January 17, 2006 GMT
Chiles Lake District

From Chaitén I I took the ferryboat to the island of Chiloe (which turned out to be a nice although not spectacular place) and went more or less straight to Temuco, having short looks at Puerto Varas (small & ok), Puerto Montt (outstandingly ugly and rainy but nice people) and Valdivia (ok so far, with a very friendly and helpful policeman on the central square).

In Temuco there should be two fork seals be waiting for me at Edgardos "Servitren" workshop. However, the seals had not been delivered and Edgardo did not really seem to care at all. He had also forgotten that I wanted an inspection to be done on my bike. Lucky me: I did not remind him, since the looks of the workshop did not really inspire confidence.

However, he recommended a (good) place (MotoMaster, Caupolican 380), where I could get some new tyres - which I did. The bloody Bridgestone TW did not even stand 9000 km, hopefully the brand new Pirelli MT60 will serve a little longer. Anyway, they already feel much better on gravel. No wonder since the Bridgestones had almost no profile left. The mechanic who changed my tyres even managed to loosen the fork screw that I had failed with, so finally I would be able to add some fork oil.

The first evening after having left Chaitén - i.e. after a 10-hours ferry trip and a few hundred km ride - I had realized that I had left my chain lock in Chaitén. It had cost me some 100 EUR, and you don't find such a strong chain lock in all South America. So what could I do? It would be more expensive (and a complete waste of time) to return, so I discussed this with the very helpful concierge of the Chapelco hotel and she recommended "Chilexpress", Chile's national delivery (and money transfer) service. So I sent the key back to Rita's place in Chaiten (4 EUR), sent the money for the package (10 EUR) and Rita (helpful as always) sent me the Chain Lock to Santiago. So when I arrived there later, I could just happily pick it up. Once again, fortune favours the fool :-)

After spending two nights in (fairly ugly) Temuco, in the (fairly nice) Hotel Chapelco, I headed east towards Cunco, the Colico and Caburgua lakes and finally the Andes. On the map I got from the tourist info, there was a very tiny gravel road passing southwards between the andean foothills and the lakes. According to a roadsign the road was called "Carretera Entre Lagos" (The road between lakes). It was really tiny, narrow, partly steep and washed out by the torrential rains but the landscape was absolutely great, green, idyllic and tranquil, with rivers, waterfalls, green hills, snow capped mountains and deep blue lakes.

I spent the night in nice Villarica at the lake of the same name and finally found a good Chile road map, so I could do some more detailed plans for the following days. The next day I went further southeast, passing on mostly good gravel roads along the Calafquen, Pullinque and Panguipulli lakes to Puerto Fuy. On my way I passed by a little accident where a tiny car had crashed into the ditch. A public-transport bus was standing nearby, so were approx. 15 peoble staring at the car. Obviously my help wasn't required (I'm not Samson, neither did I carry a tow rope with me), so I went ahead on the narrow gravel road.

Every half a kilometer there were groups of village people standing at the road, obviously waiting for the bus I had just seen. I got quickly fed up with these chilenean ''country bumpkins'' since they were staring at me like I was green with antennas on my head and riding a spaceship. If the had waved and smiled at me like the Argentines do, it would have been fine - but they just stared like idiots (sorry) and didn't even wave back when I hailed them. By the way: I was used to being hailed by Argentine truckers as well - another thing I rather missed in Chile.

Finally after crossing thick forests and apparently unspoilt lakeshores and swamps I finally reached Puerto Fuy at the shore of the Pirihuelco lake, which is long and narrow like a tube. I had two maps with me, both issued by the Chilean tourist office. One showed a road along the lakeshore, the other didn't. The latter was right: The was no road at all - you had to cross the lake by ferry: Some 90 Minutes ride and I was very close to the border. Just a few minutes more through thick forests on good gravel and I reached the Chilean border post. An hour later I had already passed the Argentine border post and I was in Argentina - San Martin de los Andes - once again.

Actually I did not want to stay in Argentina but cross the border again after a short stop in Villa la Angostura - since it was getting late. Unfortunately in San Martin I had the great idea to finally fill up my fork oil. I did not know how much I had lost - and there was no "MAX" sign visible - so I filled it up completely - rather by accident than willingly since it filled up quickly. This turned out to be a big error. On the first 50km, which was asphalt road, it was fine, the suspension was just a little harder than usually. But then the (rather bad) gravel road started and immediately I ralized that I had commited a big mistake: Actually there was no front suspension left at all: Every pothole caused a severe shock that shook the entire bike so hard that I was afraid something important would break. Great: Winne the mechanic again.

I managed to remove some of the fork oil but did not want to use the oil drain plug, since I was in a national park and everybody knows about the effects of oil in nature. So I had to go VERY slowly, evade every pothole and every stone. Apart from that, in the meantime it had begun to rain, or better: it was pouring down again, so I could double enjoy the trip. The road turned to slippery mud, the potholes filled up quickly and a friendly speeding bus driver managed to get me (and the bike) soaked with mud up to my waist. Actually I had expected it would only be raining on the chilean (western) side of the Andes and be perfect sunshine in Argentina. But: Pustekuchen! (I was wrong.) Once again I was really really drenched when I finally arrived in the small tourist village Villa la Angostura - and of course there was no room left for me in the recommended (i.e. good-value-for-money) places.

So I had to take what was left - the overpriced (50 EUR) but cosy and warm "Pichy Rincón" outside the village. The concierge was a poor idiot. He kept talking to me in english with me talking spanish to him (really, my spanish isn't SO bad ;-)). But the best was when I asked him for a restaurant he described one for which I had to walk half a mile through the rain. I asked him for an umbrella or an alternative solution, which he did not have. When I arrived at the restaurant it turned out that it their main business was food DELIVERY (!!). When I took him to task (zur Rede stellen) when I returned, he just shrugged and shortly apologized: he had forgotten to tell me.

However, the important issue was that my rags dried until the next morning - what they did. The heating was running the entire night, so everything was warm and dry - and the next morning even the sun came out and the road dried quickly. I heavily reduced my fork oil level at the village's service station and headed for Chile again (Entre Lagos/Osorno). I passed through the argentine border post and enjoyed the perfectly paved and perfectly curved mountain road. Finally I had a chance to really use the flanks of my brand new tyres. This was great fun and I realized again that roads like this - which are very rare in South America - are the real "reason for existence" of a motorcyclist like me. ;-)

Chilean border formalities were quick and efficient as always and I soon reached Entre Lagos where I stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant. Two young chilean couples - one of them with a baby - invited me to their table and we had a nice chat and a great meal, finally exchanging e-mail adresses and phone numbers to meet in Santiago. This seems to be the difference between Chilean country and City people. ;-)

From entre Lagos I passed by Lago Rupanco to Puerto Octay in order to drive round lake Llanquihue counterclockwise. This turned out to be a rather spectacular ride, since the famous volcano Osorno had freed itself from clouds and now stood there majestically and incomparably as a perfect sugar-capped cone, dominating the entire landscape, with the big blue shining lake in front of it. I also visited the small but famous village of Petrohué at the lake "Todos los Santos" but just failed to find out what was so special about this place - apart from the thousands of tourists pouring out of hundreds of buses and onto the ferries, crossing the lake on their way to Argentina.

Posted by Winne Lichtblau at January 17, 2006 12:00 AM GMT
 
 

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