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 and tea, then enjoy the cool of the morning for the ride into town and a second breakfast of heuvos, pan and more te, (eggs and bread). Then carry on biking and stop anywhere between 1 and 4pm. Our riding times (not including stops) are approx 4-5 hours a day.
At one of our b’fast stops we are shown how to use the Mate ‘straw’ in a grapefruit that has been partially scooped out and Mate tea, sugar and boiling water has been added. Very tasty and good for you we are told. Previous to this it has been common to see people drinking thru the thick tea mix in a wee vessel/cup and topping up with hot water.
The road surface for the first 40km of route 7 was bad and we dreaded 1000km of it, but it does improve and yesterday we had 60km of positively good ripio riding!. Two nights ago, we missed a campsite, so flagging in the heat we follow a side road down to the river and ask to camp in the property. A sweet camp with some sweet chicklings visiting us, mama hen not far away. The river is a glacial blue, chilly but refreshing. Last night we find a small Park campsite to ourselves by our first warm lake and no snowy peaks to be seen.
We have ridden into Puyuhaupi, a seaside town this morning to a wee cafe – and we are the 6th visitors to eat there as it has only been open a week!. We celebrate by buying 6 homemade rhubarb chocolates.
Planning a short day today, before a couple of long days to the main city in the south Colhaique.