4) Carretera [217 km south] - In search of penguins. - CycleBlaze

4) Carretera [217 km south]

Coyhaique to Puerto Tranquilo

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Feb 28  {map}

Day 3. When the revolution comes the telecom execs will be the first ones up against the wall. Although to be fair, Chile's telecom regulations were probably written in Langley Virginia, and not for the benefit of Chileans. Anyway, here we are on day 3, still in Coyhaique. 

We planned to hit Coyhaique, buy some food, and exit on the same day. Sadly, that didn't work out - we needed spare brake pads (1/2 day and 4 bike shops later). Then we investigated why both our phones had stopped working. Much to our surprise, we learned that Chile disables all phones bought in a foreign country after 30 days. Without warning, and with no error messages. In theory, we can recover our phones with a visit to a federal government office. However it is only open in the mornings. Tomorrow we shall see how that works out.

Meanwhile, we spent the afternoon cursing our bad luck, and laying in provsions.

(Feb 28)   We spent several hours this morning at the Ministry of Telecommunications trying to get our phones working. Of course, no one spoke english, and their computer skills were modest. A very patient worker managed to find the correct web page, after a long time. We filled out the required info such as 

  • name (obvious), 
  • passport # (obvious)
    and photo of passport (huh?), 
  • IMEI codes
    and screenshot thereof (wtf?), 
  • and an original receipt for the phone ??? WHAT? 

Who brings a 3-year old receipt for a cheap Android phone on a holiday to Chile? After some phone calls (all in español), we were told to just enter our passport photo twice. Maybe it will work. Or maybe they were just trying to get rid of us.  

It was getting late. We cycled out of town to the most luxurious campsite I have ever stayed in. I am typing this note from a 10 m diameter rotunda wth the wind howling outside, and surrounded by Patagonia. 

Kamloops? No, El Blanco, Patagonia.
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Wish you were here. 

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[LW] Mike is grumpy. We arrived in C. town at the end of the day--I had planned to stay another night but due to Mikes's loathing of planning this was not on the itinerary and I  was not assertive enough. We needed to restock and review. In my humble opinion Mike needed more warm gear and he has already scattered gloves and his replacement warm jacket across Chile.  AS I am now exceedingly cautious going downhill, I am obsessed with the wear on my back brake pads. I REALLY wanted to have spare brake pads. If my sense of direction wasn't screwed I would have found them at the 2nd place I looked  however I took a detour and meet several other bike mechanics before I found the necessary parts. I can now cruise down as slow as I want  with out worrying that in two days times I'm not going to be in control! These were one thing that seems to be cheaper than in Canads.  

The 2nd replacement jacket was on sale and I forced Mike to buy a midweight shirt -so of course the weather was once again hot and he thinks I'm crazy.

I liked the C-town although it seemed to want to contol us. We stayed in three placss due to our unorganiztion--which was frustrating.  This is a consequence of the differences between Mike and me...

The 30 day thing about cellphones I should have known about but I did keep forgetting  to follow up on cell phone access. It seems like rather a bizarre/ artifiical limit and Mike was in charge of choosing the chips.. he says he read something about this but as it was not within the immediate future so left it...Should see if our two hours with the Chilean civil servent (very patient guy..) has paid off. 

Darn...just lost an update when adding a picture.

The landscape has opened up now and there are tons of volcanic geological features. The skies are big, blue and beautiful. Trees are obviously tough-some covered in lichens with clumps of mistletoe.

There's supposed to be a man on a horse with his dog in this picture but as usual my photography skills are lacking!
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Bill ShaneyfeltWind clouds are impressive!
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9 months ago

Haven't seen hordes of other cyclists that some blogs alluded to. Maybe the Dec/Jan period is busier. Again we were the only ones in the campsite last night (though there were 3 other cyclists in town trying to find cheaper/free lodging). Not sure why they didn't want to camp by the river..

Lots of little shrines/memorials along the road. 

One of many on the way to El Blanco.
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Waterfalls near a ski area.
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Sandwich stop! Not fancy but good!
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Feb 29   {map}

(Mar 4)   Sorry for the paucity of updates. We haven't had cell reception or wifi access since Coyaihque. 

On Feb 29, we spent the entire day on pavement. It was a wonderful memory, but one that is fading fast. To make things even better, we had a tailwind in the morning. If only every day could be so grand.

Last of the pavement.
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The scenery gradually changed from open grasslands to rugged volcanic alpine. The underbrush became less intense, but a new plant species has appeared. It is festooned with small burrs, each of which is armed with 5 - 6 needle-sharp spines that hook into clothing and skin. A one minute walk in the grass leads to 15 minutes of picking thorns out of socks and feet. 

