Coyhaique (7 June 2017) – El Blanco (alternate dirt) – Puerto Tranquilo (12 June 2017)
OK, I admit it. I was bored. Cycling is slow and I’ve done a lot of it. Even though I’ve still been passing through amazing scenery and meeting great people I can’t really say I was experiencing anything that novel or even expanding my limits. The hours on the bicycle climbing hills started to feel painfully slow. Heading into Patagonian Winter and all the inevitable suffering it would entail, I started to question whether it was all worth it. Then the temperatures started to plummet and the landscapes turned white and my unhelpful attitude started to changed. I came to realise this would be a whole new experience for me and the excitement I once knew and associated with this trip began to return. A whole new set of logistics and challenges would be surfacing and I felt that I would be growing once more (I plan to detail all these learnings in a future post).
NB: See previous post here for previous leg and background on Carretera Austral. Scroll to bottom for waypoints / route map.
Picking back up from Coyhaique:
Morale in Coyhaique was lifted enormously when my path crossed with two cycle touring superstars. Gurkan heading south and Taneli heading north. Sharing stories and a room in the excellent Nomad Mente hostel we compared our notes on winter cycling.
Finally my back healed from a recent injury and I was back on the road after stocking up on some cheap winter base layers etc .
This time I had a cycling companion. Gurkan, the first Turkish cyclist to ride round the world, attracting celebrity status in his country.
Avoiding the grim main highway we took a pleasant alternate undulating route to El Blanco, double the distance but worth it. We set up camp in the town square, no one seemed to care. In fact a couple gave us hot water and offered us a room which we declined, already comfortable in our (separate) tents.
The pass before Villa Cerro Castillo and a notable drop in temperature. The last time I’d be above 1000 metres before Ushuaia?
It had snowed a few days before when Taneli passed through coming the other way. A small taster for things to come.
A rare author appearance
Yellow rubber gloves over inner gloves. Excellent for keeping hands dry. Why didn’t I do that before? A bout of cold afternoon rain requires full wet weather gear and a brief return to my waterproof Sony “Action Camera”. DRY SOCKS TIP: Long waterproof gaiters under waterproof trousers stops water entering Gurkan’s shoes through his socks. In combination with his gore-tex shoes, Gurkan keeps his feet dry. Without gaiters and definitely with wet socks, my mind starts working on an alternate solution. A few days later I try using large zip lock bags with the bottom sliced open. I put my foot through and tuck the top edge of the sliced part into my socks. The remaining bag covers my socks and part of the shoe. (Understand?? – photo soon) It works surpisingly well with goretex shoes.
Taking advantage of an abandoned house for lunch.
On our day off, a 1.5 hour boat tour in Puerto Tranquilo on South America’s second largest lake.
Catedrales de Marmol
Starting off as coral reefs when the sea level was much higher these rocks were formed over hundreds of millions of years from various geological processes – glaciers, volcanos, erosion etc My guide spoke rather fast Spanish, I forget the details… 50000 pesos for the entire boat trip that takes up to five people.
Next post: continuing on the Carretera Austral to Cochrane, the weather starts to get a little more serious…
Good places to stay and Route Info:
Out of Coyhaique there are a couple of pleasant alternate tracks to El Blanco which avoid a pretty narrow stretch of road with fast moving traffic. It’s further but I see no point in risking the main road. After the turn off a few kilometres from El Blanco the traffic really thins out with the bulk heading to Balmaceda. Then we just followed the Carretera Austral. In Villa Cerro Castillo, Senderos has good hostel / camping options. We used the iOverlander mobile app to find camp spots and the abandoned house. In Puerto Tranquilo I can recommend Cabañita as a good option if you’re looking to stay indoors somewhere friendly. Food was also (relatively) quite cheap at 6000 pesos for a meal.
Here are all my downloadable Waypoints for the Carretera Austral which I joined at Futaleufú going south (a few more will be added soon south of Puerto Tranquilo).