We left Puerto Tranquillo with mixed emotions, Ezzy was no longer with us, and although it was for the best we did find ourselves secretly hoping she would come bounding down the road and take up her usual position just off my back pannier. Alas, it was not to be, we left and immediately started climbing, this is quickly becoming the norm out of any town on this route, we also started through a stretch of road works where all they seemed to be doing was watering the road, at least any feeling of guilt over not cleaning the bikes on a rest day diminished as within seconds my rear derailleur was clogged and sounding horrible, at least the scenery was special!
The weather was amazing over the next few days with us being able to get our legs out and start really cracking on with our tan lines. We even managed to see the local gauchos working the ranch, castrating the bulls. Jess didn’t seem to see what the problem was as I was wincing every time they did the deed. I couldn’t help feel a little bit of sympathy when the bulls took revenge and had the gauchos running. On more than one occasion a bull had them diving for the fence to avoid being rammed.
It was just after this show that we witnessed our worst stretch of road to date, luckily for us it was a downhill but even that was a struggle. Loose rocks that had us skipping out on many occasion, I would hate to have to ride up this section. Again the scenery helped make up for this horrific road and we arrived at our first bit of tarmac in over 16 days of riding, our butts were overjoyed and to celebrate we ate the biggest hamburger we could find! From here we went in search of cheap accommodation, for 4000pesos each we were given a hot shower, a place to pitch our tent and then as much meat as we could eat courtesy of two of the local ranch hands, Chile really is the nicest country.
We left Cerro Castillo knowing we were only 2 days away from our first big city, all that was in our way was the highest climb we would face on the Carretera Austral. We were told we had 8km of flat before the climb started, whoever told us this was not a cyclist, rule one of cycle touring, never trust a non cyclist when they tell you about what the road ahead is like. We slowly climbed before the switch backs kicked in with earnest. Up and up, higher and higher, we inched our way to the top knowing we had a good decent ahead of us. The one joy of climbing mountains is the views, you can almost guarantee you will be rewarded for your hard-work, this climb did not disappoint. The descent was fast and the views were awesome, this is why we cycle tour. The day held one more 10km climb before we were done and it was predominantly down hill, I say predominantly not fully as once again we had been told, there are still a few leg breaking climbs to do although they are short compared to what we had already done.
It was as we came to the end of the day that we came across our first mechanical of the trip, I mean proper mechanical, not dodgy brakes or a funny noise that we can’t explain so we ignore, although this may have been why I had said mechanical! This was a real ’I can’t ride my bike any more, now what?’ The bearings in my pedals where shot. Ok, they had been making a funny noise since the day of rain but still, I just thought they needed some WD40, that stuff fixes everything, doesn’t it? With my bike placed in the universal distress position, upside down, we stuck out our thumbs. After 10 minutes or so we were loading the bikes into a pick up truck of a lady who was going for a ride in Coyhaique and happened to know where a good bike shop was that would be able to fix the problem, result!
Coyhaique really is a proper town, it has two, that’s right, not one but two big supermarkets and everything else you expect from a big town. It even has a ‘casa de ciclista’. This is the most unusual place we have stayed in to date, it’s a hand built dome out of recycled material. The toilet is into a wheel barrow and the shower is from a stream, still, its was free and we were able to stay for a few days while our bikes were taking some R and R.
There are two other cyclists staying at the Casa de Ciclista, two Brazilians, Daniel and Joseph. They speak very good English and are the first cyclists we have seen that are heading the same way as us, we have decided to ride north with them, well, until they realise how slow we are and leave us that is!
Danny and Jessica living the nomadic dream.