Hey everyone we are doing a kickstarter to purchase the basic editing equipment: a computer and editing software so that we can get this film project rolling.
This project will only be funded if at least $3,600 is pledged by .
Your contributions will be greatly appreciated!
Patagonia can be a lonesome place. While there are tons of awesome spots to find cool people and enjoy excellent company, there’s also a whole lot of open space. From the seemingly infinite rolling plains of the pampas, to the wind-carved peaks of the cordillera, the opportunities for isolation are endless. No wonder we all ended up travelling by ourselves for the last leg of the trip. It was almost as if the place requested that we come and go in groups of one.
Since we all finished solo, I (Kanaan) thought it would be best to tell all of the final stories, not just my own. So, without further ado, here are four different ways to do ATripSouth from El Chalten to Ushuaia.
By the time I finally got out of El Chalten, I had a pretty good idea of what the road ahead looked like. All the others had sent me notes from the road: what to look for and what to avoid. Chris cruised through Chalten in November, noting that it would be a great place for some hiking. Max also noted the potential and found the gem of Chalten, Flor’s Casa de Ciclistas, which he described as “super buena onda” (really good vibes). When Andy and I arrived it was easy to see what the other two had been so excited about. I think that of all the places in South America, El Chalten was by far my favorite town.
The town is surrounded by Los Glaciares Parque Nacional, separated only by an unbelievable range of peaks from the Southern Patagonia Ice Field. It’s a rock climbers paradise, with everything from world renowned mountaineering routes to fun backyard boulder problems and everything in between, all easily accessible. The village is laid-back, with a solid population of active citizens (great subjects for the film project) who are keeping a close eye on the development as it attracts adventurers from all over the world. On top of all this we had an amazing home at Flors to celebrate with friends new and old and share some awesome communal feasts.
When Andy was ready to move on after a week and a half, I still had a pile of things to do on the list. He took off the day after my half birthday, just to prove that he was a better friend than Chris, who left us in Cuzco on my 25th. Andy tried to take the advice of Max, who said that leaving Chalten on a windy day gave him the fastest ride he had ever had on flats, but it was a rare windless week in Chalten and no breezes were in the forecast.
I also had a surprisingly calm and quite cold day when I finally left after three weeks. Another surprise was that I was not alone on the first day of my solo mission. Somehow, after living in her small house with her family for nearly a month, Flor still wasn’t sick of me, and asked if she could come along for the ride to El Calafate. With the promise to “ir con tranquilidad” (go with tranquility), we took four days to do the trip that most ciclists do in two.
On our second night we stopped at an abandoned pink house halfway between Chalten and Calafate that has become a popular refugio for ciclists. It was a cool stop for Flor because she got to see the names of many of the travelers who have stayed at her house over the years written on the walls. Andy from ATripSouth was one of those names. After a good nights rest there Andrew sent it straight for the pampa towards Puerto Natales, not even stopping for the detour to Calafate.
Chris went to the town but decided against the “big attraction”, Perito Moreno Glaciar, when he found out how far away and expensive it was. For this reason, Max tried to wake up early to sneak into the park after five hours of pedaling against the wind the day before. Well he didn’t wake up early enough and met a park guard at the entrance and was made to wait 3 hours until opening. Max reported an impressive glacier with a unique viewpoint, but said it wasn’t really worth it for all the effort it took to get there. He quoted our friend Owen from when we kayaked through Tracy Arm at the beginning of the trip, “it’s like what you’ve never seen a glacier before?”
With those words in mind I almost didn’t make it out to Perito Moreno myself, despite spending a week hanging out in El Calafate. Staying with Matias, a friend that I met at Flors place in Chalten, I had excellent company for walks to Cerro Calafate and Laguna Nimez, jam sessions with the flute and drum I’ve been carrying around, guanaco (the Patagonian llama) asados from the neighbor’s recent hunt, and learning the art of FLO, which Matias described as, “a bodily expression with geometric forms and movements.”
