On the road, with first six days of TDA completed and a welcome rest day in Coyhaique. The scenery is stunning. The cycling is challenging and I’m having fun cycling as part of a larger group, though I am one of the slowest cyclists on this trip.
Day One – Hornopiren
I brought my “permanent” bag to the pile to be loaded and started with a familiar pattern. We each have two bags of luggage – a “permanent” bag that we only see at rest days and a “temporary” bag that contains things we use every day, e.g. tent, sleeping bag and cycling clothes. I separated out my panniers and got everything ready to go.
We had a rider meeting at breakfast and then were off on the road. Our first days cycling would bring us another 102km down the road, across one ferry and about 20km of gravel.
The contrast with a supported ride and self-supported was apparent when each rider was handed an envelope with the toll for the ferry (they couldn’t buy or pay tickets in advance and riders would reach the ferry at different times). I thought it was mostly funny as otherwise I would have just ridden to the ferry and figured it out, but not someone had worked this piece of logisitics out and given each rider their toll. My job is now much simpler, take my notes from the white board, follow the flagging tape and ride. When that is done, ride some more.
The first 46km was paved and mostly along the sea shore. These guys were hauling out large bouys. I think there is some sort of commercial farming of mussels or similar seafood.
Boats along the shore.
Without much troubles, reached the ferry. We were given a bag with three empanadas for lunch. We then waited for a ferry. Somehow the ferry operators let two go by before we could load.
Riding on the other side after taking a photo of the road sign.
More of these great small town churches.
Then it got a bit more difficult as we went onto gravel roads and through construction zones. The hills were sometimes steep and my cycle computer reported 12% a few times. However, without too much difficulty arrived at camp and got some soup, set up my tent and started with rhythm of TDA. Dinner was excellent by the way and a step up from my own things I was eating before. The cook on this trip was also on Africa TDA trip in 2013.
Day Two – Caleta Grande
A day for ferries with only 2km of cycling.
Today was two ferry rides with a 10km separation between them. As it was explained, the timing was critical as 30 minutes after the ferry arrived on one side, another would depart on the other. 30 minutes later another would leave. So one had to either be able to cycle this unknown gravel road quick enough to avoid missing the ferry – or let TDA take your bike and go as a passenger. About half the riders chose each open and I was in the half that decided to be a passenger rather than a kamikaze rider.
We had plenty of time to wait at the docks. I rode down for just 2 km for the day.
The first ferry ride was several hours through some spectacular fjords. Definitely got a sense that we were headed to the carreterra austral now.
Riders about to start their 10km dirt race. As it turned out, all cyclists made it to the first ferry. There were slightly more than 30 minutes in between. The road was very dusty and folks cycled quickly. I was still happy with my choice.
It was a great little camp aross a small suspension bridge.
Day Three – Lago Yelcho
It was a beautiful ride today that started very rugged but had a mix of a lot of different road surfaces.
The first 20km looked a lot like this. Gravel roads, sometimes steep little hills at 12%-14% but “way far out” riding through a rainforest area.
At 20km here was an overlook looking over Lago Negro.
Then of course we had the construction zone. This one wasn’t as bad as the unconstructed road we had starting out. It had been rainy this morning. This kept the dust down, but it wasn’t until afternoon that we first saw the sun. We had lunch at small town of Chaiten.
While it didn’t feel like it, this small village considered themselves the center of the world.
These South Africans were walking the carreterra austral. Typically covering 40km per day.
Great suspension bridges.
Lago Yelcho was a great camp with a lodge (even with wifi) and a nice campground.
Great views across the lake. Overnight a storm came through.
Day Four – El Silencio ranch
Another challenging day with 111km of cycling including 25km of gravel. It was a full day of cycling.
Let me describe the morning routine: It is daylight at least 15 hours now. I wake up at 6 am and pack my tent as well as all my gear before breakfast at 7 am. I hand my temporary bag to one of the staff. Breakfast is muesli, porridge and we can make sandwiches for along the way as well. By 7:30 am I am on the road and riding to start the day. We cycle until the “lunch stop” where one of the buses has stopped with fixings for sandwiches.
It started out wet again today. We had a 500m climb to start the day including 3km of gravel road and 3km where our side was concrete and the other side was still gravel.
After this a descent to Santa Lucia where I found this little church.
Seems like a wet rainforest here with a lot of little waterfalls.
Another road construction zone before lunch. In half a dozen years this road will have a lot more asphalt.
Cyclist crossing one of the bridges.
Hooray, pavement starts!
Some of the peaks along the way.
We stayed on this farm. The owners made lamb on a spit and entertained with song. After this, I think most of the camp was in tents and likely asleep by sunset (9pm).
Day Five – Villa Amengual
Tough ride today that started cold. There was a bit of ice on my rims and my cycle computer went to -1C in the first part of the ride.
This was first time I saw the sun over the valley walls, hooray!
We came through a small town at 22km, with great views.
There was road construction, so we were directed onto a small ferry for 2km to bypass the construction. This meant and extra wait.
After this mostly cycling on good gravel until lunch at 54km. It was then fairly flat before another ~400m climb up and over a low hill. I decided to cheat here and when the lunch bus came past, stopped and got a ride over this hill. I wasn’t the only one and it meant I was going to get into camp before 5pm instead of after.
Paved road on the other side.
It was great little ride into camp. So far, none of our riding has had less than 1300m of climb and a few have a bit more.
Day Six – Coyhaique
Our last day cycling into a rest day. Today it was entirely on asphalt! A nice luxury though it was 146km (>90 miles) with 1500m (5000ft) of climbing. So it was a tough day. I was last rider into camp, but had a great ride today.
One of the lakes we passed this morning.
Can you spot the cyclist?
A day for great views.
At 58km we came past a small village set in this valley.
A lot of lupines. Also red and yellow flowers.
Bridge on a side road.
At 71km the road split. We took the road to the right, staying on asphalt. The road to the left was shorter, but a gravel road.
We still see occasional small houses here.
We’re passing with other cycle tourists here was well. There is less occasion to stop and compare notes since I don’t have my own gear, but good example of these short hills along with some traffic. More traffic today on the last bit heading to Coyhaique, though still not bad.
Last few kilometers had climbing on these paving stones. Rough and a steep climb.
Looking down and across into Coyhaique from top of the hill.
Overall it was a long ride and I wasn’t into our hotel until 5:30 pm. A disadvantage of being a slower rider is the laundry service told me they couldn’t take my clothes, though I did talk to someone from the hotel. We’ll have a rest day here tomorrow before continuing from here southbound.
The plan is five cycling days from here to O’Higgins at end of the Carretera Austral. The first day should be asphalt and after that, it will be all dirt. Each day is >100km except for the last at only 99km. It will be at least as remote as what we’ve seen so far, so not quite sure of when I’ll have a connection for the next update.
Otherwise enjoying my trip and finding it beautiful but also intense and different from my own self-supported ride.
By the way, we also passed a milestone today in crossing the 45th South parallel of latitude.