6) Carretara [220 km south] - In search of penguins. - CycleBlaze

6) Carretara [220 km south]

Cochrane to Villa O'Higgins

March 12   {map}
We have cell reception for the first time in weeks. I even managed a Skype call to my brother-in-law last night. Perhaps I have outwitted the telcom trolls?
The last stretch stretch of the Carretara looks a bit wild. Our biggest town for the next week+ will be Puerto Yungay, pop 2. We stocked up with food for 8 days, and recharged our electronics. The weather was looking decidedly autumnal - 80% chance of precipitation. However, the rain held off as we nervously pedalled south through ranching country. 

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Road maintenance made for tough cycling, but there wasn't much traffic. Underbrush is getting thinner. Willow trees are beginning to turn colour. Camped wild with 2 giant cows
Chilean yogurt containers suck!

March 13   {map}

Rained hard last night but stopped by morning. We had mixed sun and cloud all day with one hard rain shower. Having learned the hard way about Patagonian storms, we hid under a tree till it passed.

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One major difference today - we are beginning to see stretches of road that are not bounded by barbed wire. That is the first time since we began cycling. That is important because private property is different in Chile. When the US rewrote Chile's constitution in 1973, they ensured that landowners (frequently foreign and absent) enjoyed full rights to their land. In the rest of the world, ranchers can buy grazing rights, but they cannot pollute or divert streams. Nor can they exclude the public.  This is another cause of the unrest (nascent revolution?) in Chile.

Camping amidst flocks of sheep and cattle.
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March 14   {map}
Woke up beside river. It was a stressful night. We had anchored the tent using pils of rocks on the tent pegs. Luckily the wind did not test our engineering efforts. 

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The road quality varied from bad to almost unrideable. The latter caused by the road improvement efforts of a grader.  Thank {diety of choice} we had gravel bikes and fat tires. It would be a long walk otherwise.

Other groups had even more problems. However, we squeaked past the flag person by pretending not to speak spanish. It was quite easy actually. 
 
Wild camped that night near a boat launch.

March 15   {map}
Left campsite at 11:00. Louise was determined to catch the last ferry that day. It leaves every few hours from Puerto Yungay (pop 2) and arrives at Rio Bravo (pop 0) about an hour later. 

It was a hard day with long steep hill climbs. Louise was pleased - she thought she saw Chile's national flower. Mike, less so. 

Turns out this is NOT theNational flower of Chile--about it was new to me so was still happy!
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Early in the afternoon, we saw a mnor side road to Carel Tortel, blocked by two police cars. We didn't think much of it at the time - just cops doing cop things. What effect could it possibly have on us? Miscalculated that one. 

We saw 6 tires tracks ahead of us and guessed correctly that it was the French family. We arrive at Puerto Yungay at 4:30 pm, and half the town turned out to greet us. 
Whereupon we learned for the first time that:

1.   the Argentine border was closed.
2.   the cop cars that we saw earlier, were quarantining Cartal  Tortel, two ships, and a road. 

We took the 6:00pm ferry anyway, to the other side of the lake. It was a bit discouraging though. We camped outside the ferry terminal.

Ferry terminal, Rio Bravo Pop 0). The French family slept inside. We pitched our tent outside.
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March 16   {map}
Another hard Patagonia day. It rained and stormed all the way. We dressed a bit better for it, but we still suffered. 

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We reached a refugio (shack used by ranchers to herd cows) and joined the french family. Later three more cyclists joined us, to make a total of 11 that night. 

The three latest cyclists (one each from belgium, France, and Czek) had made it to the end of the Chilean roads, taken the ferry to Argentina, but then were turned back by Arg border cops. That was discouraging to hear.  

One of the three (the Czek) had been on the road for two years. He planned to return home in about 1.5 more. People like that make us feel like amatures. 

We decided to slow down our pace after this. We could have reached O'Higgins the next day but chose 2 short days instead.
Had road to ourselves.

March 17   {map}
Left refugio in sunshine. Watched three gauchos (modern cowboys) ride past with their dogs. Some people dont just dream big.

Cycling was uncharacteristically easy and pleasant that day. We passed numerous silty creeks, unusual because the glaciers were so close above us. We met two Brits returning from O'Higgins. They had failed to get into Argentina too, and were returning north. 

We cleaned up by splashing about in a freezing cold river.  Campsite that night was extremely windy, but the tent stayed up. We were 25 km from O'Higgins.

March 18   {map}
Rode into Villa O'Higgins.

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Apparently the world has lost its mind while we were out of touch. It looks like Villa O'higgins is as far south as we can get. We need to cross over to Argentina to continue, but the border is closed indefinitely. 

After considering our options (which are very few) we have decided to turn around and head north. We will be out of cell and wifi contact until we reach Cochrane in about a week. The blog will be updated when we get internet again.

News flash;. Santiago airport just closed for 15 or 90 days according to local cops.

Air Canada will stop all flights to Chile after April 1. 

We might be here for a while.

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Comment on this entry Comment 6
Brian DriscollThe sheep and cattle must be rather small way down south. Can hardly see them in the picture. Camouflage tent a good choice.
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8 months ago
Scott AndersonGood luck, you two! Thinking of you.
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8 months ago
Kathryn HamiltonGood luck. Hope you get to an airport before the 1st.
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8 months ago
Dagmar KellyWhat an adventure - hope you stay safe and make it to the airport in time.
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8 months ago
Dagmar KellyFYI - Canada has announced an emergency loan package to help people return to Canada - info at https://travel.gc.ca/assistance/emergency-info/financial-assistance/covid-19-financial-help-faqs
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8 months ago
Ring StonechildInternational flights are ceasing April 1st. You need to get back to Canada now. Ditch your bikes if you need to and flap your wings. Call the Cdn Embassy and try to get a flight . Wear a mask or substitute. Keep 2m away from anyone if possible. Wash your hands frequently and or wear gloves. Cdn travelers in Peru are trapped by martial law and can't leave. Take this seriously and stay healthy. Most smarter people in Canada are self-isolting. 1200 cases now in Canada. Europe, USA, UK are bad too. I sent you emails too. Don't Doddle on this one.
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8 months ago