The day that I left the house, I wasn’t quite sure where to go. But the wind was blowing from the abnormal direction of the north, so I decided that I might as well check that glacier out. Unprepared as I was, the fact that the park entrance was 30 kms from the actual glacier came as a complete discovery to me. A spur of the moment decision left me camping just below the ridgeline of the closest mountain, with hopes to see the glacier from above the next day.
The following morning I made it to the top of a nice tall pointy peak, where I realized that I was still three or four mountains away from the glacier, but had a great view of the Torres del Paine about80 kmaway. The descent along the less direct scenic route took the rest of the day, and just after nightfall I was riding silently and stealthily past the park entrance to go camp in front of the glacier.
I had a great morning session with Perito Moreno, and definitely understood what Max meant about the unique viewpoint. It was like checking the tonsils of the ice field, looking straight into its mouth and down its cold blue throat.
Thoroughly exhausted from the night before, I hitched a ride back to Calafate, pedalled to the other side of town, and hitched another to the emerald flowing Rio Santa Cruz, where Flor and I had camped a week prior. It was the beginning of a large stretch of hitchhiking for me, not too interested in riding my bike through what Chris called “basically nothing, completely desolate and really windy,” Max described as “not that bad but better ways to spend your time,” and Andrew advised “not all that fun, probably better to hitch if you can.” Sometimes it pays to be the last in line.
Although I did end up missing out on Andrews experiences with the drunk police captain and the gas station with free coffee. And by hitching straight to Rio Turbio, I missed Cerro Castillo, the border crossing that Chris recommended. I got dropped off right at the edge of Argentina, and after answering correctly the interrogations of the border patrol officer (“which city in Argentina has the most beautiful women?” Luckily he was from Salta), I got invited to stay the night and have sandwiches and drink mate while watching the NBA playoffs. The next day I crossed into Chile and it was all downhill into Puerto Natales.
Natales had been a big destination on the list for a while after hearing our buddy Billy talk about it in Valparaiso. Chris also pumped it up after his experience in Torres del Paine Parque Nacional. He told us where to camp and what to check out, noting the amazing scenary and interesting vibe that he found camping with people from all over the world each night. “I definitely recommend going, even though it was a bit of a circus, it was well worth it.” So naturally none of us went.
Max blasted through Natales en route to go hang with Benjamin, our friend from Punta Arenas who was an exchange student in Juneau in highschool. Andrew hooked up with the “couchsurfing family”, a great place full of travelers, delicious food, and a wacky ma, pa, two kids, and a dog. I got to experience it myself for two days that included a Patagonian curanto and a gigantic pizza. He stayed there for four days relaxing in Natales, and couldn’t be bothered to throw the heavy cash at the price tag of the park. I was also a bit turned off by the cost, and after Benja (who used to be a park ranger at Torres del Paine) told me about some hikes near Punta Arenas of equal cool value, I pointed my tires in that direction.
Again, the diligent, experiential research of my compadres gave me an excuse not to ride my bike. Andy had recommended self mutilation as a coping mechanism for the boredom of the pampas between Natales and Arenas.While I didn’t get the wind that he suffered through after a day of riding out of Natales, one cold morning in the pampa was enough for me, so I stuck the old thumb out again and was at Benja’s house for lunch.
But Benja wasn’t there. Our plans to hike out to Cape Froward fell through when he realized he had to stay in Valdivia for another couple weeks to do his graduation ceremony. Luckily Andrew came to keep me company, already back from Tierra del Fuego, Ushuaia, the full tour. He was no longer going south, but instead back north to Santiago and then home. It was his second stay at the Murrié-Cacéres residence, a place that has recently been dubbed Hotel Juneau, especially since the ATripSouth bomb dropped.
Chris didn’t make it to Hotel Juneau on his breif pass through Punta Arenas. But Max did the double pit stop on his before and after to Tierra del Fuego, using the base camp before flying out of Arenas. Max hit the timing perfectly, arriving to the house when the whole family was present, Angela, Patricio, and all four of the sons. They had a hoot of a time enjoying each other’s company after seven years since Benja was in Alaska.
