Villa O'Higgins - The thirteenth step ... Six months in South America - CycleBlaze

December 30, 2022 to January 5, 2023

Villa O'Higgins

Friday December 29th 2022

The weather was, as expected, was wet and windy last night so we packed up the tent early and retired to the refugio to enjoy the morning's hot beverages and breakfast.  

As we were about to get on the bicycles for the last thirty odd kilometers to Villa O'Higgins Lauren arrived.  She had spent the night at the other refugio twenty kilometers back in the company of a Dutch couple and a Flemish couple but had started the day early to escape the cold. We rode together in patches until Villa O'Higgins.  After four day's of tough riding it seemed that Leigh had saved her energy for the final stretch because she rode like a demon and I had to work hard to keep up with her. 

After checking in at El Mosco I headed off to the ferry office where I booked seats for the three of us.  The earliest we will leave is in a week's time so we will just have to relax and make the most of the the time off the bikes.

El Mosco is quite busy with a number of cyclists and hikers arriving today from Argentina on the first ferry to have run since Christmas Day and some waiting for a ferry southwards. They limit the numbers of campers and Lauren had to take a bed in one of the small dormitories for the night and can only camp from tomorrow when some of the current campers catch the ferry that is expected to run in the morning. Cristof and Henri are camping at Los Pionores but are booked on the same ferry as us.  I am sure we will bump into each other again before our ferry leaves.

The sign at the entrance to Villa O'Higgins has been upgraded since we were last here.
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We found a nice pitch for our tent. Not too close to the refugio but close enough if having to dash through the inevitable rain and wind.
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The cycle tourists' bicycles at El Mosco.
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Saturday 31st December 2022

Everything here at El Mosco feels familiar and comfortable and a week's rest will be good after four months on the road.  The establishment is well run by the firm but friendly combo of Martin and Philly.  It was like catching up with old friends again after a five year break.  Martin is much happier that the cycle tourists and hikers are back now that the COVID restrictions have been lifted.  He didn't enjoy having to cater for the local tourists who were their only clients over the past two seasons saying that they are selfish holidaymakers and have little in common with the travelers that they are used to. 

The common room has been full and lively and most folks stayed awake to see in the new year.  We barely made it to the countdown and headed off to bed soon after midnight.  I am sure we will feel more energetic as our week of rest progresses. 

Sunday 1st January 2023

A lazy day after, what was for us older folk, a late night.  It has rained gently for most of the day and we even had a few snow flakes drifting down so most of the day has been spent in the refugio.  During a break in the weather we took a walk covering most of the village's streets.  

During our walk we cased the joint for an affordable apartment to spend our last night before catching the ferry and seem to have found one.  Whether the ferry runs on the sixth remains to be seen but hopefully we can get bumped to the one scheduled for the third if there are cancelations.  Rumour has it that the ferry for the third has already been moved out to the fifth due to an unfavourable weather forecast but the ferry office is closed until tomorrow evening so we will have to wait until then to get clarity. 

We popped in to say hi to Cristof and Henri at Los Pionores.  They had headed to the village's community hall at midnight the night before to enjoy the dance that was supposed to take place.  Unfortunately a power failure soon after one in the morning cut the fiesta short.  We were fast asleep and unaware of anything happening beyond our tent's pegs.

Only one of the shops in the village  is open today and it seems that will also be the case tomorrow.  An informal lavanderia that bakes pan is the only source of bread today so they have being doing brisk business. 

Cabin fever is sure to strike at some point in the week but the fact that El Mosco's current batch of occupants are all pleasant and interesting might keep it at bay.

Monday 2nd January 2023

Today has been the best weather we have ever experienced at Villa O'Higgins.  Warm (about thirteen degrees) and quite sunny.  We took advantage of it and went for a walk up to some of the miradors on the hill to the east of the village.  

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The open area just to the right of the center of the frame is the El Mosco campground with our tent barely visible while that in the background is the airfield.
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Steve Miller/GrampiesWow, this looks more like a painting than a photo.
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3 weeks ago
Nice trails through the forest above O'Higgins.
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Despite the warm weather one of the hills south east of the village, that was devoid of snow when we awoke this morning, received a hood dumping mid morning. 

Fresh snow on a number of the hills but this one was clear of any snow when we woke up.
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Tuesday 3rd January 2023

The news from the ferry office was that the boat scheduled for today will now depart at seven o'clock tomorrow evening and return the following morning, depending on the weather.  Our boat is still on for Friday so we are holding thumbs.  The guys who were scheduled to leave today are just going to have to learn another card game to relieve their boredom. 

Wednesday 4th January 2023

We cycled to the ferry port this morning.   It was great to be back on the bicycles again and it gave us a chance to see what we missed five years ago because then we cycled to the ferry in the dark.  Back then we were hardly aware of the glaciers around tge town but today we had good views of two of them.

Glaciar Huemel.
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One half of Glaciar El Mosco. It is called El Mosco because the two halves of the glaciers look like the raised wings of a fly.
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We also had good views of Lago O'Higgins which devoid of any wildlife apart from  family of Upland Geese.

Daddy goose.
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Mama goose.
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The ferry port looked far more developed than I could remember but it probably hasn't changed much.  Our ferry still looks pretty small.

The ferry looks almost too small for eight bicycles and sixteen passengers.
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Where we posed before we sailed five years ago.
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The big ferry has been out of operation for five years now and the company that owned it no longer exists.
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Thursday 5th January 2023

It was wet and windy when we woke up this morning and we were worried that the ferry might not make it back from Candelaria Mancilla as was scheduled.  But our fears were proved unfounded when the first set of cyclists arrived from the ferry port looking very cold and wet and looking for somewhere to buy a hot coffee.

Our tent was pretty wet and I was loath to pack it up while the rain was still falling.  Phily very kindly allowed us to move it onto the verandah to dry, telling us to take as much time as we needed.  She and Martin have been lovely hosts during our stay st El Mosco and it remains, for me, the clear choice for camping in Villa O'Higgins. 

Once the tent had dried we packed up and moved to our apartment two hundred meters away.  It feels slightly lonely after the hustle and bustle of El Mosco but it was a good time to move on.  Most of the folk with whom we spent the past six days left on yesterday evening's ferry and a new crowd had moved in.  In a way it felt like our space had been invaded by strangers and we had suddenly become outsiders.

Our home for what is hopefully our last night in Villa O'Higgins.
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Friday 6th January 2023

The alarms woke us at twenty minutes to four this morning - two alarms because I was paranoid!  We were the first people at the ferry office at the appointed time of four thirty but the others arrived within a few minutes.  As we had feared, the news wasn't good and we were sent away without much satisfaction.  I fear the earliest we will leave is now on Sunday.

Once back at the apartment we climbed back into bed and reclaimed  a few hours if the sleep lost due to the early wake up call.

A WhatsApp group has been setup so that Daniel,  a Spanish speaker who communicates well with the fdrry office, can keep all of us waiting up to date in a consistent manner.

Today's ride: 49 km (30 miles)
Total: 5,190 km (3,223 miles)

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