A bucket list trip

Our friend Paul unexpectadly found himself cycling down the length of Chiles Caraterra Austral and recommended it as a bucket list trip. Years later I remembered his suggestion and after a neat journey around Samoa by bike, Alan and I decided to go for a longer journey on two wheels. We had three months and we started south of Santiago, Chile with sights of getting to Ushuaia at the tip of South America..the posts below are in reverse order describing this amazing journey

Sabotage on the High Seas

We have had an adventurous last few days in these cool parts aboard the Persimmon, a 40ft yacht built and skippered by Captain Ian of Aussie origin. We had a 3 day charter for very good rates east up the Beagle Channel. The northern side of the channel is Argentina and the southern side is Chile and unfortunately with limited time we could only stay in Argentina. Despite that we had a great trip. The morning was calm and we cruised into the main channel suprised at the lack of wind given … Continued

Ushuaia and almost the end of the (very busy) road

Leaving the bakery was hard but better for the arteries than staying. We camped at the quirky Hains campground by Tolhuin’s Lago Fagnan enjoying the fresh air and a fire (wood was provided for a welcome change). Most campgrounds provide barbeque pits for people and it is what Argentinians do best – the bar-b-que. NZers thought they were the experts but the Argentinians are the pro’s. Not delicate cuts of meat or vege patty’s but massive cuts of meat or whole sides of beasts. Sadly we were unprepared! We took two days … Continued

A dream come true..

Welcome to the Panaderia La Union, Tolhuin, 100km from our last stop. We have finally left the pampas behind and have beech forest and mountain relief. We arrived in town and were dragged off the sideroad, shown the small room with mattresses, then through the back entry of the bakery and given cardboard plates to fill with empanadas and pastries – no charge – and yes the plates can be filled for dinner and breakfast too!. Leaving? Wait, we will fill a bag of goodies for you to take on your journey. … Continued

First Aid and Fast Riding

T`was a cold tail wind that pushed us eastwards out of Porvenir on our last section of ripio. We decided to take the high summer road instead of the coast road for the initial 50km. First mishap was Alan’s derailliour (sp) almost taking out some spokes (our worst nightmare) then then my partially fractured carrier decided to completely break. So we had to undo the string job holding it to the frame and incorporate a tent peg as a splint and re-attach, thank goodness for First Aid courses that teach the principals … Continued

Isla Tierra del Fuego – Island of land of fire

When early explorers sighted the island at the bottom of South America they saw the beaches lined with fires. The aboriginal indians did not wear much clothing so kept the home fires burning for obvious reasons! It is cold down here. Thus it was named Tierra del Fuego. We had a 2hr sail to Tierra del Fuego from Punta Arenas arriving at the small port town of Porvenir. It was the middle of the day and the winds were strong and cold so we decided to enjoy this desolate place and face … Continued

Fin de la mas austral camina en S.A and Irish Jo

The finish of the most southern road on the South American continent..and catching up with Irish Jo. Our wind/weather website was predicting 80km/hr, gusting to 108km/hr westerlies on thursday and a perfect day on Friday – so thursday we headed south on a  tip from some 4WD travellers. The website is pretty accurate and we got 15km before deciding to sit it out for a while – it was a trifle scary when the gusts hit. After lunch the winds dropped slightly so we carried on and by the time we got to the … Continued

Punta Arenas – Fish and chip capital city of Patagonia

  Sadly the weather forecast was not conducive to trekking in Torres del Paine unless we waited for 4-5 days which we were not really keen on doing. The winds have been up to 120km/hr in the park, with rain and snow to quite low levels. We figured we did so well in the Fitz Roy region that we could use los vientos atras (the tail winds) to blow us south and we could use the time exploring lesser known areas. Postscript – we received this in an email from some cycle … Continued

Flight of the Condors – return of the winds

For a condor the weather has finally turned and the windy skies the limit – for the cyclist each road direction change is anticipated and the difference between tail wind speeds and head wind speeds is many-fold (i.e. 30km/hr with little effort with the wind on your back, 10km/hr digging deep with the wind on your nose). Makes for  interesting riding. We left El Califate with the wind behind and cruised 40km eastwards alongside Lago Viedma and then heading south. The road suprised us with a gradual wind assisted 600m climb onto … Continued

