Marble caves

Cochrane to Villa Cerro Castillo

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This is a bit less rainy stretch of Carretera and the green vegetation is mostly replaced with grasses and steppe. Nevertheless, it is quite beautiful and apart from biking I am enjoying marvelous side trips.

January 14

I am leaving Cochrane today. Originally I wanted to stay at least one full day here but the messenger of the God of Rain, i.e., the weather forecast tells me that tomorrow is very nice but the day after is going to be rainy in the morning. As I want to do hiking in Parque Patagonia (a rather new park, they are still in a progress of building its facilities) with a good weather, I need to get there today so that I could fully enjoy tomorrow. But before that there is something else to see -- this weekend is a big Rodeo in Cochrane and it would be shame to miss it.

The rodeo is a big event. This is because they are celebrating a newly built rodeo arena and horse stalls. As such, I hear there are gauchos (cowboys) from all over the Aysen here. But before the show starts, I hear some long opening ceremony speeches, see a local dance and realize with a long delay that I should be standing when the Chilean national anthem is being played.

All gauchos assembled
Lifting of the Chilean flag. This was happening during the hymn. Which is quite long so the lifting itself looked quite funny.Lifting of the Chilean flag. This was happening during the hymn. Which is quite long so the lifting itself looked quite funny.

The rodeo itself is a competition in "chasing" cows. Two gauchos form a team and they need to chase cow inside a small ring three times in a clockwise direction, then they enter a big arena, chase the cow there and should stop it. I am not exactly sure about details there because apparently that part is harder and there was more variation of what happened with different teams.

Rodeo itself. Gauchos are chasing cow around in a specified pattern.
Live traditional music
Gaucho boots with big spurs

After I finally start biking, it is late afternoon. But I have only 30 kilometers or so to go so not a big deal. And the ripio from Cochrane is very good (apart from one stretch). As I am climbing a small hill, I see a guanaco. Which is going to be a rather common sight once I start towards Parque Patagonia itself. As it is a sunny day the views are amazing. Especially because the road snakes above Rio Cochrane.

The road snakes above the river
A nice waterfall

Once I make it to the junction where I turn towards Parque Patagonia, the road is steep and not in a good condition. One part I am even pushing because it is too slippery on a bike. Before I arrive to camping West Winds (which is really a provoking name for cyclists) I am passing by a park Guarderia with so many guanacos around. Really, if you want to see guanacos, this is the place. And I am meeting a skunk. In the camping I am again meeting with Moritz and Marta. They were wondering where did I disappear as they left Cochrane after me but arrived here sooner.

A lone guanaco
The views are much better than the road itself
Skunk trying to chase me away

January 15

I am starting my planned Lagunas route hike. I see some nice birds but they are not very friendly with my camera. And it is a bit cloudy which is only good because soon I will start some climb.

This bird stayed long enough for a photo
The beginning of the trail is very easy

As I am slowly climbing up, the nature slowly changes. Down in the camping was nice grass, right now I have dandelions after blooming and I wonder what will be the next. And I think I see small puma but I am not exactly sure, it quickly disappears.

Once I am at the top of the climb, I am having lunch at a vista point. Or more precisely, behind some rock because it is too windy and chilly there. And then I see the first lagoon and start my slow descent. 

Vista point over Valle Chacabuco
A green circle
The first lagoon is the biggest

The road curves itself along woods, meadows, rocks and lagoons and as the evening approaches, the thickness of clouds slowly increases. Nevertheless I am deciding to prolong my hike a few kilometers and go along guarderia again to watch the guanacos.

Another lagoon
A herd of guanacos near the guarderia
The last kilometer or so is nice but I am very tired by now

January 16

The rain comes sooner than my forecast told. Instead of starting in the morning, it already started during the night and it wasn't very light. In any case I have a slow start today but that is fine as I have around 110 kilometers to Rio Tranquilo which is basically two easier days. I am descending back to the intersection and then a bit more. And my high hopes of a good road just end there -- after I cross a bridge the road turns a bit less stellar. And I have headwind. Plus the road is first a climb and then a constant small up and down.

Saying goodbye to guanacos ...
... and stellar views
Not such-a-great uphill

While it was a bit raining around the noon, the weather clears. And I see a helipocter transferring some building material. It makes its roundtrips as I am slowly cycling along the way. The road continues along Rio Baker and the views are very nice. Even better, I am making a small detour and visit confluencia of Rio Baker and Rio Neff on foot. The place is just stunning as you can see a massive rapids and mixing of colors.

A helicopter constantly flying around
Looking at Rio Baker
La Confluencia
When the waters of two rivers with contrasting colors meet ...