By the time Andrew arrived all the brothers were gone, either at school or working in other places to the north. Luckily similar-aged friends are not necessary to enjoy Hotel Juneau. Angela and Pato are incredible people, both bearers of the good sense of humor and compassionate sharer genes that made their son Benjamin such a good friend to so many in Alaska. Both are also excellent chefs and as if that isn’t enough, Angela is a professional baker, constantly pumping out cakes from the kitchen for a living.
It took Andrew a lot of motivation to leave the house the first time and he was quite relieved to be back when I met him for his second visit. After packing up Andrew’s life as a cyclist and sending him off on a plane for Santiago, I spent a few days preparing myself for the Island meanwhile exploring the local running trails around the city. Eventually I was ready to leave and unlike Max (who tried to leave the continent on the one day of the week that the ferry doesn’t run and had to come back to the house for another night) or Andrew (who left the house in a rain storm, freezing his bits off for his introduction to Tierra del Fuego), I made it to the ferry for an easy windless morning and cruised comfortably across the Straight of Magallanes.
But, in true form, Tierra del Fuego lived up to the legends and by the time I arrived in Porvenir, the sky was clouding over and the rain was starting to fall. Hoping to send off one last email before embarking on a few days of isolation in the pampa, I asked a worker at the salmon protein processing plant if there was an internet cafe in town. Juan informed me that like everything else in town, the ciber was closed on Sunday, but invited me over to the company house to use his computer. As the cold rain came down outside, we decided that it would be best for me to stay the night at the house.
This turned out to be a pretty good call because the next day was a full on blizzard. I can’t say for sure but I think that the gale force winds and fatty wet snowflakes were more enjoyable from the window of the warm house than the bike seat. The next day I got a good early start and was able to send it100 kmon the relatively smooth dirt road along Bahia Inutil (Useless Bay). Among the attractions for the introductory ride of Tierra del Fuego were the abandoned fisherman shack on the beach were Andy spent his first night after his shifter cable broke, and a year-old whale carcass that the guys at the salmon protein plant had tipped me off about. But the short days got the best of me and it was already dark by the time I arrived at the pleasant enclosed shelter that Max, Andrew, and our buddy Nico had all recommended.
Another windless early start convinced me that I might as well go check out the pinguinero15 km in the wrong direction, and maybe stop in for lunch at the estancia of John George, a friend of Benja. I had heard that the penguinero was super expensive so I decided to avoid paying by entering at the river and then running along the beach. This was a cool way to go because as I approached the waddling mass of penguins I got to see a variety of other bird gangs thriving off the shoreline ecosystem, as well as a fox scavenging eggs. I didn’t want to disturb the penguins, so I sat down on the beach once I had a good view of them to observe from a distance. I was surprised when a group of about 15 swam over and emerged to sun bathe on the beach right in front of me. It was pretty awesome.
When I finally left the beach I found that the estancia that I was looking for, Tres Hermanos, was about five minutes from the river. Julio, the caretaker of the ciervos (european red deer) informed me that John George was out in the field, but invited me in for lunch. When John George came home he asked me if I wanted to go rock climbing, and I knew that I would have to stay for the night. When we went climbing, and he showed me the amazing fields of boulders that he owns on his property, I knew that I would have to stay for a few days. I tried to leave after a couple days on the estancia, but then John George offered to pay me to stay and help out with the big annual project of giving the sheep their winter hair cuts over the eyes and between the legs. With the good food (lamb chops for every meal), great company (John George is hilarious), potential for a film segment (localized material production), and opportunity to make a bit of cash for winter (preparing to be a ski bum), I knew that I had to stay for another week.
Seven days of sprinting back and forth sweeping up bits of wool left me sufficiently satisfied with my experience on the estancia. Another night in the roadside shelter got me back on the travel train, but I awoke with a shiver as the hut was surrounded in a chilling ice fog. Attempts to bicycle my body to a comfortable temperature failed when I hit a patch of black ice on the road and the bike slipped out from under me. I cleaned the bits of frozen mud off my bike while waiting for the sun to burn off the fog and thaw and dry the road.