Pampas and wind

Our nine fantastic days in El Chalten came to an end as did the amazing weather we had been having. The mountains were dramatic as we sped away from the town following the northern edge of Lago Viedma, not too disimilar to a big version of riding away from Mt Cook village leaving a Nor´west storm in the hills. For the first time in the trip we had long straight roads through the pampas but also we had a strong tail wind pushing us the 90km to the junction with the north-south … Continued

Pass of the Wind

We were very keen to see the view over the Southern Patagonian Icecap so hoped the weather would hold for a few more days. We had also hoped for a rest day but the forecast was for 2 more good days before things deteriorated in a big way so we just had the one night in El Chalten and headed off first thing. Cutting the 7hr hike to the camp down to 4hrs we decided to keep going up valley and getting the infamouse river crossing done if we could. We had … Continued

Mounting the Chicken..

Our first foray into the park started after dinner on our second day in Chalten. We only had an hr to walk to get to Lago Capri which is one of the smaller but more spectacular park campsites. We had to hire one pack and with Alan’s superior packing skills we squeezed all into/onto our 2 small packs. Sunrise was spectacular -becomes a theme for us over the week we are here. From Capri we headed to the next ‘official campsite’ and dropped loads for a walk up to Lago Los Tres … Continued

Fitz Roy dominates the landscape

Arriving at Lago Desiertes from the single track we have to officially enter Argentina at the border post. The lake runs north/south and at the end of it is Fitz Roy. Our tent is on the lake shore facing south. We spend an extra day in the area taking a (long) hike up to a fabulous (luckily) view point over the Chico Glacier which drains the Southern Ice Cap. It is the swirly darker glacier that we saw from our glacier cruise.The day and the views were moody but well worth the … Continued

Hasta Luego Chile, Bienvenidos Argentina

After a beautiful sunrise we packed  and woke the border staff up to officially leave Chile as we wanted to start riding early. The first 6km were a mix of push up steep loose gravel and rideable 4wd. Then there are 12 km of very nice dirt track to the official international border Then there is 6km of single track. With our small loads packed cunningly we could ride more than some of the very loaded cycle tourers that come thru this way.All in all it was a lot more rideable than … Continued

Tourists for the day..

From Villa O’Higgens it was time for another ferry crossing (far from free this time) over to our check out of Chile. On the ride to the ferry a carrier screw sheared apart putting some pressure on to tie it together for the third time! Because the weather was so good we did the add  on ferry ride to the O’Higgens glacier snout (one of the larger glaciers of the SoutherPatagonian ice shelf). We had the best day for it and we spent an hour at the 3km long glacier snout waiting … Continued

The photos just don’t do it justice

From our bush camp we climbed steadily up to a saddle above Puerto Yungay. It was one of those climbs that cyclists tell you about but are more enjoyable than forewarned. We had a buzzy ride – the loads light enough and us fit enough to be able to enjoy the up and the down. We made the 10am ferry that enabled us to connected the two ends of the Highway without getting wet feet. We could relax on the back of the boat and watch 2 condors enjoying some thermals. From … Continued

A town on stilts..

The Rio Baker is very large by the time it meets the sea at Carleta Tortel, a most unusual seaside town completely constructed on stilts with boardwalks joining every building and the 3 ´suburbs´. Vehicles are left at the top of the town and access around town is just by foot or boat around the shores of town. There was no electricity as the wee town hydro scheme had dried up in the dry summer they are having. We had left most of our loads 25km up the road and cylcled light … Continued

Just like cycling the Milford

In our last rest over town of Cochrane  I enjoyed some domestic bliss of raspberry jam making, relish making (doesn´t seem to exist in Chile or Argentina), bike pogie making (over gloves to wear on the bike which allow me to be wearing bike gloves underneath and cut the wind) and we managed to fill the bad weather day. Under clearing skies we followed the Rio Baker to it´s meeting place with the sea. Was a fantastic journey through the massive valley and made me think of travelling an oversize Milford Track … Continued

Made it to El Chalten, home of Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre

We are thru the most remote part of our trip and back in Argentina. We are in the town of El Chaiten – quite a new tourist town under the impressive towers of  Mt Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre – famous granite spires on the edge of the southern Patagonian ice shelf. I was hoping to upload some more photos but it does not seem possible in El Chaiten so I might just have to go trekking instead and will do in a bigger town.. here are the words side of it … Continued

End of Route 7

Just a quick update as it is too hot to spend much time on this hostel computer. Will do a full update when we get to Chaiten in a few days time. Have had an incredible few days since last post – weather Gods have been good and we are seeing Patagonia under mostly blue skies. tomorrow we take boat across to the chile border (via a glacier view add on). then it is single track to Argentina.. 2000km down and 1000km to go plus some hiking..  

