Huemul

Villa o'Higgins to Cochrane

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My first part of Carretera Austral -- the "south road" in Chile which was finished only about 20 years ago --- goes from Villa o'Higgins to Cochrane. You can immediatelly see a big change from pampa as this part is really green. Of course, there is a reason behind things being green, namely it rains here a lot. I have been meeting cyclist from the opposite direction having two weeks of rain so I hope to be on the luckier side.


January 8


In Villa o'Higgins I am staying in El Mosco camping -- I think this is perhaps the most famous camping along the Carretara as every cyclist whom I met was recommending it to me. And it is true -- the place is nice and you have a very good feel when you arrive there. Maybe the only problem is the Internet connection which is super sketchy at best. Unfortunately, this cannot be easily fixed -- if I understand correctly, the whole village is connected via a satellite connection (and I verified that the minimal ping time to Google is 500 ms with average around 800 ms) and it is probably overloaded as it is not responding very well most of the time. All in all, not a good thing to update a blog but nevertheless I am staying there for a day.

The same decision makes the French couple I met two days before on a way across Lago del Desierto and a German couple -- Marta and Moritz -- whom I first time met on my way from Ushuaia to Tolhuin though I did not stop to chat at a time. They were traveling from Buenos Aires down to Ushuaia (skipped some part with a bus), then took a ferry to Punta Arenas and from there basically following the same route as me. I actually met them for a second time in Casa Rosada and I am learning that it was them on the top of the pass between Argentina and Chile. If you want, you can check out their blog at latinamerica.bike though it is falling behind and it is mostly in German.

Tom and Harry do not share our sense of relaxing and they want to start today. But as the day progresses and they are slow at getting ready, a rain starts and in the end they will also stay for one more night.



January 9


I am having a relaxed morning as I am waiting till 10 am till the panaderia opens. Unfortunately, the lady lied yesterday when I was asking the opening times as the shop is still closed when I go and check it. I am trying an alternative place to buy bread in the next camping but they will have bread only in the evening. Fortunately, I am directed to an old lady who bakes a bread and thus I am getting 12 pieces of freshly baked bread -- the only thing I was waiting for before I can get out of the town. (Note: Bread here means a small round thing about the size of a hamburger bread, though not so thick and with a bit more decent taste).


In the end I am leaving Villa o'Higgins at 10:45 am and I am planning to go only 50 km because I have heard from a Swiss couple staying in El Mosco that there is a free refugio there. I am passing a bridge over Rio Bravo and then cycling along Lake Cisnes with some ups and downs until I have a lunch break at a green forest.


A bridge over Rio Mayer
The road goes along Lago Cisnes
One of many waterfalls along the road
Lunch break

After the lunch it slowly starts raining. And raining even more. Before I realize it is raining too heavily, my "waterproof" jacket is soaked through and there is no point in getting out the raincoat. Instead, I am continuing with the hope of refugio. By the time I should be there, I am starting to be nervous. Will I see it? Because camping in this weather things on me currently wet is not a very pleasant thought.

At the kilometer where the refugio should be, I see a farmer house and I go ask there. A small boy is promptly directing me to the refugio which is another kilometer or so down the road.


The refugio is great. And even better, both Tom and Harry and Moritz and Marta are there and most importantly, there is a fire. I am drying my clothes on it and it takes quite some time until I stop steaming off all the water. I have a big dinner and I am mostly ready for the bed (ehm, the sleeping mat) when two more people arrive. One of them is this weird guy who travels for over two years now and does it super-low-cost.


Warming up in the refugio

January 10


Morning looks ok so far. We say goodbye to the cyclists going south and start the day with an ascent. The clouds look like it is going to rain at any moment but in the end the weather holds. At the top of the second climb I manage to catch up with Moritz and Marta and we have lunch. It is even a bit sunny for the moment.


Ready to go
Harry waiting for Tom to get some water
Marta and Moritz on the ascent
A lunch break

The way downhill is nice. But cold. There is a lot of wind and wind here usually isn't very warm. After the descent there is a lot of flat rolling through a lot of greenery. There are ferns, mosses and other very green plants along the road.


Finally I arrive at Rio Bravo ferry terminal. Here I catch up with my friends and we wait for the ferry to Puerto Yungay. Surprisingly, the ferry is free of charge because it is a necessary part of the road. And while we arrive at the other side early for a full day of biking, all of us are staying there. This is because there is an amazing waiting room there and nobody wants to leave such a good place for overnight stay.