By the time I crossed the border to Argentina the sun had set and it was time to retire the tires for the night. And who could have guessed that in late May in Tierra del Fuego I would spend the following four nights trying to keep from overheating while sleeping next to powerful space heaters? The first night in a waiting room at the border customs, complete with sink and stove for cooking, the second night with couchsurf hosts Ana and Diego after they treated me to homemade pizza de la piedra, the third night in the guesthouse of Estancia Viamonte with a pumping woodstove, and the fourth in the cyclists’ room at Panaderia La Union in Tolhuin, another treasure chest of cyclist culture. I have the noble fearless leader of the G-Boyz Nico Provenzani to thank for tipping me off on three of those four locations. And Andy actually laid the groundwork for the other one, the couchsurf host in Rio Grande, although he didn’t even get to stay there after his 140 km day inspired by expectations for a warm bed. Andy also stayed at the Panaderia in Tolhuin but it was Max that told us about it in the first place. It’s a popular spot for many ciclists’ final night of their journeys.
But, like Chris, I wasn’t going to let my final night be a non-campout. After a two year camping trip I had to make sure to finish it off right, in the tent. A frantic 50 km push from Tolhuin showed me the gorgeous Lago Fagnano and Rio Indio where Chris spent his last night before I made it to Lago Escondido. It was frantic because I was worried that I was going to get snowed on and wanted to at least make it to the police station that Andy had noted before I called it a day. But as I sipped coffee and dried out my sweaty clothes at the Civil Defense Corps station at Lago Escondido, the sun popped out and those ominous looking clouds I was scared of started to burn off. My last big climb through Paso Garibaldi to the other side of the Tierra del Fuego mountain range was spectacular, and completely surpassed my expectations from the rest of the ATripSouth reports, which all described as “real nice”.
Slowly working up the mellow grade, surrounded by fresh sparkling snow and the sun on my back, the mountains that I hoped to call home for the next couple months welcomed me in with bright shining smiles. Between compulsive photo snapping of potential ski lines I laughed my way to the top of the pass and dropped south into the shadows of the Valle Tierra Mayor. I arrived at the base of Cerro Castor, the local ski resort, as the evening light took over and found a nice patch of grass that hadn’t gotten covered in snow yet because of the small roof built to protect the welcoming sign. It seemed like a fitting place to finish the camping trip.
That night I got rocked by some intense westerly warm winds and was a bit sad when I emerged from the tent to see that all the fluffy snow of the day before had become icy slush pits. But I am an Eaglecrest kid so it didn’t faze me too hard. I took the last 25 km of the trip super chilled out, enjoying the new perspectives that each turn in the road gave of the epic mountains and stopping frequently to meet the neighbors and ask about work opportunities. Eventually I made it to the pearly gates of Ushuaia and plunged into the city to find Ariana, my couchsurfing host.
And that was that. ATripSouth was done. I mean, I could have kept going south if I really wanted to. I’ve heard that Puerto Williams, on the other side of the Beagle Canal, has some good roads for bicycling. And I could kayak to Cape Horn if I was feeling extreme. Or sail to Antarctica. But Ushuaia seemed like a good place to stop. After all that’s what all the other dudes did. Chris arrived in spring with the first wave of southbound cyclists of the season and met some friendly locals to party with. Max rode into town in summer and got to go snorkeling with some wild Ushuaians. Andrew crossed the finish line in autumn just in time to celebrate with some of our greatest travel companions from the road, amigos that we all hope to share future adventures with. And I made it in exactly one month after Andrew, right as winter seemed to be closing the door on the cycling season. I’ve already made a handful of local friends that I am pumped to share a few months with down here, and if you count the mountains as friends then its way more than a handful.
Yep, the four of us each finished in our own way, at our own time. There is absolutely no way that any of us could have done the majority of the journey without the others; it was a group effort (that was mostly effortless) for almost the entirety. But in the end we were the same essential ingredients that we started as, four different kids that just wanted to see what the south was like. We saw what we wanted to see and learned how to keep ourselves content. And found the roads south that lead back home.
Thi-dibbity-dibbity-dabbity-dab-tha-that´s all folks! (como el Porky Pig entiendes?)
Thanks so much to everyone who helped make this journey happen! This one goes out to all of our friends and family that supported us along the way.
