2) Isl de Chiloe [185 km south] - In search of penguins. - CycleBlaze

2) Isl de Chiloe [185 km south]

Feb 5    {map}   Now that we have found the fabled Carratera Austral route, it is time to change course. (Note:  I am sure there are species of mo crows with longer attention spans).  Rob and Susan, and several guidebooks mentioned that the Island of Chiloe is particularly scenic. So, that is where we pointed our bikes today.

The ride began as usual. Louise managed to wrap a bungee around her rear sprockets so tight we had to remove her wheel and extract  it with pliers. 

There is a piece of a bungie cord in there.
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Then we cycled (read: walked) our bikes several km through a densely packed market to an ATM which was functional, but lacked any money. This is not uncommon in Chile, and is practically the norm in Argentina. A different ATM at a Banco De Chile, across town did provide some dineros, despite its bombed out appearance. It seems to have been a focus of the recent riots; all windows up to the 3rd floor were smashed and/or boarded up. 

The route out of Puerto Montt was terrifying. Huge trucks thundered past at insane speeds, there were no shoulders, and vicous dogs attacked us sporadically. We almost turned back several times until we discovered the key:   Don't try to evade the traffic - become the traffic. Cycle in the middle of the lane, force buses and trucks to follow behind, and only move grudgingly to edge of the road when the horns become too  annoying. And carry a handfull of rocks to fire at the wolfpacks. 

Become that which you fear.
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After about 5 km the traffic lightenned, and the countryside changed from shipyards and abandonned ships to beautiful pastoral farms and rolling hills. It looked like a Swiss postcard.

I tell everyone we meet over here, that my espanol is "imperfectamente", which they seem prepared to believe. I think this sign says Hwy 5 welcomes cyclists. We have been riding along it for most of this blog. And still are. And we plan to continue.
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Feb 6.   {map}

Sadly, the oceanic view is marred by fish and shellfish farms in every bay and cove. Private enterprise rules in Chile - a result of the constitution that the USA "helped" to write after they replaced the elected government with a dictatorship in 1972.  That is one of the causes of the recent riots.

The tragedy that is Chile. The government borrows hundreds of millions of dollars at ruinous interest rates to build immense monuments to itself. But the population lives in penury.
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LW: Mike as always, has a memory like a sieve and has missed a full day. After a late start there was no way we could bike 80 km to the ferry terminal. Instead, we biked until dark, stoped at a minimarket and camped along the roadside. 

The glory of wild camping.
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The next morning (Feb 6) we started off in the wrong direction again. For some reason our Google positioning is slighly off (or we missed the turnoff as we were paranoid about the massive trucks trying to pass us when we were tired from the days ride!  So we did some extra milage  at the start of the day. Again we travelled through some beautiful country side  roads until the pavement ended and the gravel started. The countryside was still lovely but it was a lot harder to view!  Some the smaller roads are surprizingly short on water stops and have much more uphill than down.

Too steep to cycle.
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Eventually we hit pavement again and saw some beautiful camp grounds around Calbuco. We took a break on the beach and watched the waves for a bit. It was too early to camp and we did want to catch the ferry so we pushed on. A very small store at the junction of Ruta 5 revitaized us with helados and cookies and we carried on to Pargua where after further fortification of empanadas and cake we got to the terminal where the ferry was waiting for us. LW ends.

Our ferry. Note the absence of navigation or docking aids. The skipper has to maneuver this giant ship to within a few meters of the concrete dock, without smashing into it.
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That night we camped on Isl de Chiloe, initially in a gravel pit, but got evicted after a few hours. Moved to a private campground with (barely) running water, but no cell service. LW: But the people were great. The manager of the campground was a young man who had learned english due to his need to play video games in a time when there was no spanish verions. And there was a 10 year old kid who was eager to test his english and enjoyed correcting my spanish prouniciation. Another cycling couple (crazier than us as they were just starting their ride at night, as we were endig ours!) who had alot of english and were interesting to talk to.

I will post this note when we get reception (might be while).

Feb 7{map}.  Short bike ride into Ancud. Spent a few hours walking around the neighbourhood.

Feb 8.   Rest day in Ancud. We spent the day like tourists, and gave our tired bums a rest.