El Rio Baker Grande (the huge river Baker) and dam politics

Just a short 50km to Cochrane, we think, be there by lunchtime – yeah right.. Today we followed the river Baker from it’s birth in Lago Betrand. Until the major confluence with the milky drainage of the Nef Glacier, the Baker is a royal blue. We walked down to the amazing confluence – a huge version of where the Clutha meets the Kawarau (pre dam days). In fact today we are in very similar but many times larger version of the Kawarau pre dam. Hence many anti-dam bill boards line the road. … Continued

Waiting for the third..

After restful wet rest day we mount our trusty steads for the journey around Lago General Carrera. We were warned that it was a hilly day. Over the 70 odd km we had 1200m of climbing and descending and an overall zero height gain – i.e up 300 down 300, up 400 down 400 etc!. At least the road surface was fantastic. Coming down one hill I was aware of strange noise on bike – stopped to investigate and the connection point of where the carrier joins the bike had snapped. Oops. … Continued

´the most evil ripio ever’ so we were told..

An easterly is a rarity here and we enjoyed it´s light push westward. Back on the ripio again, no tarseal till we head back to Argentina from the end of the Carraterra Austral. Some road works out of town saw us pushing our bikes – luckily for us it was not a long stretch. We biked over some hillocky country before dropping down to follow the huge Simpson valley for 30 odd kms. The road condition improved and it was a long flat stretch along the river. Dead tree stumps lined the … Continued

South from Coihaique

After a busy rest day in C. we woke to a calm and blue dome day. Our departure from town was slowed by waiting for the empanada shop to open but being told the empanadas not ready till 10am. They are good but not worth waiting 2 hours for! Consoled ourselves with a cafe stop and then we found a panaderia that did have fresh empanada. So all good again. The road climbed slowly and then with more vigour up to 1100m. We camped beside small lake with many mosca. Alan is … Continued

Into Coihaique, largest town on Route 7

From Pesca con Mosca camp we had a lovely cruisy day (mostly down) to the town of Manuales. The rocky peaks and faces on route to Villa Manuales were stunning. Campsite wasn´t anything to write home about, and there seemed to be more dogs than people (and all night bark offs) but the flies were fewer and the free feed of the best cherries cheered us (not that we needed cheering) We left Manuales early following the Rio Manuales down to a major junction before turning left and following the Rio Simpson back … Continued

From Ocean back to Mountains

After MASSIVE feed of fish and chips in seaside town on Puyuhaupi we carried on to a Parks campsite. The bonus here was a mini Fox Glacier experience that we chanced on. After setting up camp we took the path to the view and had a great walk to a view point of the glacier snout and large waterfall gushing forth. Met French family (7 kids, mamma and pappa) up at the view point (a stiff 300m climb) and made me think of our family hols to the west coast glaciers. We … Continued

Ruta 7, 1000km and 6 degrees

It is another tough day on the gravel but progress is being made. We have joined Route 7, the Careterra Austral highway heading south, clocked our first 1000km and covered 6 degrees of latitude. We are about 45 degrees south now. From our lake camp we climb up a steep saddle and then sidle onto the main highway south. The roads in Chile are definately steeper than Argentina. At present our modas operandi seems to be, camp 20km or so before a town. Get up at 6, have a simple muesli breakfast … Continued

Following the Futalefu

After a relaxing Boxing Day in Futalefu we head down river. The Futalefu river takes it`s own route thru steep gorges and we wind our way on varying grades of gravel travel. Some good, some not so. Spectacular country and little traffic. When we meet the river we are impressed with how large volume it is. Must be an amazing raft trip. Coming into our first town of the day we hit newly laid large grade gravel which I can’t even ride – pushing my bike on a flat road is not much … Continued

Back into Chile & getting on top of bottom issues!