The Carretera Austral was like our kayak trip through the Inside Passage, but on bikes. Mountains, glaciers, rivers, and forests in all directions, easy campsites with all the amenities, and the peace of mind that only great wilderness can bring. Riding through Patagonia brought back pleasant memories from the early days of ATripSouth, reminding us to thank Seaward Kayaks, whose support we could not have left home without.
On the ferry back to the mainland from Chiloe Island we met up with two other bikers and a couple badass backpackers. Having extra company on the beautiful boat ride helped make getting busted in the crews quarters trying to take the first real shower in two weeks a little easier to cope with. Sharing food and laughs almost distracted us from the new landscape we would soon be adventuring on with our bikes and before we knew it we were docked up in Chaiten with an incredible view of Corcovado.
We found out one of the two bikers we met would have a birthday the next day and it was quickly decided that we would all camp out together on the beach and have a carrete (Chilean slang for party). Gathering people on the way brought our number up to around 20 and the scene was set for a night of good times. Several tents were within sight of the powerful fire and at midnight we were able to sing to birthday boy and watch him blow out a few candles before finding sleep in the tents and around the fire.
People slowly took off one by one the next day until, of course, it was down to just Kanaan and Andy sitting on the beach getting sunburned. Eventually the dehydration became overwhelming and we too decided to take off. Stoked to be enjoying what we knew would be the last bit of pavement for a while, we had a relaxed ride on our first bit of the famous Carretera Austral.
Although we were still in Chile it felt like we had crossed a border and were in a new country. Beautiful landscapes everywhere and epic mountains all around grabbed our attention and soon night overpowered the day before we could arrive at the camp spot our dude and fellow A Trip Souther Chris had previously recommended to us. As usual we found ourselves under a bridge cooking on a fire before catching our nightly zzz’s.
We had high hopes for the next day but Life again let us know that he thought our plan was crap. Flat tires and a broken chain not only told us that our sturdy steeds weren’t as strong as we recently thought, but also helped Life shorten the total distance of the day to a very impressive 20 kilometers. It’s rare that we take the time to realize the crazy things that happen on our trip, but we shared a couple minutes of appreciation that evening. Camping in the plaza with a French couple and a German fellow while there were two groups of young adults partying with loud music, wild dogs barking non-stop at two grazing horses, and a herd of cattle mooing their way across the grass put us in our place and let us know we weren’t in Kansas anymore.
Life hit us hard with another right jab the next day. Kanaan’s stem broke on his front tube while riding on the worst road of the trip. Fist sized boulders as far as the eye could see was our task of the day. Well, we aren’t into that, so Andy stuck his golden thumb out while Kanaan switched in a new tube. The van ride was rough and although other cyclists we talked to later were stoked on themselves for having the miserable time riding it, we were stoked on ourselves for having the wind flying through the windows while skipping the obscene heat and awful road.
When we got to Puyuhuapi the next morning Kanaan ran into three of our friends from the ferry and we decided to meet up at a glacier about 20 kilometers down the road. It was the day before Andy’s birthday and we were able to guilt them into camping with us. Stephanie, Candice, and Germany (Marlena) are three awesome chickadees and the pasta that chef Candy made was next level.
Waking up to 4 smiley faces and an oatmeal/peanut butter cake topped with homemade blueberry jam (from our family in Cucao) started Andy’s birthday off right. We saw the hitching ladies off and began our ride….TO THE TREASURE! When Chris, the Hinkle-Meister, finished the journey ahead of us a few months ago he sent us a list of info on what’s to come, including a hike to a special treasure he’d hidden for us. Unfortunately our lady friends were headed out as we were headed in and we found out they psyched us out hard by leaving a note at the entrance saying they had been in contact with Chris and added to the hunt.
The hike took us up to a lake fed by a glacier resting atop a nearly vertical rock wall. The view was spectacular but finally reaching the treasure after months of anticipation was the real excitement. Of course it was a nearly empty bottle of whiskey from Chris with Max’ lovely addition of a liter of boxed wine. Spirits were high as we made our way to the trailhead and found our German buddy Dominik waiting for us to cruise down the big hill together to paved road and another bridge campout. The depression of turning a quarter century finally wore off and everyone went to bed knowing it was an epic birthday.