Feb 9   {map}

Penguins at last !  

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This morning we left left Ancud headed for Punihuil, or PinguinLand as the Chileans call it. The scenery here is idylic - rolling hills, paved roads, but lots of bike-pushing. 

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PinguinLand was very busy beause it is a weekend, in the middle of their summer, and the schoolkids are still on their summer vacation.  There were about half a dozen 30 passenger tour boats, each launching every 30 minutes or so. 

The penguin islands are only about 500 m offshore. A tour director on each boat explained all about the penguins. Or at least that is what we assume he talked about, as it was all in very fast Chilean Spanish and quite incomprehensible to me.

Saw other birds like ducks and geese. and also sea lions. The penguins were molting so confined to land. Only about 6 colonies of about 12 birds each. I was expecting many more, but perhaps we are at the northern end of their range. Or, more likely, the Chilean government hs done nothing to prevent the accidental by-catch of penguins by the commercial fishery.

The 30 minute tour cost was about 12 CAD pp. After the tour, we took a horrendous gravel road for 3 km until we found a campground. Shared a bottle of Chilean red with Bob and Joyce Agar (sp?) from Gilbert Plains, Manitoba. By coinidence, that is where Louise's mother's family comes from. 

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 and Joyce advised us that the road got even worse further south so we retraced our steps the next day.

Feb 10   {map}

Woke up to find  fog and heavy condensation. We could not face another 80 km of gravel, so we retreated 2 km to Punihuil (pinguinland). It was an easy start - we had no breakfast because we ate it with dinner the night before.

Beach was much less busy now that the weekend was over and the resturants not opened yet...Stopped at the very modest Ancud municipal beach, located way out of town so as not to compete with the private cabanas and camprounds in Ancud. Got some popsiciles and chips and supplies for dinner at a near by minimarket and continued on.
Then we blasted through Ancud and out the other side onto route 5. 
Found a campsite in the late afternoon. $12/night. Now watching cows get transferred from one field to another. Later that evening, while bundled up in our sleeping bags, the the campround owner and her four kids tried unsuccessfuly to converse with us about something (maybe a movie about Canada?). It was hilarious but futile. 

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Some readers might imagine our quest is over, now that we have achieved penguins. Rest assured, the thought never crossed our sun-baked brains. No, our penguin-lust is stronger now than ever. We need MORE penguins, BIGGER penguins, BETTER penguins. And so we continue our Quixotic quest southwards. 

Feb 11    {map}
After a long day we are comfortably ensconsed a nice little cabin, about 12 km outside of a small town called Dalcahue. As usual we have converted it into a laundry / field dressing station. 

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Jean GibbonsHi Louise & Mike
It was good to meet you in Puerto Octay. We’re following your blog with great interest. Hope Louise recovers quickly from the incident. Good luck with the penguin search! Jean & Nick
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9 months ago

The latter metamorphosis became necesary after Louise seperated from her bike at the bottom of a long hill. The good news is that she is going to look a lot better in a week or two. And she didn't break or sprain anything, apart from bike bits. If any readers are keeping score, we are down to zero intact Woden rear paniers now. However zip ties and duct tape will keep the show rolling.

Louise will allow photos when she is looking better. --LW  photos were banned  as while I lay bleeding on the road, Mike, instead of  offering to help tries to take pictures. All wounds messy but superficial.

Feb 12   {map}
We travelled south on Route 5 towards Quellon where a ferry will take us to the minland on Saturday. Along the way we saw a giant flock of green parrots, all in a single backyard. There were hundreds of birds, all screeching and flapping around. It was weird, but quintessentially Chile. 

We only cycled a short distance then stopped for  fancy lunch / dinner at a cevicheria (restaurant featuring cold fish soup).  We have landed in a tiny fishing village / tourist town called Castro, with the steepest roads I have ever pushed a bike up.

Louise is looking much better today.
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The primary goal of the journey remains unchanged - pinguins. However, secondary challenges have developed. One is searching for pharmacies. We now plan our routes to maximize the number and size of pharmacies, rather than exploring interesting backroads. 

