the CDT by horse. We tell him the West is great for horse travel, that you can go in Wilderness areas that we cannot.

In Corcovado we find everything we need in the first store we go into. The sky is a lead grey. Rain threatens. We leave town anyways.

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Photo by Tyndall Ellis.

When I stop stewing about the shit road and pick my head up I see jagged peaks, open grasslands and big sky. I see hints of autumn and remainders of summer. I see places we have been before.

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The weather catches up and rain falls. I press on, climbing up and up. We stop and slather manjar on fry bread, looking for a quick jolt of energy. By the time we are done, the weather has passed. A quick look at the sky though and I know there’s more to come.

I lay awake in the tent, listening to the wind whip down off the mountains, knowing it’s going to lash our tent before moving on. I brace for it, and then the gust is gone. I like the wind in the tent the least and wish for a proper, paper book to distract me. Instead, my mind fills with other memories of storms weathered in a tent: in the Brooks Range, Tyndall sick and feverish insisting thunder was an airplane and me, knowing better, waiting for it to come; of sleeping on the banks of the Meshik River, it’s waters teaming with salmon, expecting a brown bear to burst in at any time; in the Wind Rivers in Wyoming, listening to snow fall lightly through the night; of all night pouring rain on Caines Head, irrationally expecting a flash flood to come and wash us all away.

But we’re still here, and in the morning the sun shines through the clouds. All day we dodge rain clouds, taking layers on and off, on and off.

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In Atilio Viglione the road runs out. A small bridge takes us to a 4×4 track covered in river rock.

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It winds through small trees, to the quiet Argentine border post. We are met by a young pup and friendly border agents. He warns of high water at the river crossings ahead, and says we can come back and stay there if we can’t cross. There are no more bridges.

We press on. The pup wants to come too, but I bring her back. She has a home. At the second crossing we run into two fishermen from Massachusetts, staying at a lodge down the way.

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At the third, a man in a truck tells us we are close to Chile, it’s just a little bit farther.

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The weather worsens. A pair of knit gloves and plastic bag poagies keep my hands warm. At the border there’s one last gate. On the other side the Chileans have “improved” the road.

In town we’re stamped in by the Carabineros. As such, there’s no paperwork and we don’t have to hastily consume our cheese and avacados. Win win.

The rain pours down. We find the lady in town who rents rooms. She has a fire roaring in her wood stove and is baking bread. It’s easy to stay. I read The Glory and the Dream and listen to the rain fall on the tin roof, knowing I have no where to go and nothing to do.

On the second day we wake to partial sun and make a move. We have our eyes on a small section of the Sendero de Chile. It’s been 12 hours since the last rain, and we think we can get through.

The road out of town winds through pasture past colorful rocks. The ground is saturated and water runs everywhere.

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We turn off the road onto a horse trail, later spotting the two track we should have turned onto instead.

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We hop a fence and climb. While the horse trail went straight up, the two track has an easier grade. I look at the sky, trying to gauge the weather. It’s no use.

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At the top of the second climb the rain comes. We squish through mud. Mist swirls around big peaks, but they don’t show. We roll through pastures and old growth forest. A cowboy camp is home for the night. Tyndall builds a fire and we dry our socks and shoes, knowing they will be wet again within minutes in the morning.

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The sky clears in the night and the temperature drops. I know this because I don’t wake up sweating, tearing off my woolies in the night. The peaks that were hidden yesterday are out yoday.

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We follow the road on. It takes us to a summer cowboy camp. We go in for coffee and to talk. The new road pushed through means it’s easy to get big equipment in here now and the land is being cleared. Even quiet places like this aren’t safe from humans. Most everywhere I think, land is either lived on by humans, or used to graze and grow our food. Very little is true Wilderness anymore.

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Two sweaty climbs and two white knuckle descents later we are at the last river crossing. It doesn’t look so shallow, and sure enough, comes most of the way up my thighs. I cross and wait. Tyndall makes multiple trips for our bikes. His legs are longer. But then it’s over and everyone and everything is on the proper side and we’re back on mapped roads, going south.

Where we went: Chaiten – Villa St. Lucia – Palena – Corcovado – Lago Vintter – Atilio Viglione – Lago Verde – La Tapera

Detailed route information can be found here and here.

We rode from Lago Verde to La Tapera on the Sendero de Chile after two days of rain. The trail was wet and river crossings higher, but we never encountered wheel sucking, bike destroying stop us in our tracks sticky mud.

