Chile 2003: Main Index
Next Section: Puerto Montt to Chacabuco & Laguna San Rafael
Both my bags arrived safely and I moved to the end of the small terminal to put it all together. My bike was much easier this time as I did not take off the rear wheel and lose the brake adjustments. A major error, though, was that I did not check whether all my stuff, especially the bags for the bike and trailer, and my new backpack would fit in the trailer. I intended to use the trailer bag inside the trailer, but it refused to fold and did not leave enough room for much of anything else. During the midst of this mess, a policeman came over and asked me ``Why have you made such a mess? You should be outside! When are you going to be finished?'' I explained that I would move it all out as soon as I had it packed, and would try to do this as quickly as possible. During the process he changed from being very official to being a curious and concerned busybody. However this was still not conducive to discovering all the possibilities for the packing, and I ended up with a lot of very heavy stuff, very high above the top of the trailer. The bike was very difficult to ride, but I only had about 7km to Temuco. This whole experience has led to a certain amount of despair because I still have to add all my food and water to the excess that I already have. It is clear that I have too much, but I spent a lot of time at home before I left, reducing the quantities, to the point they would not, hopefully, compromise safety.
However, the ride into Temuco was easy, the GPS gave me confidence that I was definitely going the right way, and the Lonely Planet city map allowed me to converge on Hospedaje Espejo that had a nice single room, with two beds, for 4000ChP (about $8cdn) per night.
Today started off cold and misty as I rode to the other side of town to get some detailed maps from the Chile Automobile Club. My CAA discount of 50% meant that they only cost 500ChP (about $2cdn) each. By noon, the warmer clothes that I put on after I got the maps were superfluous. The mist had totally burned off and it was now sunny and quite warm. I was also successful finding the butane and liquid fuels needed for my stoves.
The Feria Libre, a Mapuche produce and flea market by the railway station was similar to many around the world, but this was interesting because it showed why we seem to get so much Chilean produce in Canada during our winter. The variety was great, and the prices were dirt cheap. I bought a foot long cucumber for 100ChP, tomatoes were 350ChP/kg (about 30 cents Cdn per pound).
I was sent to the other side of town to find, possibly, a Latin American English/Spanish phrase book and discovered, when I arrived at the mall at 12:30pm, that it was completely shut down until 3:00pm. The nearby grocery store was not, so I bought a beer to complement what I had brought with me and looked for a place to drink it. I found the imposing building of the Universidad Autonoma del Sur
and rode behind it to see. There was a small greenspace with trees, a very pleasant place to sit. I was not alone though, and was about to leave after a passing comment by a new arrival when Rodrigo Caamaño Horstmeier came over to say hello. He insisted that I stay, and offered me some lunch. I was surprised to find that he, a student, was here during the summer vacation, but discovered that he was being trained for orientation of new students that were supposed to arrive on March 8. After he went back to work, one of his friends came over, and he gave me a new student?? briefcase as a momento of my visit.
I am indeed insanely overloaded, but I did have time to distribute the load much better. The morning clouds burned off by about 10:00am and it was bright and sunny for the rest of the trip to Villarrica. The Pan American Highway (#5) was a tollway with 4 lanes, but the shoulder was very generous and made for easy riding. Occasionally there was a parallel service road that was much quieter, but once interrupted by a Ruta Cerrada construction sign and I had to ride, quite ungracefully across a small gravel shoulder valley to get back to the generous shoulder.
At Freire, after about 30km?, I turned off to #199? for another 50km to Villarrica. As I was going up the overpass, I overshifted and caught the chain between the spokes and the sprocket. I tried to pull the chain up, and compounded my problem with the bike falling over and smashing my handlebar map holder, completing the total destruction initiated by Air Canada or Lan Chile, on the way down. I repaired it yesterday in Temuco with cable ties, but this fall really did the job, pulling out all my cable ties. As I was trying to cut out a cable tie, the knife blade closed and sliced my finger ... ugh. Four Kleenexes and several large band-aids later, the blood flow slowed enough so I could continue my repairs. Stupidly, in an effort to remove all superfluous stuff, I took out all my spare screws. I had to scavenge one from a less important part of the box, and add some new cable ties. Hopefully I can get some screws in Villarrica.
