5) Carretara [114 km south] - In search of penguins. - CycleBlaze

5) Carretara [114 km south]

Rio Tranquilo to Cochrane


March 6   {map}
Patagonia can be beautiful when the sun shines, the winds are modest, and the roads are smooth. Today was not one of those days.  We left our campsite at Tranquilo at about noon. There were heavy clouds overhead, but the sun was shining. The road was awful, but we were getting used to it. Winds were light and variable. All that changed after a few hours.

View of the marble caves from the road.
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Rain showers began, then changed to heavy constant rain, then to a massive downpour. The temperature dropped until we lost all feeling in our hands and feet. And the wind changed to storm strength. Most of the time it was a headwind, and we spent the rest of the day in our lowest gears, even going downhill.  When it blew crossways, it pushed us all the way across the road, despite our best efforts to fight it.

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We were soaked to the skin and freezing cold so there are very few pictures. By nightfall, we were about to give up and pitch our tent beside the highway but at the last minute the sun came out briefly, and weakly. 

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Mike AylingThat road looks most uncomfortable to ride on!

Mike
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8 months ago

Then, unexpectedly, we found a nice private campsite with wood stoves, hot showers, and wifi. But as is normal in Chile, it was closed.

LW: Strangely/happily enough just as the we came upon the closed campsite the wind and rain stopped and the sun came out! Thank the weather Gods! I'm not sure how we would have set up camp without that hour of sun to warm us up.

Instead we wild camped  few km down a very rough road.   

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It was a hideous day that reminds me of countless epic mountaineering trips gone bad. But it was a useful reminder not to underestimate Patagonia. Things go bad down here, really fast.  

Mike bundled up for the cold night.
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March 7   {map}
Thoroughly chastened by our wretched ride yesterday, we suited up in all our foul weather gear, and set off again. It rained most of the day but only lightly. The sun tried to poke through, but failed most of the time. 

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Curiously, there was almost no traffic after the storm. Possibly the road washed out somewhere behind us? Lunch was wine plus cookies in a bus shelter at the bottom of a long steep hill. 

Lunch
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The surface of the road continued to be bone-rattling ripio but but the scenery was constantly changing and interesting. The hills were crazy steep uphill and down. We pushed our bikes up most of them, and rode our brakes all the way down the other side.

This lake is a strange shade of blue - maybe due to copper salts?
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We finished the day in downtown Puerto Bertrand, pop about 20. We celebrated with pizza and craft beers - not for any successes, but just for surviving. 

P. Bertrand is a modest little town. The only business seems to be the pizza shop, and we were its only customers. The pizza was OK by Chilean standards - an Italian would beg to differ-- LW: woodstove warmed our soggy shoes. But the beer was superb. 

We wild camped beside a beautiful river, a few km out of town.

LW: This was a really good day. The road wasn't easy and the weather kept us interested but everything felt good after the horrendous wind/rain yesterday.  Bob and Joyce from Manitoba who we met in Chileco passed us on the road and stopped to to say hello. 

After the lunch break it turned even nicer. The entrance into Pte. Bertrand was very dramatic. The road was lined with trees and fields for the last bit. Sun was shining, going down a twisty switchback, big sign that says "Visitar Puerto Bertrand". I was about to stop for picture when I was blasted by a headwind full of dust and gravel! Almost took out an eye..took the corner--no wind. Next bit- blasted again. Gotta love this country! 

Campsite on Rio Baker.
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March 8   {map}
Woke up after a cold night, a few meters away from Rio Baker. We watched river-rafters shoot past our tent while we ate breakfast. We debated staying another day because it was such a spectacular campsite, but the lure of a hot shower pulled us away.  

Both of us managed to fall off our bikes today - Mike because his chain fell off the front sprockets, and Louise because she fell off a banked curve. Corners down here are sharp and banked very steeply. That is OK if you are going fast enough for the centrifugal force to keep you from falling down across the road. But we can't go much over 10 km/hr due to the ripio.  

We saw a herd of llama-type herbivores. (There are 3-4 different species, but they all look the same to me).  LW: pretty sure they are guanacos.

Llama? Guanaco? Vicuana?
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Bill ShaneyfeltSeems to fit guanaco best.

https://inkajungletour.com/en/do-you-know-the-difference-between-llamas-alpacas-and-vicuna/
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8 months ago

Despite our best efforts, we could not quite reach Cochrane. We wild camped again at the top of a pass. Just as it was getting dark, our american friend Jess Diamond showed up. She also was trying for Cochrane, but didn't make it. None of us had much food or water. We heard something shuffling around outside our tent that night, probably llamas. One clue: in the morning, some carrot peels from last night's dinner were gone. 

Confluence of the Rios Baker and Ness. Scenery like this is typical for Patagonia.
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March 9   {map}

Another high-effort, low-mileage day. 

Packing up after a cold night, about 14 km shy of Cochrane.
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The hills are getting rediculously steep. I couldn't ride up them with an unloaded bike, let alone with 25 kg of gear. Downhill is even worse. We keep our rear brake almost locked up, as we skid, and fishtail, and curse our way down.

Needless to say, Louise has become very cautious (read: paranoid) on the downhill bits.

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We finally reached Cochrane this afternoon. It is a moderately sized town with stores and everything. We are camped downtown in a private campground with luxurious hot showers and flush toilets(about $20/night). They are our first ones since Puerto Tranquilo.

Electric Jesus.
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Bought food in a large hardware store that sold everything from huge wooden yokes for hitching your oxen, to baby clothes and food. Lots of cool Stihl equipment, including shoes.

Yokes. $180 CAD / each.
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Gorged on pastries, rice glop, beer and wine.

March 10 - 11   "Rest days" in Cochrane. Long version: Louise is feeling sorry for herself after tumbling off her bike (again). 

LW: I landed on my handlebars and must have bruised/pulled some intercostal muscles -- that makes riding down the ripio very painful. very little skin damage this time!

I feel bad for Mike. He's very patient (on the road at least! Less so in stores...). He's carrying most of the weight and still slows down to match my chicken sh*t pace.

Cochrane is a small town surrounded by hills. Good panaderias, a cerveceria and has a good feel to it. 

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Jan Salmon ArmMakes my ribs ache just thinking about it, yow! Hang in there and rest up when you can. I hope the word "ibuprofen" is internationally recognized ;-)
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8 months ago