South on the Austral, kind of

There’s a world map on the wall at the place we are staying.

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I gauge the distance between here and The End to be about the length of the Baja. That’s it. A Baja length ride between us and home. I’m not sure how I feel about this, but I do know I still get to ride my bike somewhere. With repairs accomplished, we rocket out of town on a mostly flat paved road that goes directly south.

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Fish farming is big business here, as is honey.

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Fresh bread is around every corner. A few fruits and vegetables can still be found. They look a bit more like the Alaskan produce I’m used to than their counterparts just north of here.

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The road snakes along a fjord and then joins with the Carretera Austral. We only ride for a second, maybe two, before going right. A slightly quieter road winds along the coast. Wooden boats are being built in yards. Wooden churches stand tall against the elements.

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We settle down at the harbor, and then watch something catch fire down the road. An hour later the fire truck comes roaring through. Ten minutes more and the water truck arrives. The fire is out by now, whatever was burning long gone.

Fishermen come in, anchoring their boats for the day. I comb the beach, looking for treasures.

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The tide comes and goes in the night. The full moon making them higher and lower than normal. Boats are piled in a jumble on the beach. People comb the beach, collecting shell fish and seaweed. We collect blackberries.

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I ask a woman for water. She takes our bottles inside and I wait outside with her small daughter. The girl would like help removing her red rubber boots, and I oblige. Soon, she’s stomping in the mud in her bare feet. Her mother returns. She gives me the water and scolds her daughter. I thank her and leave, hoping the muddy feet don’t cause too much of a problem.

Our quiet deversion from the Austral over, we return. This is where everyone else is. We join the masses for a bit, taking the road to Hornopiren and a ferry south.

We have been told the north part of the Austral is quiet, and it is. In between ferry arrivals and departures we have the road to ourselves. It twists and turns and goes up and down through Parque Pumalin. We follow a short trail through a stand of old Alerce trees.

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We make our own camp spot on Laguna Negro, watching the sun makes its’ wide arc, going down and left across the sky.

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Where we went: Ensenada – Puelo – Contao – Rolecha – Hornopiren – Chaiten

Border Hopping

The streets of Melipeuco are quiet. We are told the national park nearby is closed because of high fire danger. It’s hot. People aren’t going anywhere fast. I look at the weather and all of Central Chile is hot. Other cycling friends are languishing throughout the country, not riding in the afternoon or looking to the Coast, for a cooler way south. We head for the mountains. A lackadaisical start ensures we are climbing at the hottest part of the day.

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Tyndall finds a small dirt track that heads up, through Reserva Nacional Villarica. For a moment, we’re deterred by a closed sign for the park, and then by a private property sign. We ask at the Nevados de Sollipulli lodge about going on. Of course he says, just close the gates behind you.

Four shallow river crossings lead us onto a small dirt two track and into the forest.

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We don’t go far before stopping to camp. It’s early but we want to linger.

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From the river we climb just a bit, through big old Monkey Puzzle trees. It’s cool and shady.

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Dropping down the other side I feel the heat move in as the trees give way to pasture. I pause at a bus stop, intending to take a break in the shade. It turns out others have the same idea.

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In the morning we intend to leave but don’t. We have found a place with a quiet back garden popping with flowers.

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I buy a kilo of grapes and a melon and sit in the shade. We have been meaning to make a few adjustments to our bikes. The four Salsa stainless water cages we have had since the Baja have been welded and repaired in every country. Two good ones remain, and the other two we abandon. Water is plentiful now and we don’t need the carrying capacity. I tell myself my bike feels lighter now.

From Curarrehue a quick ride down the paved road delivers us back to gravel, and then to a small dirt two track into the mountains. We pass six Argentine cyclists. All insist the park is closed and we cannot pass. Determined to try and to see for ourselves, we go on. We see no one and no signs. We go on, climbing up a washed out two track and descending down through a monkey puzzle forest.

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Only when we exit the park do we turn to see a closed sign.

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Reveling in our success, we arrive in Coñaripe. Cars and people confuse us. We look for lunch, only to realize the time has past for that. A sign for empanadas catches my eye and we order some, sitting down to regroup.

Satiated, we leave town, choosing to pay for camping because it’s easy. Down here in the valley fences line the roads.

In the morning we ride along, fueled by tortillas and pan. They are really the same thing around here, just different in size.