By the end of the day, I am passing Puerto Bertrand -- a small but rather good looking village. I am getting some small stocks of food there and meeting my German friends again. Moritz happened to have a bad luck and he broke a saddle screw for which we don't have a replacement because this is a part that rarely breaks. They will stay in the village and try an alternative fix. I am continuing further -- I want to do a small climb for the end of the day and make at least a few more kilometers. Which also happens because I am hardpressed on finding a good camping spot on the descent. Instead, I am finding a place along a lake and it is quite good.

Views from the last climb of the day
My camping spot on the lakeside

January 17

The night was unexpectedly windy. It was a good thing that I secured the tent with big rocks in the evening. And the morning starts with a drizzle so I don't know what I should be thinking about it. In any case, I got a visit -- a road worker from the road works just beside the road just showed up to say hello as my tent was visible from the one part of the road.

As I start the day, I see an unexpected show -- around 10 exactly the same shiny white Mazda cars pass me in an opposite direction. Probably some demo tour or something. And I am meeting a Japanese couple cycling from Puerto Montt and having a good time. Although, they are pushing the uphill. Interesting. I thought that descent is not so steep ...

The rest of the day is marked by my way along two big lakes -- Lago and Lago General Carrera (A fun fact: Chileans and Argentinians cannot even agree on naming lakes. It is called Lago Buenos Aires in Argentina). The way winds up and down along the shore until I come against a flat stretch that goes inland. Which is probably of the same difficulty because there is a headwind.

A not-so-small island on Lago General Carrera
A local viewpoint over Lago Bertrand. Lago General Carrera in the distance
This is actually a river flowing out of Lago General Carrera

At the most inland-ish point, there is a bridge where I am meeting a brazilian guy with whom takes a selfie of us and we discuss about the road. We could not select a worse discussion point though because this is the most windiest place. Afterwards I am rewarded by a bit of tailwind and last ascent -- about 200 meters -- from which there are perfect views of the Lago General Carrera and mountains around it.

When two waters of different colors meet
Enjoying the last ascent of the day
Lago General Carrera is really huge. You can see only a tiny part of it.

On my way down to Puerio Rio Tranquilo I am stopping by around five kilometers before the town. There is a steep one kilometer long road ending at the lake level. I am taking this road because there should be a place from which one can kayak to marble caves, my plan for the next day. And according to the information table it also has a small camping. Basically, a good spot for the evening. The only question in my head is -- if this is not the place, how the heck I am going to push the bike upwards (the ripio is very steep and even going down is not very fun in the expectation of sudden slips of the bike)? 

January 18

I was preparing my expectations of today for a few weeks now. Apparently the mother nature is quite a good sculpturer and the lake created different formations when dissolving the marble rocks over the years. You can take a boat there from Puerto Rio Tranquilo, or take a kayak from here (note: taking a kayak from the town is super expensive and the kayak tour anyway starts at the place where I started). So in the morning I am joining a kayaking tour and getting a sorry excuse for a kayak (the thing is more like a plastic surfboard on which you sit than a fast kayak) but despite the poor speed I like it because it has good stability for taking photos. 

Morning views from my campsite

The marble marvels I am going to visit are La Capilla, La Cathedral and La Cueva. The weather is good (a slight breeze) and in about 20 minutes we are already kayaking around and under these fascinating earth creations which have an age of around 200 million years.

I am so fascinated by them that I even take a selfie. And by a sheer amount of luck I am meeting Moritz and Marta again -- they are on a boat tour and as they pass along our small group they take pictures of me.

Hmm, how is it possible that the rock still stands?
Exploring the holes and caves
The promised selfie
Inside the cave

After the kayak tour which gave us plenty of time to experience the marbles creations I am back at the land, packing my things and planning on how do I go up the yesterday's kilometer. Fortunately I got a lift of most my things by a car which is good -- even with unloaded bike the road is barely bikeable and physically tough. When I got up, my things are already waiting me there and the wind as well. Fortunately, I am not going to battle it too much today.

Next I stop in Puerto Rio Tranquilo to do some grocery shopping. Which I do in three different supermarkets as it takes me several tries to locate the biggest supermarket in the village which contains at least some selection of useful food.

The main square of Puerto Rio Tranquilo

As I continue further my first technical problem suddenly appears. As I am changing the gears, I manage to snap a chain. Expect, when I look at it closer, it is not only chain as the chain somehow hooked the front derailer and it bent and broke it by a sheer force. I have quite some trouble getting the chain off the bike and then I am trying to fix the derailer by bending it with pliers to approximately the same shape as before. Which mostly works so after the fight I am able to continue with a functional derailer. I am happy though that Coyhaique --- de facto the capital of Patagonia -- is coming in around 200 kilometers.

