Saturday, February 04, 2006

Rio Tranquilo, Chile

Foxglove (just like on Whidbey Island! Thanks for identifying it Drew!)

11:00 p.m.

I'm camped on the “beach” at Lago Generale Carrera, Rio Tranquilo, Chile. This beach is the town park – right in the middle of town.

A bad guitar player and even worse vocalists have set up camp fifty yards away. They're singing “Knocking on Heaven’s Door.” The waves lapping just fifty feet away almost drown out the singing.


Awoke to the sound of raindrops at 5:00 a.m. this morning. I couldn’t believe it, as there was no sign of clouds at 10:00 last night. I guess my good luck had to end. Back in the land of biting things. I was itching throughout the night from numerous assaults.

On the road before 10:30.

About fifteen miles south, started climbing into the mountains. Steady light rain, but it was not particularly cold. I came up on a bicycle rider, and rather than just drive by (as usual), I stopped. "He certainly must be miserable," I thought.

I met “Thomas” from Bern, Switzerland, a 42-year-old in the insurance business. He's pedaling from Santiago to El Calafate. The guy has massive leg muscles! He wasn't enjoying the day much, but as long as he kept moving, he was warm, so I didn't detain him long.

Across the mountain pass, I drove 10 to 25 mph, crawling around the narrow, blind curves. With all the foliage, it was impossible to see through the curves. There's enough traffic on the road to provide frequent surprises. And with the wet rocks, mud and sand, the footing was unsure. I was not taking chances today.

The road’s not bad, you just have to take it slowly. Though potholes were a continuing annoyance, it's not as bad as travelers' reports had led me to expect. This rainforest is incredibly lush. Magellanic fuchsias, one of my favorite flowers, grow here in abundance. Stopped to take photos - I was in no particular hurry today.

The Magellanic Fuchsia abounds along the rainforest highways

There were five to ten miles of winding mountain road, followed by another five miles of construction, then a broad gravel road with potholes.

Someone had the brilliant idea to use river cobble on the road. Talk about riding on marbles...

The last 70 miles into Coyhaique are pavement, a welcome relief. And the rain stopped as the highway moved east of a coastal range that seemed to hold back the storm. This led me to think I might make the 200 miles from Coyhaique to Cochrane this evening. (But south of Coyhaique, after about 60 miles, the pavement ends and progress slowed once again.)

In Coyhaique, I wandered around, getting a feel for the city. It's fairly large for such a "remote" place. Spotted a cozy-looking pizza parlor, “La Fiorentina” and stopped for lunch. Excellent pizza on a bread crust (like one would use for garlic bread).

A quick check of e-mail (at a large video and internet shop). Geoff, Nina and Michael are up there ahead. Michael said he ran into the Argentineans that were on the ferry with me, and Nina said they ran into the Germans at Puerto Veras!

Turning west, headed back into the rain and climbed into the mountains where it was cold. Though their peaks were hidden in cloud, I could see their snow-covered slopes. The snow is getting low! Waterfalls everywhere, rivers flowing aquamarine and a broad plain covered with forests destroyed by a volcanic eruption. A wondrous landscape.

The road alternated between a hard-packed dirt that was almost like pavement and an unforgiving hard-packed rock that battered the bike. No rhyme or reason for the various surfaces.

"What am I doing out here?" Sometimes the question just pops up. But not the answer.

Late in the day, I met Pat and Shona, two bikers from England riding Brazilian motorcycles. (They figured they would be able to find parts for these throughout South America.) They were heading north after a visit to Ushuaia, Torres del Paine, etc. Shona said Ruta 40 was fantastic, "but watch out for the wind."

As the sun set, I reached the shores of this lake. A horse was in the road, and startled by the bike, it took off running ahead and into the yard of a cabana and camping area. I should have taken the hint and turned in, but kept riding, hoping I wouldn’t regret it.


Dicky Neely said...

That road does look like fun!Seeing this pic I recall similar experiences riding on odd surfaces. Keeps you alert!
The latest pics are, as the others, incredible!
I love it!
Buena Suerte!

Anonymous said...


Drew Kampion said...

Foxglove! Looks just like the Pacific Northwest!