From there it was a slow, almost continual grade, to Villarrica. At the overpass, I saw first saw the Volcan Villarrica, the main attraction of the town. For the next 50km, I played hide-and-seek with it.
I was totally exhausted as I approached town, and was rewarded with a sharp downhill. After buying some screws, I found La Torre Suiza, run by a Swiss Bicyclist couple that have given up riding for a new family. I have been in email contact with Beat Zbingen, and he was my main source of advice for the strategic decision of this trip - go from North to South.
Today was 85km and, thanks to my GPS, had this vertical profile.
It was really an easy ride.
Unlike Temuco, today started out with cloudless sun. After waiting for the Internet Cafe to open, and unsuccessfully looking for a new kickstand to replace the one that broke yesterday, I left for Lican Ray. Although Beat gave me explicit instructions I went around in a circle before I was able to find my way out of town. This was my first day of some sharp hills, the first one right out of town. Other people were pushing their bikes up the hill, but I really don't have any choice but to ride. The rest of the day was punctuated by more occasional, but too frequent, intense climbs.
Again, I was treated to views of Volcan Villarrica, and now you could plainly tell that it was still active.
The long 4km downhill into Lican Ray was, indeed, quite welcome. My stop for the night was 6km down the road at Camping Foresta where I was given an 18,000ChP site for 6,000ChP - still more than the average hospedaje.
This morning, just as I was finishing writing yesterday's journal, it started to rain. I took the tent down in the rain, and increased my load considerably with a soggy tent, and some just washed clothes that I had hoped to dry on the back of the bike.
The ride along Lago Calafquén was up and down all the way to Coñaripe. This was the last town of any note for the next 100km so I stopped to reprovision. Everyone was quite friendly and my bike stirred much interest.
Here the road became gravel, and would remain so all the way into Argentina and beyond. One advantage of the rain was that there were not huge clouds of dust as cars went by. One disadvantage was that I was frequently muddied. The road ran down the valley with sharp ridges on either side.
After about 10km, there was a sign that said trucks with trailers are prohibited. The road narrowed to one lane and became very steep. In addition, the traffic was incredibly heavy which made it difficult and dangerous to wind my way up the hill. At that point, I decided to turn back, and give up on going to San Martin de los Andes. Later I checked my GPS and discovered that this was the beginning of a 1000m climb, the first of two before the Chile/Argentina border. I stopped at the crosshair on the picture.
It was downhill all the way back to Isla Llancahue campground where I put up my tent in the rain ... it was not a very successful day.
This may be a gravel road but the truck traffic was heavy all night.
Morning was bright, cloudless and beautiful.
I took down my still wet tent, and put some of my still wet clothes on the back of the trailer to dry. Except for the scary bridge at the entry to the campground - I walked over it on the way out,
the 7km ride back to Coñaripe was uneventful, slightly downhill, with a curious kid tagging along with me, on his bicycle, for about 1km before he turned back home.
The road continued south of Lago Calafquén
with high cliffs to the south and was dominated by Volcan Villarrica to the north.
There were two high climbs, nothing compared to the road to San Martin and numerous sharp small ones.
The real killer was the loose gravel on the grades. Several times I was going up and spun my back wheel. These little hills damn near killed me. I would probably have needed a MediVac on the other road. However, this little guy was having as much as a problem as I was.
At about 5:30pm, after only 27km since 11:00am, I saw a sign 17km to Panguipulli. At the rate I was going, it would be midnight before I arrived. However, after another 2km, the road unexpectedly became paved, and remained so all the way to Panguipulli. I arrived just before sunset, and found Camping Bosque, almost in the centre of town.
