Posted by: paulgilders | February 5, 2012

Week 3

Well we’ve had a week without an Internet connection, but a lot to report. We are now in the little town of La Junta, which is a pretty snazzy and upmarket tourist town by Chilean standards.

Some highlights from the last week or so are as follows:

Castro

We spent 2 nights in the town of Castro in preparation for our scheduled ferry crossing to the mainland from Chiloe. The town is quite pleasant, but we had variable weather. Fortunately we stayed in a cheap hotel and spent most of our time going between cafes out of the rain.

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We make our way to the ferry early to ensure that we have no issues with the bikes and find shelter from the rain. A number of other cyclists arrive before our midnight departure – from France, Italy, Austria and Switzerland. We are a good social bunch and all have similar aims, but differing timeframes.

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The ferry leaves bang on midnight. It is not very full, so we are able to get some sleep across the seats. We have a delayed arrival, however, apparently due to weather, although conditions don’t appear to be bad. We wait in the shelter of some small islands offshore until conditions improve.

Chaiten

The town of Chaiten isn’t exactly your beautiful tourist location, but we stayed for a couple of days and we are glad we did. Firstly we needed to recover from the boat trip after incomplete sleep. We selected the cheapest of lodgings and stayed in a shed – slightly more shelter than a tent, but a bit more drafty!

Just 10 kms north of the town of Chaiten is a volcano (Chaiten volcano) that erupted only 4 years ago (I certainly don’t remember it reported on the news). The eruption itself caused localized damage. The force of the blast snapped tree tree trunks, ash was shot up into the air and molten rock was scattered around the volcano. However, the main damage was caused by large quantities of mud that was sent down the river. The river became clogged and caused the mud and water into the town of Chaiten itself. The whole town was covered in about 3-4ft of silt.

As if this weren’t bad enough, for 2 years after this event, the government apparently provided no assistance to the people of Chaiten, who had to take it upon themselves to dig their homes out. Many homes still don’t have power and whilst the core of the town has been cleared of mud, there are still areas of the town that are inundated. You can also imagine the remaining issues with stormwater drainage.

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When we arrived in Chaiten, we were greeted by a multilingual chap called Nicolas who turned out to be an extremely knowledgeable host. We took one of his bus tours to see the volcano (it is still active) and also to see two parts of the beautiful Pumillin park.

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Hot springs

After our time in Chaiten, we headed south. The first bit of road was beautiful Tarmac and we made good progress – cruising at 30 km/h.

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Insert Tarmac riding photo

The latter part of the day was a great deal harder with some rolling roads to the campsite at the hot springs. It rained most of the day until the evening.

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Wild camping

The following day was really hard work. We cycled (and pushed) for about 8 hours – averaging a massive 3 km/h and didn’t make it to our expected destination. We went over a significant pass and once over the top (at 9:15pm) we looked for somewhere to wild camp. We ended up on a gravel track above the road – we didn’t care!

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The following day all was forgotten when the sun came out. We plodded on, but in every direction was picture postcard scenery and we passed many idyllic small farms. Cattle, goats and even pigs wandered across the road.

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We decided to wild camp again at 5pm after finding out that the campsite on our map doesn’t exist. Our early stop allows us some time to dry the tent and have a wonderful refreshing wash in the nearby stream.

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Birthday

The next day (yesterday and my birthday) isn’t quite so nice. Here is Poppy and me having birthday breakfast. We were so low on supplies, I even had porridge!

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The rest off the day is a hard slog to the town of La Junta. We need to get there because we are low on food. During the day, we have spent 6 hours in cold and wet weather – averaging 8 km/h. We immediately book into a nice cabin for two nights to recover and dry out.

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This is my birthday cake for this year – I’m actually older than that. The girls did take me out for dinner at the local restaurant which was heaven!

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