Chile
January 18, 2007 GMT
Mountains, Scenery, great riding...

Hola from Coihaique, Chile - where its warm... finally. So if you look on a map you’ll see we haven’t made it very far from Ushaia in te last 2 weeks but we’ve got a year so there’s no hurry;-)

We finally made it out of Ushaia on January 2nd (my birthday, yay!) after a brilliant 2 weeks of camping, partying and general larking around. The cold was starting to get to me so it was north we went, firstly back to Rio Grande to the hospitality of Garicella at Hostel Argentinos (a must for anyone traveling this way). Not wanting to completely retrace our steps we rode to Povenir along a fab gravel road to a 6 hour wait for the ferry to take us to Punta Arenas. The 2 hour crossing was bloody choppy and the small boat lurched around like you wouldn’t believe. I was glad of not having any food directly prior to boarding as the consequences would have been... well, embarrasing and colourful.


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Our plan was to get to Puerto Natales where we had a contact (through a friend of a friend of a friend - its great the way that works sometimes) who could, hopefully, get me a new rear tyre and where the fabled Samuel (ex KTM Paris – Dakar mechanic) resides. My bike was running a bit weird (nice tech speak) and I just wanted to know if it was something to worry about or not.


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We did an oil change and general check over in Sam's workshop. Top bloke.


As we got there late on Friday Claudio wasn’t able to order the tyre until Monday and then there’d be a few days wait (as this part of Chile is not connected by road to the rest of Chile) while it was couriered in. So we chilled for a few days before heading into the beautiful and dramatic Torres del Paine National Park. This is a hang out for serious hikers and the famous 4 day “W” walk (sorry, trek) sounds like quite hard work. so we opted instead for the “2 day rip around the gravel roads of the park”. As always the pictures do it little justice so just go there sometime...


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Ah... the nature...


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Broken off piece of glacier - Lago Grey


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More nature...


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A bike, a bridge and Torres del Paine

Jase headed from Torres del Paine straight up to El Calafate while I popped back into Puerto Natales for a couple of days to wait for my tyre. There were some great people staying at Kawashkar Hostel, notably 3 crazy Canadians (read: they did the “W” and can drink like fish) who lead me astray, I was very glad when they left! Seriously though, Jodie and Chris were taking a small break from their 6 month cycle trip around South America (check out www.porbicicleta.blogspot.com). I can’t fail to have massive respect for anyone doing this continent on a pushie. The temptation is to assume all cyclists are loco (especially down here where the wind is STRONG) is high, however, having cycled a fair bit in the past I can appreciate not only the sence of achievment they must feel at completing a ride, but also at the amount they see from the road – still bloody nuts though!

Back to the far more sane world of motorcycle travel...

My tyre turned up, woo hoo, it was like my birthday and Christmas combined. Massive thanks to Claudio for sorting that (little plug for Claudio, he’s starting up a bike rental place in Puerto Natales with 4 KLR650´s: info@patagoniax.com).

I raced off to El Calafate to catch up with Jase and to see Poreto Moreno glacier). The quality of the gravel roads was outstanding and I was bloody excited when I turned onto Route 40 for the first time.

Route 40 is one of those roads fabled for its difficulty, not just because of the gravel and the build up of mounds of the stuff in-between wheel tracks but for the side winds that prevail down here which try their best to blow you from side to side. Luckily this wasn’t the case on this section, it had been recently graded and I had the wind behind me, woo hoo! I tried not to go too fast but this KTM 950 thing tempts you to up the pace, up the pace, up the pace. There’s nothing I’ve done on this bike that comes close to pushing its limits, not sure if thats a good or bad thing! I do know, of course, that this isn’t a race and one bad move could spell the end of the trip so have been staying well within my riding limits – as much as possible ;-)


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Poreto Moreno glacier is all its cracked up to be. Massive and constantly moving we were lucky to see chunks fall off and crash into the lake below. Every 4 years it covers the gap between itself and the lake side. Eventually water pressure builds up on one side which creates a hole in the ice. The roof of this hole eventually crashes down under its own weight and the cycle starts again. Hard to describe but the pictures on display from the last time this happened where mighty impressive.


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Some other tourists give it perspective...


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If you look close you can see a piece of the glacier crashing into the lake


Heading north again we were back onto Route 40 proper. It looks like its all going to be paved eventually but until then you’re stuck with gravel. Again we were massively lucky, a tail wind and blue skies made the experience a load of fun. You need to concentrate hard on this road. If you ride out of the wheel track into the gravel mound in the middle you’re toast (the key if this happens is to gas it hard baby, that’ll get you back on line). It wasn’t all like this though, in fact the surface changes all the time, you’ve just got to be on your toes, Jase and I loved it – so did the KTM’s.


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From Tres Lagos to Baja Caracoles is about 350k’s, just out of reach of our tank range so we did a detour into Grobenor Gregores. Again, a great road which wound up higher onto the Altiplano.


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After helping a couple of stranded motorists out with tools and some fuel hose it was starting to get a bit late. Finding shelter to camp was proving difficult until we happened upon an out of the way Estancia about 100 k´s south of Baja Caracoles. The Goucho owner kindly let us camp behind some trees.


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Pasta, peas and tuna. Tastier than it looks (but not by much!)

We lunched the next day in Baja Caracoles, only for Jase to have another puncture, luckily there was a tyre fixer guy (Gomeria) right there so didn’t take long to get sorted, they’re never fun though!


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Jason - never happier than when fixing a flat... not.

The border town of Los Antiguos had a lovely camp site where we hung out for a night before heading over the border into Chile. As we climed out of Chile Chico the terrain changed. After the previous days of flat and desolate Altiplano it was great to be back in the hills. And what a road. The scenery was awesome, the road winding around lake General Carrera, up and down the mountains, “wow” is all I can say.


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We joined the famous Carretera Austral and continued the lakeside scenery. Again, so nice to have green and mountains after the barreness of Route 40.


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So now we’re in Coihaique. The language barrier is still... well we’ll say its fun! We just had lunch which consisted of a starter, main and desert. We both thought the starter was all we were getting so loaded up on bread only to be stunned when the biggest turkey leg I’ve ever seen appeared. I always seem to order extra large beers as well, not sure how thats worked out, but not worrying about it too much!

Jason has ordered a tyre which will arrive here in a couple of days so I’m going to head north tomorrow, solo like, and check out some more of this fabulous countryside.

Cheers for reading and you stay classy...

Pete


Posted by Peter Baird at 09:53 PM GMT
 


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