Just outside of the campground, I was stopped by Jordan Marr from Kamloops who was here riding his bicycle with an activist group to draw awareness to the endangered huemul, a small Andean deer. He warned me of the rain in the south but said that it compacted the roads. Earlier in the day I met a Swiss bicyclist couple who had come up from Punta Arenas. They quit after two days of riding, because of the ferocious winds, and started taking busses.
Again I didn't leave until almost 11:00am and did not leave Panguipulli until almost noon. In fact, lunch, an empanada hornos - a very typical Chilean pastry filled with spicy ground beef, was in a small park just as I was leaving town.
As usual, I paid for the nice drop into town with a steep hill coming out. The rest of the ride was through exceptionally pleasant countryside that could have been anywhere in the world, although the signs of tree farming on the hills was more like New Zealand than Vermont.
Los Lagos is not in Lonely Planet land so I had to look for a place to stay without help. After riding through town, I could see why. It is a pleasant, but not very touristy, and I did not see any information center at all. The first hospedaje that I tried showed no sign of life, but I did manage to find the Los Lagos Hotel.
The rather sad looking lady standing outside said that they indeed had a room, showed it too me, and insisted that I bring my bike inside, leaving it in the hall by my room. It is a rather big hotel, but I think I am the only guest. One time as I came out of the room looking for the lady, a woman (the maid?) saw me and seemed utterly astonished. I was told the room will cost 6000ChP but I have not registered and will have to search out someone in the morning.
The ride today was up and down through rolling hillside with a many tough, little hills. It was about 64km and 636m of climb, and 5 hours in the saddle.
Again it was sunny, and the maid was the only one up when I left. The room did, indeed, cost 6000ChP.
The Pan American Highway (Ruta 5) is still four lanes here and bypasses most towns. This does not mean that it is flat.
Like Australia, Chile warns you of steep grades, but does not indicate how steep. There may be several degrees though, one warning has a truck, another a car, and another a truck and trailer.
For the most part, the service roads were gravel, fit only for the occasional ox-cart, but once, it was paved, and I was rewarded for my detour with greetings from these guys.
I arrived in Rio Bueno at about 4:00pm, for the first time, not totally exhausted. This was a relatively easy day, 68km, 432m vertical, and only 4 hours riding.
However, it was not a day without some trauma. My rear derailleur has been skipping, over and under shifting, causing the chain to get caught in the caught in the spokes, and preventing any power to the wheel in some gears. It appears that the airlines have bent it rather badly. The first major problem occurred between Coñaripe and Panguipilli. I spent an hour trying to straighten it and got it to the point where I had my lowest hill climbing gear, an absolute necessity, and most of everything else. However, coming out of Los Lagos, it was clear that the higher gears were not working at all. I discovered that one of the small idler wheels was loose. After this fix, and some more straightening, everything but the first 3 gears in the middle range seemed OK. However, by the time I got to Rio Bueno, the entire middle range was dead.
While wandering around Rio Bueno looking for supplies, I found a bicycle shop that had Shimano MegaRange rear derailleurs, the type I needed. They had a new and improved one that looked even better than my old one. I bought the better one, took it back to the Hospedaje Rio Bueno and put it on. However, Shimano has created a new, and probably wonderful, way of installing the cable, and I couldn't figure out how it worked. I will have to go back tomorrow to the bike store for some help. I might be spending an extra day here.
The new, and probably wonderful, way was just a piece of plastic that was inserted in the derailleur to keep it from flying apart. I didn't have the courage to pull it out and throw it away for fear of breaking something.
The ride to Osorno, was again along the Pan American Highway.
It was only 43km, relatively flat (432m), and only 3h20min of actual riding to Osorno.
The only distress was popping in and out of showers all afternoon. I didn't like the first hospedaje that I looked at but did decide to stay at the Hospedaje Weber at 6000ChP. It is probably the nicest room I have had so far.
