From San Antonio, we took the Pan Americana (Ruta 5) south, it’s a boring road that you have to pay for, but there is no real alternative if you want to get anywhere without zigzagging around like a demented insect.
We took it easy on our first day riding in a new country and decided to camp off the Pan Americana near Parral. After stopping there for provisions, we headed off the tarmac and up into the mountains on a good gravel road. While we were stopped at a junction to check the way, a jeep pulled up and the guys inside asked where we were going. One of them said he had a campsite up in the mountains and we could stay there for free, after a drink and a chat, we followed Marcelo and Alejandro up towards the village of La Balsa. The road was pretty rough but the views were good compensation.
After one photo stop the road was really stony and I hit a big rock which punctured my back tyre! We were still 8kms from the campsite but didn’t want to leave the bike so arranged to meet them at Alejandro’s place near the school, after we had repaired the tyre.
Repairing the puncture in the middle of no-where.
By the time the new tyre and tube were back on the bike, it was dark, we left the old tyre as a marker and rode on slowly towards La Balsa and our waiting friends. Surprisingly there were a lot of people around having a huge party and it was easy to find the way. Found the school but there was no sign of Alejandro and the revellers we asked couldn’t help. So onward, in the hope we could find the campsite.
Had to cross a rickety wooden bridge, after which the road turned uphill and was strewn with football sized rocks. Arno went ahead and blasted up, I almost made it but dumped the bike, Yuki and I were in the middle of picking up the bike when Arno came sprinting back down the hill with 5 guys hot on his heels. Arno had abandoned his bike outside the police station and ran back to see how I was doing and the police – being the suspicious sort - had followed.
The bike was soon upright and Arno took it up the hill, followed by Yuki. I followed on foot with the 5 policemen who bombarded me with questions, first finding out if I was ok, then the usual, who, where, how and why questions. After a while, Marcelo turned up and said we should come to the campsite, however, only now did he tell us that we would have to cross a river to get there. Arno went on foot to have a look and declared it too risky to attempt at night. The police also told us we should wait until morning.
We unpacked the bikes, left them in the care of the police and went in Marcelo’s jeep to Alejandro’s place. By now it was past midnight but beds were found for us, a meal cooked and we were made to feel really welcome.
The next day we walked back to the police station and onto the campsite. Decided to give the river crossing a miss, although the campsite was in such a wonderful place. Went to reclaim our bikes, exchanged souvenirs and thanked the police for their help, then rode the bikes back to Alejandros.
Arno riding near the village of La Balsa
After another night in the mountains, we reluctantly headed back to Ruta 5 and towards Puerto .Montt where we were due to take the ferry through the fjords to Puerto Natales.
We made a short detour into the Lake District where we camped by Lago Villarica for a couple of days then onto Puerto Montt. Found a great place to stay in a hospedaje where there was ample parking and we could also do our oil changes. We had a few days before the ferry sailed, so had time to change our tyres, glad to see them on our wheels and no longer strapped on the back of the bikes. Also did a couple of day trips, the best being a ride around Lago Llanquihue, and to Lago Todos Los Santos, both lakes having volcanoes looming over them, the snow capped Osorno Volcano most impressive with its perfect cone
Lago Llanquihue and Volcan Osorno
The road, for some stretches dirt, followed the lake winding up and around, giving some wonderful views of the lake and the volcanoes, great fun.
Sailing on the same ferry, were Asher on a BMW F650 and a German couple driving an Iveco truck that resembled a security van, so we could talk petrol as well as look at the spectacular scenery from a comfy chair in the warm. The ferry took an unexpected detour to one of the glaciers in a fjord and we got to spend a few hours watching big chunks break off and float away.
First view of one of the many glaciers in Patagonia
Posted by Sian Mackenzie at February 22, 2003 03:03 PM GMT
When we arrived in Puerto Natales, were a little non-plussed to find we had to go to customs!! Here they stamped our temporary importation paper, then we could leave, weird!!
The sun was shining the next day so we decided to head south towards the end of the world, Ushuaia.