Monday, 12 January 2009

Journey Home

The journey from Pto Montt to Santiago was fairly uneventful, as some would say "Another bus journey". Hey I only caught the bus twice in four weeks!
Xmas and New Year passed by and my neatly trimmed stomach was disappearing again. I had one last chance to recover....
I arrived at Heathrow at around 6pm. I'd tried to work out how to get home and almost wished Iberia's baggage handling incompetance would allow me to catch the train home [no bike & trailer!] Sadly this was not to be the case on this occasion.
So I had little choice but to rebuild my bike and head out into the cold damp night. I headed onto the A4, A3044, A308, A320 and finally the A3 south. Jesus was it cold. I passed some dude cycling on his way to Woking, he asked where I was heading. "Portsmouth" I replied. He nearly hit the hedge!
I made Guildford and discovered that the petrol stations are expensive places to buy mars bars and bottles of coke. Still I needed food as all I'd had was a small breakfast earlier in the day and stauntly refused to pay 5Euro for a bottle of pop in Madrid!
I pushed on as I was making 10mph and could make Portsmouth before 2am. Sadly I met the worst drivers I'd met on my whole journey here. Black Audis, Saab drivers and the odd Porsche. All sadly total knobs. Santiago in rush hour was nothing compared to the shear magnitude of bad driving I found here. I recalled practically every other car either waving, shouting congratulations (I think that was what they were shouting!), and piping their horn in a fiendly fashion in South America. Here, in my own country, I was ashamed to discover how unpleasant everyone was. Maybe it was the winter's freezing fog, poor economic outlook and incompetent Government that was at the heart of Britain's unfriendliness?

I was just over Butser Hill when I came out of the freezing fog and could now see fields white and crisp with ice. The moon shone down and I could see the fog rolling off the downs. Orion was now standing upright, beautifull, but sadly taking a night photo in the middle of the A3 in the dead of night would have to be done some other day.

I made it back just after 2am. Susy had arrived earlier in the day and had warmed up the bed.

Ahhhh, it's nice to be home.

for my next trip I may try this .... next holiday

Friday, 19 December 2008

La Junta, Sta Rosa, Chaiten a Pto Montt

After staying at La Junta we set off for Sta Lucia, where Bert would head for Esquel and I would head for Chaiten. The roads were improving, sadly the weather continued to rain.
We found an excellent camp area south of Sta Lucia. In the morning we did another 3km before Bert turned East.

I headed for Chaiten and soon found ash. I had onlt 80 km to do in two days so I took ny time.
I camped at the side of the road, not for the first time. The ash from the volcano was gritty and similar to white sand.
I´ve seen trailers, even rail carriages, but never a plane in someone´s back yard.
The pictures say it all...

The current journey is pretty much over now. I´m in Pto Montt now and searching for lunch.

Apologies for lack of updates, but there has been no Internet until now!

Quelat, Puyuhapi, La Junta

I went to see the glacier, but a wrong turning, and a shorter walk than planned meant I onlt got a glimpse. It wasn´t that good really, I´ve seen glaciers.....

Bert and I road north now towards Puyuhapi. We were held up nearly two hours at one of the constructions sites. Still having made Puyuhapi by 1, we met Dave from England, another cyclist. There were more cyclists every day! I had the best Salmon I have ever had at a German style restaurant.
The next day Bert and I headed for La Junta and hopefully beyond no road works! The weather was changing, what had been crystal clear skies were now changing to cloudy rain bearing skies.
La Junta was somewhere to miss, other than buy food. Another 10km and wild camping would have been the better option.

Chacabuco a Quelat National Park

Another early start. I had 120 km of paved roads ahead and I wanted to get them all covered ASAP. I didn´t set off until 8:30, due to slow breakfast. I had to take the opportunity when it arose!
I sped off, but was to be held up by road works. Still after a few hours I was making 25kmph and by lunch time I made Route 7 and Maniguales.Again I stocked up on provisions. More tuna, pasta, empanadas and the all important box of wine and case of beer (6pack).
The trailer was heavy, and I dreamed of Empanadas and a Cool beer, whilst I moved ever northwards along very quiet roads.
The views were still fantastic, but the road sadly changed back to Ripio. Not just rough this time, but made worse by the fact they were widening and improving over 200+km. This somehow meant they had to make it worse first. All I can do is suggest that this is like cycling on a soft sandy, shingle beach with 50kg in tow.
I made camp. Shortly after a group of gauchos passed droving cattle up the road. They cracked their whips and the dogs, collies, made sure the cattle knew they were to be obeyed! Soon after Orlsks from Basque country turned up on a Harley Davidson. We talked a while before I hit the sack. I set off at 7am. There was a slim chance that I might catch up with Bert. I struggled onwards through the bad roads. By lunch time I met Chris on his motorbike with his wife. They asked if I was with the other guy! I was closing in. He was over an hour away, over a very loose 600m pass. The heat and dust were terrible.