Not compatible with tent floors, thermarests, or human skin.
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We passed through a range of serious looking peaks, with no obvious routes to the top. It would be an adventure to stay here for the summer and try to bag a few of them. (I have had a few beers, hence the bravery).

A typical 2600 m peak in Patagonia. It is close to the road, but the bushwack would be a killer.
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We played leapfrog along the highway with a French family, mom, dad, and four kids. They have been on the road for eight months, and hope to finish in about five more. You can read about them here.

March 1    {map}
Woke up in a forrested grove surrounded by high mountains. Began the day slowly grinding uphill again to Villa Cerro Castillo. However, it was all worth it, we thought, when we found a cervezaria (miro browery). Alas, they had lots of beer but couldnt sell us any because we didn have an empty bottle o put it in. That is Chile.  

Descent from Cerro Castillo.
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LW: Just before Villa Cerro Castillo is where the road does the famous/fabulous zigzag down/up the hill--fates were with us and we got tto go down--better than a rollarcoaster!

Crazy scenery all day - hillsides that are practically cliffs, every stream is a waterfall, and there is no erosion. Louise saw an Andean Condor. Of course it flew away as soon as we showed up, so no photos.

Today we said goodbye to the pavement. It will be sorely missed. It is interesing that all the lakes and rivers are turquoise. There are signs pointing to rock climbing areas.
Black neck swans in the rivers and lakes.
Camped wild next to bridge, but view is fantastic.
Enjoying a wee flagon of gato cab sauve. 
Sharing another wild campsite with the French family (6)
Very windy.

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LW: Need to perfect the way to transport eggs on gravel roads...had to rearrange menu as 4 of our 6 eggs did not like the transition from pavement to gravel...just added the eggs to the dinner glop and all was great.

March 2   {map}
This was a low mileage day. We endured bad gravel, headwinds, road construction, and long hills. On the bright side, there was very little traffic due to road closures. We usually ignore them but this time there was massive explosion about 5 miles away. (Blasting). We chose caution over courage for once.

Camped on a sand bar on a beauty creek. LW: The creek swim was cold but very necessary after a hot day on gravel roads. Wasn't brave enough to wash my hair. Happily here was enough sunlight to warm up aferwards--even managed to rinse out my cycling shirt which dried by the time we hit the road in the morning.
Met Jess from San Juan Isl and Alejandro from Chile.

March 3   {map}
Woke up on sandbar in the middle of bright blue river. It reminded me of hitchiking through the Yukon in my younger days.

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Of course, the tent was covered in condensation - one couldn't pick a worse spot. But who cares - the scenery was worth it. Fortunately the road was still closed for cars (bike rule were undefined). 

We found a famous abandonned farmhouse that has been used by cyclists for quite a few years. Obviously appreciated by many as it was extremely neat and clean. The setting was gorgeous.

LW: Our typical late start ensured we had hours of relatively traffic free cycling-the contstruction was mainly behind us and other traffic wasn't happening during the closure.

Got into wide river vallies. Weather again was hot and blue skies. Roads not great but not bad either. Hard to complain about anything when traveling through such terrain.

Wild camped again--only so-so. It was a little or used but didn't really want to ontinue on and risk moing away fom the water. As it turned out we would have found a better spot but hindsight is 20/20.

Let it be noted that Princess Mike wanted to stay in a formal campsite in order to have a shower --I overruled him hoping for another glorious freebie--but not so lucky.

March 4   {map}

Woke up to the sound of a horse walking along the road.A little bit of rain and a number of threatening clouds. Happily no major weather change occurred.

We spent some time swapping seats. I'm having issues with mine and Mike seems to like mine better--we'll see how it goes. 

Road seemed more difficult today--may be just a factor of  3 days straight on gravel. My hands go numb after a while and I have to stop just to shake them out.  Doesn't take long and no problems after the ride but it's annoying.

For the lst few days, the gravel roads have been quite stunningly bad. It is almost like the highways department is trying to make them as bike-nasty as possible. The surface consists of fist size rocks, cemented into a hard mud/concrete mix. Sprinkled liberally on that are sand, gravel, rocks, and the wire cores from shredded truck tires. Randomly appearing are stretches of washboard, up to 30 cm deep. It is difficult to go more than walking speed, even downhill. It has been like that for days.

Mar 5.  Rest day in Puerto Tranquilo

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