Yes, issues of the rear end. Alan has had no problems but I am still getting it sorted. Luckily because we are not doing mega long days and having rest days I am able to keep on top of it – figuratively! I have gone from my mega padded shorts to my less padded shorts and a skirt, back to my mega padded shorts and now am wearing both pairs of shorts together! A bigger bottomed girl now than when I started. Luckily Lucy (at Racers Edge) convinced me to take Butt … Continued

Park National Los Alerces

From cold, wind and fresh snow on the hills to blue dome days and no wind and very hot afternoons. We left our sweet refuge from the weather at Lago Elpuyen and followed open and sealled roads to a small town called Cholila at the start of the national park and the gravel travel. We filled up on empanadas and tea and started slowly up the very poor ripio surface resigned to a few long days thru the park. Furtunately for us the road surface improved dramatically as did our rate of … Continued

Feliz Navidad

Wishing you all a great Xmas and time with family and friends. We are in small town, just east of the Chile/Argentine border. Have had a couple of long days of ripio (gravel road) travel and some more awesome vistas. Weather is amazing again. Going out for dinner tonite (xmas eve) and Xmas day will see us bouncing our way back into Chile. Thinking of you all

Frozen toes and first rainy day

We just passed thru Bariloche, and found great lake campsite for the night. Big day following of over 100km made hard by some cold wet weather. We were back up at 1100m and it was cold. Fresh snow on the hills even. Our tea and empanada stop was welcomed and the kind owner even turned the gas heater on for us. The descent down to El Bolson was amazing with 30km of low angle down hill and a strong tail wind blew us into the campground behind a boutique brewery. Not a … Continued

Chocolates and Skiing

Baraloche – ski resort of southern Argentina and producer of chocolates and ice-cream. Due to wind and not wanting to stay in the big town of Baraloche we stopped 10km short and camped by the lake. The wind was honking down the lake (norwest type conditions) so we spent the afternoon sheltered in pines reading. We had our first empanadas (like a cornish pasty) and they are going to be a staple in the diet. this morning we braved the traffic and cross wind into town. Our stay is brief, long enuf … Continued

Volcanic Ash first-hand

In June a nearby volcano (40km due west) errupted and this area due east of the mountain is still feeling the effects when the winds blow from the west. We woke to a sky obscured by a thin ash cloud. As we headed north, then east and down valley we found ourselves cycling in a fine atmosphere of ash. As well, the sides of the road had varying amounts of ash piled up. The middle section of this route is still being contstructed. Imagine cycling the Haast or Milford road 50 years … Continued

Rute de Siete Lagos Y Moscas

(Route of the 7 Lakes and Flies) We head inland along the Ruta de Siete Lagos – a couple days of cycling with 40 kms of it not yet finished but a good unsealed road. Our first stop was near a tourist mecca and we camped out of town by gorgeous beach – very busy by day as local swim spot, then empty by night bar some young folks socialising around fire with music and singing. Luckily only till midnight. Us old folks need our beauty sleep. Next day we climbed again … Continued

Bienvenido a Argentina (welcome to …)

We are now in Argentina for a couple of weeks. We left Pucon on a blue bird day and cycled to the last small village before steep climb to 1200m pass. We left the volcanic cone of Villareca and up a valley not dissimilar to Murchison. We camped on the outskirts of town in an orchard with sheep and horse for company. On our walk into town for dinner we spotted a cortar de pelo and Alan came out looking much smarter than when he went in! An early start for a … Continued

Ipod for bananas

We left House Santiago by biciclettas to our 11pm bus ride as the taxi option was too difficult to organise. My first turn out onto the street was onto the wrong side of the road – wondering why a car was coming towards me in my lane – luckily just a quiet side street! The rest of the 50 minute bike into the city centre was on the wide footpath which was easy and safe travel. Back to the christmas tree – this time all lit up. We were booked on overnight … Continued

On the ground in Santiago

Flights weren’t the most confortable but we enjoyed some lofty mountain summit views:Aspiring,Taranaki, the Patagonian ice fields and a bonus view of Acocagua. Only 2 nights in Santiago and we are off tonight to Villarica. We had a great walking tour of Santiago today. Getting into the groove of having to hablar Espanol. My first learning point was to check if they speak English first – I had a rapid fire description of how to get somnewhere and Alan had the nouse to check if the man spoke English – we then … Continued

One more sleep..

A mad week getting the work under control but almost there. NZ summer has kicked in this week so hopefully we get as nice a one in Chile. Paniers are packed and we are looking pretty good with about 12 kg total luggage each going on our bikes. Should be well under the 23kg airport limit with all our gear. Time to put the vacation responder on the email and change the phone message.