It is hard to get greener than here
Waiting for a ferry at Rio Bravo
And the ferry ride itself

We are watching the cyclists going the other way, as they stop by in a restaurant. Which actually contains a small shop as well. And they have freshly baked cakes there which are really good bargain for the price -- the big piece of cake costs only CLP$2000 and it tastes very yummy. We also learn that the village has three permanent habitants -- the old lady from the restaurant and her daughter and a husband. There are a bit more people there but they are on rotations (e.g., soldiers and ferry workers currently stationed there).


Puerto Yungay ferry waiting room

January 11


To warm up in the morning I need to ascent 400 meters and some parts are very steep. Afterwards there is a nice descent and I am back almost to the level of the sea. I am definitely losing Tom and Harry because the weather looks nice to garant a side-trip to Caleta Tortel. But before that I have a quick lunch at a bus stop.

Nice part of the descent
Traditional lunch break

The road to Tortel is not a good though. As a Jedi I would say "This is not a road that take you want to". Basically, there is 20 kilometers of sand-ish road with little rocks, lots of sediments and lots of waves. Which definitely garants for a slow and bumpy progress. But the village is worth the ride. It is very specific as it is built on top of wooden platforms. Once you start walking, you basically won't leave a wooden walkway.

Drive slowly ...
Welcome to Caleta Tortel
Wooden walkways
Even houses are built on top of platforms
The wood is really an integral part of this village

In the evening I go back 20 kilometers and camp "inside" a bus stop.

My tent so-so fits there

January 12


So far it does not look so but today should be a nice day. In the morning it is slightly drizzling so I am leaving a bit later than I wanted. In any case, the clouds aren't really thick and I am going in a good direction. In the end there is no rain in the morning. And I am having a lunch at my standard place -- some bus stop. I again meet with Marta and Moritz while they have their lunch at a viewpoint over a river.

Distant glaciers

Afternoon there is a bit of a rain but not much. I am more annoyed not by the rain but by the fact that I see some glaciers in the past and through the drizzle it is not 100% clear. But the weather plays a game with me and it gets sunny after a while. Basically when after a second lunch stop I decide to make it over a small pass before the day ends. But at least there is a wind which cools down the ascent. The Germans catch up with me and we are climbing the pass when we suddenly see a Huemul -- a mythical animal which looks like a cross between a dear and mountain goat. I keep hearing about Huemul-s (especially on road signs warning about too fast driving) for a long time but this is the first time I see one and it is very nice.

Huemul. A mythical animal which you hear about from everywhere but encounter only very rarely (at least in my experience)
The road is snaking above two big lakes

I still have around 30 kilometers to go to Cochrane but I am taking it easily and planning to reach it tomorrow. Instead, I am finding a campsite with a perfect view over a lake and distant mountains.

Go no more. This is a place good for pitching a tent and the views are just incredible.

January 13


The views are perfect in the morning. I wake up really early and I see the mountains lighted by a combination of moonlight and dusk. Because I got out of the bed so early, I start cycling at 8 am when some clouds appear over my head. Basically, a time to go. The day is nice, I am meeting a German guy who biked here from Peru through Uruguay, Paraguay, ... and is going down to Ushuaia.


Moon and mountains
And big glaciers
The road takes me along Laguna Esmeralda

I arrive to Cochrane early afternoon and I actually end up in a same camping as Moritz and Marta -- what a nice coincidence.


Cochrane church
A nice park walk
Cochrane river

Route

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Download simplified GPX of a route here

Stats by activity:

Activity Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Pedal rotations
(thousands)
bike 269 2.7 52
boat 9 0.0 -
stroll 6 0.0 -
Stats by day:
Date Distance
(km)
Ascent
(km)
Avg. temp
(moving, C)
Jan. 9, 2017 52.8 0.36 8.7
Jan. 10, 2017 54.5 0.56 10.3
Jan. 11, 2017 68.7 0.73 14.2
Jan. 12, 2017 76.2 0.87 15.6
Jan. 13, 2017 31.0 0.25 15.1

Elevation data

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The next table is only for cycling activity.

Grade(%)Ascent (km)Descent(km)
< 2 133.8
< 4 14.7 20.1
< 6 7.3 8.4
< 8 5.2 6.9
< 10 3.3 2.9
≥ 10 7.5 7.9

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