Leaving Jason to wait for a new rear tyre in Coyhaique I headed north conscious that I was on my own and fending for myself. “No prob” I thought, “I’m a big boy…” etc etc. 40 k’s into the ride disaster struck…
Okay so it only took me 30 minutes to track the cause of my bike’s miss-fire down to a loose battery terminal but that point at which you realise there is actually something wrong with your bike and ignoring it doesn’t make it go away creates an empty gut type feeling in the pit if your stomach. You quickly run through your options: carry on and hope for the best, stop and track down a truck to take you back to the nearest town, torch the bike and carry on by foot…!
Anyway, was a simple prob and once sorted there was only one thing to do; I danced the jig of my life.
The route north of Coyhaique continues on the Carretera Austral. There are sections of tarmac but mostly its gravel and winds its way up over some impressive passes.
Along the way I met up with Katherine and Torsten (on an overloaded GS1150) and Steve (bloke from South Africa who bought a 150cc cruiser in Buenos Aires and has done pretty much the same route as us. Proof that there is always someone crazier than you out there). We stopped for a smoke together but due to the relative differential in our speeds on the ripio we arranged to meet them further up the road for the night in Puyuhuapi.
Steve arrived with a puncture (his first, the lucky buggar) so we set about getting that sorted while consuming liberal amounts of cerveza. I most surprised that the tyre still had air in it the following morning.
Chaiten was the next stop, the Carretera Austral again confirming itself as my favourite road on the trip so far. En route I met up with Nick (www.wiatgo.com) and proffered some advice on riding the gravel roads as he had been pretty much sticking to second gear.
Nick, he liked me, really... I think!
50k’s into the ride I hit a pothole at speed, “Ooohhh that can’t be good” went through my mind, shortly followed by “oh f*** my front tyre if definitely flat, bollox bollox bollox, that’ll learn ya”. I figured I must have pinched it. Worst thing was my electric pump had permanently died a week previous so I wasn’t sure if I could get any air into it. I stopped at what looked like a sawmill hoping they might have an air compressor or summat but no one was home. There were 2 large truck tyres outside the place and in a move James Bond would have approved of I tried to get the air out of them into mine… While to my mind this was ingenious, the laws of air pressure transfer (I’m sure there must be one) proved to be beyond my skills. Then I remembered I had a coupe of Co2 cannisters and hey presto I was back on the road.
I’d decided to check out the Isle Grand de Chiloe, an island accessible only by boat and famous for its indigenous culture. A 6 hour ferry got me to Castro where I rode down to the very south of the Island where the Panamerican begins (ending in Alaska).
It was strange to ride on tarmac roads with lots of traffic after the relative traquility of 4 days on the Carretera Austral and to be honest, I wasn’t really feeling it. That night I was the only guest in Sr. Luz’s hostel in Cucao on the west coast of the Island. She praised me on my Spanish but I think she was just after a tip. Bless her for making conversation with me, this was the first night I’d spent outside the company of bikers or backpackers – good I guess, but I felt a little lonely.
It looked like the beach in Cucao would be awesome on a calm clear day, unfortunately it was overcast, drizzling and windy so I turned around and aimed for Puerto Montt.
On the way back toward Sr. Luz’s I hit a small small small rock… flat front f***ing tyre again! A local restaurant provided an air compressor and this time I found the small nail that had obviously caused my flat a couple of days back, as well as this one, D’oh!!!
(at this stage I’ve stopped taking pics of repairing flat tyres, seen one, you’ve seen em all!)
It pissed down the entire way to Puerto Montt so my memories of Chiloe are not the best. Can’t blame the place itself really, just the set of circumstances. Seeing the golden arches as I rode into town put the smile back on my face and I dined there 2 nights in a row while I waited for my boots to dry out. I picked up some supplies (air filter, new air pump etc) then set off for the return route to Chaiten, this time on mainland Chile. Great ride south on the most northerly part of the Carretera but experience permits me to offer one piece of advice: if the only beer available before getting on a 6 hour ferry (Hornoprien to Caleta Gonzalo) is a 6% local brew, say thank you and walk away (you’ll thank me later).