Somehow the birthday surprises didn’t end on the 28th. When we arrived in Villa Mañihuales the next day we headed to the casa de ciclistas and reunited with the German, who started earlier than we did, and 7 other friends we’d met along the journey. Nicolas and Tatan who we first met in Baja, Mexico and then visited in their hometown of Alta Gracia, Argentina are now biking with Candela and Devin who we met in Alta Gracia and San Martin de los Andes. Along with those four we were amazed to see that Sarah and James from the UK had finally decided to recover from 18 months of parasites (they aren’t going to like that) and even more amazed that they left the casa de ciclistas in La Paz, Bolivia (or that). Unfortunately they were all joined by the speed talking Stephanie from Quebec. It was a shock to see familiar faces constantly popping out of different spots and the night was spent catching up with everyone and eating two delicious banana bread cakes that Stephanie had made for Andy’s birthday.
The reunion was short lived, everyone except us was heading to Coyhaique. Instead we decided to follow up on a connection in Puerto Aysen, given to us by a blog follower, Steve McGill. Within a minute of our arrival we were in the living room relaxing and drinking a cold beer. Gringo Bob and Andrea couldn’t have been more hospitable. Non-stop amazing food from Andrea, a very comfortable bed imported from the US, some great times on the water fishing, relaxing at their lodge in the campo, and their awesome company kept us fully satisfied before we got antsy for the road and took off for Coyhaique.
We didn’t get to Coyhaique until after 9PM and couldn’t get in touch with any of the three houses that said we could stay with them. Only Kanaan and Andy could screw up 3 connections at once. Eventually we got in touch with Boris and headed to his house to meet up with 10 other cyclists staying there. Nobody will be shocked when we tell you we stayed there for three nights instead of the one night we had planned. The vibes were too good and it was too easy to pretend that we had things to do before leaving. A few bike repairs, a gift box from our hitching friends, urban fruit picking, and rock climbing at the boulder behind the gas station completed the Coyhaique experience. In the evenings, insanely good flamenco guitar playing by Arom, funny stories and deciphering accents from South Korea, Germany, Chile, Holland, Ireland, Poland, and Spain kept us busy enough. But that annoying Carretera Austral was screaming at us to start moving again. So we tied up an Irish guy, Connor, and sent it back to the road as a crew of three.
Initially setting out as three, Andrew decided to snag a ride in order to visit some friends that would be passing through Chile Chico that day. He would end up spending two days with them at the house of a friend (Camila) of a friend (Benjamin). Meanwhile, Kanaan and Ireland found nothing but good times on the road. An amazing descent from the heights of Cerro Castillo, mate sessions with Leo Riquelme Torres, epic jam tastings, home brewed beer from an authentic German, and exploring the canyons of Puerto Ibañez kept Kanaan and Connor well entertained.
Camila and Andy welcomed Kanaan and Ireland off the boat and into town with a sign and two bags of Kanaan’s favorite cookes, Fruttigrans, which Andy picked up on his day trip to Argentina. Later that day we strapped up and did a bit of climbing with Camila and her buddy, Daniel. Turns out Camila and Daniel are the only local climbers in Chile Chico, but that doesn’t mean that Chile Chico is limited in its climbing options. Guiding us to some incredible sport routes, we were beyond stoked to take advantage of the opportunity to rope up and get high.
One day of climbing was not enough, so after another solid session, a pizza party, and some jam production from Camila´s orchard, we were off to continue the adventure south. Leaving Chile Chico with gusts of wind at our faces and steep, bumpy climbs made it difficult to get far, but didn’t stop us from appreciating the scenery. The following days would have the same difficult roads and amazing vistas, making it hard to cover much ground. Luckily the views of Lago General Carrera were outstanding, so it was enjoyable nonetheless. A full moon night ride with absolutely zero traffic and the same amount of wind put the cherry on the cake.