I´d hoped to cycle ~45km, but it turned out that every time I asked how far Quelat was it got further away! I made the 85+km and killer hill as the Aussies has described it, to find the park rangers were very reluctant to let me in. The park was out of water due to the long hot spell. The spanish came in real handy here! I persuaded them I was with the Dutch guy, Bert. I was let in. I had caught him up, as much as a surprise to Bert as myself. I had pasta and soup with Tuna.

Cerro Castillo a Coyhaique, Chacabuco

The following day I arose early. I had now met another cyclist, this time from Spain. However I intended to make the 1120 metre pass as early as possible so soon after 7 I set off with the cool air as refreshment.
The stories of uphill for the first 25km then downhill all the way for the next 80, where a little streched. Still I made Coyhaique, the region´s capital by 3. I got some hard cash from a machine and explored options. I had a fantastic Lomo a lo Pobre, a huge steak, eggs, chips. And a beer.

I chose to head for Chacabuco and buy a ticket from El Chaiten to Puerto Montt. I would be able to see the aftermath of a Volcano on one of Chile´s villages. Chaiten was subjected to a Volcano in May 2008.

I set off late, after realising my factor 60 suncream was at a low point and I needed to buy some more. I´d made a late start. Whist filling up my water bottle I met Bert, a Dutch guy, who was cycling from Ushuia to Alaska. A two year trip. We joked about the winds in the south. This guy took 2 and a half weeks to get along route 40, sometimes makeing less than 30km a day! Never head north, do Alaska to Ushuia and you´ll have tail winds all the way!

We cycled together for a few hours, but he was taking X50 abd then R7 Northwards. I headed for Chacabuco to buy a ticket for one weeks time. I met three girls from Australia and New Zealand who said the area here was like NZ, but soooo much bigger and better. Ok, I´ll shelve the NZ plans now. I stayed at an odd place in Chacabuco, but lovely people. I even met a local guy who supported Liverpool FC. I promised to send him my Liverpool - Havant and Waterlooville programme.

Pto Guadal to Villa Cerro Castillo

I made it to Puerto Guadal. I made a phone call to Susy´s sister and stocked up with some provisions (tuna). It was so hot again, I decided to sit in a stream I found and have a wash. I smelt a bit! I filled the water bottles and just before R7 I met two guys on motorbikes from Britain. We exchanged details about road conditions and where you could get food. I was now on the official Caraterra Austral.
Due to the long wait for shops to open in Pto Guadal I fell short of Pto Rio Tranquilo. Still I had the food and water. The next day I had to turn off the main road, if you can call it main or a road! I had lunch in Bahia Murta, Roast Lamb, potatoes and with second helpings all for 3.50. Bargain, and a relief from tinned tuna.
I was now heading due North and making decent progress. The road conditions worsened.

After several days of fantastic views I eventually made it to Villa Cerro Castillo, and a thankfull change to the rough, soft, loose dirt road to the stuff real roads are made from. I met another couple who where cycling from Colombia South. So I wasn´t alone in my mad desire to cycle along this route. The roads had their moments.
stayed at a Hospedaje, Don Niba, in Cerro Castillo. Lovely food and very hospitable. I would soon find myself in populated country.

Argentina to Chile

After having taken the bus to Perito Moreno, I felt a bit down. Whilst I had so wanted to make the journey I didn´t have the time. I passed this disappointment (celebration) with a few beers and a pizza with a French guy who knew all about Astrium, transponders and such like. Suffice to say we had a good laugh, not about work!
The next day he was off North on another bus trip. I meanwhile re-assembled my bike and set off for Chile Chico just over La Frontera, in Chile. Now most of you will have had the feeling of leaving a hotel and thinking I´m sure I´m missing something. I later discovered I´d left my cables for charging my batteries!

The route promised wind, although this time it was welcome. It was no way as strong as in the south, when I now believe it was 40+ knots. Here it was a gentle breeze, and one which would cool me down as the temperatures reached 44°C.I reached Chile Chico early, so decided to make a dash towards Mailen Grande. I knew it was going to be tough and I needed the head start. I bought provisions and set off along side Lago General Carrera. I met a guy who lived along the route, who offered to let me sleep near his house. I pushed further on and made a nice, wild camp site near Lago Verde.

I ate a pot of boiled rice and tuna. I would be eating almost tuna every day for the next few weeks! The rice was crunchy and probably the worst rice I´ve ever cooked. Still it was fuel for the killer ride towards Route 7, Chile´s Caratera Austral.

The route was either up or down, switching every few km. The sun beat down and I had to fill up my bottles at every opportunity. I drank 7+ litres that day as temperatures averaged 40°C. I tried to reach Pto Guadal, where I could find a phone and ring to say I was ok. I eventually realised I wouldn´t make falling short by about 10km. Still I had made over 100km on dirt roads and climbed a phenomenal amount ~2000 metres.
I found a place to hold up for the night and decided to make the call in the morning.