By this stage I knew Jase had his tyre and was further south in Futulefu so following a tearful reunion we crossed the border back into Argentina. “Ahhhh Argentina, how I missed you so, where the fuel is cheap, a steak costs 2 quid, a Mk 3 cortina is a status symbol, and the girls all where g-string bikinis” this could possibly be the best country in the world…
Sticking to our “take the dirt road” policy we rode through Parque Nacional Lago Puelo. The lakes and mountains where all quite spectacular, unfortunately the only pic I took was of Jase’s bike stuck in some soft stuff (he was doing a U-turn so I could get a pic of him splashing through a ford but this one came out better)…
El Bolson greeted us with open arms. The Argentine home of cerveza artesenal and hippys… we fitted straight in. We were lucky enough to meet up with David, a local biker and all ´round cool guy… he owns a lingere shop, ‘nuff said.
I developed a taste for a local beer con Cassis. When I couldn’t find any at the supermarket I opted for another colourful bottle. My first swig back at the hostel confirmed that I really outta have made more of an effort with Spanish… I spat it straight back out. On further investigation I discovered it was a beer made with chillies, what a twat! Luckily I found a sucker to help me out with the second bottle, William. He had ridden a 50cc scooter down from Suriname. That’s right, 50cc. 55kph on tar, 15kph on ripio, I tip my hat to you sir.
Bariloche beckoned. I got myself together and managed 4 Spanish lessons before my tutor declared me a detriment to the Spanish language. Well, not quite, but I swear he lost hair in the course of the week. Had a great night out with the Spanish school at the local bowling alley. Its been years since I bowled and was sure that they had machines to put the pins back where they should be, not here in Bariloche though, small boys did the job. The health and safety crowd in the UK would have shut the place down in an instant as its fair to say there were a few close calls.
Bariloche is a tourist mecca, loads of activities to do, walking and stuff. We had an afternoon on the pebble lake side and did a 250k loop of some of the other lakes in the area before finally leaving (after 8 nights or something, my liver needed a rest).
Bariloche from a distance... its safer that way!
I met up with Tom (guy I met while on the road to Iguazu several months ago) and also caught up with Sev and Lorenzo who we’d spent several nights hanging out with in Buenos Aires. They were on push bikes and enjoying a head wind when we saw them on the way out of town. Hope its going well guys.
Sev, Jase and Lorenzo together again at last...
After a night in Junin de los Andes we rode west into Chile through Parque Nacional Lenin on a route recommended by Tom. The road was proper off road stuff (for me anyway!) with rocks and ruts everywhere. The bridges were rated at 2 ton’s so its fair to say they don’t get a lot of traffic through this way. Another great ride. Took us ages cos we kept stopping for photos…
Once into Chile the map showed a small red road as an alternate route to Pucon. This took us through another national park, Villarica. What a route! Basically they had cleared a path between the trees so we were riding over tree roots the whole way up.
Was a bit of a challenge but the bikes coped bloody well. I came a little close to a tree at one point and a branch snagged my pannier. Luckily I stayed on the bike but it cut a hole in the pannier and ripped one of the top mounts partially out of the box. A deftly handled big stone fixed most of the damage. Halfway though the park we found 3 KTM dirt bikes and a couple of 4X4’s, 2 families travelling together. They rewarded us with a cold beer for our efforts, cheers.
Pucon is the Chilean Bariloche so we opted to camp on the lake further out of town. Lovely spot.
Having developed a taste for “small red roads on the map” we headed for another park but ended up on a road which led back into Argentina passing a fab looking volcano.
After crossing the border we were back to only 20k’s north of Junin de los Andes so figured we should push on north. Again the road was awesome, really hard packed underneath with a soft layer of sand on top. Great for getting it sideway but not so good for our airfilters which were already starting to feel blocked up.
We found a lovely spot to camp just north on Alumine and cooked pasta with tuna… again!
A series of small back roads got us back onto Ruta 40 for a night in dusty Buta Ranquil followed by a big day in the saddle (for us) of 500k’s to San Carlos just north of where we are now in Mendoza.
The last week has seen some great riding and scenery, great fun and good for the soul. Its great to be back into the heat and Mendoza is a lovely looking place. It’s the first non-touristy town we’ve been in for ages, is famous for its great wines and leafy avenues. We’ll be here for a few more days before heading to Santiago to pick up my sister, Jacqui, and her husband, Trent. They’re going to join us on the back of the bikes for a month which we’re really looking forward to (they’re also bringing lads of much needed bike parts, thanks guys).
Take it real easy,
(we stay in hotels a lot)
One last pic...
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