Most towns have at least one pharmacy, but they often sell only sunglasses and makeup. Larger stores stock more medical supplies. But for some reason, simple first aid remedies like cough drops or bandaids are kept locked up behind the counter. And modern remedies like 2nd skin are unheard of. Even simple tasks, like buying a bandage, can be a challenge. Most pharmacies dont stock them, many "pharmacists" are just store clerks with a labcoat, and some some druggists seem to struggle with my combination of comic-book spanish and interpretive dance moves. 

Nonetheless, for some (many?) Chileans, pharmacies remain their only contact with the medical system. The private system is too expensive and the public system is useless.  Chileans we have spoken with agree that their health system is disfunctional and the root cause is the government's preocupation with private enterprise. None were hopeful that the constitutional changes in April would fix the problems.

While cycling into Castro, we saw an effigy of el Presidente Pinera, dangling from a bridge. Change is coming to Chile, one way or another.

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LW: Anyone reading this can probably tell that Mike is not a traditional tourist. The Isla of Chiloé Is know for it's wooden churches-many are deemed UNESCO heritage sites. I had a hard time getting Mike to stop to look at any. Castro is deemed to be the capital of the Isla. famous for it's palafitos (stilt houses over the water) and church. Mike was not interested in either. The church is apparently a blend of neo-Gothic and classical archecture. Frm the outsideit is yellow and purple but inside it's varnished cypress and larch--quite beautiful.

Using my cell for photos and previews suck so of course cut off the top...
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Another Church along the way. I liked how the truck outside mimics the grave yard inside the church grounds.
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 Feb 1 3  {map} the
We spent all morning and much of the afternoon, searching for beauty supplies for Louise (read: gauze bandages, wound dressings, etc.). We finally got on the road by about 2:30 pm. We have ferry reservations for Quellon for Saturday at 5:00 am. But it is about 100 km down the road so we have to get moving.

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The cycling was steep but pleasant. There are fewer farms and more forests down here. Wild camp sites abound, but Louise still insists on her flush toilets and hot showers. We are camped tonight on the edge of a large lake. It is a beautiful location. The owner felt sorry for Louise; she gave us half a dozen fresh eggs (ie a few hour old).  They were delicious.

There are flocks of parrots continuously flying past our tent. It is strange - we didnt see any until yesterday. Now they are everywhere.

Feb 14   {map}
Rained hard last night, but we stayed dry in our tent. Got into Quellón at about 8:00 PM. Rented an inexpensive hotel room until the ferry leaves.

Louise rides into Quellón like a warrior.
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All day we have been accompanied by flocks of lime green parrots. They are so numerous they are like starlings back home. 

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Walter McLellanI am really enjoying reading your posts from the comfort of my living room couch - I almost feel like I am there with you - keep the posts coming
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9 months ago
Jan Salmon ArmIs there a bigger town where you will be, for sure, in about three weeks? Because FWIW I can send you small (cheap) stuff, according to Lonely Planet: "You can receive mail via lista de correos (poste restante; equivalent to general delivery) at any Chilean post office. Some consulates will also hold correspondence for their citizens. To collect your mail from a post office or embassy, you need your passport as proof of identity. There is usually a small charge, about CH$200 per item. Mail is held for one month. " I think CH$200 is about 50 cents Canadian, right? BUT...Canada Post says I can't send: animals and plants, chemicals, films, medicines, saccharine and similar substances (?), absinthe, adulterated beverages and foodstuffs, chain letters, condensed milk, flammable liquids (eg perfume, nail polish), knives (except for cutlery), lithium batteries (uninstalled), lottery tickets and advertising, offensive materials, pharmaceutical products and drugs of unknown composition, and used tires. So don't ask for any of those ;-) but Second Skin and Bandaids would likely fly. Happy to give it a try for you :-) -- Jan
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9 months ago
Jan Salmon ArmTo Jan Salmon ArmAlso, if nothing else is available (like aloe, which I can't send) good old Vaseline is a better wound dressing than nothing. Naughty pavement! No biscuit!
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9 months ago
Mike CacketteTo Jan Salmon ArmThanks for the offer Jan. Unfortunately, Chile's mail sysem was privatised in 2002 (see Correos de Chile) so it is a compete failure too. We have been warned by numerous Chileans not to send any packages or valuables because they wont make it out of the post office. Amazon does not ship to Chile either, for the same reasons.
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9 months ago