The broken derailer (after I bent it back)

Technical sidenote: Breaking the front derailer is not an end of the world. In the worst case you can remove the whole derailer and just keep the chain on the same front wheel. And sometimes maybe manually switch the chain to a different front gear by hand. Moritz actually uses his bike like this (but he has 11 gears at the back which are basically meant for a single front speed anyway. I have only 9 and I would be slightly missing the range). On the other hand, breaking the rear derailer usually means trouble. The only thing you can do is fix your bike to (for a chain not very natural) smallest-smallest gear combination and ride it as a single-speed bike. This could work for a flat road but definitely won't work if there are some hills (and there almost always are some small hills on the road).

The rest of the day the weather is a bit gloomy and the road is of varying quality. There is a nice "tree tunnel" around Bahia Murta but afterwards a rocky-sandy road starts. As I will learn later, this is probably because of an active road works.

A nice waterfall
I still do not know what are these birds. But they make quite specific noises
A tree tunnel

I am finding a not exactly excellent camping spot just behind the road but I am taking it as it is getting a bit late, I did more kilometers than I planned to and I am tired anyway. At least the weather gets a bit better -- while there are slitt heavy clouds, at least there is not rain nor drizzle for the evening.

Evening views and the road are not that spectacular

January 19

The drizzle actually starts at 6 am but by the time I am leaving the campsite it subsides again. I am waving Moritz and Marta who are camping just a few kilometers from the spot I stayed for the night. They are lazy in the morning and this time it is going to be their grave mistake.

I need to climb a small pass -- around 500 meters. On my way I am meeting three cyclists, one of the Czech so we stay and talk for a bit. He was quite unfortunate -- he broke the metal piece which holds the back derailer around 50 kilometers after he started. It was probably bent by the transport or something. In any case, this proved to be quite some trouble because while the derailer itself is a standard part, different bike frames have special derailer hangers. Fortunately, there we able to fit (with some twiddling) hanger from some other bike model and he was able to continue. But it definitely wasn't a good start of the trip. Fortunately for me, my friends from Pro Cycling warned me about this beforehand and so I actually carry two spares exactly for my bike (even in Slovakia it took some time to get them, the Slovak Merida distributor didn't have them so they needed to ship it from Czech Republic).

Last flat parts before the ascent

I then climb a rather steep part of the pass through a very nice green forest with lots of mosses, ferns and other cold-and-wet-loving plants. The drizzle adds a bit to the magic of the forest but the views are restricted by just near the road.

The ascent leads through a green forest

The top of the pass and slow descent is marked by a super-uber ripio. It rolls very smoothly and is very nice to ride. But as everything good, it does not last too long. After I am down from the pass the road turns out to be rocky and not that fun to ride. The road curves along a river and passes around a dead forest. And I am getting a first glimpse of mountains around Villa Cerro Castillo.

And the green descent. See the ripio? It is perfect.
A dead forest

Next I meet a couple of cyclists who started at Uruguay and are going south now. They have a very relaxed tempo though. And the guy is even carrying a small guitar at the back of his bicycle! Shortly after I have another climb, this time unexpected and on a bad road. Which gets even worse after a while and I see a reason -- there is a construction works ahead and a machine like snow plow is going in the opposite direction. Except that it does not sweep snow but all the rocks from the ripio. This presumably fixes holes and wavy parts of the road but is not a good place for cyclist passing there right after they finish the work. Which is, as I learning later at a camping, exactly what happened to Moritz and Marta. The uphill part I did on a decent road was totally sandy and unrideable for them -- first the saw half a road being in a bad condition but then there was a plowing machine going on the so-far-good lane as well and that was the end of a good climb for them -- they had to do 5 kilometers of this fresh road which required sometimes pushing and definitely more work than my easy ride in the morning.

Views are getting quite scenic near Villa Cerro Castillo


Loading map...

Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
Pedal rotations
bike 269 3.8 57
hike 26 1.1 -
kayak 4 0.0 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Jan. 14, 2017 31.0 0.63 23.5
Jan. 15, 2017 24.4 1.06 18.4
Jan. 16, 2017 58.9 0.96 18.6
Jan. 17, 2017 52.5 0.83 17.9
Jan. 18, 2017 53.3 0.62 14.0
Jan. 19, 2017 79.0 0.83 15.1

Elevation data

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(drag over a region to zoom in, right-click reset)

The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 102.6
< 4 16.3 27.4
< 6 9.9 11.0
< 8 7.1 6.9
< 10 4.7 5.0
≥ 10 9.8 9.3

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