Today was definitely not a day to camp. I was just about to step out of the Las Brisas supermarket when we were hit with a deluge. No one left for about 10 minutes until it subsided somewhat. The rest of the afternoon was sunny.
Today was a relatively easy ride of about 54km, a continually up, and occasionally steep, 436m climb into a strong and cold headwind, but sunny all day.
After about 35km, I got my first glimpse of Volcan Osorno, with its top peeping out of the clouds.
The highlight of the day, though, was the Zapato Amarillo Backpacker about 2km north of Puerto Octay.
It is run by Swiss, Armen Dubendorf, his Chilean wife, Natalie, and their 6 week old daughter, Jeannine. Armen had some friends from Switzerland here helping him with the barn-raising of his new addition.
The Backpackers is guarded by their kitten Wiki, and dog Sheila
Their view of Volcan Osorno is inspiring,
Inside, it is rustically elegant.
Dinner was wonderful. A German couple from Bavaria had ordered raclette, and Nadia asked if I wanted to join them. The raclette cooker was imported from Switzerland, so it was indeed authentic. The cheese was superb and the bacon rolls, mushrooms, sliced garlic, green and red peppers, added a touch of class that I have never seen before. Of course, we also had some excellent Chilean wine.
We also had a full Swiss breakfast with yoghurt, bread, sausage, jam, morra berries, and ...
This is probably the best backpackers I have ever been in.
This was a short, but tough day, where I rested frequently on the excessively steep uphills.
This was also a day of volcanos on the left
and dairy/beef farms on the right.
There were several country churches, and this, in the middle of nowhere, was one of the cutest.
I arrived at Frutillar Bajo, on the shores of Lago Llanquhue, as is Puerto Octay at about 4:00pm. After discovering there was no room in my hospedaje of choice, I ended up in a small campground in the middle of town. Frutillar is one of the most popular, and oldest resorts in Chile. Lonely Planet says that Volcan Osorno floats above the lake.
Poor Volcan Calbuco only floats above the peninsula.
I started out relatively early today, and discovered, at 9:00am, that the tourists that overran the place last night were all in bed, or, if I were more polite, eating breakfast.
Volcan Orsono was also not at all visible with the low clouds.
Except for the initial 100m climb in much less than 1 km, and the intense southerly headwinds, the ride to Puerto Montt was really quite easy.
At noon, the clouds burned off, and I saw, Volcan Calbuco pushing its head above the clouds.
Volcan Orsono and Calbuco also showed themselves several more times.
I arrived in Puerto Montt at about 3:00pm, found the Navimag office, and got my ticket to Laguna San Rafael and Chacabuco. I opted to stay at the Torres del Paines because it was not up a hill. It seems to be a very good deal, with a nice, although small, room, in an ensemble with a living room lounge, and two bathrooms. It is the least expensive hospedaje yet, only 3500ChP.
Puerto Montt is built around a bay, with a small protected harbour.
The town itself is quite delightful, with Volcan Calbuco quite visible from the entire waterfront.
One curious enterprise that I saw was a Bell South store.
Now, they are, indeed, Bell South.
The rain burned off by noon. This appears to be typical Puerto Montt weather at this time of year with it being beautiful and sunny for the entire afternoon.
For lunch I had a wonderful Merluza Fritos - deep fried fish (hake), with salad and a small glass of wine for only 1600ChP. This was a tiny restaurant, with only three tables, up a small alley beside a craft market in Anselmo, Puerto Montt's port. I was the only tourist in the place, and while waiting for the fish to be cooked, the owner was visited by several of his friends. As far as I know, the restaurant did not have a name.
The Anselmo market by the port is essentially a tourist stuff market.
This is a link, for the broken track between Temuco and Puerto Montt, to the Google Earth Map.
These 3 maps use the Magellan Worldwide Basemap as background and have the track produced by my GPS superimposed.
This is the track itself.
and the vertical profile for the complete track is
Next Section: Puerto Montt to Chacabuco & Laguna San Rafael