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Making a right on the main road to Neltume, we join the masses. It’s high summer and everyone is on vacation. Making the choice to forgo the Huilo Huilo route, we ride to Puerto Fuy. From here we take a ferry, and return to Argentina.

At the Argentine border we learn Interpol is looking for another Robert Ellis. This one comes from Georgia, has a different middle name is about 30 years older. We are allowed to go, but first must have our belongings inspected. It turns out fruit and vegetables aren’t allowed through here. It seems Argentina is taking lessons from Chile. I tell the inspector we won’t have lunch if he takes our food and it is 40+ kilometers to town. He relents and we skeedaddle.

For a minute the road improves. A water truck keeps the dust down, but then he turns around and we’re on our own again. I find myself wishing they would just pave these dusty, washboard, busy gravel roads. There’s no escape and nothing to do but pedal, so we do.

A small dirt foot path leads down to the lake. We take it, cleaning ourselves and our clothes in the afternoon sun. The road south will still be there tomorrow, the dust perhaps less pervasive in the morning.

San Martin overwhelms. Another biker told us it was similar to Banff. She is not wrong. Tyndall’s shorts are falling apart as I write this. He needs new ones, and goes looking. Everything on offer has too many pockets and too many zippers. Instead we eat empanadas. The contents dribbles out, making my clean shirt dirty dirty shirt dirtier. I don’t care.

We wander aimlessly for a bit before focusing on gathering supplies. The grocery store is crowded. A boy bounces a ball in the produce aisle, hitting me as he goes. Another grabs some nectarines and starts juggling. It’s time to get out of here, whether I have what we need or not.

A paved road takes us up and out of town. Argentinean hitch hikers dot the roadside, laden with heavy packs and clutching mate thermos and cup. The trees are smaller here, the ground drier. The national park is fenced in, with do not enter signs posted along it. We go to the free, designated camping spot with low expectations. It’s nice, pleasant even, aside from the lack of a toilet or two for the masses. There are rabbits running about everywhere. Tyndall wonders if they live on human feces.

Late in the evening a truck with Colorado plates pulls in. We say hello, craving conversation in English. They tell us that Constitucion has burned and show us photos of places we just were, now just piles of ash and burned snags.

Early in the morning, rain comes. It’s just a quiet pitter patter on the tent, but it’s enough to deter us from an early start. For our laziness, our new friends reward us with second breakfast. It surpasses our porridge by far. Buoyed by good conversation we head on. The drizzle can’t damper my spirits, nor the paved road. Today we’re going somewhere.

After only two nights, we stamp out of Argentina. With Chilean Customs 40km away, we know we won’t make it today. Rain falls down. Mist swirls around. I dig in and climb. Near the top we make camp beside a small stream. Tyndall looks for fish but finds none. When the border closes the traffic stops and I sleep the sleep of the dead.

The weather hasn’t cleared and all the volcanoes are still hidden behind fog. We descend back into Chile. These busier passes seem to have even more paperwork. It’s like going on a scavenger hunt, finding all our stamps and then getting the prize at the end: entry to Chile.

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Here everything is a bit more lush and green.

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There’s a German influence, and a dairy industry.

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Pollo asado and papas mayo temporarily fill a hole in my leg.

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Tyndall cuts a piece off the tent groundsheet and takes it and his shorts to the seamstress. I’m skeptical about sitting on tent groundsheet while riding, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

We leave the paved road and go up, gambling on the clouds clearing around Volcan Osorno.

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They do, and we’re rewarded with a view late in the evening. I go to sleep, hoping she’s still out in the morning.

A few more kilometers on a dirt road delivers us onto the trail for Paso Desolación. The volcano is still out and I pedal hard, wanting to reach the top before the clouds roll in again.

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I mostly win, eating a cheese sandwich at the top before chasing Tyndall down the other side.

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We coast along, stopping to talk with a hiker from Montreal. He tells us the trail ahead is steep and covered in deep volcanic ash from an April 15 eruption. At the bottom he suggests we ride down the arroyo and then take the beach back to the road, as opposed to the trail. Always eager to try beach riding, we fall for it. The arroyo is fine, and the beach is even solid at first.

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Then it’s not, and there are big rocks and trees and I walk.

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But it’s ok. We’ll still get where we need to go. 

Where we rode: Melipeuco – Reigolil – Curarrehue – Coñaripe – Neltume – Puerto Fuy – San Martin de los Andes – Entre Lagos – Volcan Osorno – Ensenada

Route information for our ride around Volcan Osorno can be found from Fat Cycling.