Feeling good about the recent preparations to our steel steeds, we left Puerto Montt. Smooth, easy riding put us past the 50 or so hitchhikers along the route and into Pargua to catch the ferry to Chiloe Island. We had contacted a Warmshowers host on the island, but with the amount of light left in the day we decided to score a ride with one of the trucks on the ferry. We got off the boat last and pushed our bikes past about 30 zombie hippy backpackers clawing at our agreed upon ride. Our friendly driver dropped us off right at the front door of our host in Ancud and we were quickly welcomed in by the seven people staying in the house.
Xavier, Theresa, and Dani hosted us in the house they were renting, a beautiful wood cabin near the beach. The next couple days we were able to squeeze in a lot of good times with some incredible people. Swimming at the beach was followed by the many hour preparation of a Curanto, the traditional feast of Chiloe. Much of that time was spent cleaning choros (mussels) and making potato-cheese biscuits. All kinds of delicious items, from poroto beans to pork sausages were thrown in the pot and cooked al vapor with the mussels. It was an epic feast that tasted delicious and gave us left overs for two days.
The next day we made a mission for the outer coast of Chiloe with Armin, Hugo, and Carla, our new friends who were sharing the house with us. The landscapes out there were stunning, and we ended up finding a beach to ourselves that we enjoyed to the fullest. After climbing around on some rocks, laying in the sun, and harvesting kelp for another seafood stew, we took off for the Pinguinero. Seeing our first wild penguins was pretty exciting, and since its prohibited to walk out to them, we swam out to where the tour boats were motoring and got a good, up close view of the penguins from the water. Shaking off the chill of the water, we stopped at a local fair to get some empanadas and then headed back home for one more night at the Ancud casa.
From there we mounted our beastly rigs and headed for Castro. Our idea was to figure out the ferry schedule there and then see what Cucao, on the west coast of the island, was all about. It was a bummer to find out that the ferry to Chaiten only operates on Sundays and Thursdays and that the next two ferries were booked. That meant we would be spending an extra week on the island. But, like always, we tried not to let the kink in the plan lower our spirits and took off towards Cucao. A flat on the way followed by tire replacement put us 20 kilometers out of Cucao and under a nice bridge, which is fitting for our current appearances.
The next day brought us into our home por la proxima semana. We spent a lot of time chowing down on WAY too many macha empanadas and watching hundreds of hippie zombies stumbling out of the recently finished Festival de la Luna to try to find rides and free food. Our hitchhiker buddy, Seth, had 4 days off from his hostal work in Valdivia and made a trip to the island to see us bearded fellas. We were able to check out a national park and do a hike out to Cole Cole together before he had to hop on a bus back to the working world. We had a blast exploring the area together and relaxing in beautiful spots, which seems to be something that the three of us are really good at. We gave Seth an honorary ATripSouth birthday on his last day with us, since it would probably be our last visit together. He chose to be 22 years old that day. It was our 5th country together and although it wasn’t as epic as the goodbye in the San Blas Islands, where he swam to shore to wait out a cheaper lift to Colombia, it was still a good time.
Besides one last hoorah with our good friend, our time in Cucao was occupied hanging out with an awesome family. Sergio, Julia, Camila, Daniel, Anai and Benjamin were excellent hosts during our time spent in town. Each member of the family had their own skills and hobbies which they were happy to teach us. We learned how to cure sheep hides, make marmelades, harvest local plants, cheat at dice board games with the kids, and live like Chilotes. They let us camp in their yard and cook food over a fire, fed us mean food, let us stalk their lives for some video footage, and watched our bikes while we played around the area.
A rough side ride to Muelle de la Alma for a nasty vantage point and it was the end of an extremely fun week of waiting. Leaving with several new friends and a couple jars of freshly made jam, we were on our way. For one of the first times on ATripSouth we retraced our steps and made it back to Castro with about 5 kilos of blackberries in our bellies.
One last preparation session at the supermarket filled our bags to the brims with provisions for the great task ahead. The following morning we loaded a ferry for Chaiten to start the Carretera Austral, that famous road which has long been the most anticipated part of our journey…