The 3rd day out of Chile Chico threw us another curveball; Kanaan’s front wheel stopped spinning. While Andy and Ireland stayed behind to slay some trout, Kanaan hitched ahead to Cochrane to figure out his bike issue. Mud getting into his hub caused the bearings to grind down and bring him to a halt. The hardware stores in town didn´t have the replacement parts he needed, but he found a temporary solution and was able to get the wheel moving again while staying with Couchsurfing hosts Camilo and Tomas. Andy and Ireland caught up the next day and stocked up for the 250 store-less kilometeres ahead. A solid night of rest in the house of Camilo and Tomas had us feeling good before hitting the Carretera Austral again the next day.
Before long we found ourselves, once again, separated. We decided that it would be better to get to Villa O’Higgins for the ferry that was leaving in three days, rather than for the ferry leaving in 10 days. Especially forceful in this decision was the fact that our brother of the road, Nico de Alta Gracia, was having his birthday party in O’Higgins the day before the ferry. Kanaan’s sketchy front wheel was also a heavy factor. After waking up in an awesome campsite we were able to flag down a truck that had room for just two, Kanaan and Connor. While those two gents scored a ride all the way to Puerto Yungay and another all the way to Villa O’Higgins, Andy was left alone and helpless. But he’s a survivor and made it to O’Higgins the next day with a combination of three rides and about 50 kilometers of hilly riding.
We hitched rides in order to make the once a week boat out of O’Higgins, but soon heard that it would be pushed back a day due to weather. This worked out perfectly, we met up with a bunch of biker friends from the road and enjoyed Nico’s Birthday without the pressure of a travel day looming. With no boat the next morning we could now celebrate properly. We coughed up the dough to spend a night camping at a hostel with everyone, and Nico made chicken for all of the 20 or so people at the hostel. The following day’s weather has as ugly as promised and everyone decided to black out the day off and we all came back to conciousness on the ferry with our bikes loaded and the crew untying the boat.
A beautiful 3 hour boat ride took us to the next stage of one of the more interesting border crossings of the trip. 15 kilometers of ‘road’ led to the border of Argentina, where the road ended. The departure from Chile was 7 kilometers of what could be a fun single track trail if we had different bikes and no bags. We camped halfway at the south end of Laguna Larga, a perfect wilderness campsite that even gave us a fish for dinner. Creek crossings, mud pits, and roots sticking up everywhere made for an interesting bike and hike to Lago del Desierto, the second lake of the route.
Another campsite at the south end of Lago del Desierto was quite pleasant until the next morning when we were rudely interupted by the police in the middle of cooking breakfast. They were furious that we had camped in a place that didn’t have a no camping sign and had made a fire on the lake shore that also lacked a no fire sign. Official “warnings” sent us on our way to El Chalten with empty bellies and a funny story of a ridiculous police officer. As it turned out our other biker friends also had some interesting run-ins with the same officer. He really wanted to make a name for himself with cyclists apparently.
A windy ride along the foot of Mount Fitz Roy put us in El Chalten, Argentina completing the odyssey that is the Carretera Austral. Known as the world capital of bicycle touring, it certainly lived up to its name. Arguably the most gorgeous leg of the trip, life on the Austral was pretty sweet. Despite technical difficulties on bikes that were not meant for that type of road, it was an unforgettable and thoroughly enjoyable experience.
El Chalten was a significant landmark for ATripSouth, as it was more than just the end of a great leg of the journey. In Chalten we celebrated the end of the Austral with a great group of friends from the road. Asados, treks in the hills, rock climbing sessions, and non-stop fiestas at Flor’s Casa de Ciclistas were great ways to enjoy a successful finish. We also celebrated the final days of ATripSouth as a group of two. Realizing our different intentions for the final part of the road to Tierra del Fuego, we decided to finish the last bit independently. Andy’s desire to get back home for summer was as strong as Kanaan’s desire to explore Southern Patagonia in winter. Therefore we agreed to go solo, much like our ATripSouth predecessors. So its like, all for one, one for all? Does that still apply? Trying to think of something epic to say to finish this blog…
So many photos to choose from this month, but the sheep hides in Cucao stood out in the end of the selection process. Our time on Chiloe Island gave us a unique view of Chilean culture, living with coastal people and learning their ways. This photo is dedicated to Aurora Projekt <http://auroraprojekt.
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…